Today, Luke Bozier, a former Labour Party web guru who recently defected to the Tories, has an op-ed up at the Huffington Post recommending "intervention 2.0" as an international strategy for responding to the bloodshed in Syria. Here's how it works:
Instead of invasion, the new paradigm is to support and encourage grassroots movements inside the borders of countries whose regimes we seek to change. At an opportune moment, Western powers would utilise their unique military assets to ensure a swift, relatively happy ending.[...]
Direct intervention is off the table, thanks to Russia and China's obstinate position at the UN. So countries like ours have to find ways to support the uprising, without directly engaging the Syrian military. Options include the covert supply of weapons, the promise of exile to senior figures willing to abandon Assad, training, strategic and tactical support to the armed resistance, and the de-recognition of the Ba'athist regime as the government of Syria.
There's an argument to be made for intervention of this kind, but it's not exactly a paradigm-shattering approach. The idea of providing tactical support to rebels in countries whose governments we want to overthrow wasn't even that new when Dwight Eisenhower was doing it. And Bozier's notion that "Previously, oppressed people didn't have a voice or the tools needed to stand up, thanks to the Internet they now do," would have been news to Mahatma Gandhi or the crowds at the Bastille.
This is just the latest example of the rampant "2.0" abuse that has swept through the media and policymaking circles in the years since web 2.0 first became a buzzword. We have Wael Ghonim's recent book Revolution 2.0. The State Department touts "Civil Society 2.0". (This is admittedly less cumbersome that P2P2G.)
It's hard to find a political concept that hasn't been 2.0'd these days. There's public diplomacy 2.0, counterinsurgency 2.0, Jihad 2.0, war 2.0, Islam 2.0, Christianity 2.0, Judaism 2.0, communism 2.0 and capitalism 2.0, feminism 2.0, Europe 2.0, India 2.0, conservatism 2.0, Obama 2.0, Putin 2.0, Tories 2.0, democracy 2.0, energy 2.0, nuclear 2.0, Zionism 2.0, al Qaeda 2.0, multilateralism 2.0, IMF 2.0, NATO 2.0, and environmentalism 2.0.
The problem with "2.0" is that, in additional quickly becoming a tiresome cliché, it's often used to dress up not-particularly-original concepts as high-tech, paradigm-shattering developments. Pretending that the rules have completely changed because of the advances in information technology seems like a very easy way to avoid learning from the still pertinent historical examples of the pre-networked world.
As Rebecca McKinnon writes in her new book, Consent of the Networked, "Contrary to what some people may have hoped and believed, the Internet does not change human nature. "It generally doesn't change the basic rules of global politics either. The basic merits and flaws of an idea like humanitarian intervention still apply -- even in a post-Facebook world.
Capitol Police were “intimately involved in the investigation for the duration of the operation” and assisted in today’s arrest, spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said in a statement.
“The arrest was the culmination of a lengthy and extensive operation,” the statement continued. “At no time was the public or Congressional community in any danger.”[...]
Local reports by Fox News describe the individual in custody as “a man, in his 30s and of Moroccan descent” who has been a target of a lengthy FBI investigation. Fox News reported that the suspect believed the undercover FBI agents assisting him were al-Qaida operatives.
Roll Call notes that the story is similar to that of Rezwan Ferdaus, who was arrested last September in the midst of a plot to attack the Capitol with a remote-controlled aircraft. Ferdaus was also in communication with FBI agents posing as al Qaeda members.
The case is also similar to that Farooque Ahmed, who thought he was going to blow up the DC Metro system in 2010, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who thought he was going to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland Oregon in 2010, David Williams, who thought he was going to blow up a Bronx synagogue in 2009, and the "Fort Dix Five," who thought they were going to attack a New Jersey military base in 2006.
In each case, undercover FBI agents spent months communicating and providing fake resources to the suspects before springing the trap. (This isn't even addressing the numerous sting operations run by the NYPD without the FBI's help, described by Louis Klarevas in his piece, "The Idiot Jihadist Next Door.")
The increasing frequency of these operations is bound to raise some questions about whether law enforcement agencies are pushing along the development of plots that the individuals involved might never have acted on without the longterm encouragement of their "al Qaeda contacts."
The other question is just how many times the FBI can get would-be terrorists to fall for this.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mr. Xi comes to Washington
This week's Washington foreign-policy agenda was dominated by the visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the country's presumptive next leader. Xi's meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama was fairly cordial, but it fell to his direct counterpart -- Vice President Joe Biden -- to register a few complaints about China's trade practices and human rights record. "As Americans, we welcome competition," Biden said. "But cooperation, as you and I have spoken about, can only be mutually beneficial if the game is fair."
