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The reality of competing spheres of influence: bin Laden and the US


I return often to the theory of competing spheres of influence. Just as I said 30 years ago to my astonished intel colleagues that if the Soviet Union became a robber baron capitalist government overnight, they would still be an adversary because we have competing spheres of influence. In the late 90s, I added, "Only Russia's current impotence and internal absorption blunts that."

In February 2000 private note, I said that, "The PRC expects to "recover" SE Asia as well as Taiwan, dominate the Western Pacific including Korea and the South China Sea, not to mention a contested quarter-million square miles of Russian Federation territory." I said this of the Chinese in a private note in January 2001:

This is a chronic American weakness. We didn't, and still don't, understand the Japanese (as we vacillate between under and overestimation) nor do we understand the long Chinese view... The Chinese have a mission; we are in the way of that mission; and they know that [then in a post-Vietnam and a pre-11 September world] we are currently gutless about shedding our own blood. I could see them working up through a series of events that test us on Taiwan. I cannot overstate their outrage over the insertion of the Sixth Fleet into the Taiwan Straits. The Chinese will not take that too many more times and I think that the Taiwanese know that as they are now asking for enough weaponry from the US to buy them another decade plus of independent defense against a Chinese thrust. The Japanese are, of course, watching, knowing that the moment we flinch over Taiwan, the US nuclear umbrella over Japan just folded, and they have to go (openly) nuclear.

I now say the same thing with regards to al Qaeda; that we have competing spheres of influence that are irresolvable other than by a massive application of force or a cooperative, genuine hearts and minds campaign of which the US has never shown sufficient patience. See my note Cure, Kill, or Contain which speaks to a testing approach to see where, and how far, a protagonist is willing to go in resolving an intractable issue.

In that note, I state that, "If the protagonist is socialized and rational, he or she rarely has, or feels that they can muster, the sustained political will, human resources, and capital flow to enforce a Cure (solve root cause) or Kill (eliminate the problem) strategy and so reverts to the muddle of Containment." It also helps if all protagonists share some kernel of similar culture and value system, as when they do not the Cure and Kill strategies have little or no match to those of their opponent(s).

In the case of bin Laden, his Al Qaeda organization has been consistent from the onset in the first two of the following three complaints against the US and the West, adding the third when it suited bin Laden's political goals:

  1. Supporting tyrannical governments in Muslim states
  2. Continuing presence and influence in the Arabian peninsula
  3. Supporting Israel which is regarded as a "crusader outpost"

The US is not about to decamp the Middle East or yield an interest in sustaining the House of Saud and thus a stable supply of energy. Al Qaeda perceives that we are the linchpin of support that prevent it from achieving its demands, and knows that if it cannot attack us, that they will attack the House of Saud. Until we yield on all three points, they will continue to bear animus against us. There is no room for compromise. They can only "kill" us and more important have the internal political will and support to do so. We, as yet, do not and so are at an immense disadvantage.

I believe that this tracks well with the comments of Michael Scheuer, ex-head of the bin Laden station and author of Imperial Hubris. Scheuer noted that we don't understand the scope, size, and lethality of al Qaeda; that it is now an insurgent organization, larger than a terrorist group, and vastly more than mere criminals or gangsters; and that it has survived into a new generation despite a massive US response, i.e., our business-as-usual force on force approach is not working despite the fact that we've not suffered an attack since 11 September.

The Misunderstood Osama offers a nice summary of Hubris under the topics:

  • Osama Doesn't Hate Our Freedom
  • Osama Isn't a Madman
  • Muslims Listen to Jerry Falwell
  • Muslims Listen to CENTCOM Briefings
  • We Lost Afghanistan
  • Training Camps: Not Just for Terrorists Anymore!
  • The Problems of Hubris

It is about time to get serious -- correctly serious. Dick Clark observes that the 9/11 commission's structural changes to the intel community are necessary but not sufficient. While Clark compliments it for threat specificity, that it is not "terrorism (which is a tactic, not an enemy), but as Islamic jihadism [which has specific ideas and goals], which must be defeated in a battle of ideas as well as in armed conflict, that we must go farther to:

  • Overhaul FBI and CIA "hiring and promotion practices to attract workers who don't suffer" 'failures of imagination'
  • Place CIA analysts in an agency that is independent from DO which collects intel so to avoid 'groupthink'
  • Create a "larger and more capable commando force for covert antiterrorism work, along with a network of agents and front companies working under "nonofficial cover'' - that is, without diplomatic protection - to support the commandos"
  • Aid "economic development and political openness in Muslim countries"
  • Restart the Israel-Palestinian peace process [without the US monomaniacal support of Israel]
  • Create a genuine hearts and minds campaign "to expose the Islamic world to values that are more attractive than those of the jihadists"

Bin Laden and the jihadists have learned how to kill us in both idea and body. We must learn the same. Immediately. Stephen Flynn notes that we are still "dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil" and that one a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 was the bulls-eye of 11 September and 10 is safe, that we are at a 3, still a "failing grade."

