Monday, December 31, 2012

Let’s Give Up on the Constitution

As one who has sworn to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic it pains me to post this.  But perhaps it may have the effect of making people think about how important our Constitution is and maybe some will silently restate their oath to support and defend it.  I do not think we have a problem with the Constitution at all.  I think we have problems with people who interpret it in ways that support their political agendas and especially with those who do not want to support and defend it.  I think the beauty of the Constitution is that the tension between the "originalists" and the "living constitutionalists" is that the checks and balances of our system resolve the disputes over time. Perhaps I lack imagination but I cannot envision a better system and I do not think the author really offers any better solutions.

But the bottom line is that I do not think the Constitution has created a dysfunctional political system, I think the fault for our dysfunction lies in our political parties which of course are not at all part of our Constitution and the Constitutional process (and per my previous messages – President Washington correctly warned us against them I think for the very reasons we are experiencing today).

In this New Year I hope we will remember the how important our Constitution is and again think about the necessity to support and defend it.

Let’s Give Up on the Constitution
Published: December 30, 2012

For Op-Ed, follow@nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow@andyrNYT.

AS the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.

Consider, for example, the assertion by the Senate minority leader last week that the House could not take up a plan by Senate Democrats to extend tax cuts on households making $250,000 or less because the Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the lower chamber. Why should anyone care? Why should a lame-duck House, 27 members of which were defeated for re-election, have a stranglehold on our economy? Why does a grotesquely malapportioned Senate get to decide the nation’s fate?

Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.

As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

Constitutional disobedience may seem radical, but it is as old as the Republic. In fact, the Constitution itself was born of constitutional disobedience. When George Washington and the other framers went to Philadelphia in 1787, they were instructed to suggest amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which would have had to be ratified by the legislatures of all 13 states. Instead, in violation of their mandate, they abandoned the Articles, wrote a new Constitution and provided that it would take effect after ratification by only nine states, and by conventions in those states rather than the state legislatures.
Continued at the link below)

China poses potential obstacle to reunification of Koreas: U.S. Congress report

Some interesting analysis and conclusions in the report; however, in the end I think that China will ultimately support unification because it does not want to have to be responsible for north Korea (though it will want to ensure access to resources and I believe it is posturing now through the establishment of the 50 and 100 year leases to mineral rights).  As an aside in the report the authors use the Korean name for the Amnok River and put the Chinese name of the Yalu River in parentheses.

The Senate report can be downloaded at this link:


2013/01/01 10:03 KST

China poses potential obstacle to reunification of Koreas: U.S. Congress report

By Lee Chi-dong
Dec. 31 (Yonhap) -- China may prove to be a major stumbling block to any future efforts by the two Koreas for reunification, a U.S. congressional report said Monday.

   "China could attempt to manage, and conceivably block the unification process," said the report released by the office of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)

Lugar, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the report is aimed at alerting his colleagues in Congress that the reunification of South and North Korea may not follow the German model due to China's history claims and growing influence on the peninsula.

   The 84-page report, titled "China's impact on Korean Peninsula unification and questions for the Senate," was authored by staff members at the chamber with the help of Korean and Chinese historians.

   It calls for a painstaking review of how the U.S. will respond in case there is a unification process on the peninsula driven either by the warming of inter-Korean relations or by a collapse of the North Korean regime.

   China may try to impede the reunification of the two Koreas, which have been divided for more than 60 years, or seek to play a major role on a reunified Korea, according to the report.

   The report cited China's historical claims that North Korea belonged to it and Pyongyang's economic dependence on Beijing.

   "Disputes about the Korea-China borderline are historic and endless," it said.
(Continued at the link below)

North Korea Cracks Down on Knowledge Smugglers

I hate to continue to beat the horse but this is another indicator that illustrates how much the regime fears outside information and that the operations by the north Korean defector organizations and other NGOs are having an impact.  This is all the more reason why a comprehensive ROK-US influence operations strategy (PSYOP/MISO) should be sustained.  As an aside when looking at Bob Collins' patterns of collapse or 7 phases of collapse this is an indication of how the regime remains in the suppression phase has it has been for more than two decades.  But reports such as this show that the suppression mechanisms may be strained.  If suppression fails then we can potentially see a rapid progression though the remaining phases of collapse and if that is the case the potential for conflict increases.  The bottom line is that reports such as these should be watched closely and of course we should not only be planning for what comes next but actively preparing to deal with the "fall out" when regime collapse occurs.  But call me chicken little.

