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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nuclear Security Cooperation Between the United States and Pakistan A Survey from 2000-2009

Nuclear Security Cooperation Between the United States and Pakistan
A Survey from 2000-2009

The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy How the Economic Stimulus Program and New Legislation Can Boost U.S. Economic Growth and Employment

Taking Global Warming Seriously

The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy
How the Economic Stimulus Program and New Legislation Can Boost U.S. Economic Growth and Employment

Report from Robert Pollin, James Heintz, and Heidi Garrett-Peltier outlines how the economic stimulus program and new legislation can boost U.S. economic growth and employment.
Report: The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy

Budgeting for national security By Gordon Adams

Budgeting for national security
By Gordon Adams | 25 June 2009

When taking into account the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. defense budget has more than doubled since fiscal year 2001. And yet, despite this growth, the appetite for more defense funding has continued unabated, and our security dilemmas appear to grow.

Last year, Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued that the Pentagon should be guaranteed 4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, a figure roughly consistent with today's defense spending. He offered no strategic justification for this spending level. Along these lines, at the height of last year's presidential campaign, the Chiefs led a Pentagon budget-planning exercise that sought to increase the defense budget by 14 percent in one year. They seemed to think that if they put out that number as what they absolutely needed, the next president would be vulnerable to attacks that he was "soft on defense" if he proposed anything less.

Assuming that our national security is the same thing as the size of our defense budget and military forces is a fundamental mistake."

To his credit, President Barack Obama didn't take the bait, holding the defense spending line at 4-percent growth for fiscal year 2010. Equally to his credit, Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed to that level of spending for next year. Even more surprisingly, Gates eliminated programs with growing costs and performance problems such as the army's Future Combat System vehicles and the VH-71 helicopter. He also agreed to accept defense-budget projections for the future that would only grow with inflation, rather than the additional $450 billion the Chiefs wanted.

Less noticed, but equally important, Gates stepped into the messy, informal "unfunded requirements" budget process, which the services use to seek increases to their budgets outside of the formal budget-planning system. Every year since the Gingrich Revolution of 1994, the Armed Services Committees have invited the service chiefs to submit a separate letter telling the committees what the services wanted but didn't get in the regular budget. In years past, the defense secretary and White House didn't stop this permissive leak in the budget system because neither wanted to be accused of "muzzling" the uniforms.

Per usual, this spring, the Republican minorities on the Armed Services Committees, eager for an opportunity to hammer Obama on defense, called for the unfunded requirement letters. Gates didn't stop them per se; he simply announced that he would review them first. And lo and behold, air force "unfunded requirements," which had reached more than $20 billion in 2008, suddenly became less than $2 billion in 2009.

These are truly minimal, if important, gestures toward greater discipline in defense budgeting. But they have angered defense hawks. The Republican members of the Armed Services committees, for instance, are lambasting Obama and Gates for weakening national security. Meanwhile, the defense industry is quietly lobbying for more. Eager outside analysts are jumping in, too. Two weeks ago in a Washington Post op-ed, Michael O'Hanlon at the Brookings Institution called the Obama-Gates defense budget projections a "significant mistake" that would leave defense $150 billion short of what it needs between now and fiscal year 2014.

The critics conveniently forget that the defense budget has doubled in the last eight years. They still don't seem to think we're spending enough on national security and more for defense seems to be their answer. More largely, the national security debate in the United States takes place exclusively in the defense box, keeping it defined by defense logic and a static view of defense issues. But assuming that our national security is the same thing as the size of our defense budget and military forces is a fundamental mistake. And until Washington escapes from this circular reasoning, defense budgets and forces will continue to grow at a staggering rate, with declining security to show for it.

The Pentagon's logic is compelling on the surface: Forces were stressed in Iraq so we need more forces. Operating those forces continues to cost more than we predicted, so we must add funding to accommodate that cost increase. This is the logic O'Hanlon is stuck in, and it's the logic of defense budgeting as seen by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) when it looks at the costs of military forces. The CBO merely assumes the current force and projects what that force might cost in the future. It doesn't ask whether it's the right force with the right mission for the future of national security. Nor does it price out new missions. And it certainly doesn't explore the alternatives or examine overall U.S. strategy.

Thinking about national security this way is a tail-chasing exercise that cannot discipline defense planning or budgeting, and it neglects the underlying truth: Defense is a "support function" for U.S. statecraft; it is not U.S. statecraft itself.

Thus, it's time to ask two main questions about our national security strategy: What role do we choose to play in the world, and what is the right mix of tools to play that role? Sadly, there is little evidence that the administration is asking this question. Instead, they seem to be accepting things as they are.

In fact, the only strategy planning exercise going on today, the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), has a defense orientation. Obviously then, the QDR will follow currently articulated defense missions and needs, using the current force as the starting point for its plan. Its assumptions will become the administration's strategic assumption as well.

In other words, the forces will stay large; program and budget trade-offs will be made at the margins; and, if the QDR articulates new missions for those forces (counterinsurgency, overseas contingency operations, stabilization and reconstruction), as Gates wants, they will be pasted on top of existing missions and force requirements.

And you can rest assured that the Pentagon won't engage the more basic question about the military's proper role in maintaining national security. They will blindly accept the logic of counterinsurgency, post-conflict reconstruction, and overseas contingency operations--more or less, fighting the last war, i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan. And so, the forces will grow; the military missions will expand; and the budgets will follow.

Meanwhile, we will do little or no planning for the other major contingencies that undoubtedly will shape the future--a weakening global economy, poverty, climate change, infectious diseases, religious strife, and so on. Military force won't solve these problems and has, at best, a peripheral role in dealing with any of them. Even worse, leaving the solutions to the Defense Department through some kind of a "constabulary" force creates the very conditions that make the force seem necessary.

Worse yet, our statecraft is so dysfunctional and over-militarized now that it's almost impossible to correct the imbalance. Today, we assume that none of our civilian tools (i.e., the State Department and foreign-assistance agencies) are able to provide U.S. security, advance our interests, or build international cooperation. The federal budget reflects this sentiment, with an inordinate amount of money going to defense spending. And so, increasingly, we turn to the Pentagon and uniformed military to do the things that we should be building a civilian strategy and the civilian capacity to accomplish.
Copyright © 2009 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All Rights Reserved.

UK ‘deluded’ in relying on US for defence, warns thinktank

UK ‘deluded’ in relying on US for defence, warns thinktank
Richard Norton-Taylorr, The Guardian
Assumptions that the US will always come to Britain's rescue are complacent and it is "delusional" to believe that the UK can act alone without closer European defence co-operation, a leading thinktank warns today. A root and branch review of Britain's security interests, including options to avoid renewing the Trident nuclear missile system, is urgently needed, the Institute for Public Policy Research says.

* House of Commons Report, "Global Security: Non-Proliferation"

* Trident nuclear deterrent replacement under review

Politicus- Sanctions on Iran: Will Europe act? John Vinocur, The International Herald Tribune

Politicus- Sanctions on Iran: Will Europe act?
John Vinocur, The International Herald Tribune
Sanctions: a word that rises to the surface and shimmers for a deceptive moment before it bursts. It’s having its hour again, bubbling up confusingly from Iran’s witches brew.

Ex-top official: Japan, U.S. had nuke deal The Yomiuri Shimbun

Ex-top official: Japan, U.S. had nuke deal The Yomiuri Shimbun

A former Foreign Ministry administrative vice minister told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Monday that Japan and the United States had a secret deal to tacitly allow U.S. forces to bring nuclear weapons into the nation.

Envoy to Coordinate North Korean Sanctions Mark Landler, The New York Times

Envoy to Coordinate North Korean Sanctions
Mark Landler, The New York Times
Hoping to give more teeth to international sanctions against North Korea, the Obama administration has named a senior diplomat to lead a task force coordinating Washington’s political, military and financial measures against its government.

Our Decaying Nuclear Deterrent Jon Kyle and Richard Perle, The Wall Street Journal

Our Decaying Nuclear Deterrent
Jon Kyle and Richard Perle, The Wall Street Journal

IAEAA bipartisan congressional commission, headed by some of our most experienced national security practitioners, recently concluded that a nuclear deterrent is essential to our defense for the foreseeable future. It also recommended that urgent measures be taken to keep that deterrent safe and effective.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has adopted an agenda that runs counter to the commission's recommendations.

Privately run checkpoint stops Palestinians with 'too much food' By Amira Hass

Privately run checkpoint stops Palestinians with 'too much food'

By Amira Hass

A West Bank checkpoint managed by a private security company is not allowing Palestinians to pass through with large water bottles and some food items, Haaretz has learned.

MachsomWatch discovered the policy, which Palestinian workers confirmed to Haaretz.

The Defense Ministry stated in response that non-commercial quantities of food were not being limited. It made no reference to the issue of water.
The checkpoint, Sha'ar Efraim, is south of Tul Karm, and is managed for the Defense Ministry by the private security company Modi'in Ezrahi. The company stops Palestinian workers from passing through the checkpoint with the following items: Large bottles of frozen water, large bottles of soft drinks, home-cooked food, coffee, tea and the spice zaatar. The security company also dictates the quantity of items allowed: Five pitas, one container of hummus and canned tuna, one small bottle or can of beverage, one or two slices of cheese, a few spoonfuls of sugar, and 5 to 10 olives. Workers are also not allowed to carry cooking utensils and work tools.

MachsomWatch told Haaretz that Sunday, a 32-year-old construction worker from Tul Karm, who is employed in Hadera, was not allowed to carry his lunch bag through the checkpoint. The bag contained six pitas, 2 cans of cream cheese, one kilogram of sugar in a plastic bag, and a salad, also in a plastic bag.

The typical Palestinian laborer in Israel has a 12-hour workday, including travel time and checkpoint delays. Many leave home as early as 2 A.M. in order to wait in line at the checkpoint; tardiness to work often results in immediate dismissal. Workers return home around 5 P.M. The wait at the checkpoint can take one to two hours in each direction, if not longer.

The food quantities allowed by Modi'in Ezrahi do not meet the daily dietary needs of the workers, and they prefer not to buy food at the considerably more expensive Israeli stores.

MachsomWatch informed the Israel Defense Forces about the new bans but received no response, the organization said. Modi'in Ezrahi issued a statement saying questions should be directed to the Defense Ministry's crossings administration.