Honorable Commission, Toothless Report
New York Times
25 July, 2004

The Misunderstood Osama
How to read Imperial Hubris
By Bryan Curtis
Posted Wednesday, July 14, 2004, at 10:52 AM PT

Gordon Housworth

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Wilderness of Mirrors: Inexcusable blunder or marvelous disinformation


It was startling to read in Bin Laden's Inner Circle Eludes CIA that the CIA said that it has -- not had, as in rolled up or withdrawn -- intel agents of Afghan, Pakistani, and Uzbek nationality, managed by CIA handlers, in the middle ranks of the al Qaeda organization.

While it would not be the first time that individuals or organizations have chosen to save themselves at the expense of field agents, if true, it is an Inexcusable blunder that will put lives at risk and terminate presumably useful streams of operational intel:

This is the first time that CIA officials have publicly described with such specificity the placing of agents and other steps aimed at cracking al Qaeda -- the sort of information that the agency generally guards very closely. They made the revelations as part of a response to the stern criticism of the agency this week by the Sept. 11 commission. It portrayed U.S. intelligence as having failed dramatically before the 2001 attacks, largely because it lacked significant sources of human intelligence about bin Laden's organization.

If it is false, but put forward timed to coincide with the publishing of the 9/11 Commission findings (of which the agency has long been aware of its general directions and so could plant a "sprignal" or spurious signal under the guise of political pressure, it is marvelous disinformation that could set al Qaeda to cannibalizing its ranks in a search for nonexistent double agents.

I admit to a certain hope that we could unleash a jihadist James Jesus Angleton (long serving head of CIA's counterintelligence division who produced some significant turmoil in the agency during his long search for infiltrated KGB moles) to create another "Wilderness of Mirrors" within the al Qaeda organization:

"Past espionage operations resemble a wilderness of mirrors, all reflecting on the future." Attributed to James Jesus Angleton, CIA counterintelligence chief, in a remark to his close friend President Kennedy in 1963. He had been asked about Kim Philby's defection to Moscow.

This had better be false, or false in some essential facet that I have not seen reported, or be the superb disinformation that I hope it to be. If it is true, then that is a disclosure that beggars the uncloaking of Valerie Plame.

Bin Laden's Inner Circle Eludes CIA
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 24, 2004; Page A10

Gordon Housworth

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Key US military operational superiority imperiled by Russian military exports


Whatever the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the R&D production of state-of-the-art military technologies was not one of them, a fact that escapes most lay observers when they examine an operational Russian military in otherwise disarray. Only buyers and attendees at international weapons trade shows know that Russia sells superior military technology that, in dollar-denominated terms, greatly undersell their Western counterparts. Despite its economic woes, Russia has continued to devote funds to its military-industrial complex for three reasons:

  • Weapons exports earn hard currency. Whereas frontline equipment was retained in Soviet inventory, and second tier equipment offered for export, the drive for hard currency has seen the best of Russian weapons exported, often with very fuzzy export credentials. Russia lags only the US in military exports.
  • Russia is re-exerting its control over the "near abroad" states of the former USSR, states which Russia considers to see as its suzerain, an effort noted in the former NATO-confrontation states and the energy states among the Stans.
  • Russia shares the Chinese view of the value of a "multipolar" state environment that is able to act beyond the limits of a sole superpower and so must have the military equipment able to allow it to project force in the near abroad and internationally.

