A new poll by CBS News reveals some serious gloom: 61 percent of Americans polled believe Iraq will never become a stable democracy, up eight percentage points since September. Have they all been reading ForeignPolicy.com?
Here's the question: Which of these do you think is most likely?
Iraq will become a stable democracy in the next year or two
Iraq will become a stable democracy, but it will take longer than a year or two
Iraq will probably never become a stable democracy
Georgetown's Daniel Nexon characterizes Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's admonition of Russia's interventions in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia provice as NATO writing "checks it probably can't cash." This prompted Matthew Yglesias to write:
It would be appallingly stupid for the United States or our other key allies to put anything whatsoever on the line for the sake of Georgia's efforts to reassert control over its rebellious province. The question of maintaining a good relationship with an important country, Russia, versus standing up for the independence of Russia's neighbors poses some tough dilemmas. But when the issue is Georgia's effort to rule over a province that by all indications doesn't want to be ruled by Tblisi, the dilemma really isn't difficult at all. We should just stay far, far, far away from this dispute and try to make it clear to our friends in Georgia that we don't encourage them to do anything stupid.
I think it's wishful thinking on Yglesias's part to pretend that this has nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy. Abkhazia isn't just some obscure, post-Soviet backwater conflict that emerged on its own. Russia's recent actions -- normalizing trade relations and sending hundreds of "peacekeepers" into the region -- were taken in direct response to Western recognition of Kosovo and talk of NATO expansion. Telling Georgia that it has to resolve this issue on its own before we'll even think about NATO membership is basically an open invitiation for Putin to continue meddling.
I agree that tradeoffs and concessions will have to be made with an increasingly assertive Russia, and Georgia's territorial integrity may be less of a priority than other goals. But being willing to make concessions is not the same thing as looking the other way when Russia responds to U.S. and EU policy by annexing territory from Western allies. I don't really see why de Hoop Scheffer saying that Georgia and Russia "should engage quickly in a high-level and open dialogue to de-escalate tensions" is some sort of bombastic provocation.
For the record, the Georgians have put quite a bit on the line to help the United States reassert control in Iraq with the hope that they might gain NATO membership in return. That gambit is starting to look "appallingly stupid."
Drudge is linking to this story with the dramatic headline, "SUMMER SHOWDOWN: Israeli minister says alternatives to attack on Iran running out..."
The article quotes Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz as issuing an unusually blunt warning to Iran: "If Iran continues its nuclear weapons programme, we will attack it."
The thing to remember about Israeli politics is that it's a parliamentary system. So, the ministers don't serve "at the pleasure of the president"; they're independent politicians with their own bases of support, even if they hail from the same political party as the prime minister.
So, this is not the same thing as U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters (who, incidentally, has a blog called "Fast Lane") issuing a press release. We can safely presume that Peters speaks for the Bush administration.
But the hawkish Mofaz, a former defense minister and military chief of staff, doesn't necessarily speak for the Israeli government. He's probably ramping things up now that he sees a chance to take Ehud Olmert's job, and angling to outmaneuver Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, his chief rival within the Kadima Party. Mofaz is playing politics here, not explaining policy. Still, I would advise the folks in Tehran not to take Mofaz's threat lightly.
UPDATE: Olmert's spokesman distances the prime minister from Mofaz's comments.
With U.S. media oxygen consumed by the Hillary-Barack contretemps, few have paid much attention to a brewing drama in Iraq.
At issue is an update to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, a document that legally defines the terms under which American troops can function in Iraq. The deal is being negotiated in secret, but a few preliminary details have leaked out. Patrick Cockburn of the Independent reports:
Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.
Obviously, these terms could change in the face of Iraqi opposition, and there is already talk of political workarounds such as making the bases officially Iraqi bases with U.S. tenants. Iraqi officials have also threatened to make other arrangements if their sovereignty isn't fully respected. An Iraqi lawmaker testifying on Capitol Hill yesterday urged the United States "not to embarrass the Iraqi government (by) putting it in a difficult situation with this agreement" right now. The Bush administration doesn't believe that Congress needs to approve any deal, however, maintaining that the SOFA is not a formal treaty.
Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was especially harsh in his criticism, telling fellow Muslim leaders at a conference in Riyadh, "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves before the Americans, if it is sealed."