North Korea Cracks Down on Knowledge Smugglers

By By TIM SULLIVAN Associated Press
HUNCHUN, China December 31, 2012 (AP)

The warning came from Kim Jong Un, the North Korean ruler who sees his isolated nation, just across the border from this busy Chinese trading town, as under siege. The attack, he said, must be stopped.
"We must extend the fight against the enemy's ideological and cultural infiltration," Kim said in an October speech at the headquarters of his immensely powerful internal security service. Kim, who became North Korea's supreme leader after the death of his father a year ago, called upon his vast security network to "ruthlessly crush those hostile elements."

Over the past year, Kim has intensified a border crackdown that has attempted to seal the once-porous 1,420-kilometer (880-mile) frontier with China, smugglers and analysts say, trying to hold back the onslaught.

The assault that he fears? It's being waged with cheap televisions rigged to receive foreign broadcasts, and with smuggled mobile phones that — if you can get a Chinese signal along the border — can call the outside world. Very often, it arrives in the form of wildly popular South Korean soap operas smuggled in on DVDs or computer thumb drives.

In North Korea, a country where international phone calls and Internet connections exist only for a tiny fraction of a tiny elite, and televisions and radios must be permanently preset to receive only state broadcasts, it's Korean-language TV heartache they crave.
(Continued at the ink below)

George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address

 Below is the link to the entire farewell address of George Washington that includes both an outline and a glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to us as they are no longer common.

George Washington
(There is an outline and a select dictionary at the end of this Address.)

Friends and Fellow-Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the Executive Government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you at the same time to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken, without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this previous to the last election had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence impelled me to abandon the idea. I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.
(Continued at the link below)

George Washington On The Danger Of Political Parties

Given the current dysfunctional Legislative and Executive Branches it might be useful to review George Washington's warning about the dangers of political parties.  Below is the excerpt from his farewell address that discusses these dangers and re-reading this today really illustrates how right he was in his warning.  Seems like most everything he warned against is coming true.  

I find it also ironic that so many tout the concept of American Exceptionalism and so I think we should consider John Winthrop's words:

We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when he shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “the Lord make it like that of New England.” For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God . . . .

For those who believe that the US should export Democracy, I think there are countries around the world who are watching this debacle in our Legislature and Executive branches and saying that America is not the city on the hill that they want to emulate.

I hope we all have a better New Year but I fear our government will not all us to have one.

George Washington On The Danger Of Political Parties
“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual, and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils, and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
(Continued at the link below)

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2013: From Turkey to Congo, next year's wars threaten global stability.

An interesting list.   Also note "good news" list with Colombia, The Philippines and Burma (Myanmar).   I am skeptical of the good news on Burma and she does caveat her assessment given what is going on with the Kachin and Karen as well as the Rohingya. 

From Turkey to Congo, next year's wars threaten global stability.


Every year, around the world, old conflicts worsen, new ones emerge and, occasionally, some situations improve. There is no shortage of storm clouds looming over 2013: Once again, hotspots old and new will present a challenge to the security of people across the globe.

There is, of course, an arbitrariness to most lists -- and this list of crises to watch out for in 2013 is no different. One person's priority might well be another's sideshow, one analyst's early warning cry is another's fear-mongering. In some situations -- Central Asia, perhaps -- preventive action has genuine meaning: The collapse into chaos has yet to happen. More complicated is anticipating when it will happen, what will trigger it, and how bad it will be. In others -- Syria, obviously -- the catastrophe is already upon us, so the very notion of prevention can seem absurd. It has no meaning save in the sense of preventing the nightmare from worsening or spreading.

What follows, then, is a "top 10" list of crises that does not include the ongoing, drug-related violence in Mexico, the simmering tensions in the East China Sea, or the possibility of conflict on the Korean peninsula after a rocket launch by Pyongyang. As if this mix wasn't combustible enough, there are new leaders in China, Japan, and on both sides of Korea's de-militarized zone who may well feel pressured to burnish their nationalist credentials with aggressive action. Nor do I mention the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe, the ongoing trauma in Somalia, or the talk of war in response to Iran's nuclear program. Any of these could credibly make a top 10 crises list.

Focusing on countries also makes it more difficult to highlight some of the undercurrents and tensions percolating through the various crises we are likely to confront next year. So, before we begin our list, here are four examples, in brief.

Elections, we know, place enormous stresses on fragile polities: they're a long-term good that can present short-term challenges. The 2011 presidential polls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo failed to meet this challenge, and the current violence in the DRC's eastern provinces is at least in part driven by the bankruptcy of governance that the elections, if anything, exacerbated. Much attention in the coming year will be on how Kenya and Zimbabwe manage their forthcoming votes, and on how the region and the world respond.