One of the most prodigious buyers of frontline Russian technology is the PRC, and their aircraft of choice is the Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker, a long-range precision-attack fighter similar in mission profile to the US F-15E Eagle. This same aircraft has been sold to India and is now being manufactured there. It is the Su-30, flying with IAF (Indian Air Force) pilots that recently outflew US-made F-15 aircraft piloted by US pilots in a bilateral dissimilar air combat (DACT) exercise, Cope India 2004 at Gawalior, India in Feb 2004, prompting the USAF to acknowledge a "wake-up call":

During Cope India 2004 the USAF F-15Cs were tasked with the defense of Gawalior AF Base. The Indian Air Forces aircraft were tasked with attacking Gawalior. Miarage 2000s, Su-30Ks, MiG-29 and MiG-21 Bis escorted the Indian strike force consisting of MiG-27s. For some reason, possibly security concerns raised by the Indians, the F-15Cs operated without an AWACS. That one factor probably leveled the playing field for the Americans

Forced to rely on Indian ground radars and / or their own airborne radars the F-15Cs must have felt crippled. Their misery was probably compounded by the fact that the attack force enjoyed overwhelming numerical superiority. The F-15C pilots would have been easily overwhelmed by multiple targets detected minutes before they came into visual range.

The US depends upon a combination of pilot skill, maneuverability, avionics, and AWACS C2 in order to assure victory. Reduced to maneuverability, US pilots were outclassed in the majority of their engagements, a fact that was not lost on the Chinese who have long felt that the US is overly reliant on electronic command & control systems. Interrupt that C2 or C3 and an appropriately trained Chinese pilot in an Su-30 could outfly and US carrier-based F-16.

US forces could similarly face Russian technology in an engagement in the Taiwan Straits. Long a leader in mach-level cruise missiles, the USSR built the Mach-3 3M82 Moskit, NATO code named SS-N-22 Sunburn, specifically to attack US carrier battle groups armed with Aegis fleet defense systems. In the aftermath of an insertion of a US carrier battle group in the Taiwan Straits, the Chinese went on a buying spree that included the Sunburn and specialized Russian Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers to deliver them.

When the US and USSR divided a bipolar world and were able to constrain their client states, frontline technology was reserved for their respective armed forces and each state could reasonably assure that only lesser weapons variants were available for export to foreign states, large or small. In the current environment, the US can expect to face frontline Russian weapons systems in the hands of second and third tier states.

Russian military technology fights back
By Yevgeny Bendersky
Asia Times
July 23, 2004

India's top guns head for the US
Asia Times
June 24, 2004
By Siddharth Srivastava

On Eve of Japan Delegation's Arrival in Washington, Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Is High
By Jeremy Torobin and Justin Rood, CQ Staff
July 19, 2004 - 9:53 p.m.

Gordon Housworth

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Dry runs and security probes of domestic airliners: the aftermath of Northwest 327


My contribution to the 9/11 Commission report is to present you what I believe has a hair-raising thread of consistent oversights regarding airline security, but you will have to work for it and read the citations.

Start with the New York Times' What Really Happened on Flight 327?, specifically the June 29 incident aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles. Separate the author's description of the facts and her interpretation of the facts, for even if her interpretation is off, the comments back to her by pilots and flight attendants are disturbing in and of themselves.

Second, move to the source documents that started it by Annie Jacobsen, a financial writer for Her first item was Terror in the Skies, Again? on 16 July, followed by Part II: Terror in the Skies, Again? on 20 July.

Third, go to Clinton Taylor's The Syrian Wayne Newton - The man inadvertently behind a scare in the skies who took up the effort to actually track down the "Middle Eastern Men" which validates some of Jacobsen's data.

Last, and with trepidation, I send you to the Washington Times' Scouting jetliners for new attacks. I say 'with trepidation' as any paper that has a neoconservative, genuinely hawkish editorial masthead and is owned by News World Communications which is owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church always gives me pause. Still, it is the only article that speaks of a February 15 incident on American Airlines Flight 1732 from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to New York, New York.

The central theme that I take, at a minimum, is the net direction of the comments of pilots and flight attendants as to test probes on flights -- such as rushing the flight deck and suddenly stopping to flush out sky marshals, and the lack of training given to attendants. This is a 'work in progress' that I continue to follow and I will advise as I obtain better information. I leave it to you to form your own opinions.

What Really Happened on Flight 327?
New York Times
July 20, 2004

Terror in the Skies, Again?
By Annie Jacobsen
July 16, 2004

Part II: Terror in the Skies, Again?
By Annie Jacobsen
July 20, 2004

The Syrian Wayne Newton
The man inadvertently behind a scare in the skies.
By Clinton W. Taylor
National Review Online
July 21, 2004, 7:21 p.m.