MachsomWatch activists said a security guard on duty told them the food restrictions were imposed due to "security and health risks." However, at the nearby Qalqilyah checkpoint, which is still run directly by the IDF, workers have been allowed to carry through all the food items banned at Sha'ar Efraim.

However, responsibility for the Qalqilyah checkpoint is supposed to be transferred to a private company this week, and workers voiced concerns that similar restrictions might be imposed there.

The IDF Spokesman's office said in a statement: "There are no limits on food quantities. They may take through food necessary for personal consumption during a day's work. When a worker arrives with a large quantity of goods intended for sale rather than for personal use, he is asked to pass through the goods crossing instead, where the goods are handled appropriately and with the appropriate customs checks. This crossing is intended for pedestrians and not for goods."

The Pentagon's Wasting Assets The Eroding Foundations of American Power

The era of American dominance of the global commons defined by World War II and the Cold War may be coming to an end! This piece reviews the military challenges of sustaining such dominance and implicitly raises once again the question of how much dominance is enough.


Foreign Affairs
July/August 2009

The Pentagon's Wasting Assets
The Eroding Foundations of American Power

Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr.

ANDREW F. KREPINEVICH, JR., is President of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the author of Seven Deadly Scenarios.

The military foundations of the United States' global dominance are eroding. For the past several decades, an overwhelming advantage in technology and resources has given the U.S. military an unmatched ability to project power worldwide. This has allowed it to guarantee U.S. access to the global commons, assure the safety of the homeland, and underwrite security commitments around the globe. U.S. grand strategy assumes that such advantages will continue indefinitely. In fact, they are already starting to disappear.

Several events in recent years have demonstrated that traditional means and methods of projecting power and accessing the global commons are growing increasingly obsolete -- becoming "wasting assets," in the language of defense strategists. The diffusion of advanced military technologies, combined with the continued rise of new powers, such as China, and hostile states, such as Iran, will make it progressively more expensive in blood and treasure -- perhaps prohibitively expensive -- for U.S. forces to carry out their missions in areas of vital interest, including East Asia and the Persian Gulf. Military forces that do deploy successfully will find it increasingly difficult to defend what they have been sent to protect. Meanwhile, the U.S. military's long-unfettered access to the global commons -- including space and cyberspace -- is being increasingly challenged.

Recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued in these pages for a more "balanced" U.S. military, one that is better suited for the types of irregular conflicts now being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, he also cautioned, "It would be irresponsible not to think about and prepare for the future." Despite this admonition, U.S. policymakers are discounting real future threats, thereby increasing the prospect of strategic surprises. What is needed is nothing short of a fundamental strategic review of the United States' position in the world -- one similar in depth and scope to those undertaken in the early days of the Cold War.


The term "wasting asset" became common among U.S. policymakers in the early days of the Cold War. At the end of World War II, the United States possessed an incalculable strategic advantage: a monopoly on nuclear weapons. So when the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb in August 1949, it triggered a sense of panic in the United States, as the U.S. nuclear arsenal had become a wasting asset.

The United States responded with a major effort to bring together the nation's best strategists to devise a new approach. That effort yielded the Truman administration's National Security Council report NSC-68 and, later, the Eisenhower administration's Solarium Study and NSC-162/2. These became the foundation of a new U.S. strategy to counter a nuclear Soviet Union.

To help offset the loss of its nuclear monopoly, the United States sought to develop new advantages while sustaining certain old advantages. It exploited its continuing technological edge to maintain a highly effective nuclear deterrent. Shortly after the Soviet nuclear test of a fission weapon, President Harry Truman approved plans to develop thermonuclear, or fusion, weapons, which have far greater destructive power. Equally important were efforts to sustain the U.S. military's unsurpassed ability to project and sustain large forces around the globe, as demonstrated during the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, when the United States transported large field armies overseas.

This force projection was made possible by the U.S. military's ability to access the global commons, principally on the seas and in the air but increasingly in the space and cyberspace domains as well. And with the Soviet Union's collapse in December 1991, the United States' ability to project military power was effectively unconstrained. There were large-scale deployments to Panama, Haiti, and the Balkans during the late 1980s and 1990s, and these were later eclipsed by the dispatch of large expeditionary forces to Afghanistan and Iraq.

But this long record of military successes masks major geopolitical and technological trends that are rapidly eroding the advantages the U.S. military has long enjoyed. This was dramatically illustrated by a major exercise conducted earlier this decade. In the summer of 2002, the Pentagon conducted its largest war-gaming exercise since the end of the Cold War. Called Millennium Challenge 2002, it pitted the United States against an "unnamed Persian Gulf military" meant to be a stand-in for Iran. The outcome was disquieting: what many expected to be yet another demonstration of the United States' military might turned out to be anything but.

The "Iranian" forces, led by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, successfully countered the U.S. forces at every turn. The U.S. fleet that steamed into the Persian Gulf found itself subjected to a surprise attack by swarms of Iranian suicide vessels and antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs). Well over half the U.S. ships were sunk or otherwise put out of action in what would have been the United States' worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, Van Riper kept his Iranian cruise and ballistic missile forces on the move, frustrating the U.S. commanders' efforts to track and destroy them. Rather than turn his air-defense radars on and expose them to prompt destruction from U.S. aircraft armed with antiradiation missiles, Van Riper left his units' systems turned off. Since no one could be sure of where the Iranian defenses were positioned, it was risky for U.S. cargo aircraft to land and resupply the U.S. ground forces that had deployed on Iranian soil.

Exasperated and embarrassed at the success of the mock Iranian force, the senior U.S. commanders overseeing the war game's progress called for a "do-over." They directed the U.S. fleet to be "refloated" and compelled the enemy forces to turn on their radars and expose themselves to attack. The enemy missile forces were ordered to cease their evasive maneuvers. Recast in this manner -- and with Van Riper "relieved" of his command, apparently for having executed it too well -- the game proceeded to a much more agreeable conclusion.

The official results of Millennium Challenge may have validated the military's own ideas about its ability to project forces into contested areas. But Van Riper's success should have served as a warning: projecting power into an area of vital interest to the United States using traditional forces and operational concepts will become increasingly difficult. Indeed, these means and methods are at great risk of experiencing significant, perhaps even precipitous, declines in value.

The Millennium Challenge exercise was a harbinger of the growing problems of power projection -- especially in coastal zones, maritime chokepoints (such as the Strait of Hormuz), and constricted waters (such as the Persian Gulf). As the initial success of Van Riper's "Iranian" forces demonstrated, the risks in such areas are becoming progressively greater, especially when the United States is facing a clever adversary. In the real world, Iran and other states can buy high-speed, sea-skimming ASCMs in quantity. In confined waters near shore, U.S. warships would have little warning time to defend against these weapons. The same can be said of high-speed suicide boats packed with explosives, which can hide among commercial vessels. Widely available modern sea mines are far more difficult to detect than were those plaguing the U.S. fleet during the 1991 Gulf War. Quiet diesel submarines operating in noisy waters, such as the Strait of Hormuz, are very difficult to detect. Iran's possession of all of these weapons and vessels suggests that the Persian Gulf -- the jugular of the world's oil supply -- could become a no-go zone for the U.S. Navy.


In East Asia, an even more formidable challenge is emerging. China's People's Liberation Army is aggressively developing capabilities and strategies to degrade the U.S. military's ability to project power into the region. The PLA's buildup is being guided by the lessons drawn by the Chinese military from the two Iraq wars and the 1999 war in the Balkans. The Chinese were particularly impressed by the effectiveness of U.S. precision-strike capabilities and the role played by space systems, which provided reliable navigation and communications, as well as weather, targeting, and missile-warning data. The effort is also being driven by the Chinese experience during the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait crisis, when a U.S. aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Nimitz, entered the Taiwan Strait to compel China to stand down from its threats to Taiwan. This display of U.S. naval power bolstered China's determination to curb the United States' access to East Asia.

Senior Chinese political and military leaders decided it would be foolhardy to challenge the U.S. military head-on. Instead, China is working to combine Western technology with Eastern stratagems, aiming to be able to seize the initiative in the event of a conflict by exploiting the element of surprise. The Chinese approach would entail destroying or disrupting the U.S. military's communications networks and launching preemptive attacks, to the point where such attacks, or even the threat of such attacks, would raise the costs of U.S. action to prohibitive levels. The Chinese call the military capabilities that support this strategy "assassin's mace." The underlying mantra is that assassin's mace weapons and techniques will enable "the inferior" (China) to defeat "the superior" (the United States).

Chinese efforts are focused on developing and fielding what U.S. military analysts refer to as "anti-access/area-denial" (A2/AD) capabilities. Generally speaking, Chinese anti-access forces seek to deny U.S. forces the ability to operate from forward bases, such as Kadena Air Base, on Okinawa, and Andersen Air Force Base, on Guam. The Chinese are, for example, fielding large numbers of conventionally armed ballistic missiles capable of striking these bases with a high degree of accuracy. Although recent advances in directed-energy technology -- such as solid-state lasers -- may enable the United States to field significantly more effective missile defense systems in the next decade, present defenses against ballistic missile attacks are limited. These defenses can be overwhelmed when confronted with missile barrages. The intended message to the United States and its East Asian allies and partners is clear: China has the means to put at risk the forward bases from which most U.S. strike aircraft must operate.

Area-denial capabilities are aimed at restricting the U.S. Navy's freedom of action from China's coast out to "the second island chain" -- a line of islands that extends roughly from the southeastern edge of Japan to Guam. The PLA is constructing over-the-horizon radars, fielding unmanned aerial vehicles, and deploying reconnaissance satellites to detect U.S. surface warships at progressively greater distances. It is acquiring a large number of submarines armed with advanced torpedoes and high-speed, sea-skimming ASCMs to stalk U.S. carriers and their escorts. (In 2006, a Chinese submarine surfaced in the midst of a U.S. carrier strike group, much to the U.S. Navy's embarrassment.) And it is procuring aircraft equipped with high-speed ASCMs and fielding antiship ballistic missiles that can strike U.S. carriers at extended ranges. Advanced antiship mines may constrain U.S. naval operations even further in coastal areas.

