Terrorism


Recent story in The Guardian: the Los Angeles Police Department was planning an ethnic enclave map, to identify the regions of LA where there might be terrorism brewing.  Problem was, they only were planning to map ethnic Arab enclaves.  They’ve been halted on the grounds of racial profiling, and the program is entirely scratched.  I’m not a friend of racial profiling, and, I don’t think it advisable for Los Angeles to grow the Angeleno equivalent of Londonistan.  The potential incubator of violence is certainly an issue for the UK.  Someone was trying to be proactive, no doubt.  The question is, why leave out everybody else? 

A quick look at the low points in LA History:
Now Los Angeles has a history of racial conflict, and it’s worth reviewing–but neither to revile nor excuse LA. 

There were the military v. Hispanic Zoot suit riots of 1941, where a town crammed with servicemen, marginalized Hispanics, and lots of rumors which set of a wave of tit-for-tat murders and consequent riots.  Since LA had a swollen population of displaced men from all over the nation (and for many, the first time off the farm and in the bars), a police force that would have been swamped by this event, and a marginalized Hispanic population in a concentrated urban area, you could easily say that conditions were favorable for prolonged violence, regardless of the town. 

Lesson No. 1: Displaced people strain the capacity of law enforcement. 
Lesson No. 2: Marginalized people don’t buy into the system. 
Lesson No. 3: You have to have capacity to be effective.

Then there were the Zebra murder serial killings of 1973-1974, when a splinter faction or subgroup of the Black Muslim movement (actually just plain flat a group of psychopathic killers) went around killing white people as products of some evil genius rather than people in their own right.  Police were entirely stumped by the random nature of the killings, and did try some racial profiling in order to sweep through and find the murderers. 

Lesson No. 4: Eventually the murderers were caught, and not through racial profiling, but through an informant. 

Since 1973 and the consolidation of narcotrafficking routes, the LAPD has been trying to get a handle on the gang wars between the Crips and the Bloods–versus the Latin Kings–versus–the Mexican Mafia, la eMe–starting in 1973 and continuing forward into today. 

However, there are so many social indexes involved in this phenomenon, and I will list only a few: it’s more about urban blight and lost opportunity–and the way prison culture is set up, which reinforces, at least with gangs, the racial nature of protection and violence.  Not to mention the fabulous profits for narcotics traffic out there, which fuels the economy of gang war.

Lesson No. 5: see Lesson No. 2, marginalized people don’t buy into the system, and add that urban decay creates competition that tends to settle along racial lines at least some of the time–a lot of the time.
Lesson No. 6: If there isn’t a legal economic outlet, then the illegal one will grow up and grow out, and
Lesson No. 7: There will be conflict as the state tries to bring security, or, contain insecurity. 

And then, for my last LA example, the brutal handling of Rodney King, whose abusive arrest was filmed.  Later, the four police officers that beat him without mercy were cleared in court, which spurred the Rodney King riots of 1992. 

Lesson No. 7: To avoid racial conflict, the state has to ensure equal protection and rights under the law.

Back to the Angeleno-Stan Map 
From this admittedly punctuated and facile overview, it seems pretty clear that most of these incidents are related to larger social movements: World War II for the Zoot suits; a pathological approach to the resentments underlying the Civil Rights Movement for the Zebra Murders; urban decay and drug traffic; and for the latest incarnation, the Global War on Terror Since 9-11.  Unfortunately, no one has ever drawn a Bubba Map for the White Supremacists of Idahoan enclaves (or Kansas City enclaves) or for those pockets of KKK still flourishing in East Texas and outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana or wherever they might still be.  Probably some Bubbas in Los Angeles too, making hate and raising Cain, and with the continued potential for real violence against society at large.  In the meantime, Arab-Americans are being racially profiled in Los Angeles and elsewhere.  Going through the lessons:

Lesson 1: Displacing people through mapping and targeted enforcement will lead to more, not less, instability.
Lesson 2: Marginalized people (through racial prejudice or lack of economic opportunity, or, both) are more likely to not buy into society.  But since one way society has of marginalizing populations is through racial profiling, it’s counterproductive to do it officially.
Lesson 3: The capacity to be effective might include an enclave map, but not one totally focused upon one ethnic group.  Like a Bubba map, a psychopath map, etc.  But that’s a lot of people to map: why not try something else?
Lesson 4: To get informants, you have to have a relationship.  To have a relationship, you have to have someone who believes that the system will take care of him rather than marginalize him.
Lesson 5: Economic revitalization will help people buy into the system and put violence–racist or otherwise–away.
Lesson 6: and help eradicate the violence associated with illegal economies; and
Lesson 7: Equal rights and protection under the law is a necessary component to the long-range goals of law enforcement.

So, mapping Angeleno-stan  was never the best approach.  Maybe that money could go into mapping better economic revitalization instead, for the good of all races and creeds.  It’s a thought.

Advertisements

Well, gotta love this:

Some faction of the Kurds have revealed their own strategic goal by dissassociating themselves from it.  That is, some diaspora groups are protesting in the United States that Turkey wants to invade Kurdistan for Kirkuk.  It doesn’t have anything to do with PKK depredations on their soil, of course–or the incipient threat of destabilization throughout Iraq, spreading north, and compromising Turkey’s security in general.  Oh, no, it’s that oil again.

Let’s go for that conspiracy scenario, just long enough to kill it For Ever:
1. Turkey, with, uh, WAY MORE military capability than the U.S., has decided that they could conduct war with Iraq in a far more efficient fashion than the U.S. ever could. 

Nah.  The paranoids may have a point with that efficiency thing: on the other hand, seeing that the U.S. actually has the capability, and can’t guarantee security, it seems past ridiculous to think that Turkey would go flying, marching, and tanking on in to the same revenue-threatening and life-threatening black hole of Iraq in order to take on a town that is primed for resentment and strife.

2.  One protester stated that Turkey is not afraid of the PKK, but rather afraid of a Kurdish state.  And of course this makes, yes, perfect sense. 

Nope: The PKK wants to bomb Turkish towns and resorts, killing innocent people and being sneaky about it, disrupt the economy and create conflict and strife.  The Kurdish state wants to ship oil through Turkey and get on with making money.  Uh, I know Turkey is completely unfavorable to the idea of generating income, preferring instead to foment domestic instability and gleefully hailing each incident of lost infrastructure.  It’s just this attitude that makes Turkey a force for good in the international system–

Personally, I believe that Kurdish-Americans would go a lot further by deprecating the PKK and trying to help Turkey provide goods and services for its own ethnic Kurdish residents.  Oh, and building partnerships to keep those pipelines in northern Iraq in good order: for the good of Iraq, Kurdistan, and Turkey–heck, the world at large.  Hope you’ll think about it–and then do something constructive. 

Kirkuk is a mess, but not Turkey’s mess:
Consider the machinations, forced importations and deportations that have been occurring in Kirkuk: the blame doesn’t rest with Turkey: a history of forced Kurdish deportations from the Kirkuk area has been rectified with new human rights violations–forced non-Kurdish deportations from Kirkuk. 

The stratagems may be based upon history, but history has not taught compassion.  Right now, the paranoia of the non-Kurdish Kirkuk residents is the justifiable paranoia: because they’ve been had.  It’s a bad business, and Turkey’s got nothing to do with it.

Pakistan soldierNot so long ago, the United States looked at Pakistan as a “valuable ally in the war against terror” and relied upon Pakistan’s military and security forces for intelligence and aid in capturing Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects.  Prior to the Twin Towers Massacre, Pakistan, like Afghanistan, was not much on U.S. diplomatic radar.  Recently, Daniel Markey wrote an article in Foreign Affairs (see reference below) that essentially says we need a broader approach–and not reproach–when talking to Pakistan.

