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Archive for April of 2007
April 29, 2007
April 26, 2007
hat do America, the Linden Labs virtual world “Second Life”, and the newly discovered planet a mere 160 trillion miles away have in common? We've been pondering that for a while, now.
Second Life (“SL” ) is the free virtual world that features avatars for members to interact with the world
. You may have heard some news about it. Countries have created embassies there and political campaigns imported controversy as well. Most notably Edwards' campaign HQ in SL was hacked and attacked by a flying feces and Marxist-Leninist posters
. The French, too, took their political passions to SL
. But mostly, SL is still about sex and games.
L isn't the first use of avatars on the Net, of course. And as the Stiftung noted decades ago long before it became trite, the human animal always embraces technology that facilitates sexual exploration and goofing off. The 'serious' stuff always comes later. We motor around SL now and then because it is so far the closest thing to Neal Stephenson's “Snow Crash” Metaverse
. (Jay Allard's claim that that honor goes to Microsoft's Xbox another sad joke from Redmond
). SL is now getting media attention from 50-plus journalists who stumble upon and write about it to seem “hip”. It's perhaps understandable. SL is certainly easier to understand than their 15 year children's fixation on “Hot Topic” fashions.
Read more »
April 25, 2007
ut do they signify nothing?
ying on the couch Wolfie likely would be a Freudian, hoping to find meaning in his REM imagery. It fits his Romantic disdain for the concrete and material. He would insist that his nightly hauntings in fact have symbolic resonance. Why else are they always the events of his preceding day unless they signify elements of repressed images knocking on the door of his ego and awake mind? Yet he again expresses puzzlement why his girlfriend never appears in his dreams. Perhaps it is because she is one who forced him to come here in the first place?
How fitting then that his paid friend in all likelihood is a modernist. “Science, Mr. President, tells us that the primary motivating force for your dreaming is not psychological at all.” Tapping his pipe, the paid friend continues. “Your dream state images are merely physiological randomn imagery arising from a pre-programmed, neurally determined genesis.” The paid friend concludes with a witticism, savoring the in-joke dig at the Old School, “Sometimes a train falling into a chasm off the tracks is just a train falling into a chasm off the tracks.”
, World Bank
April 24, 2007
t's tempting to revisit the ages old question of 'What is Time?' The reason? The WaPo today reports the Congress essentially lost its memory about the most basic fundamentals of oversight.
The human capital expertise evaporated since 1994. Democrats have hired over 200 investigators since November 2006 yet committees and members are having to learn how to do their jobs.
Examples? Congressional staffers have been using Google to hunt for Executive Branch documents. It did not occur to them that Congress is entitled to have them produced. Staffers also assumed they needed to file FOIA requests for information.
“One of the first things that was brought to my attention was that Congress doesn't have to use FOIA,” said a House staffer, 32, referring to Freedom of Information Act requests, an approach used by the public that can take months to yield a response. She spoke on the condition of anonymity because, she said, her questions were “embarrassing.”
he at least had the sense to be embarrassed. And as we noted here during the Paul Bremmer hearings, Congress largely has forgotten how to conduct meaningful hearings, substantively and theatrically. It will take time to recover the expertise lost. Had Congress remained unified with the Executive for another four years, one can only imagine the institutional alzheimers.
e asked the question posed at the outset after recalling a conversation we had with Admiral Art Cebrowksi not long before his passing. Cebrowski lamented that similar depletion of institutional memories and human capital in the U.S. engineering and R&D base posed looming problems for the Nation regardless of foreign policies pursued. Specifically, he noted his opinion that the U.S. largely has forgotten how to build reliable and successful rockets. Shipbuilding skills, something he sought to re-kindle in part by his now abortive Littoral Combat Ship program, he felt similarly evaporated. And so on. His point? Procurement turgidities and essentially state funded industries conspired to degrade capabilities to batch processes unsuitable for useful production. Concrete knowledge and skills are now mere color graphics on a PowerPoint presentation all too often.
Read more »
April 23, 2007
e discovered almost everyone in pundit land already scrambled to toss off “deep thoughts” on the French elections. Rich Lowry, who famously proclaimed the U.S. is winning in Iraq, offers the usual smug condescension
. Even the Daily Show riffed on the elections.
So we figured that ground was well covered. Besides, unlike say Rich Lowry, when we know little about something (and that definitely is French politics), we are inclined not to weigh in. Instead we tinkered with this. Have no fear, Dear Reader, we are not mired in Amerikanischer Kulturpessimismus
. That, too, we leave to NRO and the Medveds of the world. This is just an outgrowth of some conversations with a friend in emails about mischievious Baudrillardian juxtapositions.
A shame that Copland
now probably is used to sell linoleum tile somewhere.
Oh, but back to Sarkozy and Royal. We do have this to share. Japanese Foreign Minister Aso tells Segolene Royal to read more comic books.
She's not a fan of manga by all accounts. And probably not high on the I-Man, too. The Japanese, you see, noted Chirac's deep interest in sumo wrestling, surprising for a gaijin
. Royal and Sarkozy don't measure up. Sarkozy, naturally, in Paris Match is reported to have said “[Sumo is ] battles between obese guys with slicked-down topknots.” He added “I can't consider sumo — a battle between two fat guys — as a sport for intellectuals.”
Adding injury to insult, Sarkozy said this to his Chinese hosts during a State visit to Beijing. Sarkozy also likes to be photographed riding horses in jeans. An “American neocon with a French passport” indeed. Top that, Jon Stewart.
