Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Fine State

The biggest spectacle of the week, was the “breakout” from Gaza of several hundred thousand Palestinians, after Hamas agents took out much of the high wall that separates the Gaza Strip from Egypt, in a series of explosions after months of undermining the structure with acetylene torches and similar labour-intensive tools.

The media accounts of this event were incoherent, and understandably so. For even people in the Bush administration were puzzled, and I found myself being asked if I could explain it to more than one of them. When the people who supposedly control the CIA and the State Department are reduced to asking armchair journalists to explain breaking news, well: the world is in a fine state, isn't it?

My first comment, at least to them, had to be: “So why did you fire all your neoconservatives?”

The Unadmitted 30s ... And Counting ...

While President Bush was throwing money into a recession in Washington, unprecedented Islamist demonstrations were erupting across Egypt, almost unreported in our media. As I was beginning to explain in my Saturday column, it is not generally appreciated that Hamas, which controls Gaza, is of Egyptian descent.
And by the brilliant stroke of blowing down the wall at the Egyptian border, they have now invaded Egypt proper.

Among the slogans being shouted in Egypt's streets: “Arm us, train us, send us to Gaza!”
The rhetorical target is Israel. The actual target is the “moderate” Egyptian government, and the response to these rallies, from the authorities, and from Egypt's formerly-articulate “middle class,” is panic.
In Egypt as elsewhere, to say that “the great majority of Muslims are peaceful, unaggressive people, just trying to get on with their lives” is to utter something deeply fatuous. The great majority of Germans were likewise, in the 1930s.

We Can Only Hope

The Iraqis in Anbar have completely rejected Al Qaeda. A while back I told the police chief in my town that I thought the reason the terrorists are weak is because their ideas have been rejected. He said,

"In 2002 and 2003, we thought Al Qaeda was just another Muslim group. Now, you can go far out into the desert and talk to even a shepherd, and he will tell you that he hates Al Qaeda. One hundred years from now, you will be able to go into the desert and talk to a shepherd and he will still tell you that he hates Al Qaeda."

So, having rejected extremism, what is left? They are still Muslim in my town, but I wouldn't call them devout -- they go to the mosque and pray, and mention
God in everyday conversations -- as do I to them -- and granted, I certainly don't know or interact with all of them, but I don't think that "moderate Islam" fully captures who they are. In fact, religion is almost irrelevant in the conversations I have with local leaders.

Pigs A Leapin'

What’s gotten into Newsweek magazine? This article by George Weigel is way off their usual politically correct line: The War Against Jihadism.

What kind of campaign is this? Six-plus years after 9/11; while the Taliban attempts an Afghanistan comeback; as Islamist terrorists cause mayhem in Algeria and occupy huge swaths of tribal Pakistan; despite “United 93” and “The Kite Runner,” a library-full of books, presidential commissions, congressional hearings, and four election cycles—despite all of that, a strange, Victorian reticence about naming the enemy in the contest for the human future in which we are engaged befogs this political season.

Such reticence is an obstacle to victory in a war we cannot avoid and in which we must prevail.

Houses Like ATMs

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SO I'M WATCHING MCCAIN TALK ABOUT THE SUBPRIME CRISIS, and how there may be some "greedy people on Wall Street who need to go to jail."

But I heard a typically sad-toned NPR story on subprimes tonight, and despite their best efforts to evoke the Joads it was a story of people who "used their houses like ATMs," taking out home equity loan after home equity loan when they started with a subprime mortgage, only to wind up owing far more than their houses were worth and unable to make the payments. Boo hoo. Shouldn't there be a price for being an idiot? And -- despite not being on Wall Street -- a greedy idiot? Why does McCain want to bail these people out? Why does he want to put Wall Street people in jail?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Political Storm (Worm)

Dmitri Alperovitch, director of intelligence analysis and hosted security for San Jose, Calif.-based Secure Computing, said federal law enforcement officials who need to know have already learned the identities of those responsible for running the Storm worm network, but that U.S. authorities have thus far been prevented from bringing those responsible to justice due to a lack of cooperation from officials in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the Storm worm authors are thought to reside.

Alperovitch blames the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the political influence of operatives within the Federal Security Service (the former Soviet KGB) for the protection he says is apparently afforded to cybercrime outfits such as RBN and the Storm worm gang.

when you have the whole money aspect injected into it, this changes the playing field and may make it a bit more difficult to track down who it might be or prove more succinctly that they wrote it."

One Bomb State Update

Here is an interesting news item regarding Israel's analysis of Iran's nuclear capability:
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, in an interview published Saturday, that Iran is "quite advanced" in its work on atomic weapons and may already be fashioning a nuclear warhead.
"Our interpretation is that clearly the Iranians are aiming at nuclear capability," he said. "It's probably true that ... they may have slowed down the weapons group in 2003, because it was the height of American militarism."

But he said Israel now believed that Iranians "are quite advanced, much beyond the level of the Manhattan Project."

Call it the Tehran Project, if you will.

Kick The Can (Part 72355)

There seems to be a bipartisan political consensus not to examine the subject of political Islam publicly. It is the most verboten of foreign policy subjects. But like other "open secrets", its exclusion from formal discussion doesn't banish it from public consciousness. It merely pushes it underground, like Barack Obama's middle name.

The key problem with subjecting the question of political Islam to debate is that every other conclusion except that of regarding it as a "religion of peace" implies consequences no one dares face. Concluding that Islam is a 'religion of war' would precipitate a revolution in diplomacy, energy policy and military strategy. It's a bottle of nitro nobody wants to shake; it's a can of worms nobody wants to open: not a Republican administration and most especially not a Democratic one.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

Like the Jedi Knights in Star Wars, much of Israel's safety depends on an absurdly small number of daring pilots and their jet planes. The Israel Air Force has managed to use that capacity with amazing skill and daring, as it showed last September when a dozen fighter bombers and support aircraft jammed Syria's Russian-supplied air defenses and destroyed a secret nuclear facility on the Euphrates river --- not far from Iran.  The nature of that target has still not been revealed, but it must have been important enough to risk triggering a missile attack from Syria. That means the target was believed to be very important: most likely a joint Iranian-Syrian-North Korean nuclear facility.

In a very odd move, the Syrians are now rebuilding that mysterious concrete cube in exactly the same location --- even though the whole world knows about it now.  Why should they spend vast amounts of money doing that, if it would only become another fat target? 

One possibility is that it's a trap

Looking For That Outreach Award

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Well, yes, one sort of sees what she means. Killing thousands of people in Manhattan skyscrapers in the name of Islam does, among a certain narrow-minded type of person, give Islam a bad name, and thus could be said to be "anti-Islamic" — in the same way that the Luftwaffe raining down death and destruction on Londoners during the Blitz was an "anti-German activity." But I don't recall even Neville Chamberlain explaining, as if to a five-year old, that there is nothing German about the wish to terrorize and invade, and that this is entirely at odds with the core German values of sitting around eating huge sausages in beer gardens while wearing lederhosen.

Still, it should add a certain surreal quality to BBC news bulletins: "The Prime Minister today condemned the latest anti-Islamic activity as he picked through the rubble of Downing Street looking for his 2008 Wahhabi Community Outreach Award.