Friday, December 28, 2007

The Future Of "Democracy"

Right now we face the very real prospect of an electoral coalition in which Sharif and allied Islamists hold significant power. Yes, Sharif would still run a double game against terrorism to mollify the Americans, but it would be vastly more tenuous than even Musharraf’s game is now, and would constantly threaten to collapse into anti-American demagoguery (now a key source of Sharif’s popular appeal). Even an electoral victory by a Bhutto successor could mean trouble. Bhutto’s supporters do not favor the war on terror, and could in any case fall into conflicts with the army that would lead to further chaos. And remember, Bhutto and Sharif alternated in power, and their respective parties and coalitions would surely alternate again. Disenchantment with a regime ruled by a Bhutto successor would lead to victory in the next election for an even more virulently anti-American Sharif-Islamist coalition. This is the future of "democracy" in Pakistan.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Fantasy

There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.

Then there is the real Pakistan: an enemy of the United States and the West.

The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman — indeed, a product of feudal Pakistani privilege and secular Western breeding whose father, President Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, had been branded as an enemy of Islam by influential Muslim clerics in the early 1970s.
kill the jihadists first. Or they’ll kill you, just like, today, they killed Benazir Bhutto

It's The Madrassas Stupid

Zia’s leveling of mandatory Zakat contributions is the exception. Almost nobody in Pakistan pays taxes, and the government is therefore almost non-existent. There is no public school system to speak of. Parents send their children to madrassas in part because there are few other options for education, and the schools often provide free meals for the children – leaving the parents quite literally with one less mouth to feed (Saudi money does indeed pay for those meals). The problem here is not only Saudi funding, although that is clearly a major part of it. It is also the public’s Islamist leanings, and the weakness of the state’s reach. That is why we cannot be optimistic about quick fixes. Naturally, the Saudi issue has to be taken with great seriousness. But too few people recognize that the problem is very much rooted in the sentiments of the Pakistani people themselves, and in the fundamental weakness of the Pakistani state.

The Horrible Confirmation

As Andy noted earlier, according to one recent poll, 46% of Pakistanis support Osama bin Laden.

What should be easy to agree is that Pakistan is getting worse. Even those who thought at the time that its creation was one of the most unnecessary mistakes in British imperial policy wouldn't have predicted that a mere half-century later it would be a coup-prone nuclear basket-case exporting both its tribal marriage customs and irredentist jihadism to the heart of the western world. Fifty years ago, Pakistanis emigrating to England and Canada brought with them an essentially Britannic education and a moderate Sufi Islam that was not a barrier to integration. Today they bring a narrow madrassah education and Deobandi Islam, which is deeply hostile to assimilation. In other words, what a "Pakistani" is is profoundly different. I liked Benazir Bhutto very much, but she represented Pakistan's past, and her murder is a horrible confirmation of that fact.

On Contesting Elections ... With The 7th Century

Bhutto's murder points to a lesson we (the Foreign Policy Establishment in particular) has been slow to learn:

This is not some extraordinary event. This is not the work of some lone madman. This is how militant Islamists contest elections – not just in Pakistan but also in Lebanon and Gaza and wherever they they get a foothold.

Why bother with opeds, TV commercials, high-priced campaign strategists, spin doctors and pollsters when with one suicide bomber you can eliminate your opponent entirely?

Hard to argue with the logic.

The One (Bomb) State Solution

However, this author’s four meetings this week with three of the region’s top Arab affairs experts and a senior Palestinian official reveals that the Palestinian’s have already jettisoned the idea of reaching a compromise with Israel and have already hit cruise control if only to collect on promises of eight billion dollars in international commitments.

I sat in a Tel Aviv meeting on Wednesday with a senior advisor to Mahmaoud Abbas who told a few of us Israelis in no uncertain terms. “PA leader Abbas’s hands are tied." Abbas will not agree to anything less than a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines including Jerusalem.

“The Palestinian pursuit of a two state solution has ended.” They have condemned themselves to a fate worse than the 1948 “Nakba” (disaster). They are now committed to the one state solution: One state for Arabs and Jews.

Apparently the White House and State Department are out of the loop.


Rogers believed that until Pakistan had an educated citizenry, credible legal culture, a semblance of upright government and a degree of religious tolerance that any electoral process would be founded upon an insubstantial base.

He might have added that meaningful elections can occur only when the armies -- in this case the Pakistani Army and the armed Islamic militants -- are committed to the processes of democracy. When every group under arms within a society is determined to settle the question of power by combat the role for the ballot is small indeed. The next few days will show whether the Pakistani Army -- for it will surely not be the Taliban -- can rededicate itself to electoral democracy. Pakistan needs its George Washington. Unfortunately it only has its Pervez Musharraf.

