Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Three Prongs Approach to Victory in Iraq

There is a question by critics of The War in Iraq that what constitutes success. It is a fair question and deserved a good and honest answer – something that the administration so far has failed to do. So I will offer my amateur and novice opinion. My thinking is partially based on the experience in Iraq.

Victory in Iraq for us requires a success in a three prongs attack: (1) the political prong, (2) the economic prong, (3) the military prong. All three aspects (or at least two out of three) are needed to ensure long term success.

On the Political prong, Iraq requires a viable government – a democratically elected government that is self-sustaining with a strong political institution (executive, legislative and judicial). The Economic front Iraq need a sustainable economy with basic services and basic infrastructure. On the Military front, Iraq needs an armed force that can handle the insurgency on its own (with limited US assistance of course). Lacking any of the three factors put the future of Iraq (and the Middle East) at great risk.

Of course this is only a thesis. I will elaborate the idea further tomorrow and also assess where we are on each of the criteria.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Stolen Identity

I am at loss to find a word to describe my political orientation. To be precise, I should refer to myself as a liberal. But that political identity was stolen in the 30s by socialists. And it now means the very opposite. It no longer means free market, and less government but more government and virulent anti-market.

And lately I cannot call myself a conservative anymore because term is also stolen by people who think conservatism means expanding entitlement and the promotion of the welfare state. Who would have thought that with a Republican President and a Republican Congress, we would be expanding our entitlement programs at an unprecedented rate? What happen to the old face of the Republican Party? Remember Newt Gingrich and “The Contract With America” advocating smaller government. Today, the face of the conservative today is Rick Santorum on CSPAN advocating more government spending while lambasting fiscal conservatives.

Instead of finding a market solution for the high cost in subscription drugs (and the high cost in medical care), Mr. Bush decide to throw money at it by adding another entitlement on the already expensive entitlement. In fact, the President has done little in the last five years to promote market. The medicare reform was anything but a reform.

This editorial of the Washington Post highlight the problem.
Back in 1987, when Mr. Reagan applied his veto to what was generally known at the time as the highway and mass transit bill, he was offended by the 152 earmarks for pet projects favored by members of Congress. But on Wednesday Mr. Bush signed a transportation bill containing no fewer than 6,371 earmarks.
Has anyone notice that President Bush has never vetoed a single spending bill?
The nation is at war. It faces large expenses for homeland security. It is about to go through a demographic transition that will strain important entitlement programs. How can this president -- an allegedly conservative president -- believe that the federal government should spend money on the Red River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Louisiana? Or on the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan? The bill Mr. Bush has signed devotes more than $24 billion to such earmarked projects, continuing a trend in which the use of earmarks has spread steadily each year. Remember, Republicans control the Senate and the House as well as the White House. So somebody remind us: Which is the party of big government?
And I am not buying the war on terrorism excuse. The Economist reveals the number.
The explanation among Republicans is the war on terror. Surely you need to spend more on defence when the country is under attack? Surely you need a stronger federal government when terrorists are trying to kill you? As the Cato Institute shows, this is tripe. Even if you strip out spending on defence and homeland security, Mr Bush still wins the prize as the biggest booster of public spending for three decades.
With Republican becoming Democrat and Democrats becoming Socialist, I am not sure what to call myself.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Economic of Arranged Marriage

My parents were the first wave of marriage that was not previously arranged. But many of their contemporaries were still arranged marriages. I have always thought (and still do) that arranged marriage is unnatural and oppressive. However, I have met many who were genuinely happily marriage despite not knowing their spouses before the wedding dates.

The rate of failure is actually higher among chosen marriages than arranged marriage. I thought long and hard about it. And I think I have a theory on why. And the theory has to do with economic than anything else. Let first set a unit for happiness in term of utility. And let assume that the maximum utility is 10 which is maximum happiness, the minimum is negative ten which is maximum unhappiness, and of course zero is a neutral value where one is neither happy nor unhappy.

The reason that arranged marriage work well is because of the expectation in happiness. Most people expected their marriage to a stranger forced on by their parent to be extremely miserable – something akin to slavery. But when they were married, it does not seem to be so bad, or not as bad as they thought. On the other hand, people who married out of loves expected their union with their loves one to be blissful; often the expectation were rarely met. Their idealism was destroyed by the reality of marriage.

Let put this into the equation. An arranged marriage couples probably expect their marriage with a happiness utility value of negative ten – they expect a hellish existence. Most couples married out of love expect their marriage with a happiness utility value of positive ten – heavenly existence. Of course reality is far from expectation. In an arranged married, the actual happiness utility is closer to positive once, hence a couple in an arranged married gain eleven points in happiness utility. In a marriage out of loves, the actual happiness utility is close to positive four, and the couple lost six points in happiness utility.

Since the expectation in an arranged marriage is a negative ten (the lowest possible point), the couple in an arranged marriage cannot loose, they can only gain in reality. Unless one lived under Saddam Iraq, nothing in life can be equal to negative ten. Even with a reality of negative six, they still gain four points. They always end up better than they expect. In a marriage out of love, the expectation is positive ten (the highest possible point) which means they can only loose. This probably explain why second marriage is often better than the first one, people often lower their expectation the second times around.

This is of course only an exercise of the intellect. I am by no mean advocate arranged marriage. I still think people should marry out of love. Afterall, my parents are still married. But I do advocate lower one expectation.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Clueless on Originalism

Kevin Drum on originalism:

ORIGINALISM....Of all the pillars of modern conservatism, the one that has long struck me as the most obviously absurd is the doctrine of originalism. Think about it. Are we really supposed to take seriously the idea that the Supreme Court of 2005 — in an era of spyware, genetic mapping, and billion dollar hedge funds — is supposed to make its judgments based on divining the intent of a small group of men who lived in a simple agrarian community 200 years ago? Presented baldly, it's an idea that wouldn't pass muster with a bright 10 year old.

Marc Lynch even compares Originalism to Islamic Salafism.

Originalism - or the "original intent" approach to Constitutional jurisprudence - sounds very, very familiar to these Middle East expert ears. Basically, it sounds like
Islamic fundamentalist (salafi) jurisprudence.

Islamic jurisprudence after the passing of Mohammed revolved around establishing procedures for interpreting the Quranic message. For most Muslims, this expanded to include the "hadith", or stories about the life and sayings of the Prophet. Competing schools of jurisprudence argued over what sources could be considered legitimate, how to interpret the meaning of the text of the Quran and the Hadith. Elaborate rules were created for establishing the "authenticity" of various hadith - who first told the story, the chain of transmission, how to adjudicate different versions of the same story. Over the course of Islamic history, an enormous and complex body of interpetation and jurisprudence accumulated, divided into distinct
schools. The Islamic reformers - the original salafis - in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - called to sweep away these centuries of accumulated traditions and return directly to the text of the Quran and authentic hadith.

Kevin and Marc are both wrong. For such intellectuals, they fail miserably in understanding constitutional philosophies. Originalists do not believe that the constitution is base on the intent of the founding fathers. Rather it should be interpret literally. This does not mean that the constitution cannot be changed or written in stone. It can be changed through the amendment process. In fact the constitution should be changed to adapt to the time.

However the responsibility for amending the constitution is a legislative responsibility, not a judicial one. Even if a certain provision/article of the constitution is out-of-step with modernity or even outright unjust; Jurists should interpret it as it is written. If the provision/article is unjust, the decision will highlight the injustice. And the outrage electorates will force their elected legislators to amend the provision/article. This process ensure that legislators are responsible toward the electorates and ensure that the new article/provision receive have consensus within society.