Scouting jetliners for new attacks
By Audrey Hudson
July 21, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Jihadists extend kidnapping and implied beheading down the coalition supply chain


Jihadists are nothing if not clever and inventive in their approach to asymmetrical warfare against the US -- and it is the US that is the ultimate target of the current kidnappings as it is the Snow White among largely coalition Dwarfs. The jihadist approach in both Iraq and Saudi Arabia has been to progressively move from hard to soft to softer targets, the latter made especially 'soft' by both physical and domestic political vulnerability.

Recapping the progression, jihadists and Feydayeen quickly withdrew from direct force on force confrontations with US/UK/Coalition assets early in the war, shifting to a guerrilla war mode that then shifted into an extensive use of roadside Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) as the anchor of an ambush strategy. In short order. attacks extended to antipersonnel strikes on US commercial and contract security assets then, in Saudi Arabia, the attack profile shifted into the soft targets of civilian compounds and commercial office blocks while the attacks in Iraq shifted to nascent Iraqi defense forces and civil authorities.

Beheadings of US nationals started with Daniel Pearl, kidnapped in Pakistan, January 2002, and executed shortly after. In retrospect, it is surprising that the mode of execution did not more quickly migrate to Iraq, but the archetype was in place albeit seemingly isolated outside the Iraqi theater.

The Atocha train attacks in Madrid, March 2004, while physically "out-of-theater," were still directly in the coalition supply chain's critical path, and quickly showed insurgents that they could collapse a sovereign government leading to the withdrawal of a coalition member's forces from theater. Jihadists turned to attacking other coalition assets from Italy and other minor coalition members. By April 2004, insurgent websites were carrying targeting priorities against Western individuals, as opposed to infrastructure.

It should be noted that the sahl, the mutilation and burning leading to dismemberment, of four Blackwater employees in Falluja was a spontaneous local initiative after the attacking mujahideen had departed. Once done, and the imagery repeatedly broadcast on Western and Arab media, the event raised the general threat level while giving the insurgents an added reason for protracted physical violence.

The kidnappings and beheadings of Nick Berg in Iraq and Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia shifted the strategy yet again into a protracted killing coupled with collateral sensitizing of domestic audiences in both the US and other involved nations. The retention of Johnson's severed head in a refrigerator at the home of Saleh al-Awfi, al Qaeda's leader in Saudi Arabia, indicates to me that the jihadists recognize the value of retaining the severed head, at least as so long as the media continues to remark upon it, as a tool to further unhook wavering countries and their nationals.

Kidnapping and beheadings extended to Korean and Bulgarian nationals, but as yet have not caused their governments to withdraw. Jihadists then kidnapped Filipino drivers under threat of beheading and so forced Manila to withdraw its forces from Iraq. (While the Philippines were scheduled to shortly rotate their troops out, it was clear that the kidnappings forced a pell mell extraction.)

Moving down the coalition supply chain, jihadists have now kidnapped nationals of Indian, Kenyan, and Egypt, all countries which do not have coalition forces in theater but rather purely commercial support personnel such as drivers. Insurgents are now demanding that these countries withdraw their nationals, and any commercial effort that is seen to support coalition forces. It is hard, or very expensive, to support a 160,000-member coalition force in theater if you can not get them fed. Having outsourced these support roles to reduce costs and coalition troop exposure, we have merely transmitted the risk to these subcontractors who may have a very different political calculus in remaining.

Expect to see a marked rise in twinned kidnapping/beheading threats wherever foreign and US nationals are exposed and undefended. (While three Japanese nationals were kidnapped but later released without concession, I would expect Japan to come under renewed attack.) There are far too many human targets who are far too dispersed to be easily and uniformly protected. We have a significant flaw in the critical path of our coalition supply chain that will not be easily resolved.

Militant Group Says It Has Six Foreign Hostages in Iraq
By Ravi Nessman
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 21, 2004; 12:02 PM

Head of slain U.S. hostage found in fridge
Wed 21 July, 2004 14:49
By Fahd al-Frayyan

HOME RULE: A dangerous excursion into the heart of the Sunni opposition
by Nir Rosen
New Yorker
Issue of 2004-07-05
Posted 2004-06-28

Gordon Housworth

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The brothel of infidel powers: Blow of the pious Muslim speaks of the United Nations


Given that the US faces a more grim and immediate threat from a determinedly nuclear Pakistan that deorbits the War on Terror, and that there have been three close attempts on Musharraf's life - two by suicide attacks, I am perpetually astonished that Southwest Asian politics are so thinly, slowly, and sporadically reported in the high street news of the US and Europe (bit better in Europe but not substantially better).