April 22, 2007
ill Lind continues his series of columns highlighting a dismaying truth: the American Army is profoundly incompetent
In this particular piece, Lind asserts that the Army remains addicted to U.S. Grant frontal tactics and operational art focused on direct engagement and destruction. In contrast to the Soviet and German perfection of penetration and encirclement. He has a point.
As Marine Lt. Gen. Trainor and others have revealed, even Schwarzkopf's “left hook” and McCaffery's charge against the Republican Guard in 1991
were operationally uneven on purely military terms — contra VDH's incorrect triumphalism about 1991 even now in 2007
. Tommy Frank's effort against a far more depleted Iraq was similary flawed. Particularly troubling are the severe and unforeseen logistical problems, not fully exposed to pubic awareness. Interesting that the far weaker German logistical infrastructure was good for about 500 miles to the Dvina in 1941.
Implicit in Lind's analysis is the need for institutions to progress in linear doctrinal fashion — i.e., from the U.S. Grant 2nd Generation mind set to the Tuckhachevsky/Guderian 3rd and finally to the needs of today's 4th Generation warfare. Perhaps. In the 1980s the U.S. Army tried to embrace doctrinal concepts the Soviets established in their field regulations in 1929 and 1936 (polevoi ustav 29, polevoi ustav 36).
We called it “Air Land Battle”. Stormin' Norman worked some elements into his 1991 campaign such as the helicopter-supported penetration of the desert to the west of Kuwait. (Norm also had to contend with an Air Force determined to prove its
own independent doctrinal supremacy via
Warden and airpower).
Then it turns out the U.S. made another bad bet in 2002 besides the whole “flowers on arrival” thing. As we know, Rummy pushed hard on his ideology of a “transformed”, “expeditionary” Army. Those quaffing the Kool Aid in OSD then liked to say the microchip and software would power the American military revolution like the internal combustion engine powered the 1940 Ardennes break through. No need to master 3rd Generation art because mass armies are a thing of the past. Light, fast, agile and dispersed swarms of U.S. forces would use “situational awareness” and manuever of stand off firepower to overwhelm — well, the Iraqis. But OIF was intended really as a test run for the concept. (And ignore the fact that the whole idea runs aground against a real opponent who could presumably deny the luxury of months of undisturbed build-up). Focus remained on the kinetic kill rather than on what an end state, war termination victory would be or look like. The Army's stubborn refusal for years after 2003 to consider old lessons from Vietnam re counter-insurgency are well documented.
What's The Score?
mplications of the Army's doctrinal failings are perhaps even more dire than Lind supposes. We agree with him that the Army would get a B+/A- on the 2nd Generation “Old Skool” proficiency test. We're good at blowing stuff up. We also agree with Lind that the Army sucks at true operational 3rd Generation skills such as breakthrough, exploitation or encirclement. A C-/D+. 4th Generation warfare? Here's Lind's prescient take before OIF kicked off
That leads to point number two: if and when American forces capture Baghdad and take down Saddam Hussein, the real war will not end but begin. It will be fought in Iraq in part, as an array of non-state elements begin to fight America and each other. It will be fought in part in the rest of the Islamic world where the targets will not only be Americans but any local regime that is friendly to America. And, of course, it will be fought here in America, as the sons of Mohammed remind Americans that war is a two-way street.
This kind of war, Fourth Generation war, is something American and other state armed forces do not know how to fight. It is not going to go well, and among the casualties are likely to be the pro-American governments in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In short, an American victory over the state of Iraq (which is itself no sure thing) is more likely to lead to a strategic failure for America than to a strategic success . . .
With the invasion of Iraq, Washington is trying to turn a Fourth Generation war, a war with non-state entities, into a Second Generation war, a war against another state that can be conquered by the simple application of firepower to targets. If Clausewitz were still with us, I suspect he would warn that we are marching toward Jena, the battle where Napoleon decisively defeated Prussia in 1806.
gain, unsurprisingly, we agree. And here the grade has to be an F. This is the debate we need — and the Army still needs. Our incapacity to have a mature and substantive public dialogue on allegedly the most important issue of the day continues to astound. PhD candidates will be thankful for years to come no doubt. Instead the media relentlessly chews over inconsequential and trivial tactical questions. “Wall up? Or Wall down? Go to our website and vote now!” Even specialist literature is not much better. Proponents of traditional (read pre-Rummy) Army thinking keep pointing to the need for heavy armor and heavy units in Iraq (on that point note that a Challenger's Chobham armor finally has been breached
). Rumsfeld hold outs cite their evidence. Either way, the focus remains how to kill things with kinetic force for the most part.
A larger dialogue addressing Lind's longstanding critique is overdue. We all “support the troops”. The Army leadership needs to be brought to account. The world will not wait for that leadership to bungle its way forward. A clear and precise open debate over 4th Generation requirements and lessons learned is imperative. Bitter truths should not be swept under the disingenuous rubric of “we support the troops”. It would be a double tragedy if the misled and ill-used Army rank and file made all these sacrifices in vain not only for the Neocon Iraqi fantasy but for the good of the Army going forward.
Tags: U.S. Army
, 4th Generation
April 20, 2007
n amusing aspect of contemporary American politics is that a significant portion of both observers and participants are unware they are bit actors in a play long past intermission. Nowhere is this more true than discussing the application of “science” to the social and political question of race relations and more broadly, cross pollination over racial-cultural ecumenical boundaries.
