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  • Archive for the 'International Affairs' Category

    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 »


    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

    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]

    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 »

    Between the warrior and the monk (ii): Fr Trevor Huddleston

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 1st June 2012 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- a warrior, a monk, and where that leaves me ]

    In the first part of this post I introduced you to my father, Captain OG Cameron DSC, RN, the man who fueled my keen interest in gallantry and the martial side of things. The other great influence in my early life was Fr. Trevor Huddleston CR, pictured below:


    Trevor Huddleston CR:

    Archbishop the Most Reverend Sir Ernest Urban Trevor Huddleston CR, KCMG – it’s hard even to know how to string his titles together, this monk, priest, schoolteacher, activist, archbishop, finally knighted by Her Majesty towards the end of his long and eventful life was the man who became a second father, guardian, mentor and spiritual guide to me shortly after my father died when I was nine.

    That’s the man as I knew him, Father Trevor — simple, caring, intelligent, perhaps a little austere even — in the middle image above.

    Austerity, simplicity: two more words to set beside gallantry in the lexicon of admiration and gratitude.


    To the left in the same image, he’s shown with Louis Armstrong — Satchmo — who has just presented him with a trumpet.

    The story goes like this: as a monk in an Anglican monastic order, the Community of the Resurrection popularly known as the Mirfield Fathers, Father Trevor was sent to South Africa while still a young man, and worked in Sophiatown, just outside Johannesberg, as a priest and teacher.

    A young black kid in one of his classes, Hugh, aged 12 or 13, fell ill and was taken to hospital, where Trevor Huddleston visited him. Trevor asked him what he would like more than anything in this world, what would so thrill and please him that he would have the greatest possible motive for getting better, getting out of the hospital and back to school. Hugh said, “a trumpet, Father” — so Trevor got hold of a trumpet which he then presented to the boy: now known the world over as the great jazz trumpeter, Hugh Masekela.

    That wasn’t quite enough, though. A year or three later, Trevor was in the United States, and met Satchmo, who asked if there was anything he could do to help… Trevor told Satchmo he’d started a jazz band for the kids in his school, and knew a boy who would just love a trumpet…

    Trevor was a hard man to refuse.

    Hugh Masekela:

    Here’s Hugh Masekela, just a little older, with the trumpet Trevor brought him from Louis Armstrong:

    And here’s the sound…

    When I was maybe 15, and Trevor had returned from South Africa to England, he gave me a 7″ “45″ record of the Huddleston Jazz Band — now long lost. Imagine my amazed delight to be able to hear that sound again, fifty years later, through the good graces of the internet –

    Hugh Masekela and the Huddleston Jazz Band play Ndenzeni na?


    Desmond Tutu:

    Another story I like to tell about Trevor and his time in South Africa has to do with a lady…

    It seems this young black kid aged about 8 or 9 was sitting with his mother on the “stoop” outside his house in a South African shanty-town when a white priest walked by and doffed his hat to the boy’s mother.

    The boy could hardly grasp how this had happened — his mother was a black woman, as one might say, “of no special acount”. But the priest in question was Trevor Huddleston, and it was a natural courtesy for him to lift his hat in greeting a lady…

    The young boy never quite recovered from this encounter. We know him now as the Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    Here’s a photo of four old friends — Huddleston, Tutu, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and former Commonwealth Secretary General Shridath Ramphal.

    From individuals to the world:

    These are two simple stories of how Fr Trevor simply and straightforwardly loved whomever was before him, regardless of the enormous pressure at the time to discriminate between “real” and “insignificant” people — a love which made an indelible mark on those whose lives it touched.

    And when Father Trevor touched you, as Lord Buckley might say, you stayed touched.

    Thus far I’ve been focusing on individuals that Trevor touched. I do not think he in fact saw more than one person at a time, and his responses to situations were geared directly to the service of his love.

    It was because of this that while he was in South Africa, Trevor repeatedly and quite literally put his life on the line in defence of the very simple proposition that the color of a person’s skin was immaterial in view of the love that was possible between any two people — so perhaps here’s where I should mention some of that history and some of the honors it brought him. After all, Trevor did pretty much take on the government of the South Africa he so loved, and lived to see it change.

