Post-9-11 events and analyses
Ken Novak's Weblog
Saturday, March 19, 2005
China, Iran Cruise Missile Sales Confirmed: "Smugglers in Ukraine shipped 18 cruise missiles, each capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, to Iran and China at the beginning of the decade, Ukrainian prosecutors said Friday. The apparent sale to Iran of 12 of the Soviet-era Kh-55 cruise missiles, which have a range of 1,860 miles, is likely to add to concern in Washington about alleged efforts by Iran to develop nuclear weapons. .. public confirmation by the new administration of President Viktor Yushchenko came Friday.
Each missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead with a 200-kiloton yield at altitudes too low to be detected by radar, and the sales have been portrayed as a significant leak of Soviet-era weapons technology. .. Omelchenko said missiles were shipped to China in 2000 and Iran in 2001. If the missiles were made operational, they could strike Israel if launched from Iran and Japan if fired from China or its neighbor, North Korea. The Japanese government reportedly is worried that the six missiles allegedly shipped to China could have ended up in North Korea, which claims to possess nuclear weapons. ..
The [defendant's] attorney said the missiles sent to Iran and China were manufactured in 1987, had a service life of eight years, had been stored since 1992 in a way that did not meet standards, lacked parts and were missing the technical documents needed to use them, Itar-Tass reported."
The state prosecutor says it was a criminal group, but a legislator mainatins that the Ukrspetsexport, the state-owned arms sale monopoly was involved. 7:43:27 AM
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Which War Is This Anyway?
"research for this piece by the Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law suggests, just about all the major captures of significant al-Qaeda figures (or figures claimed to be significant) have been made not by the American military (a blunt instrument indeed when it came to the capture of men like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or countless others) but by law enforcement. Here is a listing of a number of the alleged terrorist figures, large and small, who were captured in the post-9/11 years (arranged by name, place and time of apprehension, whom apprehended by [LA stands for "Local Authorities"], and current custody if known): .. [40 people listed] As you'll note, with few exceptions, these men were taken by "local authorities." " I wonder how many have been killed by the military; at least a few in Afghanistan and Yemen. 11:25:29 AM
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Group Leaves Social Security Overhaul Bloc: Cracks in the GOP. "Signaling more troubles ahead for President Bush's campaign to overhaul Social Security, a group representing the nation's biggest financial companies said Monday that it had decided not to renew its membership in a business coalition raising millions of dollars to back the effort.
The Financial Services Forum, which represents chief executives from such corporate heavyweights as American Express, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, was a co-founder of the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security, or Compass. But it left the coalition last month after its members failed to agree on Bush's plan to let workers divert some of their payroll tax into individual investment accounts...
[It was] the latest indication of the conflicting pressures facing corporate executives — on one side, a White House eager for their backing on Bush's top domestic priority and on the other, corporate shareholders wary of endangering profits by entering a politically charged battle that could alienate customers and some investors. Trepeta said the forum had helped to create Compass to push for Social Security restructuring in general, and it was not prepared to become embroiled in a highly partisan war over private investment accounts...
The forum's shift follows the decision by two securities firms — Edward Jones and Waddell & Reed — to drop out of a related lobbying group set up to promote private accounts on Capitol Hill, the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security. ..
Financial services companies have come under particular pressure from opponents of private accounts, especially the AFL-CIO. These critics charge that the companies stand to benefit from Bush's plan to let workers divert taxes into stocks and bonds that the companies would manage. The AFL-CIO wrote to Lazio on Monday demanding to know where his group's members stood on private accounts and calling on the forum to "disavow" its support for the accounts. Because labor unions control large amounts of money for investment, through pension and mutual funds and as institutional shareholders, they have strong leverage with brokerage and financial services firms. The AFL-CIO has organized demonstrations against some firms; more are planned this month against Charles Schwab and Wachovia. Schwab officials have said they remain neutral on private accounts. ..
The forum represents 20 large firms and is the first known defection from Compass, which is raising an estimated $20 million to promote private accounts as part of a campaign coordinated with the White House and the Republican National Committee.