Mitt Romney took aim at the administration's China policy in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, saying that the president had come into office as a "near supplicant to Beijing" and had since "demurred from raising issues of human rights for fear it would compromise agreement on the global economic crisis or even ‘the global climate-change crisis.' Such weakness has only encouraged Chinese assertiveness and made our allies question our staying power in East Asia." Romney promised to label China a currency manipulator on "day one of my presidency."
Onetime candidate Jon Huntsman, a former ambassador to China who now has endorsed Romney, addressed the anti-China rhetoric that has appeared in both the presidential race and congressional races throughout the country. "It's much easier to talk about China in terms of the fear factor than the opportunity factor," Huntsman told MSNBC." When it comes to China, I think it's wrongheaded when you talk about slapping a tariff on Day One. That pushes aside the reality, the complexity of the relationship."
Motor City Mayhem
The next primaries will take place on Feb. 28 in Arizona and Michigan. The Wolverine State is considered home turf for Romney -- he was born in Detroit, his father was a popular governor, and Mitt won big over John McCain there in 2008 -- but the Michigan native trails Rick Santorum by 9 points in the current RealClearPolitics poll average.
Romney has defended his opposition to the Obama administration's auto industry bailouts -- a somewhat controversial position during a week when General Motors reported record profits. Romney has emphasized his deep roots in the state and nostalgia for the days of U.S. auto dominance, telling a crowd, "I love cars. I grew up totally in love with cars. It used to be, in the '50s and '60s, if you showed me 1 square foot of almost any part of the car, I could tell you what brand it was -- the model and so forth.... Now, with all the Japanese cars, I'm not quite so good at it. But I still know American cars pretty well." (Never mind that the candidate drives a Canadian-made Chrysler in a new ad.)
Santorum, meanwhile, has promised to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing sector by giving tax incentives to companies that move production back from overseas and cutting away at Obama-era regulations.
Meanwhile, Romney still leads Santorum in Arizona, but the gap is narrowing, despite the fact that the former Pennsylvania senator has virtually no ground organization in the state. The Arizona contest may push the candidates back to the right on immigration, after some more conciliatory rhetoric in Florida. Romney has been touting the support of Kris Kobach, the attorney and Kansas secretary of state who played a critical role in drafting Arizona's controversial SB 1070 immigration law.
Arizona has gone Republican in every presidential election but one since 1952, but Democrats may be hoping that the state will be in play in the fall, thanks to a backlash from the state's growing Hispanic population. Senior Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod has visited the state in recent months and the Democratic National Committee has begun running ads targeting Latino voters.
An Iranian attack on North Dakota?
Santorum's longtime fixation on the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions has been well-documented. But the rhetoric reached a new level this week when the candidate warned an audience in North Dakota that they might be a potential target for Iranian-sponsored terrorism. "Folks, you've got energy here. They're going to bother you. They'll bother you, because you are a very key and strategic resource for this country," he said. "No one is safe. No one is safe from asymmetric threats of terrorism.... That's what Iran will be all about unless we stop them from getting that nuclear weapon."
As the National Review pointed out, Santorum's security concerns have dampened his enthusiasm for building a massive new oil pipeline through the state.
Adelson re-ups on Gingrich
Onetime frontrunner Newt Gingrich is sitting out the current contests in Michigan and Arizona, focusing on the ten March 6 "Super Tuesday" primaries, which include his home state of Georgia. Gingrich spent the majority of this week fundraising in California.
Gingrich's slumping campaign may get a significant shot in the arm with news that billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson -- his principal financier -- will give an additional $10 million to the Super PAC backing Gingrich. Adelson, known for his hawkish views on Israel and opposition to a Palestinian state, has given $11 million so far to the "Winning the Future" Super PAC.
What to watch for
Last week's Maine caucus may not actually be over yet. Romney was declared the winner -- by less than 200 votes over Ron Paul -- on Saturday, Feb. 11. despite the fact that one county had delayed its caucus due to weather and numerous irregularities were reported at other stations. The state GOP has announced that it will release a new vote total in March -- after Super Tuesday. Maine is a small state and its caucus is what's known as a "beauty contest" (it doesn't actually award any delegates), but it won't do wonders for the credibility of the early caucus system, if yet another victory -- remember Iowa? -- is posthumously taken away from Romney.
Evidently, the candidates seem to have tired of debates. A planned CNN debate scheduled for March 1 in Georgia has been canceled after Romney and Paul declined to participate.