    Bishop Trevor of Sophiatown

    Trevor Huddleston was a founding member of the African National Congress, the author of the first non-fiction work (Naught for Your Comfort, more on that later) to critique his beloved South Africa’s apartheid policy, reviled publically for meddling in politics by an Archbishop of Canterbury who later declared he had been in error and that Fr Trevor was about as close to a saint as one could find.

    In 1955, Father Trevor, along with Yusuf Dadoo and Chief Albert Luthuli, was awarded the Isitwalandwe, the highest award given by the African National Congress. He was awarded the United Nations Gold Medal in recognition of his contribution to the international campaign against apartheid, the highest awards from both Zambia and Nigeria, the Dag Hammerskjold Award for Peace, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Prize, and ten honorary doctorates, including that of his alma mater, Oxford.

    Archbishop Huddleston initiated the “International Declaration for the Release of Nelson Mandela and all Political Prisoners” in 1982, took part in the televised “International Tribute for a Free South Africa” held at Wembley Stadium, London in 1990 during which he introduced the address by Nelson Mandela (see below), entered South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London in 1994 to vote in the first South African democratic election, and was a guest at President Mandela’s inauguration in Pretoria that year.

    He received the KCMG (Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George) in the 1998 New Year Honours list, for “Services to UK-South African Relations”, and attended an Investiture at Buckingham Palace on March 24th, 1998, to receive this honour from HM the Queen.

    He chose the designation, “Bishop Trevor of Sophiatown”.

    Nelson Mandela:

    But let’s go back to individuals, and to Nelson Mandela in particular.

    Mandela and Trevor were comrades in the fight against apartheid from the beginning — and the richness of their friendship is visible in the photo of Mandela with his arms on Trevor’s shoulders in the right hand panel at the top of this page.

    In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela tells the story of a time when he and Walter Sisulu were approached by a group of South African police who had been ordered to arrest them. Trevor, who was talking with with the two of them, called out to the cops, “No, you must arrest me instead, my dears.”

    It’s that “my dears” that gives the game away. I can hear those words in Trevor’s voice. Even the cops were dear to Trevor: he might be utterly opposed to what they were doing, and risk his life to oppose them – but they were children of God.

    Here’s a video of Trevor’s speech introducing Mandela at Wembley — a political speech, to be sure, but one powered by religious conviction.

    Mandela’s tribute:

    I’m saving the best of what Fr. Trevor taught me for the third post in this series, and hope to wrap the series up with some of my own reflections in a fourth; here I’d like to close with the words Mandela wrote about his friend after Trevor’s death in 1998:

    It is humbling for an ordinary mortal like myself to express the deep sense of loss one feels at the death of so great and venerable figure as Father Trevor Huddleston.
    Father Huddleston was a pillar of wisdom, humility and sacrifice to the legions of freedom fighters in the darkest moments of the struggle against apartheid. At a time when identifying with the cause of equality for all South Africans was seen as the height of betrayal by the privileged, Father Huddleston embraced the downtrodden. He forsook all that apartheid South Africa offered the privileged minority. And he did so at great risk to his personal safety and well-being.
    On behalf of the people of South Africa and anti-apartheid campaigners across the world, I convey my deepest condolences to his Church, his friends and his colleagues. Isithwalandwe Trevor Huddleston belonged to that category of men and women who make the world the theatre of their operation in pursuit of freedom and justice.
    He brought hope, sunshine and comfort to the poorest of the poor. Not only was he a leader in the fight against oppression. He was also father and mentor to many leaders of the liberation movement, most of whom now occupy leading positions in all spheres of public life in our country. His memory will live in the hearts of our people.

