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Israel's zugzwang between indefensible military borders and absorption from within

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I heartily second Benjamin Schwarz's admonition that casual observers should not "be seduced by the recent hopeful signs: in the long run the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remain a problem without a solution." Jumping to his close, "the century-long Palestinian-Zionist conflict is a story of two peoples, each with reasonable claims to the same piece of earth; and nearly every aspect of that story suggests that in the end—and to the detriment of those peoples, their region, and perhaps the entire world—their aspirations are not amenable to compromise."

Think zugzwang. When you are "in zugzwang", any move you make worsens your situation. From the German, zwischenzug, a 'compulsion to move' or 'compelled to move,' zugzwang is a term that I increasingly associate with the Israeli condition and the implications are poor for the long term. In chess, it is used to denote a move that instead of recapturing an opponent's piece, one player makes a move that creates a larger threat to himself, such as a mate, while hoping to recover his position later. In general, it is a position in which the side to move loses because he is compelled to move and surrenders an advantage to his opponent.

Schwarz and I can agree even as Schwarz comments that "the most heartening recent development in Israeli-Palestinian relations [is that] forces on both sides now wish their own leader [Sharon and Abbas respectively] dead," i.e., that each are now seeking a peace so tangible that their respective militant wings are outraged.

Mass Jewish immigration in the 1940s and 1950s coupled with Arab expulsion, euphemistically called "transferring" by voluntarily and involuntary means, temporarily created a demographically Jewish state from the theoretically Jewish state that UN Resolution 181 had proclaimed in 1947 when Jewish and Arab populations were at a 5:4 ratio. That changed with the inclusion of Gaza and the West Bank, along with their vastly higher birthrates, in the 1967 war, so much so that Schwarz intimates that Jews may have already become a demographic minority. (Factor in the "basic tenet of Palestinism," the right of return of those displaced Arab Palestinians and their descendants and we have a demographically instant Arab state.)

There is precedent for this jiggery-pokery in the Levant as Lebanon long proclaimed itself a Christian state based upon an aging census gathering that all parties tacitly agreed not to update. The impact of that annexation has now become increasingly clear to all but the Jewish militant right (who would merely 'solve the problem' differently) as in the last five years:

a consensus has emerged within the Israeli political, military, and intelligence communities that the country must withdraw from much of, most of, or essentially all of the territories..., lest Israeli Jews be forced to choose between living in a democracy and living in a Jewish state: Palestinians will demand not their own state but a single binational state, based on the principle of one man, one vote. And at that point, Israel's deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has said despairingly, "we will lose everything."

From this point rises Sharon's intent to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and partially withdraw from the West Bank behind a Security Wall now being sold as an anti-terrorist device. The truth is that the Wall was designed far earlier, and its purpose may have originally been "a means of detaching Israel politically and economically from the growing and impoverished Palestinian population." Arnon Soffer, a geographer at Haifa University who has produced some useful policy papers (abstracts here) on the political implications of Palestinian population growth, has called the Wall a "last desperate attempt to save the state of Israel." Yet, even if Israel is able to prevail against internal and external resistance to the Wall, it will watch its pre-1967 Israeli Arabs, who now comprise some 20% of Israel's population, grow to around 30% by 2050.

I refer readers to two earlier notes that draw heavily on annual World Bank and Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) sources that paint the downward spiral of a Palestinian exclave:

In those, I state that Israel will create what I call a "Paltustan," a Palestinian Bantustan across the Wall, that is nothing more than an "economic septic tank" whose economic conditions, population growth by birth and return, and water access will be so parlous as to force it to renegotiate the Green Line, in reality a tactical truce, or hudna, now being forced upon it, or expand into Jordan, or both.

Doubtless these Arabs will come to, and may already quietly be there in, agreement with:

A host of realistic Israeli observers, including Israel's national security adviser, General Giora Eiland, [that] doubt that the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan contains enough land and resources to sustain two viable sovereign states. In few places in the world do conditions more demand that two peoples develop a symbiotic relationship; in no other place are the chances of building such a relationship more remote.

Will Israel Live to 100?
by Benjamin Schwarz
The Atlantic Monthly
May 2005

Preventing the Unthinkable
by Leslie Susser
The Jerusalem Report
December, 2003

The Ariel Center for Policy Research (ACPR)
Additional policy papers of interest on a number of issues affecting the Levant and the Maghrab

Gordon Housworth



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Fun on both sides of the Golden Shield: escape & evasion applicable to civil libertarians and terrorists alike

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In Finding Zhao Ziyang through the Golden Shield , part 2 of "If you want food, find Ziyang"; If you want Ziyang, pierce the Golden Shield, I noted that the response to Chinese media restrictions on state-run TV and newspapers of the death of Zhao Ziyang was a spike of activity on internet bulletin boards, chat rooms, and blogs.

Chatroom monitoring, both self-imposed and external) is part of the Golden Shield, called the Great Firewall of China by its detractors, a "communication network and computer information system for police to improve their capability and efficiency." At the time it was described as employing:

a variety of methods starting with Chinese backbone routers that blocked a list of objectionable web addresses combined with filtering technology searching for objectionable words and a tracking system to identify offenders. Failed searches with sensitive terms do not even send back error messages. Internet-service firms add "their own censoring, removing provocative comments and blocking messages deemed sensitive." Moving on, newer Chinese instant-messaging services are allegedly requiring users "to download software to their PCs that contains a filtering mechanism"… Having been barred from China, Google responded with a version that disabled its cache function, blocked objectionables, becoming "a form of geolocation filtering since users who access Chinese Language Google News from anywhere but China are not subjected to the filtering and receive full search results."

From such comments and personal experience, it was a modest leap for a Chinese civil rights activist, Issac Mao, to craft a diagram of the Golden Shield's filtering mechanism, Guess on China's Great Firewall Mechanism, whose posting and linking to it as an April Fool's jest was apparently enough to have Chinese authorities to instruct ISPs to not resolve requests to his primary blog. Global Voices notes that they and others have offered to host Mao's blog outside China, but that Mao is "planning on keeping it in China, seeing situations like this as an excellent chance to learn more about internet filtering in China":

To my personal blog, I’m not so eager to move my blog to oversea’s hosting. It’s so good to study this space with more local experience.

Mao has a backup blog for such occasions where he is able to announce the blocking and continue his research, but other bloggers, Falun Gong perhaps, might not receive such permissiveness, and there might be interest as to who such insiders spoke to on the outside beyond national jurisdiction.