A similar tension lies between the long-term benefits of justice -- promoting accountability and addressing an accumulation of grievances -- and the reality that it can often pose immediate risks. Whether in Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Kenya, or Colombia, the "justice or peace" debate is in need of fresh thinking.

The role of sanctions in preventing conflict also seems too often to involve a dialogue of the deaf. Did sanctions encourage the changes in Myanmar (also known as Burma) -- or simply punish the people, not the rulers, of that country? Have they become part of the problem in Zimbabwe rather than a driver of change? And most prominently, how will sanctions defuse the Iran nuclear crisis, when they appear to signal to Tehran that the goal is to change not the regime's behavior but the regime itself? It might behoove the international community to avoid the temptation to impose sanctions as an automatic default response to a given situation; sanctions will only be effective as part of a coherent, overall strategy, not as a substitute for one.

And finally, a word on the rule of law. Too often, we see this well-worn phrase used in the sense of "rule by law": That is, autocratic rulers co-opt the language and trappings of democracy, using the law to harass rather than protect. Hence the use of law to harass rather than protect; hence the international community's tendency to train and equip law enforcement units who, in the eyes of the civilians they are charged with protecting, likely don't need to become more efficient in techniques of repression. The international community needs to be more vigilant toward this charade and more focused on the substance of the rule of law -- perhaps most importantly the notion of equality before the law -- than its form.

The laws of war may also need to adapt to the evolving nature of modern warfare. Asymmetric warfare and the language of the "war on terror" challenge the critical distinction between "combatants" and "civilians." Technology, too, presents new dilemmas. Despite claims of surgical accuracy, drone strikes produce collateral civilian damage that is difficult to measure, while exposing one side to no risk of combatant casualties. In some instances, drones also may be self-defeating: They terrorize and cause deep trauma to those communities affected, potentially increasing support for radical groups.

It's difficult to convey all this in a list. But, with that said, here is the International Crisis Group's "top 10" list of global threats for the coming year. It is non-prioritized, and seeks to include a mix of the obvious risks and those we believe are bubbling beneath the surface. And because we're optimists at heart, it includes an addendum of three countries where recent developments suggest that the coming year could bring peace -- not torment. We certainly wish that for all.
(Continued at the link below)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

North Korea's caste system faces power of wealth

I cannot emphasize this enough.  Anyone who is making policy or strategy concerning north Korea must read Bob Collins' report on Songbun published by HRNK.   Without reading that report one cannot begin to understand the nature of the north Korean system and society and will not be able to make effective policy and develop the strategies necessary to support the ROK-US Joint Vision of 2009 which calls for peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula.
"If you were a peasant and you owned nothing, then all of a sudden you were at the top of the society," said Bob Collins, who wove together smuggled documents, interviews with former North Korean security officials and discussions with an array of ordinary North Koreans to write an exhaustive songbun study released this year by the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. While the songbun system theoretically allows for movement within the hierarchy, Collins said most families' standing today remains a reflection of their ancestors' position in the 1950s and '60s.
North Korea's caste system faces power of wealth

By: TIM SULLIVAN | Associated Press 
Published: December 29, 2012

SEOUL, South Korea --

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) For more than a half-century, a mysterious caste system has shadowed the life of every North Korean. It can decide whether they will live in the gated compounds of the minuscule elite, or in mountain villages where farmers hack at rocky soil with handmade tools. It can help determine what hospital will take them if they fall sick, whether they go to college and, very often, whom they will marry.

It is called songbun. And officially, it does not exist at all.

The power of caste remains potent, exiles and scholars say, generations after it was permanently branded onto every family based on their supposed ideological purity. But today it is also quietly fraying, weakened by the growing importance of something that barely existed until recently in socialist North Korea: wealth.

Like almost all change in North Korea's deeply opaque society, where so much is hidden to outsiders, the shift is happening slowly and often silently. But in the contest for power within the closed world that Pyongyang has created, defectors, analysts and activists say money is now competing with the domination of political caste.

"There's one place where songbun doesn't matter, and that's in business," said a North Korean soldier-turned-businessman who fled to South Korea after a prison stint, and who now lives in a working-class apartment building on the fringes of Seoul. "Songbun means nothing to people who want to make money."

Songbun, a word that translates as "ingredient" but effectively means "background," first took shape in the 1950s and '60s. It was a time when North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung, was forging one of the world's most repressive states and seeking ways to reward supporters and isolate potential enemies.
Historians say songbun was partially modeled on Soviet class divisions, and echoes a similar system that China abandoned in the 1980s amid the growth of the market economy there. In Korea, songbun turned a fiercely hierarchical society upside down, pushing peasants to the top of the caste ladder; aristocrats and landlords toward the bottom. The very top was reserved for those closest to Kim: his relatives and guerrillas who had fought with him against Korea's Japanese occupiers.

