Friday, August 29, 2008

The Dark Knight, Part 4 of 5

"It incorporates a great deal of stealth technology."

"How does that work?" Sasha asked, looking at the Batmobile.

"The basic theory is that to be seen, whether with a radar or with the naked eye or with some other instrument, some kind of light or radio wave or something has to travel from the Batmobile to the observer or the observer's equipment. The stealth technology minimizes how much of that energy travels to the observer, thus minimizing the chance that the observer will see it."

"I'm not sure I'm following you," Sasha commented, perplexed.

"Light that is incident on an object is either absorbed into the object, transmitted through the object, or reflected off the object. Of course, light can be emitted from the object, as well. We can turn the Batmobile's lights off, so it is not emitting light; and, realistically, the Batmobile is not going to transmit light through itself. So, the question becomes one of maximizing how much light is absorbed, and minimizing how much is reflected in a manner useful to someone trying to see it."

"I suppose the dark color helps with that."

"Yes, and so does the finish on the Batmobile. Also, the material on the surface helps a great deal, as well – different materials have different coefficients of absorptivity, transmissivity and reflectivity. These properties also depend on whether it is visible light, infrared light, radio waves, and so on...."

Bruce Wayne stepped over to a vault containing several Batsuits. "Just like the various vehicles down here, so do the Batsuits have some of this technology incorporated into them. And, just like the vehicles, the different suits are optimized for different environments – hot and cold environments, environments with UV or IR radiation, and so on."

Listening intently, Sasha was taking it all in.

Stepping over to a counter with various kinds of gear on it, Wayne continued.

"In addition to all that, different things can be used to trick an observer. There are things that obstruct an observer's line-of-sight to a target, such as a building or some trees. Smoke and clouds work well, and where there isn't anything like that, we can make smoke. There are decoys to cause the observer to lose track of what he is trying to follow, and pyrotechnic devices to distract him. You can also impede an observer's ability to watch you; tear gas, for example, can cause someone great difficulties in trying to see where you are."

Wayne paused, then smiled. "Lights and mirrors... give me the right combination of lights and mirrors, and I can make you think that the Batmobile is a bush, and a bush is the Batmobile. Add in these other tricks, and it gets very complicated for the other guy."



Nick Kyle looked at his partner.

They had had an encounter with the Batman the previous summer, and the Batman disappeared right before Nick's eyes. His partner, Ron DiViglio, hadn't believed him. That battle had been pretty chaotic; the Batman had popped tear gas, a smoke screen, and even napalm. This all had the desired effect on Ron, who was out of the fight, unable to see at a critical moment. It was at that moment that Nick took aim at the Batman, and was about to fire, when the Batman looked at him, said "See ya 'round," and disappeared. Then the smoke got in the way, blocking the line of sight from where Nick was to where the Batman had been.

Of course, Ron didn't see this part of the fight, and didn't believe Nick's version of the events. Ron was sure that Nick lost sight of the Batman because of the smoke and teargas, and the general dark conditions in the alley that night; however, Ron didn't press the issue.

This time, however, it was different. Ron saw it. Ron saw how the Batman just disappeared right before his eyes.

Once again, Ron wasn't saying anything, but Nick could tell – this time Ron saw it.



"Speaking of tricks and complications, Master Bruce, that was not a very smart trick of yours bringing Talia al Ghul back to the Batcave last night." Alfred had come up behind them while Bruce Wayne was showing Sasha features on the Batsuits, and, hearing Alfred's words, Wayne looked at him. "It is sure to bring complications."

"I didn't see that I had a lot of choices, Alfred. She just kind of wandered into the fray, and I had to do something to save her."

"And that something was to bring her back to the Batcave?"

Wayne shot Alfred a glance. This was not something Wayne wanted to talk about, and it certainly was not the best topic to address in front of Sasha.

"Where Talia al Ghul has been, her father is certain to follow – with company," Sasha commented.

"Guess who's coming to dinner," added Alfred as he turned to go back upstairs.



"You're interested in the reward money, aren't you, Ron?"

"Aren't you?"

"Yeah, I suppose. But, more importantly, I'm interested in not having this Batman around any more."