The implications of these efforts are clear. East Asian waters are slowly but surely becoming another potential no-go zone for U.S. ships, particularly for aircraft carriers, which carry short-range strike aircraft that require them to operate well within the reach of the PLA's A2/AD systems if they want remain operationally relevant. The large air bases in the region that host the U.S. Air Force's short-range strike aircraft and support aircraft are similarly under increased threat. All thus risk becoming wasting assets. If the United States does not adapt to these emerging challenges, the military balance in Asia will be fundamentally transformed in Beijing's favor. This would increase the danger that China might be encouraged to resolve outstanding regional security issues through coercion, if not aggression.


Irregular forces are also gaining greater access to advanced weaponry. As they do, they are increasingly capable of presenting serious threats to U.S. military operations on levels hitherto reserved for state adversaries. These, too, threaten to turn the U.S. military's forward bases and other key infrastructure into wasting assets.

Since the Korean War, the U.S. military has become used to operating with secure rear areas. Large U.S. bases, such as that in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, and, more recently, Camp Victory, in Iraq, and Bagram Air Base, in Afghanistan, have been sanctuaries in the midst of conflict. Even insurgent attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad have failed to do significant harm. This happy state of affairs is almost surely coming to an end.

The Second Lebanon War, waged between Hezbollah and Israel during the summer of 2006, was the proverbial canary in the coal mine. It suggested that a new, more deadly form of irregular conflict -- known as "irregular warfare under high-technology conditions" -- may be emerging. The war showed how difficult it is becoming for conventional military forces to defend key fixed targets, such as military bases, critical economic infrastructure, and densely populated areas, against irregular forces, which are increasingly armed with rapidly proliferating "RAMM" (rocket, artillery, mortar, and missile) capabilities. During the 34-day conflict, Hezbollah fired some 4,000 rockets into Israel. Most of these were short range, and all of them were unguided. Yet more than 300,000 Israeli citizens had to be evacuated from their homes. Israel's Haifa oil refinery had to dump much of its stored oil for fear that a rocket attack could spark a major explosion and fires in the city. The war's economic impact was considerable.

Some of Hezbollah's rockets, although short range by modern military standards, could be fired over 50 miles. Compare this to the mortars and rockets used by Vietcong guerrillas against U.S. bases in South Vietnam. To combat that threat, U.S. forces simply patrolled to keep the enemy beyond his four-mile mortar range. Applying this approach against an enemy whose rocket range extends out to 50 miles is simply not possible.

The growing range of RAMMs available to irregular forces is not the only, or even the deadliest, problem. The U.S. military has long enjoyed a near monopoly on the use of guided, or "smart," munitions, which offer the enormous benefit of high accuracy independent of a weapon's range. But now guided RAMMs (or "G-RAMMs") are proliferating from powers such as China and Russia. Once these are in the hands of irregular forces, those forces will be able to hit targets with great precision and reliability. Moreover, such weapons do not require a high degree of operator training. As a harbinger, during the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah irregulars hit an Israeli warship with an Iranian-made guided ASCM and destroyed or disabled over 50 Israeli tanks with sophisticated Russian-made guided antitank missiles. The ability of irregular forces to precisely hit critical points, such as airfields, harbor facilities, and logistics depots, will pose serious problems for the U.S. military's way of operating.


Cyberspace is another domain in which the U.S. military may face rapidly growing risk. Information technology (IT) permeates every aspect of its operations, from logistics and command and control to targeting and guidance. As this dependence on IT has grown, so, too, has vulnerability to disruptions -- especially disruptions of battle networks linking U.S. forces.

This vulnerability also affects the United States' economic infrastructure, where everything from transportation to electricity and finance depends on cybernetworks. Attacks on both military and civilian IT networks have been increasing for at least a decade. Russia has been accused of conducting cyberwarfare campaigns against Estonia in 2007, Georgia in 2008, and Kyrgyzstan in 2009. China is reputed to have been behind cyberattacks that disabled computer systems at the Pentagon, as well as cyberattacks against France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Cyberwarfare could enable other countries -- or even disaffected groups -- to inflict crippling damage on the U.S. economy.

Moreover, U.S. military operations are very dependent on commercial land-based information infrastructure. If cyberattacks inflicted substantial damage on them or disrupted them, not only would great economic turmoil ensue; much of the military capability of the United States could prove to be the modern equivalent of the Maginot Line.

The United States' armed forces also rely heavily on military and commercial satellites. In recent years, the Chinese military has shown that it can neutralize or destroy satellites in low-earth orbit (where most satellites are located) by launching antisatellite ballistic missiles or firing ground-based lasers. As China's lunar exploration program matures, the PLA will likely acquire the ability to destroy the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation, which is essential for guiding many "smart" weapons to their targets. If China continues to develop and field antisatellite capabilities, the U.S. satellite architecture may also become a wasting asset, one highly dependent on Chinese sufferance for its effective operation.


If history is any guide, these trends cannot be undone. Technology inevitably spreads, and no military has ever enjoyed a perpetual monopoly on any capability. To a significant extent, the U.S. military's wasting assets are the direct consequence of the unavoidable loss of its near monopoly on guided weapons. This monopoly simply cannot be regained.

This raises troubling questions. For example, will the United States accept that several areas of vital interest are becoming no-go zones for its military, or will it take steps to address the challenge? Will the United States accept a posture of vulnerability in regard to its satellite architecture and cyberinfrastructure, or are alternatives available to redress the problem? How must U.S. strategy adapt in a world of rising powers and spreading technologies? Are there cost-effective alternatives to accepting growing vulnerability, or must the United States adopt a more modest strategy?

Analogous kinds of problems have been encountered and overcome in the past by the United States and other preeminent nations. During World War II, new U.S. carrier operations were so effective in projecting power that they rendered battleships obsolete. In addressing the Soviet Union's nuclear buildup, the United States developed early warning systems (satellites and distant early warning radars) and forces centered on a triad of delivery systems (bombers and land- and sea-based missiles) to enable deterrence.

Just as the Truman and Eisenhower administrations were faced with the need to confront difficult and complex strategic choices nearly 60 years ago, so, too, is the Obama administration today. The United States can either adapt to contemporary developments -- or ignore them at its peril. There is, first of all, a compelling need to develop new ways of creating military advantage in the face of contemporary geopolitical and technological trends. That means taking a hard look at military spending and planning and investing in certain areas of potential advantage while divesting from other assets. And Washington must keep in mind that efforts to field new capabilities and put in place new ways of operating typically take time, often a decade or more, to come to fruition.

But before questions about how to adapt military capabilities to future requirements can be considered coherently, there must be a new strategic framework. In the face of growing Soviet competition, Presidents Truman and Dwight Eisenhower made decisions about U.S. military capabilities in the context of an overall strategy built around the objective of containing Soviet power and deterring aggression -- both enabled by a strong U.S. economy, robust alliances with like-minded countries and other powers, and a technically advanced U.S. military operating within the framework of a global network of bases. Given the similar scale of today's challenges, the Obama administration's choices regarding the future U.S. military posture must be informed by an overarching strategy as ambitious as the one during the first decade of the Cold War. This strategy must take into account geopolitical factors, rapid advances in military technologies, and the United States' weakened economic standing. It must address the major challenges posed by radical Islamist groups (and by the related campaigns to defeat them in Afghanistan and Iraq). It must also address the prospect of nuclear proliferation. Should Iran become a nuclear-armed state, it could well spur a round of proliferation in the Arab world, further complicating the U.S. military's ability to project power into the Middle East in defense of key interests. Finally, there is China, a key U.S. trading partner and potentially a strong force in support of well-established international norms of behavior. At the same time, however, China's military buildup suggests that it may be tempted to pursue its aims through coercion, if not aggression, unless deterred from so doing.

The strategy must also recognize two wasting assets of a nonmilitary kind: the erosion of the United States' financial position and the reality that the United States' allies will not shoulder a larger share of the collective-security burden. With few exceptions, long-standing allies' continued refusal to do more for the common defense stems from a lack of agreement on future threats, underlying economic weakness, and a willingness to be free riders, benefiting from U.S. efforts and expenditures. This is unlikely to change even with a popular new administration in Washington. Even absent the global economic crisis, U.S. allies such as France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom are saddled with aging populations and burdensome social welfare systems, leaving ever fewer resources available for contributing to collective security.

All this suggests that the United States must pursue a more modest strategy than that advanced by the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11 -- one that reflects a better balance between goals and resources, features a reduced emphasis on wasting military assets, and involves the vigorous identification, development, and exploitation of new areas of advantage.


There are a number of initiatives that can and should be undertaken now. Investments in specific new capabilities may be premature given both the current economic circumstances and the absence of a clear strategy. However, it seems indisputable that divestment from what are clearly wasting assets should be heavily emphasized in order to avoid both substantial monetary costs and opportunity costs -- particularly in an era of growing budgetary and economic constraints.

For one thing, the United States should adopt an indirect approach to addressing instability in the developing world, conserving the bulk of its resources for meeting other strategic priorities. This means exploiting the U.S. military's advantage in highly trained manpower by emphasizing the training, equipping, and advising of indigenous forces of countries threatened by subversion, especially states confronting radical Islamist groups, rather than direct combat operations. In Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.S. forces are already deployed in large numbers, Washington should continue its efforts to field indigenous forces and withdraw U.S. combat units. The U.S. military will need to maintain a capacity to "surge" forces should a state of vital interest begin to fail, but such deployments should be a last resort. What is especially important is that the lessons learned by the U.S. military and the capabilities developed in waging irregular warfare be institutionalized.

Some of the resources thereby freed up should be invested in developing new ways to cope with the G-RAMM challenge. Any solution will most likely be found in a combination of existing and emerging capabilities, and in new ways of employing them. Several possibilities are worth exploring. Loitering "hunter-killer" reconnaissance and strike aircraft -- both manned and unmanned -- could be used to search for enemy G-RAMM-equipped forces and, once identified, engage them quickly before the enemy can fire or disperse. Another option is to harden targets against such attacks, although doing so is an expensive proposition and thus feasible only for the highest-priority targets. There are active defenses that can intercept G-RAMM projectiles, although price remains a major problem here, since interceptors tend to cost far more than G-RAMM projectiles. Rapid advances in solid-state lasers may, however, enable defense systems that have a projected cost-per-shot ratio that is far less than that of traditional interceptors.