College of Family MedicineMr. Markey notes that many U.S. officials, legislators, (and Presidential candidates) have become disenchanted with Pakistan’s contribution to Afghanistan’s security.  They have questioned Pakistan’s commitment to counter-terrorism in the wake of rising trouble in Afghanistan, the near-anarchic rule in the Pakistan’s northwest territories, and incidents such as the Red Mosque confrontation, which, from our vantage point, never should have been allowed as long as it had been.  Wedding Guests, PakistanIn essence, U.S. observers see Pakistan as a beneficiary of U.S. aid and trade ties, but with no effect on terrorism.  Over at Registan.net, Dr. Azari writes that Afghanistan’s delegates to the Peace Jirga seemed to feel that Taliban depredations were either permitted or aided in some way by the military. Most recently, on August 21, the NYT reported that Pakistan had released an al-Qaeda suspect that it had held in detention for the past three years.  The release was determined by the Supreme Court, who said that his detention without trial was unlawful.  

Pakistan missileLeaving U.S. negligence and mistakes aside, as these arguments surely do, Markey notes first that Pakistan left U.S. diplomatic orbit in much the same way and at the same time that Afghanistan did: when the Soviets left Afghanistan.  Post 9/11, Bush II’s U.S. diplomacy has not extended past the military and security apparatus in Pakistan.  Civil society, poverty reduction, the rule of law and democratization have not been on the U.S. agenda for Pakistan, which gives its diplomacy a one-note character.

 Pakistan's Agosta-3 SubsIn the intervening years between Soviet pull-out and U.S. entry,  Markey says that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retains ties to militant groups and recruits personnel from them.  This was not in support of terrorism, but in support of Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir.  To me, this is somewhat of a stretch, but it does serve to remind policymakers that Pakistan has more than one issue as part of its foreign policy.  Just this week, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mr. Khursid Mehmood Kasuri stated in Parliament (during debates occasioned by disparaging remarks from the U.S.) that Pakistan could not afford to be isolated, that it desired good relations with the U.S., with the EU, China, Russia, Japan, Germany, and Asian states in general. 

Pakistan WinsU.S. arguments against Pakistan’s commitment also ignore the risks that Mr. Musharraf has undertaken, with several assassination attempts against his life.  (The third attempt was in September of 2002; another in December 2003; another this year).   Furthermore, numerous terrorist suspects apprehended in Pakistan.

The rest of Mr. Markey’s article suggests ways to broaden U.S. diplomacy.  He cautions that engagement in Pakistan’s civil society cannot be at the expense of the military diplomacy, but that ensuring Pakistan’s good will has to extend to the people.  Elections, for instance, are widely expected this fall in Pakistan, and giving fodder for isolationist candidates would be foolish and without utility for U.S. interests.

Karachi Golf CourseThe rest of his solutions also recommend a balanced approach, remembering that Pakistan is diverse and complex.  The illustrations throughout this post are intended to convey that diversity.  Mr. Markey’s article can be found at:

Daniel Markey’s  A False Choice in Pakistan.  Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007, pp. 85-102; or at the Council of Foreign Affairs Web site

Photos: Defenselink of USDOD; Global Family Doctor.com; Graham Hays of Australia; The Hindu; Warships IFR.com; Tribune India; Answers.com. 

On August 5-7, the beleagured President of Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai, came to visit Mr. Bush II in the United States.  I do hope Mr. Karzai was able to get a little recreation in, and enjoy the Camp David scenery.  Most of the time, however, it sounds as if there was a program of work throughout in discussing the relationship of Afghanistan with its neighbors.

It seems that Mr. Karzai and Mr. Bush differ strongly on which of two neighbor state is the problem and which neighbor state is the solution: Iran and Pakistan.   

Iran
In the U.S., we are calling the Iran difference of opinion the Major disagreement: Mr. Karzai insists that Iran is helping Afghanistan, while Mr. Bush insists they are sending weapons into the Taliban insurgency. 

Iran’s aid to Afghanistan has been consistent and major.  In 2002, Iran pledged USD 570 million to Afghanistan over the years 2002-2006; furthermore, past the pledge, they actually paid.  In 2006, they pledged another USD 100 million.  Examples of other aid besides cash aid include utility infrastructure and enterprise development in Herat. 

