Topic: Foreign Policy and National Security

Max Boot, Unchastened by History of Faulty Predictions, Offers New Ideas for Iraq

Among the proposals? Higher incarceration rates–more like New York, you see–and invading Syria!

Another necessity is to go more aggressively after foreign fighters. They comprise a relatively small percentage of the overall insurgency, but they account for a very high percentage of the most grotesque attacks–80 to 90 percent of all suicide bombings, according to General Petraeus’s briefing with Pentagon reporters on April 26. These jihadists are of many nationalities, but most infiltrate from Syria. The Bush administration has repeatedly vowed that Syria would suffer unspecified consequences if it did not cut off this terrorist pipeline, but so far this has been an empty threat. The administration has refused to authorize Special Operations forces to hit terrorist safe houses and “rat lines” on the Syrian side of the border, even though international law recognizes the right of “hot pursuit” and holds states liable for letting their territory be used to stage attacks on neighbors. It’s high time to unleash our covert operators–Delta Force, the SEALs, and other units in the Joint Special Operations Command–to take the fight to the enemy. They can stage low-profile raids with great precision, and Syrian president Bashar Assad would have scant ability to retaliate.

Do they ever learn? These people sound like broken records.

Title reference here, among other places.

Update: I’m afraid I’ve not been checking the Commentary magazine blog often enough, where Boot has offered up this gem.  In the course of critiquing Edward Luttwak’s article in on counterinsurgency, Boot observes that nowhere does

Luttwak mention the many counterinsurgencies that have been waged successfully along the lines advocated by the new field manual. The list is a long one, including the British prosecution of the first Boer war and the U.S. success in the Philippine uprising, among others.

I can’t imagine Conrad Crane and Gen. Petraeus would point to those two examples as the shining image of what can happen if FM 3-24 is followed.  The reference to the First Boer War has to be a typo—proponents of American imperialism generally refer to the Second Boer War as a model for our current efforts; the British at least won the second of the Boer wars, though they resorted to innovative tactics like concentration camps and a “scorched Earth” policy

Boot’s written approvingly before of American atrocities in the Philippines, but it’s remarkable that he’s now tried to rope in Crane’s and Petraeus’ voices as having endorsed the barbarism of the “U.S. success in the Philippine uprising.”  Wow.

Landlords Drafted into War on Illegal Immigration

A couple of weeks ago, I testified in the House Immigration Subcommittee on the difficulties with, and undesirability of, a national employment verification system. Beyond some costly and inconvenient, bleeding-edge tech solutions, there’s no way to confirm on a mass scale that people are legally entitled to work under our immigration law - not without putting a national ID in the hands of every American.

I observed that such a system, once built, wouldn’t be restricted to employment, but would naturally expand:

Were an electronic employment verification system in place, it could easily be extended to other uses. Failing to reduce the “magnet” of work, electronic employment verification could be converted to housing control. Why not require landlords and home-sellers to seek federal approval of leases and sales so as not to give shelter to illegal aliens? Electronic employment verification could create better federal control of financial services, and health care, to name two more.It need not be limited to immigration control, of course. Electronic verification could be used to find wanted murderers, and it would move quickly down the chain to enforcement of unpaid parking tickets and “use taxes.” Electronic employment verification charts a course for expanded federal surveillance and control of all Americans’ lives.

Now comes news that a suburb of Dallas has become the first in the nation to prohibit renting to illegal immigrants. It requires apartment managers to verify that renters are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants before leasing to them.

A policy like this doubles-down on the error of enlisting employers into immigration law enforcement, and it shows how immigration law creates pressure to expand domestic surveillance. “The policy that will dissipate the need for electronic verification by fostering legality is aligning immigration law with the economic interests of the American people. Legal immigration levels should be increased,” I testified.

But you knew that if you’ve been following this stuff.

Congress Moves against NSA Spying

Ars Technica reports that an amendment to the FY 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act “upholds the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Backed (FISA) as the only means by which to do electronic surveillance—and … requires continuous judicial oversight of requests.”

Divided government is a real boon.

Who Should Run the Veterans’ Health Administration?

Ezra Klein writes about the Veterans’ Health Administration (VA):

The VA system, like many other critical government departments, isn’t being given near the resources to deal with the coming influx [of Iraq veterans], and the consequences will be disastrous. This isn’t a structural problem in the VA, but in our government… .

Good point.  If only our government-run health care systems could be run by … well … someone else.

