return to ICG Spaces home    ICG Risk Blog    discussions    newsletters    login    

ICG Risk Blog - [ Risk Containment and Pricing Public ]

The US needs a "No Nation Left Behind" program - for itself


The current state of this nation leaves me exceedingly cross. The implications of COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq confirm a blighted command structure while American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century "presents a nightmarish vision of ideological extremism, catastrophic fiscal irresponsibility, rampant greed and dangerous shortsightedness" that is incapable of solving the nation's challenges.

I'll save those for later, preferring to focus first on the strategic implications of our having ignored our engineering and technical base. For a primmer, see my notes:

My attention was arrested by the gap - more a failure to address with no systemic solution in sight - between two reports by the Defense Science Board, Future Strategic Strike Forces, Feb 2004, and Future Strategic Strike Skills, March 2006. Both deal with US strategic strike force capabilities, the first being a statement of strategic strike needs out to 2030 and the second describing the systemic breach in human assets, commercial valuation that attracts those assets, and education capable of producing the skills needed in order to achieve those strike goals.

I take this gap as a metaphor of our failure to properly incent and educate an entire class of technologists be it for military or commercial applications. Considering that many of our weapons systems are aging, designed twenty or more years ago by engineers that graduated fifteen or more years earlier, we are increasingly unable to revise and extend existing systems or design future systems.

Trends in the availability of engineering personnel in the defense sector mirror the commercial sector, except that defense is worse. Strike Skills stated that:

In the early days of the Cold War, urgent national defense problems drew on the services of a significant percentage of U.S. professional engineers. Today most of the country’s engineering talent is concerned with civilian developments, and only a small fraction is devoted to DoD problems. Currently, work related to strategic strike systems is not considered to be a desirable career path by engineering personnel, particularly when exciting and potentially lucrative careers are available in new technological areas such as computer/internet systems, quantum communications and computation, nanotechnology, etc.

The result has been that in many strategic strike critical skill areas, experienced personnel are nearing retirement with few replacements. This situation could lead to the potential loss of critical strategic strike systems knowledge.

Strike Forces describes a spectrum of contingencies out to 2030 comprising "Urgent emerging threats" such as "rogues and terrorists" with and without WMD and "Future major power adversaries with WMD." A strategic response in return was defined as ""a military operation to decisively alter an adversary’s basic course of action within a relatively compact period of time" and can be either "an isolated event" or "part of a military campaign." DSB found that if the US was to provide effective strike options against these future threats "it must reorient its nuclear arsenal away from "large, high-fallout weapons delivered primarily by ballistic missiles" toward smaller, more precise nuclear weapons that can be used for a variety of special missions." Beyond nuclear weapons, DSB assertained that the US must address "non-nuclear weapons, the systems that are needed to deliver weapons of both kinds, and the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems required to identify targets."

In the intervening two years "relatively little additional action has taken place [in strategic strike systems], either with regard to next-generation (evolutionary) systems or in connection with new types of systems (revolutionary) for future objectives.

Strike Skills makes appalling reading, noting that the "personnel required for the development of such systems should be highly innovative [but that] attracting such individuals may be difficult due to the lack of financial incentives associated with civilian industry’s efforts." "[I]t appears that a serious loss of certain critical strategic strike skills may occur within the next decade." Whereas Strike Forces itemized "well known" deficiencies in command and control networks; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and battle damage assessment; delivery systems; and payloads, the five findings of Strike Skills paint the picture of a dwindling industrial base:

  1. The DoD has not provided specific direction regarding next-generation strategic strike systems. Consequently, the industry and government talent base:
    • Are already marginally thin in many of today’s current systems, and
    • May not be available for potential next-generation systems.
  2. The exploration of new concepts and technologies for strategic strike of challenging targets in the long-term is inadequate and will require access to a new talent base with different skills.
  3. The strategic strike area most at risk today is ballistic missiles:
    • Current skills may not be able to cope with unanticipated failures requiring analysis, testing, and redesign;
    • A large number of skilled military, civil service, and contractor personnel are nearing retirement;
    • Design skills are rapidly disappearing, both for major redesigns of current systems and for the design of new strategic systems; and
    • Applications programs are necessary, but not sufficient to maintain skills; moreover, they have never been funded at the required levels.
  4. DoD and industry have difficulty attracting and retaining the best and brightest students to the science and engineering disciplines relevant to maintaining current and future strategic strike capabilities. The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) program has the potential for attracting personnel to government; however, it currently does not have strategic strike element.
  5. Human capital management systems and strategies for identifying, tracking, and retaining critical skills are not being implemented effectively across all of the strategic strike constituent organizations.

The Strike Skills recommendations for these five broad systemic deficiencies demand attention, strategic vision, operational excellence and money. It is not clear that the current military posture and deployment permit any of this to occur.

While Russia can sit on its energy supplies, and China and India continue to industrialize, the US continues to overreach, and does so in a manner that squanders its assets, without the means and the economy to support its ambitions. I have already covered the trajectory of Pax America in this series:

Cobra II : The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
by Michael R. Gordon, Bernard E. Trainor
Pantheon, March 2006
ISBN: 0375422625

American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.
By Kevin Phillips
Viking, March 2006
ISBN: 067003486X

Future Strategic Strike Skills
Defense Science Board (DSB)
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Washington, D.C. 20301-3140
March 2006

By Barry D. Watts
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
September 27, 2004

Defense Science Board report released
Defense AT&L
July-August, 2004

Future Strategic Strike Forces
Defense Science Board (DSB)
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Washington, D.C. 20301-3140
February 2004

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Infrastructure Defense Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


  discuss this article

Before Dubai Ports World there was China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co.


The purchase of Britain's declining transport line of empire, Pacific & Orient Steam Navigation company (P&O Lines) by Dubai Ports of the World (Dubai Ports World), a state firm owned by the United Arab Emirates, was a perfectly acceptable commercial transaction that met the economic and diplomatic needs of the US. The US will come to regret its hasty decision to thwart the transaction as it comes to confront more formidable opponents:

Today, Dubai’s main business is commerce, not dwindling oil. Dubai’s royal family wisely invested in scores of future-oriented businesses that are an example of smart business to the Arab World and Africa. Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, of which it is a member, are increasingly enriched by brains and entrepreneurship rather than oil.

"Dubai Ports enjoys an international reputation in its field… has been a leader in joining initiatives to secure American containers… [and had] agreed to adhere to existing security levels in US ports, retain employees, and share information on operations and employee backgrounds with the US government."

Of critical US infrastructure, the maritime infrastructure is most owned by foreign firms. US firms dwindled in the 1970s under competition from foreign firms with less rigorous regulatory constraints and cheaper crews. By the 1980s they were gone. Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines bought American President Lines (APL) while Maersk bought Sea-Land from CSX Corp.

There is an important reason why terminals are usually managed by foreigners: The shipping companies themselves are largely foreign, and they have generally sought to control terminals so that they can be certain of having the most reliable, efficient facilities possible for loading and unloading their vessels quickly to reduce costly time in port. That arrangement has suited local port authorities; they want to ensure that their ports will draw enough traffic to generate revenue and employment.

It is unlikely that the US at either national or state level can fund the forecast doubling of trade by 2020. Eighteen million containers will demand new and upgraded terminals and ports (dredging, real estate, gantry cranes, bridges, roadways, and rail heads). While other issues affecting the administration's recommendation may yet be made public, Bush43 was wise to support the Dubai Ports purchase (before Rove killed it).

Lebanon's Al-Hayat paid Bush43 a left-handed compliment in his support of the UAE purchase by described it as Ayoon Wa Azan or "Bush's First Wise Position" as it excoriated the "hateful combination of ignorance, racism and lies" that sank the deal. Yes, there is a measure of Republicans having to look out for themselves and Democrats seeing an opportunity to get the right of the administration, but it still seemed that morons abounded. Given that the majority of US ports and terminals are in foreign hands, and that "13 out of 14 cargo firms at Los Angeles Port are foreign, from countries like China, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore," Barbara Boxer (D – CA) "declared that all foreign companies should be banned from working at US ports" while Charles Schumer (D – NY) said that the US "should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties." (I might add that Al-Hayat also noted that Schumer "has never objected seeing Israeli companies tasked with sensitive security tasks" and I might add the US paid dearly for that in regards to sensitive official phone systems.)

"Most U.S. ports are owned by public or quasi-public authorities [which] frequently lease their terminal spaces to terminal operating companies. P&O is one such operating company, and a quick review of U.S. port facilities reveals that, like P&O, many terminal operating companies active in the United States are either foreign-owned or are subsidiaries of foreign conglomerates."

Among all the reasons to fret about vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks, the nationality of the companies managing the terminals is one of the least worrisome.

The US has done "an abysmal job in assisting ports in the developing world in improving security to even minimal acceptable standards." While the US "has arranged for customs officials to work in 42 foreign ports with rights to inspect containers before they head for U.S. shores," fully 20% of containers bound for the US enter from developing states where safeguards are nonexistent. Wide open ports lacking even the pretence of fencing, lighting and supporting security procedures need attention now. Just considering al Qaeda’s entrenched presence in West Africa (drawn there for laundering blood diamonds) should have lawmakers’ hair on fire but it is over the horizon.

Back in the US, aviation security has claimed "almost $20 billion" in federal grants while port security is below $700 million. Transferring ownership from Britain's P&O to Dubai Ports World does not affect local terminal arrangements.

It is not the port or terminal operator’s problem that Customs and Coast Guard staff are "not usually present" and that "private terminal operators are almost always responsible for guarding the area around their facilities" and sometimes X-raying incoming containers for manifest matching. Even then, the guards and longshoremen are locals.

"The security personnel employed by the terminal companies vary from port to port, but according to several companies, the guards are often supplied by local private security firms." Stephen Flynn notes, "The lowest-paying jobs on the waterfront are security people."