    Posted in Biography, Christianity, International Affairs, Music, Poetry | 4 Comments »

    Just Unbelievable

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 17th April 2012 (All posts by )


    President Obama today affirmed American neutrality in the dispute between Argentina and England over the Falkland Islands. In the process, he made clear that the “special relationship” between the UK and the United States is not very special.
    Obama’s comments were made during a speech in Cartagena, Colombia, at the Summit of the Americas. It was delivered in English, but Obama chose to refer to the disputed islands by their Spanish name – the Malvinas. Argentina has insisted that the islands should always be referred to as “the Malvinas,” while the British have been adamant about calling them “the Falklands.” Obama’s choice of Malvinas might have been seen as a slap at the UK. Instead of feeling slapped, though, the British might be amused: He called them “the Maldives.”
    The Maldives are a group of Islands off the coast of India, half a world away from the Falklands. The story for people who enjoy presidential gaffes is that Obama got the wrong islands in the wrong ocean, but because Obama is so clearly brilliant, we’ll just file this away as an anomaly, along with the extra states. The real story is that he wanted to call them “the Malvinas” in the first place. It puts the British on notice that if push comes to shove, they might expect us to be as neutral as France.

    I agree with the quote. The big deal to me isn’t the Maldives vs. Malvinas gaffe (although it is unbelievable that our president would actually make that mistake), it is the fact that he isn’t calling them what they are. The Falklands. As an aside, who in gods name does Obama have making his speeches/helping him with public appearances? I get the fact that he hates Great Britain, but at least fact check the Maldives/Malvinas. Sheesh.

    Posted in Anglosphere, International Affairs, Just Unbelievable | 23 Comments »

    BS Detector

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 17th March 2012 (All posts by )

    I am an avid user of Facebook, for better or worse. The last few weeks many of my friends have been engaging in a large amount of slacktivism by linking a video called Kony 2012.

    Some of the scenes in this video may be disturbing, as the topic is general violence and exploitation of children in Africa.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Film, International Affairs, Internet, Media, Music, Video | 15 Comments »

    A Multipolar World

    Posted by onparkstreet on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )


    India’s crude oil imports from Iran is facing a risk of potential disruption as increasing US and EU sanctions make it impossible for Indian ships to obtain insurance.

    Greg Scoblete, The Compass Blog (Real Clear World):

    I imagine if I were an Indian official, I’d be a bit peeved to learn that acting “responsibly” means privileging the interests of the United States over my own country. Nevertheless, Burns has a point. After all, India may rely on Iran for 12 percent of its oil imports, but look at what the United States has been willing to do for India:

    Presidents Obama and Bush have met India more than halfway in offering concrete and highly visible commitments on issues India cares about. On his state visit to India in November 2010, for example, President Obama committed the U.S. for the very first time to support India’s candidacy for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.

    I don’t know about you, but if the U.S. was asked to forgo 12 percent of its oil imports in exchange for another country’s endorsement for a seat on a multilateral forum, I’d make the trade. I mean, c’mon, 12 percent? The U.S. gets about that much from the Persian Gulf – and we barely pay that area any attention at all…


    “The EU-India free trade agreement will be the single biggest trade agreement in the world, benefiting 1.7 billion people,” said president Barroso. “It would mean new opportunities for both Indian and European companies. It would mean a key driver for sustainable growth, job creation and innovation in India and Europe.”
    The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about €86bn of trade in goods and services in 2010. Bilateral trade in goods rose by 20% between 2010 and 2011.”

    Asia Times Online:

    Last year Israel supplied India with $1.6 billion worth of military equipment and is India’s second-largest defense supplier after Russia. Sales are only going to rise. Indian defense procurements from Israel in the period 2002-07 have touched the $5 billion mark.

    And this doesn’t even get into the China-EU-US-Israel-Saudi Arabia wheels-within-wheels complications when it comes to arms deals, hoped for arms deals, trade deals, hoped for trade deals, energy politics, and the rest of it….

    It’s not 1985, now is it? The past is a different country, a Russian (Soviet)-oriented Cold War country used to thinking in terms of “Kissengerian” alliances and blocs. An intellectual adjustment may be needed. It’s like 3-D chess out there….

    Speaking of energy:

    “Was Saudi Arabia involved?” (Asia Times Online.) If it makes you feel better, let me point out that Saudi petrodollars continue to fund all sorts of interesting educational activities on the subcontinent, in Africa, and elsewhere, along with Iranian monies. So that’s nice.