Good coverage can be found, examples being Lahore's The Friday Times by the likes of Najam Sethi and Mohammad Shehzad, Hong Kong's Asia Times by Syed Shahzad, and the South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) edited by K.P.S. Gill (Indian Police Service retired). (For example, there is a good series, now in its fifth installment, in Asia Times by Nir Rosen -- Fallujah: Inside the Iraqi Resistance.)

My impression is that like so many info streams that purport to be news, the US/EU press give the illusion of being informed without the ability to act. At a minimum, it will concentrate the mind to get into the head of our Muslim jihadist adversaries in order to see the nature of the threat that will not be easily removed. One such piece is Mohammad Shehzad's Pakistan's Jehadi press reviewed.

The weekly Zarb-e-Momin (Blow of the pious Muslim) covers most of the bases, I believe, in a single issue:

  • Issues an edict that "any act of cooperation with US over war on Iraq is a major sin"
  • Asks all Muslims to "unite and wage jihad against America and Britain"
  • Demands the Jamali administration "to stop its operation against al-Qaeda suspects and release all the mujahideen so they can fight the US in Afghanistan"
  • Takes all Muslim nations to task "for not detonating the "oil bomb," [observing that] "Muslims may be technologically backward but they can subjugate the world through the weapon of oil" Ironically, they are naive and can’t make a smart use of the ‘oil wealth’."
  • Castigates all Islamic heads of state as "running with the hare and hunting with the hounds [having] sold their loyalties to the US
  • Condemns Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan for having shed their "faith in God"
  • Declaring that the next US target will be the holy shrine of the Ka’aba in Mecca

Shehzad was fond of these Zarb-e-Momin observations:

Kabul took the decision to release Pakistani Taliban after it was cleared by Washington.

The United Nations is the "brothel" of infidel powers. It panders to the lust of Jews and Christians. The Muslim world should set up a UN-style organisation or be ready to face the fury of non-believers!

After the US attack on Iraq, jihad has become mandatory on every man and woman. Those who will not comply will cease to be Muslims.

But even this doesn't reach the visceral level of the monthly Zarb-e-Tayyaba (The Holy Blow) which profiles selected "holy warriors" in each issue. Its March 2003 issue runs hagiographic over an ""emotional holy warrior" who is so impatient and fond of cutting the throats of the Hindus" that he is uncontrollable:

The "emotional" boy runs away from home and joins [Jamat-ud] Dawa’s guerrilla training camp in Muzaffarabad. Within 21 days, he becomes a commando. "After becoming a mujahid, I realised that I owned the world," says the boy, adding: "When I kill the Hindus, I feel as if the blood of Mohammad bin Qasim is running through my veins and I have come closer to Allah. "The happiest moment of my life was slaughtering the Hindu General Haman, an extremely cruel and cunning army officer. I kidnapped him and brought him to my camp. He was licking my boots and begging for his life. He was even ready to embrace Islam. But I knew he was a liar. I took my sharp knife and started cutting his throat. He was screaming and I was enjoying cutting his throat. The blood was gushing out like a fountain from his throat. The sight gave me immense pleasure. I kept on cutting his throat until he died. My commander was very happy with me. He kissed my forehead and I became his blue-eyed boy!"

Shehzad notes that Zarb-e-Tayyaba urges adolescents and young men to emulate this "emotional holy warrior."

IF I still have you, I hope that you have a more grounded view of Musharraf's opposition and the nexus to which Pakistan could move should he be killed. In closing, Pakistan is estimated to have more than 25 operational nuclear weapons. Is it any wonder that the US, Israel, and India run simulations, individually and collectively, in order to "stabilize" those fissile packages in the event that their security is compromised.

This time Iraq thrown in - Pakistan's Jehadi press reviewed
Pakistan's Jihadi Press
Mohammad Shehzad
The Friday Times
March 27 2003

Fallujah: Inside the Iraqi Resistance
Part 5: The Tongue of the Mujahideen
Nir Rosen
July 22, 2004

Asia Times

The Friday Times

South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR)

Gordon Housworth

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Pakistan's HVTs may yet deliver the US election; if not, it will not be for want of trying, or of administration urging


I am one of those that believe that Pakistan is "one bullet away from regime change" and the change will not be to our liking. We must remember that Pakistan "made the Taliban" in that they funded, trained, and protected it in return for the security of not having to fight a two-front war, access to energy sources in the Stans, and a conservative religious view that was, and is still, shared by many in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's intelligence agency. Musharraf faces significant resistance in his support of the US war on terror, both at home in the south and more so in the tribal areas of Waziristan that have long been a law into their own.