The shipping industry faces relatively few "Dubai Ports" events, taking for granted the global world in which it lives, and so was taken aback by the criticism from federal and state legislators. Most now forget that in a different political climate, the previous "Dubai Ports" event was the proposed leasing of the Long Beach Naval Station to an ocean carrier owned by the Chinese government, China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co. (COSCO). Left destitute by downsizing at the Long Beach Naval Station, the city of Long Beach was desperate to lease the abandoned port to COSCO on highly advantageous terms.

Unlike the COSCO deal which apparently had no federal oversight or examination, the Intelligence Community Acquisition Risk Center, which performs a threat analysis of foreign commercial entities that seek commercial relations with US intel agencies, approved the Dubai Ports World acquisition to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). A sister firm of Dubai Ports World, Istithmar, had already purchased the British firm Inchcape Shipping Services, a transaction that CFIUS had apparently "determined that approval was not required."

The 105th Congress was as active on China-related issues as it was anti-Clinton issues into which some China-related items were lodged:

[P]pending human rights legislation [including] prison conditions and prison labor exports (H.R. 2195, H.R. 2358); coercive abortion practices (H.R. 2570); China’s policies toward religion (H.R. 967, H.R. 2431); more general human rights issues (H.R. 2095)… China’s missile proliferation activities (H.Res. 188), Radio Free Asia broadcasting to China (H.R. 2232), China’s participation in multilateral institutions (H.R. 1712, H.R. 2605),… activities of China’s military and intelligence services (H.R. 2647, H.R. 2190) [and] several multiple-issue bills, such as the Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3616), the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 1757), the China Policy Act (S. 1164), and the U.S.-China Relations Act (S. 1303), which combine some, or even most, of these issues.

After the Port of Long Beach was "officially stripped of their ability to lease the former Navy land to COSCO", a local harbor commissioner said, "Congress has thrown two years of effort out the window due to a ridiculous political climate." This was at a time when COSCO was being described elsewhere as "a front for the People's Liberation Army and Beijing's intelligence arm."

(It did not help that in 1996, a COSCO vessel, Empress Phoenix, attempted to smuggle 2000 Chinese-made fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles into the port of Oakland, CA. The intended recipients were Los Angeles street gangs. "Operatives nabbed after the seizure told investigators that they were ready to smuggle in everything from grenade launchers to shoulder-fired Red Parakeet surface to air missiles, which they boasted could "take out a 747."")

COSCO continues to operate at Long Beach, belying local fears that its tenant would move across the harbor to the Port of Los Angeles (who had presented COSCO with a proposal). Although it was barred from relocating to the former Naval base, other firms did move there, freeing land adjacent to COSCO’s facilities enabling it to expand.

Few remember the brouhaha when Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa took over management of the Panama Canal. If one were to be interested in any of the current foreign port operators it would be the Chinese who have done an excellent job of following the 18th century British model of gaining port and tideside rights around the globe. Some have already described the Port of Long Beach as a Chinese exclave. If it had the slightest curiosity, Congress could glace over Chinese facilities in the Caribbean and South America rather than pounding on Dubai Ports.

Burning Allies -- and Ourselves
By David Ignatius
Washington Post
March 10, 2006

Overseas Firms Entrenched in Ports
By Paul Blustein
Washington Post
March 10, 2006

Chinese shipping aims for global leadership
By Michael Mackey
Asia Times
March 1, 2006

Are good business relationships good for security?
By Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)
The Hill
March 1, 2006

Eric Margolis
Posted by Eric Margolis on February 28, 2006 05:17 PM

Ayoon Wa Azan (Bush's First Wise Position)
Jihad el Khazen
Beirut, Lebanon

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Backed Dubai Port Deal
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post
February 25, 2006

Port Problems Said To Dwarf New Fears
By Paul Blustein and Walter Pincus
Washington Post
February 24, 2006

Growing Criticism Puzzles Many in Shipping Industry
'We haven't done a good job of explaining how we work'
by Meredith Cohn
The Baltimore Sun
February 22, 2006
Arab American Institute

By Lynn A. Stover, Major, USMC
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
April 2000

'Dirty' war in Panama
Congressional investigators say China to wreak havoc in Central America
By Charles Smith
December 8, 1999 1:00 a.m. Eastern

The Panama Canal in Transition
Threats to U.S. Security and China's Growing Role in Latin America
Al Santoli
An American Foreign Policy Council Investigative Report
June 23, 1999

China: Pending Legislation in the 105th Congress
Kerry Dumbaugh
Specialist in Asian Affairs
CRS 97-933 F
Updated June 19, 1998


Proposal raising plenty of eyebrows
By Karen Gullo and John Solomon
Associated Press
Date likely March, 1997 (The Washington Times (3/10/97) was quoting the same texts.

Cited in: 'They Were Against Foreign-Run Ports Before They Were For Them'
The Political Mine Field
February 27, 2006

Long Beach won't give up on COSCO
Congress kills bid by Chinese to take over naval base
By Joseph Farah
September 21, 1998

Chinese Port Operator Linked to Weapons Smuggling
Feb. 28, 2006 11:45 a.m. EST

Pending lease of Navy base to Chinese firm questioned
Associated Press
March 9, 1997

Cited in 'The Democrats: Weak on Port Security and Sell-outs to Red China'
(Emphasis added by Levin)
Mark Levin
March 1, 2006

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  


  discuss this article

Commencing an autopsy on US pre and post-Palestinian election analysis


Part 2

While I cited Haaretz's Wave of democracy pits Israel against 'Arab street' in Trajectory of "the militant group Hamas" to merely "Hamas" as part of what I called "diplomatic medicine for Israelis," I'd withheld its diplomatic medicine for the US:

Israel saw in Bush's democratization initiative a pretension of naive Americans who had no idea of the reality in the region. Israel still remembers the Shah of Iran, who fell from power after America reprimanded him for the infringement of human rights, and was replaced by a hostile regime seeking to annihilate Zionism and make atom bombs.

The Israelis warned the Americans that that unsupervised Arab democracy will bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power, not pro-Western liberals. But Washington refused to listen and insisted on holding the elections on schedule. The new reality requires both Washington and Jerusalem to reevaluate the situation, before the Hamas effect hits Amman and Cairo. In any case, it will be hard to turn back democratic change and resume the comfortable relations with the old dictatorships.

Israel will have to formulate a new foreign policy and strive for peace between nations, not merely with their rulers. And that will be much more complicated.

I wager that part of that complication will be more of the "preciously misdirected" US policy.

Martin Indyk, twice US Ambassador to Israel around a stint as Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, and an observer whom I have felt been more right than not vis-à-vis the administration in offering useful options for the Palestinian Authority, was direct: 

"There is a lot of blame to go around [for Abbas and Fatah]… But on the American side, the conceptual failure that contributed to disaster was the president's belief that democracy and elections solve everything… You've got to hedge against the risk that elections are going to lead to precisely [a potentially unfriendly or non-Abbas] result. The hedge is to build civil society and democratic institutions first. But this administration doesn't listen to that."

My accumulated reading pointed more to US political lip service and aid monies (which brought no positive recognition to the US) rather than being more forceful with Israel. No wonder that:

Abbas is widely described as bitter that he failed to strengthen his hand by getting American help in persuading Israel to curb settlement growth, release prisoners and lift the checkpoints and roadblocks choking off livelihoods in the West Bank.

It is not enough for the US to express frustration that Abbas "was not doing enough to crack down on violence and root out corruption" as to this observer Abbas was prisoner to a corrupt, elder Tunisian PA faction and to a PA decentralized by Abbas' reforms:

The PA has countless centers of power, many of which benefit form the support of armed groups and external elements. In every Palestinian town, in addition to the governor and the mayor, there is the head of the military wing, mostly members of Fatah, which controls its territory…

As for the security apparatuses, Abbas' reforms have weakened the "classic" centers of power traditionally held by heads of the security apparatuses. Today, there are hardly any commanders with as much centralized power and authority as days of Mussa Arafat (who was killed), Mohammad Dahlan or Jibril Rajoub, when they were commanders of the apparatuses.

On the ground, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the most problematic organization and the most difficult to control because it is subordinate to many people with vested interests, often contradictory and adversary… With the force of guns and protected by the unwillingness, or sometimes inability, to stop its people, the organization continues to operate and run wild. It acts as a true sovereign in many cases and places…

The older generation [of Fatah] is fighting a final battle for influence; some say it is a fight for their very survival. This group can be subdivided into people fighting to preserve benefits they have enjoyed since the Arafat days, and on the other side, elements that honestly believe that they are the future torch-bearers of the Palestinian revolution. The Fatah list proves that this group in weakening, but it is still too early to bury it. On the ground: We are talking mainly about a younger generation of Fatah leaders, including Marwan Barghouti, Muhammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub. The term "on the ground" is meant to distinguish them from the older leadership, which originates mostly from Tunisia. These are the three dominant and most powerful men in the territories. Their victory in the issue of the movement's general elections list only proves their rising power.

It should be understood that Fatah's [Marwan] Barghouti is one of the leading centers of control in the PA, despite his imprisonment in Israel. Barghouti is regarded as the engine behind both the al-Aqsa intifada and last year's truce. He is the axis which dictates the elections agenda, mainly with regard to Fatah. He also heads the Fatah list, after deposing the movement's elders, and is earmarked as Abbas' successor. The general assessments towards him are that sooner or later, and probably sooner, the issue of his release from the Israeli prison will come up, so he can "clean up" the PA…

While Abbas was certainly correct in telling the US that He could not disarm Hamas prior to an election, anyone - including the US Administration - who could read the above and then accept Abbas' plan "to avoid a civil war among Palestinians by winning the election and only then disarming Hamas and folding it into the mainstream" was on another astral plane. Yet, "an administration official said: "Our sense was that there was a certain logic to his presentation, and we did not see that we could force an alternative on him. But we were also skeptical.""