How I wish there was dedication in the first place...

Be A Marblehead

Two Hundred and Thirty One years ago yesterday, a barefoot, ill-clad army of 2,000 men crossed the ice choked Delaware River to surprise the Hessians at Trenton, giving George Washington his most important victory in the cause of American independence.

The story of how that victory came about is instructive to the cause of Fred Thompson’s campaign for the presidency and the reason for this blogburst today. Not because Fred resembles George Washington in any way or that a Thompson presidency would be as significant an event in history as the American revolution. But because when the chips were down and the cause all but lost, a very small group of Americans helped make the difference between victory and defeat.

But Washington had the perfect bunch to attempt the impossible; the seafaring men of the 14th Continental Regiment.

Better known to us as “The Marblehead Regiment,”

Support Fred. I just did. Again.

Broke Britain

"I actually think the British played a larger role in the coup than the US."

Yes. Britain was absolutely broke after WWII, and the prospect of losing billions of capital invested in the Anglo-Iranian oil industry was appalling. It was the same problem as Nasser grabbing the Suez canal.

I suppose the moral is, never invest in another country. For example, investments in mines in Zimbabwe are now under threat.

Note that the British Labour Government of the 1940s nationalised almost all the industry in Britain except the plants belonging to Ford and General Motors. What would have been the US reaction if they had?

Congress Of Dictators (Part 92365)

And before we bring up 1559, we should also know that selective morality of this kind has no place in Middle Eastern politics, when Israel itself has defied over 60 U.N. resolutions.


Sigh... time to educate the ignorant.

UN resolutions are either General Assembly resolutions, which are non-binding, or Security Council resolutions, which are binding.

The UN Resolutions Israel is ignoring are non-binding General Assembly resolutions.

UNSC Resolution 1559 is not a General Assembly resolution. Trying to point at the General Assembly resolutions Israel is ignoring as justification for not complying with UNSC resolution 1559 is not a legally valid argument.

It would be nice if people who brought up certain matters had educated themselves before doing so. The reason Israel's disregard for General Assembly resolutions is not considered legally significant has nothing to do with morality, it is because the UN Charter explicitly states that General Assembly resolutions are non-binding.

The Once And Future Satrapy

The 1953 actions were in line with the containment strategy against the Warsaw Pact. Iran had a border with the USSR and ceding that strategic a location to the communists was not going to happen. If we had not installed the Pahlevi's Iran would have been a Russian satrapy until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 at the earliest. As bad as the Shah was, when it comes to dictatorship, he has nothing on the Mullahs of today or whatever Persian Ceau┼čescu the Soviets would have installed.

As for the actions of the 1980s, what did you expect from the US after the Islamist faction of the Iranian revolution invaded the sovereign soil of the US?

This commenter is wrong about US enmity towards other nations. The US doesn't hate other nations; not even France when they deserve it. We get angry, but abiding hatred is just not part of our national culture. We aren't old or failed enough to waste our energies in pointless hate.

On (The Real) Root Causes

The second reason why Hezbollah cannot give up its arms, though, is because so many of the young men who join the organization join to fight. These young men are lured by the promise of fighting Israel, and Hezbollah must worry that if they were to abandon their military campaign against Israel, these young men would simply split from the organization in the same way that so many of the Amal militia’s gunmen left for Hezbollah in the early 1980s. Thus, in order to keep these young men of arms under the same big tent as the rest of the organization, it is necessary to continue some form of armed conflict against Israel. In this way, Hezbollah’s cross-border raids and rocket attacks against Israel after the 2000 withdrawal—while necessary from an internal perspective—ultimately worked against Hezbollah’s overall strategy of deterrence.

Welcome To Nuclear Whack-A-Mole

This is another event in the real war, not "just" a Pakistani thing. And until we have leaders who both understand that and are willing and able to develop the strategy to win the real war, our battlefield victories will be short-lived. Al Qaeda and its sponsors and allies had to demonstrate the ability to win one against us. Listen to their language: “We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen.”

Welcome To Cyber War

Computer network security personnel are
encountering more and more ugly surprises when they take apart the hacker
programs that are planted in PCs. These hacker "payloads" have become much more
powerful over the last few years. Much like the AI (Artificial Intelligence) in
computer games has become more realistic, so have the tools hackers build into
their payloads. The most powerful of these new payloads still concentrate on
the key objectives of  their kind; don't
get caught, and steal something useful. But now they do so with much more
powerful tools.

The defensive abilities have multiplied
to include the ability to detect the anti-virus defenses of the PC they have
infected, and a wide range of tools to defeat anti-virus software. A few years
back, a clever payload would simply shut off the anti-virus, but today,
top-grade payloads modify the anti-virus system so that the user thinks the PC
is still protected, when it isn't.