William Patterson, an AFL-CIO official who has helped organize the federation's efforts to pressure corporations into withdrawing from the White House-backed coalitions, said Monday that he "applauded" the forum's decision. He said the group's move might heighten pressure on other financial services groups, such as the Securities Industry Assn., whose membership list overlaps that of the forum, to follow suit. "The position that the industry associations have taken was untenable — that you can be in an advocacy position while your members are telling the investing public that they're neutral or not taking a position," said Patterson, director of the AFL-CIO's investment office. "We could not find a single firm that would stand by the Compass position." " 10:01:23 PM
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Cheney, the Energy Task Force, and Iraq:
Why was (and is) it important to the administration to keep the work of the energy task force secret? "For months there has been a debate in Washington about when the Bush Administration decided to go to war against Saddam. In Ron Suskind’s recent book “The Price of Loyalty,” former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill charges that Cheney agitated for U.S. intervention well before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Additional evidence that Cheney played an early planning role is contained in a previously undisclosed National Security Council document, dated February 3, 2001. The top-secret document, written by a high-level N.S.C. official, concerned Cheney’s newly formed Energy Task Force. It directed the N.S.C. staff to coöperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the “melding” of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: “the review of operational policies towards rogue states,” such as Iraq, and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”
A source who worked at the N.S.C. at the time doubted that there were links between Cheney’s Energy Task Force and the overthrow of Saddam. But Mark Medish, who served as senior director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs at the N.S.C. during the Clinton Administration, told me that he regards the document as potentially “huge.” He said, “People think Cheney’s Energy Task Force has been secretive about domestic issues,” referring to the fact that the Vice-President has been unwilling to reveal information about private task-force meetings that took place in 2001, when information was being gathered to help develop President Bush’s energy policy. “But if this little group was discussing geostrategic plans for oil, it puts the issue of war in the context of the captains of the oil industry sitting down with Cheney and laying grand, global plans.”" The case is still in the courts, sent back to the appellate court by the Supreme Court in June 2004. Thanks to Salon's recent scandal sheet. 10:54:11 PM
Listen to the Admiral: "Bobby" Inman on intelligence and the Bush crowd. A good short read. "Slate: Does this business—with Casey and George Bush Sr.—go back to when Donald Rumsfeld suggested making George Bush the head of the CIA in 1975?
Inman: The standard rumor at the time was that Rumsfeld, as chief of staff, had persuaded President Ford to appoint George H.W. Bush as director of Central Intelligence, assuming that that got rid of a potential competitor for the presidency.
Slate: Donald Rumsfeld had his eye on the presidency?
Inman: Oh, yes. Yes. In '75. … He was looking forward. You know, Ford was going to run in '76, so Rumsfeld had his eye on '80. But it was a clever job of, you know, sending Bush out there—"He's buried. He'll never come back to be a presidential candidate."
Slate: Some people think he was given the directorship of the CIA because he had a CIA background and they mention that his father, Prescott Bush, was a member of the OSS. …
Inman: No, no, no. None of that's valid.
Slate: That's not true? It was really political considerations?
Inman: Absolutely. ..
Slate: What do you make of the pardons that George Bush Sr. gave to many of the people involved with the Iran-Contra situation?
Inman: Loyalty. They [the Bush family] give loyalty and they prize loyalty. I can remember—I don't want to identify the individual—but a very prominent Democrat, who compared looking at Carter and then Reagan, and then Bush, and observed that many of the people around Carter were totally disloyal to him.
Slate: Interesting that Rumsfeld's disloyalty to Bush Sr. would be rewarded by Bush Jr.
Inman: Certainly Rumsfeld didn't get the job in Defense through personal loyalty to Bush; he got it because Cheney was his sponsor...
Slate: .. Paul Wolfowitz; we saw a lot of him and the neocons in the Iraq war run-up. They have virtually disappeared. Why is that?
Inman: They don't want to take the blame. … [T]hey were willing to take credit for things earlier; they don't want to take blame.
Slate: Who is going to take the blame?