Skeptical is the understatement of the quarter century. Operating on presumably far less data than the administration, my opinion was that Abbas was not in control of particularly anything. I believe that his lack of control, or inability to exert control, was one of his attractive features to many Fatah members. In their twilight, the Tunisians could continue to extort bribes while the younger "insider" generation of Marwan Barghouti, Mohammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub that did not go into exile could continue to joust for power.

[An aside: Speaking to open source analysis, Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, believes that people who had access to more limited data, good or bad, often make better decisions. In World War II, readers not overburdened with data, reading only the news articles of the day, could clearly see the rising presence of a Japanese attack. Roberta Wohlstetter makes this point in PEARL HARBOR: Warning and Decision. Her detractors later noted that subsequent declassified cryptanalytic traffic provided ample evidence of imminent war between Japan and the US but that the intercepts pointed to an attack in Indochina rather than Pearl. Perhaps in a nod to Gladwell, all this added data pointed to the wrong conclusion, leaving Pearl in a stand-down condition at the time of the attack. Gladwell makes a point of describing how decision making can be improved "by taking information away from" the decision maker which is contrary to received wisdom. By taking information away, by taking all non-critical data off the table, we can see the distinctive pattern in a second. See Gladwell's audio address to SXSW Interactive 2005 as well as Blink.]

While SecState Rice could acknowledge that the US "failed to understand the depth of hostility among Palestinians toward their longtime leaders," saying in a moment of candor, "I've asked why nobody saw it coming. It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse," the administration quickly put aside its lapse of vision and discussion as to whether the "administration was so wedded to its belief in democracy that it could not see the dangers of holding elections in regions where Islamist groups were strong and democratic institutions weak."

In a painful and perhaps unconscious repetition of the failed search for WMD in Iraq in which the principal intelligence agencies of the US, UK, France, Russia et al believed that at least chembio stocks were present, Rice noted that "the election results surprised just about everyone" including Hamas. It is not enough to be wrong en mass. Let others be wrong. Perhaps we are now trying to back into the data that pointed to a Hamas victory; certainly there were many predictions calling for a strong showing for Hamas in the 30 to 40 % range, but the public stance is not good: Rigid defense of the decision to back Abbas while simultaneously proceeding to blame him, rebuffing Israel's warnings over the election timing, placating the EU so as to gain concurrence on Iran, and no less than Rice saying that the "American decisions were basically correct."

Returning to the issue of using continued funding as a weapon against Hamas, one wonders if the administration has read the Humanitarian Policy Group's 2005 Diversity in donorship: the changing landscape of official humanitarian aid which challenges "the notion that aid is a Western enterprise." Yes, the majority of humanitarian aid comes from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but non-DAC donors "gave between one and 12 percent of total humanitarian aid between 1999 and 2004. The percentage isn’t huge, but their influence can be crucial, especially in spheres where they concentrate attention, such as North Korea and the Palestinian territories." No wonder then that Syria could "propose that Arab nations compensate the Palestinians for any aid Western powers might cut after the election victory of Islamist group Hamas" if the Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) suppress aid in the absence of Hamas rejecting violence and recognizing Israel. I'd previously asked how we would like Iran, China and other Gulf States to fund and thereby dispossess the US, EU and UN from leverage.  Could be closer than you think.

In what is one of the most painful indictments of US diplomacy by amateurs operating in parallel channels, I urge readers to shift their gaze a hemisphere closer, to Haiti, where Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos paints an impossible picture of achieving success. The drumbeat of an administration inner circle group, the International Republican Institute, is present throughout:

The Bush administration has said that while Mr. Aristide was deeply flawed, its policy was always to work with him as Haiti's democratically elected leader.

But the administration's actions in Haiti did not always match its words. Interviews and a review of government documents show that a democracy-building group close to the White House, and financed by American taxpayers, undercut the official United States policy and the ambassador assigned to carry it out.

As a result, the United States spoke with two sometimes contradictory voices in a country where its words carry enormous weight. That mixed message, the former American ambassador said, made efforts to foster political peace "immeasurably more difficult." Without a political agreement, a weak government was destabilized further, leaving it vulnerable to the rebels.

[Ambassador] Curran accused the democracy-building group, the International Republican Institute, of trying to undermine the reconciliation process after disputed 2000 Senate elections threw Haiti into a violent political crisis. The group's leader in Haiti, Stanley Lucas, an avowed Aristide opponent from the Haitian elite, counseled the opposition to stand firm, and not work with Mr. Aristide, as a way to cripple his government and drive him from power, said Mr. Curran, whose account is supported in crucial parts by other diplomats and opposition figures.

We are the gang that cannot shoot straight. If we do that elsewhere in the world, we are doomed.

Syria wants Arabs to step in if Palestinian aid cut
31 Jan 2006 16:14:40 GMT
Source: Reuters

Mideast Crises Reset Agenda For World Leaders
Iran, Palestinian Politics Take Center Stage at Talks On Afghanistan Planning
January 30, 2006

Rice Admits U.S. Underestimated Hamas Strength
New York Times
January 30, 2006

Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos
New York Times
January 29, 2006

Only the right can
By Gideon Levy
Last update - 16:53 29/01/2006

Analysis: Wave of democracy pits Israel against 'Arab street'
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update - 04:36 29/01/2006

Palestinian Authority: A guide for the perplexed
(01.13.06, 10:29)

Aid not just a Western enterprise, says report
By Ruth Gidley
Source: AlertNet
23 Nov 2005

Diversity in donorship: the changing landscape of official humanitarian aid
Adele Harmer and Lin Cotterrell
Humanitarian Policy Group
HPG Report 20, September 2005

Aid donorship in the Gulf States
Lin Cotterrell and Adele Harmer
Humanitarian Policy Group
HPG Background Paper, September 2005

Aid donorship in Central Europe
Sven Grimm and Adele Harmer
Humanitarian Policy Group
HPG Background Paper, September 2005

Aid donorship in Asia
Lin Cotterrell and Adele Harmer
Humanitarian Policy Group
HPG Background Paper, September 2005

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell
Little, Brown

"Getting the Arab-Israeli Peace Process Back on Track"
Testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
By Martin Indyk
Director, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution
February 24, 2004

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  


  discuss this article

Trajectory of "the militant group Hamas" to merely "Hamas"


Part 1

On 28 January, a Google search on "the militant group Hamas" returned 63,100 entries.

On 29 January, one day later, Google search returned 78,500 entries on "the militant group Hamas."

On 30 January, that same search returned 111,000 entries.

I do not believe that the apogee of this trajectory has been reached. It will be interesting to watch the bumpy flight of the phrase "the militant group Hamas" as it shortens over time to just "Hamas". There are seeds of possibility on both sides. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said:

Hamas has been acting responsibly… since its victory in the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Commission… that it is believed that in the short term, Hamas will try to curb terror… Hamas is trying to appoint professional candidates to government posts rather than candidates with a high political profile [and] in taking its initial steps in power, Hamas will try to rein in Islamic Jihad, which is expected to continue its policy of terror attacks.

Mofaz goes on to say that "the main question now is how Hamas will choose to act. Other questions are who the Palestinian security forces will report to, and who will head the Palestinian diplomatic mission," which is a bit more realistic than Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert comments that:

Israel demands three principles from the Palestinian Authority: Dismantling Hamas' and other armed faction, annulling Hamas' charter calling for Israel's destruction and honoring all previous agreements and understanding between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Some no doubt believe this, but it is unworkable on its face, no more effective than demanding that the Haganah (underground military organization) and the Palmach disarm back in the 1920s - 1940s. I will go so far as to say that Hamas, however, will invoke its own "Hunting Season" on Islamic Jihad and other militants as the Haganah did against the Begin's Irgun in order to smooth its relations with the British Mandate in Palestine in 1945. Were I in the position of Hamas, I would move to form a Palestinian Army while committing to abide by "existing agreements" without boxing myself in, an approach that Hamas seems to be taking.

Money is already on the table with the transfer of the monthly tax money that Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority (PA):

Mofaz and the security establishment support transferring the money, mostly due to fears that the PA will collapse and will not be able to provide services, which will result on Israel having to deal with those matters.

It also makes the PA look immediately weaker than Hamas which is not in Israel's best interest, yet some believe that Israel should present a wall against Hamas regardless of cost. Notable among those is Netanyahu who said, "The transfer of money to Hamas must be halted immediately, and all Hamas funds should be frozen. Olmert is transferring money to terror, which will result in Israel's destruction."

Disclaimer: I had the opportunity to know Binyamin Netanyahu's second wife - the forgotten wife, Fleur Cates, while he was Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations 1984-88. A bright and polite person, it was only through friends that I became aware that Netanyahu transferred his assets back to Israel to place them beyond the scope of divorce proceedings. That and other details left me with the opinion of a self-absorbed opportunist which subsequent events have yet to dispel.

But not all Israeli voices are reactionary as Haaretz points out in Only the right can:

[These] are very authentic results, achieved through elections that were respectably democratic, even though they took place under the least democratic circumstances imaginable, the occupation. As usual, we were threatened by our experts with "anarchy," and, as usual, the Palestinians did not meet those expectations. There was no shooting and no rioting; the Palestinian nation had its say with admirable order… The religious issue was set aside: Most of the Palestinians, it can be safely said, don't want a religious state; they want a free state.