Ron DiViglio looked closely at Nicholas Kyle, then smiled.

"Don't worry, Nick. Mr. Falcone said some friends of his are going to take care of him." Ron's smile disappeared with his next thought, which he left unspoken: So much for our reward.



Sasha looked closely at Wayne.

"Bruce, you knew that bringing her back here would mean her father would come here with his henchmen."

"Ra's al Ghul has suspected for a long time the connection between Batman and Bruce Wayne. In fact, I think 'suspected' is far too weak of a word."

Looking at the statue of a bat and the drawing of a bat that hung on the wall of the Batcave, Wayne recalled the first time he heard of Ra's al Ghul.

He also thought about the words of The Ancient, as translated by the master, the day the statue was given to him: "The Knights of the Round Table wore shining armor, but you shall be a dark knight and your armor shall be dark; you shall be a creature of the shadows and of the night. Your heart will be pure, and your works will be good, yet your existence and your reputation will strike terror in the hearts of those who do evil, and it is through this terror that you shall be victorious."

The master had gone on to explain about the statue, saying "That statue was made for you, centuries ago!"

Wayne had asked about the meaning of the inscription on the statue, and was told that it was a prophecy. "In a world darkened by the overcast of evil, one man will emerge, a warrior, and in defense of justice, he will work magic."

"Lights and mirrors..." Sasha said slowly, thoughtfully, as she looked around the Batcave. "You're setting a trap for him, aren't you?"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

America

Fifty million illegal immigrants can't be wrong!


Hat tip to my email correspondent!

The New Frontier, Part 7

At the end of Part 6, we promised we would begin to explore how Chinese are being targeted by terrorists in China's near-abroad, South Asia. Also, in Genesis, Part 33, we saw how it had been predicted that evaporating Pakistani support for an anti-Indian terrorist organization was expected to cause problems for Islamabad at home.



We now review The New Face of Jihad by Massoud Ansari, dated August of 2007:

Chinese nationals are targeted in Pakistan as China attempts to rein in its own jihadis.

Analysts in Pakistan are now beginning to link the spate of attacks against Chinese nationals in the country to Islamabad's policy of playing ball with Beijing in its attempt to quell the Islamist movement in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.

"We are now quite certain that foreign militants living in Pakistan and their Pakistani hosts, infuriated with Islamabad's cooperation with Beijing, are carrying out these attacks," says a senior intelligence official, requesting not to be named.


Let me be clear that by connecting this post to Genesis, Part 33, I do not mean to suggest that Pakistan has been sponsoring terrorists in China like Pakistan has sponsored them in India.

Of course, if you independently draw that conclusion, that is your business.

Clear evidence supporting this argument was obtained by the authorities in early July when three Chinese nationals working in a three-wheel auto-rickshaw factory at Khazana, a town some eight kilometres from Peshawar, were killed and another seriously wounded in a daredevil attack.

Eyewitness accounts reveal that the militants were in three separate cars. They started firing at the Chinese nationals from two of the cars, while fellow militants in the third car filmed the action. The militants shouted religious slogans as they opened fire.


Fanning the flames of Islamic militancy, and thus extremism, was important in agitating for an independent Muslim state in the 1940's, as British colonial rule was coming to an end.

Now we understand what is being reaped from the seeds then sewn.

The film was sent to Chinese authorities earlier this week, apparently by anti-Beijing Uighur extremists, warning them that such attacks would continue against its nationals on Pakistani soil if it did not refrain from pursuing the policy of persecuting Muslims in China.




Earlier, in mid-July, when a suicide bomber rammed into a convoy of police vehicles escorting Chinese technicians through a busy street in Hub, Pakistani officials initially suspected that Baloch insurgents were behind the attacks. The Chinese were unhurt but the massive explosion killed 29 Pakistanis, including seven police officers riding in the van that was attacked.

"We were puzzled because we knew that insurgents who are involved in much of the violence in Balochistan have neither the resources nor the capacity to carry out such a suicide attack. Now we know for sure that it was the handiwork of Islamists linked to Uighur militants, who are trying to settle scores with the Chinese government," says an official.