Very quickly, though, songbun became a professional hierarchy. The low caste became farmers and miners. The high caste filled the powerful bureaucracies. And children grew up and stepped into their parents' roles.

"If you were a peasant and you owned nothing, then all of a sudden you were at the top of the society," said Bob Collins, who wove together smuggled documents, interviews with former North Korean security officials and discussions with an array of ordinary North Koreans to write an exhaustive songbun study released this year by the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. While the songbun system theoretically allows for movement within the hierarchy, Collins said most families' standing today remains a reflection of their ancestors' position in the 1950s and '60s.

Generations after the system began, many of North Korea's most powerful people are officially identified as "peasants."
(Continued at the link below)

North Korea is poised for its next move

An Australian perspective (that criticizes the Australian Foreign minister).  I am not sure what the world's longest "amnesty" is, maybe that is an Australian translation for armistice (I am sure someone will correct me and tell me amnesty is correct or perhaps it is an attempt at satire that is over my head).
North Korea has been the biggest single threat to peace and stability in the Asia Pacific since the Korean War paused for the world's longest amnesty in 1953 and that situation is unlikely to change any time soon.

But the author is correct here:

Phoning allies and thanking China must surely give the mad regime pause for thought. 
Sadly, none of the diplomatic posturing or harsh words will have any impact on Kim Jong-un and the regime.

And this is quite a concluding statement:

If the North Koreans manage to marry their rocket and nuclear technologies into a single package then it won't be a matter of what others say. 
Washington simply cannot and will not allow that to happen.
North Korea is poised for its next move

HOUSTON, we have a problem. And the problem's name is North Korea - the rogue nation with the new Dr Strangelove in the top job.

Youthful dictator Kim Jong-un, has successfully launched a satellite from a locally produced rocket called Unha or "galaxy".

That in itself is not a major problem, but the fact that the rocket could potentially carry a nuclear warhead across the Pacific to the US or even south to Australia is a very big problem.
North Korea is oblivious to outside influences or criticism and even its only friend, China, had no choice but to join a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning its latest snub to the rest of humanity.

Footage showed jubilant North Koreans dancing in the streets with glasses of beer rejoicing at the successful launch. The revellers would have been hand-picked officials, as most of the country's dirt-poor citizens don't have the energy to dance because they are starving.

It is difficult to imagine what is going on in an administration that values space travel and missiles above the welfare of its people. The Security Council warned after a failed rocket launch in April that it could take "action" if North Korea tried again.

"Members of the Security Council recalled that in April they demanded that the DPRK (North Korea) not proceed with any further launch using ballistic missile technology and also expressed the council's determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch," a UN statement said.
"Members of the Security Council will continue consultations on an appropriate response in accordance with its responsibilities given the urgency of the matter."
(Continued at the link below)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The End of the Age of Petraeus: The Rise and Fall of Counterinsurgency

Kaplan's book should be an interesting read.  As an aside note the comments about the West Point Social Studies Department ("SOSH").  I think there is a study worth doing about how SOSH was the real center of ideas  and influence vice Leavenworth.  If one were to do a network analysis of the development of COIN thinking post-9-11 I think the largest node would be SOSH with the next being at Leavenworth and then the Army War college.  I think there will be more connections to SOSH by people of influence than any other node in the network.

But these two paragraphs illustrate our fundamental problem with strategic thinking.  The COIN versus CT argument distracted us from developing good policy and an executable strategy.  We should not have been developing policy and strategy from the debate between these two approaches and I think that this hindered us from sound strategic thinking and policy making.

After his election, Obama set about making good on his commitment, putting Riedel in charge of a quick review of policy toward what was now called AfPak. The results of the review were announced at the end of March 2009, enshrining goals for Afghanistan -- to "degrade, dismantle, and destroy al Qaeda"; accelerate training of the Afghan military; and build up the Kabul government -- and arguing that the best way to accomplish them, at least in the southern part of the country, was through "a fully resourced counterinsurgency strategy." As in Iraq, the new policy was accompanied by a dynamic new commander, General Stanley McChrystal, and some additional troops. 
By his own admission, Riedel knew nothing about COIN beforehand and was influenced on this point by one of the members of the interagency group that worked on the review: Petraeus, now commander of Central Command. Most of Obama's senior advisers backed the idea, again under Petraeus' influence, but there were two major dissenters. Vice President Joseph Biden favored a "counterterrorism-plus" strategy -- just going after the insurgents (using drones strikes and Special Forces raids) and training the Afghan army -- on the grounds that COIN would take too long and exhaust the public's patience. The other skeptic was Gates, who had stayed on as defense secretary. He had been deputy director of the CIA when the Soviets crashed and burned on Afghanistan's forbidding terrain, and he worried that if the U.S. footprint got too large and intrusive, history might repeat itself.
The End of the Age of Petraeus
The Rise and Fall of Counterinsurgency