[Both] Israelis and Palestinians can learn important lessons from the results of the election. The Israelis have to finally learn that applying force will not get the desired results. On the contrary. In recent years, until the tahadiyeh, the lull, there wasn't a month that went by in which we did not hear about the elimination of another "senior" Hamas official… The Palestinians also have to learn that it was the moderation of the movement that led them to victory. Hamas did not win because of terror attacks, it largely won despite the terror. It has been moderating in recent months, changing its skin, agreeing to a lull that has lasted since November 2004. During all that, its power only grew…

A peace deal with Hamas will be a lot more stable and viable than any agreement we sign with the PLO, if Hamas were to oppose it. Hamas can make concessions where Fatah would never dare. In any case, the Hamas that forms the government won't be the Hamas that sends suicide bombers. The comparison to international terror organizations is also nonsense: Hamas is a movement fighting for limited national goals. If Israel were to reach out to the extremists among its enemies, then maybe it can reach a real agreement that would put an end to the tumor of the occupation and the curse of terror.

[Both] sides, Israel and Hamas, must free themselves of the slogans of the past. Those who pose preconditions, like disarming Hamas, will miss the chance. It is impossible to expect that Hamas will disarm, just as it is impossible to expect that Israel would disarm. In Palestinian eyes, Hamas' weapons are meant to fight the occupation, and, as is well-known, the occupation is not over. Practically, and indeed morally, the armed are armed if they are equipped with F-16s or Qassam launchers. If Israel were to commit to an end to killing Hamas operatives, there is reason to assume that Hamas would agree, at least for a while, to lay down its arms…

Now is the time to reach out to Hamas, which is desperate for international, and particularly American, recognition, and knows that such recognition goes through Israel. If Israel were to be friendly toward Hamas, it could benefit. Not that Hamas will all at once give up its extremist demands and its unrealistic dreams, but it will know, as some of its leaders have already declared, to set them aside if it serves their interests…

We've already seen the achievements of the hand that assassinates and demolishes, uproots and jails, we've already seen those policies fulfilled in front of our eyes: Hamas won the elections.

Haaretz continues its diplomatic medicine for Israelis in Wave of democracy pits Israel against 'Arab street':

The Palestinian Authority election marks the beginning of a new period in the region that could be termed "the era of the masses." Henceforth Israel will have to factor into its foreign policy something it has always ignored - Arab public opinion.

Israel has always based its regional policy on arrangements and terror-balances with the Arab dictators. They understood force and Israel could do business with them. Their authority was seen as a barrier protecting Israel from the rage of the hostile rabble in the "Arab street." That was the basis of the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, Yasser Arafat and his heirs and the game rules vis-a-vis Syria and Lebanon.

But those days are over. The democratization process that [Bush43] has triggered and the open debate promoted by Arab satellite networks are causing the old frameworks to crumble. The mass demonstrations that led to the Syrians being driven from Lebanon, the elections in Iraq and those in the territories are merely the beginning. As far as Israel is concerned, the worst stage will come when the democratic wave washes over Jordan, its strategic ally; Egypt with its modern army and F-16 squadrons, and Syria and its Scud and chemical warhead stores…

Granted, Hamas is an armed terror organization. But the international community agreed to its participation in the elections and respects its results… Israel will have to formulate a new foreign policy and strive for peace between nations, not merely with their rulers. And that will be much more complicated.

Unfortunately, the US has, I believe, been of preciously misdirected aid in this process. To be continued in Part 3.

Mofaz: At this stage Hamas is behaving responsibly
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Last update - 19:02 29/01/2006

Hamas leader wants Palestinian army
Agencies/al Jazeera
29 January 2006, 6:10 Makka Time, 3:10 GMT

Abbas demands loyalty from PA security chiefs
By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent, and AP
Last update - 11:45 29/01/2006

Only the right can
By Gideon Levy
Last update - 16:53 29/01/2006

Analysis: Wave of democracy pits Israel against 'Arab street'
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update - 04:36 29/01/2006

Hamas Is Resolute On Fighting Israel
Militants to Form Army, Leader Says
By Rhonda Roumani and Scott Wilson
Washington Post
January 29, 2006

Hamas demands to meet German chancellor arriving in Israel
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Last update - 13:16 29/01/2006

Palestinian refugees hope Hamas will lead them home
The Independent (Bangladesh)
January 28, 2006

Who'll Be A Jew
David Horovitz, Leslie Susser, Vince Beiser
Jersusalem Report
10th Anniversary Issue
Article presently offline
Google's cache

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  


  discuss this article

Prediction without accountability, Part 3


Part 2

Tetlock's attack on "Thinking the Right Way" is no less demanding, dispensing with the easy assumption of "close ties between correspondence and coherence/process indicators of good judgment, between getting it right and thinking the right way," believing that investigators must begin to "array coherence/ process indicators along a rough controversy continuum anchored at one end by widely accepted tests and at the other by bitterly contested ones":

  1. At the close-to-slam-dunk end, we find violations of logical consistency so flagrant that few rise to their defense. The prototypic tests involve breaches of axiomatic identities within probability theory.
  2. In the middle of the continuum, we encounter consensus on what it means to fail coherence/process tests but divisions on where to locate the pass-fail cutoffs.
  3. At the controversial end of the continuum, competing schools of thought offer unapologetically opposing views on the standards for judging judgment.

No wonder that various sides (note I'd not said opposing sides as large issues have many protagonists) continue to claim victory and that forecaster and evaluator alike have difficulty in assessing accuracy within their field of study and in the court of public opinion:

To qualify as a good judge within a Bayesian framework [those who predict] must own up to one's reputational bets. [The] core idea is a refinement of common sense. Good judges are good belief updaters who follow through on the logical implications of reputational bets that pit their favorite explanations against alternatives: if I declare that x is .2 likely if my "theory" is right and .8 likely if yours is right, and x occurs, I "owe" some belief change.

In principle, no one disputes we should change our minds when we make mistakes. In practice, however, outcomes do not come stamped with labels indicating whose forecasts have been disconfirmed.

Tetlock spends much time outlining how forecasters rewrite or justify their predictions in order to continue to claim victory, starting with their "frequency and self-serving selectivity" of bet rewriting bets and the revisionist scale of the rewrites:

A balanced assessment [concedes] that Bayesians can no more purge subjectivity from coherence assessments of good judgment than correspondence theorists can ignore complaints about the scoring rules for forecasting accuracy. But that does not mean we cannot distinguish desperate patch-up rewrites that delay the day of reckoning for bankrupt ideas from creative rewrites that stop us from abandoning good ideas…

Shifting from forward-in-time reasoning to backward-in-time reasoning, we relied on turnabout thought experiments to assess the willingness of analysts to change their opinions on historical counterfactuals. The core idea is, again, simple. Good judges should resist the temptation to engage in self-serving reasoning when policy stakes are high and reality constraints are weak. And temptation is ubiquitous. Underlying all judgments of whether a policy was shrewd or foolish are hidden layers of speculative judgments about how history would have unfolded had we pursued different policies. We have warrant to praise a policy as great when we can think only of ways things could have worked out far worse, and warrant to call a policy disastrous when we can think only of ways things could have worked out far better. Whenever someone judges something a failure or success, a reasonable rejoinder is: "Within what distribution of possible worlds?"

From my systems point of view, "success" depends upon how the problem space is bounded in both time and effects. Apply too short a time span or too few parameters for measuring success, and one will drive for - and too often achieve - suboptimal results when measured in the longer term. I habitually see the failure to anticipate secondary and tertiary effects as one of the greatest errors in both event planning and forecasting, the results of which are 'unintended consequences' called blowback.

Turnabout thought experiments gauge the consistency of the standards that we apply to counterfactual claims. We fail turnabout tests when we apply laxer standards to evidence that reinforces as opposed to undercuts our favorite what-if scenarios… A balanced assessment here requires confronting a dilemma: if we only accept evidence that confirms our worldview, we will become prisoners of our preconceptions, but if we subject all evidence, agreeable or disagreeable, to the same scrutiny, we will be overwhelmed. As with reputational bets, the question becomes how much special treatment of favorite hypotheses is too much. And, as with reputational bets, the bigger the double standard, the greater are the grounds for concern.

Problems with hedgehogs:

Hedgehogs are typically embedded in political movements or theoretical movements and they typically have people who will back them up. They can fall back on a base of supporters who will help them generate various types of excuses or belief system defenses that will neutralize the unexpected evidence. So they'll be able to argue, "Well, what I predicted didn't happen, but it will happen soon," or, "I predicted that country X had weapons of mass destruction, and, well, it appears that it didn't, but it was the right mistake to have made."

It is true that if you wanted to identify the experts who have made the most spectacularly far-sighted predictions over the last 50 years, the hedgehogs would be disproportionately represented. But if you were computing batting averages, the hedgehogs would be clearly statistically inferior to the foxes.

Tetlock's conclusion:

The dominant danger remains hubris, the mostly hedgehog vice of closed-mindedness, of dismissing dissonant possibilities too quickly. But there is also the danger of cognitive chaos, the mostly fox vice of excessive open-mindedness, of seeing too much merit in too many stories. Good judgment now becomes a metacognitive skill--akin to "the art of self-overhearing." Good judges need to eavesdrop on the mental conversations they have with themselves as they decide how to decide, and determine whether they approve of the trade-offs they are striking in the classic exploitation-exploration balancing act, that between exploiting existing knowledge and exploring new possibilities… From a policy perspective, there is value in using publicly verifiable correspondence and coherence benchmarks to gauge the quality of public debates. The more people know about pundits' track records, the stronger the pundits' incentives to compete by improving the epistemic (truth) value of their products, not just by pandering to communities of co-believers.

Tetlock's call for monitoring:

I think on balance, it would be a good idea to give some serious thought to systematically monitoring political punditry. I think we monitor professionals in many other spheres of life. I think we monitor weather forecasters, we increasingly monitor stock market analysts, we sometimes monitor doctors. I don't think it's unreasonable to suppose that when people offer opinions on extremely consequential issues, like whether or not to go to war or whether or not to have welfare reform, or tax policy, trade policy, it's not unreasonable to ask what are their predictive track records in the past as a guide for how much credibility to attach to what they're saying in the present.

