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  • Archive for the 'International Affairs' Category

    Al Shabaab’s Sarajevo in Nairobi

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 23rd September 2013 (All posts by )

    There is a profound moral dimension to the photos and videos coming out of Kenya.

    They are showing a multiracial civilization — an up-scale mall is the commercial epitome of modern civilization — under attack with multiracial cops and generally black African military saving multiracial civilians from faceless terrorist barbarians.

    There is a huge message about the nature of our terrorist enemy that will resonate with the Western public in much the same way that pictures and video from Sarajevo did in the 1990s vis-a-vis the Serbs.

    This Al Shabaab atrocity for publicity and fund raising will cost them and their Islamist co-belligerents far more in the long run.

    Dehumanization works both ways.

    Posted in Current Events, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Islam, Terrorism, War and Peace | 51 Comments »

    The depressing divide in US understanding of reality.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th September 2013 (All posts by )

    I read left wing blogs most days to see what the other side thinks. I used to comment but the comments were usually deleted, often without notice, so the nasty responses to my comments would be there the next day but the offending comments would not appear.

    The Huffington Post has become a very successful left wing site that advertises itself as moderate. I skim it most days and occasionally comment although my comments are all moderated and I can’t tell if they are deleted or not. I have a few followers so some must appear. Today I went there to see what the left thinks of the Syrian fiasco. The headline was not reassuring. That may change soon but it says “We Have a Deal !” The story follows with a rather naive heading.

    The story has over 14 thousand comments, double the number when I read the story earlier this morning. The story is bad enough.

    A diplomatic breakthrough Saturday on securing and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile averted the threat of U.S. military action for the moment and could swing momentum toward ending a horrific civil war.

    Marathon negotiations between U.S. and Russian diplomats at a Geneva hotel produced a sweeping agreement that will require one of the most ambitious arms-control efforts in history.

    The deal involves making an inventory and seizing all components of Syria’s chemical weapons program and imposing penalties if President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply will the terms.

    After days of intense day-and-night negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and their teams, the two powers announced they had a framework for ridding the world of Syria’s chemicals weapons.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Conservatism, Current Events, History, International Affairs, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Russia, Terrorism | 33 Comments »

    Why the “Israel Lobby” Backed Obama on Syria

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Martin Kramer:

    Stephen J. Rosen has written a smart piece on how Obama forced AIPAC to back his planned military action against the Syrian regime. It’s titled “Pushed on the Bandwagon,” and he makes a strong case. Of course, AIPAC views action on Syria as a kind of proxy for action against Iran, and assumes that the former will make the latter more likely when push comes to shove. In fact, bopping Assad may well be a substitute for action against Iran: Obama hopes that by a relatively cheap shot at Syria, he’ll restore enough credibility to restrain Israel vis-à-vis Iran. Alas, a cheap shot won’t restrain Iran, and may even impel it to push its nuke plans forward. Israel has to face reality: it may or may not be a post-American world, but it’s a post-American Middle East. (And if the military operation goes badly it could be post-AIPAC, too.)

    The Rosen piece is here. It’s worth reading, particularly for the reminder of how Obama operates politically (there are no appeals to principle; it’s all about arm twisting, threats and domestic political considerations).

    Kramer’s interpretation is persuasive. Obama probably wants to use a weak attack on Syria, or preferably mere talk about Syria if he can get away with it, as a substitute for rather than a prelude to doing anything about Iran’s nuclear program. Syria is Iran’s puppet and if Obama were serious he’d be going after the mullahs. Instead he appears to be running out the clock until they have nukes, while also doing his best to degrade our military in order to lock in our impotence for the foreseeable future. (J. E. Dyer discusses our current weakness in detail: here, here and here.)

    Whatever the course of Obama’s political career going forward, we are probably going to pay dearly for his ineptitude and anti-American malice.

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Jewish Leftism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, Terrorism, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Obama, US Military Victory, and the Real “Red Line” in Syria

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 9th September 2013 (All posts by )

    The thing that really bothers me in all the back and forth surrounding the American strike on the Assad Regime debate, and the Democratic Party aligned media spin of what the meaning of words “Red Line” mean, is how off-point from the interests of the American people it all is. The Assad regime’s use of Nerve Gas isn’t the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Deploying those Clinton era spin techniques over the definition of “Red Line” is the political equivalent of pointing and yelling “_Squirrel_!”

    The bottom line is that if the Assad regime of Syria survives on the strength of chemical weapons of mass destruction, an incredibly dangerous to American national security situation will come to pass. The Chemical Weapons Convention will be dead, publicly murdered and discredited similar to the way the Kellogg-Briant Pact against war was in the face of Nazi rearmament. There will be an arms race for chemical weapons of mass destruction in the Mid-East & elsewhere. That will require the US military to rearm with either lethal chemicals or with tactical nukes — with all the costs that requires both financial and moral — in order to maintain a credible deterrent for future conventional military operations.

    The issue with the Assad Regime’s use of chemical weapons of mass destruction is the Assad regime . The only fit punishment, one that will prevent catalytic proliferation of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction around the world, is the Assad Regime’s over throw. That overthrow is readily obtainable by American military forces and can be achieved without a single boot on the ground, nor a single foreign ally.

    The fact that the Obama Administration is unwilling use grasp those means, and to politically justify their use with the same sort of weapons of mass destruction argument that Pres. George W. Bush deployed to justify regime change in Iraq, is the real strategic “Red Line” for Syria. It is a Red Line that the American people chose in electing a Democratic Senate in 2006 and in both electing and reelecting Pres. Obama (and a Democratic Senate) in 2008 and 2012.