The downfall of David Petraeus sent such shock waves through the policy establishment when it hit the news in November because the cause was so banal: the most celebrated and controversial military officer of our time compelled to resign from his dream job as CIA director as the result of an extramarital affair. Yet long after the headshaking details are forgotten, Petraeus' larger significance will remain, as his career traced one of the era's crucial strategic narratives -- the rise and fall of counterinsurgency in U.S. military policy.

As recently as 2006, the country's top generals were openly scorning counterinsurgency as a concept; the secretary of defense all but banned the term's utterance. One year later, it was enshrined as army doctrine, promoted at the highest levels of the Pentagon, and declared official U.S. policy by the president. Then, five years after that, a new president and new defense secretary barred the military chiefs from even considering counterinsurgency among the war-fighting scenarios used to calculate the military's force requirements.

The swerves reflected the changing courses of the wars being fought on the ground. The George W. Bush administration had invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 with a "light footprint" strategy, designed to defeat the enemies and get out quickly to avoid getting bogged down. That approach, however, revealed its limits as Iraq began unraveling soon after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, and by mid-2006, the country had slipped into a vicious, chaotic civil war. A desperate Bush decided to gamble on counterinsurgency in a last-ditch effort to head off disaster, and he picked Petraeus, the author of a new army manual on the subject, to lead the effort. The apparent success of the new approach in stanching the bleeding inspired commanders, including Petraeus himself, to apply it to the worsening conflict in Afghanistan as well. But its apparent failure there led President Barack Obama -- never a huge fan -- to back away from the strategy not only there but in general.
Few U.S. military commanders detected the rise of an insurgency in Iraq; fewer still understood its implications.

U.S. troops are now out of Iraq and being drawn down in Afghanistan, but the basic questions about counterinsurgency -- or COIN, as it is widely abbreviated -- remain. Did it really succeed in Iraq, and if so, how? Why did it not work in Afghanistan? Is it a viable strategy for dealing with contemporary insurgencies, and even if it is, can it be employed by a democracy, such as the United States, with little patience for protracted war?


The revival of COIN in the Age of Petraeus -- a brief era, but worthy of the title, so thorough was his influence and the improbable fame he attained -- was in part the product of generational politics. In 1974, when Petraeus graduated from West Point, the Vietnam War was approaching its inglorious denouement, and the U.S. Army's senior leaders were determined never to fight guerrillas again, in the jungle or anyplace else. They turned their gaze instead to the prospect of a major conventional war with the Soviet Union on the wide-open plains of Europe and threw out the books on what they termed "low-intensity conflict." By the early 1990s, army scribes had come up with a still more dismissive term: "military operations other than war," abbreviated as MOOTW (pronounced "moot-wah"). And the feeling was, as General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once muttered, "Real men don't do moot-wah."

Many of today's officers, however, rose through the ranks fighting precisely these "other-than-war wars" (as some called them), in El Salvador, Panama, Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans, which didn't seem so low intensity and certainly felt like wars. Petraeus himself spent the early years of his career as an airborne infantry officer in France and Italy, where he happened upon a shelf-load of books touting what the French call "revolutionary warfare": Jean Lartéguy's novel The Centurions, Bernard Fall's Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place, and, most influential, David Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice. Galula, who had observed and fought in several counterinsurgencies himself, was unlike any author Petraeus had read before. "Revolutionary war," his book stated, has "special rules, different from those of the conventional war." It's like a fight between a lion and a flea: the flea can't deliver the knockout punch, and the lion can't fly. The insurgent can sow disorder anywhere, whereas the counterinsurgent -- fighting on behalf of the government -- has to maintain order everywhere. Defeating fleas requires draining the swamp that sustains them; defeating insurgencies requires protecting, then wooing or co-opting, the population that sustains their cause. As Galula described, a soldier in a COIN campaign must "be prepared to become a propagandist, a social worker, a civil engineer, a schoolteacher, a nurse." Likewise, "a mimeograph machine may turn out to be more useful than a machine gun," and "clerks [are] more in demand than riflemen." These kinds of wars, Galula calculated, quoting Mao, are "20 percent military action and 80 percent political."