The anti-liberal democratic Counter Enlightenment in Europe relied on “science”, “biology” and “environment” to wage a critique first against the American experiment and then 1789 in France. The point? If biology and natural history together determined everything, then a liberal democratic government founded on reason and free will meant nothing. In fact, democracy would inevitably fail in favor of higher truths of blood, nation and authority. The Counter Enlightment attack on the American idea sought to denigrate the environment in North America, claiming it would determine biological degeneracy compared to Europe. Democracy would devolve.
ur Framers took this critique seriously. Alexander Hamilton refuted directly this European “degeneration” thesis at length in the Federalist. Biology did not determine destiny according to the Framers. Championing the Enlightenment, Hamilton, Madison and others argued that the human ability to choose and reason allowed mankind to move beyond what was naturally given.
This debate between biology as destiny and our capacity to transcend those limits echoes in today's America. It is veiled and coded, perhaps. But the debate is with us.
Applying natural and pre-political “scientific” determinants to human social interaction allows proponents to reject grandiose political constructs, not only liberal democracy but for example, Neocon fantasies of international democratic revolution and related exorbinant expenditures. Making this point adds another rarely spoken goal — the prevention of racial intermingling/miscegenation. While few modern proponents of the natural historical/biological critique dare embrace the notion openly, this train of thought is essentially the old “polygenesis” canard made new by a fresh coat of paint. Usually, the closest in public contemporary proponents will go is to focus on identifying and underscoring racial taxonomies of various human types. Their readers are invited to take the next step. They often do.
A people will die definitively, and its civilization with it, the moment when its original ethnic element has become so subdivided or submerged by admixtures of foreign races that it can no longer give rise to sufficient impulse.
rom Tancredo after two scotches? Pat? Nope. From Comte Arthur de Gobineau, noted opponent of the Enlightenment, America, de Tocqueville's secretary and father of the 'scientific' use of racial taxonomies for political purposes. Gobineau is largely unknown in contemporary America. Yet we deal with his heirs daily. His theories inspired Nietzsche. He visited with Richard Wagner and inspired the latter's racial theories and musical compositions. Carl Schmitt, Oswald Spengler, Heidegger, the Corporal all relied on Gobineau. Perversely many of the modern Left via
their rehabilitation of Nietzsche and Heidegger in the 1960s and 1970s incorporated this aristocrat's Counter Enlightenment disdain for liberal democracy.
So, Dear Reader, keep your eyes open. Do not be surprised to see a set of intellectual bed fellows discretely lodging together in media and across the dinner tables: (a) biological and “scientific” analysis of races aimed at refuting the transcendence of political choice and identity; (b) rejection of ideologies addressing the Human Condition; (c) policy arguments (geopolitical or otherwise) in favor of retreating to, defending or limiting interactions across cultural/racial boundaries; and of course, (d) hierarchical/traditional/authoritarian organizations of society.
Remember, opponents of liberal democracy often hide in open sight. Especially in contemporary America.
, Racial Taxonomies
, Civic Virtue
, Leader Principle
April 19, 2007
April 18, 2007
ur friend Global Paradigms offers his travelogue of how D.C. chattering classes sought relevance from 1992 to the present.
Dr. Hadar's writing just confirms that he is one of the wittiest and funny Imperial City observers. It's a great read.
Our minor quibble is an impression that affectations of Imperial City policy entrepreneurs and self promoters have a role greater than reflecting the zeitgeist. It's not central to Dr. Hadar's analysis but it got us to thinking. Our view is that the world goes on its merry way regardless of their stress-filled efforts.
D.C. self promoters are largely an uncreative lot. The United States faces a remorseless audit of its financial, economic and geopolitical position. American ignorance of the underlying fundamentals maintaining its position will not postpone that day. About this we hear almost nothing.
The Song Remains The Same
e all have favorite stories about the fatuousness of Imperial City bloviators. If we've told the story here before, forgive us. It involves Newt and his comically uneven kitchen cabinet. Back in 1994, recall, AOL was considered revolutionary. AOL email did not communicate with CompuServe, etc. The Internet as such didn't exist to the public. No one knew what TCP/IP was (especially at the FCC or the telcos) and Netscape had not gone public.
To his credit, Newt understood that this “tech thing” would be a big deal. So his associates organized a big conference in D.C. on how the still largely unknown Internet would change the world. This was before such conferences happened every five minutes. Those organizing it for Newt and many (but not all) of those selected to make presentations had never been on the Internet or knew what it was. Still, a good time was had by all. The clueless got up and spewed all sorts of ignorance all over the equally ignorant but credulous audience. The WaPo write up was hilarious. And so it goes.
Writing a summary of Washington, D.C. ignorance is a labor of Sisyphus. Intellectual parasites always trope to what is trendy. If a post middle-aged Fulda Gap bureaucrat after 1992 wanted to pretend he was hip by awkwardly wearing a golf shirt and discussing browser wars, it's a relatively minor sin. That same Fulda Gap bureaucrat today could sell himself as a steely eyed (forward leaning!) expert on Arab fighting ethos. And until Rumsfeld's demise, 'military transformation' as well. Sic transit parasitae
All That Glitters Is Not Gold
ut animus towards Friedman aside, for the moment. Or the dot com overexuberance. Bashing those trends is the new black.