I agree with Tetlock's closing wish that "we as a society would be better off if participants in policy debates stated their beliefs in testable forms"—that is, as probabilities—"monitored their forecasting performance, and honored their reputational bets." I would augment this rating mechanism with something akin to a "wisdom of crowds" virtual stock market (VSM) tracker where the educated everyman can make their wager against the experts.

All bibliography citations in Part 1

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  


  discuss this article

Prediction without accountability, Part 2


Part 1

Tetlock put his pundits to unaccustomed test by phrasing the majority of his forecasting questions into a "three possible futures" form:

The respondents were asked to rate the probability of three alternative outcomes: the persistence of the status quo, more of something (political freedom, economic growth), or less of something (repression, recession). And he measured his experts on two dimensions: how good they were at guessing probabilities (did all the things they said had an x per cent chance of happening happen x per cent of the time?), and how accurate they were at predicting specific outcomes. The results were unimpressive. On the first scale, the experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned an equal probability to all three outcomes—if they had given each possible future a thirty-three-per-cent chance of occurring. Human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world, in other words, are poorer forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys, who would have distributed their picks evenly over the three choices.

I do not agree with Bryan Caplan's Tackling Tetlock in which he admits that his research "between economists and the general public… defends the simple "The experts are right, the public is wrong"" by proceeding to indict Tetlock:

Tetlock's sample suffers from severe selection bias. He deliberately asked relatively difficult and controversial questions. As his methodological appendix explains, questions had to "Pass the 'don't bother me too often with dumb questions' test." Dumb according to who? The implicit answer is "Dumb according to the typical expert in the field." What Tetlock really shows is that experts are overconfident if you exclude the questions where they have reached a solid consensus. [Emphasis by author]

Being (presumed) right about a broad theme is not solid forecasting in my book. Caplan's opinion that "Experts really do make overconfident predictions about controversial questions… However, this does not show that experts are overconfident about their core findings" evades the point that when the chips are down and specificity is high, that forecasters fall very short.

It is that specificity that moves Tetlock forward. In an interview with Carl Bialik, Evaluating Political Pundits, WSJ:

Tetlock's innovation was to elicit numerical predictions. As he noted in an interview with me, political punditry tends toward the oracular: statements vague enough to encompass all eventualities. [He] was able to get pundits to provide probability estimates for such questions as whether certain countries' legislatures would see shifts in their ruling parties, whether inflation or unemployment would rise and whether nations would go to war.

Without numerical predictions, "it's much easier to fudge," Prof. Tetlock told me. "When you move from words to numbers, it's a really critical transition." What he found is that people with expertise in explaining events that have happened aren't very successful at predicting what will happen.

Bialik's interview also tempers Menand's conclusion in Everybody's an Expert to "Think for yourself," ignoring any and all forecasting, by citing Tetlock's distancing from such a broad brush statement:

[Tetlock] pointed out an exercise he conducted in the course of his research, in which he gave Berkeley undergraduates brief reports from Facts on File about political hot spots, then asked them to make forecasts. Their predictions -- based on far less background knowledge than his pundits called upon -- were the worst he encountered, even less accurate than the worst hedgehogs. "Unassisted human intuition is a bomb here."

We have seen the prediction/decision making problem even among those of presumed 'assisted human intuition' such as commercial business managers. In When clients for risk assessment/risk pricing take on a risk of their own , we catalog five common characteristics:

  • Believe that they are well informed even when they are ill informed
  • Not invented here (NIH)
  • Arrogance
  • Inability to distill
  • Competitive bad advice

The client is often no better, or worse, condition than the pundits who advises them. Part two of that same risk series, The merger of Inability to distill, Not invented here, and Competitive bad advice, refers "readers to the Berlin Wisdom Model as an intelligence analysis mindset and tool for its introduction to an approach to wisdom containing five broad areas without which I do not believe good analysis and prediction can occur." Those are:

  • A fund of general knowledge
  • Procedural knowledge
  • An understanding of the relativity of values
  • An understanding that meaning is contextual
  • Acceptance of change

Pundits of all stripes would benefit by its adoption.

While it may be more entertaining to read what other say about Tetlock, it is valuable to consult Expert Political Judgment directly:

This book is predicated on the assumption that, even if we cannot capture all of the subtle counterfactual and moral facets of good judgment, we can advance the cause of holding political observers accountable to independent standards of empirical accuracy and logical rigor. Whatever their allegiances, good judges should pass two types of tests:

  • Correspondence tests rooted in empiricism. How well do their private beliefs map onto the publicly observable world?
  • Coherence and process tests rooted in logic. Are their beliefs internally consistent? And do they update those beliefs in response to evidence?

In plain language, good judges should both "get it right" and "think the right way."

Many have pursued these goals (with tools no better than the forecast under examination), but few with the rigor that Tetlock employs, believing that confidence "in specific claims should rise with the quality of converging evidence… from diverse sources" just as confidence "in the overall architecture of our argument should be linked to the sturdiness of the interlocking patterns of converging evidence." Once again, it is the rigor that Tetlock employs that creates a testable base open to further refinement.

Tetlock rightly defines "Getting It Right" as an elusive construct that can be approached with "correspondence theories of truth" that pair good judgment with the "goodness of fit between our internal mental representations and corresponding properties of the external world":

We should therefore credit good judgment to those who see the world as it is--or soon will be [the corollaries of which are] we should bestow bonus credit on those farsighted souls who saw things well before the rest of us [and] penalize those misguided souls who failed to see things long after they became obvious to the rest of us.

Tetlock describes a "gauntlet of five challenges" that is needed to assess the "superficially straightforward conception of good judgment" (Emphasis mine for clarity):

  1. Challenging whether the playing fields are level. We risk making false attributions of good judgment if some forecasters have been dealt easier tasks than others...
  2. Challenging whether forecasters' "hits" have been purchased at a steep price in "false alarms." We risk making false attributions of good judgment if we fixate solely on success stories--crediting forecasters for spectacular hits (say, predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union) but not debiting them for false alarms (predicting the disintegration of nation-states--e.g., Nigeria, Canada--still with us)...
  3. Challenging the equal weighting of hits and false alarms. We risk making false attributions of good judgment if we treat political reasoning as a passionless exercise of maximizing aggregate accuracy...
  4. Challenges of scoring subjective probability forecasts. We cannot assess the accuracy of experts' predictions if we cannot figure out what they predicted...
  5. Challenging reality. We risk making false attributions of good judgment if we fail to recognize the existence of legitimate ambiguity about either what happened or the implications of what happened for the truth or falsity of particular points of view...

Part 3 Conclusion

All bibliography citations in Part 1

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  


  discuss this article

Prediction without accountability: calling the expertise and honesty of expert predictors into question


Philip Tetlock's Expert Political Judgment: How Good is It? How Can We Know? is yet another reminder that my practice of periodically sweeping earlier through material, mine and others, to see how the forecast played out or was the tone too shrill is an exceedingly uncommon practice:

It is my want to revisit projections and forecasts, mine and others, to look for accuracy in both substance and timing; are assumptions still accurate and if not, why not; what new players and tools have entered the market; and what has shifted. The assumptions and the development process are more interesting than the answer as too many people treat a situation in time as something fixed, instead of seeing it as a still frame in a motion picture (where the trick is to predict the next scene).

What I have found from many engagements is how rare is such introspection, and even more so when the review of prediction is made public. Yet I am pulled up short as I may not measure up to Tetlock's current findings in predictive failure. He has certainly put me on guard both for what I do and for those whom I read. Expert Political Judgment nicely integrates Tetlock's four research areas:

  • Accountability, "strategies people use to cope with social pressures to justify their views or conduct to others"
  • Value conflict/taboo trade-offs/protecting the sacred, "the boundaries people often place on the range of the "thinkable""
  • The concept of good judgment, defined as "styles of reasoning in individuals and groups"
  • Political versus politicized psychology, "criteria [to] gauge the impact of moral and political objectives [on works] ostensibly dedicated [to] truth"

While too rigorous to be dismissed as a crossover work, Expert Political Judgment puts front and center in the public eye that:

people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either.

(Many readers may end their knowledge of Tetlock with Louis Menand's hagiographic Everybody's an Expert in the New Yorker but they should read on.)

I believe that Tetlock's claim of an utter lack of accountability in political prediction applies to virtually all areas of forecasting, notably its handmaidens of economic and strategic forecasting. I agree that "Our system of expertise is completely inside out: it rewards bad judgments over good ones." We regularly have to put aside the 'received wisdom' of earlier advisors in order to affect a solution.

Tetlock steps out (with his own great sound bite) to divide his pundits into two groups, hedgehogs and foxes:

  • Hedgehogs ""know one big thing," aggressively [extending] the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains, display bristly impatience with those who "do not get it," and express considerable confidence that they are already pretty proficient forecasters, at least in the long term"
  • Foxes "know many small things (tricks of their trade), are skeptical of grand schemes, see explanation and prediction not as deductive exercises but rather as exercises in flexible "ad hocery" that require stitching together diverse sources of information, and are rather diffident about their own forecasting prowess."

Foxes score better than hedgehogs (although hedgehogs do very well on the chance hole-in-one), yet our "primitive attraction" is to "deterministic, overconfident hedgehogs":

A hedgehog is a person who sees international affairs to be ultimately determined by a single bottom-line force: balance-of-power considerations, or the clash of civilizations, or globalization and the spread of free markets. A hedgehog is the kind of person who holds a great-man theory of history [or] he or she might adhere to the "actor-dispensability thesis"… Whatever it is, the big idea, and that idea alone, dictates the probable outcome of events. For the hedgehog, therefore, predictions that fail are only "off on timing," or are "almost right," derailed by an unforeseeable accident. There are always little swerves in the short run, but the long run irons them out.