In the mid-1980s, Petraeus spent a summer as an aide to General John Galvin, head of the U.S. Southern Command. Central America was then blazing with the sorts of insurgencies that Petraeus had previously only read about; in El Salvador, U.S. military aides were devising something close to a counterinsurgency plan. Toward the end of his stay, Petraeus ghostwrote an article for Galvin titled "Uncomfortable Wars: Toward a New Paradigm," which called on the army to abandon its obsession with big wars and firepower and to recognize the prevalence of new kinds of warfare -- subversion, terrorism, guerrilla insurgencies. When he returned to the States, Petraeus elaborated on these points in a Princeton doctoral dissertation on the army's "myopic" post-Vietnam aversion to such conflict and its need to change its doctrine, tactics, and personnel policies accordingly.
(Continued at the link below - full access to the article requires a subscription but any National Security Thinker or Practitioner should have a subscription to Foreign Affairs)

The US is encouraging the Foreign Office to back plans to establish a BBC Korean service

Interesting development.  Any information to the people of north Korea is helpful and though I am happy to see that Lord Alton hopes to have talks with the new ROK Administration, I hope that with the US approaching the BBC to do this would be from an Alliance perspective and that this is not purely a bilateral US-UK initiative.  Anything we do in north Korea has to be in support of our treaty ally the ROK and must be to further the 2009 ROK-US Joint Vision which is to achieve unification of the Peninsula (hopefully peacefully).  Government initiatives should (must?) be in synch with the ROK government and the overall influence strategy for solving the "Korea question."  We should be long past trying to do anything unilaterally or not involving the ROK on the Korean Peninsula.

How do you solve a problem like BBC World Service Korea?

The US is encouraging the Foreign Office to  back plans to establish a BBC Korean service

The BBC World Service could broadcast programmes aimed at residents of North Korea for the first time, under proposals being discussed by MPs, corporation bosses and US officials.

Barack Obama’s administration is encouraging the Foreign Office to back plans to establish a BBC Korean service to help open up the most secret country on earth.

They believe the BBC’s reputation for impartiality could help build up trust with communist state's 24 million population.

The talks come amid signs that North Korean citizens are increasingly ignoring a ban that forbids them from accessing foreign media. A Korean network is also seen as having potential commercial and cultural benefits in South Korea.

Peter Horrocks, the head of the BBC World Service, will discuss the matter in Westminster with MPs from the All Party Group on North Korea early in the new year. Lord Alton, who leads the group, which has also met with the Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire, said Washington-based officials had recently been in London to support the idea of a BBC service. The US government-run networks Voice of America and Radio Free Asia already broadcast into North Korea.

The peer said: “Within the last month I have had discussions with senior [US] State Department officials. They are very positive about the idea of the BBC becoming involved in transmission.”
(Continued at the link below)

Friday, December 28, 2012

The 20 most puzzling, hypocritical, and revealing things said about U.S. foreign policy in 2012.

Another in the many year end lists.  Dr. Zenko picks out some interesting ones and offers a number of critiques.  But I would remind him on north Korea that the Armistice that exists is not between the north and the South, the signatories were north Korea (and the Chinese Peoples Volunteers) and the United Nations.  His comment here is sightly inaccurate:

What the North Koreans might have in mind are the nuclear-weapons powers that surround their country or the almost 60-year armistice that it has with its neighbor to the south.
And of course the only nuclear weapons powers that surround the north are China and north Korea because (at least at the present moment) the ROK and Japan do not have nuclear weapons and the US unilaterally withdrew its nuclear weapons from the Peninsula in 1991 or 92.

The 20 most puzzling, hypocritical, and revealing things said about U.S. foreign policy in 2012.

Understanding U.S. foreign policy is not particularly easy, but you can learn quite a bit from press conferences, congressional hearings, congressionally mandated reports, and answers to reporters' questions. Often, I come across passages that are puzzling, audacious, hypocritical, revealing, or inspiring. In chronological order, here are this year's top 20 notable foreign policy comments from the U.S. government -- with a little context from your columnist.

1. Michael A. Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict: "Al Qaeda wasn't as good as we thought they were on 9/11. Quite frankly, we, the American people, were asleep at the switch, the U.S. government, prior to 9/11. So an organization that wasn't that good looked really great on 9/11." (Andrew Tilghman, "U.S. Misjudged al-Qaida Capabilities," Air Force Times, Feb. 7, 2012.)

2. Department of State: "We call on all governments to declare or reaffirm their commitment not to conduct explosive nuclear tests, and encourage all States that have not done so to sign and ratify the Treaty." ( Media Note: CTBTO Prepcom Fifteenth Anniversary, Office of the Spokesperson, Feb. 17, 2012.)