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, India, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Markets and Trading, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, North America | 2 Comments »

    New Book Review up at PRAGATI: George F. Kennan: an American Life

    Posted by Zenpundit on 18th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at


    PRAGATI - the Indian National Interest Review has published my review of John Lewis Gaddis’ biography George F. Kennan: An American Life 

    The creative art of strategy 

    ….Into the breach strides eminent diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis, offering a magisterial 784 page biography, a quarter- century in the making, George F. Kennan: An American Life. Gaddis, a noted historian of the Cold War and critic of revisionist interpretations of American foreign policy, has produced his magnum opus, distilling not only the essence of Kennan’s career, but the origins of his grand strategic worldview that were part and parcel the self-critical and lonely isolation that made Kennan such an acute observer of foreign societies and a myopic student of his own.

    Gaddis, who is a co-founder of the elite Grand Strategy Program at Yale University, had such a long intellectual association with his subject, having been appointed Kennan’s biographer in 1982, that one wonders on theories of strategy at times where George Kennan ends and John Lewis Gaddis begins. Giving Kennan the supreme compliment among strategists, that he possessed in the years of the Long Telegram and the Policy Planning Staff, Clausewitz’s Coup d’oeil, Gaddis does not shy away from explaining Kennan’s human imperfections to the reader that made the diplomat a study in contradictions….

    Read the rest here.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, History, India, International Affairs, Media, National Security, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Syria, Iran and the Risks of Tactical Geopolitics

    Posted by Zenpundit on 13th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from

    Mr. Nyet 

    World affairs are much more like spider’s web than the neat little drawers of an apothecary’s cabinet. In the latter,  the contents of each drawer are cleanly isolated and conveniently compartmentalized. What you do with the contents of one drawer today has no bearing on what you do next week with those of another. By contrast, with a spider’s web, when you touch a web at any point, not only do you find it to be sticky in a fragile sort of way, but your touch sends vibrations through every centimeter of the lattice.

    Which alerts the spiders.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, China, Europe, International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    The End of “Moral Equivalence”, and the Moral Bankruptcy of the Left

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 29th January 2012 (All posts by )

    A common refrain among the Left can be summarized as “moral equivalence” – i.e., comparing the negative events that the US is involved with (i.e., Abu Ghraib) or the inherent difficulties involved with attempting to turn a despotic state such as Iraq or a “failed state” such as Afghanistan into a functioning democracy with the horrors of the Russian invasion of Chechnya or the Chinese armed suppression of Tibet and then concluding that “we are all the same”.

    While the individuals here at Chicago Boyz never bought into the “moral equivalence” model it is true that the US had to prop up and stand by some odious regimes for quite a while in order to win the Cold War. While South Korea today is a vibrant democracy and certifiably free country it wasn’t always this way and while that is the ideal there are other countries that are at varying steps along this path.

    With the “Arab Spring” the US is looking at things differently. While we supported Egypt and Tunisia it was clear that we weren’t giving them unlimited support against their people; our contacts (the military) in fact minimized the violence in the overall situation and now at least these countries have an opportunity to have a democratic society.

    On the other hand you can see how the former Soviet “client states” are treating the uprising – with unimaginable brutality against unarmed civilians protesting peacefully. Libya and Syria behaved (and are still behaving, in the case of Syria) with insane behaviors such as opening fire with anti-aircraft weapons and tank fire against peaceful citizens which is a slaughter. This type of behavior of course is perfectly acceptable to a Russian style client state trained military, which use all means of oppression available to preserve the power of the ruling class against the will of the people. There is no “state” or “populace” of value; there is only the power of those in control (Gaddafi or Assad’s clique, or Putin’s clique, for example) and thus an ever escalating chain of violence is OK in their interpretation of events if that is what it takes to control power.

    As a country the US certainly has made mistakes but we LEARN from mistakes and are now on the side of freedom and voices for the people. And it isn’t only the US; France and Britain led the Libyan intervention much to the dismay of THEIR left wing.

    And yet Russia today shows why moral equivalence was NEVER correct; they are fundamentally anti-freedom and supporting regimes with the same core values of their own. One of the best description of the former USSR was that they were just “third generation gangsters” and it is clear that Assad is just a “second generation gangster” (Gaddafi’s second generation were mostly hunted down and killed or about to stand trial, something Gaddafi would never have done for his opponents).