    It is a “Red Line” that has to be erased by competent and principled Presidential leadership that forthrightly explains the threat, continually over time, if Americans are to continue enjoying — its admittedly rapidly declining — freedom from police state surveillance at home.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, Uncategorized, USA, Xenophon Roundtable | 24 Comments »

    “Did Vladimir Putin Bait a Trap for the United States in Damascus?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Interesting thoughts:

    By showing that Obama’s America is unable and unwilling to keep its promises, Putin has widened the leadership void in the Middle East—as a prelude to filling it himself. By helping to clear Iran’s path to a bomb, Putin positions himself as Iran’s most powerful ally—while paradoxically gaining greater leverage with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, who would much rather negotiate with Russia than with Iran, their sworn enemy. While the Americans were heading out of the Middle East, and the Chinese were too busy with their own internal debates about the future of their economy and society, Putin saw that something valuable had been abandoned on the world stage, and he took it. For the price of 1,000 dead civilians in Damascus, he has gained great power status in the oil-rich Middle East. Iran, for its part, gets the bomb, which isn’t great news for anyone, but was probably going to happen anyway.
     
    [. . .]
     
    Only time will tell whose evil is worse—Putin’s or Obama’s. While Putin delights in using the old-school KGB playbook to consolidate his one-man rule, and to expose the empty moral posturing of the West, Obama believes that he can talk his way into a workable accommodation between his own sense of morality and global reality. But the lesson of Obama’s fig leaf is that it is better to be honest about what we are doing in the world and why. If Putin baited a trap for the United States in Damascus, it was Obama who walked right into it. If Obama had stood up and declared that the United States had no vital interest in Syria but would stop Iran from getting nukes—and would prosecute the authors of the nerve-gas attack at The Hague—then Putin would have been trapped. The same would have been true if Obama had said nothing and blown up two or three of Assad’s palaces. But he did neither. Sometimes, well-meaning lies and political spin can be just as deadly, in the end, as nerve gas.

    (Via Tom Smith.)

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, National Security, Obama, Russia, Terrorism, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Max von Oppenheim, German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Max von Oppenheim was a German ancient historian, and archaeologist who also worked as a diplomat and spy for the German Empire during the First World War. In those latter two capacities, he basically tried to incite Jihad against the Entente powers. From Wikipedia:

    During World War I, Oppenheim led the Intelligence Bureau for the East and was closely associated with German plans to initiate and support a rebellion in India and in Egypt. In 1915 Henry McMahon reported that Oppenheim had been encouraging the massacre of Armenians in Mosques.[12]
    Oppenheim had been called to the Wilhelmstrasse from his Kurfurstendamm flat on 2 August 1914 and given the rank of Minister of Residence. He began establishing Berlin as a centre for pan-Islamic propaganda publishing anti-Entente texts. On August 18 1914 he wrote to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to tell him that Germany must arm the Muslim brotherhoods of Libya, Sudan and Yemen and fund Arab exile pretenders like the deposed Egyptian Khedive, Abbas Hilmi. He believed Germany must incite anti-colonial rebellion in French North Africa and Russian Central Asia and incite Habibullah Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan, to invade British India at the head of an Islamic army.[13] Oppenheim’s Exposé Concerning the Revolutionizing of the Islamic territories of our enemies contained holy war propaganda and ‘sketched out a blueprint for a global jihad engulfing hundreds of millions of people’. Armenians and Maronite Christians were dismissed as Entente sympathizers, quite useless to Germany nicht viel nutzen konnen. [14]

    Because Germany was not an Islamic power the war on the Entente powers needed to be ‘endorsed with the seal of the Sultan-Caliph’ and on 14 November 1914 in a ceremony at Fatih Mosque the first ever global jihad had been inaugurated. The impetus for this move came from the German government, which subsidized distribution of the Ottoman holy war fetvas, and most of the accompanying commentaries from Muslim jurists, and Oppenheim’s jihad bureau played a significant role. By the end of November 1914 the jihad fetvas had been translated into French, Arabic, Persian and Urdu.[15] Thousands of pamphlets emerged under Oppenheim’s direction in Berlin at this period and his Exposé declared that, “the blood of infidels in the Islamic lands may be shed with impunity”, the “killing of the infidels who rule over the Islamic lands” , meaning British, French, Russian, and possibly Dutch and Italian nationals, had become ” a sacred duty”. And Oppenheim’s instructions, distinct from traditional ‘jihad by campaign’ led by the Caliph, urged the use of ‘individual Jihad’, assassinations of Entente officials with ‘cutting, killing instruments’ and ‘Jihad by bands’,- secret formations in Egypt, India and Central Asia.[16]
    “During the First World War, he worked in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where he founded the so-called “message Centre for the Middle East”, as well as at the German Embassy in Istanbul. He sought to mobilize the Islamic population of the Middle East against England during the war and can be seen thus almost as a German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia. The AA pursued a strategy of Islamic revolts in the colonial hinterland of the German enemy. The spiritual father of this double approach, the war first, by troops on the front line and secondly by people’s rebellion “in depth” was by Oppenheim.”[citation needed]
    The German adventurer met with very little success in World War I. To this day, the British see him as a “master spy” because he founded the magazine El Jihad in 1914 in an effort to incite the Arabs to wage a holy war against the British and French occupiers in the Middle East. But his adversary Lawrence of Arabia, whom he knew personally, was far more successful at fomenting revolts.[17]

    Lawrence of Arabia, aka T. E. Lawrence was successful because he didn’t appeal to religious fervor, but rather to the far more basic sentiment of ethnic solidarity against an oppressor of different ethnic origin. In other words, the Arabs cared far more about their struggle against the Turkish Empire than they did about religion, leave alone jihad.