On June 27, 2007, the presence of significant numbers of Iranian arms in Afghanistan was confirmed by U.S., NATO, and Afghanistani officials.  However, according to Ron Synovitz at RFE/RL, it was unconfirmed that the Iranian government had anything to do with their presence within the state.  U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates seems to be looking at a larger set of possibilities, at least: though he thinks Iran “may be playing on all sides of the conflict” he also acknowledges that corruption and narcotrafficking may well be to blame for the presence of Iranian arms.  In April, when one shipment was intercepted, General Pace said the same.

Some of what has been found in Afghanistan include mortars, and weapons of increasing capability against personnel and aircraft.  There is a significant chance that Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (aka MANPADS, a very effective land to air missile device) have entered into Afghanistan.  But though the influx of weapons becomes more frequent and of higher capability, it still does not address their source.  Is Iran’s Quds force,  allegedly the source for these weapons, sending these weapons on orders from up high?  Or is there a subterranean illegal arms trade that has links to Quds officials and their suppliers?

It seems unlikely that all the weapons trade takes place beyond official Iran’s knowledge.  In Iraq, the ICG wrote in their April Report on Basra, that Iran was certainly trading in arms for oil, and “backing all comers”.  Since both states are occupied by non-regional forces of similar governments, (okay, the U.S.) it could certainly be part of Iran’s general policy.  But overall, it won’t be good for Iran either, especially Afghanistan side: because Afghanistan has its own weapons traffic–non-traditional, to be sure.

Opium
One 2005 article in the Washington Post cited the new UN World Drug Report.   Iran has the highest opium addiction rate in the world: 2.8 percent.  That’s 4 million users of an illegal substance in a country of 70 million inhabitants.  This is an illegal trade with 4 million ready customers.  Furthermore, there are few substitution products on the market.  After the 2003 Bam earthquake in Iran, the relief agencies that delivered aid also included a good supply of methadone, in order to medically stabilize Iranians who would have been cut off from their opiate intake.  Going further back, BBC in 2000 reported Iranian addiction rates as endemic, and noting that 3200 Iranian law enforcement officers died in 2001 trying to enforce drug interdiction.  The total amount of drugs intercepted was only estimated at 30%.

All in all, such a customer base would allow many opportunities to turn a profit and corrupt government, military, police, and supply chain officials to divert weapons to an illegal counter-trade for narcotics.  And it seems, from the facts above, that Eastern Iran could be viewed as a failing territory of the state.  State failure means that Iran’s government is not any more in control of its Afghanistan border than Pakistan is with its Northwest frontier.  Iran’s mass-deportations of Afghanistan refugees this past April seem to indicate a porous border and also a situation which Iran can barely control. 

Ambivalent Iranian policy:
The Taliban in their previous incarnation was no friend to the Iranian government.  In August 1998, Iranian diplomats to Afghanistan were killed in Mazar e-Sharif; the prior and resulting acrimony from that incident nearly pushed Iran and Talibani Afghanistan into war.  Furthermore, the Taliban was blamed for massacres of Shi’ites in Aghanistan’s territory.  A revival of Taliban insurgency within Afghanistan would not be in Iran’s best interest.  Nevertheless, the U.S. and Iran have been able to gain rapprochement since the 1979 change in government (also marked by hostilities toward diplomatic and consular staff).  It’s sure that Iran does not see U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan (or Iraq) as within their security interest: they’re surrounded.  And now, with nuclear enrichment and proliferation issues, U.S. – Iranian relations have plummeted from abysmal to nearly irretrievable.

Therefore, Iran’s conflicting set of policies has made it  perhaps unlikely that they will give the attention to its failing Afghanistan-contiguous areas of governance that make funding and supplying an insurgency possible.  Whether this is an active policy, sponsored by the Quds force, or a passive policy that exists through inattention, it gives terrible prospects to maintaining security in Afghanistan.  Mr. Bush is correct at least in part to hold Iran’s government to blame: either they have a policy, or they are failing to exercise leadership in stemming narcotrafficking and weapons trafficking.  But there is no doubt that stopping such a traffic would require manpower, and create numerous casualties among Iran’s domestic security forces.  As bad as narcotrafficking was in 2001, it is worse today: more product to move, and a more entrenched organization.