    Russia continues to veto resolutions that would support unarmed citizens against Assad; their logic is clear – the goal of a regime is to CONTINUE TO EXIST and all means necessary to do this are OK. The will of their own populace is irrelevant, and the doctrine of “do not interfere in country’s affairs” provides the justification. There are obvious parallels to the situation in Putin’s Russia in that he will do everything to retain power (stuff the ballot box, threaten violence, blame foreign powers, or actually deploy violence in ever escalating levels if needed).

    Whatever the sins of the US in the modern era there are no equivalents of using anti-aircraft weapons and tanks against unarmed citizens, and using scorched earth tactics against civilians. This never happened. Instead the US took great pains to shield civilians and grow nascent democratic institutions, although the outcome of this is never certain.

    China too waits in the wings; the “third generation gangster” label could be applied there but they are more circumspect in the use of violence and do seem to believe that their goal as a regime does include raising the overall standard of living and giving people freedom (except to criticize the government, of course). Since Russia will block all effective sanctions against Syria, China has an out. This doesn’t stop China from crushing dissent where it suits them (Tibet) in a way that Western nations could never pull off; and a Beastie Boy concert or two obviously hasn’t dissuaded them a bit from their activities.

    And yet there are no protests outside Russia or China’s embassies by the Left; this isn’t a battle that concerns them (Syria or Libya), because it doesn’t fit their narrative that all the governments are oppressive and of moral equivalence. There are no angry posts on left wing blogs about these issues. It doesn’t fit their pre-defined agenda that the US is an oppressive place since birth and that we are all the same.

    That is the definition of moral bankruptcy.

    Posted in International Affairs, Leftism, Middle East | 7 Comments »

    “The Zionist Imperative”

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick:

    Today’s principal form of Jew-hatred is anti- Zionism. Anti-Zionism is similar to previous dominant forms of Jew hatred such as Christian anti-Judaism, xenophobic and racist anti- Semitism, and Communist anti-Jewish cosmopolitanism in the sense that it takes dominant, popular social trends and turns them against the Jews. Anti-Zionism’s current predominance owes to the convergence of several popular social trends which include Western post-nationalism, and anti-colonialism.

    Worth reading in full.

    UPDATE: David Foster provides a link to a well written blog post about a BDS conference at U. Penn.

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Judaism, Quotations, USA | 6 Comments »

    Assorted Links, or, I wish I could think up a better title for this post….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 25th January 2012 (All posts by )

    The US could be almost self-sufficent for energy by 2030, while the EU will be the most vulnerable region for energy security, BP said on Wednesday.
    Growth in shale oil and gas production would mean the US needed few imports, while North America as a whole could be self-sufficient, BP forecast at its Global Energy Outlook 2030.
    BP forecast that Eurasia could also become self-sufficient, based on the prediction that Europe would being a net importer of energy, and the former Soviet Union countries net exporters by a similar amount.
    In practice, this would leave the EU the most vulnerable region for energy security.

    The Telegraph

    Friends, I have no particular knowledge of this subject. If you have anything to add in comments, I’d love to hear it.

    Ah, age. One of the most daring aspects of this novel is that Lively is concerned with the hearts and problems of older characters. Her major players are well past their youth, and a boyish up-and-coming historian (the snake in Lord Henry’s mansion) doesn’t become important until much of the novel has passed. “How much remains when youth is gone?” Lively seems to be asking. And the answer is, “An abundance.” Here middle and old age are times of blossoming identity and possibility, miraculous bursts of sunshine.

    The New York Times on Penelope Lively’s “How it All Began.”

    Even as a twenty-something, I was fascinated with literary representations of middle age. An odd one, that’s me.

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, Business, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Europe, International Affairs, Middle East, National Security, North America, Predictions | 9 Comments »

    On “Leverages”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 11th January 2012 (All posts by )

    In a previous post, I asked a question about leverages in terms of foreign policy:

    A key–an essential–question on leverages at Abu Muqawama (Dr. Andrew Exum):

    Where things get tricky is when one tries to decide what to do about that. The principle problem is one that has been in my head watching more violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Egypt: the very source of U.S. leverage against the regimes in Bahrain and Egypt is that which links the United States to the abuses of the regime in the first place. So if you want to take a “moral” stand against the abuses of the regime in Bahrain and remove the Fifth Fleet, congratulations! You can feel good about yourself for about 24 hours — or until the time you realize that you have just lost the ability to schedule a same-day meeting with the Crown Prince to press him on the behavior of Bahrain’s security forces. Your leverage, such as it was, has just evaporated. The same is true in Egypt. It would feel good, amidst these violent clashes between the Army and protesters, to cut aid to the Egyptian Army. But in doing so, you also reduce your own leverage over the behavior of the Army itself.