Regarding traditional power projection, the United States should adopt an offsetting strategy whose objective is to parry efforts by China and Iran to deny the U.S. military access to East Asia and the Persian Gulf. The United States should make it clear that although it does not view Beijing as an enemy, it intends to continue reassuring its allies and friends in the region that they will not become victims of coercion or aggression. The same can be said of Iran, which is fielding a more modest version of China's capabilities. The offsetting strategy would be designed to preserve a stable balance, not generate a threat.

Maintaining the United States' ability to project power in an A2/AD environment will require multifaceted responses. The growing threat to U.S. forward air bases from Chinese assassin's mace capabilities might be handled in several possible ways. Bases could be hardened against attack by missiles with conventional warheads, perhaps combined with missile defenses. An excessive reliance on vulnerable bases could be reduced by developing long-range reconnaissance and strike systems. To offset the growing vulnerability of its major surface ships, the U.S. Navy could acquire more large submarines armed with conventional cruise missiles. To avoid operational irrelevance, carriers should reduce their reliance on short-range manned aircraft in favor of much longer-range unmanned aircraft, some of which are now in development. Advances in missile and air defenses could also play a key role in protecting the fleet. Since primacy in undersea warfare is a prerequisite for other naval operations, priority must be given to expanding the navy's edge in antisubmarine warfare. The current plans to increase submarine production must be sustained, and design work on unmanned underwater vehicles and a new class of submarines should also be initiated.

Several options to preserve U.S. access to space seem worth exploring. The government should support and exploit advances in IT, nanotechnology, and enhanced forms of propulsion in order to shift from relying on a relatively small number of large "mainframe" satellites to using micro- and nanosatellites that might be configured in less vulnerable and more easily repaired networks. Alternatively, it may be possible to use land-based clusters of unmanned aerial vehicles to substitute, at least on a limited basis, for damaged or destroyed satellites.

The cyberwarfare competition is so shrouded in secrecy that it is difficult to determine the United States' level of vulnerability, let alone options for addressing it. It may be that a defensive strategy cannot be successfully pursued and that the United States will be forced to develop its own cyberweapons and rely on deterring the worst sorts of cyberattacks. In short, the potential for a surprise of the worst sort in this realm remains a real possibility.

Significant resources may be liberated by reducing the military's emphasis on capabilities whose value will likely diminish greatly in the future. Defense Secretary Gates has recently taken some initial positive steps in this direction. For example, the navy's new Zumwalt-class destroyers are too expensive to address the challenges posed by irregular warfare and too vulnerable to operate in East Asia or the Persian Gulf; Gates is moving forward with plans to terminate their production. The army has proposed spending over $150 billion on its constellation of Future Combat Systems. Yet the FCS are optimized for traditional conventional warfare rather than the persistent irregular warfare the army now confronts. The defense secretary's decision to terminate the eight FCS combat vehicles is on the mark, as is his cancellation of the tactical satellite program. Large satellites that are highly effective so long as space is a sanctuary must be reconsidered in recognition of the fact that this condition no longer obtains.

Much more needs to be done to free up defense resources. The military plans to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on several thousand short-range strike aircraft that must operate from forward land bases or carriers, both of which are increasingly vulnerable. These programs should be scaled back in favor of greater investment in longer-range systems, such as a next-generation bomber and the navy's long-range unmanned strike system. The U.S. Marines are planning to field a new amphibious vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that is able to swim ashore and then fight as a land combat vehicle. Yet the fleet that would launch these is being forced to operate ever further from the shore, far beyond the distance for which the EFV was designed. The EFV is also highly vulnerable to the roadside bombs that are now proliferating throughout the developing world. The system should be canceled. It simply makes no sense to spend so many defense dollars on new systems that are essentially wasting assets before they even reach the field.


Security, of course, involves more than just defense policy. For one thing, Washington must do much more than it has in recent years to attract capable and willing allies. After the Cold War, during its "unipolar moment," the United States seemed to have no need for allies, save perhaps for legitimizing its use of force so that it could fulfill its role as the primary guarantor of the international system.

There are states that live in increasingly dangerous neighborhoods that may, with competent U.S. diplomacy, emerge as important allies in this new age. Muslim democracies, such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey, should be engaged. India, the world's largest democracy, has one of the world's largest Muslim populations and shares U.S. concerns over China's military buildup. Despite its demographic decline and economic difficulties, Japan could shoulder significantly more responsibility than it has in the past -- and has increasing reason to do so. South Korea is capable of assuming full responsibility for defending itself against a land assault from the North. Australia remains a highly valued ally, always punching well above its weight. The European allies, although diminished in stature and military capability, can still provide significant support, as demonstrated by the United Kingdom's strong showing in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Nor should engaging China and Russia be discounted. Despite the obvious difficulties involved, their security cannot be isolated from instability in the developing world or from nuclear proliferation.

Even more important, the United States must get its own house in order. The nation's economic might has long been a critical source of competitive advantage. U.S. relative advantage may erode over time, but there is much to suggest that it can be sustained for several generations. Compared with the other great powers, the United States has by far the best demographic profile. China, Europe, Japan, and Russia are all aging more rapidly than the United States, and India confronts a youth bulge that may prove difficult to manage. The United States also boasts a skilled manpower base (although preserving it will require reforming the educational system, which is lagging in key areas). The United States is blessed with a superior store of natural resources, which only Russia can possibly match. It also boasts the world's most dynamic free-enterprise system. But Americans must learn once again to invest in their future and live within their means. The United States entered the Cold War as the world's leading producer nation; now it is the world's leading consumer and debtor nation.

Just as it took over half a decade of effort to address the United States' loss of its nuclear monopoly, a strategy to address the United States' current wasting assets will not be crafted overnight. What is needed is a sense of urgency similar to that which animated policymakers at the start of the Cold War, as well as persistent attention from the president and his top advisers. Yes, the nation confronts a severe financial crisis. But President Barack Obama may take some inspiration from President Franklin Roosevelt, who had to deal with a prolonged, severe depression even while storm clouds gathered overseas.

A decade ago, the debate in defense circles centered on whether or not the U.S. military needed to undertake a "transformation" -- that is, to field a substantially different kind of military to address the challenges of a new era with new rivals and rapidly spreading technologies. The idea faced stiff resistance from many in the military. But the price for such willful ignorance can be steep. Confronted with modern irregular warfare in the wake of the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, the United States found itself engaging in reactive transformation (as did the Israelis following the Second Lebanon War). Today, despite growing evidence that a wide array of U.S. military capabilities are depreciating in value, many remain reluctant to engage in the hard thinking necessary for anticipatory transformation -- preparing for emerging challenges by identifying new capabilities to offset or replace those that are progressively wasting.

Ignoring growing challenges to the United States' ability to project and sustain military capability overseas will not make those challenges go away. Sooner or later, they -- and their implications for U.S. security -- must be confronted. A decline in the U.S. military's ability to influence events abroad may be inevitable; however, it should not be the result of indifference or lack of attention. There are important strategic choices that the United States must make. To avoid those choices now is simply to allow the United States' rivals to make them instead.

Copyright © 2002-2009 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.

Monday, June 29, 2009

SPEAKING FREELY South Korea in a new Asia initiative

South Korea in a new Asia initiative
President Lee Myung-bak is pushing his ambitious "New Asia Initiative", which aims to boost South Korea's role as a regional powerbroker. Lee will likely face the same roadblocks and critics as the late Roh Moo-hyun, who tried to make South Korea an honest broker between China and Japan and the United States and China. - Zhiqun Zhu (Jun 29,'09)

A classic revolutionary dilemma

A classic revolutionary dilemma
The events of recent weeks in Iran can be viewed against the backdrop of a regime that wants to return to its glory days of fervor and idealism. The young, in particular, have been alienated, and demographically and in other ways the present version of the Islamic Republic, which may have postponed its date with destiny, is struggling against the tide of history. - Dilip Hiro (Jun 29,'09)

THE ROVING EYE Requiem for a revolution

Requiem for a revolution
In the end, the sound and fury of the "Tehran spring" led to neither reform nor revolution. The army didn't support the people, and the merchants and workers didn't go on strike. Still, to believe that Iran's national interest and the aspirations of its disenchanted masses will be defended by the new dictatorship of the mullahtariat is to completely miss the point. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 29,'09)

Obama creates a deadly power vacuum

Obama creates a deadly power vacuum

President Barack Obama has not betrayed the interests of the United States to any foreign power, but he has done the next worst thing, namely, to create a void by withdrawing American power. By removing America as a referee, he will provoke more violence than the United States ever did. A very, very dangerous period is about to begin, and it could start with Iran. (Jun 29,'09)

Subsidies for Israel, Sanctions for Iran

Subsidies for Israel, Sanctions for Iran

Grant Smith on nuclear hegemony and hypocrisy

The 2009 Failed States Index By FOREIGN POLICY and The Fund for Peace

The 2009 Failed States Index
By FOREIGN POLICY and The Fund for Peace

It is a sobering time for the world's most fragile countries—virulent economic crisis, countless natural disasters, and government collapse. This year, we delve deeper than ever into just what went wrong—and who is to blame.

Backgrounder: A guide to Israeli settlements

Backgrounder: A guide to Israeli settlements: How and when did they start, why are they spreading, what are the concerns and should anything be done about them? - Gershom Gorenberg, Los Angeles Times:

In principle, the U.S. has consistently opposed all settlements, including the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. However, most administrations have avoided confrontations over the issue, especially when peace negotiations were underway. In the meantime, settlements kept growing. Public diplomatic tussles during the Carter and George H.W. Bush administrations were exceptions.,0,6704423.story

Want to Stop Israeli Settlements? Follow the Dollars- Ronit Avni, Washington Post: This month, both at Cairo University and from the Oval Office, President Obama has called on the Israeli government to stop the expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. He should send the same message to the Americans who are funding and fueling them.