Furthermore, under Iran’s security constraints,  could also be a desire to hold those forces on the Iraq side of the country, another embattled border, that also creates constraint.

Meanwhile, back at Camp David: Pakistan.
The second area of disagreement at Camp David which the U.S. is calling the “Minor Disagreement”: Mr. Karzai is not so sure that Pakistan has been a good ally in the war against terror, and Mr. Bush is still pinning his hopes on Mr. Musharraf.  

At least in public, these two disagreements are not publicly acrimonious.  According to the Cincinnati Post, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Karzai “would know his country best”, and Mr. Karzai went home, to know it even better–only this time, with jet lag. 

The Peace Jirga:
Over the next week, a conference took place between community leaders of the two states: The Pakistan-Afghanistan Peace Jirga, which ended today.  Since it was conducted between tribal leaders, it suggested a more neighborly, or as the Boston Globe put it, “supple” policy of rapprochement.  This would be in contrast to the hard-line approach toward the Taliban already being exercised.  Underlying this initiative is a belief that not all members of the Taliban are determined to over-run the country, they just want the U.S. and NATO out.

The meeting convened on August 9th with 600-700 delegates, largely as a goodwill mission that would attempt to bring Taleban negotiators to the table with Afghanistan’s official government.  At first, Pakistan’s President Musharraf had declined to attend.  Nevertheless, his appearance became one of the most important features of the conference: he publicly admitted that the Taliban have been using Pakistan as a jumping off point.  The meeting ended with a resolution that no tribal leaders would harbor al-Qaeda members on either side of the border.  There will be a follow-up meeting, date uncertain, set up by committee.  According to a really good editorial in the Boston Globe, the results may prove to be lasting:

Left unsaid was the Pakistani belief that the Pashtun have been deprived of their proper share of power in Afghanistan ever since the Americans routed the Taliban in late 2001, with the help of the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance, which had been backed previously by India, Iran, and Russia.
For such a strategy to work, Musharraf will have to do his part. This does not mean halting all cross-border infiltration – an impossible task – but dismantling the Taliban’s command structure. This is something Pakistan’s military intelligence is capable of doing. Toward that end, Pakistan must be assured that a post-Taliban Afghanistan will not become a repository of Indian influence, will not deprive the Pashtun of their fair share of power, and will recognize the current border between the two countries.
And it would help if America and its allies generously financed reconstruction projects through the Karzai government and ceased air attacks that kill civilians.

At any rate, Afghanistan has the power to destabilize both Iran and Pakistan–and vice versa.  It is Lacks of State Power , i.e., state incapacity, that cause the most damage and strain between these neighbors. 

This week’s developments:
Mr. Ahmadinejad is visiting Kabul this week on his way to Ashgabat and Bishkek. Talk is good: especially in an environment where political will is required to stem the tide of regional, provincial, and state failure.

Further Reading:
Transcript of Press Conference with Presidents Karzai and Bush here;
U.S. Department of State on MANPADS threat reduction efforts, with definitions;
Jamestown Foundation on Iranian influence in Afghanistan, January 2007 , should present the worst-case scenario.

Note: This week, I have examined in three separate posts, each of the eighteen benchmarks which the Bush Administration is using to document the effectiveness of The Surge, on its own terms and in its own words.  Links for fast access to this Iraq Primer (should open in new window for reference):
Benchmarks 1-6 — Benchmarks 7-12 — Benchmarks 13-18.

Part One on the July Benchmark Report:

All is in the hands of man. Therefore wash them often.
                                                                      –Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

Introduction: Eight out of eighteen means nothing:
Approximately ten days ago, the July version of the Iraq Benchmark report was made available to Congress and the public.  The military and Bush 2 Administration reported eight out of eighteen benchmarks at ‘satisfactory progress’, less than half on the numerical scale.  This ratio (8/18) was taken in terms of a kind of gross percentage that, while unscientific, accurately reflects that progress is at a tipping point.  More, this ratio reflects U.S. ambivalence (or, contention) concerning what to do next.