    Okay, so we have leverage with an Army cracking down on its own people, an Army fattened on US military aid and training. I thought bilateral military training was supposed to mitigate the worst instincts of some armies? Isn’t that the theory? What does it mean to have leverage? To what end? To what purpose? I don’t know the answer and I don’t think anyone does, so Dr. Exum has a point. We have no strategy (link goes to Zen) within which to place “trade offs”. Well, if we do, I can’t see it.

    Greg Scoblete at The Compass (RealClearWorld) asks the question in a much better fashion (I enjoy reading that blog, whether I agree or disagree with specific points):

    But all of this begs an important question – leverage for what? The idea is that the U.S. invests in places like Bahrain and Egypt because it needs or wants something in return. During the Cold War, it was keeping these states out of the Soviet orbit. In the 1990s and beyond, it was ensuring these states remained friendly with Israel and accommodative to U.S. military power in the region. Today, what? What is it that U.S. policy requires from Egypt and Bahrain that necessitates supporting these regimes during these brutal crack downs?

    How should we view American policy toward the Middle East? What is the larger strategic framework within which we ought to view the various relationships? What is the optimal posture for the United States? Folks, I don’t know. I’d love to know your opinions on the subject.

    Posted in Blogging, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, Society, Terrorism, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    An Interesting Man, President Reagan.

    Posted by onparkstreet on 8th January 2012 (All posts by )

    - Hebert E. Meyer memorandum, Nov. 30, 1983 (via National Review Online).

    (We really should take up the President’s suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its people won’t disappear from the planet, and we have not yet thought seriously about the sort of political and economic structure likely to emerge.)

    - Reagan and India: ‘Dialog of Discovery’ (News India Times).

    If his sunny disposition and easy manner charmed the original “Iron Lady” during their first encounter in Mexico, his administration’s ingenious framework to strengthen bilateral relations laid the foundation on which today’s U.S.-India strategic partnership rests.
    In a clear departure from the preceding administrations – including the sympathetic Kennedy, Johnson and Carter administrations and the nearly hostile Nixon White House – President Reagan decided to engage India on areas where there was agreement and mutual interest instead of trying to resolve outstanding issues that were intractable.
    The Reagan White House had to placate Islamabad – which was hell bent on gaining a military edge over India – without either weakening or hurting New Delhi, which was already furious at Washington’s move to arm Pakistan and cast a Nelson’s eye on its nuclear program.
    The Reagan administration accomplished this impossible balancing act by rejecting the notion that U.S. relations in South Asia were a zero-sum game. So, while it appeased Pakistan’s Zia-ul Haq with aid and arms, it upped the ante on political and business relations with India. The president went about it by establishing personal relations with Indian leaders, including lavishly hosting Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and, later Rajiv Gandh, at the White House.
    Unlike his predecessors, who regarded Indira Gandhi to be somewhat recalcitrant and obstinate and approached her warily, Reagan respected her forthrightness and strength.

    A far thinking man, too. Unfortunately, post 9-11, someone within our National Security Complex thought replaying the Reagan Islamabad playbook might be a good idea. Unwise, given that the Pakistani-supported Taliban turned out to be a bit problematic for us in more ways than one (to put it mildly). I still don’t understand Rick “Musharraf” Santorum’s thinking or what I sometimes jokingly refer to as the “Musharraf corner” of National Review’s online Corner? You know, the pundits that turn up periodically to remind us how the secular Pakistani military is our best hope? Post-Abbottabad, I have to wonder about the ability of some analysts and pundits to put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4. The non-state actor/jihadi project is a long-standing and detailed design of the GHQ. You can’t just “hire” one General to go after a few assets and expect the whole thing to reform itself. That isn’t logical. And as far as the Al Q we supposedly did scoop up (to date)? I wonder just how much of that intelligence has been independently verified and just how much comes via our complicated CIA-ISI liaison relationship? Who knows?