Former Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi offers a more measured assessent, but nonetheless condemns the secrecy surrounding the agreement:
A treaty of such singular significance to Iraq cannot be rammed through with less than a few weeks of debate. Otherwise, the proposed strategic alliance will most certainly be a divisive element in Iraqi politics. It will have the same disastrous effect as the treaty with Britain nearly eighty years ago.
The security situation is looking up these days. But a flawed agreement could be the spark that brings all the gains of the past year crashing down.
UPDATE: U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker flatly denies the Cockburn story.
Driving around Iraq has gotten safer if you're part of a U.S. Army convoy. In January of last year, a convoy had a 1 in 5 chance of coming under attack (that's the tall bar on the left of the chart). By last December, 1 in 33 convoys were attacked (the bar on the far right). This April, it was just 1 in 100, according to data given to the Washington Post from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Why has it gotten safer? The Post's military correspondent, Tom Ricks, provides three reasons here.
Here in the United States, the military has a strong tradition of staying out of politics. Last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently reminded the Armed Forces of this duty in an essay for Joint Force Quarterly, writing:
The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times. It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway."
But that's not exactly the tradition in Zimbabwe, as Major-General Martin Chedondo the country's army chief of staff made clear on Saturday:
The constitution says the country should be protected by voting and in the 27 June presidential election run-off pitting our defence chief Comrade Robert Mugabe (against) Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, we should, therefore stand behind our commander-in-chief."
Observers handicapping the upcoming runoff can take this as a sign that the army will do everything it can to prevent a Tsvangirai victory. Chedondo continued:
Soldiers are not apolitical. Only mercenaries are apolitical. We have signed and agreed to fight and protect the ruling party's principles of defending the revolution.... If you have other thoughts, then you should remove that uniform."
He didn't need to add: "Or we will remove it for you."
Shane Harris makes some explosive allegations in a new article for the National Journal. Experts, citing U.S. officials, believe that China's People's Liberation Army may have shut down power grids in Florida and the northeastern United States, Harris reports:
Tim Bennett, the former president of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a leading trade group, said that U.S. intelligence officials have told him that the PLA in 2003 gained access to a network that controlled electric power systems serving the northeastern United States. The intelligence officials said that forensic analysis had confirmed the source, Bennett said. “They said that, with confidence, it had been traced back to the PLA.” These officials believe that the intrusion may have precipitated the largest blackout in North American history, which occurred in August of that year. A 9,300-square-mile area, touching Michigan, Ohio, New York, and parts of Canada, lost power; an estimated 50 million people were affected.
If the allegations are true, was this act intentional? Perhaps not, another source tells Harris:
A second information-security expert independently corroborated Bennett’s account of the Florida blackout. According to this individual, who cited sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, a Chinese PLA hacker attempting to map Florida Power & Light’s computer infrastructure apparently made a mistake. “The hacker was probably supposed to be mapping the system for his bosses and just got carried away and had a ‘what happens if I pull on this’ moment.” The hacker triggered a cascade effect, shutting down large portions of the Florida power grid, the security expert said. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese.”
I wonder if Richard Clarke still believes that the real threat from Chinese hackers is industrial espionage.
Residents of the Iraqi city of Fallujah claim that U.S. Marines are trying to convert them to Christianity. McClatchy's Jamal Naji and Leila Fadel report:
At the western entrance to the Iraqi city of Fallujah Tuesday, Muamar Anad handed his residence badge to the U.S. Marines guarding the city. They checked to be sure that he was a city resident, and when they were done, Anad said, a Marine slipped a coin out of his pocket and put it in his hand.
Out of fear, he accepted it, Anad said. When he was inside the city, the college student said, he looked at one side of the coin. "Where will you spend eternity?" it asked.
He flipped it over, and on the other side it read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16."
Quite a few locals say they have received the coins and the U.S. military is investigating the claims. It shouldn't even need repeating, but stories like this don't exactly help fight the perception of many Muslims that the U.S.-led war on terror is actually a war on Islam. This literal proselytization at gunpoint is understandably humiliating for the people on the other end and, if it is going on, the Marine Corps ought to put a stop to it immediately.