Activist judges by interpret the constitution as they see fit, prevent the constitution from being properly amended. The greatest harm of judicial activism is that they takes the debate away from the public realm and prevent the people from participating in the constitutional process.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

India-US Defense Cooperation

As I have predicted warming tie between the US and India. Today, Defense News came out with this article (subscription requires).

August 23, 2005
India, U.S. Prepare To Discuss Weapon Buys (By Vivek Raghuvanshi, New Delhi)

Indian and U.S. officials will discuss the possible sale to New Delhi of U.S. weaponry — including Aegis missile systems, an amphibious platform dock ship, anti-submarine patrol aircraft and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 air defense systems — when Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, the Pentagon's Defense Cooperation Security Agency chief, visits here next month.

Indian Defence Ministry sources said arming Indian destroyers with anti-submarine patrol aircraft and Aegis missile systems would help the ships detect Chinese submarines operating in the Indian Ocean region. India also considers purchase of an anti-ballistic air defense system like the PAC-3 or the Israeli-U.S. Arrow-2 a priority, and money is not an issue, a Defence Ministry official said.

The meeting between Kohler and senior Indian Defence Ministry officials will be the first since the two countries agreed to begin cooperating on civilian nuclear efforts here during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to United States in July.

Kohler will give officials here a classified technical briefing on the PAC-3, F-16 and F-18 multirole, multirange combat aircraft.

Officials also will discuss India's possible purchase of the USS Trenton, a decommissioned Austin-class amphibious transport dock, used to transport large numbers of troops over long distances. An Indian Navy official, however, said the Trenton is not in good condition.

The Indian Navy also wants to buy U.S. Aegis combat systems for its ships. The Navy official said the system can monitor large areas of the Indian Ocean, keeping an eye on Chinese ships and submarines there. The Aegis system can defend Indian sea-based assets from short-and long-range missiles, added the Navy official, who strongly advocated the purchase of this system.

Defence Ministry officials said Aug. 23 that the government likely will buy the Aegis system even though similar systems are available from other sources in the world at a cheaper price.

Of course this is only preliminary discussion and there was no concrete agreement. However such a scenario was unthinkable only a decade ago. Critics of the administration often cite poor relation with Western Europe as an example of poor diplomacy. But even under Clinton, the supposedly diplomatic President, India and the US had a cold and distance relationship. They fail to see that under the realignment of world politic, it is necessary for the US to be closer to some and further to others. Warming tie with the most populous democracy is a very encouraging sign. I would encourage the administration to work even harder at building trust and friendship with India.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Military and the Left

I wish more liberals have the view of Rosa Brooks of the LA Times – or at least listen to her. She may have identified the one of the problem why the Left is viewed as weak on National Security. That is why independent voters distrust the Left when it comes to the security of the United States.

That's why I've started urging all the bright young liberals I meet to join the military.

Sure, U.S. military policy is flawed in many respects. But that's not a reason for progressives to shun the military. On the contrary, it's one of the main reasons that liberals need to reexamine their long-standing aversion to military service.

There is a significant and growing gap between military and civilian cultures. While about a third of the general public identifies themselves as Democrats and another third as Republicans, a January 2005 Military Times poll found that 60% of military respondents were Republicans, 17% were independents and only 13% were Democrats.

A generation ago, the military was far less partisan in its composition: A plurality (46%) called themselves independents, while only 33% were Republicans. On numerous key social and religious issues, military personnel today are far more conservative than the typical American.

In today's polarized political atmosphere, anyone who finds this troubling needs to be willing to work for change from inside the military, not just from the outside. Otherwise, the cultural and political gap between the military and civilian society will only widen.

The Left can scream “chickenhawk” all they want. The fact remain is that overwhelming number of men and women in uniforms are Republican. More pathetic is the second largest bloc of voters in the military is independent, with self-identified Democrats trailing last. This is also a well known fact among all voters. It is no surprise that Post September 11th, swing voters decide that the political choice most warriors make is the right choice.

If the Democrats are smart (but they are not), they would try to peel away this bloc of military voters hence significant weaken the Republican Party. A similar strategy works for the Republican Party concerning minority votes. By winning a very small percentile of Black voters (a gain of merely two percents), Republicans weaken the Democrats in the 2000 and 2004 election. To repeat this strategy for the Democrats requires the Left to treat the military with more respect.
The military bloc is not difficult to peel away from. Most members of the military are Republican because of national security issue (the very same reason they join the armed services). The other conservative issues are far less important to them. Many of those Republicans (including me) are not social conservatives. But many think the Democrats are a bunch of candy-assed sissies. Of course, there are muscular Democrats who are friendly toward the military (Joe Lieberman comes to mind). But they are a small and marginalized bloc of the party. The Democratic Party is most representative by the Moveon.org and Howard Dean, not Sam Nunn. And of course my point is immediately proven. A self identified liberal wrote a responding letter to the LA Times.

An unwillingness to participate in the killing of innocent civilians, known in military parlance as "collateral damage," is a key reason for low enlistment rates among those who consider themselves liberal. Conspicuously absent from Rosa Brooks' recruitment broadside is any mention of such killing in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Having a different sense of compassion and a stronger belief in diplomacy, liberals share with revolutionary patriot Thomas Paine distaste for what he called "offensive war" but would doubtlessly sign up if the American homeland is imminently threatened. President Bush joins Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon as a leader who has failed to make the case.


Ralph Goldstein is a typical Democrat not Rosa Brooks. Ralph probably opposed the war in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Somalia as well. It exposes another thing about the Left. It is a blatant lie when Leftists anti-war groups claim that they oppose only the War in Iraq. They opposed all wars, even the one which the US saved millions from genocides (Bosnia and Kosovo) or when the US was directly attacked (Afghanistan). And I have no doubt they will oppose any military action in Darfur.

Of course, I am not gloating about the number of Republicans in the military despite being one myself. It is an expression of great concern. If it is unhealthy for the Black community to vote overwhelmingly Democratic; then it is equally unhealthy for the military when most of them vote Republican. It is also unhealthy for the Republican Party when the party has no strong opposition. The country needs a strong opposition Party that is not on crack. But I am very pessimistic about the state of the Democratic Party and the prospect of them supporting the military.

Another issue in reverse is former and current military joining entity associate with liberal leftwing cause – such as the Peace Corp. Colman McCarthy wrote an op-ed on the Washington Post arguing that the Peace Corp should encourage former soldiers to join the Corp instead of opposing it (as they are currently doing). And not to neglect academia, I also propose a closer interaction between the military and college campus. Thucydides said that "The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." This is why we produce such dismal academics such as Juan Cole or Ward Churchill. It is essential that Ivy League institutions bring back ROTC programs and encourage their student to serve in the military after graduation. And the Pentagon is not entirely blameless either. For years, the Pentagon has created an anti-intellectual culture. This is why General Abizaid ascendancy was noticed by many Pentagon observers as unique and exceptional, not because the General was of Middle East descent, but that he was a scholar. The Pentagon should take step to recruit more officers from Ivy League institutions and in the process bring an end to the separation between academia and the military. It would benefit the country greatly when a scholar and a warrior is the same man.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Mrs. Vincent responding to Juan Cole