    Posted in Britain, Christianity, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, Religion, Russia, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Counting heads in Syria

    Posted by Margaret on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    While President Obama has been dithering about Syria, I’ve been nerdishly crunching numbers. On the web you can find every possible opinion about what the US ought to do, ranging from “Nothing,” to “Depose Assad.” Apart from the difficulty of achieving the latter goal, shouldn’t we think about what happens if Assad goes? Long term, some equally nasty types take over, and better-informed people than I can argue about just how bad that’s likely to be. But I haven’t seen any discussion of one likely immediate consequence.

    At the beginning of this year, Syria had an estimated 2.6 million Alawites and 2.3 million Christians. Despite the refugee exodus, I believe most of those people are still in Syria. If Islamist groups like al-Nusra replace Assad,what are their chances of survival?

    100,000 people have been killed so far, and that’s bad enough. But if we do seriously attempt to depose Assad, we should at least acknowledge the likelihood that another five million people will die.

    The Holocaust is credited with six million deaths. Will the deaths of Syrian Alawites and Christians be less tragic because their murderers aren’t as well organized as the Germans? Will this massacre be okay because nobody will take the time to tattoo numbers on the victims’ arms?

    Posted in International Affairs, Middle East | 12 Comments »

    How to Lose a War: A Primer

    Posted by Zenpundit on 29th July 2013 (All posts by )

    cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Since Pakistan is now attempting to get its victory over the United States in Afghanistan formally ratified, now seemed to be a good time to reflect on the performance of American statesmen, politicians and senior generals.

    It has occurred to me that we have many books and papers outlining how to win wars. Certainly the great classics of The Art of War, The History of the Peloponnesian War and On War are the foremost examples, but there are also other useful classics in the strategic canon, whole libraries of military histories, memoirs of great commanders and an infinite number of PDFs and powerpoint briefs from think tanks and consultants. Strangely, none of these have helped us much. Perhaps it is because before running this war so few of this generation’s “deciders” read them en route to their law degrees and MBAs

    We should engage in some counterintuitive thinking:  for our next war, instead of trying to win, let’s try to openly seek defeat. At a minimum, we will be no worse off with that policy than we are now and if we happen to fail, we will actually be moving closer to victory.

    HOW TO LOSE A WAR

    While one of these principles may not be sufficient cause for losing an armed conflict, following all of them is the surest road to defeat.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Big Government, Book Notes, Current Events, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Military Affairs, National Security, Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    SWOT Analysis of Boston Marathon Bombing

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 20th April 2013 (All posts by )

    Negative items (weaknesses and threats) first.

    Overconcentration of political belief systems by geography and especially by vocation, notably in journalism; the corresponding threat is misdiagnosis of motivation and identity of perpetrators.
    This was on full display over the past week, and although the most prominent examples were instances of the amazingly robust narrative about a supposed right-wing fundamentalist Christian underground, the persistence of which reveals a great deal about the mindset of the “liberal” bien-pensant, they’re not the only ones who have this problem. Claiming that people in Boston are cowering under their beds and wishing they had AR-15s, or casually accusing various (and singularly unimpressive) American politicians of being Communists, isn’t much better than fantasizing about entirely nonexistent WASP terrorists. And there has already been at least one wild-goose chase in recent years, the nationwide Federal investigation to find the co-conspirators of Scott Roeder in the assassination of George Tiller. He didn’t have any, and was known very early on to have acted alone. Your tax dollars nonetheless went to work; see also “memetic parasitism,” below.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Media, Middle East, National Security, Organizational Analysis, Politics, Predictions, Society, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Fiat Money and Real World Impacts

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 31st March 2013 (All posts by )

    In the US we have slowly debased our currency, the US dollar, and debt levels have risen at all levels of government. Since the US has extensive economic interests and huge reserves of oil, minerals, and agricultural capabilities, it will be a long time before the proverbial “wolf” shows up at our door.

    In other countries, like Egypt, however, the wolf comes to the door right away. Egypt has an immense population concentrated along the Nile River and relatively few sources of income. Tourism has been badly damaged by the revolution against Mubarek and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood hardly is something to put on a brochure at the pyramids, given that they have been known to slaughter their heathen guests in the past.

    In order to feed their population, Egypt needs fuel, particularly diesel fuel. While Egypt does have some petroleum riches, they don’t have much refining capacity, so they must import diesel. In order to import diesel, you need “hard” currency, and the Egyptian dollar has been falling in value.

    Finally, the Egyptian government distorts the local price of diesel so that it is subsidized, causing all sorts of negative impacts, including a huge black market, queueing, and all the other behaviors inevitably caused by hare-brained policies.
    This situation was described in a recent NY Times article titled “Short of Money, Egypt Sees Crisis in Food and Fuel” which you can find here.

    In a place like Egypt on the edge of starvation and social chaos, the safety net is thin, indeed, as they summarize in the last quote of the article:

    At the empty Mobil gas station in town, attendants said profiteers, hoarders and desperate farmers were already threatening them with knives, clubs and shotguns. At harvest time, “People are going to kill each other,” said Hamdy Hassan, 37, a truck driver hanging out at the shuttered station.

    Our understanding of economics in a theoretical basis and our casual acceptance of paper money has blinded most of us from understanding the practical, real-world economics that stands before us. People need goods or services, and they have to trade for it by providing alternatives that are acceptable to the seller.

    If your currency is worthless, you need something else to trade, or your country will be bereft of necessary supplies. In this instance, Egypt needs refined petroleum products (diesel) or their entire economy will grind to a halt (and mass civil strife will immediately follow). As their currently depreciates relative to others in the region, their ability to purchase fuel is accordingly reduced.