The substantial fact is that the American creation of the digital economy prolonged American geopolitical hegemony for at least 20 years. By the late 1980s, Japan had mastered Taylorism and mass production techniques far in advance of American capacity. This achievement remains post the Tokyo real estate bubble. Japanese engineering and manufacturing techniques operated two or three innovation cycles within American capacity to respond. We agree the structural flaws of the Japanese 1955 system and culutral inability to change without gaiatsu
exacerbated their 1990s Lost Decade. But the point is that the U.S. as world leading manufacturing power essentially evaporated by 1990. European improvements and the Asian Tigers only presaged China's emergence. What growth vector for the American economy comes after the digital innovation curve?
To presume that we can sustain a geopolitical position and standard of living built on Chinese credit is unwise. The U.S. urgently needs leadership that understands international economics, financial history and substantive wealth creation. We have not had a Secretary of State or national security advisor who is a genuine Asian expert. We've had precisely one Secretary of the Treasury (Rubin) (nit caught by reader Graeme) capable of strategic financial stewardship in the last 20 years. The geo-political implications of a service economy's structural inability to create and sustain export-led growth is not understood
. Let alone policies crafted to address our situation.
Assuming that the essential input output matrix of the American economy remains unchanged (it would take a significant crisis to alter it because of impact on consumption), financial management becomes even more pressing. This picture is at total variance with the incoherently expansive strategic footprint splashed across the globe. The ends mean gap is chronic. Iraq notwithstanding. An audit is coming — either one we conduct ourselves, or one imposed by circumstances.
How Washington D.C. self promoters act under those circumstances? Who cares. Would it be any different than their pretending now to understand Arab culture, democracy building, insurgency techniques or any of a dozen other poses du jour
? One final note. A problem with some Neocon critics. They still assume when criticizing Neocons that directly or indirectly Israel, its plight and the region deserve pride of place in the American strategic imagination. Enough. A pox on both.
, washington self promoters
April 17, 2007
hat to do about the American challenge pre-occupied the world's powers for decades after the 1890s. The German solution after 1918? To seek strategic depth across the Eurasian land mass. The Japanese Army sought that same depth in mainland China in 1931. The British mistakenly believed their Empire was a net addition to their wealth and power rather than a drain.
The vision of a Europe able to stand up against the American continental mass market cut across specific ideologies or national antagonisms. Our understanding of this European pre-occupation and fear was long buried by the politicized historiography of America's presence in Europe after 1949. Pan European coal and industrial cooperation pre-dated post-war “democracy” building. Fear and resentment of American industrial power and wealth drove trans-European industrialists to cooperate even under German occupation — such as the French, Norwegian and German efforts to create a mass aluminum industry, etc. (One good book worth looking at is Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy
). Long time readers know that we do not recommend Kershaw's work in general as being largely regurgitation of the Old School drum and trumpet history, and even there it is factual bulemia — judgment and facts without much context).
iewing recent EU challenges to American digital economic champions or the Airbus effort through the historical prism of the last 100 years makes clear the continuity. A shame that Americans are so removed from our own roots of genuine wealth creation. Today, Americans discuss wealth creation largley as the process of mere empty financial capital transactions or marketing exercises.
Read more »
April 16, 2007
ou may have already seen Derb over at NRO berate the survivors at Virgina Tech for not being manly enough
. Apparently Derb feels they should have charged an armed man and by pheromone and aspect intimidated 9mm rounds into quiescence.
As NRO's designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.
At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren't very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can't hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren't bad.
Yes, yes, I know it's easy to say these things: but didn't the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything? As the cliche goes—and like most cliches. It's true—none of us knows what he'd do in a dire situation like that. I hope, however, that if I thought I was going to die anyway, I'd at least take a run at the guy.
e're sure Derb at the range must be quite the vision. If you've spent time at a range, you probably can spot the nervous Derbs. Between the car and the door, they adjust their posture, puff up the chest. Derb standing as erect as he knows how, hoping the other Real Men (and Women) inside can't see his sweaty palms. He wants to fit in. Be one of them. But Derb knows it is an act. Will the others detect that he is counterfeit?
When he leaves, Derb knows that his abysmal handling, shooting and demeanor gave him away. The others surely know. He must really be deemed [gasp] “effeminate”. He loathes that about himself. Reaching his car door, he exhales.
His shoulders slouch again and he wipes his hands on his trousers, leaving faint moisture stains. Another gruelling day. But he knows he must do this again. Perhaps if he shows resolve he may yet feel what he yearns for most of all, a secure sense of his manly self. He writes like a man. He talks like a man. He wants to be a man.
But he wonders for the umpteenth time, why must it be so difficult?
April 13, 2007
e were planning on writing something about the paleos Fein, Viguerie et al.'s missive on A.G.A.G.
His deserved demise and postponed testimony seem trivial today.
Media saturation as usual wallows in the emotional and shock. We're more interested in asking insightful readers here their views on the key question: what is it about Amerikuhn “Culture” that features school-related killing sprees of this type? Aside from Wayne LaPierre's baleful influence*, that is.
e didn't pay much attention to Katherine Newman's “Rampage: The Social Roots Of School Shootings” when it came out in 2005. Perhaps because she wasn't part of the I-Man's racist, white male oppressive circus designed to maginalize women, people of color, faith, alternative preferences and bipeds. And everyone knows the I-Man controlled all media and thought before Liberation.