Apparently, Tony Blair was very nearly killed by Israeli fighter jets on Monday . Blair's pilots initially failed to respond to radio requests for identification when they entered Israeli airspace and the air force believed the private plane might have been part of a terrorist attack. Luckily the pilots did eventually respond and Blair was unaware that the event took place until later. A malfunction in the air force's early alert system is being blamed for the mix-up.
Israel should probably get the kinks worked out before the next time a former head of state flies through. Blowing up the international community's envoy to the Middle East might make negotiations a little awkward.
Pakistan's decision yesterday to pull out of the Swat valley, essentially ceding control of the region to local Taliban militants, certainly represented a shift in security policy for Pakistan's new government. However, as this week's FP Photo Essay, "Springtime for the Taliban" vividly illustrates, these militants are already operating quite openly in much of Afghanistan border region, and enforcing their own brand of frontier justice.
What ever happened to that Chinese ship bringing weapons to Zimbabwe? It depends who you ask.
It looked like China might give up its attempt to ship 77 tons of arms to Robert Mugabe's embattled regime after dockworkers in Durban, South Africa refused to unload the so-called "ship of shame." Since then the ship's location has been a mystery.
Zimbabwe's government now claims they got the shipment which includes "three million AK-47 bullets, more than 3000 mortar shells and launchers and some 1500 rocket-propelled grenades." An article in Scotland's Sunday Herald, based on South African and Mozambican newspaper reports, claims that the ship was secretly refueled offshore by the South African navy. It then circled the Cape of Good Hope and docked in Congo-Brazzaville where the guns were shipped by plane to Harare.
But a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman described the reports as "baseless and purely fictitious" and claims that the ship is headed back to China with all of its cargo. Some speculate that the Congo-Brazzaville story may just have been propaganda cooked up to give Mugabe the appearance of having international influence.
Given that none of the parties in this story quite exude credibility, this one may just remain a mystery.
(Hat tip: China Digital Times)
Most of the new Global Peace Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit isn't all that surprising. Perennial global list-toppper Iceland is apparently the most peaceful country in the world while Iraq is the most violent. Even the United States' rank, 97, isn't really much of a shock. It's fighting two wars after all.
But does Russia really deserve to be 10th from the bottom, behind violence-wracked states like Colombia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, DR Congo and Pakistan? Here's the explanation:
Russia scored low because of its high military spending, booming arms sales and poor relations with its neighbors, says the study, the brainchild of Steve Killelea, an Australian philanthropist and entrepreneur. Also hitting Russia's ranking were "high scores for homicides, jailed population, distrust among citizens, violent crime" and a lack of respect for human rights, it said. [..] While the study noted "increased stability in Chechnya," it pointed to Russia's "moderately tense" relations with its neighbors and extremely high arms exports.
Fair enough. Russia's not exactly Iceland. But as bad as things are in the North Caucasus and as repressive as Putin's government might have been, it still doesn't seem right to see it ranked five spots below Burma's genocidal junta.
Spain's defense minister Carme Chacón, who was seven months pregnant when she was appointed, gave birth today to a 6-pound baby boy. The interior minister has temporarily taken over her portfolio, but it seems unlikely that she will take the full four-month maternity leave afforded to her by Spanish law. Photos of the pregnant Chacón touring military bases in Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Bosnia in recent weeks have become visual emblems of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's push for gender equality in government.
I hope Silvio Berlusconi at least sent a card.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 14: South Korean Capital Defence Command soldiers take part in an anti-terrorism exercise at their Seoul military camp on May 14, 2008 in Seoul, South Korea.
The Bush administration is currently debating a plan to sell 66 advanced F-16 jets to Taiwan. The F-16 sale was a recurring theme in a panel discussion Monday at the Carnegie Endowment on cross-straits relations featuring Bonnie Glaser of CSIS, Michael Swaine of Carnegie, and Douglas H. Paal, Carnegie's new China program director.
The participants presented somewhat differing opinions on the diplomatically sensitive move. Swaine doesn't see a good time for U.S. approval of the sale in the near to medium term. Glaser, on the other hand, feels it will happen because postponing the sale until the next administration risks getting off on the wrong foot with China. She recommends the window after the Olympics but before Bush leaves office. Carnegie's Minxin Pei weighed in that if the sale goes forward, China would likely respond negatively to a request by Taiwan to withdraw some of the 1,000 balistic missiles aimed at it. But it's not as if jets and missiles are easily equated military capabilities in tit-for-tat negotiations, Glaser said.