Foxes… don’t see a single determining explanation in history. They tend to "see the world as a shifting mixture of self-fulfilling and self-negating prophecies: self-fulfilling ones in which success breeds success, and failure, failure but only up to a point, and then self-negating prophecies kick in as people recognize that things have gone too far."

Disclaimer: I place myself among the foxes.

Even a work as potent as Expert Political Judgment may not penetrate the public's assumption of expertise among pundits (especially one's own favorite pundits). Yet in the field of the psychology of expertise, Tetlock's work brings no great surprise as it "is just one of more than a hundred studies that have pitted experts against statistical or actuarial formulas, and in almost all of those studies the people either do no better than the formulas or do worse." Relatively common assumptions in the field:

  • People, experts included, "fall in love with our hunches [and] really, really hate to be wrong"
  • Experts are no different from ordinary people in tending to "dismiss new information that doesn’t fit with what they already believe"
  • The future is seen "as indeterminate and the past as inevitable"
  • Double standards abound, "tougher in assessing the validity of information that undercut their theory than [in] crediting information that supported it
  • Intellectuals too often deal in "solidarity goods" rather than "credence goods," tailoring predictions to fit those of their ideological brethren
  • Most, experts included, tend to "find scenarios with more variables more likely" thus creating forecasts that require separate events to occur in order to be true
  • "Plausible detail" clouds decision making and promotes selection of complex outcomes
  • Hyperspecialization robs people, experts included, of a rounded basis for decision making
  • The more "ingenious," the more "arresting" forecasts achieve greater cachet and fit the sound bite window of attention span

Part 2

Following are all bibliography citations for parts 1, 2 and 3

Think you can beat the analysts in predicting 2006?
Readers have topped experts in last 5 years
By David Lieberman
01/11/2006 - Updated 08:48 PM ET

Evaluating Political Pundits
Wall Street Journal
January 6, 2006

A Psychology Talk and Interview Show
Shrink Rap Radio
Podcast Net

#19 - Philip Tetlock, Ph.D. on the Predictive Errors of Political Experts
Podcast Date: Dec 27, 2005 22:29:59

Tackling Tetlock
Bryan Caplan
December 26, 2005

On the Media
December 9, 2005

Foxes, hedgehogs, and the study of international relations
Daniel W. Drezner
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who needs experts?
Daniel W. Drezner
November 29, 2005

by Louis Menand
New Yorker
Issue of 2005-12-05
Posted 2005-11-28

China - Thunder From The Silent Zone
Paul Monk and Rowan Callick
Background Briefing on ABC Radio National (Australia)
18 September 2005

The New Neuromorality
W. H. Brady Program in Culture and Freedom Conference
AEI, Washington, D.C. 20036
June 1, 2005

Tetlock's presentation

The Implicit Prejudice Exchange: Islands of Consensus in a Sea of Controversy
Philip E. Tetlock and Hal R. Arkes
Psychological Inquiry
2004, Vol. 15, No.4, 311-321

Making Unconscious Decisions Properly
Aired May 6, 2005 - 19:00 ET

Expert Political Judgment: How Good is It? How Can We Know?
Philip E. Tetlock
ISBN: 0-691-12302-0
Princeton, 2005
CHAPTER 1: Quantifying the Unquantifiable

Blink and The Wisdom of Crowds
Book review in the form of an exchange between James Surowiecki and Malcolm Gladwell
Jan. 10, 2005, at 5:23 PM ET

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell
Little, Brown

If you want good information, ask around - a lot
Large groups are more accurate that any expert
By John Freeman
from the May 25, 2004 edition

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations
By James Surowiecki

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  


  discuss this article

Indian pipedream: "Our campuses are physically secure… The entire perimeter is guarded which we believe enable us to be fully secure"


Shock waves still reverberate through the Indian high-tech community following the December 28 attack against one of the "temples" of Indian's "knowledge society," the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore. "The IISc is one of the country’s more prestigious educational and research institutions. It does research and development work for a number of multinational and local technology companies, and some of its alumnus occupy key positions in the country’s outsourcing industry." IISc' presence in Bangalore is "a key reason that the city became India's technology powerhouse. That's why the psychological impact of the attack is immense—analogous to the impact that an attack on MIT would have in the United States."

Political attacks have turned economic in India.

Shock waves should be reverberating though US outsourcing assets in the Indian subcontinent, but they remain inert in the face of a "twofer" attack that "damages the Indian state and its ability for economic gain directly, and damages US and European firms indirectly -- where an attack on US soil would be prohibitive in terms of placing surveillance and strike teams on the ground."

For those following the attack progression of the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Toiba or LeT, the outcome was clear. In June, 2005, I wrote in Commercial blindness: a "twofer" attack on the Indian state and US and European outsourcing assets:

One must wonder how inattentive major US outsourcers can be, and how 'missing in action' that major consultancies such as Forrester can be, so as to not recognize the physical threat to core outsourcing facilities in India. Perhaps it is the mere continuation of the lesser lapse of failing to factor intellectual property (IP) theft risk in supposedly low cost areas. (See Intellectual property theft: the unspoken unknown of offshoring.) Even more curious is the effective absence of concern by Europeans who would normally have an attentive ear to the near and middle east…

The threat to IT and outsourcing assets in Bangalore and Hyderabad should be taken seriously despite the bland denials from Indian authorities who are understandably anxious to protect what amounts to the core of Indian economic revival…

Who can blame the Indians for keeping mum, but where are the US and European firms that should have a fiduciary responsibility to their stakeholders and to their clients who data and business continuity are in the possession of their Indian entities and outsourcing partners?...

The only thing that the Indians have going for them is that the great unwashed commercial consumers in the West do not know who Lashkar-e-Toiba, Army of the Pure, really is.

The threat was seeping into consular channels as an October 2005 warden message noted:

[T]terrorists may be planning attacks on U.S. interests in India in the near future… information suggests that an attack could be aimed at U.S. interests in the Indian cities of Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta. Facilities associated with the United States or locations where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit could be targeted.

Yet the 28 December attack against IISc was a bolt to the Indian IT and BPO outsourcing community. Worse, more attacks are feared despite drastic manhunts:

Indian intelligence is concerned that Mangalore and other Andhra Pradesh cities are becoming Lashkar e-Tayyaba centers and are concerned that 'sleeper cells' of the Pakistani-based militant outfit will carry out further attacks.

Indian intelligence believes that Mangalore and other cities in Andhra Pradesh are being radicalized by Lashkar e-Tayyaba. The Press Trust of India reported that Indian security officials in Bangalore attack have arrested three individuals connected with the attack, believed to have links with Lashker e-Tayyaba and the al Hadees Muslim sect.

While one must always use caution in taking Indian public statements regarding Pakistani actors at face value, it is true that Indian intelligence has made a sustained effort to penetrate and disrupt LeT and other Muslim jihadist groups, even on Pakistani soil. Despite this remarkable effort, jihadists are shifting assets south and east of the Line of Control, the de facto border dividing the disputed zones of Indian and Pakistani controlled Jammu and Kashmir, towards targets that offer a force multiplier against the Indian state.

Damage control is underway following the IISc attack to placate US and European outsourcing clients. Nandan Nilekani, CEO of a major Indian outsourcer, Infosys Technologies Limited, was quick to attempt to play down risk to US firms:

"Our campuses are physically secure. We have all kinds of checks that we do. The entire perimeter is guarded which we believe enable us to be fully secure."

The interviewer went on to quote Nilekani as saying, "Even after American companies factor in additional security costs, doing business in India is still far cheaper than staying home."

Today, perhaps. Tomorrow, no. Extending the "twofer" concept in October 2005, we had forecast this attack progression:

  1. Personnel and symbolic targets
  2. Expat data and business process outsourcing (BPO) centers
  3. Manufacturing and development centers

The latter two target groups can cause supply chain disruptions. It is overlooked, for example, that great numbers of US banks have Indian data centers, attacks against which have a multiplier effect in that the bank and all its customers are affected.

Targeting data, BPO and manufacturing facilities leverages the operations and business continuity of US and European firms that would otherwise be difficult to attack directly, while embarrassing the Indian government in demonstrating that it cannot protect its offshoring endeavors, thereby driving potential investors to areas presumed to offer less risk. Unfortunately, relocating from India elsewhere in Asia merely exchanges direct attack risks to more intellectual property loss risks.

Bangalore's Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is a premier symbolic target. Expect others to follow from both jihadist and Naxalite Maoist (also here and here) attackers. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) (Delhi, Kanpur, Mumbai, et al), and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, et al) are equally vulnerable as are virtually every expat outsourcing facility and personnel compound.

The key for expat firms that have no viable options for relocation is to conduct a rigorous vulnerability assessment, then implement the appropriate risk mediation interventions for personnel, facilities and data.

The Threat to India's High-Tech Sector
By Fred Burton
January 11, 2006

Bangalore IT security
Miranda Kennedy
Marketplace, NPR
January 6, 2006

Indian security concerned recent attack prelude to more
By John C.K. Daly Jan 6, 2006, 8:38 GMT
United Press International

India's Knowledge Society Attacked
By John Ribeiro - IDG News Service (Bangalore Bureau)
Jan 04, 2006

Reported terror plots raise fears in south India
By Saritha Rai
International Herald Tribune

Arrest in Bangalore attack case
BBC News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 13:57 GMT

Intelligence agencies fear more IISc-type attacks
Rediff India Abroad
January 01, 2006 22:04 IST
Last Updated: January 01, 2006 22:10 IST

Bangalore unnerved by shooting
By Saritha Rai
International Herald Tribune
DECEMBER 30, 2005

Fresh security alert in Bangalore
BBC News
Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 14:53 GMT

Massive hunt for India attacker
BBC News
Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 10:15 GMT

Is Outsourcing the Next Terror Target?
Dec. 29, 2005

Hyderabad put on alert following B'lore attack
Press Trust of India
Hyderabad, December 28, 2005

India's National Magazine
Volume 22 - Issue 21, Oct. 08 - 21, 2005

Warden Message: Possible Threat to U.S. Interests in India
Consular Affairs Bulletins
South / Central Asia - India
10 Oct 2005

The Naxalite-affected States
May 9, 2005

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


  discuss this article

US intellectual property protection: the targets are asleep or unarmed, the advising guardians are AWOL and the police are offering placebos


To paraphrase the misattributed quote of Everett Dirksen, a billion to India, a billion to China, and pretty soon you're taking about serious outsourcing - and along with it an uncontrolled and unprotected intellectual property (IP) stream. The unremitting drumbeat of each InfoWorld RSS feed item that crosses my desk (see link list below) on yet another offshore investment reminds me of the laxity of US administrations to address strategic shortfalls in things so essential as K-16+ education, promoting advanced technologies - genetics and biologics included, and what I call the "sleeping princess" vulnerability of irreplaceable IP.