    Lest our progressive friends feel a bit “I told you so” about all of this: aid is fungible. Any money the US might spend on the civilian sector eventually gets into military hands one way or another so I wouldn’t feel too smug. Plus, the Taliban that the Obama administration is attempting to negotiate with have only to pretend to negotiate and then wait it out with Pakistani help (aided with our very own tax money).

    Anyway, regarding the original topic of this post, President Reagan had the absolute correct instincts and I think he got it right in terms of the big picture. He can’t be blamed for the decisions that came after the Soviet Union collapsed, and besides, if Steve Coll’s book “Ghost Wars” is correct, the danger of the jihad project was downplayed by CIA higher-ups and others in his administration – and administrations that came after his. A President can’t do everything by himself, after all. How does the CIA keep getting away with being so wrong, time and time again? Or am I being unfair?

    Ghost Wars II – if such a book is ever written – is going to be an interesting book….

    Update Aspects of Indira Gandhi’s tenure were, er, problematic (emergency rule, certain domestic policies) and I am not a fan of her governance. I am learning (being so poorly educated on these topics), however, that grand strategy and national statecraft are tough and you can’t afford to make an enemy out of every nation whose governance you don’t like. Note to self, really, as I think about optimal policies for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Obama administration wishes to “pivot” to Asia. How should we think about this in terms of American Strategy and what does pivoting mean?

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Biography, Conservatism, History, Human Behavior, India, International Affairs, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Quotations | 9 Comments »

    “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 4th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Commenter Lynn Wheeler writes at zenpundit:

    “….Boyd would comment in the 80s that the approach was having significant downside on American corporations as former WW2 officers climbed the corporate ladder, creating similar massive, rigid, top-down command&control infrastructures (along with little agility to adapt to changing conditions, US auto industry being one such poster child).”

    Wheeler’s comment reminded me of the following post that I had meant to blog earlier:

    One occasion in particular in the late 1970s brought this home to me. McNamara had come to one of our staff meetings in the Western Africa Region of the World Bank, where I was a young manager, and he had said he would be ready to answer any questions.
    I felt fairly secure as an up-and-coming division chief and a risk-taking kind of guy. So I decided to ask McNamara the question that was on everyone’s lips in the corridors at the time, namely, whether he perceived any tension between his hard-driving policy of pushing out an ever-increasing volume of development loans and improving the quality of the projects that were being financed by the loans. In effect, was there a tension between quantity and quality?
    When the time came for questions, I spoke first at the meeting and posed the question.
    His reply to me was chilling.
    He said that people who asked that kind of question didn’t understand our obligation to do both—we had to do more loans and we had to have higher quality—there was no tension. People who didn’t see that didn’t belong in the World Bank.

    Steve Denning

    This too from a speech by Robert McNamara, “Security in the Contemporary World”:

    The rub comes in this: We do not always grasp the meaning of the word “security” in this context. In a modernizing society, security means development.

    Security is not military hardware, though it may include it. Security is not military force, though it may involve it. Security is not traditional military activity, though it may encompass it. Security is development. Without development, there can be no security. A developing nation that does not in fact develop simply cannot remain “secure.” It cannot remain secure for the intractable reason that its own citizenry cannot shed its human nature.

    If security implies anything, it implies a minimal measure of order and stability. Without internal development of at least a minimal degree, order and stability are simply not possible. They are not possible because human nature cannot be frustrated beyond intrinsic limits. It reacts because it must.
    Development means economic, social, and political progress. It means a reasonable standard of living, and the word “reasonable” in this context requires continual redefinition. What is “reasonable” in an earlier stage of development will become “unreasonable” in a later stage.

    As development progresses, security progresses. And when the people of a nation have organized their own human and natural resources to provide themselves with what they need and expect out of life and have learned to compromise peacefully among competing demands in the larger national interest then their resistance to disorder and violence will be enormously increased.