First, the Chinese set up a Chinese translation
service in Hawaii, and managed to make it appear as American owned (and able to
pass a security check). Eventually, this translation company got NSA contracts
to translate material obtained from China. The operators of the translation of
the company were able to pass the NSA material back to China, letting the
Chinese know what information the NSA was picking up, which helped the Chinese
figure out how the NSA was getting certain information, and with what. This
made it easier to prevent the NSA from getting certain information, or setting
up a trap, to feed the NSA false information.


But there was more. Many of the NSA
employees were Chinese-American. The Chinese set up a recruiting operation,
that was so carefully established and run, that it was several years before
U.S. counter-intelligence caught on, and shut it down.


All this was a major blow to the NSA,
and a reminder that, in the intel business, when you get sloppy, you get hurt.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Investing Today

clipped from

Investors now have to gauge not only the reality of economic data, but its predictable willful misrepresentation by the press. We therefore have to speculate not only on underlying conditions, but on the effectiveness of the effort to scupper Main Street confidence.

Shut Down The CIA

There are three possibilities here, none of them reassuring. If the CIA doesn't make or keep transcripts of its interrogations of terrorists, the agency is more incompetent than we could have imagined. That seems inconceivable. If the September 11 Commission asked for transcripts and the CIA pretended not to have them, that would be far more serious than the alleged withholding of the video tapes. And if, as seems possible from Zelikow's memo, the Commission failed to obtain transcripts (or video tapes) because it never asked for them, then the Commission was more inept, and its report less reliable, than we had believed.

One more observation: regardless of whether it "withheld" the video tapes or transcripts, the CIA obviously was not fully forthcoming and helpful to the Commission.

And did I mention that the 9/11 commission was a joke?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Dreaming Of A Porkless Christmas

McConnell's remark points out that the money has still been appropriated, whether earmarked or not. However, agencies have no requirement to spend every single dollar of appropriated funds, whereas they must spend the monies earmarked for the purposes of Congress -- at least with earmarks written into the legislation itself. We may save all $7.4 billion, a portion of it, or none at all -- but we won't save any of it without an executive order canceling the Pork Christmas.

Bush has the high road entirely open to him. Congress -- both parties included -- violated its own rules and broke their own promises in airdropping 90% of the earmarks in the conference report. They can sue to get them restored, but that will put current leadership on the record acknowledging their dishonest approach to porking up the budget. Bush can go to court and point out that Congress themselves delegitimized the process used to generate these earmarks. Would they really want to answer for that?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The D You Need To Get

clipped from

VITAMIN D UPDATE: "Vitamin D tests conducted on a group of University of Toronto students have found that virtually all non-whites had insufficient levels of the sunshine vitamin, putting them at elevated risk of debilitating diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes. . . . Vitamin D insufficiency used to be thought of as a problem causing only rickets, but in recent years, researchers have found that low levels of the nutrient are linked to a disparate range of diseases and health problems, including many types of cancer, osteoporosis, mult-iple sclerosis, diabetes and susceptibility to tuberculosis and influenza." And many of the whites had low levels, too. Sun isn't all bad, you know.

And it's not just Canada -- we see low levels in the United States, too:

Recent research shows up to 50 percent of kids and adults in the United States are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency. It's not to be taken lightly -- a lack of vitamin D has been linked to a whole host of diseases.

Best Posts

Original content: A New Form Of Evil -- Looking At Algore: Iraq Edition -- Crichton's A Gas -- The Apocalypse Will Be Only Grapefruit-Sized? -- Afghanistan: The "Good" War? -- Understanding the Concept of "Button" -- VDH Reaches Into The Memory Hole Once More -- The Islamic Democracy Conundrum And Nightmare's Handmaiden -- Eurabia: Dependency and Hypocrisy -- Holocaust Denial: Where The Problem Lies

Environmentalism: Churchill's Battle Of Britain Hastings -- Of Swindles And Designated Hitters -- Eugenics Past ... And Present -- What Would Al Gore Be Like If He Were Real?
Humor: On The Necessity Of Banning Dihydrogen Monoxide -- Welcome To Jihad -- Nice Pigs, Sir
Music: You Do Understand ...
Pictures: America is at the mall
Politics: Evan Sayet: Below Above The Fold -- The Middle ... Is Missing -- Plus Ca Change
Psychology: Crichton On "Information Casualties"
Religion: Phase 1 Sacrifice
Terror / Islamism: Read. The. Whole. Thing. -- Mo's Turf -- I Did Mention Worms, Didn't I? -- The Secret 51st State -- Are You Asleep? (Ayaan Hirsi Ali interview) -- Vietnam The Paragon?