Now free from the malign stranglehold of Bernie McGuirk, one can see that Newman makes some good points apparently according to this book review
From these premises Newman forwards five necessary conditions for rampages. First, the shooter must see himself as marginal to his immediate social worlds, and as having lowly status in peer hierarchies. Some were victims of bullying and ridicule, but often they simply felt socially isolated, resentful, and desperate. Second, they suffer from a host of individual vulnerabilities that magnify the impact of this marginality, i.e. shooters' deteriorating mental states worsened their sense of isolation and paranoia. Rather than being impulsive or suddenly erratic, the shooters' great common fault was to ruminate and obsess over their social difficulties. Most had at least once attempted suicide. Third, all shooters had access to 'cultural scripts' that glorify armed attack. By venerating social blueprints that connect manhood to violence, guns, domination, and the thrill of terrifying the innocent, would-be shooters understood that outward aggression would somehow reinstate their status. In their own minds, these scripts offered a 'masculine exit' from social subordination.
Fourth, local surveillance systems failed to provide warnings. Most shooters were doing moderately well in school, and most lacked extensive histories of criminality. Yet, Newman argued that enough warning signs were present in each case. Shooters usually uttered threats leading to their rampages, but were not heard beyond their peers, or were ignored by adults. These would-be killers thus fell under the radar screen of adult networks. Due to a lack of official coordination between schools, law enforcement, and mental health agencies, no one individual had access to all the relevant information that would allow them to piece together the many warning signals that existed across the disparate spheres of school, family, or neighbourhood. Finally, each shooter had access to guns, the plentiful availability of guns in rural areas made them easily accessible to troubled youth.
ne wonders if VaTech's perpetrator conforms to this diagnosis. One reason we ask is that a number of “security experts” (often off screen peddling consulting services or fronting for companies that provide security services) are calling for metal detectors and screeners and the quasi militarization of schools and campus life across the country. At enormous social, political, psychological and monetary cost. Not the first time — nor the last — that a tragedy is hijacked in an effort to further corrode and coarsify us all.
he Stiftung as you might imagine is familiar with, used and owned firearms of various sorts from pistols through assault rifles. We are also quite firm in our support for sensible gun controls. Frankly, we believe anyone who has used a weapon and knows that a bullet can never ever be recalled should be so inclined.
April 13, 2007
aul Wolfowitz seems to be in a pickle
The World Bank’s executive board was deliberating today what action to take regarding its president, Paul D. Wolfowitz, amid new evidence that he had not been entirely candid about his role in giving his girlfriend, a World Bank employee, a raise and transfer.
Documents released today by the executive board called into question Mr. Wolfowitz’s earlier assertions that bank ethics officials had been kept informed about the new post for his companion, Shaha Ali Riza. The papers also indicated that Mr. Wolfowitz was more involved in securing the new post for his companion than he has let on.
Now it is Wolfowitz's turn to follow Imus on the apologia tour.
World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz publicly apologized on Thursday for the “mistake” of personally orchestrating a high-paying job and guaranteed promotions for a bank employee with whom he is romantically involved, as new details of his role in the arrangement emerged and staff members angrily demanded his resignation.
olfowitz spent most of the day appearing before a World Bank investigative committee. It's interesting that he has worked harder to (a) apologize; and (b) explain this particular mistake than say, the greatest strategic disaster in American history. We don't recall Wolfowitz ever going to Walter Reed and “apologizing”.
e have to make an impolitic confession. Other than seeing Wolfie squirm, we really don't lose much sleep over the Bank's international bureaucrats' unhappiness with his policies. Wolfie surely has an academic/ideological agenda regarding fighting corruption. And he made a nest for his companion. He is not, however, seeking to destroy the institution in a way comparable to say Bolton at the U.N. Is he an inept manager? Of course. Look at DoD. It is unclear if the anti-corruption policy per se
is truly harmful to the Bank's mission, the manner of its implementation is poor, or the policy simply grates on the favored approach of the rank and file. Maybe it is time for the Board to step up and earn its responsibility by settling some of this.
Over the years we've tried to feign interest in the policy details of the World Bank's efforts. Certainly the Bank serves U.S. strategic interests and is an important instrument for maintaining a stable international system. On the macro level we completely support the Bank and its actvities as one of the finest manifestations of the U.S. post war creativity. But once the conversation moves into the details of development policy and projects? Intellectual narcolepsy strikes. We've tried. We've sat down and listened to Sabastian Malaby. We even read the first 10 pages of his book before it slipped to the floor from our listless hand. And we endured the mandatory international development graduate coursework back in the day.
But truth be told? The Stiftung descends into an oddly paralytic state when someone at a reception or dinner party begins an energetic and earnest conversation on the latest doings re international development. Usually we catch every other word at first, settling for one in ten. Sometimes when we pick up one of the policy mags we say we will read the development article like a child confronting spinach. Never make it past the first paragraph. We'd rather be pithed by the sharp edges of a Pat Boone CD.
e're not making complete fun. We've worked with the World Bank (more specifically it's Internatinal Finance Corporation (IFC))
re projects on the ground overseas. The IFC is an offshoot of the main World Bank itself. It doesn't rely on sovereign nation guarantees and operates more or less closer to the private market, i.e. it seeks to make a profit.