On the Election Channel
Uri Friedman looks at a new poll that shows a majority of Americans support the use of force to prevent a nuclear Iran.
Scott Clement says despite the recent dust-up over contraceptive-covering insurance, religion may not actually matter that much to voters.
Daniel Drezner says Romney's China policy "reads like it was composed by the Hulk."
Stephen Walt says hawks should vote for Obama.
Michael A. Cohen looks at why, with Obama in office, liberals came to support the secret war on terror.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
A new Gallup poll on U.S. attitudes toward other countries likely won't shock many:
Most interesting may be the numbers on Mexico, which jumped six points since last year despite all the grim drug war news and the anti-immigration rhetoric on the campaign trail.
You also have to wonder who the 13 percent of Americans with a positive view of North Korea are, and why that number is trending upward.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 25-year-old Nigerian man who attempted to bomb a U.S.-bound flight in Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009, was sentenced to life in prison today.
Abdulmutallab unexpectedly pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial, saying his attempted attack with a bomb hidden in his underwar was, a "blessed weapon to save the lives of innocent Muslims". In the end, his conviction was a fairly straighforward procedure, with the only controversy coming from one of the passengers, attorny Kurt Haskell, who continues to claim that Abdulmutallab was "given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. agent" and is, in fact, "a government patsy."
Conspiracy theories aside, Abdulmutallab is likely to be headed to the super-max prison in Florence, Colorado, where he will join inmates including Zacarias Massoui, Jose Padilla, shoe-bomber Richard Reid, unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and a host of other notable figures from the worlds of terrorism and organized crime.
Back in 2009, the Florence facility was reportedly near capacity, one of the arguments against relocating Guantanamo detainees to super-max prisons in the United States. Evidently, they've found some room. "Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout may be headed there soon as well.
Some have questioned the decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights and try him in a civilian court rather than a military tribunal system, but in the end, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan doesn't seem to have had much trouble handing down the maximum sentence on him.
U.S. Marshals Service via Getty Images
Things are getting ugly on the continent, as the Financial Times reports:
The battle of wills between Athens and its eurozone lenders has intensified, with Greece's finance minister accusing "forces in Europe" of pushing his country out of the euro while his German counterpart suggested postponing Greek elections and installing a new government without political parties.…
There were signs a group of triple A-rated governments, including Germany, Finland and the Netherlands, were hardening their stance towards Athens. During a conference call among eurozone finance minsters [sic], the three countries suggested they may want additional letters from other smaller Greek parties and openly discussed the possibility of postponing Greek elections.
Ahead of the call, Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, said in a radio interview Greece might delay its polls and install a technocratic government that does not include politicians like Mr Venizelos and Mr Samaras, similar to the model currently in place in Italy.
Obviously, no country is going to respond well to an infringement on sovereignty as blatant as foreign officials suggesting the idea of postponing elections and installing a "technocratic government" -- the world "junta" has been thrown around -- particularly not the sort of country that spends two decades feuding with one of its neighbors because its name is a bit too presumptuous.
Schäuble has to be aware of the degree of ugly anti-German sentiment in Greece right now and the fact that Greece's main parties are losing ground to anti-austerity leftists in the polls. Tyler Cowen wonders if the goal is "simply to irritate the Greeks so much that they leave the Eurozone on their own."
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
Someone in the Russian opposition has some impressive video editing skills. The video above, which uses some digital trickery to show Prime Minister Vladimir Putin being indicted on corruption and terrorism charges, has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube. (There's a non-embeddable subtitled version over at the Guardian.) RFE/RL summarizes:
The startlingly realistic clip, in the style of a Russian television news report, purports to show "former" Prime Minister Vladimir Putin being hauled into a Moscow courtroom to face charges including large-scale corruption and participating in a terrorist act with the purpose of intimidating the public and influencing the government.
The charge apparently refers to the 1999 apartment-building bombings that rocked Moscow and other Russian cities in the run-up to Putin taking over the presidency in 2000.
A sour-looking Putin sits in a cage and answers the judge's questions as cameras capture the scene. The audio of Putin's voice was taken from a televised report on Putin participating in the 2010 Russian census.
The rest of the footage seems to be taken from the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to officially announce his re-election bid in a TV appearance tonight, but the French president, who is trailing in the polls, is branching out into social media as well by launching a Twitter account. With only two posts, the president already has over 43,000 followers. (He's only following the Elysee Palace's official feed.) It's pretty g-rated so far, but it's not hard to imagine the possibilities if the notoriously short-tempered president really embraces the medium.
But not everyone is so thrilled to see him. "Angela Merkel" tweets:
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