Enter the Onion Routing program designed by US Naval Research Laboratory to create net-based anonymous communications systems "that resist traffic analysis, eavesdropping, and other attacks both by outsiders (e.g. Internet routers) and insiders (Onion Routers themselves). Onion Routing prevents the transport medium from knowing who is communicating with whom -- the network knows only that communication is taking place. In addition, the content of the communication is hidden from eavesdroppers up to the point where the traffic leaves the OR network"

This protection is given independent of whether the identity of the initiator of a connection (the sender) is hidden from the responder of the connection, or vice versa. The sender and receiver may wish to identify and even authenticate to each other, but do not wish others to know that they are communicating. The sender may wish to be hidden from the responder. There are many ways that a web server can deduce the identity of a client who visits it; several test sites can be used to demonstrate this. A filtering proxy can be used to reduce the threat of identifying information from a client reaching a server.

Onion routing can be non-invasive when unmodified Internet applications use proxies or can be moderately or highly-invasive when a computer's network protocol stack is modified. Note that encryption is not mentioned here as body text encryption does not defeat traffic analysis that can divine who is talking to whom and when.

Now supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an offshoot of the Onion project called Tor, a network of virtual tunnels, is now available to anonymize the likes of web browsing and publishing, instant messaging, IRC, and SSH with the goal to defeat or complicate traffic analysis by "preventing eavesdroppers from finding out where your communications are going online, and by letting you decide whether to identify yourself when you communicate."

I recommend that readers investigate Tor from two aspects, the first being the use of Tor as a means of masking critical communications and/or using Tor as an investigative and market analysis tool, and the second being to determine how Tor might be used against you, your firm, your employees and your suppliers:

[T]he German "Diabetes People" organization recommend Tor for safeguarding their members' online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are supporting Tor's development as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations are investigating Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis, and are considering using Tor to test new experimental projects without associating their names with these projects. A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle East recently.

[O]nline advertising company Doubleclick uses traffic analysis to record what web pages you've visited, and can build a profile of your interests from that. A pharmaceutical company could use traffic analysis to monitor when the research wing of a competitor visits its website, and track what pages or products that interest the competitor. IBM hosts a searchable patent index, and it could keep a list of every query your company makes. A stalker could use traffic analysis to learn whether you're in a certain Internet cafe.

Now think how much fun terrorist groups could have with Tor, both for sheltered communications and for target analysis, personal and corporate.

P.S. Visit the privacy test sites that Onion recommends. You will likely be startled to see how vulnerable you are.

Gordon Housworth



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The world is flat save for the depression that we occupy: Friedman on global opportunity and competition

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The head of Infosys (India) told Tom Friedman that "the playing field is being leveled" as decades of massive investment in technology, computers, global broadband connectivity, education, communication and information processing tools created a condition in which "countries like India were now able to compete equally for global knowledge work as never before -- and that America had better get ready for this."

Friedman made a great tag line leap from 'leveled' to 'flattened' to 'flat' with the observation that:

When the world is flat, you can innovate without having to emigrate.

The impacts are enormous in terms of economic, political, military, and demographic changes at the level of shocks - and an inability to predict when and where those leaps will occur. Citing Marc Andreessen:

"Today, the most profound thing to me is the fact that a 14-year-old in Romania or Bangalore or the Soviet Union or Vietnam has all the information, all the tools, all the software easily available to apply knowledge however they want. That is why I am sure the next Napster is going to come out of left field. As bioscience becomes more computational and less about wet labs and as all the genomic data becomes easily available on the Internet, at some point you will be able to design vaccines on your laptop."

Or bioweapons.

Friedman sees the advances in "people-to-people and application-to-application connectivity" producing "flatterers" that in turn produced six more: outsourcing, offshoring, open-sourcing, insourcing, supply-chaining, and informing. His last "flattener" is accelerated communications in the form of wireless access and VoIP. I am not certain that I agree with his chain of causality, but I agree that all these enablers are present.

I can only wholeheartedly agree with his prediction that the US and Europe are lagging and whining while Asia is roaring. "Meeting the challenges of flatism requires as comprehensive, energetic and focused a response as did meeting the challenge of Communism... We have been slow to rise to the challenge of flatism":

When it comes to responding to the challenges of the flat world, [we] have to dig into ourselves. We in America have all the basic economic and educational tools to do that. But we have not been improving those tools as much as we should. That is why we are in what Shirley Ann Jackson, the 2004 president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, calls a ''quiet crisis'' -- one that is slowly eating away at America's scientific and engineering base.

Jackson makes the understatement of the quarter century in noting, ''If left unchecked, this could challenge our pre-eminence and capacity to innovate.'' The challenge is already well underway and we are not distinguishing ourselves in the innovation of new technologies, products, services and firms that hire domestic employees and pay domestic taxes.

Friedman sees this quiet crisis as a product of three gaps:

  • An "ambition gap": "Compared with the young, energetic Indians and Chinese, too many Americans have gotten too lazy."
  • A numbers gap: insufficient numbers of engineers and scientists that were compensated for by importation from India, China and elsewhere, but "in a flat world, where people can now stay home and compete with us, and in a post-9/11 world, where we are insanely keeping out many of the first-round intellectual draft choices in the world for exaggerated security reasons, we can no longer cover the gap."
  • An education gap: A gap so startling that US firms outsource not merely because of lower salaries but because they "can often get better-skilled and more productive people than their American workers."

Friedman cites Microsoft's Bill Gates comment that the US high-school education system is "obsolete": "When I compare our high schools to what I see when I'm traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow. In math and science, our fourth graders are among the top students in the world. By eighth grade, they're in the middle of the pack. By 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring near the bottom of all industrialized nations."

Gates also addresses the matter of numbers: "In 2001, India graduated almost a million more students from college than the United States did. China graduates twice as many students with bachelor's degrees as the U.S., and they have six times as many graduates majoring in engineering. In the international competition to have the biggest and best supply of knowledge workers, America is falling behind."

Friedman closes in his signature style, and while I have been cross of late with some of his international commentary as being excessively preachy, I believe that he is spot on here, and at the top of his game:

We need to get going immediately. It takes 15 years to train a good engineer, because [this] really is rocket science. So parents, throw away the Game Boy, turn off the television and get your kids to work. There is no sugar-coating this: in a flat world, every individual is going to have to run a little faster if he or she wants to advance his or her standard of living. When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, ''Tom, finish your dinner -- people in China are starving.'' But after sailing to the edges of the flat world for a year, I am now telling my own daughters, ''Girls, finish your homework -- people in China and India are starving for your jobs.''