But, how did the Uighur militants gain such a capacity?

Apparently, the Uighur militants are getting support that the Baloch independence movement isn't getting.

Pakistani officials now believe that the latest attacks against Chinese nationals on Pakistani soil were triggered off when an activist belonging to the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) was executed in China last month, after being deported from Pakistan.

The ETIM strives for a separate homeland in the Muslim populated Xinjiang province of China. According to some reports, the Chinese government has confiscated the passports of thousands of Muslims in the oil-rich Xinjiang province to prevent them from slipping away to join militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are some indications that the government may bar Chinese Muslims from performing Hajj this year. These reports follow intelligence indicating that the Hui Muslim minority community in central China is financed by extremists in the Middle East.


Aha! A Middle East connection. Dare we suggest Saudi Arabia?

Finding themselves in hot water in China, some militants have fled the country to seek shelter elsewhere.

Exact figures are not available, but some Pakistani officials suggest that nearly 1,000 Uighur militants from China's Xinjiang region have made their way to South and North Waziristan.

The Uighur militants are believed to have been closely linked with Osama Bin Laden's terror brigade, so much so that it was suspected that he might have been sheltered by these militants in Xinjiang province after he was forced out of Afghanistan in 2001. The militants fought alongside the Taliban inside Afghanistan when it came under attack in the wake of 9/11.


A powerful argument for a Saudi connection....

Pakistani officials are now trying to investigate if the kidnapping of the eight Chinese, who owned a massage parlour in an upscale neighbourhood of Islamabad, by the self-appointed moral police of Lal Masjid, was also instigated by the militants and their supporters among the local Taliban.

According to one estimate, nearly 5,000 Chinese nationals, including 3,500 engineers and technicians work on various state-run projects in Pakistan. In the wake of the latest violence, many of them, especially the engineers working on various projects in Pakistan, have started leaving the country. Those who have chosen to stay on have restricted their movements. Some have taken to wearing shalwar kameez in an attempt to deflect attention. While westerners had faced deadly attacks in the country in the past, there was a perception that the Chinese were relatively safe. Recent events have drastically altered this perception.

Pakistani officials say that though militants belonging to the Xinjiang province have sought shelter in the lawless tribal zones for decades, never before had they used Pakistani soil to fight their "ideological" battles.

The trouble began when Pakistani officials reportedly rounded up several dozen Chinese Muslims from madrassahs in Pakistan and handed them over to China in 2004. "We heard from Uighur militants in the tribal lands of Pakistan that most of their fellow Muslims were shot dead immediately after they arrived in China," says Lateef Afridi, a local tribal elder.


Pakistan's elite have supported jihadism, but here is something that seems to trump ideology: business. China is helping develop Pakistan's infrastructure -- roadways and port facilities. The terrorists may have to put their holy war on hold, or else bite the hand that seems to have helped feed them.

After receiving reports that an Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group had planned to kidnap senior diplomats of a "communist country," Chinese diplomats in Islamabad requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to beef up security around its missions two years ago. Heightened security measures may have helped to prevent attacks on these missions, but in October 2004, two Chinese engineers working on the Gomal Zam dam project were kidnapped from Tank, near the South Waziristan Agency by tribal militants. The kidnapping ended on a tragic note two days later. One of the Chinese hostages was killed; the other was rescued unharmed in a blitzkrieg commando action.

Some Pakistani officials assumed that the kidnapping was meant to embarrass Islamabad, as Beijing was its close ally and major supporter in defence and other projects. Others now suggest the militants kidnapped the engineers because they suspected them to be undercover spies, keeping tabs on Chinese Muslims in the area.

Only last month, China handed over a list of 20 militants belonging to the ETIM, wanted for disruptive activities in Xinjiang province, alleging that they were hiding in Pakistan's tribal areas. Chinese officials requested the visiting Pakistani delegation, led by Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, to furnish them with detailed information about these terrorists.

The ETIM has been declared a terrorist outfit by Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and the United States. The US government accuses it of committing over 200 acts of terrorism between 1990 and 2001, resulting in at least 162 deaths and over 440 injuries.