Yet in terms of affecting outcomes, analysis on a simple ratio basis (8/18) does not reflecting the complexity or interrelation of the benchmarks themselves.  Thus, the 8/18 ratio may mask real progress—or its lack.

Further, the disposition of Iraq is not one where half-measures are stable enough to take root.  In other words, all or nearly all of the benchmarks must be met in order to shore up each other.  Amnesty and reconstruction are to a great extent requirements of security; oil law is contingent upon provincial government’s administration; and security requires legislative initiatives to clear the space for operations.  It’s not horseshoes: it’s all or none.

We looked at Benchmarks in Detail:
Previous examination of the benchmarks (Iraq Primer, 3 parts), reveals that some are so comprehensive that they require generations of trust-building (Benchmark 6), while others require a mere time amendment on a course already agreed (Benchmark 4) and should therefore be more easily obtained.  Some benchmarks have detailed steps (Benchmark 5); others do not (Benchmark 17).

Overall character of the JBR structure
Strongly acknowledges core realities:

One strength of this report is that it acknowledges an actual and political reality. An early statement in the July Benchmark Report (hereinafter JBR) is that it acknowledges a hard reality: these benchmarks should have already been met by the Iraqi government.  Therefore, the report explicitly acknowledges the failures thus far in achieving conclusive results in the areas discussed.   By extension, progress which is incomplete on any benchmarks in this report shows continued failure to conclude separate parts of Iraq’s state-building process under U.S. or Multi-National Force (MNF) aegis.  It should be noted that even those benchmarks on which there was “satisfactory progress”–are incomplete.  No benchmark is completed.

But benchmarks reflect U.S. & Iraqi confusion and disorganization
The JBR’s greatest weakness, which may help us reflect upon our own diplomatic and military leadership in Iraq, is that the benchmarks themselves are poorly organized in this document.  This is immediately surprising, because the first twelve benchmarks correlate to Iraq Study Group Report (ISGR) recommendations somewhat sequentially, and the ISGR did have good organization and nuancing from one recommendation to the next.  However, in this benchmark report, those nuances have largely disappeared.  Only the order remains, and with it, a spurious and stripped-down fidelity to the ISGR efforts.

A second sign of disorganization is that the last six benchmarks are tacked on in a poor order: the last three in particular are amplifications of previous benchmarks.  Without rhyme or reason, they are an attempt to add in some specific aspects to previous benchmarks.  In my view it appears that the ISGR nuances were stripped out, and then a few different nuances were put back in, but without integrating them as a whole.  The other possibility is that the latter benchmarks were unresolved wishes or stray ends of what ultimately is a committee effort, and that committee was not unified.  Long story short: not literature–a rush job, which for benchmarks upon which to base a campaign in Iraq and in D.C., is hardly optimal.

The benchmarks are written into Public Law 110-28 (May 25, 2007) Section 1314. on pages  121-125 (pp. 11-15 of pdf) and as such were promulgated by Congress based upon Secretary of State Rice’s agreement with the Iraqi government (Section 10, p. 12).

And have Conspicuous Omissions
A third aspect of the July report has to do with what is not included, which I will mention here and not again.  The benchmarks (and therefore the JBR) omit, by design, the regional and international requirements or benchmarks that act in concert with Iraq’s governmental behavior.  An internationally-coordinated, region-focussed approach was a particular feature of the ISGR.  It can be argued, perhaps properly, that the report was meant to focus upon Iraq alone.  In this case, the number of omissions are greatly lessened, but still obtrude.  For instance, benchmarks for Iraq’s diplomatic rapprochement with neighbors are conspicuously absent–these would include economic and political diplomacy, but also immediate regional concerns, for instance concerning aid and support to refugees.

Within these acknowledged and/or unacknowledged limits, there is still plenty to discuss under more specific headings.