On the projects we were involved, some of which moved forward, some of which cratered normally for a variety of reasons, we never really understood at the end of the day the real utility and purpose of the IFC. Usually the IFC says its involvement is designed to help foster a private sector ethos, etc. Perhaps, but we saw essentially an entity that imposed fairly onerous and restrictive project finance terms and conditions and sought the attractive projects that could have found private capital. It doesn't always crowd out or otherwise compete with existing private sector funding. Operative word there is always. Candidly, the projects sometimes sought IFC involvement in a purely deal-oriented strategy, reasoning that other capital from the City in London or New York would be comfortable with a project/proposal knowing the IFC was interested. So perhaps it is not useless per say, but in that not atypical circumstance, the process raises a question of who really at the end of the day are the IFC's constituents.
The IFC is not a valid stand in for the Bank overall. We know that. But our experiences with the IFC (very competent people, btw) make us look at the World Bank in general with a bit of skepticism.
Secondly, we don't forget that the World Bank is a pretty cushy gig. It's hard for U.S. citizens to get jobs there. None of its employees pay U.S. income taxes. As you likely know this time of year, Dear Reader, that effectively doubles the salary. We do smile when one sees a PhD from Egypt or the like complaining about Wolfie's bonus allocations and the hardship of living on $140,000 tax free in D.C.
Forcing Wolfowitz to face accountability? That's a double plus good. Just please don't ask us to sit through pareto optimization analysis of income substitition inefficiencies across heterogenous sectoral outputs.
Tags: World Bank
April 12, 2007
The problem, of course, is that the press only really turned on Bush when his ratings began to fall — another indication that the Fourth Estate has become more of a weathervane than a truth teller.
The final verdict is not yet in. The media has improved, without question, but it has a lot of making up to do. The structural problems — psychological, institutional, ideological — that played so big a role in its collapse have not gone away, and there is no reason to think they will. And then there's war, which reduced so much of the media to flag-waving courtiers. If the media has learned that a bugle blast can be sounded by a fool, that not every war the United States launches is wise or necessary, and that self-righteousness is not an argument, maybe something can be salvaged from this sorry chapter after all.
good start, but Gary Kamiya offers really a tour d'horizon than what his title teases, “Iraq: Why the media failed”
. You may guess our “meta critique” — the American media and Americans in general have not encountered a regime animated by and harnessing a pre-focused and self aware ideology in the Nation's political experience. A regime made fearsomely real by a unified government.
What Kamiya misses is it wasn't just Iraq or really about Iraq. And it really isn't about the media. Perhaps this sums up our impatience with the anti-war crowd. The war is the symptom, not the cause. We've noted here recently that oddly it may take something as mundane as a few U.S. attorneys and what transpired among DoJ/the White House/the RNC to make this recognizable. Maybe all those hours of Law & Order SUV -APC - MBT - IFV - MAU -CVN can be put to good use after all.
e're pretty much Imus-ed out and believe even a (deserved) punitive measure should stop at the mau mau and not de-generate into wanton cannibalism. For the sake of the children, naturally. Nonetheless, this time-line from the Wall Street Journal (no access restrictions) might be of interest putting the interpersonal tidal forces into perspective
April 11, 2007
ny thing more to say? If so, TV Newser has the updates.
(n.b. - click on animation above).
, CBS Radio
April 09, 2007
he Post story about the “war czar” proposal has been expected for some time
. This Administration from the beginning prevented rational, formal policy making. Both domestic and foreign relations formal policy analysis and implementation mechanisms simply didn't exist. Efforts to create and use them undermined. We know all that.
f course the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Neocon back channel network certainly encouraged that development and benefitted greatly from it. Yet the reason for the amorphous, chaotic situation is inherent in all Leader oriented Movements. This is the fundamental truth that eluded and eludes the Larry Wilkersons of the world. Wilkerson famously told the Stiftung that he did not consider Cheney and the Administration as “ideological”. Perhaps now, with something Americans can “grok” like the degradation of DoJ into another arm of the Movement what we have been saying for years is now tangibly clear.
Leader Movements by their nature are based on court politics and standing, with influence and power determined by ad hoc access and decisions. Bob Woodward's mea culpa “State of Denial” documents the ad hoc fiefdoms that inevitably result, with confusion of authority, responsibility and disasterous consequences
. In political terms, Leader Movements also inevitably confront some form of cost-benefit feedback from such charismatic chaos. The inevitable reflexive management next step is to seek an overarching “czar” to impose order and clarity from the confusion the regime itself engenders. Typically, those czars themselves become merely one more petitoner and player in the competition for the Leader's favor. Another reason Leader Movements resort to “czars” is that it also appeals to their inherent attraction to the “heroic” as noted here
Non-Movement, non-heroic governments are in general more skilled at organization and efficient allocation of resources. We saw this under Knudson
and the War Production Board here. Lord Beaverbrook accomplished much the same thing in the U.K
The Bush regime, the Movement and the broader base are antithetical to deliberate, orderly and transparent management. That is ultimately the challenge Josh Bolten faces in the final months. Can he move the deck chairs around such as resort to quick fixes such as “czars” or will he in effect seek to remake the Administration's fundamental DNA? Either way the prognosis is dim.
April 09, 2007
ot much needs to be said. Of course, we agree with Bacevich
(n.b., the tank is not intended as the obvious, gratuitous reference but underscores how the American military, like our opponent of old, is incapable of thinking in strategic terms and remains addicted to operational success as “victory”. No sign that Iraq is changing that massive intellectual failure).