The militants believe that the Chinese government has deployed dozens of spies across Pakistan, under the garb of technicians and engineers, to keep track of the activities of several hundred Uighur extremists hiding in the tribal belt.

Senior counter-terrorism officials say there is a strong likelihood that the local Taliban may have been asked by Al-Qaeda to carry out attacks against the Chinese on Pakistani soil to protect the interests of their fellow Chinese militants who had remained associated with the network.

Pakistani government authorities faced a serious confrontion with tribal militants when they demanded that they expel or hand over militants belonging to Uighur province, including Uzbeks and Chechens, in the wake of the deal signed with them. Recently, the tribal militants renounced the peace deal struck last September.


An Uzbek and a Chechen connection, too?

Pakistan now faces great pressure from its western allies to do more to curb the militancy in the tribal areas. Washington has already questioned President Musharraf's ability to control the remote tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, in which, according to US officials, Osama Bin Laden is probably hiding. There is great concern that Al-Qaeda is being allowed to rebuild its organisation in this "safe haven."

Islamabad's problems just seem to get worse. Already fighting a virtual war within the country to combat one of the worst threats to its security, it faces opposition not just from local militants but from the international jihadists including Arabs and Uzbeks. Now, to the list of its deadly "enemies," it must add the reclusive militants belonging to China's Uighur province.


Of course, this article is from last year; all of that is no longer Mushy's problem, is it?

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Genesis, Part 33

In this post, we review another document from a series of declassified US State Department documents that address the rise of the Taliban, and the role of the Government of Pakistan (GOP) in assisting the Taliban to seize power.

This document, dated August, 1996, is identifeid as MORI DocID: 1218415; the section that is reproduced is an article classified SECRET, entitled "Harakut ul-Ansar: Increasing Threat to Western and Pakistani Interests (C)", the very title of which, as indicated by the "C" in parentheses, was classified CONFIDENTIAL.



The Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA), an Islamic extremist organization that Pakistan supports in its proxy war against Indian forces in Kashmir, increasingly is using terrorist tactics against Westerners and random attacks on civilians that could involve Westerners to promote its pan-Islamic agenda:

Since early 1994, the HUA has kidnapped at least 13 individuals -- 12 of whom are Westerners.

Against the backdrop of possible declining support from Islamabad, the HUA is discussing financing with sponsors of international terrorism who are virulently anti-US and may encourage attacks on US targets. The HUA may be seeking this assistance from such sources -- including terrorist financier Usama Bin Ladin and Libyan leader Mu'ammar Qadhafi -- in an attempt to offset losses resulting from the drop in Pakistani support.

Islamabad also is at risk of being a target of HUA terrorism, particularly if it further reduces its support for the HUA or clamps down on the group's activities. Antigovernment sentiment among HUA leaders is already strong and could grow further.


The terrorist threat from the HUA is increasing as the group shifts from attacks on Indian security forces in Kashmir to Westerners and civilian targets -- which could involve Westerners -- outside of Kashmir. HUA leaders have expressed intense hatred of the West, and additional attacks against Western interests would be consisten with the group's philosophy of jihad against non-Muslims:

Since early 1994, the HUA has kidnapped a total of 13 people -- 12 of whome are Westerners -- in four separate incidents. The HUA has voluntarily released two of the victims, five were rescued or escaped, and at least two -- and probably six -- were murdered.

[redacted] the HUA may have assisted the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front in carrying out the Lajpat Nagar market bombing in May 1996 in New Dehli that killed 13 persons, according to US Embassy reports.


The HUA may be preparing to begin attacking civilian or VIP aircraft in India. [redacted] HUA contacts of Embassy New Dehli have hinted that they might undertake terrorist actions against civilian airliners. [redacted] Attacks on civilian aircraft in India could well involve Western casualties, given the large numbers of Western tourists in that country.


This is typical of the situation. Pakistan at some point supports a jihadist organization as a proxy to fight India. The jihadist organization stops distinguishing among infidels, and begins to target not just Indians, but others as well.

The problem here is the Pakistani elite, who see support for jihadists as a legitimate course of action in Pakistan's ongoing troubles with India. Moreover, the troubles with India serve to keep the Pakistani people's focus on India, to the exclusion of paying attention to corruption among Pakistan's politicians.