Restructuring JBR to analyze its initiatives:
In view of the JBR’s organizational problems, I have restructured its goals into initiative areas.  These include the following:  a. Amnesty (Benchmarks 2 and 6); b. Governmental organization (Benchmarks 1, part of 3, and 4, 5, and 16); c. Security (Benchmarks 7, and 9 through 15) ; d. Reconstruction (part of 3, the Oil Law, and 17);  and e. Public Discourse (Benchmarks 8 and 18).

Next post: Amnesty and onward

On July 12, (a piece of) a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was released/declassified, entitled “Terrorist Threats to the U.S. Homeland“.  This post discusses a. how little is revealed in a document of this type; b. a summary of contents; c. the news analysis, which in many cases is amplified; and what to make of the whole process.  An NIE is supposed to be a substantive document, but you’ll pardon me for thinking it’s more substantive in its private form than in its public form.  And though announced with appropriate pomp and circumstance, there’s just not that much here.  We get the executive summary, not the report.

Seven pages minus 5 pages equals two pages
You can see what I mean by looking at the lack of contents.  The report is 7 pages long, in pdf: Page one, the title page; page two describes the makeup of the National Intelligence Council (basically an author page without author names); pages three and four describe the NIE and a little on their importance and methodology.  Significant here, on page three, is a kind of assurance that information is being reviewed by others, rather than being “stovepiped” to the top without assessment for source and accuracy from intelligence analysts.  Now that’s a relief, at least, to read that intelligence politicians are aware that we know this has happened in the past. 

Page five is “An Explanation of Estimative Language,” which allows some clues into how such reports are worded technically.  Looking at the blue box which comprises this page, we can see that two important kinds of risk analysis are occurring in the NIE process.  First, risk analysis on threat of terrorism, which is the subject of the report; and second, risk management for the intelligence community in case the NIE is incorrect.  (Don’t think I am discounting this latter function: no other course of action can protect the intelligence community from being gutted if there is another attack.   They have to protect themselves or they can’t do their job.)

In the blue box, we see that “High Confidence” that a incident X will occur does not mean that it is Likely to Occur, but that the Information Used has come from a source in which we have that confidence.  “Moderate Confidence” means that the intelligence information is somewhat conflicted or the analysts (unspecified) have varying opinions as to what that information discloses.  Along with this, there is a bar of white to grey, which simultaneously recalls our publicly-used rainbow-shaded Terrorist Threat barometer, only the lack of color indicates more sobriety, and the shades of grey indicate remote possibility; unlikely; even chance; likely; and almost certainly.  None of these words are used later on in the NIE.

The two pages
So at last on pages six and seven we get to the NIE “Key Judgments”, which do not actually estimate a terrorist threat in terms of the shaded bar, as noted previously.  These statements, summarized, follow:

  1. We are still under a “persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years.”  (Three years is time limit of study.)
  2. Counterterrorism efforts world-wide have succeeded in “disrupting known plots against the United States since 9/11.”
  3. “Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serous terrorist threat to the Homeland.”  Here Iraq is recalled, language very similar to the July Iraq Benchmark Report, in that al-Qa’ida plans high-profile and high-impact plots, encourages copycats. 
  4. Problems in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas provides a new locus for congregating and planning attacks such as the 9/11 plot, which was planned in a similar environment in Afghanistan.
  5. Therefore, we are in a heightened threat environment (Code Orange, no doubt), where al Qa’ida might plan biological, radiological, nuclear attacks.  Also Hizbullah is mentioned as a likely antagonist should we threaten either their group or Iran.  Homegrown “bubba groups” or American Muslims are mentioned and pretty much dismissed.
  6. Globalization in general, and Salafi internet sites in particular, are noted as vectors that spread terrorist rhetoric, information, and violence–to “enable even small numbers of alienated people to find and connect with one another, justify and intensify their anger, and mobilize resources” without impetus by any centralized authority.
  7. These global threats “challenge current U.S. defensive efforts and the tools we use to detect and disrupt plots.”