Murdoc Online posts a letter of Mrs. Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, the wife of the brave journalist Steven Vincent. Her letter was a respond to the disgusting comment made by Juan Cole. (For your information, despite claiming to be an expert on Iraq, Juan Cole has never been to there). I reposts the Mrs. Vincent letter here in its entirety. She deserves to be heard.
"Was American journalist Steve Vincent killed in Basra as part of an honor killing? He was romantically involved with his Iraqi interpreter, who was shot 4 times. If her clan thought she was shaming them by appearing to be having an affair outside wedlock with an American male, they might well have decided to end it. In Mediterranean culture, a man's honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men. Where a woman of the family sleeps around, it brings enormous shame on her father, brothers and cousins, and it is not unknown for them to kill her. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown in urban areas. Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture and was aggressive about criticizing what he could see of it on the surface, and if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner." [This was posted by Juan Cole not soon after the death of Mr. Vincent]
Mr. Cole -
(I refuse to call you professor, because that would ennoble you. And please change the name of your blog to "Uninformed Comment", because that is precisely what the above paragraph is.)
I would like to refute this shameful post against a dead man who can no longer defend himself against your scurrilous accusations, a dead man who also happened to be my husband. Steven Vincent and I were together for 23 years, married for 13 of them, and I think I know him a wee bit better than you do.
For starters, Steven and Nour were not "romantically involved". If you knew anything at all about the Middle East, as you seem to think you do, then you would know that there is no physical way that he and she could have ever been alone together. Nour (who always made sure to get home before dark, so they were never together at night) could not go to his room; he could not go to her house; there was no hot-sheet motel for them to go to for a couple of hours. They met in public, they went about together in public, they parted in public. They were never alone. She would not let him touch her arm, pay her a compliment, buy her a banana on the street, hyper-aware of how such gestures might be interpreted by the misogynistic cretins who surrounded her daily. So for you brazenly claim that she was "sleeping around," when there is no earthly way you could possibly know that, suggests to me that you are quite the misogynist as well. Cheap shot, Mr. Cole, against a remarkable woman who does not in any wise deserve it.
This is not to say that Steven did not love Nour - he did. And he was quite upfront about it to me. But it was not sexual love - he loved her for her courage, her bravery, her indomitable spirit in the face of the Muslim thugs who have oppressed their women for years. To him she represented a free and democratic Iraq, and all of the hopes he had for that still-elusive creature. And he loved her for the help she gave him - endangering herself by affiliating with him because she wanted the truth to come out about what was happening in her native city of Basra and the surrounding area. Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that it is possible to love someone in a strictly platonic way, but I assure you, it can happen - even between men and women.
And yes, he was planning to to convert to Islam and marry Nour, but only to take her out of the country to England, where she had a standing job offer, set her up with the friends she had over there, divorce her, and come back to New York. He had gotten her family's permission to do so (thereby debunking the "honor killing" theory), but more importantly, he had gotten mine. He called one night to say that it had been intimated to him that Nour's life was essentially going to be worthless after he left; since he was an honorable man (a breed you might want to familiarize yourself with), he then asked what I thought he might do to help her. I told him to get her out of the country and bring her here to New York. However, the only way she could have left Iraq was with a family member or husband. Since her family had no intention of going anywhere, Steven was her only recourse, and it would have been perfectly legal for him to convert, marry her, then take her out of Iraq to give her a chance at a real life. (Now that that avenue is closed to her, I have made inquiries to the State Department about the possibility of my sponsoring her in America. Do you perhaps labor under the misapprehension I am such a spineless cuckold that I would put myself out thusly for the woman you believe my husband was traducing me with? If so, I'm guessing you don't know much about the Sicilian female temperament.)

As to your claim that "In Mediterranean culture, a man's honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men", it may perhaps have escaped your notice that Iraq does not abut, in any way, shape or form, the Mediterranean Sea. Italy is a Mediterranean culture, as are Spain, Greece, Southern France. In none of them is "honor killing" an accepted form of "protecting womanhood". As to the southerly lands like Morocco and Algeria, they are not, in the general scheme of things, considered Mediterranean cultures - they are considered Arabic, a whole different beast. For you to seemingly be unaware of this, and then to say that my husband "did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture" again begs the question, just where do you get off? If you cannot differentiate between Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures, how is it you feel qualified to pontificate so pompously?
How often have you been to the Middle East, Mr. Cole? In 2000 Steven and I spent almost a month in Iran on vacation. In 2003 we spent 10 days over Christmas in Jordan. In the last 2 years he had made not one, not two, but three trips to Iraq, and at the time of his death had about 7 months of daily living there under his belt. Can you offer comparables?

How much Arabic do you speak, Mr. Cole? Steven had been learning Arabic for the last two years, and was able to converse simply but effectively with the people he came into contact with. He had many expatriate friends in the Muslim world from whom he was always learning. As I sit here writing this at what was his desk, I can look at the literally dozens of books he devoured about Islam and the Middle East - each one thick with Post-It notes and personal observations he made in the pages - as he sought to comprehend and absorb the complexities of the culture and the religion he felt, and cared, so deeply about. If you would like a list of them, please email me back and I will be happy to send you a comprehensive accounting.
Yes, Steven was aggressive in criticizing what he saw around him and did not like. It's called courage, and it happens to be a tradition in the history of this country. Without this tradition there would have been no Revolutionary War, no Civil War, no civil rights movement, no a lot of things that America can be proud of. He had made many friends in Iraq, and was afraid for them if the religious fundamentalists were given the country to run under shari'a. You may dismiss that as naive, simplistic, foolish, but I say to you, as you sit safely in your ivory tower in Michigan with nothing threatening your comfy, tenured existence, that you should be ashamed at the depths to which you have sunk by libeling Steven and Nour. They were on the front lines, risking all, in an attempt to call attention to the growing storm threatening to overwhelm a fragile and fledgling experiment in democracy, trying to get the world to see that all was not right in Iraq. And for their efforts, Steven is dead and Nour is recuperating with three bullet wound in her back. Yes, that's right - the "honorable" men who abducted them, after binding them, holding them captive and beating them, set them free, told them to run - and then shot them both in the back. I've seen the autopsy report.
You did not know him - you did not have that honor, and you will never have the chance, thanks to the murderous goons for whom you have appointed yourself an apologist. He was a brilliant, erudite, witty, charming, kind, generous, silly, funny, decent, honorable and complex man, who loved a good cigar, Bombay Sapphire gin martinis, Marvel Silver Age comic books, Frank Sinatra, opera and grossing me out with bathroom humor. And if he was acting in a dangerous manner, he had a very good excuse - he was utterly exhausted. He had been in Basra for 3 months under incredibly stressful conditions, working every day, and towards the end enduring heat of 135 degrees, often without air conditioning, which could not have helped his mental condition or judgment. He was yearning to come home, as his emails to me made crystal clear. But on August 2nd, two days before my birthday, he made the fatal mistake of walking one block - one - from his hotel to the money exchange, rather than take a cab, and now will never come back to me. I got a bouquet of flowers from him on August 4th, which he had ordered before he died, and the card said he was sorry to miss my birthday, but the flowers would stand in his stead until he made it home. They are drying now in the kitchen, the final gift from my soulmate.
I did not see your blog until tonight. I was busy doing other things - fighting the government to get Steven's body returned from Basra days after I was told he would be sent home, planning the funeral, buying a cemetery plot, choosing the clothes to bury him in, writing the prayer card, fending off the media, dealing with his aging parents, waking and then burying him - but I could not let the calumnies you posted so freely against two total strangers go unchallenged.
You strike me as a typical professor - self-opinionated, arrogant, so sure of the rightness of your position that you won't even begin to consider someone else's. I would suggest that you ought to be ashamed of yourself for your breathtaking presumption in eviscerating Steven in death and disparaging Nour in life, but, like any typical professor, I have no doubt that you are utterly shameless.