A signature trend of US technological slippage is our declining performance in the Olympics of programming, the 2005 world finals of the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest. Reflecting a "gradual ascendance of Asian and East European schools during the past decade," the first three winners were China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and two from Russia, Moscow State University and the St. Petersburg Institute of Fine Mechanics and Optics. The nearest US performance was a tie for 17th. Commenced in 1970, the US historically dominated this ACM contest, and dominated it in depth.

The technological and weapons systems that we have today are the product of designs twenty years earlier created by engineers and scientists educated a decade or more earlier still. Today we are coasting without a "moon shot" plan to resuscitate our scientific base and educational system. Worse we are trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy in which US technology firms conduct basic research and development activities in Asia as US student interest in computer science declines amid the dot-com collapse and the well-advertised offshoring by US tech firms to low-wage countries like India.

I took the effort to look at the last 15 years of the ACM contest, not only for the winning school and nation, but the number of teams competing, and US standing towards the top of the rankings. The net results are worse than losing the title as it reflects a lack of US depth and bench strength in comparison to its scholastic competitors:

2005 Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China (second win), USA 17

2004 St Petersburg Institute of Fine Mechanics and Optics, Russia, from 3,150 teams, USA 5,7,9

2003 Warsaw University, Poland, from 3,850 teams, USA 13

2002 Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, from 3,082 teams, USA 2,5,8

2001 The St. Petersburg State University, Russia (second win), from 2,700 teams, USA 2,7,10

2000 The St. Petersburg State University, Russia, from 2,400 teams, USA 9

1999 The University of Waterloo, Canada, from over 1,900 teams, USA 5,6,7,8

1998 Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, from 1,250 teams, USA 5

1997 Harvey Mudd College, USA, from over 1,100 teams, USA 2,9

1996 University of California, Berkeley, USA, from 1,001 teams, USA, 2,5,7

1995 Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg, Germany, from over 900 teams, USA, 2,4,5,6,7

1994 University of Waterloo, Canada, from 628 teams, USA, 3,4,6

1993 Harvard University, USA, from over 600 teams, USA, 2,3,4,6,7

1992 University of Melbourne, Australia, from over 600 teams, USA, 2,3,4,5,6,7

1991 Stanford University, USA, from over 500 teams

1990 University of Otago, New Zealand, from 459 teams

It's a Flat World, After All
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
New York Times
April 3, 2005

U.S. slips lower in coding contest
By Ed Frauenheim
CNET News
April 7, 2005

Students saying no to computer science
By Ed Frauenheim
CNET News
August 11, 2004

Gordon Housworth



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On the verge of political oblivion, Mahmoud Abbas acts within and without

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One wonders if Abbas would have acted against Palestinian militants had not Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade members allied to his own Fatah faction given him an opportunity that he could not refuse: First, 6 members of Al Aksa infuriated over expulsion from the Muqaata, Abbas' presidential headquarters, after years of sanctuary from Israeli arrest in 2002, after being told to "stop their racketeering activities and join the security forces, or hand over their weapons" retrieved their weapons and shot up the compound with Abbas in it (he was not injured); second, this group now some 15 strong went on a rampage through Ramallah thoroughly terrorizing high street cafes and restaurants; and third, over 20 Al Aksa members the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, attempting to disrupt elections said to be leaning to Hamas, and claiming the election "invalid." Amazingly, while there was much property loss, no one was killed despite many being treated to a muzzle-eye view. Restraint in Palestine is a relative thing, but the message was clear:

"This is a message to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]. It's a challenge to Abu Mazen - who's going to run the show? Him or the gunmen?"

Already close to self-marginalization, Abbas had not established his authority in Palestinian territories, had not dispelled the growing belief that the Palestinian Authority was "crippled," had not restored order to people that "need security as they need bread," and had done nothing to slake the gains by Hamas in local elections that presage a Hamas victory in the July parliamentary elections. I submit that Hamas had to do little to win other than to let Fatah confirm its corruption and fecklessness:

"This chaos is harming the Palestinian Authority and Fatah totally, and if they don't reform now, you can say farewell to Fatah. Hamas is powerful, and Fatah is fighting a battle with itself and is at the same time unable to bring law and order to the streets."… Gang rule in the West Bank "is the primary problem today that is holding up moving forward on the process of peaceful reconciliation."

In lieu of an independent power base capable of command, Abbas is said to have instead believed that a policy of co-optation would draw militants into joining the Palestinian security forces. Fatah inaction was blamed on Israeli predation on Palestinian security forces without addressing continued corruption by Fatah cadre faithful and security force members that were serving militants of dissident groups - such as Al Aksa - groups that they were ostensibly expected to control. It didn't help when the prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, was asked when the Palestinian security services would be reformed that, "He just shrugged his shoulders, lifted his hands and walked away." As it was, militants inadvertently achieved what US and Israeli demands to suppress armed groups could not achieve.

It still took weeks for Abbas to act, but act he did, forcing out the corruption-tainted West Bank security chief Ismail Jaber, appointing in Jaber's place the untainted Nablus security commander Maj. Gen. Nadal Asoli, firing Younis al-Aas, the local Ramallah commander that failed to contain the Al Aksa rampage, setting a mandatory retirement age in order to force out dubious security staff and military commanders, and floating names for new senior security positions.

Abbas must now restrain Al Aksa and Islamic Jihad and demonstrate to Hamas and the Palestinian people that he can govern.

For reasons of his own, Ariel Sharon wants a functional Palestinian entity that disarms, or as you prefer, regulates the militants and so presents itself as a secure partner to which Israel can return control of more Palestinian cities.  Despite its rhetoric and history, Hamas could be that entity. One wonders if Abbas and Fatah can be.

Abbas Moves to Challenge Militant Groups
Associated Press
By RAVI NESSMAN
4 Apr 2005

Abbas Moves to Control West Bank Security Forces
By STEVEN ERLANGER
New York Times
April 3, 2005

Abbas Orders Crackdown After Attack
The Associated Press
31 Mar 2005

Palestinian President Orders Crackdown on Street Chaos
By STEVEN ERLANGER
New York Times
March 31, 2005

Palestinian Groups Extend Truce
BBC News
17 Mar 2005

Gordon Housworth



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Weblogs, better intelligence and more efficient warfighting, part 2

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Part 1

A reserve military intelligence officer offers a problem statement for the intel community and a solution as per the US Army:

It's an open secret that the US intelligence community has its own classified, highly secure Internet. Called Intelink, it's got portals, chat rooms, message boards, search engines, webmail, and tons of servers. It's [good] … for four years ago. While I was serving as an intelligence analyst at the US Central Command in Qatar during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in 2003, my team and I analyzed hundreds of messages and reports each day. We created briefings used by generals Tommy Franks and John Abizaid. A vast amount of information was available to us on Intelink, but there was no simple way to find and use the data efficiently… And while there were hundreds of people throughout the world reading the same materials, there was no easy way to learn what they thought. Somebody had answers to my questions, I knew, but how were we ever to connect? The scary truth is that most of the time analysts are flying half blind.