A Seam Opens …

An oft-repeated scene in the Washington, D.C. kabuki dance recently began with the release of former CIA director George Tenet’s memoir At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA.

I don’t find it particularly interesting to watch a mighty ego defend his honor — mighty egos in the U.S. government are as common as pigeons in the park. (It has to be that way, doesn’t it? Only an inflated ego thinks it can run a government as overlarge as ours.) But I’m pleased by the healthy airing of differences the book has spawned.

This morning in the Washington Post, Richard Perle takes after Tenet about factual inaccuracies in the book. (Puffing pigeons.) The rift starts to reveal some important, but long overlooked, information.

Perle writes, “the CIA failed to make our leaders aware of the rise of Islamist extremism and the immense danger it posed to the United States.” An example I would offer is the presence of Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar inside the United States — terrorists linked to the USS Cole bombing. Of al-Mihdar, the 9/11 Commission reported, “No one was looking for him.” The story is recounted in brief in my Cato Policy Analysis (with Jeff Jonas) Effective Counterterrorism and the Limited Role of Predictive Data Mining.

A conclusion of that paper: “In the days and months before 9/11, new laws and technologies like predictive data mining were not necessary to connect the dots. What was needed to reveal the remaining 9/11 conspirators was better communication, collaboration, a heightened focus on the two known terrorists, and traditional investigative processes.”

As U.S. government officials turn against each other, they help reveal that their agreement to turn against us — in the USA-PATRIOT Act, domestic spying, and myriad other laws and programs — was a salve for those wounded egos. They didn’t want to admit that they outright missed the 9/11 attacks.

The Heckler’s Veto in France

Two days before the French presidential election, Socialist candidate Segolene Royal warned that there would be riots if her opponent, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, was elected. She told a radio interviewer:

“Choosing Nicolas Sarkozy would be a dangerous choice,” Royal told RTL radio.

“It is my responsibility today to alert people to the risk of (his) candidature with regards to the violence and brutality that would be unleashed in the country (if he won),” she said.

Pressed on whether there would actually be violence, Royal said: “I think so, I think so,” referring specifically to France’s volatile suburbs hit by widespread rioting in 2005.

Then the Washington Post casually reported, in an article on Sarkozy’s plans, that “While he seeks the strong majority that will be crucial for pursuing the ambitious agenda he has promised, it is unlikely he will risk tackling any tough issues that could spark social unrest or street protests.”

“The question he will have to ask himself first is: What are the reforms he should implement to show politically that he sticks to what he announced?” said Dominique Reynié, a political analyst at the Institute for Political Sciences’ Political Research Center. “And the second question is: What are the reforms he can implement without creating riots?”

And indeed, according to Time, there have been riots since the election. But the rioters aren’t the disaffected immigrant youth of the suburbs. Instead, “the participants are mostly white, educated and relatively comfortable middle class adherents of extreme-left and anti-globalization ideologies.” Some 500 cars were burned each night, up from the routine 100 cars set afire in la belle France every night.

It was outrageous for Royal to suggest that the French people should choose their leader on the basis of fear and threats. We talk about a “heckler’s veto” in which the government prevents someone from speaking in order in order to avoid a violent reaction from his critics. How much worse it would be for a great nation to choose its president because of a “rioters’ veto.” How appalling for the leader of a French political party ostensibly committed to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen to encourage a rioters’ veto. Journalists should think twice about casually reporting that elected leaders will make their decisions out of fear of rioters.

And people on the left who are committed to democracy and peace should speak up against the use of such political violence by others on the left. Nobody warned that the French bourgeoisie would riot if Royal was elected. And they wouldn’t have, so no journalist would be reporting that President-elect Royal would have to avoid “tackling tough issues that could spark social unrest.”

Strategic Myopia, the Ongoing Saga

While the Bush administration has been busy fighting terrorism by spending half a trillion dollars and 3,400 American lives loosing and then trying to keep apart the various confessional, tribal, and ethnic factions in Iraq, the New York Times brings us grim news about a struggle that may have more direct relevance to protecting ourselves against the most pressing threat we’re likely to face in the coming years. Here are the first two paragraphs from the piece:

WASHINGTON, May 7 — Every week, a group of experts from agencies around the government — including the C.I.A., the Pentagon, the F.B.I. and the Energy Department — meet to assess Washington’s progress toward solving a grim problem: if a terrorist set off a nuclear bomb in an American city, could the United States determine who detonated it and who provided the nuclear material?

So far, the answer is maybe.

Not heartening.