Despite all the domestic political forces in opposition, Musharraf has been driving into the historically autonomous tribal areas for five months (the "bat" to the US "glove") with the US providing intel and surveillance as well as massive friendly arm-twisting that Lyndon Johnson easily recognize. The target is what had been called the "November surprise" but with administration ratings falling in the polls, the pressure has been moved forward to the "July surprise" -- killing or capturing the High Value Targets (HVTs), known as bin Laden, al Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar during the Democratic National Convention.

Evidence of that military push is now being seen in the thousands of Afghan refugees, many having lived in Pakistan for decades, fleeing back into Afghanistan either due to increased fighting between Pakistani forces and a group of determined foreign fighters, or to Pakistani expulsion in order to reduce possible support to the insurgents.

While Pakistan has been awarded the coveted status of non-NATO ally, it has not yet received the F-16 aircraft that it has requested nor has been hauled into the dock for the A.Q. Khan proliferation affair, being allowed -- for now -- to treat it as an "internal matter," Pakistan had reason to favor a Republican administration as the political wisdom there is that democratic administrations tilt towards India.

While Michael Scheuer, the "anonymous" CIA author of Imperial Hubris, notes that he is unaware of US pressure being linked to the presidential elections, various ISI members quoted in the local press offer a very different story, even going so far as to state that "a White House aide told [ISI director, Lt.Gen Ehsan] ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston."

George Tenet, Cofer Black, Colin Powell, and [Assistant SecState] Christina Rocca have journeyed to Pakistan to lobby for increased activity against the insurgents. And while the Pakistanis have rebuked the comments of the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, that Pakistan has failed "to stop cross-border infiltration by al Qaeda and Taliban rebels into Afghanistan," Khalilzad continues to keep up the pressure on Islamabad.

Pakistani military incursions that got underway in earnest in March 2004 have culminated in the June killing of the Nek Mohammed, a Taliban warlord and ally of bin Laden and al Zawahiri, who had been instrumental "in supplying foreign fighters and Afghan resistance figures in the tribal areas with hideouts, rations and recruits."

Whatever the reasons, it appears that Pakistani military efforts in the tribal areas have reached an unprecedented high level.

July Surprise?
by John B. Judis, Spencer Ackerman & Massoud Ansari
New Republic
Post date: 07.07.04
Issue date: 07.19.04

Pakistan gets its man - dead
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times
June 19, 2004

Afghan Refugees Forced to Flee in Push by Pakistani Army
New York Times
July 20, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Hegemons come and go: a renewing Chinese hegemon eyes a mature US hegemon


In discussion of the trio of notes regarding the Chinese diplomatic initiative described first as "Peaceful Rise" and now as "Peaceful Development," colleagues questioned its implied relationship between economic and military action.

Returning to "The fall of Peaceful Rise" I noted that the Chinese perceive the moderate Peaceful Rise -- Peaceful Development as a ‘permanent’ approach so long as Washington demonstrates a "constructive U.S. response to the moderate Chinese approach." One must presume that a different US policy would occasion a different Chinese policy.

Translations of Chinese open source literature paint an intriguing view of the Sino American relationship:

  • The US is a hegemonic power that is "a major obstacle and competitor for influence in Asia"
  • The US is a superpower in decline, losing global economic, political, and military influence
  • China aspires to be a "major international power and the dominant power in Asia. To that end, China is actively pursuing a multipolar world where it could align with other rising powers such as Russia, Japan, and Europe in order to check or challenge U.S. power"
  • China can counter US power by its pursuit of a multipolar world "where it could align with other rising powers such as Russia, Japan, and Europe"
  • Maintain stable and good relations with the US as it is "an important market for Chinese goods and an important source of science and technology, financial capital, and foreign direct investment--all central components of China’s rising status and strength"
  • "Although technologically superior in almost every area of military power, [the US] can be defeated, most particularly, in a fight over Taiwan in which China controls the timing"
  • Al Qaeda's 11 September attack changed only China’s approach to the US but not the fundamentals of its vision

Other key findings, many driven by the US end of the relationship, are:

  • The US has "dedicated insufficient resources to collect, translate, and analyze Chinese writings and statements [and so] has a limited understanding of the perceptions of the United States held by Chinese leaders and the Chinese people"
  • China sought WTO membership as a means "to continue China’s rapid economic growth, which they consider essential to become a major power"
  • China aims to "deter the United States from effectively intervening in any Chinese use of force against Taiwan"
  • The Sino American bilateral relationship is uncoordinated on the US end and lacks the "necessary permanent institutions for managing and resolving conflicts. At worst, current U.S. practices have the effect of supporting Chinese efforts to enhance science, economic, financial and technology bases without adequate oversight within our government."
  • China consistently characterizes the US as a "hegemon" "connoting a powerful protagonist and overbearing bully that is China’s major competitor"
  • China employs a strategic view and military planning very different from our own, emphasizing "nontraditional and asymmetrical techniques designed to enable an inferior power to defeat a superior one."
  • The Sino American relationship lacks the confidence-building measures (CBMs) that China has put in place with "India, Russia and the ASEAN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization"

Through all this, commercial firms on both sides of the Pacific must continue to do business from the present through the long term. For US firms, I submit that the key is doing that profitably, in spite the contested political atmosphere, while protecting their strategic position and the intellectual property assets that are the foundation of future profits.

CHINA’S PERCEPTIONS OF THE USA: The View from Open Sources
U.S.-China Commission
Dr. Michael Pillsbury
October 19, 2001

U.S.-China Commission
Michael Pillsbury
November 2, 2001

The National Security Implications Of The Economic Relationship Between The United States And China
Report To Congress Of The U.S. - China Security Review Commission
July 2002

China’s Closing Window Of Opportunity
Justin Bernier and Stuart Gold
Naval War College Review, Summer, Vol. LVI, No. 3
Naval War College 2003

Gordon Housworth

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Looking past a pandemic tipping point: cease hand ringing and prepare for 37 million dead


By the close of the third day, midway, of the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, I was struck by the thought that AIDS will get out of hand despite the attention being given to it and the valiant effort of the few. When I considered the vast array of purely regional vectors and societal, cultural, structural, technical, and political enablers favoring the spread of the disease, I felt that the pandemic was going to happen and that we should begin planning for 37 million dead and its political and defense-related aftermath.

Speaking in military terms, these 37 million dead will not come from the immediate combat casualty category but from the 'severely wounded' category that require substantial support from their comrades over a long period of time and so place an additional burden on a society or an army to fulfill its primary mission.

Just as war brings disease in its wake, so will this generation of AIDS bring more virulent resistant strains of the disease, and the growth/reemergence of new diseases such as active (airborne) tuberculosis. For my view, I think economic decline, societal stress and ostracism, and complicated regional and international defense issues.

AIDS in Africa has taught us that local governments and societies can ignore a disease and its impacts just as successfully as the supposedly distant, well-to-do first world societies.

Epidemiologists believe that 1 percent is the tipping point for a society with AIDS at which point the pandemic gets seriously underway and becomes vastly more difficult to halt. Some Asian nations are already "hovering around one percent" while "many countries have prevalence rates less than one percent."

Using new statistical methods that reduce overestimation in urban areas and underestimation in rural areas, the UN derived an infection estimate of 37.8 million, varying from 34.6 million to 42.3 million. Some stats:

  • Worldwide 2003 AIDS infection rates were was the highest of any year since the epidemic was identified
  • 20 million dead since 1981, 2.6 million in 2003
  • One in four of some 4.8 million new infections in 2003 occurred in Asia, up from one in five in 2001
  • African AIDS will be bypassed by that of Asia where it is rising rapidly in China, Indonesia and Vietnam
  • India will shortly overtake South Africa for the title of greatest number of infected individuals, 5.1 million
  • Some Asian nations could reach the level of 20 percent or more already reported in parts of Africa

Asian infections are just now moving into the general population from the risk groups of intravenous drug users, prostitution providers and consumers, and homosexuals. Current Asian current prevention strategies effectively miss the greatest risk category --women, who lack the abstinence option and cannot control their husbands extramarital sexual practices. I expect Asia to track and exceed the African condition in which the highest infection rates are among women.

The "lack of" category sees no bounds:

  • Trained health care professionals (Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates fewer than 100 doctors in China with sufficient training to be able to diagnose and treat HIV infection and AIDS)
  • Treatment standards responsive to the needs of different epidemics in the region
  • Access to experimental therapeutics
  • Enhanced prevention efforts, improved health care infrastructure
  • Increased government, industry, and community engagement in HIV/AIDS
  • Wider availability of lower cost generic anti-HIV. drugs
  • Control over proliferation of generic drugs devoid of adequate quality control and supervision

I hope that I am wrong in this projection, but the trajectory that I see indicates otherwise. I would plan accordingly.