It doesn't have to be that way… Launched in 2001, Army Knowledge Online is Yahoo! for grunts. All the things that make life on the Net interesting and useful are on AKO. Every soldier has an account, and each unit has its own virtual workspace. Soldiers in my reserve unit are scattered throughout Texas, and we're physically together only once a month. AKO lets us stay linked around the clock… The first step toward reform: Encourage blogging on Intelink.

Spies and Bloggers continues:

"You get a lot of these obsteperous guys [writing blogs] who don't defer to hierarchy, but smart executives all over the place now are trying to figure out ways to capitalize on people like me [David Stephenson]. It's just dumb to filter out that potential information just because the people who are offering it are not like you."

I concur with John Robb's comment that the "intelligence community should blog for the same reasons companies have begun doing so: Large organization have found that their top-down methods for organizing massive amounts of information simply don't work. "It's too big of a task… It can't be done."

Stephenson was specific in outlining the choices facing a government that has lost control of its flow of information:

"Individuals have access to all of this decentralized technology that's almost impossible for the government to control… It seems to me that the government is faced with some stark choices. They can 'get with the program' -- realize they have lost control and try to capitalize on that -- or they can pretend they still control the flow of information and enact all sorts of Draconian regulations that aren't going to work anyway."

Do not make the mistake that Ira Winkler does in saying:

"What this sounds like to me is, 'Blogs are cool, let's use a cool technology,' is responsible for some of the most confusing information that the Internet has ever seen."

What Winkler has done is expose his lack of understanding of the blogosphere in that bloggers ultimately rate other bloggers and that, just as I have, one can tease out the good ones, and for sites where dross is injected into its stream (such as conservative spoiling into Daily KOS) there are means for recognized privileged users (by their contributions and peer ranking) to expunge the bad.

Just as with any other intel data stream, the validity of source (the blogger) and validity of datum from source (a specific blog entry) will shortly become apparent. Weblogs will work especially well when there are commanders such as General James Cartwright who say this in their Command and Control Blog:

"The metric is what the person has to contribute, not the person’s rank, age, or level of experience. If they have the answer, I want the answer. When I post a question on my blog, I expect the person with the answer to post back. I do not expect the person with the answer to run it through you, your OIC, the branch chief, the exec, the Division Chief and then get the garbled answer back before he or she posts it for me. The Napoleonic Code and Netcentric Collaboration cannot exist in the same space and time. It’s YOUR job to make sure I get my answers and then if they get it wrong or they could have got it righter, then you guide them toward a better way…but do not get in their way."

Gordon Housworth



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Weblogs as a means of overcoming institutional conservatism, collecting better intelligence and affecting more efficient warfighting

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We owe much to Donald Schon (properly Schön) for his innovations in learning that have reframed much of the language of education, not the least of which are the learning society, double-loop learning and reflection-in-action has become part of the language of education. For our purposes, I will focus on Beyond the Stable State in which Schon stated that institutions are characterized by a "dynamic conservatism" defined as a "tendency to fight to remain the same," all of which rise from a strong and abiding belief in a stable state, "the unchangeability, the constancy of central aspects of our lives, or belief that we can attain such a constancy." While dynamic conservatism is a false "bulwark against uncertainty," it is a strong and unrelenting one that persists in the face of increasingly rapid technological change whose frequency was "uniquely threatening to the stable state":

The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes. We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions. We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.

Written in the early 1970s, institutions and bureaucracies are still with us and are just about as stable and as resistant to change as when first Schon penned the idea. In fact, it is a common axiom in change management that quantum change often comes from the outside - from an outsider or maverick - who has nothing to lose by upsetting the status quo. (Witness Xerox's fatal clinging to consumables as a cash flow staple as it squandered the venture capital of its nascent PCs, desktop printing, user interfaces, and computer networks.)

If change comes from the outsider (who often departs or is driven out to form a new firm), where does that leave the rest of the organization? I am not alone in submitting that weblogs are one very good way despite their messiness and informality. I find it painful to reflect on the changes that better communications (in terms of accuracy, completeness, currency, consistency) would have made in my 19-part series that started with Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF): analysis and prediction for a year-end After Action Report on 29 Dec, 2004 and ended with "Why are they doing this to us?" on 14 Jan, 2005. In commencing the series, I observed that:

The picture will not be an attractive one, the needed changes will be wrenching and likely rejected, the outcome - a loss already in progress - will be difficult to absorb, and an amelioration, if possible, will require some extraordinarily gifted diplomacy and geopolitical footwork to recover.

James Fallows now asks many of the same questions in Getting Out Right, citing Fourth Generation Warfare and OODA Loop Implications of The Iraqi Insurgency as an example of a means of asking the right questions, questions that were long overlooked and thus populated the pages of the After Action Report (AAR) Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) and related analyses.

I think that weblogs are a very effective means of getting answers back up, even reframing a partially or poorly phrased question and then getting its answer back up. With the right encouragement from the top, it just might overcome Frank Voehl's apt admonition:

All established social systems work very hard to survive. They often, at a great cost, maintain their boundaries, work methods, and patterns of interaction and involvement. The more they are pressed from the outside, the more they push back. This need for social equilibrium is very strong and is frequently self-reinforcing. For many of us, this parallels the common biological perspective on what keeps organizations cohesive: Namely, any tendency towards change is automatically met by the increased effectiveness of the factors that resist change.

Many organizational change agents make the mistake of writing off this phenomenon as simple resistance to change, which they feel can be overcome either by ignoring it and plowing straight ahead, by trying to pacify it with several well-crafted motivational speeches, or by a quick hitting series of team meetings.