    This can be seen in medicines and fuel in Greece as well and likely soon to be Cyprus; it is assumed that these countries will be able to maintain first world status for their populace but it is difficult to see how that will happen while they have almost nothing to trade in return. One article about Cyprus ended with a quote from a local that if they don’t act as a banking haven “they will all just be selling ice cream and setting up deck chairs” to support any tourists that happen to visit.

    With the implosion in Cyprus and likely deterioration of weakened countries like Egypt, Venezuela  Argentina with minor home currencies, we appear to be entering a new era where things we’ve taken for granted about smooth business transactions and friction-less international banking and trade are going to be put to a severe test.

    Cross Posted at LITGM

    Posted in Economics & Finance, International Affairs, Middle East | 10 Comments »

    Quoted Without Comment

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 24th March 2013 (All posts by )

    “Bus attacks by suicide bombers have fairly monotonous features. They occur during the morning rush hour because ridership is high at that time. Bombers board buses near the end of their routes in order to maximize the number of people in the bus at the time of detonation. They preferentially board at the middle doors in order to be centered in the midst of the passengers. They detonate shortly after boarding the bus because of concern that they will be discovered, restrained, and prevented from detonating. They stand as they detonate in order to provide a direct, injurious path for shrapnel. Head and chest injuries are common among seated passengers. The injured are usually those some distance away from the bomber; those nearby are killed outright, those at the ends of the bus may escape with minor injuries. The primary mechanism of injury of those not killed outright by the blast is impaling by shrapnel. Shrapnel is sometimes soaked in poison, eg organophosphate crop insecticides, to increase lethality.”

    Resilience Engineering: Concepts and Precepts
    Chapter 13, Taking Things in One’s Stride: Cognitive Features of Two Resilient Performances
    Richard I. Cook and Christopher Nemeth

    “But wouldn’t it be luxury to fight in a war some time where, when you were surrounded, you could surrender?”

    For Whom the Bell Tolls
    Ernest Hemingway

    Posted in Book Notes, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Iran May Have the Bomb

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th March 2013 (All posts by )

    A report suggests that the most recent North Korea nuclear test, which used Uranium, not Plutonium as in their others, may have been the Iranian bomb.

    the RAND Corporation reports that the third North Korean nuclear test appears to many experts to be fundamentally different from its previous two efforts. North Korea’s first tests used plutonium to trigger the nuclear explosion. This one, according to some atmospheric tests, likely used highly enriched uranium, exactly the form of nuclear weapon pursued by Iran.

    The report is not that positive about the weapon type.

    Key aspects of North Korea’s third nuclear weapon test, carried out on Tuesday, remain unknown. We do not know whether it was a test of a plutonium or highly enriched uranium weapon, though many experts suspect the latter.

    The report is hardly definitive but it would not be a surprise if Iran has pushed through to a success in its program, unencumbered by any serious US opposition. Still, there is some serious concern.

    The question is whether the weapon North Korea tested this month was its own, Iran’s or a joint project. A senior U.S. official told The New York Times, “It’s very possible that the North Koreans are testing for two countries.” It would be foolish for Iran to test a nuclear weapon on its own soil. Nuclear weapons cannot be detonated in secret; they leave unique seismic markers that can be traced back to their source. An in-country test would simply confirm the existence of a program that for years Iran has denied.

    If that were not enough:

    Ralph Peters has some serious concerns about where the Obama administration is going.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Elections, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, Korea, Middle East, Military Affairs, Politics | 22 Comments »

    Elections Have Consequences

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd March 2013 (All posts by )

    Worst case is that the sequestration cuts kick in on a month-to-month basis, as the fiscal stand-off between Congress and the president drags on. In early February, in anticipation of having to “operate down” to this worst case, the Navy cancelled the scheduled deployment of the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) strike group, which was to be the second of two carrier strike groups hitherto maintained on station in the CENTCOM AOR. Secretary Leon Panetta announced at the time that the U.S. would cut its CENTCOM-deployed carrier force to one.
     
    A strike group brings not just the carrier and its air wing but an Aegis cruiser and/or Aegis destroyers, all with Tomahawk missile load-outs. In multiple ways, U.S. combat power has now been cut in half in the CENTCOM AOR due to the long-running fiscal stand-off. The level of carrier presence is insufficient today to execute a limited-strike campaign against Iran while containing the potential backlash.

    -J.E. Dyer, Dead in the water: Obama’s military and the Iran nuclear threat

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    The future of Islam or its absence.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Spengler has a new column that points out the coming collapse of Islam as a demographic entity. I have thought for years that Iran, if the population ever succeeds in overthrowing the regime, will abandon Islam as its first priority. Spengler points to a column by David Ignatius that belatedly recognizes a phenomenon that has been noted by others for years.

    Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don’t mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a “sea change” is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a “flight from marriage” among Arab women.

    Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers. They tell a story that contradicts the usual picture of a continuing population explosion in Muslim lands. Population is indeed rising, but if current trends continue, the bulge won’t last long.

    The second class status of women in the Muslim world has led to important changes in their beliefs, especially about the religion that oppresses them.

    Eberstadt’s first paper was expressively titled “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.” Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41 percent between 1975-80 and 2005-10, a deeper drop than the 33 percent decline for the world as a whole.

    Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50 percent or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60 percent or more over three decades.