Expanded Availability of HIV/AIDS Drugs in Asia Creates Urgent Need for Trained Doctors
TREAT Asia Special Report
July 2004

U.N. Report Shows Concern Over Rise of H.I.V. in Asia
New York Times
Published: July 7, 2004

Companies in Asia Rush to Produce Anti-H.I.V. Drugs
New York Times
Published: July 7, 2004

Devastated by AIDS, Africa Sees Life Expectancy Plunge
New York Times
July 16, 2004

Mandela Appeals to AIDS Conference to Extend Fight to TB
New York Times
July 16, 2004

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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The fall of Peaceful Rise, or has it?


As a term, if not a policy, "peaceful rise" fell short of the earth orbit of Chinese foreign policy orthodoxy expressions such as "one country, two systems" and "peace and development." "Rise" (jueqi) was opposed for setting domestic expectations that could not be met and could backfire, and causing regional upset over China's emerging hegemony. "Peaceful" (heping) could deny China the military option to recover Taiwan, sending a mistaken signal to Taiwan that it could proceed, and was not applicable to relations with Japan as it was with the US and India.

Former president Jiang Zemin remains firmly in control in China, not least from his control of the PLA, notwithstanding his 2002 handover of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) head and President to Hu Jintao. Hu does not have a free hand, is still attempting to consolidate power as it is devolved to him by Jiang, and has frozen liberalization that could expose him to criticism before he has done so. While Hu would seem to outrank Jiang, he remains "studiously deferential" in all public joint appearances with Jiang, proceeding a 'step behind' and never contesting the coverage accorded to Jiang's remarks.

Such divided leadership is neither rapid, decisive, or quick to compromise, a condition clearly shown by Jiang's overturning of Hu's prolonged, painfully delicate 'market testing' that created and promulgated Peaceful Rise that became a public staple of Hu and the prime minister, Wen Jiabao. While the term was a virtual diplomatic blanket from every PRC embassy and consulate in 2003 and was used going into the April 2004 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), China’s version of the Davos World Economic Forum, perhaps as early as March 2004, Hu was under pressure to drop the term -- a timing that corresponded to elections in Taiwan, the reelection of Chen Shui-bian as president, and its threats of unilateral declaration of independence.

In any case, by May Hu used "peaceful development" (heping fazhan) to refer to China’s foreign policy strategy. It is certainly not clear to this observer that peaceful development will become the "new pathway" (xin daolu) but it does punctuate the effort that China’s devotes to shaping external perceptions as it expands its influence, first regionally and then internationally. While the Chinese continue to emphasize that this moderate approach is strategic and signals a 'permanent' shift, they note that it depends largely on a "constructive U.S. response to the moderate Chinese approach."

The PRC is preoccupied with the US given it current dominance in Asian and global affairs, and see it as the principal "international danger" able to "confront and complicate China’s development and rising power and influence in Asian and world affairs." China is mindful that three nations that sought to overturn the prevailing international order of their day, Weimar Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union, were punished by an allied coalition of established nations. While I've not see it in print, I cannot but note that the leader of the winning coalition in each case was the United States, a fact that I cannot imagine has been lost on the Chinese.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the wide-ranging US-PRC policy gulfs over economics, security, and sovereignty, the PRC is doing what it can to not exacerbate a US backlash. By mid-2001 China had "curbed attacks on a wide range of U.S. domestic and foreign policies and practices, [had] narrowed criticism of U.S. policies and behavior to areas that relate to Taiwan [and asserted] that they accept U.S. leadership in Asian and world affairs." Even as the Chinese acknowledge that the US may not be able or willing to reciprocate internationally, the PRC has already seen regional benefits.

By any name, the new approach has greatly expanded Chinese influence and created a buffer along China’s periphery, reduced the ability of the US to ‘recontain’ China, and even begin to place limitations on US action.

The US could benefit by less unilateral tub-thumping, greater sensitivity to the needs of Asian states, and an activism shorn of interference or condescension.

Part one and two

China Debates Its "Peaceful Rise" Strategy
Is a kinder, gentler Beijing the best route to development?
Evan S. Medeiros
YaleGlobal, 22 June 2004

China’s peaceful rise and U.S. interests in Asia – status and outlook
by Robert Sutter
PacNet Number 27
Pacific Forum CSIS
June 24, 2004

Former Leader Is Still a Power in China's Life
New York Times
July 16, 2004

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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