David Berlind's The United States of India notes:

In less than two months time it has become clear that, between Cisco, Intel, and now Microsoft, India will get injected with at least $3.8 billion. China is getting similar injections. According to a report in InfoWorld, Intel chairman Craig Barrett talked about why education is making China more competitive while he was cutting the ribbon on a new $200 million test and assembly center his company built in the western Chinese city of Chengdu.

The landscape for global IP protection (and that includes both domestic and offshore locations) is not a pretty one. Worse, I see no improvement since penning A tipping point in intellectual property protection? in January 2005. (I submit the predictions in Emerging Information Technology (IT) themes in India and China and Refining a China forecast as well.)

I wager that the majority of firms do not know that they are at risk and that, if they do become aware, do not know where to turn for assistance. Fearful of alienating one or more factions with unknown consequences, firms silently capitulate. Targets that are waking seem mostly to feel disarmed despite the presence of heroic individuals. Their leadership does seem to be engaging despite every indicator that they are aware, an equally fatal condition. Consider our current view of global IP risk:

  • Venture Capitalists (VCs) hire management for their nascent firms to produce and deliver a product stream leading to an initial public offering (IPO), not for risk management and risk remediation.
  • VCs are herding their stables to Asia to "save costs," often housing their charges into a single R&D hive that creates a target rich environment that will only culminate in local firms producing similar products before the US startups get to their rev one product.
  • Established industrial firms continue offshoring (see Multisourcing, parts 1 and 2) for lower cost, global 24X7 reach for their firm and their clients, richer talent pool, emerging market base, some of all of the above depending upon the locale. Such firms continue to confuse low cost with low risk.
  • Industrial firms confuse IT approaches such as network packet sniffing and hardware control mechanisms as remedies to IP theft which they are not. Hardware remedies have their place but form only a minority of an effective protective envelope.
  • The established guardian community - major management consultancies, banks, investment houses and law firms - is restrained by fear of reprisal by a host government refusing them business in a designated country. (Witness the concern of repercussions of even advising Unocal and its suitor Chevron against acquisition by CNOOC where those advising firms were exposed across sectors in seeking other Chinese business.)
  • The guardian community is itself a source of IP hemorrhage as aggressive 'up or out' programs flush talent out their back door, taking with them IP on both their prior employer as well as the employer's clients.
  • Those guardians not cowed (a microscopic group) are no better prepared that their benighted brethren in their operational knowledge of truly effective, non-confrontational means to affect IP protection, i.e., should one of these firms make recommendations, the client will only be lulled into a false sense of security that will put more of their IP at risk.
  • The compliance, policy, and legal instruments being floated by DoJ and the FBI are effectively non-remedies as they do nothing to instill competent cost effective IP protection in the target firms, offer no recourse for overseas infractions outside US jurisdiction, save for very limited areas, and do nothing to remediate the direct and drag-along loss of the IP theft.
  • Avoiding reprisal is so strong that the guardian community will often refer their clients to pursue the ineffective DoJ/FBI compliance, policy, and legal instruments.

In short, the targets are asleep or unarmed, the advising guardians are AWOL and the police are offering placebos. Not an comfortable condition as my predictions from January 2005 still stand:

  • Emerging Asian suppliers will displace less efficient US suppliers in US supply chains
  • US OEMs will continue their pursuit of lowest cost suppliers, abandoning historic ‘domestic’ suppliers in favor of new Asian suppliers

And if it is not too late:

  • After enduring growing losses, US OEMs and major manufacturers will use IP security as a key selector for suppliers in the critical path of their supply chains
  • Protective IP programs will be essential to a supply chain’s critical path, and so the health of the supply chain. (The trajectory of IP protection will mimic that of the rise of part quality as a mandatory selection criterion.)

The United States of India
Posted by David Berlind @ 7:10 am
December 7, 2005

China surpasses U.S. as top IT goods supplier, OECD says
China exported $180 billion in ICT goods last year compared to U.S. exports of $149 billion
By Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service
December 12, 2005

Europe's IT industry losing ground
Survey shows U.S. and Asian firms offer better pricing, greater flexibility in contracts
By Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service
December 12, 2005

India's outsourcing valued at $60 billion by 2010
Industry could face a shortage of half a million workers
By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
December 12, 2005

Aviva to expand outsourcing in India
British insurance company to double the staff offering BPO and call center services
By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
December 12, 2005

Lenovo wants to take on new markets in 2006
Lenovo to focus on SMB customers in the U.S. and Europe
By Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service
December 09, 2005

Microsoft to invest $1.7 billion in India
Microsoft is latest technology company making large investment in anticipation of a boom in India's IT market
By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
December 07, 2005

Intel will invest over $1 billion in India
Intel to expand its business in India, invest to help stimulate technological innovation
By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
December 05, 2005

EDS likely to double Chinese, Indian workforces
The company currently has up to 20,000 employees in those regions
By China Martens, IDG News Service
November 30, 2005

Juniper to double technical staff in India
Center in Bangalore works on software and hardware development
By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
November 23, 2005

HP opens research lab in China
Beijing lab will be HP's sixth research facility
By China Martens, IDG News Service
November 15, 2005 sets up second development center in India
Center will focus on developing new features for Amazon's sites
By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
October 21, 2005

Cisco to invest $1.1 billion in India
Company will triple the number of staff it employs in India
By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
October 19, 2005

Intel lauds Chinese CPU development
Intel exec says the Godson-2 chip shows fast uptake in design prowess by the Chinese
By Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service
October 18, 2005

Gartner: China's tech industry needs government support
Analyst firm says China's goal of becoming tech leader by 2010 will demand policies across several areas
By Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service
September 01, 2005

India's Infosys plans huge expansion in China
Outsourcer to grow its staff in China from 250 to 6,000 during next five years
By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
August 04, 2005

CNOOC Throws In Towel
Shu-Ching Jean Chen and Claire Poole

There's a New China Syndrome on Wall Street
New York Times
July 24, 2005

The Big Tug of War Over Unocal
New York Times
July 6, 2005
Mirror, Mirror

China throws down gauntlet to USA Inc
Frank Kane
The Observer (UK)
Sunday June 26, 2005

Uncle Sam's CNOOC dilemma
Chinese oil company makes trump bid for Unocal. But will the US block it as it did with Hutch bid for Global Crossing?
By Steven Irvine
Finance Asia
24 June 2005

Goldman goes 'unsolicited'
Investment bank and J.P. Morgan would provide financing
By David Weidner, MarketWatch
23 June 2005

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Intellectual Property Theft Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  


  discuss this article

US electorate's oversight: Iraqi opinions as to their condition and their perceptions of US/Coalition occupation - part 2


Part 1

In June 2004, al Jazeera used ICRSS polling to point out when Iraqis were asked to "rank 17 prominent religious and political leaders. Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister of the interim government [who took] over administrative power from the Coalition Provisional Authority… finished in sixteenth place [while seventeenth place] Ghazi al-Yawer [who was] named president of the interim government. Al Jazeera also noted that earlier ICRSS surveys indicated that Alawi and al Yawer were already slipping in Iraqis' estimation at the time of their elevation.

Iraqis have a poor opinion of Alawi. Sadoun al-Dulame, executive director of the ICRSS, pointed to one reason: "Every newspaper that has reported about his appointment has mentioned his CIA connection." Although Alawi has sniped at the U.S.-led occupation in recent months, it's his ties to Langley that seem to have registered with Iraqis. (His organization, the Iraqi National Accord, is funded by the CIA.) "He's a CIA man, like [Ahmed] Chalabi," said Raed Abu Hassan, a Baghdad University political science post-grad. "In this country, CIA connections are political poison." It doesn't help that the Shiite Alawi is also a former Baathist, and a returning exile.

Not unsurprisingly, al Jazeera drew attention to ICRSS data noting that leading candidates were Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Ibrahim al-Jaafari (Shiite Da'wah party), and Adnan Pachachi (Sunni elder statesman).

By June 2004, ICRSS surveys such as The Results Of the Public Opinion Poll in Iraq were showing that rising violence (and mass violence of car bombings) that while some two-thirds of Iraqis still opposed the presence of the US-led military and increasing number feared that a Coalition departure would create greater violence, reversing polling as late as April 2004. A majority replied that Iraq was moving away from peace and stability and towards rising violence, noting that conditions had worsened since April.

Although the collapse of security is the population's top concern, most of those surveyed felt that the problem would be best handled by Iraqi forces and that the presence of foreign armies attracted more violence. Almost 70% said that if foreign armies remained in Iraq after an elected government took office in January attacks against Iraqi police and government officials would increase.

Iraqis remain conflicted over the presence of US troops, a large majority feeling that the US could not improve the situation, that Iraqi troops were preferable by far but were not yet skilled to the task.