    The present fertility rate in Iran is about equal to that of irreligious Europe.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Europe, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Islam, Japan, Middle East, Religion, Terrorism | 23 Comments »

    The White Paper and its Critics

    Posted by Zenpundit on 11th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Someone for reasons unknown last week leaked the classified Department of JusticeWhite Paper” on targeting with drone attacks the numerically tiny number of US citizens overseas who have joined al Qaida or affiliated groups. The leak set off an outburst of public debate, much of it ill-informed by people who did not bother to read the white paper and some of it intentionally misleading by those who had and, frankly, know better.

    Generally, I’m a harsh critic of the Holder DOJ, but their white paper, though not without some minor flaws of reasoning and one point of policy, is – unlike some of the critics – solidly in compliance with the laws of war, broader questions of international law and the major SCOTUS decisions on war powers. It was a political error to classify this document in the first place rather than properly share it with the relevant Congressional committees conducting oversight

    Here it is and I encourage you to read it for yourself:

    Lawfulness of Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qa’ida

    Much of this white paper debate has been over a legitimate policy dispute (“Is it a good idea if we use drones to kill AQ terrorists, including American ones?”) intentionally being mischaracterized by opponents of the policy (or the war) as a legal or constitutional question. It is not. The law is fairly settled as is the question if the conflict with AQ rises to a state of armed conflict, which SCOTUS dealt with as recently as Hamdi and for which there are ample precedents from previous wars and prior SCOTUS decisions to build upon. At best, framed as a legal dispute, the opponents of the drone policy would have a very long uphill climb with the Supreme Court. So why do it?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Afghanistan/Pakistan, History, International Affairs, Law, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    US Foreign Policy, Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

    Posted by Zenpundit on 31st January 2013 (All posts by )

    The Obama administration, though they would not characterize it as such nor have much desire to acknowledge it at all, have attempted  a strategic detente with the “moderate” elements of political Islam.

    This policy has not been entirely consistent; Syria, for example, is a quagmire the administration has wisely refrained from wading directly into despite the best efforts of R2P advocates to drag us there.  But more importantly, under President Obama the US supported the broad-based Arab Spring popular revolt against US ally, dictator Hosni Mubarak, and pushed the subsequent ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Libyan revolution against the entirely mad Colonel Gaddafi. These appear to be geopolitical “moves” upon which the Obama administration hopes to build.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, International Affairs, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 5 Comments »

    Singapore

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 18th December 2012 (All posts by )

    Singapore looked shiny and new. They had a lot of development along the shore. They built the Marina Bay hotel which has an amazing “infinity” pool on the roof of the three hotel buildings connected together. This was built on reclaimed land.

    The Singapore shoreline had a big skyline of mostly financial district buildings. My local contacts said that they all seemed to spring up over the last few years. Singapore as a city seemed to have the widest mix of races and ethnicities of any city I’ve ever visited, from Chinese to Malay to English / European and a large Indian population.

    Singapore is a very expensive place to live / visit. It costs $70,000 to have the right to buy a car due to the limited parking and roadways available for the booming city. Singapore does have a favorable tax regime but this doesn’t really help US citizens since we have to pay US rates (after a foreign income exclusion) anywhere in the world unless you give up citizenship.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, International Affairs | 2 Comments »

    Congo and the UN

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st November 2012 (All posts by )

    The many large scale wars in Congo deserve a bigger place in the world’s eye. They range over vast distances and involve long running themes of vengeance and corruption. These wars drag in neighboring countries and involve important natural resources. By many accounts the Democratic Republic of the Congo has enough minerals to be one of the world’s largest countries – instead it is one of the utterly poorest.

    I recommend reading Africa’s World War – Congo, The Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe By Gerard Prunier if you are interested at all in the topic.

    In many ways the story of Congo could be conceptually linked to the causes of the first and second world wars in Europe and Asia. Grievances that were not resolved from one war carry over to the next, and fires smolder from generation to generation. The geographical facts on the ground also carry significant weight, and small armies or bands of rebels can overcome large, sprawling inefficient armies, even those supported by outside parties like the UN with air power.

    The Fall of Goma and UN Peacekeepers

    Congo is a vast country. On the far west in Kinshasa, the nation’s capital. On the far east, near the border with Rwanda, is Goma, their most important eastern city.

    Even calling Congo one country is a misnomer. The capital city is the home of the president, the younger Kabila, who isn’t even very popular in the west (the most popular politician, Bemba, was charged with war crimes). A lot of Kabila’s support came from the east, where he successfully negotiated an end to the wars with Rwanda that had put the area in turmoil under depredations from local warlords. You can’t even really get across the country except by boat through winding rivers (where it is passable) and air travel is difficult or dangerous with the shambolic local carriers. The western part of the state and the capital have little capability to impact events on the ground in the west or exert state authority.

    Events in the Congo often relate back to Rwanda and the genocide of 1994. After the genocide the Tutsis, under the effective leadership of the great jungle general Paul Kagame, took back Rwanda from the Hutus and launched a war with a small band of hardened fighters that took down the entire government of Congo and drew in multiple regional countries. The exploits of the small number of Rwandan fighters need to go down in history as the story of a relatively tiny and disciplined crew taking on an audacious war across a giant country. Regardless of their motivations and ethics from a military point of view they deserve high respect.

    Now a band of ex-Congo soldiers who are mostly Tutsi and said to be supported by Rwanda and Uganda (two allies in the east who also clash over the looting of minerals through their rebel proxies), called M23 (after the date March 23 when the central government of Congo was said to have violated the terms of their entry into the Congo army as soldiers) have taken over the city of Goma right under the nose of the supposedly best equipped and trained units of the Congolese army, protected by attack helicopters and UN troops under the United Nations mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO).