Part 2

Getting Out Right
by James Fallows
The Atlantic Monthly, April 2005

It’s Good to Know Leadership Gets It
Posted By: Timmer @ 0610 on 20050323
The Daily Brief

We Need Spy Blogs
By Kris Alexander
Wired, Issue 13.03, March 2005

Spies and Bloggers
By John P. Mello Jr.
TechNewsWorld
03/10/05

Fourth Generation Warfare & OODA Loop Implications of The Iraqi Insurgency
G.I. Wilson, Greg Wilcox, Chet Richards
Defense and the National Interest
Dec 2004

Beyond the Stable State
Donald A. Schon
ISBN: 0393006859
Norton, 1973

Gordon Housworth



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Wolfowitz survives his tsunami. Or perhaps he was the tsunami

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It was done in a month, from mention as candidate to formal confirmation as president of the World Bank. Early on, I had the feeling of a wave, a tsunami, of commentary pro and con - no one seemed neutral in the slightest - surrounding the nomination and it was not clear at the onset that it would end easily or favorably for Wolfowitz. As one of the daily news aggregators that I follow is News & Broadcast from the World Bank Group, it proved to be an interesting study of watching 'the patient examine itself' as Wolfowitz's candidacy progressed from murmur through reality, affront and reaction, political calculus and negotiation, 'beauty contest' interviews, resolution, and appointment.

First a word about the structure of News & Broadcast. There are some five or six survey articles in descending priority drawn from a wide spectrum of news sources. Following those is a Briefly Noted section that has a few sentences on a variety of subjects. While Wolfowitz's passage can almost be gleaned from the titles and their order in the aggregation, I will offer some observations. Unless otherwise noted, all citations are from World Bank:

March 1 & 2, Briefly Noted: Wolfowitz and Carly Fiorina are mooted as candidates to replace Wolfensohn. Wolfowitz would be "highly controversial" yet he was staying put as OSD.

March 3, Story 4: Europe diplomatically focused on Wolfowitz's lack of development experience, not as an architect of the Iraq war. Trust in, and credibility of, World Bank would falter. At least five other candidates in the scrum.

March 16, press release: World Bank receives formal US nomination of Wolfowitz for Presidency

March 16, Washington Post: Europe is stunned, "much surprise, little enthusiasm and some outright opposition in Europe." Minuscule US-European relations could be undermined. Two interpretations, neither good, "going to take him away from U.S. policy" or the US "has to give sop to the far right." Private environmental and aid organizations largely hostile. Praise from UK only.

March 17, Stories 1 & 2: "a lightning rod of controversy… a bitter fight on the World Bank board… decision to send [Bush's] hawkish deputy defense secretary to the world's leading development institution underlines [Bush's] eagerness to see multilateral organizations advance America's foreign policy… European sources said Wolfowitz's name was circulated informally among board directors several weeks ago and was rejected." "There are going to be a lot of very unhappy people but they may be as upset about the process as about the person… They were supposed to consult us and there was no consultation."

Issues of reform and redirection of the bank. Common concern over US "trying to turn the World Bank into an agency of the "war on terror", adopting a political mission with democratization and political lending criteria to match. Wolfowitz compared to Robert McNamara in which "Pentagon leaders identified with controversial wars taking the same exit route to new careers at a time the wars were unresolved." Wolfowitz vows to wage war on poverty, believing "deeply and passionately in the mission of the World Bank," looks forward to "meeting the European executive directors and the European finance ministers and development ministers."

March 18, Stories 1 & 2: Europe reacts "coolly," ranging from "outright hostile -- "a disaster," one critic said -- to the tepid, with diplomats cautious in their language," yet "Most European Union diplomats however dismissed any idea of a united front to block the nomination." "many bank insiders and observers predict that the odds strongly favor Wolfowitz eventually getting the job, [although the furor] indicated that at the very least a fight will rage for several weeks before the board approves him." A veto would create "vast ill will in the US [and] it would be far too easy for Bush to put forward a much worse candidate than Wolfowitz. It would be politically impossible for the Europeans to cast a veto twice."

Germany wants to "avoid any disagreement [with the US as] Germany is hoping for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council – and for that the country needs the agreement of the United States." France "would not want to antagonize [the US] at a time when it was pushing its own nationals for important jobs at international institutions." European members of the World Bank's board seek to interview Wolfowitz separately for the job of president while the World Bank's Staff Association sought to meet (interview) Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz's romantic relationship with Shaha Riza in the bank's Middle East and North Africa department is noted. Critics call for an overhaul of the "gentleman's agreement" process under which the World Bank chief is generally nominated by Washington and the head of the IMF by Europeans.

March 21, Washington Post: "In a sign of the antipathy toward Wolfowitz at the World Bank's headquarters, staffers last week were e-mailing each other a video clip in which the Pentagon official was skewered on "The Daily Show," the satiric news program, for having miscalculated the problems involved in rebuilding Iraq."

Wolfowitz continues to stress "that he attaches prime importance to the bank's goal of fighting poverty," and has "been scoring points by harking back to his experience in Indonesia… where economic development was the most important issue on the agenda." Charm offensive is necessary to overcome "handicaps" and suspicions over US "intentions in choosing him."

March 21, Story 1: Wolfowitz had first interviews with World Bank members. "Although there is no set process to select the president, experts said this was the first time in recent World Bank history that shareholders had asked to interview a nominee." The European Union invites Wolfowitz "to present his future plans if confirmed" but denies "that the invitation amounted to an "audition."" Euro nonprofit groups continue to pressure governments to reject the nomination. The European Parliament's development committee expressed "great concern" over the nomination.

Wolfowitz makes his views known, vowing that there would be no "regime change" at the Bank, that "he would come to the bank with an open mind and no political program," that the bank's mission "is by nature multilateral" and that "the Bank should make Africa a priority." World Bank staff association is "swamped with complaints from employees over the selection of Wolfowitz." Alarm is widespread.

March 22, Story 1: "German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany would not try to block Wolfowitz's candidacy [making] it clear that a European-led challenge to Wolfowitz is not in the offing" and the board will not likely accept an alternative candidate should the developing countries put one forward.

Wolfowitz was the victor that day if not earlier. Wolfowitz is increasingly described as "a very serious and credible candidate."

March 23, Story 1: In what I took as going through the motions, saving face, and soothing anxious constituencies, "European Union finance ministers agreed Tuesday that US nominee for World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz is a "serious candidate," but said they want to hear his views in person, possibly in the next 10 days." "[P]eople familiar with the situation in Brussels said key European Union finance ministers had agreed informally not to oppose his candidacy… US officials in Washington said they now assume Wolfowitz will be approved by the World Bank's 24-member executive board, which is expected to meet March 31. European Union nations are slowly moving toward endorsing [Wolfowitz and that] there were no "very negative attitudes" toward the former US deputy defense chief [and] he is taken as a serious candidate by everyone."

March 24, Press release: Wolfowitz met 23 March with "Executive Directors representing European Union member countries of the World Bank" to hear his views on the bank's "overarching goal" (poverty reduction), its status as a "finance and knowledge institution," the role of multilaterals and bilateral development agencies, corporate governance, et al.