    Think about this in terms of the “armed nation building” of the past decade or so and in terms of successive Clinton, Bush, and Obama administration policies. Really not that much difference if you look at it in terms of securing stability through development – armed or otherwise. Not a novel observation in any way, but bears in mind repeating as the 2012 Presidential campaign continues its “running in place” trajectory….

    Update:“Running in place” and “trajectory” don’t really go together, do they? Oh well. You all know what I mean….

    Posted in Academia, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Business, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Public Finance, Society, Speeches, Terrorism, United Nations, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    Book Review: A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad

    Posted by Zenpundit on 29th December 2011 (All posts by )

    A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad: Deciphering Abu Musab al-Suri’s Islamic Jihad Manifesto by Jim Lacey (Ed.)

    Cross-posted at

    Previously, I read and reviewed Brynjar Lia’s Architect of Global Jihad , about Islamist terrorist and strategist Abu Musab al-Suri. A sometime collaborator with Osama bin Laden and the AQ inner circle, a trainer of terrorists in military tactics in Afghanistan and an advocate of jihadi IO, al-Suri was one of the few minds produced by the radical Islamist movement who thought and wrote about conflict with the West on a strategic level. Before falling into the hands of Pakistani security and eventually, Syria, where al-Suri was wanted by the Assad regime, al-Suri produced a massive 1600 page tome on conducting a terror insurgency,  The Global Islamic Resistance Call, which al-Suri released on to the jihadi darknet.

    Jim Lacey has produced an English digest version of al-Suri’s influential magnum opus comprising approximately 10% of the original  Arabic version, by focusing on the tactical and strategic subjects and excising the rhetorical/ritualistic redundancies common to Islamist discourse and the interminable theological disputation. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, International Affairs, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, Philosophy, Religion, Terrorism, War and Peace | 3 Comments »


    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd December 2011 (All posts by )

    I did a tour in Korea in 1993-94, which hardly makes me an expert on the place, seeing that I have that in common with a fair number of Army and Air Force personnel over the past half-century plus. Reading about the expected fallout from the change of régime-boss north of the DMZ I think of that tour now as something along the lines of being put into place rather like an instant-read thermometer: there for a year in Seoul, at the Yongsan Army Infantry garrison, where I worked at AFKN-HQ – and at a number of outside jobs for which a pleasant speaking voice and fluency in English was a requirement. One of those regular jobs was as an English-language editor at Korea Broadcasting; the national broadcasting entity did an English simulcast of the first fifteen minutes of the 9 PM evening newscast. I shared this duty with two other AFKN staffers in rotation: every third evening, around 6PM, I went out the #1 gate and caught a local bus, and rode across town to the Yoido; a huge rectangular plaza where the KBS building was located, just around the corner from other terribly important buildings – like the ROK capitol building. Once there, I’d go up to the newsroom – which was a huge place, filled with rows of desks and computers, go to the English-language section, and wait for any of the three or four Korean-to-English translators to finish translating the main news stories for the evening broadcast, correct their story for punctuation and readability, stick around to watch them do the simulcast at 9 PM, critique their delivery.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in International Affairs, Korea, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Everything Old is New Again

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 21st December 2011 (All posts by )

    One of humanity’s oldest forms of national economy is the “palace economy.” Under this system, the king would have the harvest brought into a central granary for storage. In Genesis 41, Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dream as predicting seven good harvests and seven poor ones, and says: “Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.”

    Egypt, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, the Minoans, and the Mycenaean Greeks all had similar arrangements. It was a command economy, with subsistence farming as a base and the excess over bare necessity taken into the care of the government. Many examples of early writing are simply accounting records for the acquisition, storage, and disbursement of grain, wine, and olive oil. In theory, the stored food would be redistributed to the poor and, in times of shortage, to the people in general. In practice, it put the weapon of hunger into the ruler’s hands.

    Politically, the ruler was the representative and near relation of the gods, and was invested with divine attributes. That may or may not have included shooting 18 holes-in-one in a single round of golf.

    Is any of this starting to sound familiar?

    Good riddance to the god-king of North Korea. I hope his fellow god-king Stalin has saved him a seat by the fire.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, International Affairs, Leftism, Obits, Political Philosophy | 13 Comments »