Backgrounder: A guide to Israeli settlements

The two-state chimera - Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times: Nine U.S. presidents have asked Jerusalem to cease and desist expanding settlements. Reassured by a friendly U.S. Congress, even a wink and a nod from President George W. Bush, successive Israeli governments have ignored gentle slaps on the hand - and expanded.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mishal’s Luck Adam Shatz

Mishal’s Luck
Adam Shatz

* Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas by Paul McGeough
In early September 1997, Danny Yatom, the head of Mossad, arranged a special screening for Binyamin Netanyahu, who was then prime minister. The film, shot on the streets of Tel Aviv, presented the plan for the assassination of Khalid Mishal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau in Amman. Twenty-one Israelis had died in Hamas suicide attacks in the previous two months, and Netanyahu was eager for revenge. The peace process might be undermined, but that would be just as well: Netanyahu shared Hamas’s hostility to Oslo, and had compared trading land for peace to appeasement with Hitler. Mishal, Paul McGeough writes in Kill Khalid, his gripping account of the plot, was selected from a list of targets by Netanyahu not only because he was suspected of orchestrating the suicide bomb campaign, but because he made an articulate case for Hamas’s position, in a suit rather than clerical robes: ‘he was too credible as an emerging leader of Hamas, persuasive even. He had to be taken out.’

It was an extremely sensitive operation. Israel had signed a peace treaty with King Hussein in 1994, and the murder of a Palestinian leader in Amman would be sure to fuel speculation that Mossad had got the green light, and perhaps some helpful tips, from Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID). This was no way to treat a friend – at least not one you respected – and the Israelis knew it. Unlike the flamboyant assassinations of the PFLP spokesman Ghassan Kanafani (killed in 1972 in a car bomb in Beirut) and Arafat’s top aide Khalil al-Wazir (gunned down in 1988 in his home in Tunis by Israeli commandos), Mishal’s murder had to be discreet and, if possible, invisible.

The attack would take a matter of seconds – so quick he wouldn’t know it was happening. One agent would shake a can of Coke and pop it open to distract Mishal while another would spray levofentanyl, a chemically modified painkiller, in his ear. He would feel as if he’d been bitten by an insect; 48 hours later the drug would kill him, leaving no trace. Mossad agents rehearsed the assassination using water instead of poison on unsuspecting pedestrians in Tel Aviv. Netanyahu liked what he saw, and gave Yatom the go-ahead. He was not dissuaded by Hamas’s proposal for a 30-year hudna (truce), relayed by King Hussein on 22 September in a letter delivered by hand to the secret Mossad station at the Israeli embassy in Amman. Three days later, a pair of Mossad agents disguised as Canadian tourists – they were carrying passports borrowed from Canadian Jews living in Israel – waited for Mishal at 10 a.m. outside his office, where his driver was due to drop him off.

The plot unravelled almost as soon as it began. Mishal’s driver suspected that he’d been followed by a green Hyundai. When he saw a blond, bearded man in sunglasses approaching his boss as he stepped out of the car, with a ‘bizarre instrument’ in his hand, he pounced on him – though not before the poison had been squirted into Mishal’s ear from that instrument, a nebuliser. The attackers piled into the Hyundai, but they didn’t know their way around Amman, and were chased by Mishal’s bodyguard, who did. Eventually they jumped out of their car, but got stuck in a crowded marketplace, where Mishal’s bodyguard wrestled them into a taxi and took them to the nearest police station. Mishal seemed fine at first, but a few hours later he realised that something was wrong: his ear was ringing, he was shivering; he suddenly felt exhausted and nauseous. As his aides rushed him to hospital, he lost consciousness altogether.

Hamas’s claim that Mishal had been the target of an assassination attempt might have been squelched by the Jordanians, and Mishal might have died, had it not been for Randa Habib, a Lebanese journalist who broke the story to Agence-France Presse. General Samih Batikhi, head of the GID, insisted that nothing more than a fight between locals and tourists had taken place; another official suggested that Mishal’s driver had sparked the row by making unwelcome advances to the Canadians. The absence of a weapon wasn’t the only reason the Jordanians were sceptical. Why would Mossad place its special relationship with the GID at risk? Only a week earlier Danny Yatom had stopped by the headquarters in Amman – after a family holiday at the royal palace on the Red Sea – to chat with Batikhi. Now here was Hamas, accusing Israel of violating the peace treaty: a serious charge which, if true, would require a response.

Batikhi, who viewed Hamas as troublemakers, was inclined to dismiss the Agence-France Presse report until he received credible information that two men involved in the fight were seen running into the Israeli embassy (they would be joined by two other accomplices). When Netanyahu called King Hussein to say that Yatom was flying to Amman on urgent business that ‘could have bearing on the peace process’, Hussein assumed the visit was a response to Hamas’s offer of a hudna; but Batikhi knew better. He ordered the army to surround the Israeli embassy in Amman, and asked the Canadian ambassador to quiz the two men in Jordanian custody – ‘Shawn Kendall’ and ‘Barry Beads’ – on their ‘Canadian-ness’. It didn’t take long for them to be exposed as impostors.

‘We did it . . . We sprayed him with a chemical,’ Yatom confessed to Batikhi after landing in Jordan: ‘There’s nothing you can do about it . . . He’s been poisoned and all his bodily functions will deteriorate. There’ll be no apparent cause of death . . . We’d better deal with the consequences.’ But Hussein wasn’t prepared to deal with the consequences. He felt, he said, as if the Israelis had ‘spat on my face’. Despite – and partly because of – his friendship with Israel, Hussein had allowed Hamas to operate out of Amman. Hamas gave him leverage in negotiations with Israel and the US, and, as McGeough points out, they also ‘gave back something that Arafat and the PLO threatened – Hussein’s legitimacy’. The Jordanians had no love for Mishal: Batikhi regarded him as ‘shallow, brittle and unbending’, and Hussein had gone to great lengths to replace him, securing the release to Jordan four months earlier of the more pliable Mousa Abu Marzook, the former head of the Hamas political bureau, who had spent two years in an American prison awaiting extradition to Israel. But Marzook’s cosiness with Jordan’s security services, and his reputation for moderation (which had earned him the nickname Mr CIA), had cost him support inside Hamas; and he wasn’t helped now by rumours that the Jordanians had conspired with Israel to return him to his old job. Suddenly Hussein’s honour – if not his political survival – depended on saving Mishal.

The crisis offered Hussein a chance to settle scores with Netanyahu, who had treated him with undisguised contempt, and whom he suspected of seeking to ‘destroy all I have worked to build between our peoples’, as Hussein had written to Netanyahu in March. Netanyahu had approved a tunnel underneath the al-Aqsa Mosque, which led to rioting in which dozens of Palestinians and a number of Israelis died; he had also betrayed his promise to Hussein not to build new settlements in East Jerusalem, with his plan to encircle the neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim with Jewish apartment complexes. In Hussein’s view, the assassination was part of Netanyahu’s plan to sabotage Oslo and to destabilise his own regime, so that a Palestinian state could be established in Jordan – the old fantasy of the Israeli right. Refusing to speak to Netanyahu, he placed a call to Clinton. ‘If Mishal dies, peace dies with him,’ Hussein warned. The embassy would be stormed, the Israelis in Jordanian custody would hang, and relations would be broken off. Clinton agreed to pressure the Israelis to hand over the antidote to the poison used on Mishal, along with the formula. Forty-eight hours after Yatom landed in Amman, an Israeli doctor arrived at the same airport with the goods, just in time to save Mishal. Netanyahu even flew to Jordan to apologise to the king in person.

Hussein’s humiliation of Netanyahu did not end there. As the ‘father of the treaty’ with Hussein, Efraim Halevy, Israel’s envoy to the EU and Mossad’s former deputy director, recognised, the king needed a deal, not just the antidote; and if he didn’t get one, the Israelis now held in Jordan would never come home. The price, Halevy argued, should be the release of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the paraplegic cleric who had founded Hamas in Gaza, and was now serving his eighth year of a life sentence. This was ‘political dynamite’, in the words of an American official: Yassin’s return to Gaza was bound to raise the standing of Hamas among Palestinians, and to weaken Arafat, Israel’s ‘peace partner’. Arafat made an operatic display of joy over Yassin’s release, but privately he was furious: not only would King Hussein get the credit, but the sheikh would threaten his control of the national movement, and undermine his negotiations with Israel. ‘Why should I pay a price for this?’ he moaned to Clinton’s Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross.

Shortly after Mishal’s life was saved, a group of Jordanian officials discussed the affair with Clinton. ‘Though he was not present, the meeting was an extraordinary moment in the life of Khalid Mishal,’ McGeough writes: ‘Mishal and his movement had been acknowledged as key players.’ It was also an extraordinary reversal of fortune. Hamas, in the words of a senior American official, had been having ‘its worst year’ until ‘Mossad’s balls-up in Amman’. Marzook and Yassin had been behind bars, and hundreds of Hamas leaders had been jailed by Arafat’s Preventive Security Service, headed in Gaza by Mohammed Dahlan, whose methods had made some Hamas prisoners nostalgic for their Israeli jailers. Now Marzook was back in Amman, and Yassin was back in Gaza, a symbol of Palestinian defiance whose authority even Arafat found difficult to challenge.

The greatest beneficiary of the failed assassination, however, was its intended victim, whom Mossad had turned into a star of the Islamic resistance. Marzook campaigned to get his old job back but didn’t stand a chance against the ‘martyr who would not die’. Mishal’s insistence that only armed resistance would end the occupation, and that Arafat had nothing to show for his renunciation of violence (‘Where did it get him? Where’s his independent state?’), prevailed in Hamas’sshura, or decision-making council. ‘The day they tried to kill him was the day Mishal the leader was born,’ a Jordanian journalist told McGeough. ‘The man who died that day was Abu Marzook. Nobody wanted to talk to Abu Marzook after that – it was Mishal, Mishal, Mishal.’

McGeough tells the story of the Amman plot in the gritty, unsentimental style of a hard-boiled thriller. Kill Khalid is a reporter’s book, drawing plentifully on interviews with the important players, including Mishal. The Mishal affair may not be as much of a turning point in the conflict as McGeough claims, but its wider resonances are striking. More than a decade later, Mishal is Hamas’s political chief in Damascus, and Netanyahu, the man who ordered his assassination, is back in power in Jerusalem. The Islamic resistance movement, Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyah (hamas means ‘zeal’ in Arabic), now controls the Gaza Strip, having survived the prisons of the IDF and the Palestinian Authority, a pitiless blockade, international isolation, the ‘targeted’ assassinations of many of its leaders, an American-backed putsch and an Israeli invasion. And though neither the US nor the EU will speak to Mishal, on the grounds that Hamas is a ‘terrorist’ organisation, he has won the respect of a growing number of politicians in the West, including Jimmy Carter.