March 24, Story 1: "Wolfowitz virtually sealed his election as World Bank president Wednesday [23 March] after meeting with members of the bank's board, who were impressed and reassured by his answers to their questions." But in a continuation of political theater, "The self-styled G-11 World Bank executive directors from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, who represent 108 bank member countries [state that] We were pleased with the exchange that we had with him." Wolfensohn said [that] he expects US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to be appointed his successor and predicted he would do "a fine job."

March 28, Story 1: Wolfowitz continues to stress that he "will focus on measures to boost economic growth, cut poverty and clamp down on graft around the globe."

March 30, Story 1: The EU gave Wolfowitz "a green light on Wednesday by calling him the "incoming president of the World Bank" on the eve of a board meeting to choose a new head of the development bank."

March 31, Story 1: The EU backed Wolfowitz's nomination as World Bank chief Wednesday as the "US deputy defense secretary promised to work closely with Europe and mount a major fight against global poverty… Wolfowitz refused to give an immediate pledge that he would select a European as his senior deputy, and ruffled feathers by linking aid and development to the Bush agenda of promoting political freedom and good governance. "He told us nothing and gave nothing away.""

April 1, Story 1: World Bank Executive Board "unanimously approved Paul D. Wolfowitz Thursday as the bank's next president, a move that for the first time will put a Bush administration appointee at the helm of the giant anti-poverty institution." "Europe-representing executive directors [issued a hopeful statement designed for European press] that they expect Wolfowitz to focus on poverty eradication, work in partnership, enhance the voice and participation of developing and transition countries, apply the spirit of multilateral principles and address other issues."

Now that the new king was crowned, the old king could be criticized: "[E]ven Europeans hope that Wolfowitz will bring order to the Bank's management. James Wolfensohn, the outgoing president, has been criticized for being little interested in the Bank's core business of lending [preferring the] championing [of] new programs. So the Bank has been ill-focused and plagued by mission creep."

Opinion: I will be pleasantly surprised if his tenure turns out well as my thoughts lie with The Economist, the Financial Times and The Daily Show:

The Economist: It is doubtful that Wolfowitz's zealotry, albeit in that noble cause, is right for the Bank. Its job is alleviating poverty, and the relationship between democracy and the relief of poverty is, let us say, complicated. Think of China. The Bank needs a realist more than a visionary.

The Financial Times: To put the unilateralist architect of the Iraq war in charge of the world's premier multilateral development agency is, many must think, to put a fox in charge of the chicken coop. Wolfowitz's comments on the likely costs of the Iraq war and prospective popularity of the invading forces in Iraq put his judgment in question. But, above all, the world would view a bank directed by Wolfowitz as no more than an instrument of US power and US priorities. Every piece of advice the bank gave and condition it set would be made illegitimate, in the eyes of recipients, by the perception that it served the interests of the world's "sole superpower". The impact on the bank's legitimacy would be hugely damaging.

For someone so closely identified with the Bush administration, and who has consistently made the promotion of democracy the top goal, Wolfowitz's more persistent challenge may be to demonstrate his ability to lead an institution of all the bank's members. He says he will not use the World Bank to further democracy but argues that democracy can be a side product that emerges from economic and social development. Other officials point out that, as a former cold warrior, he has long recognized the advantages of tolerating some regimes, however autocratic… Bank insiders stress the importance of delivering a consistent message across countries…

I hope that the poor will not suffer further.

Briefly Noted… The Financial Times reports that Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy secretary of defense, has emerged as a leading candidate
March 1, 2005

Briefly Noted… The New York Times reports that Carleton S. Fiorina, who lost her job as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard almost three weeks ago, has emerged as a strong candidate
March 2, 2005

Wolfowitz World Bank Shortlisting Raises Questions Over Qualifications
March 3, 2005

Nomination For Presidency Of The World Bank
Press Release
March 16, 2005

Nomination Shocks, Worries Europeans
Some Say Selection of War Proponent Could Undercut Improved U.S. Relations
By Keith B. Richburg and Glenn Frankel
Washington Post
March 17, 2005

Bush Picks Wolfowitz For New World Bank President
March 17, 2005

Views And Opinions: Wolfowitz's Nomination To World Bank Draws Praise, Criticism
March 17, 2005

Europe Cool, Aid Groups Dismayed Over World Bank Role For Wolfowitz
March 18, 2005

Commentaries and Editorials: The challenge ahead for the World Bank
March 18, 2005

Wolfowitz Strives To Quell Criticism
By Paul Blustein
Washington Post
March 21, 2005

Wolfowitz Meets World Bank Shareholders
March 21, 2005

Wolfowitz Closing In On Bank Post
March 22, 2005

Wolfowitz Dating Muslim Woman Causes Stir
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News
Wednesday, 23, March, 2005 (12, Safar, 1426)

Statement By Group Of Executive Directors On The World Bank’s Selection Process
Press Release No.:2005/397/S
March 23, 2005

EU Sees Wolfowitz As 'Serious Candidate' For World Bank Job
March 23, 2005

Statement By World Bank Executive Directors Representing EU Member Countries On Their Meeting With Paul Wolfowitz
Press Release No.:2005/401/S
March 24, 2005

Developing States Meet Wolfowitz On World Bank Job
March 24, 2005

Statement By World Bank Group’s Board Of Executive Directors On Presidential Selection
Press Release No.:2005/403/S
March 25, 2005

Wolfowitz To Meet Europeans In Luxembourg: Sources
March 25, 2005

Wolfowitz says he will focus on cutting poverty if named World Bank president
March 28, 2005

EU Calls Wolfowitz "Incoming World Bank President"
March 30, 2005

EU Ministers Back Wolfowitz Candidacy, Commitment To Make Fight Against Poverty Top Goal As World Bank Chief
March 31, 2005

Board Approves Wolfowitz as World Bank Leader
April 1, 2005

Gordon Housworth



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China: a planners' preference defense industry succeeds in spite of systemic shortcomings

  #

China's military-industrial complex is a study in contrasts. Effectively unique in the third world/developing world in that it produces a complete range of military equipment that includes "small arms, armored vehicles, fighter aircraft, warships, submarines, nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles; is one of the oldest and largest defense sectors, yet faces system shortcomings that have evinced difficulties in "translating theory and design into reliable weapon systems":