Lisa Ramaci-Vincent

Sunday, August 21, 2005

China Carrier Program

To those who are holding on to the belief that China military expansion is merely defensive; here is a piece from Jane’s Defense Weekly (subscription is required). It cost several hundred dollars to subscribe to Jane so I will do a favor to all readers by posting the article in full follow by my own comment. Article follows.

Is China Building A Carrier?
By Yihong Chang, JDW Correspondent & Andrew Koch, JDW Bureau Chief,Hong Kong & Washington, DC
Chinese shipyard workers have been repairing a badly damaged ex-Russian aircraft carrier and have repainted it with the country's military markings, raising the question once again of whether China is pursuing longer-term plans to field its first carrier.

In the latest developments, images show that workers at the Chinese Dalian Shipyard have repainted the ex-Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Varyag with the markings and colour scheme of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy (PLAN). Additional new photographs show that other work, the specifics of which could not be determined, appears to be continuing and that the condition of the vessel is being improved.
JDW believes that PLAN technicians have also conducted thorough studies of the basic structure of the Varyag during the past few years to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the carrier's structural design. Former PLAN commander General Liu Huaqing stated in his memoirs that China had purchased blueprints for the carrier - a fact that Russian sources confirmed to JDW. Moreover, Gen Huaqing added: "The competent departments of the defence industry employed Russian aircraft carrier designers to come to China and give lectures."
Gen Huaqing noted that "meanwhile, a certain amount of aircraft carrier design documents were also introduced into China, which helped [China] to make some progress in the preliminary research of the key equipment of [an] aircraft carrier. [PLA] Headquarters of General Staff and the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence organised constant analysis, evaluation andassessment of the related study trips, import projects and preliminary
Still, China's ultimate intentions for the Varyag remain unclear. Onepossibility is that Beijing intends to eventually have it enter intosome level of service. A military strategist from a Chinese militaryuniversity has commented publicly that the Varyag "would be China's first aircraft carrier".
It is possible that the PLAN will modify the Varyag into a trainingaircraft carrier. A US intelligence official said the vessel could bemade seaworthy again with enough time, effort and resources. However,US defence officials said that repairing the Varyag to become fullyoperational would be an extraordinarily large task. The carrier wasabout 70 per cent complete at the time of transfer and sensitiveportions were destroyed, including damage to the core structure,before China was permitted to take possession. Given the difficultyand expense, it is questionable whether Beijing would pursue theeffort only to use the Varyag as a training platform; such a movecould, however, mark a transitional phase en route to a fullyoperational capability.
Another possibility is that China does, indeed, plan to repair thevessel to become its first seagoing aircraft carrier or use knowledgegained from it for an indigenously built carrier programme. The US intelligence official said such an outcome "is certainly apossibility" if China is seeking a blue- water navy capable ofprotecting long-range national interests far from its shores such assea lanes in the Strait of Malacca. If this strategy were to befollowed, China would have to reinstate the structural integritydegraded before delivery and study the structural design of the carrier's deck. These two activities, along with the blueprints andthe ship itself, could be used to design an indigenous carrier. Such a plan would very likely be a long-term project preceded by the development of smaller vessels such as amphibious landing ships.
Despite the obvious controversy a Chinese aircraft carrier would entail, some US retired and active military officials say they are not troubled by the move as it would siphon off resources from other PLAN projects they view with greater concern. These include anti-access capabilities for use in a future conflict over Taiwan such as fielding more diesel-electric submarines, anti-ship cruise missile platforms and ballistic missiles with manoeuvring warheads that navy officials’ project could be capable of targeting US warships from sometime around 2015. Retired US Navy Rear Admiral Eric McVadon, an expert on the Chinese military and former US military attaché to that country, said it would be a little surprising if China were seriously pursuing a carrier as up to now Beijing has focused on improving its anti-access capabilities in a Taiwan crisis scenario - a situation in which a Chinese carrier would be of marginal value.
US defence and military officials were also sceptical, noting that fielding a Chinese carrier would be years in the making and entail significant time and resources far beyond just the vessel and its air wing. They noted, for example, that China would have to learn how to conduct integrated carrier operations with the rest of the fleet, including having to acquire the requisite escorts. It would also need to learn how to conduct maritime patrols away from shore and controlthose from the carrier. Past Russian and US experiences show these are not easily, cheaply or quickly accomplished.

Whatever the ultimate plan, the moves would appear to discredit China's original claim that Macao's Agencia Turisticae Diversoes Chong Lot Limitada purchased the Varyag with the intention of converting it into a 'floating casino'. [End of article]


JDW put forth a few hypotheses for the activities surrounding the Varyag. (1) That China is finishing the carrier for its navy. (2) Using the carrier, in addition to the blueprint, as a study for an indigenous carrier design. (3) Or that it is used for a training platform. Regardless, it is clear that China is intending to possess a carrier capability. The questions are how and when.

This destroys the wishful theory that China ambition is limited to Taiwan. China does not need carriers to invade Taiwan. Taiwan is well within striking distance of all Chinese aircrafts. The carrier is intended for neighbor further away such as Malaysia, Indonesia, or the Philippines. I am not suggested that China want to annex these countries. But possession of carrier(s) increase China military project a hundred folds its current capability making intimidation far more effective.

What is most disturbing about the article is not China’s intention but this sentence: “US defence and military officials were also sceptical, noting that fielding a Chinese carrier would be years in the making and entail significant time and resources far beyond just the vessel and its air wing.” We must not forget that Defense and military officials prior to September 11th, 2001 were skeptical that Al-Qaeda has the capability to strike at the US homeland. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. China is developing at a phenomenon rate. In fact in the Eastern Coast of China, technology skipped several phases that Western countries had to go through. No one ten years ago could have predicted such the proliferation of technology in China. And no one can predict where it will go ten years from today. Let not underestimate our potential competitor.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Short Break

There are many things I want to comment on - the Gaza, Iraqi Constitution, and Cindy Sheehan. However my sister is getting married this Saturday and there is much to do. I apologize to my readers. I will resume blogging on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My Favorite Hayek(s)

I have a dilemma. Being both a lover of beautiful women and brainy economists (as well as a hardcore free-market defender), I cannot decide which of the two Hayek(s) I love more – Salma or Friedrich. The later stimulates my intellect; the former stimulates my _____ (you know what). Of course, I have seen most of the movies that feature the gorgeous Salma but read only one book of Friedrich (The Road to Serfdom).

Luckily, this website of Glen Whitman keeps the score – Friedrich win by one point. Regardless, you will not see me post any picture of the 101 years old and very dead Nobel laureate. However, I will post plenty picture of Salma.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pacifism for Pacifism Sake

Ayako Doi and Kim Willenson wrote an alarmist op-ed on the Washington Post warning that Japan is loosing its spirit of Pacifism.

Since 9/11, Japan has shifted further away from pacifism. Starting in late 2001, it employed a task force of destroyers and fleet oilers to the Indian Ocean to help the allied fleet support operations in Afghanistan. And a few months after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein's government, Tokyo sent about 1,000 troops to establish and support a small force in southern Iraq that so far has avoided combat.

The emergence of a Japanese will to get back into the military game, even in a carefully nonviolent way, has stirred fears in Beijing, Seoul and Pyongyang. Koreans only too well remember the oppression and humiliation they suffered under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, while the Chinese will never forget the hundreds of thousands killed in the 15-year conflict between China and Japan that began in the early 1930s and culminated in the second Sino-Japanese war.