Asked if they would support a party which wanted foreign forces to stay until Iraq's army and police were adequately trained and equipped to face threats of violence, only 16% said yes.

ICRSS's al-Dulaimi, now Iraq's Defense Minister, opined that the reversal had to do as much with rising violence as with the realization that the post-CPA government was "an extension of the previous governing council" as opposed to an "Iraqi government of technocrats and experts who would handle the country's problems with an iron hand."

Pained tolerance of Coalition forces becomes, and remains, a combination of resignation, fear of violence and fear of the unknown.

A poll by the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (IIACSS), an Iraqi independent scientific research institute which focuses on social issues, the first after Abu Ghraib, showed a stunning collapse of faith in foreign institutions:

  • Coalition forces were 2, 8, -6, and -81%
  • CPA was 2, 9, -7 and -78%
  • UN, interestingly, was 8, 21, -9, and -57%

Contrast that to the opinions toward:

  • Iraqi police at 47, 29, -6, and -16%
  • Iraqi Army at 33, 29, -9, and -20%

Upon seeing Abu Ghraib's prisoner abuse, 71% were surprised while 22% were not. Surprised Iraqis felt humiliated, found it unethical, did not expect same from CF and felt the US a hypocrite. More than half of Iraqis felt that "all Americans were like this." Coalition Forces have suffered a massive image deterioration and are now seen as occupiers (by 92%), a liability whose presence makes things more dangerous, and whose push for expulsion is now that the CF "are occupiers."

Compared to 3 months prior, the opinion of Moqtada al-Sadr was 81% up, between Better and Much better. Incidentally, only half of Iraqis felt safe in their own neighborhood. In response to which entities contribute most to Iraqis' sense of security, Neighbors and friends, family and Local police comprise 89%. Coalition forces, even including combined Coalition forces & Iraqi patrols, were only 2%.

The CSIS methodology used in the September 2004 Progress Or Peril? Measuring Iraq’s Reconstruction charts four quadrants, a Viable Zone (green in upper right) and Danger Zone (red in lower left) separated by two Gray Zones. In the update that followed, Security, Services, Education and Health care were all in the Danger Zone while Governance and Participation cycled between the Danger Zone and the adjacent Gray Zone. The kindest thing to say about Health care is that it tanked:

The data suggest the following findings:
1. Iraq has still not passed the tipping point, as defined in Progress or Peril, in any of the five sectors of reconstruction reviewed.
2. Iraq’s reconstruction continues to
stagnate; it is not yet moving on a sustained positive trajectory toward the tipping point or end-state in any of those sectors.
Within the areas of security, governance and participation, economic opportunity, services, and social well-being, there has been little overall positive or negative movement; there has, however, been some regression or progress within particular indicators reviewed… The health care sector has seen the most dramatic decline over the past few months.

In November 2004, The Lancet was reporting that Coalition aerial bombing may have killed upwards of 100,000 Iraqis, many of whom were civilians and many of those women and children. While the UK Prime Minister's Official Spokesperson (PMOS) "dismissed the study since its methodology was, he claimed, inappropriate" in that "methodology that had been used… appeared to be based on an extrapolation technique rather than a detailed body count", the "methodology of this study is very tight, but it does involve extrapolating from a small number and so could easily be substantially incorrect. But the methodology also is standard in such situations and was used in Bosnia and Kosovo."

Yes, the results are based upon extrapolation, and yes, there may be some exaggeration, but I submit that the true number is vastly more than the 16,000 dead which is derived solely from counting all fatalities as reported in the Western press, which it is charitable to say is only a portion of the true number. Iraq Body Count, whose database tracks 26-30,000 Iraqi dead, including some 7,350 dead from coalition military action during the "major-combat" phase prior to May 1st 2003, from all causes such as combat collateral, breakdowns in civil order, health and sanitation, is most reasonable in comparison (yet even it is disputed by Coalition authorities). I cannot resist commenting that after declining to publicize body counts of either combatants or collaterals, that US forces have revived combatant body counts to demonstrate the value of counterinsurgency ops.

The point that I am after here is that Iraqis have a wholly different opinion of the effects of Coalition bombardment and that we should be aware of it but are not.

The fall 2005 CIPE/Zogby business survey can represent the traditional Iraqi resourcefulness and entrepreneurship as it continues to reflect earlier, unrelated, polling that separates business opportunity from political conditions on the ground. One wonders what such firms want to say to foreign pollsters for foreign consumption. Iraq is a cash economy of overwhelmingly small companies with fewer than 20 employees. Sole proprietorships and family-owned businesses predominate. The majority say that they are optimistic, expecting growth in the national economy. In terms of sales, employment, and profits, newer companies, not unexpectedly, are more optimistic than older ones. Security and basic services such as water and electricity continue as major problems.

Apart from security, the most commonly perceived obstacle to economic growth is Iraq’s "lack of legal and regulatory enforcement." I have qualms over the survey when the question, What do you see as the major sources of corruption?, lists "weak property rights" as the leading answer across the board, beating out "Government discretion/extraction of bribes." I note that the last question in the survey, What are the three (3) main clauses you would like the new constitution to include?, varied widely depending where the respondent was located (Baghdad, Hilla, Arbil, Basra or Kirkuk), thus indirectly skirted religious and sectarian divides.

The as yet unreleased UK MOD report has already been covered above.

The Brookings Iraq Index is continuously updated, latest 27 Oct, 2005. The estimated strength of insurgency nationwide remains consistent: 15,000 by May 2004, 20,000 from July 04, to July 05, "neither gaining strength nor weakening appreciably" (with some estimates indicating higher numbers). The estimated number of foreign fighters in the insurgency has consistently held between 750 and 1,000 from Q4 2004 to date, save for the Sept 2005 jump to 750 and 2,000.

As to whom can improve the situation in Iraq:

  • Iraqi National Guard: A great deal/Quite a lot: 70+%
  • US military forces: Not very much/None at all: 76+%
  • The armed national opposition: Not very much/None at all: 55%

The issues most concerning the daily life of Iraqis are, in descending order: Inadequate electricity, Ethnic tensions, Presence of Multi-National Forces, Religious Tension, Lack of adequate housing, High prices, Corruption, Insurgent Violence, Unemployment, Crime, Low wages, Ensuring minority rights, National Security, Influence of Iraq's Neighbors, Healthcare, Water, Monthly Food Rations, Writing an acceptable constitution. has an extensive page Opinion Polls in Iraq for those who wish to dig deeper.

The point is that the US/UK are not doing well in a hearts and minds campaign, that Iraqis are not happy with us, and that there is ample and sustaining anger on the part of Sunni and Shia alike to support a continuing insurgency against Coalition forces. Mao Zedong observed:

Because guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and cooperation…. Many people think it is impossible for guerrillas to exist for long in the enemy’s rear. Such a belief reveals lack of comprehension of the relationship that should exist between the people and the troops. The former may be likened to water and the latter to the fish who inhabit it.… (Mao Tse-Tung 2000: 44, 92-93)

The fish in Iraq have a deep pond.

Iraq Index
Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq
Michael E. O’Hanlon and Nina Kamp
Brookings Institution
Updated October 27, 2005
For full source information for entries other than the current month, please see the Iraq Index archives

Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 23/10/2005)
Telegraph (UK)

Business Leader Attitudes Toward Commercial Activity, Employee Relations, and Government in Iraq
By The Center for International Private Enterprise & Zogby International
Fall 2005

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey
The Lancet, Volume 364, Issue 9448, Pages 1857-1864
L. Roberts, R. Lafta, R. Garfield, J. Khudhairi, G. Burnham
19 November 2004
Related background material

Scientists: 100,000 Iraqis have died since war
October 29, 2004 - 2:24PM

Vicious Circle: The Dynamics of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq
Part One. Patterns of Popular Discontent
Project on Defense Alternatives Research Monograph #10
Carl Conetta
Project on Defense Alternatives
18 May 2005

Iraq: Recent Developments in Reconstruction Assistance
Curt Tarnoff
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service
CRS RL31833
Updated May 12, 2005

Progress Or Peril? Measuring Iraq’s Reconstruction
Frederick Barton, Bathsheba Crocker
September 2004
No longer on CSIS site but mirrored
here, here, and here

Progress Or Peril? Measuring Iraq’s Reconstruction
Frederick Barton, Bathsheba Crocker
Iraq Update, August-October 2004
No longer on CSIS site but mirrored here

Public Opinion in Iraq: First Poll Following Abu Ghraib Revelations
Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (IIACSS)
15 June 2004

80% of Iraqis want US to stop patrolling cities
Jonathan Steele in Baghdad
June 29, 2004

Why Iyad Al Alawi?
Al Jazeera
6/7/2004 7:07:00 AM GMT

The Results Of the Public Opinion Poll in Iraq
The Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS)
June 2004

Iraqis Report Deepening Doubts About Legitimacy of the US-led Occupation
by Hannah Allam
May 9, 2004
has scrolled off
Google cache
Mirror here

Poll: Iraqis out of patience
By Cesar G. Soriano and Steven Komarow
Posted 4/28/2004 3:32 PM
Updated 4/30/2004 6:54 AM

Nearly 3 Million Iraqis, Sunni and Shiite, Approve of attacks on Americans
Juan Cole
Informed Comment
April 6, 2004

Poll: Most Iraq Shia Arabs Oppose Attacks
Associated Press
Posted on Mon, Apr. 05, 2004
Original scrolled off
Google cache

Results of Public Opinion Poll #3
The Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS)
23 October, 2003

Iraqi Public Has Wide Future Political System
Opinion Analysis
Office of Research
Department of State
(DoS commissioned ICRSS (approved by the CPA) in Baghdad to carry out the fieldwork)
October 21, 2003

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


  discuss this article

Prev 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  [10]  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  Next

You are on page 10

Items 91-100 of 177.

<<  |  January 2020  |  >>
view our rss feed