Mishal was born in 1956, into a peasant family in the Jordanian-ruled West Bank village of Silwad, 16 miles north of Jerusalem. His father, Abd al-Qadir, was a sheikh who had fought in the 1936 Arab Revolt and in the 1948 war with Israel; he had also been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the militant Islamist group founded in Egypt in 1928. Mishal, during his childhood in Silwad, saw little of his father: in 1957, Abd al-Qadir had taken a second wife and moved with her to Kuwait, where he established a new family. Ten years later, however, the Israeli army occupied Silwad, and Fatima Mishal and her children fled to Amman, then to Kuwait, where they were reunited with Abd al-Qadir.

The emirate was not without its difficulties for Palestinian refugees, who couldn’t buy property without a Kuwaiti partner, and were collectively viewed as a potential fifth column. But since in most of the Arab world Palestinians had a choice between the heroism of guerrilla warfare and the misery of the refugee camps, Kuwait offered the hope of a more or less normal life. Palestinians staffed Kuwait’s schools and civil service, and took great pride in their contribution to the country’s economy. Mishal’s father befriended a senior member of the royal family who admired his sermons, and rose to the position of mullah, no small achievement for a country preacher. Kuwait’s comparatively liberal ambience had also made it a centre of Palestinian politics. It was in Kuwait that Arafat and his comrades had founded Fatah; it was there, too, that young Palestinians in the national movement’s various factions – secular-nationalist, Marxist, Islamist – would fight over its future.

Khalid Mishal joined the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 15. As McGeough emphasises, this was not a fashionable choice in the early 1970s, when the armed resistance to Israel was led by secular nationalists, and Islamists faced accusations of complacency, if not cowardice, for standing on the sidelines. But Mishal, like a growing number of pious Muslims in the diaspora, was convinced that the Palestinian struggle had to be grounded on Islamic principles; it was, they believed, the Arabs’ deviation from those principles that had led them to defeat in 1948 and 1967. They thought that Arafat was repeating the same error when, in the mid-1970s, he began to express support for a ‘transitional’ Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – and hinted, implicitly, at an eventual rapprochement with the Jewish state.

For Mishal and his comrades, who called for the creation of an Islamic state in all of historical Palestine, this was treason; at a stroke Arafat was lending legitimacy to the state that had caused the Palestinian ordeal, and selling out the refugees. At Kuwait University, where he studied physics, Mishal founded the Islamic Association of Palestinian Students, a rival to the Arafat-controlled General Union of Palestinian Students, and became its president. When he graduated, he asked his mother to say ‘amen’ to his wish to become ‘a martyr for Palestine’. ‘My son, I can’t say “amen” to that,’ she replied. ‘It’s too difficult.’

She needn’t have worried: Khalid, a contemplative, bookish young man, a reader of Camus and Dostoevsky, was not in a hurry to become a martyr. Not only had he joined an organisation that had until this point kept its distance from the armed struggle; unlike many of his classmates, who were slipping out of Kuwait to join the fedayeen in southern Lebanon, he had decided that he could better serve the national cause by remaining a student. In McGeough’s words, he ‘was opting to live to fight another day’.

Mishal soon acquired the trappings of a quiet, middle-class life: a stable job as a high-school physics teacher, a wife and children. But in his spare time he was meeting behind closed doors with a group of Palestinian Muslim Brothers to develop what he called his ‘project’, the creation of an Islamic alternative to Fatah. The time had come, they believed, for Islamists to take part in the armed struggle, and to wrest control of the movement. They belonged to a new generation of Islamists who drew inspiration from the Iranian Revolution and the Afghan holy war; they pointed to the failure of secular Arab nationalists to govern effectively (or to confront Israel), and wanted to fuse the energies of nationalism and Islam. For them ‘there was no contradiction between fighting for Palestine and conducting a religious life.’ Mishal drew selectively on Palestinian history – including his father’s story – to argue that the Muslim Brotherhood, not Fatah, had launched the national resistance: ‘We’re the root; Fatah is a mere branch.’

To most observers, Mishal’s early efforts couldn’t have looked promising. Supporters of Fatah and the left far outnumbered Palestine’s Islamists, and Arafat controlled the purse strings of the PLO. But Arafat had little to show for his leadership of the PLO, apart from its survival. He had held it together thanks to his charisma and his flair for cutting deals, but he had involved the Palestinian movement, to disastrous effect, in Arab politics, above all in the Lebanese civil war. Though spartan in his own habits he had allowed corruption in the PLO to fester, since compromised allies were more easily controlled. And he governed in the style of the region, making decisions capriciously and without consulting anyone, as if his nickname, Mr Palestine, entitled him not to. Islamic opposition movements combining piety with political militancy were excoriating nationalist leaders throughout the region; what grounds were there for seeing the Palestinian movement as an exception? The main surprise, perhaps, is that it took so long.

In 1983, Mishal and his Kuwaiti allies presented their ‘project’ to a meeting of the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman. Arafat and his soldiers had recently been expelled from Lebanon, and the PLO, exiled to Tunis, had never seemed so far from achieving independence, or so directionless. Mishal, McGeough writes, gave a daring speech that amounted to a ‘full-frontal assault on the supremacy of Yasir Arafat’. His recommendations were adopted, and Mishal was made head of the Kuwait-based Jihaz Filastin – the Palestine Apparatus that would pay for military operations in the Occupied Territories. (McGeough, drawing uncritically on Mishal’s account, makes rather too much of this conference, claiming that it marks the founding of Hamas; in fact, Hamas was established four years later, at the Gaza home of Sheikh Yassin on 9 December 1987, the day the intifada broke out.) Mishal’s first assignment, as head of the Palestine Apparatus, was to raise money in the Gulf so that Yassin’s followers could undergo weapons training in Jordan. Tipped off by an informer, Israel jailed Yassin for plotting to destroy the Jewish state.

Yassin’s involvement in weapons training came as a shock to many Israelis; even today there are figures in Israeli intelligence who insist that his guns were pointed at Fatah. Ever since they occupied Gaza, the Israelis had been cultivating Yassin – a Muslim Brother who’d been jailed by Egypt – in their struggle against Palestinian nationalism, much as the Americans had supported the Afghan mujahedin. (McGeough suggests that some of the money raised by Muslims abroad in support of the mujahedin may have found its way to Palestine.) Yassin made no secret of his hatred of Israel, but, as a Muslim Brother, he believed that before taking up arms to recover their land, Palestinians would first have to undergo ‘ideological, spiritual and psychological re-education’. While secular nationalists mobilised against the occupation, in strikes and guerrilla attacks, Yassin promoted social works and religious instruction. Overlooking his belief that ‘re-education’ was only preparation for the impending jihad, the Israelis regarded him as a tactical ally against the PLO. In the early 1970s, while Israel repressed any stirrings of nationalist resistance, Yassin was permitted to open up the Islamic Centre, an umbrella organisation that included a mosque, a clinic, a kindergarten, a festival hall and a headquarters for an alms committee; with the occupier’s approval he was soon receiving considerable funds from the Gulf.

In the mid-1980s, the military governor of Gaza gave a succinct summary of Israel’s relationship to Yassin: ‘The Israeli government gives me a budget and the military government gives it to the mosques.’ After a trip to Gaza in 1985, Daniel Kurtzer, an official at the US embassy in Tel Aviv, barged into a meeting of Shimon Peres’s advisers and asked them: ‘Have you guys lost your minds? Do you ever learn from history? Do you know what you’re doing in Gaza as we speak? . . . You really think you can tame these guys?’ When Gazan Islamists wanted to cross over to the West Bank in support of their comrades in clashes with Fatah, the Israelis let them through. As one official explained to McGeough, ‘they’ll only be beating each other up.’

In fact, Yassin and other Islamists inside the Occupied Territories were drawing the same lessons from the revolutionary Islamic struggles in Iran, Afghanistan and Lebanon as Mishal and his comrades were in the diaspora: that the gradualist philosophy of the Brothers should give way to the rifle. In its 1988 charter, Hamas proclaimed its desire to ‘raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine’ and depicted the Zionist project as the latest chapter of a Jewish conspiracy for world domination that had begun with the French Revolution, and continued with the Russian Revolution and two world wars. Yet the Israelis continued to indulge Hamas during the first few years of the intifada, focusing their repression on the secular National Unified Leadership of the Uprising, and allowing the Islamists to receive substantial funds from abroad. With this money – raised by Hamas-affiliated charities in Europe, the US and the Gulf – Hamas expanded its influence, building a vast network of schools, daycare centres, hospitals and athletic clubs.

Mishal relocated to Amman in 1990, when he and his family were forced to flee Kuwait after Arafat gave his blessings to Saddam Hussein’s invasion, thereby jeopardising the security of the 400,000 Palestinians who’d made a decent life for themselves in the emirate – not to mention his ties to the Gulf Arabs who bankrolled the PLO. Arafat’s mistake was Hamas’s good fortune: Gulf rulers who had paid for the PLO’s operating budget now wrote their cheques to Hamas, which had denounced Saddam’s attack. Drained of funds and desperate to come in from the cold, Arafat scurried to Madrid and then to Oslo; ignoring the warnings of Palestinian leaders from the Occupied Territories, he signed a deal in September 1993 that made him Israel’s policeman, while providing no guarantee of a freeze on Israeli settlements, or the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. In no small part thanks to disappointment with Oslo – and frustration with Arafat and the ‘Tunisians’ who returned to govern the PA – Hamas became the main opposition party in Palestine, attracting support not primarily for its Islamic piety, but for its lack of corruption, and its willingness to stand up to Israel. It also developed a substantial military wing, the Qassam Brigades, which would launch a ferocious campaign of suicide attacks inside Israel in 1994, following Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs mosque in Hebron. There could be no balance of power with Israel, but perhaps, Mishal and his men reasoned, there could be a balance of fear. Arafat won praise from the US and Israel as a ‘partner in peace’ for his brutal crackdown on Hamas. But he soon discovered that he could repress Hamas only at prohibitive cost to his own legitimacy.