Both Doi and Willenson both imply that Japan is sliding back toward militarism and imperialism of the 30s. This is complete nonsense. Doi and Willeson made the sad mistake of using the slippery slope fallacy. World War II was a long time ago. The chance of Japan going back to militarism is equal to that of Northern European countries going back to the period of pillage and plunder of their Viking ancestors. Northern European countries have participated in many military operations worldwide – Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan just to name a few. We still have not seen any Viking long ships raiding European coasts.

The fact is that for many years, Japan was a prosperous first world country, but without the responsibility of one. In a globalize economy, Japan was and is the main beneficiary of world stability. However, Japan contributed very little in relation to its wealth. Australia with a much smaller economy and much smaller size, contributed disproportionally. Australia took the lead in East Timor, participated in Afghanistan and Iraq, and numerous other missions around the world. It is time for Japan to step up to the plate and share the burden. It is inherently unfair to other countries otherwise. Japan recent action should be seen as an encouraging sign.

All of this has marginalized Japanese pacifism. The government last year embarked on a plan to revise the occupation-era constitution with support from a majority of the public. Earlier this month, a panel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) proposed to drop the renunciation of war as a national principle, to do away with the ban on maintaining "land, sea and air forces" and to revive "the right of belligerency of the state."


Tokyo's "reinterpretation" of the constitution to permit things that the document plainly forbids has certainly improved Tokyo's relations with Washington, which were strained over economic and trade issues during the Clinton administration. Today, officials of both governments describe them as never better. But Japan's new militarism has made relations with Beijing and Seoul the worst in recent memory. That in turn is making East Asia look suddenly and unexpectedly volatile, after 30 or more post-Vietnam years of relative stability.

Doi and Willenson are acting as if the abandonment of strict Pacifism is the end of the world. Hundred of countries reserve the right to wage war but few of them embrace militarism or expansionism. Let be clear. Japan is not the cause for instability in the Pacific – North Korea and China is. To think otherwise is simply crazy or delusional. Japan is a liberal democracy with strong political and economic institutions. And Japan has a record of treating other country in an equitable and fair manner. This cannot be said of its critics. I have written about China attitude toward its neighbor here before. It treats it neighbor in a superior-subordinate fashion. In fact, since the 50s, China had fought with every single neighbor that shares its border. It has brutally subjugated Tibet and massacred its own citizens. It financed and armed the Khmer Rouge. And it has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan. Furthermore, China has continued to extent its support to despotic regimes in Burma and Sudan. And since the end of World War II, North Korea have brutally invaded South Korea, sent troops to fight in Vietnam, and oppressed its citizens. North Korea constitutes a grave threat to the Pacific and the world.

These are the reasons that Japan should (and the world should encourage Japan) to drop the archaic and obsolete “pacifism” clause in its constitution and take its rightful place among the nations of the world. Let not have pacifism for pacifism sake.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Middle East Reform: Revolution versus Evolution

It is obvious that the Middle East need serious reform. I have addressed the reason for the rise of Islamism here – that it is a reaction to tyranny in the region. The issue is at what pace. Do we want drastic change like we did in Iraq – with all the risks and uncertainty involves? Or do we want incremental change?

The answer is depended. It depends on the level of willingness of the regime to implement change and how much persuasive power do we have over the regime in question. Let looks at Saudi Arabia. There is no doubt that we all abhor the social-political condition in the kingdom. But many (particularly on the Left) often use Saudi Arabia to oppose our war in Iraq. They state that the Saudi Arabia is as oppressive as or even more so than Iraq. The comparison in term of level of oppression is impossible and irrelevant.

As I state earlier, it depends on the level of willingness of the regime to implement change and the persuasive power we have over the regime. Saddam Iraq was irredeemable. There was no possibility that Saddam would ever reform his country regardless how much the world put pressure on him. The Saudi (and to some extent Mubarak) has showed some willingness to reform. It is extremely slow but it is happening. And in the case of Saudi Arabia, Westerners see the reform as miniscule and negligent. But putting in the political context of an extremely reactionary and fundamentalist country, the reform is a major step – if not historical and unprecedented. From the Economist (subscription is required):

The late King Fahd moved cautiously to modernise the economy and made the first tiny steps towards a semblance of democracy by appointing a consultative council. Crown Prince Abdullah expanded the council and even allowed it to question ministers—within limits. More recently, he let half the seats on the country's toothless local councils be elected on multi-candidate (though non-party) slates, with women excluded from both voting and standing.

Of course, compare to our modern democracy, the reform seem insignificant. The Saudi is using the “crawl, walk, and run” incremental stages. And at this stage, it is crawling at the pace of a snail – but it is crawling nonetheless. We would like to see women driving and having more rights – but this is better than nothing.

And this is not the only reform ongoing.

So too have small but real reformist measures, such as privatising and opening chunks of the economy, purging schoolbooks of hate-mongering material and this year's holding of municipal elections.

And the death of King Fahd should facilitate the process of reform (another Economist’s article).

Abdullah, crown prince for 23 years, assumed the throne automatically and immediately named his half-brother, the long-serving defence minister, Prince Sultan, aged 80 or so, as his successor. In the past the pair have been seen as bitter rivals, with the more reform-minded Abdullah being serially thwarted by Sultan's powerful Sudairi branch of the family, named after King Abdel Aziz's favourite wife. Abdullah may be too frail to push hard for change, but any initiatives he does take may meet less resistance, now that Sultan is assured of eventual accession.

Of course, we should not leave the reform process in the hand of the House of Saud. They went forward with reform because we put pressure on them. Steady pressure is needed to keep up the pace of reform.

Mr Bush should now urge the new king to move a lot faster than he dared to do as crown prince—for instance, by bringing in a more tolerant educational system, facing down the most bigoted clerics, widening the scope of representative government, opening the budget to scrutiny, curbing royal privilege, giving women a voice and a vote, and sowing a culture of tolerance, pluralism and debate. The consultative council should become a properly elected parliament, perhaps with a college of princes serving as an upper chamber. In the end—“ready” or not—Saudis have as much right to democracy as Iraqis, or indeed anyone else.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

India – A Case Study for Democracy Promotion

Critics of democracy promotion often raise the fear of either a hostile regime to the US or a religious or ultra-nationalist party will be elected to office. They fear that a Shiite theocracy will rise in Iraq or that an Islamists government will replace the government of Saudi Arabia or Egypt. These critics exist both on the Left as well as the Right (I call them paleo-conservatives). Perhaps a case study is needed to put to rest the alarmists.

A recent article in the Economist cites the case of India. This article does not require subscription – so read the whole thing. I would like to draw readers’ attention to 1998 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lead coalition came into power. The BJP is a Hindu Extremist Party that advocates “Hindutva” – a xenophobic ideology. It publicly wants to establish “a Hindu state and Hindu glory.” It is important to remember that the Party was responsible for instigating anti-Muslim riot and destroying Islamic mosques. The BJP ascendancy worried many – including this blogger. I was quite shaken by the event at the time and became unsure of my commitment to Democracy. But in 2004, the BJP lost the election to Congress Party and is in steady decline.

The Economist analyzes the Party demise.

…Yet an Indian news magazine last month splashed across its cover the question: “Is the party over?”

It is not alone in asking. The BJP is going through more than a bad patch. Its continuing quarrel with its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or National Association of Volunteers, calls into question the party's purpose. Is its main aim to win elections or to promote the RSS's ideology of Hindutva, (Hindu-ness)? Adherents of the organisation portray Hindutva as a demand for equality, in that it would end the special arrangements, such as their own family-law system, enjoyed by India's 150m Muslims. The Muslims fear that Hindutva's aim is to promote Hinduism over Islam.