Inman: I think we'd better stop there." 10:28:20 PM
Europeans Investigate CIA Role in Abductions:
We may learn more about CIA kidnappings from European magistrates and media. "three official investigations that have surfaced in the past year into renditions believed to have taken place in Western Europe. Although the CIA usually carries out the operations with the help or blessing of friendly local intelligence agencies, law enforcement authorities in Italy, Germany and Sweden are examining whether U.S. agents may have broken local laws by detaining terrorist suspects on European soil and subjecting them to abuse or maltreatment. " 5:00:45 PM
Monday, March 07, 2005
The Sharecropper Society: Excerpts from Berkshire Hathaway's annual report. "Berkshire owned about $21.4 billion of foreign exchange contracts at year end [i.e. 2004], spread among 12 currencies. As I mentioned last year, holdings of this kind are a decided change for us. .. The decline in [the dollar's] value has already been substantial, but is nevertheless likely to continue. ..
other countries and their citizens now own a net of about $3 trillion of the U.S. A decade ago their net ownership was negligible .. Should we continue to run current account deficits comparable to those now prevailing, the net ownership of the U.S. by other countries and their citizens a decade from now will amount to roughly $11 trillion. And, if foreign investors were to earn only 5% on that net holding, we would need to send a net of $.55 trillion of goods and services abroad every year merely to service the U.S. investments then held by foreigners. At that date, a decade out, our GDP would probably total about $18 trillion [sot the US] would then be delivering 3% of its annual output to the rest of the world simply as tribute for the overindulgences of the past. .. A country that is now aspiring to an “Ownership Society” will not find happiness in -– and I’ll use hyperbole here for emphasis -– a “Sharecropper’s Society.” " 2:59:01 PM
frontline: high stakes in cyberspace: Paul Saffo in 1995 on PBS: Fun to read the old stuff. Paul Saffo is remarkably on-target, 10 years later. This article mentions "macro-myopia: A pattern where our hopes and our expectations or our fears about the threatened impact of some new technology causes us to overestimate its short term impacts and reality always fails to meet those inflated expectations. And as a result our disappointment then leads us to turn around and underestimate the long term implications and I can guarantee you this time will be no different. The short term impact of this stuff will be less than the hype would suggest but the long term implications will be vastly larger than we can possibly imagine today." I've since encoutered Gartner's Hype Cycle, which they say they started to use also in 1995, with a graphic version of this insight.
I found this when looking for a reference to an aphorism that I think comes from Saffo. The aphorism: Over two years, things change much less than we think they will; but over ten years, they change more than we imagine.
It makes me wonder about the timeframe in between, say 5 to 7 years in the future, when major impacts will be felt from things we know are changing now, despite hype (digital sensors and surveillance) and disillusion (wind and solar power). 12:45:30 PM
Friday, March 04, 2005
How America Became the World's Dispensable Nation
: "A decade ago, American triumphalists mocked those who argued that the world was becoming multipolar rather than unipolar. Where was the evidence of balancing against the US? they asked. Today the evidence of foreign cooperation to reduce American pri macy is everywhere - from the increasing importance of regional trade blocs that exclude the US to international space projects and military exercises in which the US is conspicuous by its absence. [examples in the article]
It is true that the US remains the only country capable of projecting military power throughout the world. But unipolarity in the military sphere, narrowly defined, is not preventing the rapid development of multipolarity in the geopolitical and economic arenas - far from it. And the other great powers, with the exception of the UK, are content to let the US waste blood and treasure on its doomed attempt at hegemony in the Middle East.
That the rest of the world is building institutions and alliances that shut out the US should come as no surprise. The view that American leaders can be trusted to use a monopoly of military and economic power for the good of humanity has never been widely shared outside the US. The trend toward multipolarity has probably been accelerated by the truculent unilateralism of the Bush administration.. In recent memory, nothing could be done without the US. But today, most international institution-building of any long-term importance in global diplomacy and trade occurs without American participation. In 1998 Madeleine Albright, then US secretary of state, said of the US: "We are the indispensable nation." By backfiring, the unilateralism of Mr Bush has proved her wrong. The US, it turns out, is a dispensable nation. Europe, China, Russia, Latin America and other regions and nations are quietly taking measures whose effect, if not sole purpose, will be to cut America down to size." 11:23:26 AM