    From this article describing the UN peacekeepers role in Goma:

    French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said it was “absurd” that the UN peacekeepers could not stop the rebels from entering Goma. With a 17,000-strong military and civilian staff, MONUSCO has a yearly budget of close to $1,5 billion and is the second-largest peacekeeping mission in the world.

    On paper it seems astonishing that the tiny M23 band, which only takes up half a wikipedia page, can take on and win a major army with UN support and hold a city of over a million citizens in a supposedly hostile area. They only have a few thousand fighters, but it can be seen that they are effective and cohesive and were able to advance even though outgunned from the air. Obviously many are saying that they are simply Rwandan soldiers or heavily supported from Rwanda and Uganda but the truth cannot be verified. In any case it is clear that a small band of disciplined soldiers has made a mockery of Congo sovereignty in the east and the UN mandate.

    At some point the illusion that eastern Congo is part of the west will likely die, and perhaps the time is now. People are pointing to the creation of South Sudan as a possible precedent, but it seems more like chaos than a civil war situation, and the local people aren’t exactly itching to be part of a larger Rwandan state.

    It would be a giant mistake to under estimate the power and fearsomeness of these M23 rebels, especially if they are de-facto elements of the Rwandan military. Even a few of these soldiers have no problems taking on the demoralized (Congo army) or tactically limited (UN) soldiers. The world has trouble holding Rwanda accountable for their actions since the world basically sat on their hands and did nothing during the 1994 massacre. Like the Israelis, not only are the Rwandans extremely effective for their size in military terms, they have a cohesive identity tied to the genocide.

    For the locals, sitting in an area of large mineral wealth that could be exploited to everyone’s’ benefit, being under the control of local warlords and in chaos is the likeliest situation in the short and medium term.

    This confusing and long running story goes on, and perhaps only the final breakdown of Congo into a mass of tinier states will take us to the next step in this drama.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in International Affairs, Military Affairs | 4 Comments »

    Does Culture Trump Strategy?

    Posted by Zenpundit on 1st November 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    The always interesting John Hagel tweeted a link recently to an old post at  Mill’s-Scofield Innovanomics, a blog run by a business strategist and consultant with a science background, Deb Mills-Scofield.

    Summer’s Trump Cards 

    ….Culture Trumps Strategy: The best made plans are worthless if they’re not aligned with the culture. Sometimes the strategy can help transform the culture (for good or bad), but if the culture doesn’t support it, it won’t happen.  Perhaps that’s why I think CEOs need to be CCS’s – Chief Culture Stewards.

    Challenge:  Start to check the health of your culture – really, be brutally honest -before the end of August.

    This was interesting to me.

    Obviously, Mills-Scofield was concerned here with “business strategy” and organizational theory and not strategy in the classical sense of war and statecraft. As Dr. Chet Richards has pointed out, unlike a military leader in war, businessmen are not trying to destroy their customers, their employees or even their competition, but while not the same kind of “strategy”, the underlying cognitive action, the “strategic thinking”,  is similar. Perhaps the same.

    So, shifting the question back to the original context of war and statecraft, does culture trump strategy?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Society, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    The Benghazi mess and its consequences

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 28th October 2012 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: There is now a report that General Ham is stating that they had forces ready but were never ordered to go to the assistance of the besieged US officers in Benghazi

    UPDATE #2- From Captain’s Journal, another blog, comes this:

    First of all, recall that General Rodriguez is the one whom I called out almost five years ago for spewing the silly propaganda that the Taliban were too weakened to launch a spring offensive, and also the one who wanted to micromanage a Marine Air Ground Task Force in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Less than six hours before Marines commenced a major helicopter-borne assault in the town of Marjah, Rodriguez’s headquarters issued an order requiring that his operations center clear any airstrike that was on a housing compound in the area but not sought in self-defense. This is rules of engagement of the flavor Rodriguez.

    If General Rodriguez is in fact taking over the Africa command, I’m not impressed with Panetta’s decision. Then again, I think Panetta is a weasel and his excuse-making cowardly, so I’m not surprised by the decision.

    I would advise anyone who is puzzled by the conflicting stories to read, Dakota Meyers book, “Into the Fire.”

    General Ham appears to have broken with that story and is taking no responsibility for the decision not to bail out the consulate and the Navy SEALS. There have been rumors that General Ham has been fired or forced out. There is no way to confirm them at this point until they come from more reliable sources.

    There are now strong indications he was fired. The deputy who “apprehended ” him is his successor. This suggests the path to command in Obama’s army.

    More on General Ham. This might suggest why he was unwilling to leave the US contractors to their fate.

    During his time in Iraq General Ham suffered Posttraumatic stress disorder, caused from attending the aftermath of a suicide bombing. He didn’t want another such scene on his conscience.

    UPDATE #3-An explanation for the failure of more disclosure in the Benghazi scandal was presented today (10/29) in an article in the Washington Times.
    Bloomberg News reported on October 17 that Attorney General Eric Holder “prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.”

    “There’s a problem with prosecutions that don’t distinguish between bad people — people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money — and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions,” said Abbe Lowell, attorney for Stephen J. Kim, an intelligence analyst charged under the Act, to Bloomberg News.

    The Espionage Act, bans unlawful disclosure of national security information to individuals not authorized to get it. The act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 and has been used to prosecute double agents like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.

    Bloomberg News cites the particular case of Stephen J. Kim, an intelligence analyst who was charged under the act. He worked as a contract analyst specializing in North Korea. Kim was questioned by law enforcement officials in September of 2009 after making contact with Fox News reporter Jim Rosen about North Korea’s nuclear weapon’s program. Eleven months later he was indicted by a grand jury for revealing classified information and making false statements

    Obama is prosecuting intelligence people who leak to news organizations. Whistleblowers, in other words. Leftist outlets are already attacking Fox News as disclosing top secret information.