The Economist offers two theories. The first is…

…Many in the BJP believe that “with a narrow Hindu-only approach, [the BJP] will never occupy the dominant position in Indian politics that the Congress once enjoyed.” Those words come from a paper written in March by Sudheendra Kulkarni, then an aide to Mr Advani. Most observers outside the Hindu “family” agree with his analysis. They blame the BJP's poor electoral performance last year in part on the bloody anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 in Gujarat, a BJP-ruled state, and its failure to take action against Narendra Modi, Gujarat's chief minister, whose government was accused of complicity in the violence. The BJP's identification with hardline Hindutva, it is argued, cost votes.

The second theory is argued most vigorous by Hindutva’s adherents.

However, other party members and RSS leaders argue the exact opposite: that the problem was that, in office, the BJP was not Hindu enough. To forge a governing coalition, it had agreed not to pursue the three big Hindutva demands: the building of the Ayodhya temple, a matter it left to the courts; the adoption of a uniform civil law to supplant Muslim family law; and the revocation of the special constitutional status of Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state.

The Hindu right argues that it was the failure to deliver results on these demands that alienated the BJP's core voters and demoralised its activists. Prafull Goradia, a former member of Parliament for the Jan Sangh, the BJP's forerunner, calls the notion that moderation is the only way of coming to power “absolute hogwash”. He argues that the RSS should end its reliance on the BJP alone and “license” more Hindu parties. This, he insists, would increase the total Hindu vote.

This is similar to the US Democratic Party argues that it lost three elections in the row because it was not liberal enough – the argument put forth by Howard “The Socialist” Dean. It is delusional talk. The BJP was plenty Hindutva and the Democratic Party was plenty liberal.
The BJP defeat was due to more pragmatic reason – because they governed badly. It was easy to blame the incumbent when on is the opposition. Most extremist parties can talks the good talk. But once coming to power, extremist parties are often cannot govern wisely. Their radical ideology prevents them from implement practical and common sense measures. Getting the train to run on time is easier said than done. The Indians soon became delusional with the BJP.
Furthermore, records have shown that when radical parties participate in politic – they become less radical and more pragmatic in the process. Electoral politic tend to moderate people. This can be easily seen in the BJP after their defeat. The BJP had moderated the rhetoric significantly.

The RSS's row with the BJP centres on Lal Krishna Advani, president of the party and leader of the opposition. Mr Advani upset “family” members on a visit to Pakistan in June. He praised Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Islamic country's founder, and said he was sad about the destruction, in 1992, of a mosque built on the alleged site of a Hindu temple in Ayodhya.

The phenomenon can be seen elsewhere too. Hizb-Allah in Lebanon is still an extremist party – but it rhetoric is significantly toned down. Just compare Hiz-Allah public position on Israel today and five years ago; the contrast is startling.

One should have faith in Democracy. Fear not that Hamas will win the next Palestinian Authority election. Once winning office, they either have to moderate their position or risk loosing power. Critics of Democracy often deride its proponents for being idealistic. Their cynicism prevent them from seeing Democracy for what it is. Democracy is not an ideal, it is the most pragmatic concept. It has worked consistently in modern time and with Democracy came other things equally pragmatic - good standard of living, strong economy, and wealth.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Reagan Boulevard?

Frank (who guest-blogged at Andrew Sullivan) commented on the proposal to rename a 16th Street NW in District of Columbia.
First, they came for my airport, and I said nothing. Now, they’re trying to rename my main thoroughfare, 16th Street. The bastards want to make it Ronald Reagan Boulevard. I have much grudging respect for the Gipper. But the District of Columbia was one the few places to thoroughly reject Reagan’s reelection. They won’t let that drop. It’s seems they’ll keep forcing the Great Leader’s name on us until we recant our decision in the 1984 election.
Now there is a perfectly good reason to oppose the proposal – mainly the naming convention of letter and number. But simply because residents of the District of Columbia did not elect Reagan is irrelevant. It is our nation capital and it belongs to all Americans. Let not forget that Reagan was elected by a landslide – and if we choose to name everything in the city after him – it is our right. Nobody complained when there are 10,000 structures name after Kennedy.

The fact is District of Columbia would be a third world city without the financial contribution of non-residents. If the residents of DC choose to reject that fact, maybe it is time to move our capital to city more deserving.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Fallacy of Troop Number

There have been numerous articles, blog’s postings, and editorials about the inadequacy of troops in Iraq. One after another, the authors call for an increase of troops in Iraq. They question the Bush Administration and the Pentagon for putting too little troops on the ground – that the generals’ opinion and need are suppressed. Nonsense! I do believe we need more troop level in the US Army so that soldiers do not have to deploy as often as they currently do (many served in Iraq every other year). But the troop number in Iraq is not the problem. Simply putting more people with guns on the ground does not solve the problem we currently face. There is no added value to having more troops in Iraq. At the height of the insurgency, there was at maximum 20,000 insurgents – one sixth the number of the US forces. With a radio of 6 to 1 in our favor, we do not need more troops.

This example will illustrate the irrelevancy of troop quantity. Somewhere in the Sunni Triangle, Abu Qasim (the name is completely fictitious; any similarity to a real person is purely coincidental) is a merchant at the market. Every time a US convoy goes by, Abu Qasim would waive and smile at them. He even offered his food to US soldiers for free. Every time he speak to a US soldier, he would tell them how much he hates Saddam Hussein and how much he appreciates the US for freeing Iraq.

Abu Qasim seems like a really friendly and jovial guy – except that he is also a local terrorist cell leader. Qasim runs a network of 50 local terrorists who have killed a few US soldiers and wounded many others. He also orchestrated the assassinations of many Iraqi officials and polices. Qasim never participate in any operations himself, leaving that to the foolish Iraqis who are paid $100 – 200 per attack. He does not even plan the attacks. He simply finances the operation, provide strategic direction, and leaves operational detail to trusted underlings. Many terrorists never met Qasim; they receive order through middlemen.

This is the nature of the War in Iraq, faceless, nameless enemies who strike without showing their faces. Adding a hundred thousand additional US soldiers to Iraq change absolutely nothing. They just all drive by and wave happily to Abu Qasim, totally ignorant of his true identity. And there are others faceless and nameless terrorists in Iraq ranging from the leadership type of Abu Qasim to demolition engineer who built Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). Even the bottom of the food chain insurgents who place the IEDs on the road and detonate them do so discretely. A US soldier would not know who the insurgents are unless they were lucky enough to be caught in the act. Even then, only the lowly terrorists of little value are captured.

The issue of Iraq is not enough troops but not enough of the right kind of troops – Civil Affairs, Psychological Operation, Intelligence (particularly HUMINT), and Special Forces; Each with a unique skilled set and capabilities that will help to identify key terrorists like Abu Qasim. The first two elements win heard and mind providing the friendly environment the last two elements to collect intelligence and capture key leaders. I call them soft elements. The soft elements currently consists of a very small percentage of US troops in Iraq – far from being sufficient to win the war.

Except in the province of Al-Anbar, We do not need more troops in Iraq. In fact we can do with far less if we can get more specialized troops – the soft elements I mention above. Unfortunately, the number of soft element is finite and we are deploying them to the max. Both Psychological Operation and Civil Affairs exist only within the Reserve and all of them have been on deployment since early 2003. We need to expand those assets and include them within the active duty force. That of course takes time. A concurrent solution is turning the war over to Iraqis. Who better at finding and fighting Abu Qasim than his own countrymen whose speak his language and know his culture? Of course that includes a laborious process of turning the Iraqis Military into an effective force – a task that we did half-heartedly until recently. Therefore training, equipping, and mentoring the Iraqi Armed Force should be the priority number one.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Honor and Honesty

From Michael Yon’s dispatch:

…I kept asking American officers throughout the day, “Was he really a bad guy?” The soldiers could have said that the dead man was a terrorist, and that they had gotten him. There is so much going on that it would have been difficult for me to know the difference without checking with the hospital and others. But instead they told me, “We think we killed the wrong man.”