Glaser also remarked how this underscores a differing approach to cross-straits negotiations where some, including the U.S., view defense aid to Taiwan as a necessary precursor to productive negotiations as it gives the island nation a more solid footing on which to withstand threats. Others, namely China, strongly respond to arms sales as obstacles to diplomacy which discourage cross-straits engagement.
The State Department wants to delay the F-16 issue until after the Olympics, but I agree that if the U.S. is going to do this, it would be much better to sweep it under the rug of the outgoing administration so the new administration can chalk it up to "change" or whatever they're into at that point.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said today that the Russian military is "gaining in strength and power like all of Russia."
To prove it, he marched troops, tanks, and Topol-M nuclear missiles around Red Square today. The event was reportedly planned as early as January, and Medvedev was so intent on making the Soviet-style show of prowess a success that he ordered Russia's air force to make sure no clouds rained on the festivities. So they carried out a cloud seeding operation in advance of the parade. Meant to mark the 63rd anniversary of the victory of Nazi Germany, it was the first parade of its kind in Red Square since 1990.
It is right to consider the images coming out of the parade as a bit disconcerting. But press reports from the scene seem a bit over the top, with stories of "glamorous" troops and "mixed messages." This ignores the realities of today's Russian military. Moscow-based defense analyst Pavel Falgenhauer provides a good reality check:
Russia still has large stocks of Soviet-made military hardware; most of it fully or partially out of order. Only a handful of ships, tanks, and jets are truly operational at any given time.... The task of reviving defense hardware parades on Red Square will face grave technical and logistical problems and in any event will most likely produce only a pathetic imitation of Soviet military grandeur.... One can only hope that ... no ancient building will collapse as tanks and ICBMs roll into central Moscow to serve the vanity of Russia’s leaders."
Let's not get carried away with the Cold War nostalgia just yet.
Georgia's State Minister today described the prospect of war with Russia as "very close" as more Russian troops poured into the breakaway region of Abkhazia. Meanwhile, Abkhazia's "foreign minister" welcomed the troops and said his government favored Russia taking military control.
Despite the inflammatory rhetoric, it still seems unlikely to me that Georgia would actually go to war with its much larger and militarily superior neighbor. Since Georgia is looking for NATO protection and Russia wants keep Georgia out of NATO at any cost, the war of words seems tailored for an audience in Washington and Brussels. Both sides have a vested interest in the rest of the world perceiving the threat of war as genuine.
Still, as Russian web journalist Alexander Golts argued in today's Moscow Times, a war of words can quickly become something more serious if both sides feel the need to save face:
And so we have a paradoxical situation. Nobody wants war, but both sides are doing everything to spark a military conflict. This is not the first time this situation has arisen. Recall how World War I began. States wanted only to protect their national pride and frighten their opponents. But at some point, the tensions escalated sharply and, coupled with mass mobilizations of their armies, the conflict in the Balkans spun out of control with tragic consequences for the entire world. This scenario could be repeated in the Caucasus.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the day George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, just 42 days after the invasion of Iraq.
This morning, the Center for American Progress hosted a speech by Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, voted to authorize the war in 2003, but has since become one of its most strident critics. As he put it today:
I was skeptical about giving the president authorization to go to war in 2003, but I gave this president the benefit of the doubt. That decision was a mistake. In Vietnam, we never had a strategy to win. In Iraq, we never had a strategy.
Murtha, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, agrees with a majority of retired and active military officers that Iraq has left the U.S. military unprepared for future threats. He's also very concerned about China's military buildup, and thinks leaders in Beijing are watching the situation closely:
We must refocus our attention to the threats down the road. If you remember in World War II, we cut off the oil supply of the Japanese when they attacked. us. Now, I don't say that's going to happen with China. But one thing's for sure, if they misperceive our readiness to act, we're going to have a real problem.
While it's pretty unlikely that the Chinese are planning another Pearl Harbor (the line was absent from Murtha's prepared remarks so he may have ad-libbed it), it's fair to say that Iraq has decreased both U.S. military readiness and diplomatic standing.