April 08, 2007
rom over at Balkinization, this item
re Princeton Professor Emeritus Walter Murphy:
On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving.“
”When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years.“
”I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: “Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that.” I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. “That'll do it,” the man said. “
”After carefully examining my credentials, the clerk asked if he could take them to TSA officials. I agreed. He returned about ten minutes later and said I could have a boarding pass, but added: “I must warn you, they're going to ransack your luggage.” On my return flight, I had no problem with obtaining a boarding pass, but my luggage was “lost.” Airlines do lose a lot of luggage and this “loss” could have been a mere coincidence. In light of previous events, however, I'm a tad skeptical.“
he comments there note that the talk Murphy gave on the Constitution essentially recapitulated his book. Drudge and others are pimping a British MoD corporate dystopian exercise that predicts the ”middle class“ may become revolutionary
. It's the standard ”imagineering“ exercise by bureaucracy to show that they are with it. Re the middle class, however, who needs to wait 50 years? Their economic and social evisceration here in the States at least is a done deal. Add to that, the non-mouth breathing public on this side of the pond largely no longer trusts the government today, now. It's been over 4 years since we learned how TSA politicized the incomptently run no-fly watch lists. It's not just the ”un-Amerikuhn" peaceniks but average Americans and even nomenklatura figures such as Senator Ted Steven's wife and Ted Kennedy on the list. Still no action. What exactly will it take for Congress to establish oversight mechanisms to restore confidence? Combined with the wholesale gutting of the Fourth Amendment by FBI and DoD's CIFA, we may be closer to a precursor state than the MoD mainframe thinkers over in Blighty realize.
e spend alot of time thinking about the candidates for 08. Who would actually rollback any of this? And who would 'tone it down' and blur it into the fabric of what always was? On that note, had to cringe a bit watching McCain on Sixty Minutes. It's not that he was saying anything less delusional than he was a week ago in Baghdad declaring the people joyous. But we remembered that night in South Carolina back in 2000. We were drinking with part of his family the night of the primary. Spirits were high because of well, the spirits. Yet naturally there were flashes of bitterness and anger at Rove and Ralph Reed. It's a scary thought that even with the Warlord and the debacle of the last 7 years, we may have dodged a bullet that night after all.
April 06, 2007
o loyal readers, we refer not to the latest comments from the Apostle of Tolerance, Bill Donohue. Although the video of Donohue professing to find his South Park send up 'hilarious' is immensely enjoyable.
Lady Black uttered those words in an elevator referring to a female Canadian journalist and others in the media
. While squished in with - wait for it - journalists. A three month trial looms ahead of her and her husband, Conrad Black.
As you likely know already, Conrad was the billionaire owner of several conservative newspapers and media outlets, including for example, the Jersualem Post. He positioned himself as a player in the international right wing jaw jaw set. Richard Perle and Kissinger were on his Board of Directors. He's now on trial in Chicago for looting the company, Hollinger, and pocketing the millions allegedly to satiate Lady Black's appetites for private jets and the like.
So far, Conrad may have reason to feel jaunty. The prosecution's case is off to a very shaky start.
If the prosecutors going after Conrad Black hoped to build their case around the testimony of former Hollinger Inc. executive Fred Creasey, they're in trouble.
Lawyers for Lord Black and his co-accused repeatedly tripped up Mr. Creasey on documents during cross-examination yesterday and tore apart his calculations for the cost of a trip Lord Black took to Bora Bora in 2001 on a Hollinger jet.
“One thing you managed to do is to charge Mr. Black for the most expensive flight to Bora Bora in the history of mankind,” Edward Greenspan, Lord Black's lawyer, told Mr. Creasey after suggesting that Lord Black was overcharged more than $18,000 an hour for the flight.
n a Confucian society, omens play significant roles. The explosion of the space shuttle over Texas with an Israeli aboard no less? At the time it was seen in some circles as a potent omen, particularly with the shuttle remains hurtling earthward as shooting stars. Can one find a more clear sign that the Decider lost the mandate of heaven? What then of Conrad and his ordeal? Which is he? The Who or the Whom?
All we can say, to paraphrase the mantra of 20 years ago, is 'Let Barbara be Barbara.' At least it will be entertaining. With Trump, Jerry Springer and Henry the K due to take the stand and testify, one lives in hope.
Tags: Conrad Black
April 03, 2007
ouple of points up front:
Yes, the HMS Cornwall operated incompetently in allowing the Iranian boat capture to occur in the first place;
Yes, the Royal Marines and others offered disappointing resolve and showed poor training; and
Yes, the Iranians used it all to good political effect.
All granted. But the reaction here in the States tells us more about where we are than anything about Iran. Like clockwork we see outrage from Likudniks. Krauthammer's sputtering today in the WaPo merely Exhibit “A”. It's the predictable subtext bemoaning the British for lessening their value as a manipulated chit against the Realm's enemy, Iran. Force, power and coercion are all Krauthammer understands or peddles. He can, however, also twist events to bash multilateralism and claim he again is right about unipolar American power. Alot to pack into one small OpEd column.
Later we heard a national radio talk show ranting that the British surrender again proves Western manhood has been destroyed. We didn't quite follow the train of thought. Apparently, Democrat support for the ERA here in the States, HRC's fund raising prowess, American Idol and the HMS Cornwall debacle are all of a piece — Western virility subverted from within. The callers seemed to buy it, at least.