I said to the commander, “You know I will write about this, don’t you?”

He answered, “Mike, you can write about the good, the bad, and the ugly. I think we made a mistake, but you were there. You saw what happened. We are still not certain that he is not a cell-member, but we have no proof that he was and my gut tells me he was innocent. I think it was a bad target.”

I am immensely proud of our fighting men. Instead of claiming that they killed an enemy combatant, or worse lie to themselves that they kill an enemy, they courageously admitted that they make a mistake. Imagine the mental anguish that they experienced and will experience for the rest of their lives. People forget that the greatest sacrifice many soldiers make is living with the guilt of war.

You are not going get the same level of honesty and integrity from the main stream media or anti-war activists. Unlike our brave soldiers, the anti-war people have routinely distorted facts, in some case completely fabricated statistic.

It is clear whose are more trust worthy.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Intelligence Oversight Violation

Gregory Djerejian, John Cole, and Rick Moran blogged extensively about this article in the Washington Post and this article by the Salt Lake Tribune. The article detailed the interrogation of Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a former Iraqi General. Here is an excerpt from the Post’s article.

When he didn't answer or provided an answer that they didn't like, at first [redacted] would slap Mowhoush, and then after a few slaps, it turned into punches," Ryan testified. "And then from punches, it turned into [redacted] using a piece of hose."

"The indig were hitting the detainee with fists, a club and a length of rubber hose," according to classified investigative records.

Soldiers heard Mowhoush "being beaten with a hard object" and heard him "screaming" from down the hall, according to the Jan. 18, 2004, provost marshal's report. The report said four Army guards had to carry Mowhoush back to his cell. (WAPO)

Mowhoush died two days later in the following interrogation session. I have written about interrogation techniques here, both the controversial ones and the uncontroversial ones. The incident described above –if happened - is clearly torture. There is absolutely no moral justification for the action. It deserves the strongest condemnation. It was only seven days into the detainment that the beating began. What’s a bunch of impatient buffoons!

What I find most disturbing about the alleged incident is that it is not clear that the interrogation was being done by interrogator, and certainly not trained and qualified interrogator. There are too many amateurs in the story. It mentioned interrogation being done by ODA (Operation Detachment Alpha).

When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the three. "The personnel were dressed in civilian clothes and wore balaclavas to hide their identity," according to a Jan. 18, 2004, report for the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division (WAPO)

The Post refers to “a combination of the three.” They are mistaken. There are only two; ODA and Special Forces Group is the same thing. But Special Forces soldiers are not trained and qualified interrogator. And I cannot speak to the qualification of the CIA in relation to interrogation. It was the interrogation session by either ODA or CIA (the Post is extremely unclear on the entity) that the alleged beating and torture occurred (November 24th).

There is a thing known as “Intelligence Oversight.” It is a Law. In short, it regulates intelligence collection activities by the US armed force. Not only does it prescribe the allowable and forbidden activities. It also explicitly states who can do what. In the matter of interrogation, only trained and qualified interrogator can conduct interrogation – not any garden variety Military Intelligence personnel. Outside of the CIA, it is not clear if any of the Army personnel involved in the death of Abed Hamed Mowhoush are qualified interrogators. The article mentions two days later, Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. conducted another interrogation. We do not know if WO Welshofer is an interrogator, the article did not mention his MOS. But we know that other whose were involved are not. SPC Jerry L. Loper is a mechanic. SFC William Sommer is a linguist. And Warrant Officer Jeff William is an intelligence analyst. Where are the interrogators?

Intelligence Oversight also delineates clearly chain of command and authority concerning interrogation. Interrogators have separate and distinct chain of command from the maneuver units they attach to. They do not report to the field commander.

Intelligence Oversight was in violation in this case. At the preliminaries hearing:

Col. David A. Teeples, who then commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, told the court he believed the "claustrophobic technique" was both approved and effective. It was used before, and for some time after, Mowhoush's death, according to sources familiar with the interrogation operation. (WAPO)

Colonel Teeples simply does not have the credential or the expertise to determine what are approved or what are effective. And by law, he is not allowed to make that kind of judgment or influence the interrogation process in any way. Colonel Teeples simply exceeded his authority and may have violated Intelligence Oversight Law. Furthermore, the defendant for WO William stated that,

"The interrogation techniques were known and were approved of by the upper echelons of command of the 3rd ACR," Cassara [the attorney] said in a news conference. "They believed, and still do, that they were appropriate and proper." (WAPO)

Let be clear. No one within the 3rd ACR chain of command has the authority to approve or authorize interrogation techniques. The only person who has the authority is the G2X, an officer at the divisional level who is in charge of all HUMINT activities which include interrogation. If anyone else within 3rd ACR chain of command approved any techniques, they are in clear violation of Intelligence Oversight.

The Salt Lake Tribune also mentions Intelligence Oversight violation. A Utah National Guard soldier who is a witness to the case reports.

Later, when he learned that unqualified soldiers were conducting interrogations, Pratt again logged a compliant. In response, he testified, he was investigated - and told by other soldiers it was for blackmail purposes.

Intelligence Oversight is a serious matter. For the same reason one would not want an unqualified medic to work on the wounded, one does not want an unqualified interrogator to conduct an interrogation. On both the Abu Ghraib scandal and this scandal, one similarity emerges – unqualified and untrained personnel with little supervision, or under supervision of equally unqualified and untrained personnel.

Colonel Teeples and the accomplices in his staffs deserve to be tried for violation of Intelligence Oversight. If the colonel does not understand the important of the law, does not care, or the combination of both; he does not belong in the position that he is currently in. He does far more harm than good. The Pentagon is not blameless either because of their weak enforcement on Intelligence Oversight. Furthermore, they create an environment that such violation is inevitable. With the chronic shortage of interrogators, as well as Military Polices, commanders are forced to use unqualified and untrained personnel to fill critical positions. This condition existed throughout the chain of command from top to bottom. Such a shortage existed long before we went to Iraq, yet Secretary Rumsfeld did absolutely nothing to remedy the situation. He fought with Congress when Congress want to increase the Army authorized strength. We are going to war with the army we have instead of the army we want because the Sec. Def. lack the foresight to see the obvious problem.

For those moral cretins who will say that I am too concern about a terrorist, a Ba’athist, and Saddam henchman. Mowhoush may be all those things. He is more likely than not an important terrorist leader. And being a key leadership of the insurgency, he has vast amount of information on the insurgency that could have saved lives – American and Iraqis. But now the information died with him because some unqualified idiots decide to play interrogators. Detainees like Mowhoush are gold mine to be exploited. This is an intelligence war and a large part of our current information comes from detainees. With some patience, a skilled interrogator can get a lot out of Mowhoush – cooperative or not. The information would have saved some lives and deal a serious blow to the terrorist networks. Explain that to the next fallen Marine because we let Mowhoush die.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Rush - Who Do You Call A "Staff Puke?"

Rush Limbaugh is officially an ass for calling Paul Hackett a “staff puke” (hat tip to the Commissar) Here is the transcript.