After five years, the administration seems unwilling to come to terms with what an embarassment "Mission Accomplished" was. As of yesterday, White House spokesperson Dana Perino was still insisting that Bush was misinterpreted. "Mission Accomplished," she claimed, only referred to "sailors who are on this ship on their mission" (though it's hard to believe that even she buys that line). However they try to spin it, "Mission Accomplished" will haunt the Bush administration as a symbol of the myopia and reckless optimism that characterized the early days of the Iraq war.
Reader Jonathan Hendry wrote in with some interesting backstory related to my post about Apple, Inc. becoming a defense contractor:
Actually, [Steve] Jobs isn't a stranger to selling to the Pentagon. While his products are thought of as consumer electronics, there was a time when his best customers were in very serious industries like defense and high finance (UBS, Swissbank, Merrill Lynch, First Chicago, Soros, etc).
Jobs' company NeXT Computer (which Apple bought in 1997, bringing him back into the fold) sold quite a few machines to the spooks in the early 90s. The spy agencies liked how quickly software could be developed on the NeXT operating system. I personally interviewed for a defense-oriented NeXT programming job with, I think, Lockheed-Martin back in 1994, my senior year of college. (I don't recall what the system was, but I know I would have needed a security clearance - they gave me the forms to fill out. I wound up taking a job in Chicago that put me on a contract at Swissbank.)
Around 1993, NeXT stopped making computers, changing to an OS-only strategy. Supposedly they had to run the assembly line for a little while longer, in order to fulfill the spare-parts stock requirements of their defense contracts.
I expect Mr. Jobs is feeling a little deja vu right now.
Jonathan's email reminded me that the Pentagon has recently begun integrating Apple computers to bolster its network security. So, high-profile defense contracts are nothing new to the most powerful man in business.
Steve Jobs's shop recently announced the $278 million purchase of a small computer-chip maker named P.A. Semi—a takeover that most analysts assumed was designed to shore up efficient chip technology for future versions of the iPhone.
But it turns out some of P.A. Semi's best customers are defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and they're not at all comfortable with the company's new latte-drinking, yoga-practicing, peacenik boss. Rumors are flying that Apple will shut down production of a key processor used in "more than 10" different defense systems.
EE Times reports:
Apple Inc. may have to face the ire of the U.S. Department of Defense following its planned acquisition of P.A. Semi Inc. The startup's PWRficient processor is designed into DoD programs in every major branch of the armed services, said one P.A. Semi customer who expects Apple will end production of the parts.
"We've had customers saying they are going to the DoD on this one," said a source in one of the several companies making embedded computer boards with the processor.
Lends new meaning to the term "iPod Killer," doesn't it?
Today's big news is no surprise: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that Gen. David Petraeus will be promoted to head Central Command, pending Senate approval.
It's been a good week for the top American general in Iraq. On Monday, FP and Britain's Prospect magazine named Petraeus one of the world's top 100 public intellectuals, and he's doing remarkably well in the early voting.
It'll be interesting to see how Petraeus handles his new role. Matt Yglesias is cynical, calling the promotion "a pretty savvy political move" by Bush:
In this new office, Petraeus will have the appropriate kind of standing to argue that, no, those who say we ought to shift resources out of Iraq and toward Pakistan/Afghanistan are wrong.
Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, in contrast, is highly enthused:
The allegedly lame duck Bush administration has--if this report is correct--hit a home run. CENTCOM is the central theater of the war on terror, and the president is putting our best commander in charge of it.
I'd be surprised if Petraeus proceeds as Yglesias fears and Kristol hopes. The general strikes me as a pretty smart guy who is carrying out his mission to the best of his ability, but not some kind of fanatic about Iraq. Once he gets comfortable at CENTCOM, he's going to have to start weighing priorities and matching them up to resources across his entire command. He may well conclude that a strategic shift is in order, even if it takes some adjustment. He may also conclude, as his predecessor William J. Fallon did, that the United States is going to have to reach some kind of modus vivendi with Iran. But it's also worth noting that he'll mostly do so under the next U.S. president. According to Gates, Petraeus won't be taking the reins at CENTCOM until the fall, leaving him precious little time to effect any major changes on Bush's watch.
Yesterday, I attended the Jane's U.S. Defense Conference, an annual gathering bringing together American and European defense industry representatives with national-security officials. The theme of this year's conference was "the outlook for policy and defense business under the next presidency," an appropriate enough subject for the day of the Pennsylvania primary.