    With all of this in mind, do not be surprised if a flood of individuals who have pertinent information begin to step up to the plate and talk about what happened on September 11, 2012 if Mitt Romney wins the presidency.

    There is a growing body of information about what happened in Benghazi but it has not appeared in the major media thus far. The NY Times and Washington Post seem to be covering for Obama by completely ignoring this story. Most of those who follow current events on the internet rather than in big city newspapers or television “news” are aware of most of the details.

    On September 11, 2012 the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked at approximately 9:40 PM local time by a large number of heavily armed terrorists. The US ambassador was present and had bid goodnight to the Turkish ambassador at about 8 PM local time. Washington DC is 6 hours west of Benghazi so the attack came at 3:40 PM Washington time.

    Here is a timeline of the attack.

    There was no demonstration in front of the consulate that night. In spite of this fact, quickly apparent to the State Department which was in contact with the personnel at the consulate and the CIA “annex” that night from the first shots fired, the Obama administration, including Hillary Clinton the Secretary of State, proposed a story about demonstrations in response to “an anti-Muslim video” that was in fact a You Tube video which was 14 minutes long. The creator of this video, an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in Los Angeles, was arrested on dubious grounds of a “probation violation” and the arrest was widely publicized by the administration. His initial court date is scheduled for AFTER the election.

    On Sunday September 16, 5 days after the attack, UN Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday news programs to repeat the administration’s story.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, International Affairs, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism | 25 Comments »

    Joe Biden and the debate

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th October 2012 (All posts by )

    A clownish Joe Biden mugged, groaned and interrupted Paul Ryan for 90 minutes last night. It was an odd spectacle but, apparently, just what the Democrats wanted. He lied about the Libya story and now Bill and Hillary Clinton may be thinking rebellion. Biden strongly suggested that the State Department was to blame for the murders because they did not ask for more security, in spite of the testimony before Congress the day before. If Hillary thinks she sees the bus coming, she may jump ship and it won’t be pretty.

    With tensions between President Obama and the Clintons at a new high, former President Bill Clinton is moving fast to develop a contingency plan for how his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should react if Obama attempts to tie the Benghazi fiasco around her neck, according to author Ed Klein.

    Biden also lied about Iran and their nuclear ambitions. He dismissed the danger of doing nothing. He said they do not have a “delivery system.” They have a delivery system named Hezbollah. Iran may not have an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the US, yet. If Iran were to choose to attack the US, a container ship and a US port are much more likely to be involved than a new missile. Certainly, Israel is within reach as are the countries of Europe. Saudi Arabia is within reach. The Sunni-Shia rivalry is sufficient motive but the other reasons should not be ignored. Iran is ruled by a sect of suicidal maniacs.

    Ryan capably described the Romney-Ryan tax proposals and his Medicare plan. I expected the abortion question and I thought it was well handled. Biden, of course, lied about the administration’s rules for health insurance coverage of contraception and abortion. That is not a big issue for me as I am pro-choice but the dishonesty is annoying. The “47% issue” and Ryan’s mention of a “30% who are takers” will not bother many people who agree and the offended are likely Obama voters no matter what happens.

    It will be interesting to see what the result will be. The left, of course, is excited by the nasty tone Biden adopted.

    On their $5 trillion tax cut, Romney/Ryan really need to either start naming the loopholes they’d close to pay for it or just admit they can’t make it revenue neutral without whacking the middle class. The VP was appropriately relentless on this point. Even I’m starting to feel sorry for them every time someone brings up this little flaw in their plan. I suspect I’m not alone in realizing that this country simply can’t afford to elect people promising a tax cut of this magnitude who, when it comes to paying for it, essentially say “trust us, we’ll find a bipartisan solution.”

    The “$Five trillion tax cut” has been thoroughly debunked, including Stephanie Cutter’s retreat from the claim.

    But, as I pointed out, Gov. Romney has already taken capital gains and dividends-for example-off the table. Now, here’s the revealing part: Larry said, and I know many in the investment community, including Mitt, feel exactly the same way, “I don’t consider those loopholes.”

    So, here is a lefty who wants to raise taxes on investment income and capital gains. I don’t see enough responses pointing out that this income has already been taxed as ordinary income. Mitt Romney and most investors had salary income, taxed at the rates of the time, which they saved and invested. The capital gains and dividend income is income that was already taxed once. The left simply does not understand this.

    Ryan kept his cool and Biden played the fool. Ann Althouse was impressed as I believe many women were impressed.

    As I said, I’m tired of the yelling. I found the debate really hard to watch, but I kept watching because I was committed to live-blogging. Even still, I got catatonic. There was a point when I didn’t write anything for 20 minutes and then I said:
    Biden has been yelling at Martha Raddatz for the last 15 minutes (as the subject is war). It’s so inappropriate!

    The previous post had been:
    The stress level is rising. Biden is so angry. Why is he yelling? Ryan needs nerves of steel not to lose his cool. I’m impressed that Ryan, when he gets his turn, is able to speak in an even, natural voice. It’s hard to concentrate on the policy itself, because the emotional static is so strong.

    That shows how I felt: pain. So here’s my question. Ratings were down, I see, but when were the ratings taken? In the beginning? How did the ratings drop off over the course of the 90 minutes?

    I have seen many comments about people, especially women, turning off the debate because of Biden’s rudeness and blustering. The ratings were down and the question is when were the ratings surveyed ? Of course, last night was also a big sports night. I think Ryan did better than the initial impressions suggest.