Of course, one of the countries that the State Department is encouraging to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is the United States.

3. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "I am not a military strategist, but I think I know enough to say air strikes [in Somalia] would not be a good idea and we have absolutely no reason to believe anyone, certainly not the United States, is considering that." (Press Availability on the London Conference, Feb. 23, 2012.)

Hours after America's chief diplomat said this, U.S. Joint Special Operation Command conducted a drone strike -- confirmed by two U.S. officials -- against vehicles in a convoy in southern Somalia, killing between four and seven suspected militants.

4. Attorney General Eric Holder: "An individual's interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant." ("Remarks at Northwestern University School of Law," March 5, 2012.)

Holder offered this remarkable observation during a landmark speech that provided the Obama administration's justification for why U.S. citizens can be killed, and why secret Executive Branch discussions are sufficient to deprive a citizen of his Fifth Amendment right to due process.

5. White House spokesperson Jay Carney: "We have eyes, we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made a -- what's called a ‘breakout move' towards acquiring a weapon. So we have the capacity to judge that as the regime, the sanctions regime, continues to be implemented. (Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, Aug. 10, 2012.)

Months earlier, a senior administration official stated: "I have zero doubt that if Iran attempted a [nuclear weapons] breakout, we'd see it." In 2013, if pressure builds in Tel Aviv or Washington for the United States to attack Iran's nuclear program, reporters would do well to recall these statements and ask officials if Iran has made a "breakout move."
(Continued at the link below)

Misery is Humanitarians’ Gift to Aleppo by WALTER RUSSELL MEAD

Some Wilsonian, Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian and Jacksonian discussion.

December 27, 2012
Misery is Humanitarians’ Gift to Aleppo

This Christmas season, it’s worth remembering just how horrible things have gotten in Syria. This Washington Post dispatch is worth reading in full to get a taste of the privations and challenges the people of Aleppo are facing on a daily basis:

…the onset of this second winter since Syrians rose up against their government 22 months ago is bringing new calamity to a people already ground down by violence and war. Hunger, cold and disease are emerging as equally profound challenges in the desperate daily struggle that life has become for millions, not only in Aleppo but across Syria, where the quest for greater freedoms sparked by the Arab Spring has gone badly, horribly wrong.

Not to harp on the same sad note over and over again, but the West could have been much more effective in averting the more dangerous and devastating disaster in Syria had it not intervened in Libya first. This is not to say that solving Syria would have been simple absent the toppling of Qaddafi. But statesmanship is all about making prudent choices, and the choice we made was anything but. 
Qaddafi’s fall has left Libya an unstable question mark and has created new problems in Mali and beyond. The consequences of the Libyan intervention dissipated the political capital of the interventionist wing of the Obama administration; even the noblest and most multilateral Wilsonians can launch only so many wars in a presidential term. And by choosing to intervene in Libya while making lots of empty boasts and vain noises about our commitment to universal human rights and principles, we encouraged the Syrians to believe we would help them at the same time we made help less likely. This has cost both us and the Syrians much already; the bill will continue to mount.

The Syrian war is a many sided catastrophe and it has no one cause. From the failures of Ottoman rule and the Sykes-Picot agreement to the Sunni-Shiite split and the problems of nationalism and tribalism, many cooks labored together to spoil this broth. But a contributing factor to this as to much else in the Middle East is the failure and inadequacy of American policies constructed along humanitarian lines.
Wilsonians didn’t start screwing up in the Middle East last spring; they’ve had more than a century of policy failure there. America’s long engagement with and support of the Armenians ended in mass killings that we did nothing about. 160 years of American efforts to bolster the situation of Christians throughout the Middle East materially contributed to the destruction of these communities. American calls on Iraqi Shiites to rise against Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War ended in the massacres and betrayals for which today we are still paying a price. The democracy Americans paid such a price to establish in Iraq has been a mixed blessing at best for the people of that still-violent land. The intervention in Libya has probably led to a greater loss of life, and certainly done more to undermine the stability of both Libya and its neighbors, than if we had stayed out.

American motives in all these cases were mixed, but were basically good. Yet the consequence, as with our periodic backing for the aspirations of the Kurds, followed by periodic pirouettes away, have often been catastrophic for those we sought to help.
(Continued at the link below)

Kim Seeing Change in the Wind


“Kim Jong Il was an exceptionally talented dictator,” he reiterated. “Kim Jong Eun won’t have been able to inherit his father Kim Jong Il’s personnel management and ruling skills perfectly over such a short period.”