There was an overwhelming sense at the conference that despite billions more dollars in defense spending, the United States is not adequately preparing for the threats of the 21st century, nor is it giving the "warfighters" the resources they need to achieve victory. Major General Charles J. Dunlap of the U.S. Air Force, for instance, worried that an overemphasis on counterinsurgency was leading the U.S. to ignore the possibility of warfare with a "peer country" (read: China). Former Under-Secretary for Defense Acquisition Jacques Gansler argued that protectionism and the prioritization of congressional pork projects were causing the misuse of defense resources, necessitating a law stipulating that "Congress should not be making defense-acqisition decisions." The State Department's Deputy Director of Policy Planning Kori Schake lamented the miniscule size of her own agency's budget relative to defense, saying that every one of State's problems could be "traced back to chronic underfunding."
Oddly enough in a discussion of current national-defense priorities, Iraq and Afghanistan hardly came up until near the end of the day, when the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Anthony Cordesman gave a briefing on both conflicts. Given the weakness of both countries' political institutions, Cordesman feels that the term "counterinsurgency" ought to be abandoned altogether in favor of "armed nation-building." Since Cordesman sees far more progress toward this goal in Iraq, I asked him if troop withdrawal there would increase the likelihood of success in Afghanistan:
If we can move forward in Iraq in ways that seem possible, we may be down to 10 brigrades by 2009. You can't suddenly move those brigades to Afghanistan. They require retraining. They will have to be re-equipped and restructed to fight a different kind of war on different terrain, dealing with a different culture with different values.
I also have to say that while troops are important... far more important are the aid teams and advisory teams... rapid turnover of deployments in a country where personal relationships are even more important than they are in Iraq, the inability to take aid workers out into the field where they are really needed... The problem isn't troop levels and it won't be solved by moving out of Iraq."
It seems ironic that the takeaway message of a national-defense conference was that what we traditionally think of as defense can only do so much. The next president's foreign-policy team will need to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time if it wants to begin to address the problems left over from the current one.
A shipment of ammunition, rockets, and mortar bombs en route from
Although the An Yue Jiang is expected to return to China, a South African paper, News24, reports that a second arms shipment from China is scheduled to arrive by air in order to "expedite the delivery and to circumvent the controversy around last week's shipment by sea." The story also claims that both orders, placed by the Zimbabwean government, were finalized just days after
The arms shipments brings to light the hazards of
Take, for example, the dam being built at Imboulou in
From weapons to shoddy cement, the Chinese-Africa deal is looking more like a recipe for disaster every day.
From weapons to shoddy cement, the Chinese-Africa deal is looking more like a recipe for disaster every day.
A study released today by the Rand Corporation finds that nearly 20 percent of military personnel returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression. For those interested in the math, that's some 300,000 soldiers. Only slightly more than half have sought treatment, telling researchers that they feared doing so would harm their careers. Here are some highlights from the first large-scale, nongovernmental assessment of the psychological and cognitive needs of military service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past six years:
The Rand study is highly focused on the monetary societal costs of PTSD and depression among returning service members. The study asserts that, in the 2 years after deployment, these injuries will cost the United States between $6,000 to more than $25,000 per case, or as much as $6.2 billion in total. Of course, an equally high cost is being borne by the families and loved ones of these soldiers. Sadly, it's unlikely anyone will ever be able to quantify that.
Spain swore in its new defense minister, Carme Chacon, this past Monday. Not only is she the first woman to hold the post, she's also seven months pregnant:
Kinda puts Donald Rumsfeld's complaints about standing all day in context, doesn't it?
(Hat tip: Passport reader Eric Jon Magnuson)
For the first time ever, a female Muslim Arab soldier has joined an elite Israeli Air Force unit. Upon completing a medic training course with top honors, she became part of the Airborne Combat Search and Rescue Unit 669, a premier unit that extricates wounded soldiers from combat zones in sensitive and highly classified operations.
Unlike Jewish young adults, most Arab Israelis are not required to serve in the military, but this soldier, from an Arab village in northern Israel, volunteered to serve. But Muslims and Arabs are prevented from serving in the elite Unit 669, which requires an extremely high security clearance, due to fears about conflicting loyalties should they have to serve in Palestinian areas or fight Muslim countries. So how did she get in? An investigation revealed that an error was made, although news reports have not described the nature of the error or who made it. (My hunch is that those details are confidential.)