Working under Mousa Abu Marzook in Hamas’s political bureau, Mishal kept a low profile during the first intifada: ‘A little obscurity is good. My comrades and God know what I have been doing.’ But according to regional intelligence agencies, he had established an increasingly influential position inside Hamas, overseeing ‘funds, weapons and military infrastructure’; some Israeli officials referred to him as Hamas’s prime minister. Agents observed that he avoided public highways in Lebanon, preferring roads used by the Syrian army, and that he travelled frequently to Singapore, Pakistan and other Muslim countries. Though he did not make an official appearance as a leader of Hamas until 1995, he was now, as head of the Palestine Apparatus and a member of the three-man military committee which directed the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s single most powerful figure.

Mishal had a stroke of luck when, brushing aside the warnings of his colleagues, Marzook travelled to the US only six months after the Clinton administration declared Hamas a ‘terrorist’ organisation – and only a day after a suicide attack near Tel Aviv. He was arrested by the FBI at JFK airport and spent the next two years in prison, leaving Mishal to take over the political bureau. Marzook continued to think of himself as Hamas’s natural leader, but his visit to the US had infuriated his colleagues, and Mishal proved himself an adroit operator in the shura council. The rivalry between Mishal, a Kuwaiti Palestinian who’d never lived a day under occupation, and Marzook, a protégé of Yassin from a poor family in Gaza, was partly a reflection of the old tensions between Palestinians from the ‘inside’ and those from the diaspora. But matters of style and personality were just as important. Marzook was a gregarious, impulsive man who enjoyed an audience; Mishal was a careful, patient listener who won over his colleagues with his seriousness and with his rigorous adherence to the principles of shura. And so when Marzook returned to Jordan in 1997, he found himself out of a job.

The failed assassination gave Mishal a renewed sense of purpose: ‘I’ve been given a new life for a new role,’ he said. Two years later, he was deported by Hussein’s heir, King Abdullah, but soon found a home in Damascus, where, like Hizbullah, Hamas has given the Syrians a card to play in their efforts to recover the Golan Heights. In return, Syria has provided him with protection from Israel, which has assassinated dozens of Hamas militants since the second intifada, including Sheikh Yassin, killed by a helicopter gunship in March 2004. After Yassin’s death Mishal became Hamas’s undisputed leader. And in November of that year, another obstacle to Mishal – and to Hamas’s eclipse of Fatah – vanished when Arafat died. Without Arafat, and under Abbas’s impotent, feckless leadership, Fatah was rudderless. Hamas now dominated Palestinian politics.

Mishal is often portrayed as the ‘hardliner in Damascus’, in implicit (and unfavourable) contrast with Hamas ‘moderates’ in the Occupied Territories. But McGeough, who spent many hours talking to Mishal, situates him at Hamas’s ‘pragmatic centre’. He is a militant, but not a fanatic; a nationalist, not a proponent of transnational jihad. (An American analyst told McGeough: ‘I’ve met him three times now and I still have not heard him say the word “Islam”.’) It’s true that Mishal led the opposition inside the shura to participating in the 1996 parliamentary elections, arguing that to do so would be to admit the legitimacy of the Oslo Accords. But he also argued in favour of taking part in the 2006 elections, inspired by the example of Hizbullah in Lebanon, and led Hamas to a decisive victory. As McGeough points out, Hamas ran on a platform of reform, promising clean governance and transparency; it made no mention of an Islamic state in its electoral manifesto, and hardly spoke of violence, leaving Fatah to boast of its contribution to the armed struggle. During the campaign Mishal spoke to rallies from Damascus, through a mobile phone held to the microphone of a loudspeaker. Hamas’s victory was greeted with a diplomatic boycott by the powers that had urged democracy on the Palestinian people, along with efforts to ‘bolster’ Abbas and, ultimately, to foment civil war between Hamas and Fatah.

The West responded this way to the elected government of Hamas because it refuses to renounce violence, abide by previous agreements between Israel and the PA, and recognise the state of Israel. Mishal’s view is that if Hamas were to satisfy the Quartet’s three demands, there would be little to distinguish Hamas from Fatah, which renounced violence, repudiated its claim to 78 per cent of historical Palestine and accepted Israel’s legitimacy – and got very little in return except an interminable ‘peace process’. Israel, in Mishal’s view, would never have removed the settlers from Gaza had it not been for the Qassam rockets fired at Sderot. Hamas, he insists, will continue the armed struggle until the occupation ends. Yet his movement does not use force indiscriminately, and, as many Israeli officials acknowledge, he has honoured ceasefires more faithfully than Arafat did.

Mishal does not accept Israel’s ‘right to exist’ – this would be tantamount, in Hamas’s eyes, to legitimising their own dispossession – but de facto recognition is another matter, and he has on several occasions advocated a hudna of 20 to 30 years. At a summit in Mecca on 7 February 2007 he expressed Hamas’s support for continued negotiations based on a two-state deal along the 1967 border, a position that, McGeough suggests, brings him closer to Washington’s official position than Netanyahu, who advocates only a vague ‘economic peace’. Until a Palestinian state is established, and there is some parallel recognition by Israel of Palestinian rights to national self-determination – and some resolution of the refugees’ plight – Mishal is not going to recognise the Jewish state. And in Mecca he agreed only to ‘respect’ – not ‘abide by’ – earlier agreements with Israel. But he has also indicated that Hamas’s stated positions are far less important than its actions: ‘Watch what we do, not what we say.’

What this means is that Hamas is likely to continue calling for the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea, while at the same time seeking an end to the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Mishal and his associates don’t view the two-state arrangement as anything like a long-term solution to the conflict, but they are realists, and they are willing to live with it – provided it doesn’t result in the cantonisation of Palestinian land, and provided it’s not a way of shutting them out, as Abbas and the West intend it. Hamas wants to be a part of the deal, and, as it demonstrated during the Oslo years, is in an ideal position to play the role of spoiler if it’s not.

As for the 1988 charter, with its luxuriant borrowings from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hamas isn’t likely to repudiate it, particularly if it comes under pressure to do so: it was precisely Western calls for repudiation that led Hamas to suspend its efforts to revise it, and to eliminate the offending passages. But Mishal and other Hamas officials have indicated on several occasions that the charter is a historical document that long ago ceased to reflect their thinking. Mishal is reported to consider it an embarrassment, and has insisted that the conflict with Israel ‘is a political issue between us; it is not theological.’ Although he has authorised – and indeed praised – the use of suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, he has also emphasised that ‘we do not fight you because you belong to a certain faith or culture . . . We have no problem with Jews who have not attacked us.’ Unlike most of the secular nationalist factions, including Fatah, Hamas has never struck at targets outside the zone of conflict.

Mishal is not a charismatic leader in the mould of Arafat, or even of Yassin. He’s a good speaker, yet he has arrived at his position not by giving speeches, but rather, McGeough suggests, by patiently fielding the views of his colleagues inside Hamas’s shura. By promoting discussion and consensus, he’s been able to steer Hamas towards an implicit acceptance of coexistence with Israel. Despite his commitment to the armed struggle, he is not a hothead, and he is far less interested in martyrdom than in lifting the blockade, securing the release of Palestinian prisoners, and achieving recognition for Hamas on the international stage. Unlike some of Hamas’s leaders, particularly those who have spent their lives under occupation, Mishal has travelled widely, and he understands the way things work in the outside world. The world, in turn, has begun to take notice of him. He may be a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist’ in the eyes of the US Treasury, but he has been receiving an increasing number of visitors from the West, as well as a handful of Jewish leaders.

As the director of Hamas’s foreign policy, Mishal has forged a close alliance with Syria and Iran, the so-called resistance bloc; he has been a frequent guest in Tehran, which is reported to smuggle weapons to Gaza through Sudan and Cyprus. But he has been careful to preserve his movement’s independence, and has developed cordial relations with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and, increasingly, Turkey. ‘Hamas is not an Iranian tool,’ a former senior Israeli official told McGeough. ‘Hamas needs Tehran and Damascus, but it’s a balance that Mishal manages well.’ As Mishal points out, he wouldn’t have gone to Mecca in February 2007 or supported the Saudi peace plan – or backed the Sunni insurgents in Iraq – if he were simply a client of Tehran.

Will the Obama administration talk to Hamas? In a recent interview with La Repubblica, Mishal said that it was just ‘a matter of time’. In American think tanks close to the administration (and, one imagines, in the State Department), it’s understood that Hamas will have to be engaged sooner or later: Abbas simply does not command enough support among Palestinians to reach a deal on his own, and if Hamas is destroyed, it’s likely to be replaced not by Fatah, but by jihadi extremists. In March, a bipartisan group of senior American officials – including Paul Volcker, an economic adviser to Obama, the former Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Nancy Kassebaum, the former World Bank president James Wolfensohn and the former UN ambassador Thomas Pickering – urged Obama to talk to Hamas. But the power of the Israel lobby makes any direct overture risky. Legal restrictions, too, would have to be overcome: three years ago, the US Congress passed a law banning the use of funds for diplomatic contact with Hamas, and ended assistance to any Palestinian ministry connected to Hamas. Although Hamas has never attacked American interests, Obama may find it hard to authorise talks with the ‘specially designated global terrorists’ in its leadership. And while the administration is pursuing a thaw with Damascus, George Mitchell isn’t likely to stop by Mishal’s bunker. Just how Mitchell expects to reach a deal without talking to Hamas isn’t clear. As Mishal remarked to McGeough in a recent interview, ‘Would he have succeeded in Belfast if he was ordered to ignore the IRA?’

Isolating Hamas, however, remains the order of the day, and it was the unspoken subtext of the recent ‘donors conference’ at Sharm el-Sheikh, where leaders from the West and the Arab world came to pledge £3.2 billion in aid to the Palestinians. Hamas was not invited, since the purpose was to bolster Abbas and the PA. And though it was Gaza, not the West Bank, that was devastated during Israel’s offensive, most of the funds will go to the PA in Ramallah. (Of the $900 million the US has pledged, $600 million has been earmarked for the PA to ‘reorganise itself’.)