“It is time to prepare a little more actively for North Korean systemic change, this is the time to act.” 

Kim Seeing Change in the Wind

By Park Seong Guk
[2012-12-27 17:42 ]  

"The life of the Kim Jong Eun regime will not be long. Change in North Korea’s system is not far off,” NKnet researcher Kim Young Hwan told an event in Seoul on the 26th.

Giving a lecture to commemorate the “Republic of Korea Order of Civil Merit” honor he received earlier this month, Kim added, “It is time to prepare a little more actively for North Korean systemic change, this is the time to act.” 

“The main reason why North Korea was able to maintain its system after the fall of Eastern Europe and China’s economic opening was because Kim Jong Il had the skill to maintain his dictatorial system and power,” he added. “It is doubtful whether Kim Jong Eun has obtained the same kind of dictatorial and ruling abilities in such a short time.”
(Continued at the link below)

Preparations for a Possible Third Nuclear Test Continue; Complications from Water Buildup?

To follow-up on the AP report on the north Korea (the non-compliant, unsafe, nuclear experimenter) and its possible preparations for a third nuclear test, here is the report and photos from the 38 North web site from Johns Hopkins and the US Korea Institute at SAIS. (please go to the site at the links below to view the photos)


A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Jack Liu, Nick Hansen and Jeffrey Lewis.


With North Korea’s long-range rocket test earlier this month and an expected U.S. effort to seek a tough response at the United Nations, concerns have grown that Pyongyang might conduct its third nuclear test. Satellite photos as recent as December 13 show that Pyongyang is determined to maintain a state of readiness at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site where a third test is expected even in the dead of winter. That effort includes a previously unidentified structure that may be intended to protect data gathering equipment from inclement weather. Despite flooding last summer and fall that destroyed key elements of the infrastructure at the site, the North moved quickly to restore their ability to operate the complex. Subsequent images from December show continued activity.

While the North may be able to trigger a detonation in as little as two weeks once a political decision is made to move forward, water first spotted streaming out of the suspected test tunnel in a November 19 satellite photo and still present almost a month later, may present a problem for Pyongyang.[1] In order to maintain a high level of readiness, the North Koreans will have to prevent water buildup in the tunnel that could possibly damage the nuclear test device and associated sensors designed to gather data on a detonation. Whether this potential problem is under control or has now been solved remains unclear.

New Analysis of Past Activity at Test Site: Structures Identified?

Operations at the southern tunnel site at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, where experts suspect Pyongyang will conduct its next detonation, began in 2009 or 2010. Over time, some 8,000 cubic meters of rubble were excavated with spoil piles covering 4,000 square meters. By spring 2012, the site appeared almost ready for a test. A satellite image from April 18 shows a train of mining carts on top of the spoil pile and random unidentified structures or objects on or near the piles (see figure 1). Such patterns may be indicative of preparations to emplace the nuclear device and diagnostic equipment in the test chamber as well as to deliver stemming material and spoil to seal the shaft.[2]
(Continued at the link below)

AP Exclusive: Photos show NKorea nuclear readines

Note the comments on the streaming water problems.  This is another indication that the north is a "non-compliant, unsafe, nuclear experimenter."  (thanks to Dr. Bruce Bennett for coining that phrase).
AP Exclusive: Photos show NKorea nuclear readiness

Published: Yesterday

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea has repaired flood damage at its nuclear test facility and could conduct a quick atomic explosion if it chose, though water streaming out of a test tunnel may cause problems, analysis of recent satellite photos indicates.

Washington and others are bracing for the possibility that if punished for a successful long-range rocket launch on Dec. 12 that the U.N. considers a cover for a banned ballistic missile test, North Korea's next step might be its third nuclear test.

Rocket and nuclear tests unnerve Washington and its allies because each new success puts North Korean scientists another step closer to perfecting a nuclear warhead small enough to put on a missile that could hit the mainland United States.

Another nuclear test, which North Korea's Foreign Ministry hinted at on the day of the rocket launch, would fit a pattern. Pyongyang conducted its first and second atomic explosions, in 2006 and 2009, weeks after receiving U.N. Security Council condemnation and sanctions for similar long-range rocket launches.

North Korea is thought to have enough plutonium for a handful of crude atomic bombs, and unveiled a uranium enrichment facility in 2010, but it must continue to conduct tests to master the miniaturization technology crucial for a true nuclear weapons program.

"With an additional nuclear test, North Korea could advance their ability to eventually deploy a nuclear weapon on a long-range missile," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nongovernment Arms Control Association.
(Continued at the link below)

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