Nonetheless, the unit's commander has been so impressed with the woman's exceptional ability that he is allowing her to stay. Although some on the Internet say she may end up betraying her unit, it may be that in this case an error ended up yielding the correct outcome -- letting in a talented, loyal soldier.
Every two years, military and government VIPs from around the world descend on Amman, Jordan for the Special Operations Forces Exhibition, the Middle East's largest military equipment trade show. Exhibitors and buyers from the United States and Britain rub shoulders with their counterparts from Libya and Syria, all in the name of superior military capability.
For more images from the convention floor at SOFEX 2008, check out the new FP photo essay, "Where the World Shops for Weapons."
As today's marathon Iraq testimony continues to wind down, the overwhelming sense a viewer gets is that the whole event has proceeded according to script. The presidential candidates took the opportunity for free airtime, then took off before the hearings had even ended. Code Pink protesters were ejected from the room. And Amb. Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus stated that while enormous progress has been made in Iraq's security, cuts in troop levels should be avoided. One might even ask why, with everything these men have on their plates in Baghdad, they needed to travel all this way to perform this Capitol Hill kabuki drama.
Petraeus pushed for a 45-day pause in troop level reductions, saying that an immediate reduction would doom any hope of national reconciliation in Iraq:
This process will be continuous, with recommendations for further reductions made as conditions permit," General Petraeus said. "This approach does not allow establishment of a set withdrawal timetable. However, it does provide the flexibility those of us on the ground need to preserve the still-fragile security gains our troopers have fought so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve."
Never mind the fact the dubious proposition that Iraq's political progress will look much different in 45 days than it does now. It's no longer clear that the U.S. military can continue to sustain the level of commitment that Petraeus is talking about. In the U.S. Military Index, from the FP March/April issue, we found that nearly nine out of ten U.S. officers believe that Iraq has stretched our military dangerously thin, and less than half believe that we are prepared to fight another war on short notice. In light of this, how long will it be before factors other than what passes for Iraqi political progress begin to inform U.S. actions?
For more on the lack of progress in Iraq, check out Blake's new web exclusive, "Why the Surge Doesn't Matter."
While NATO allies publicly debate their role in Afghanistan, attendees say a secret memo is circulating around the conference that plans for the alliance's exit from the conflict. Der Spiegel reports that Germany played a major role in drafting the "master plan" for the eventual removal of 47,000 NATO troops.
The document is actually less dramatic than it seems. In the short term it "calls for soldiers to gradually focus their attention more on training Afghan police forces and to hand over responsibility for actual conflict situations 'as soon as external circumstances and Afghan capabilities allow.'"
Wasn't equipping Afghan forces to eventually handle their own security always NATO's plan in Afghanistan? How is this a major change in policy? Der Spiegel hedges that the benchmarks layed out the memo might keep a NATO presence in Afghanistan until 2015, so it's possible that the document is just a fantasy meant to assuage the skeptical German public.
While the paper avoids a specific date for withdrawal, Germany Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung is optimistic about its implementation:
According to everything I've seen and to everything that other countries have added," Jung said of the paper, "I am very hopeful that it can be achieved in the forseeable future."
For this week's Seven Questions, "Waiting for a Cyber Pearl Harbor," FP asked Richard A. Clarke, former U.S. counterterrorism chief and former special advisor to the president on cybersecurity, about what offensive capabilities the new U.S. Air Force Cyber Command (AFCYBER) should have. He succinctly replied: "Highly classified ones."
Though Clarke isn't interested in mentioning specifics, someone else is. Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder of the U.S. 8th Air Force, under which AFCYBER will be housed once it's officially launched this fall, has revealed how the United States plans to "hit back" in cyberspace.
In an interview with ZDNet.co.uk, he said offensive capabilities that AFCYBER is working on include denial of service, confidential data loss, data manipulation, and system integrity loss. These "cyberpunches" will be paired with kinetic (physical) attacks. Elder said:
Offensive cyberattacks in network warfare make kinetic attacks more effective, [for example] if we take out an adversary's integrated defence systems or weapons systems. This is exploiting cyber to achieve our objectives.
Now that the U.S. military has put on its cyber boxing gloves, it looks like it'll be no holds barred in the online world.
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