Predominant press reactions:

  1. Accenting stasis: At the NYT, Scott Shane calling the NIE “same-old, same-old“–no improvement, overall, in the situation at large.   The Washington Post’s Michael Abramowitz notes that the NIE calls Bush’s Iraq policy into question, as Iraq becomes a rallying point for further extremism.   FoxNews, generally favorable to this conservative administration, reported that Mr. Bush said “things would be a lot worse”–which means, that’s the best that can be said about the conclusions of the report–which means, stasis.
  2. Another set of NYT articles focuses on Pakistan: a. Mark Mazetti & David Sanger  call the NIE “a bleak assessment” that notes that Pakistan’s tribal areas are increasingly out of Pakistan’s governmental control.  (They also note No. 1 above, that the battle is in Iraq but the terrorists are in Afghanistan/Pakistan area.  b. These two distinguished journalists then reprise this article and discuss Pakistan’s slow reaction time to threats and what the U.S. might do if pushed. 
  3. Fred Kaplan over at Slate Magazine has interpreted the “globalization clauses” (what I have as N0. 6 and 7 above) is an increased likelihood of lost privacy for and domestic spying upon the American citizenry under the Patriot act and in the name of terror prevention.  Yes, I think that’s probable, and something to beware.
  4. I found no one who wanted to relate the NIE to our current conduct vis-a-vis  Iran, and to me that was the most significant portion: it explains why we are going more slowly with Iran than we did with Iraq, despite the many grievances publicly noted, actual or perceived: a. hostage-takings, b. nuclear enrichment, c. anti-Israeli rhetoric, d. weapons and aid to insurgencies in Lebanon and Iraq and Afghanistan, e. et cetera.

What should the report have said or given us? 
It looks right to me, insofar as two pages can expose: Pakistan has most of the conditions that Afghanistan did, pre-2001; al-Qa’ida is in Iraq and they are high-profile there; the internet shows we don’t know how to moderate or engage extremist rhetoric; and while it protects the Bush administration to some degree (which we should expect, somewhat) it does evaluate, correctly, that: We live in an very uncertain world. 

This NIE is a status report more than a prediction.  Its verdict: we have met the challenge in some ways and in other ways, we don’t have a clue. 

Even-odd is a dice game where you can lose fabulous amounts of money and wreck your life.  Now that Mr. Bush is thinking proactively, and using precise language, I feel so much better:  except, only on one-half of the mix:

On July 17, President Bush signed an Executive Order that further closes the gaps for those who would aid and support an insurgency in Iraq.  The text of the Order is here

This new order apparently fills a gap in economic sanctions/prosecution of aid and support to the enemy.  Here is an explanation to Congress of its antecedents, scope and importance:

I issued this order to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004. In these previous Executive Orders, I ordered various measures to address the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in that country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq.

My new order takes additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315 by blocking the property and interests in property of persons determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. The order further authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, to designate for blocking those persons determined to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person designated pursuant to this order, or to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

I delegated to the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, the authority to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of my order. I am enclosing a copy of the Executive Order I have issued.

Now, here are my questions:

1. Not sweeping enough: If this Executive Order is designed to fill in gaps, then why in the world does it not include the words “and Afghanistan” after every incidence of the word “Iraq”?

It just so happens that the drug trade in Afghanistan has been nowise any healthier than it is today, with record-breaking crops.  And Afghanistan and ISAF security forces are having to contend with the consequences of income from that trade, in the form of a new insurgency personnel, strategy, p.r. campaign, and weaponry.  If anywhere some blocked funding would be required, it would be in Afghanistan.

2. Too sweeping: The language of this order covers everything in such a way that a donated box of paperclips to the wrong person might put one under prosecution.  I wonder what affect it will have on philanthropy in general, as well as to the rule of law.  I’m pretty sure the U.S. government doesn’t have enough money to prosecute everyone with a mis-guided gift of paperclips, but I’m concerned about the rule of law here, which is a principle above economic-rational government decisions: surely that is a contradiction in terms anyway.

Roll the dice: will you donate to Iraq refugees or not?  Will the terrorists come from Iraq or not?  What do we do next?  It’s a crap shoot.

Further Reading:
Federal Judge Strikes down Part of E.O. 13224 on Terrorist Finance–November, 2006

Next Page »