  • Technologically backwards defense industries (much indigenous design equivalent to 1970s-1980s technology
  • Critical R&D gaps (aeronautics, propulsion, microelectronics, computers, avionics, sensors and seekers, electronic warfare, and advanced materials.
  • Systems integration and program delays
  • Inefficient, wasteful production dogged by excess capacity
  • Consistently poor production quality control
  • Small and sporadic production runs
  • Inadequate funding
  • Centralized and personality-centric production management leading centralized, hierarchical, bureaucratic, and risk-averse state-owned enterprises (SOEs)

One wonders if it matters, given the criticality of the arms sector in a planners' preference economy in a postwar environment in which the PRC's political and economic evolution had outstripped a military people's doctrine perfected in WWII that came to be seen as a massive gap in power projection, international legitimacy and primacy, and an inability to exercise a "sovereign right over territories it claims as integral to the PRC." The PRC commenced a "massive drive to modernize its conventional and strategic forces to levels comparable with the [US across] the entire spectrum [of] equipment, structures and systems, doctrine and human resources" with a specific focus on:

developing limited power-projection capabilities to deal with a range of possible conflict scenarios along its periphery, especially in maritime areas. The PLA is acquiring military capabilities designed to defend Chinese sovereignty and territorial interests and, in particular, to pose a credible threat to Taiwan in order to influence Taiwan's choices about its political future; ...These capabilities are also intended to deter, delay, or complicate U.S. efforts to intervene on behalf of Taiwan."

Despite the aforementioned deficiencies, some remarkable weapons systems are now appearing that had "their genesis in design and development" decades ago:

  • Dong Feng 31 (DF-31) three-stage, solid-fuel, mobile ICBM , employing endoatmospheric decoys, and delivering a "single megaton-yield warhead or up to five multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle (MIRV) with a selectable yield of 20, 90 or 150 kilotons" at a range of 8,000 kilometers using inertial guidance with celestial nav correction to a reputed 100 meter CEP. The DF-31 places all the US west coast, all US Pacific and Indian ocean assets, all of Europe, and parts of Russia and India within range. The enhanced DF-41 will be able to target the entire US.
  • Jian-10 (J-10) fighter (based on the Israeli Lavi using US technology), improved variants of the XAIC Jianhong JH-7 (FB-7) fighter-bomber, Hongqi-9 (HQ-9) long-range SAM (based on Russian S-300P/SA-10 Grumble, US Patriot technology (ostensibly via Israel)) and preexisting Chinese systems), the Type 039 Song class) diesel-electric submarine, and the Type 052C Lanzhou Class guided missile destroyer (DDG)

Despite these remarkable accomplishments, overall defense efficiency remained low and sluggish, the result of which was an overhaul of the Chinese defense complex in the 1990s. The vast Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), created in 1982 by merger of four large defense groups, was broken up to be replaced by a General Armament Department (GAD) responsible for overseeing defense procurement and new weapons programs, in effect, becoming the PLA's purchasing office. The SOEs were reformed into eleven defense industry enterprise groups (DIEGs) intended to function as "true conglomerates, integrating R&D, production, and marketing" that would compete against one another for PLA procurement contracts thereby becoming more innovative and efficient by downsizing under a policy of "letting the strong annex the weak."

Reforms still have not introduced market forces nor have they addressed the "the lack of advanced technical skills and expertise, compartmentalization and redundancy, and a bureaucratic/risk-averse corporate culture":

  • Competitive bidding and market pricing have yet to appear in the procurement process
  • DIEGs have yet to compete with one another
  • Defense industry rationalization in both manpower and plant closures is glacial
  • Massive subsidies continue to flow to the defense sector to retire its debt

Given the desire to reach peer status with the US, one might expect the Chinese military-industrial complex to remain selectively productive yet inefficient and suboptimal overall as cubic acres of dollars are applied to deliver key components:

It could be argued [that] that simply throwing more money at the defense industry has had a considerable impact - through increasing procurement and therefore production, and by providing more funds for R&D.

Bridging the Gap: PRC Missile Modernization and the Changing Deterrence Environment
By Vijai K Nair
CHINA BRIEF
Volume 5 Issue 7 (March 29 , 2005)

The PRC's Defense Industry: Reform Without Improvement
By Richard A. Bitzinger
CHINA BRIEF
Volume 5 Issue 6 (March 15 , 2005)

A Paper Tiger No More?
The U.S. Debate over China's Military Modernization
Richard Bitzinger
Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, December 2003

Gordon Housworth



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The value of "least tech" or "most efficient tech" in subverting complex civilian systems

  #

I had a recent opportunity to comment on John Robb's The Dark Side of the Long Tail, an application of the work of Chris Anderson and others on the effects of globalization, new production tools, and the Internet in shifting market dominance in certain industries from a few providers (which in terms or warfare would be called nation states) to a long and sustaining 'tail' of niche suppliers (such as terrorists and criminal gangs).

In support of applying this shift of a "limited, truncated distribution of violence" (force projection by nation states) to various nonstate actors, Robb presented three trends:

  1. A democratization of the tools of warfare. Niche producers [are] made possible by the dislocation of globalization. All it takes to participate is a few men, some boxcutters, and a plane (as an example of simple tools combined with leverage from ubiquitous economic infrastructure).
  2. An amplification of the damage caused by niche producers of warfare. The magic of global guerrilla systems disruption which turns inexpensive attacks into major economic and social events.
  3. The acceleration of word of mouth. New groups can more easily find/train recruits, convey their message to a wide audience, and find/coordinate their activities with other groups (allies).

I offered this clarification to point 1, that the simplicity was not in the box cutter but in the elegance of the surveillance that identified a box cutter as a sufficient means to gain the ends:

I would submit that the key is not the simplicity of the box cutter but the richness and patience of the sustained surveillance that preceded the attack, a surveillance trajectory that went through a process of broad information gathering, target evaluation and selection, advanced target surveillance once selections were made, et al. Their asymmetrical surveillance process is designed to gather actionable information while reducing discovery prior to putting the attack into motion. They did not use an assault rifle because they were able to determine that a box cutter would suffice, i.e., they used no more complexity than the task demanded.

Nice datum: In a discussion of supposedly low-tech highjackers using box-cutters, the authors of Safe: The Race to Protect Ourselves in a Newly Dangerous World cautioned against such simplistic thinking, punctuating it with an example of the terrorists paying close attention to US airline procedures and airframe peculiarities. They say that they are the first to document that the hijackers found that the collision avoidance systems could be turned off in a Boeing but not in an Airbus, thus they only hijacked Boeings.

In their surveillance, they were anything but simplistic, and it is that surveillance maturation that I submit that we are not now attempting to detect and counter. Such a failure will only guarantee the arrival of one or more shooter teams.