    If Obama uses the Biden debate tactic as a model for next Tuesday, the election may well be over.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Taxes, War and Peace | 23 Comments »

    Newsweek throws Obama under the bus

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 19th August 2012 (All posts by )

    The Newsweek cover for next week is astonishing.

    The lead article is by Niall Ferguson and is devastating. The fact that it is the cover story is an even bigger surprise. It’s interesting to speculate on the reasons.

    Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.

    On foreign policy, one of Obama’s few strong points in polls, it is even harsher.

    For me the president’s greatest failure has been not to think through the implications of these challenges to American power. Far from developing a coherent strategy, he believed—perhaps encouraged by the premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize—that all he needed to do was to make touchy-feely speeches around the world explaining to foreigners that he was not George W. Bush.

    In Tokyo in November 2009, the president gave his boilerplate hug-a-foreigner speech: “In an interconnected world, power does not need to be a zero-sum game, and nations need not fear the success of another … The United States does not seek to contain China … On the contrary, the rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations.” Yet by fall 2011, this approach had been jettisoned in favor of a “pivot” back to the Pacific, including risible deployments of troops to Australia and Singapore. From the vantage point of Beijing, neither approach had credibility.

    His Cairo speech of June 4, 2009, was an especially clumsy bid to ingratiate himself on what proved to be the eve of a regional revolution. “I’m also proud to carry with me,” he told Egyptians, “a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalamu alaikum … I’ve come here … to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based … upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.”

    Read the whole thing, as Instapundit says.

    Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Elections, International Affairs, Obama | 12 Comments »

    Russian Submarine In Gulf of Mexico?

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th August 2012 (All posts by )

    Don’t worry! The report probably isn’t true and anyway it’s not like it was an Israeli submarine or something really bad like that.

    Posted in International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia | Comments Off

    Two New Articles at Pragati Magazine

    Posted by Zenpundit on 7th July 2012 (All posts by )

    My amigo Adam Elkus and I each have an article up at the newest issue of Pragati magazine. Adam is reviewing the Sanger book on Obama and national security and I tackle the strategic implications of drones and cyber warfare:

    Adam ElkusConfront, Conceal, Leak 

    David Sanger’s Confront and Conceal is best used as a Rosetta stone for deciphering DC discourse. Its true utility lies not in its uneven discussion of Barack Obama’s national security decisions, but in the way it reveals both mundane and alarming traits of American foreign policy debate. Sanger’s obsession with a supposed “split” between values and interests, mistaken belief that international security should be conducted according to the Golden Rule, and exposure of sensitive leaks all tell a story about the state of national security debate in 21st century Washington. Although the message is muddied and the narrator unreliable, Confront and Conceal is gripping reading.

    Sanger’s self-designated task is to illuminate, through judicious research and both on and off the record interviews, the Obama administration’s struggle to operationalise its new vision of foreign policy. Sanger is at his best when exploring the way high-level officials engage in bureaucratic judo. His Obama is a canny political operator that compensates for relative inexperience with self-awareness and vigor. Even in the face of strategic surprise and bureaucratic infighting, Obama keeps a firm hand on the steering wheel. Sanger aggressively promotes a reading of Obama as driven operator rather than spectator, a portrayal that rings true when compared to other popular accounts of Obama’s foreign policy leadership style…. 

    Mark Safranski -Drone invasions and cyber dystopias 

    ….Of the two, drones have the older history, going back almost a century to the Great War where experiments in auto-piloted planes were financed by the US Navy, but for much of the twentieth century, military applications for drones (or “remotely piloted vehicles”) were sharply limited. The technological capabilities of drones always lagged far behind the advances in manned aircraft and they were extremely vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft systems, or in some cases, small arms fire. While drones had some marginal utility for battlefield surveillance or as decoys, during the Cold War they were never the primary collection tools for sensitive intelligence that the U-2 Blackbird, listening posts and spy satellites were.

    Several factors in the twenty-first century have pushed drones to the forefront as a weapon of choice for the Pentagon and the militaries of major powers. First, has been the relative decline of the probability of major interstate war since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the corresponding rise of irregular warfare in the form of insurgency by terrorists, guerrillas and rebellious tribes. Generally, these low-tech combatants reside in poor and remote areas and lack the capacity to detect or defend against drones except by concealment. Secondly, drones offer a tremendous economic advantage and battlefield return on investment (ROI) per enemy killed over advanced fighter aircraft.  A new F-22 costs $150 million to buy and $45,000 an hour just to fly with a pilot whose training costs the USAF $2.6 million; a reusable, propeller-driven Predator only costs slightly over $4 million. About the price of two and half Tomahawk cruise missiles….

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, India, International Affairs, Internet, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Book Review: The Snake-Eaters by Owen West

    Posted by Zenpundit on 8th June 2012 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted at zenpundit.com]

    The Snake Eaters by Owen West 

    Owen West, commodities trader, novelist and USMC Major in the Reserves has written a remarkable book in his war story of counterinsurgency in Khalidiya, a decaying rural town in the deadly Anbar province, heartland of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency. A success story for COIN, but also a very cautionary tale of the transformation of the Iraqi Brigade 3-1, from a dispirited, ill-equipped, poorly led unit distrusted and ignored by it’s American “partner” battalion and under siege by a hostile population into a self-confident, elite, combat force, “the Snake-Eaters”, feared by insurgents and respected by townspeople – and of their American advisors of Team Outcast who struggled to broker this transformation.

    After reading The Snake-Eaters and reflecting, the book speaks to readers at different levels.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, International Affairs, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 3 Comments »