RUSH: [Hackett] was in the Civilian Affairs Unit, and this is a Washington Post story (it says here) from July 30th. “A lawyer and a major in the Marine reserves, Hackett volunteered last year to serve in Iraq and spent seven months there in the civilian affairs job, including service around Ramadi and Fallujah. He returned to Ohio in March, decided to jump into the race for Portman’s seat, seeking to become the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress.” So he volunteered to serve, spent seven months in a civilian affairs job. What is that, since you’re — did you say you’re a Marine?
CALLER: I’m in the Navy, sir, Navy lieutenant.
RUSH: Navy. What is a civilian affairs job? You tell me.
CALLER: Civilian affairs is just basically a public affairs job where they interact with the civilian authorities from a military perspective. It’s a military liaison, if you will.
RUSH: Oh, it’s a military liaison. Is it a combat position or not?
CALLER: Negative. It is not a combat position.

RUSH: Okay, call him a staff puke if that’s what you want, but civilian affairs, staff puke. Bottom line is he’s running a fraudulent, deceptive campaign, and the Democrats are saying this is a bellwether election.

First of all, there is no such thing as “civilian affair.” It is “civil affair,” but most of the time they go by the acronym CA. And most important of all, they are no “staff pukes.” Civil Affair actually falls under the Special Operation Command (SOCOM). The reason they fall under SOCOM is their unconventional nature. They do the important task of winning heart and mind by building infrastructure such as bridges, clinics, schools, or water treatment plants. In Iraq they also play soldiers-diplomat by working with local tribes and local governments.

These soldiers risk their lives on the daily basic because they are far more vulnerable units compare to the combat units. They convoy in smaller force with less firepower into dangerous villages and towns. Imagine a small contingent of US Army averaging nine to ten soldiers in an isolated Iraqi village far away from the main base. Half of them are in people house trying to win them over leaving the other half on the vehicles to provide security. Their frequent interaction with average Iraqis leave them extremely vulnerable to insurgent attacks.
I did not follow Paul Hackett political career and do not know his political position. From what I heard, he is a Democrat and not nice fellow. I heard that Hackett is opposing the war in Iraq. If it is so, then I do not share his politic. But I do not really care because it is irrelevant to the subject. There are a million ways Rush can criticize Hackett without resorting to calling him a “staff puke.” I know that some over-testosterone and immature infantrymen use the terms toward non-combat soldiers. It is inappropriate for them to do so, and it is even more inappropriate for Rush Limbaugh (who is a civilian) to do so.
What is most upsetting about this incident is the lack of outrage from the Right. In fact many are shamelessly defending Rush. The Right had the reputation of cleaning our own house. During the Trent Lott scandal, I was proud to be a conservative. It is absolutely shameful that many conservatives are behaving like hypocritical moonbats. It is time conservatives let Rush knows he is way out of line.
UPDATE: Thank you to reader James in Shreveport who informed me that the transcript may not be correct. He believes that it was the caller who used the term "staff puke," not Rush. I did not hear it myself and I cannot swear by the authentication of the transcript. I should have put out a disclaimer on authenticity. My sincere apology. I got the transcript from the Commissar who got it from someone else.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Intelligence Design

Both the Commissar of Politburo Diktat and Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House have made expressed their dismay at The President endorsing the idea that Intelligence Design should be taught along side Evolution in Science class.

Beside the excellent points made by others I have a few points of my own – the points are made for those on the Right who endorse it.

(1) This is the scientific equivalence of moral relativism that we on the Right criticize moonbats for. Since when did Conservative buy in the idea that all ideas are equal? The argument of the proponents of ID is that it is a competition of idea. If that is the case, how would they like it if Communism or Fascism is being taught to their children in government or economic class? I know that I just gave extreme examples. But I doubt those who advocate ID would even want their children to learn the Gaia theory that many of those left wing new age loonies believe. And are they ready to learn the theory of that I personally subscribe to, soul migration which also known as reincarnation?

(2) Those of us that oppose Intelligence Design in Science class are not opposing to the potential soundness of ID. It can be taught as a metaphysic theory in Philosophy class. It has validity within that department along with the other theories that Plato and Aristotle articulated. That is where it rightly belongs, as well as my subscribed theory of reincarnation, not in Science class. ID is not science since it cannot be falsified in the same manner scientific theory can.
UPDATE: I am having second thought.

There will be those who will accuse me of not understanding intelligence design. I understand it. I understand that it does not invalidate the theory of evolution. It merely explains that evolution is not random; rather there is an author behind the process. It is actually a justification for a person who believes in a creator to accept evolution theory by wrapping evolution around a theological concept. If I understand it incorrectly, please feel free to correct me.

Why am I having second thought? I am still not subscribing to ID nor do I believe that it belongs in the realm of science. But if intelligence design gets skeptical people (particularly religious parents) to accept evolution – and there are many of them – the utilitarian in me say that it is an acceptable trade off.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Not In Their Names

…One of the ironic things about reading Milblogs based in Afghanistan or Iraq is how little undirected bloodthirstiness their authors have. They have Muslim friends. They have Muslim enemies. That almost sounds normal…

For a man who never been to Iraq, Wretchard is very perceptive. It is absurd that many anti-war activists are claiming to represent the interest of Iraqis. I just had a conversation with a few friends who oppose the war. They are nice folks who believe that they are looking out for the interest of Iraqis. My question is how many Iraqis do they personally know? Most probably answer none.

I do not claim to know the will of the Iraqis people since I do not know all of them. But I and other soldiers who deployed came to know many Iraqis – interpreters, soldiers, policemen, or workers on base. And natural as any other human-to-human setting, friendship developed – genuine and affectionate bond of brotherhood. And in many circumstances, language barrier is insufficient a barrier to people who want to make friends. Unlike anti-war activists, the term “Iraqis” is not an abstract term for men and women in uniforms. It has faces, names, and memories. Some we remember fondly.

I have seen both sides of the coins. I often wonder that how many of the Vietnam War protesters actually know any of us Vietnamese. And I am certain (despite having no imperial evidence) that they would reverse their position if they personally knew any of us. Today those former war protesters that changed their mind about their position during the war, almost every person came in contact with Vietnamese refugees living in America. Through the narrative of their friends, they came to regret their position they took during that conflict. I met a few of those. This is particularly true of school teachers who met young Vietnamese students – fresh out of the refugee camps and full of bitter memory. It is a role reversal, the students taught the teachers.

Christopher Hitchens conversion did not happened in the West. He changed his mind when he met real people with faces, names, and stories (hat tip to Neo-Neocon). Hitchens in an interview.

...I was bouncing around in a jeep with some Kurdish guerillas at that point. And on my side of the windshield, there was a big laminated picture of George H. W. Bush. And I said to them, "Look, comrades, do you have to do this? For one thing, I can't see out of my side of the windshield. But for another, I know quite a few reporters in this area and might run into one of them at any moment. And I don't want them seeing me in a jeep that has this guy's image on it. So do you have to?" And they said, quite soberly and solemnly to me, "No, we think we should have this picture because we think, without him, we would all be dead, and all our families would be dead, too." And from what I'd seen by then in that region, I thought, that's basically morally true. I don't have a reply to that. I don't have a glib one and I don't have a sound one. It's true. So at that point my criticism of the war became this: that it had not been a regime-change war, that the slogans of liberty and justice that had been used to mobilize it had not been honored. But if they had been, I would have been in favor of it. It's a narrow but deep crevasse to cross, and once you've crossed it, I'll tell you this, you can't go back over it again. You can't find yourself on the other side of it. Some of you may be in transition across this crevasse yourselves or be thinking about it. I warn you: don't cross over if you have any intention of going back, because you can't. You're stuck with it then. You're a prisoner of the knowledge of genocide and fascism, and you'll never break free of it—of that awareness. You will have made friends you can't desert...

I too have made friends that I cannot desert.