Robb agreed, noting that:

Terrorists are increasingly able to substitute thinking for weaponry. This is done by transforming civilian systems into weapons. In this new model low tech weapons + good planning + complex civilian systems = an attack on par in damage with the best weapons systems of the western world.

My follow-on was:

Agree with the concept of "transforming civilian systems into weapons" as it offers maximum efficiency at minimized cost and risk of disclosure and execution. For your readers, however, I would like to substitute "least tech" or "most efficient tech" in your equation of 'low tech weapons + good planning + complex civilian systems = an attack on par…' as we cannot lull ourselves into believing that adversaries will only use low tech solutions (augmentations) in order to achieve their aims.

11 September is an excellent example in identifying generic control of a flight deck for terrorist aims as the critical path to success, not necessarily a low tech process. Box cutters were only a means to gain access to, and control of, the flight deck. Following is a snippet from an earlier Low risk terrorist access to the flight deck:

"Terrorist supply chains, or asymmetrical attacker Supply chains, are not built for commercial efficiency but for detection avoidance at least until the attack is in progress. The terrorist risk calculus is not based so much on survival as on mission success. In terms of using aircraft as weapons, the critical path in the terrorist chains has been access to, and control of, the flight deck. [The] plan that matured into the 11 September airliner attacks started as the attempted purchase of light twin aircraft that were to be modified for aerial spraying (but in this case the liquid tanks were intended to transport flammable materials onto the target rather than spraying). Only when that plan failed, did the attackers turn to airliners. Control of the flight deck remained the critical path element.

Post 11 September, airline passengers are now alert to the fact that they will be part of the missile, rather than being held for some form of ransom, and so are much more likely to resist the hijackers. Given that risk to mission success, where is the next least defended flight deck? Three that come to mind are: Freight and cargo aircraft, Bizjets and executive jets, and Medivac and executive helicopters."

In closing I noted that this was not a scenario-based analysis but a risk-based process analysis. Scenario planning is consumptive of resources, ultimately paralytic as to 'protect everything is to protect nothing,' yet usually misses the scenario that delivers the payload.

Safe: The Race to Protect Ourselves in a Newly Dangerous World
Martha Baer, Katrina Heron, Oliver Morton, & Evan Ratliff
HarperCollins, 2005

Gordon Housworth



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"Minus the landmines," a southern US border reminiscent of Iraq

  #

That US Customs could be "stunned" to detect a 200 yard tunnel with a "cement floor and an intercom system [passing under] two streets and an apartment complex" from Mexicali to Calexico, CA, is curious as when I last wrote on this matter a year ago, the DEA had analyzed 21 complete and incomplete tunnel systems, some 1000 feet long with reinforced construction, cart and rail systems, lights and ventilation. 20 of 21 were near ports of entry in Arizona and California (as New Mexico has few border towns to act as a terminus and Texas has the Rio Grande River). (See While we're looking the other way -- tunnels?).

Proceeding similarly unabated is the brazen overland traffic in the no-mans land of Arizona's Naco strip is so severe that DHS has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for border surveillance. Compare this recent observation with earlier reports in Other than Mexican: from the Triborder area to the Naco strip:

it’s hard to communicate how totally out of control the situation has gotten. Think back to the LA riots. If you were out in the street when all hell was breaking loose — would you have felt safe? The border area is less dynamic, but still very dangerous. Automatic gunfire is a common sound. Seeing dope mules with Ak47’s work drug loads over the border is a common sight. [W]hile I realize that the idea of wearing a weapon just to walk around sounds kooky, and even dangerous, your readers have to understand how totally out of control this place is. I can honestly say – it is as dangerous as the Iraq/Iran border — minus the landmines.

US-Mexican relations bifurcated in a post 11 September world in which the US became fixated on border security as Mexico retained its focus on the free Northward flow of migrant workers that provided an essential social safety valve while remitting significant sums back to family members in Mexico. While some question improved US skills in monitoring and interdicting illegal entrants, Mexico is ramping up its efforts to keep its nationals flowing north.

As the southern border tightens and US attention to a guest-worker program fades, President Vicente Fox has described the US 'anti-immigrant' measures as "the work of "minority, xenophobic, discriminatory groups" who do not recognize the contributions of the three million Mexicans who work illegally in the United States."

The Mexican foreign ministry had published (and may still publish) upwards a million copies of a practical self-help Spanish language guide in illustrated comic book form for migrants planning a trip north - and still maintains the book on the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores' website. The booklet deals with the dangers of scouting and crossing the river, food and clothing for desert trekking, heat and sunstroke, concerns over smugglers called coyotes or polleros, impacts of using false documents or lying to authorities, passive escape attempts but if apprehended a thorough description of their rights under US law. There is also a radio station, La Poderosa XERF 1570 AM, for updates.

Mexico seems resistant to recognizing that its migrants are but one of four streams heading north, each with its own threats to the US, and that until the others are contained, its migrants will also be restrained: 

  • 'Conventional economic migrant worker flow
  • "Other Than Mexican" (OTM) illegal alien category, i.e., "other than Mexico or other central and South American countries" non-Latin categories as diverse as Asian and Middle Eastern
  • Drug shipments by any means
  • Terrorists from al Qaeda and its affiliates

The problems along the border are so severe along the Arizona border that an unarmed civilian patrol called the Minuteman Project has been formed to provide a visual alert that US federal assets cannot, a step which the NY Times describes as "alarming," an adjective I accept only in describing the nature of the uncontained threat but not the Minuteman concept itself. Notice that federal authorities are not complaining, nor are they contemplating the kind of legal challenges to the Minutemen that the Mexican government are raising.

One only has to follow the money from South America's Tri-Border area (TBA) northward to wonder 'when, how many, and how often' and not 'if.' I urge readers to the reference citations of the earlier note for substantive background - and the fact that while most US border patrol officers will only speak under anonymity, a local Border Patrol station stated for the record, "Our policy is to turn any OTM's over to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security" -- some 5,510 from Oct 2003 to July 2004.

Southern migration has morphed from an economic to a security issue and it will only worsen in the near to medium term.

At Mexican Border, Tunnels, Vile River, Rusty Fence
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
New York Times
March 23, 2005

GUÍA DEL MIGRANTE MEXICANO
Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores
Mexico

Interview with John Smallberries, Minuteman Project Volunteer
LaShawn Barber
Mar 15, 2005

Mexican migrant activists brace for Arizona anti-migrant patrols as Mexican goverment plans legal action
March 1, 2005
Associated Press/North County Times

Gordon Housworth



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