It's funny how that brittle virility transcends Neocon AgitProp. Certainly the professional military have reason to underscore the difference between American and British training. But just as on the ladder of abstraction ethnicity trumps nationalism trumps religion trumps ideology, so here to the fragile state of the American male psyche trumps politics and its rawness exposed once again. Tweety probably added another Rudy picture on his nightstand just for re-assurance.
Finally, we note that Jack Jacobs, the MSNBC MoH winner, mocked the British for being essentially pussies. He smugly assured the credulous newsbabe that Americans would go out on full auto. Perhaps he's right. Certainly our training is better. But Jacobs, notwithstanding his MoH and ability to butt kiss any anchor he is paired with, conveniently forgets that American ferocity and commitment to the “warfighter ethos” is one of the main reasons we lost this war. Contra the “pussy” Brits who operated a far more sophisticated and successful occupation in the admittedly less contentious South.
What no one also seems to make clear is that the British did not undermine Western credibility re Persian expansionism. That was done by the Administration's bungled war, the collapse of our strategic reserve, the exhaustion of the Force, and American diplomatic stupidity. And yes, the unidimensional focus on cultivating warfighter ethos.
Note to Krauthammer, JPod, Ralph Peters and the rest: even if all 15 Brits went down fighting, the Iranians already have Bush's measure. They know they won the Iraq war thanks to your neophyte bellicosity and war cheerleading. The rest is just details.
Tags: Iran, Iraq, War, Neocons
April 02, 2007
akes as much sense
as most of what we see in the dead tree cul de sacs such as Foreign Affairs
and the like:
In recent times US grand strategy has been guided by a new kind of doctrine, named after not its author but its exemplar: the Costanza doctrine”, writes Michael Fullilove, director of the global issues programme at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.P
“This doctrine”, argues Mr Fullilove, “recalls the classic episode of the TV comedy Seinfeld, “The Opposite”, in which George Costanza temporarily improves his fortunes by rejecting all the principles according to which he has lived his life and doing the opposite of what his training indicates he should do.”
Mr Fullilove believes that the Iraq policy pursued by the Bush administration satisfies the Costanza criterion because it is the opposite of every foreign policy the world has ever met . . .
Mr Fullilove will answer your questions on America’s ‘Seinfeld’ strategy in Iraq in an online Q&A. Post a question now to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the online submissions form below. His answers will appear next Thursday at 2pm BST(9am US eastern time).
erhaps you Dear Reader might want to send in a question for Mr. Fullilove at the email address above (referencing “Costanza doctrine” in the subject line).
(picture from Financial Times)
April 01, 2007
cCain's bizarre stunt in the Baghdad market proves he's truly the heir to the Warlord. But the student is no where near the master. McCain and Graham tried their hand at creating alternate realities simply by assertion. Fitting given McCain's BushCheney'04 veterans on board. Perhaps we should be surprised that the press and Iraqi attendees at the press conference in Baghdad didn't have to sign loyalty oaths. Drudge's fabrication of an incident between CNN's Michael Ware and McCain a fitting book end to the whole exercise.
But McCain remains an amateur. The Warlord in his prime would not have been caught on camera wearing the kevlar jacket in plain sight. Is there an “AgitProp For Dummies” ?
ho really cares what Dowd says now? The damage has been done. The Nation and world will never be the same.
Moreover, Dowd is a modern Speer. He accepts responsibility in the small to deny the larger mistakes. Acknowledging a failed war? Duh. Dubya is “divisive”. Another yawn. The technocrat says he was deceived.
owd avoids all mention of the authoritarian fear he helped orchestrate. Or the relentless assault on liberal democracy and constitutional government. He says nothing about responsibility for a 2004 campaign based on hatred, bigotry, fear. He disowns responsibility for dredging up from the gutter the basest, most vile aspects of the American character. Or his campaign's subsequent vomit all over the American people. Mehlman's recent partial contrition is similarly hollow. And doubly damnable for the obvious reasons.
In this, Dowd is really not much better off than 'loyal Republicans' and 'conservatives' who opposed the war in 2002-2003. We know a number of them. It pains one to see them lionized on various anti war web sites, particularly as we know that they style themselves as modern Hans and Sophie Scholls for speaking out against the war early on. A bit much, but we do concede doing so did risk some contracts, speaking fees and invitations to the best parties then.
We've already noted here that the war is merely the symptom not the cause of this regime's malevolent agenda. The anti-war so-called visible public pundits/conservatives that we know (who are not thought of as 'blogosphere' denizens) almost to a person have yet to renounce the fundamental authoritarian anti-democratic agenda of this regime.
A politically healthy and self aware society would impose accountability on Dowd and the rest. But as we've said many times, our media is ideologically inert and shoddy commodities of thought. Just today at a book super store we saw Brian Williams is marketing some ' childrens' letters to the President' pablum. Doubtless item 53(c) on the NBC marketing plan. At least he said 'president' instead of NASCAR Nation's Dear Leader.
So Dowd does his Oprah turn. The first of a mini-industry of rehabilitational books, op-eds, etc. by the whole swarm. We're not sure what is more nauseating — his and others' uncritical embrace by the Tweeties, Finemans, Blitzers, etc. the first time around, or the same shallow, consequence-free acceptance now. Look for alot of 'I didn't know', 'that information was compartmentalized' ' I tried to help without being caught', etc. You've heard that all before.
'Good Americans' all.