In an implicit concession to Hamas, Hillary Clinton recently said that Washington would not oppose the formation of a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, but she added that the US ‘will not deal with nor in any way fund’ a Palestinian government that fails to meet the Quartet’s three conditions: a demand it hasn’t imposed on the coalition government in Lebanon, in which Hizbullah has veto power; or indeed on such pro-Western Arab governments as Saudi Arabia that have yet to make peace with Israel. Meanwhile, Israel has prevented construction materials from entering Gaza, partly because of their alleged ‘dual use’ in arms production – but also as a means of pressuring Hamas to release Corporal Gilad Shalit – and even pasta and lentils have been turned away at the crossing.

None of this is going to turn Palestinians against Hamas, any more than America’s arming of Fatah or Israel’s attack on Gaza did. Hamas is part of the fabric of Palestinian politics, and neither force nor diplomatic isolation will make it go away. Its history is one of tenacity in the face of enormous odds: it has been nourished by the efforts to destroy it. No one is in a better position to appreciate this than Israel’s new prime minister who, once again, finds himself facing the martyr who would not die.

Magazine: G.M., Detroit and the Fall of the Black Middle Class By JONATHAN MAHLER

Magazine: G.M., Detroit and the Fall of the Black Middle Class
The Powell family left the South in the 1960s, seeking
better opportunities up North in the auto industry. Now the
life they built is in danger of slipping away.

Full Story:

Opinion: Invent, Invent, Invent By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Opinion: Invent, Invent, Invent
The country that endows its people with more tools and
basic research to create new goods and services is the one
that will not just survive this crisis but thrive down the

Full Story:

The End of the Beginning? BY TRITA PARSI, REZA ASLAN | JUNE 26, 2009

The End of the Beginning?

Iran's popular uprising, which began after the June 12 election, may be heading for a premature ending. In many ways, the Ahmadinejad government has succeeded in transforming what was a mass movement into dispersed pockets of unrest. Whatever is now left of this mass movement is now leaderless, unorganized -- and under the risk of being hijacked by groups outside Iran in pursuit of their own political agendas.

In 1999, students in Iran demonstrated against the closing of reformist newspapers. The unrest lasted a few days and was brutally suppressed. The demonstrators were almost exclusively students. No other segments of society joined their ranks in any meaningful numbers. With their limited appeal to other segments of society, the demonstrators failed to grow in numbers and attain their political objectives.

The demonstrations following the Iranian election on June 12 share few if any characteristics of the student uprising of 1999. What we have witnessed taking place in Iran is a mass movement attracting supporters from all walks of life, all demographics, all classes, and even all political backgrounds. Even supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have expressed discomfort with the developments in Iran, arguing that they voted for Ahmadinejad because they thought he would be a better president, and not because he would be a better dictator.

Indeed, the post-election demonstrations have neither been an uprising of intellectuals and students nor die-hard anti-regime elements from northern Tehran. Instead, the masses that poured in the streets included large numbers of people who often have been loyal to the Iranian government and who in many ways have a stake in its survival. (We can call them Iran's political middle, or its swing voters.) This is precisely why this movement has constituted such a threat to the Iranian government -- not once since 1979 has such an alliance of Iranians come together.

Knowing very well that the opposition's ability to attract Iranians of all backgrounds constituted a major threat to the government, the Iranian authorities moved quickly to peel away layer after layer of people from the movement to reduce it to a much smaller and more manageable core of regime -- not Ahmadinejad -- opponents. The Ahmadinejad government's tactics were predictable: It combined a most brutal clampdown on protesters with propaganda alleging that the opposition movement was orchestrated by foreign elements and exiled opposition groups.

The Mousavi camp sought to counteract these measures and retain its ability to attract a diverse array of Iranians by grounding its slogans and resistance in the language and symbolism of the revolution itself. Mousavi, in a direct challenge to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, presented himself and the movement as the guardians of the revolution, and protesters in the street recycled slogans from the 1979 era, including the chant "Allahu Akbar."

Although successful at first, the discipline has clearly broken down. This should be no surprise -- the movement is by now in effect leaderless. A source close to Mousavi says that the first and second circle of people around Mousavi have all been arrested or put under house arrest. Mousavi himself has limited ability to communicate with his team and his followers. The lack of leadership is visible on the streets, where demonstrators exhibit unparalleled will and courage, but lack direction and guidance.

Indeed, the lack of organization and execution is perhaps the most convincing evidence that the anti-Ahmadinejad movement is completely homegrown and void of any attempt to emulate the velvet revolutions of Central Asia and Eastern Europe. What is driving people to the streets is their sense of frustration and anger -- not a well-devised plan and training in clever nonviolent resistance techniques.

The leadership vacuum does not bode well for the movement's prospects of success, particularly when it comes to attracting those Iranian swing-voters to its side once more. And this creates openings for external meddling -- just not the kind you think.

Exiled opposition groups, whose political agenda sharply differs from that of the protesters in Iran -- indeed, many of these groups urged people not to vote in the elections -- have sought to fill the vacuum left by a beheaded and directionless indigenous movement. Though the outrage of these exiled groups against the Iranian government’s brutal violence is genuine, their efforts to impose themselves on the political scene have caused great frustration among opposition elements inside Iran. At a time when the movement in Iran is paralyzed, efforts by exiled groups -- groups that scorned the protesters only weeks ago for choosing to participate in the elections -- to fill the leadership vacuum are viewed as nothing less than a maneuver to hijack the movement.

This is playing right into the hands of the Ahmadinejad government, precisely because it would weaken, if not eliminate, the indigenous movement's trump card: its ability to attract the Iranian swing-voters back to its side. If the exiled opposition groups and their neo-conservative backers in the United States prevail in aiding the Ahmadinejad government, what started out as the largest Iranian mass movement since 1979 may end up as little more than the student demonstrations of 1999. Which is to say, an instance of hopes raised, then dashed.

Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the U.S. Reza Aslan is the author of How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror.

Fixing Global Finance by Robert Skidelsky: Book Review

The current (July 16) New York Review of Books contains a brilliant review ( of Martin Wolf's latest book, Fixing Global Finance, by Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at Warwick University, England. The concluding section, reproduced below, is a succinct description of the relationship of the dollar to American hegemonic power that bears close reading.

Begin Text

... Wolf's book offers important pointers to the way ahead. But his story is only half-told. He has very little to say about America's responsibility for both creating and ending the system of global imbalances. For the fact is that the present system has suited the United States—specifically the power holders in the United States—just as much as it has those in China. The phrase "it has enabled the Americans to live beyond their means" is too vague to be useful. One needs to ask: which Americans? Certainly many middle- and low-income American households have been given opportunities to borrow beyond their means.

But secondly, the American–Chinese symbiosis has been excellent for US business profits. American businessmen have been complicit in Chinese "super-competitiveness" by arranging for manufacturing jobs to be moved to China from the US in order to cut costs. The decline in US manufacturing and the growth in nontradable services, and the financial operations that secured this restructuring, have enabled financiers and businessmen to earn huge profits that should have been shared with their workers. Morally, the financial community has been living well beyond its means. But perhaps above all, by getting other countries to finance its imperial pretensions, the US government has been able to live beyond its means. Wolf refers in several places to the "exorbitant privilege" of the US dollar, but omits entirely to discuss the political benefits that this privilege buys.

This points to the main weakness of Fixing Global Finance: the lack of a historical perspective. The history of the overprivileged dollar, after all, goes all the way back to the 1960s. Its roots lie in the failure of John Maynard Keynes's plan for a Clearing Union, which he worked out during World War II. The Keynes plan was specifically designed to prevent creditor countries from hoarding reserves by trading at undervalued currencies. If they did not spend their surpluses, the surpluses would be confiscated and redistributed among debtor countries. In this way a global balance between saving and investment would be secured through a balanced trade position, which would in turn allow fixed, but adjustable, exchange rates.

The Bretton Woods agreement of 1944 adopted the proposal for fixed but adjustable rates, but failed to provide a remedy against countries with trade surpluses accumulating, or hoarding, reserves. In practice, the problem was solved by the United States taking the place of nineteenth-century Britain as the chief supplier of foreign investment funds. The outflow of American savings helped reconstruct Europe after the war, and kept global demand buoyant throughout the Bretton Woods era. The dollar replaced gold as the world's chief reserve currency. This allowed the US to print dollars to cover its growing trade deficit. The arrangement suited both the Europeans and the United States, because it not only enabled the Europeans to export to America at undervalued exchange rates, but it also covered the cost of America defending Western Europe and non-Chinese East Asia against communism. In other words, the "exorbitant privilege" of the dollar allowed the US to pursue an imperial mission that, in the era of the cold war, was greatly to the satisfaction of its partners and allies.

The privileged position of the dollar survived the collapse of the Bretton Woods regime of fixed-exchange rates in 1971. In theory, the resulting system of floating exchange rates removes the need for any reserves at all, since adjustment of current account imbalances was supposed to be automatic. But the need for reserves unexpectedly survived, mainly to guard against speculative movements of short-term investment—"hot money"—that could drive exchange rates away from their equilibrium values. Starting in the 1990s, East Asian governments unilaterally erected a "Bretton Woods II," linking their currencies to the dollar, and holding their reserves in dollars. This reproduced both the benefits and faults of Bretton Woods I: it avoided global deflation, but undermined the long-run credibility of the dollar as the global reserve currency.

The new arrangement allowed the United States to continue to enjoy the political benefits of "seigniorage"—the right to acquire real resources through the printing of money. The "free" resources were not just unpaid-for imported consumer goods but the ability to deploy large military forces overseas without having to tax its own citizens to do so. Every historian knows that a hegemonic currency is part of an imperial system of political relations. Americans acquiesced in the unbalanced economic relations initiated by East Asian governments in their undervaluation of their currencies because they ensured the persistence of unbalanced political relations.

A willingness by the US government to end macroeconomic imbalances thus depends on its willingness to accept a much more plural world—one in which other centers of power in Europe, China, Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East assume responsibility for their own security, and in which the rules of the game for a world order that can preserve the peace while effectively tackling the challenges posed by terrorism, climate change, and abuse of human rights are negotiated and not imposed. Whether, even under Obama, the US is willing to accept such a political rebalancing of the world is far from obvious. It will require a huge mental realignment in the United States. The financial crash has disclosed the need for an economic realignment. But it will not happen until the US renounces its imperial mission.

End Text (dated June 17)