Criticism of Islam becomes treasonous, and criticism of the GOP becomes un-Islamic.

Pakistan could have peace with India, if Pakistan's politico-military elite would stop fanning the flames of war with India.

Of course, the ramifications for the West are serious, as the jihadists begin to wage holy war against any infidel they come across. The situation is particularly dire for the US -- the "Great Satan -- and for the UK, with its large immigrant population of ethnic Pakistanis.



Reaching Out to International Terrorist Supporters

The HUA is attempting to expand its ties to foreign supporters of international terrorism that are virulently anti-US and may further encourage the group to attack US interests. Although the group has long had international connections, recent HUA requests for money from these terrorist supporters -- at least one of which coincided with declining Pakistani support -- suggests these new contacts are more than routine:

[heavily redacted]




Islamabad is Backing Away...

Islamabad appears to be scaling back its support for the HUA, probably out of concern that its ties to the group will prompt the United States to place Pakistan on the list of state sponsors of terrorism:

[heavily redacted] diplomatic reports indicate that ISID provides at least $30,000 -- and possibly as much as $60,000 -- per month to the HUA.

[heavily redacted]

In apparently related activity, a senior HUA leader complained about Islamabad's inconsistent policy toward the group. It is unclear if he was referring only [redacted] or whether the ISID has reduced its financial and other support as well.


...But Could Become a Target Itself

Islamabad's compliance with US and UK demands to cease its support for the HUA and crack down on the group's activities could be costly to Islamabad. Pakistan is unlike to accede fully, but any strong actions aimed at stopping the group's activities might prompt the HUA to retaliate. Although the HUA's operations are primarily targeted against India, some of the group's rhetoric and past actions demonstrate a hostility toward Islamabad that could be fueled by a loss of Islamabad's patronage:

Elements within the HUA participated in the coup of September 1995 against the Pakistan Army, according to press reporting. The coup's objective was the removal of the civilian government.




A senior HUA leader has publicly advocated an Afghan-style change of government in Pakistan that would remove the political, bureaucratic, and military hierarchies.


Implications for the United States

A cutoff of Pakistani support to the HUA would make the group more likely to accept money from anti-US international terrorist supporters such as Bin Ladin, even if accepting such funds required a shift in targeting strategy. The HUA's underlying hatred of the West and a probable desire for retaliation against the forces pushing Islamabad's efforts increase the likelihood of such a scenario following a crackdown.


My question: this was released with documents that address whether Pakistan supported the rise of the Taliban; why?

Also, the prediction was that, as Islamabad backed away from supporting the HUA, it would become a target of the HUA. Please keep this in mind as we continue with our series, The New Frontier, as The New Frontier, Part 7 deals with a similar kind of blowback.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Whom The Gods Would Destroy, Part 3

We begin Part 3 by reviewing the first part of a recent article, which was speculating on Senator Biden as Senator Obama's running mate, days before this move was announced; the article is entitled Biden seen as shoring up some weaknesses for Obama, and we review only about the first two thirds:

WASHINGTON - Call it the Biden Buzz. Part of the noise comes from the reporters swarming around Sen. Joe Biden. Yet all the speculation about the Delaware lawmaker as a leading candidate for vice-presidential running mate may be saying a lot about what Barack Obama's campaign lacks.

Biden is staying uncharacteristically quiet in the face of growing attention as Obama nears a decision on his running mate. Dressed in a suit and sunglasses, Biden left his home by car Thursday morning in Wilmington, Del., with only a casual wave to the news media.

Obama is keeping quiet, too, but his staff in Chicago and party activists see Biden as addressing two of Obama's biggest weaknesses — his lack of experience, especially on world affairs, and his reluctance to attack his opponent.

Obama plans to appear with his newly selected running mate Saturday, with the pick announced via text message to supporters. Obama also is believed to be considering Govs. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.

But Biden is at the center of much speculation now. Biden, 65, first was elected to represent Delaware in 1972. Obama was 11 at the time; half the people living in the U.S. were not born when Biden arrived on Capitol Hill. He is a curious front-runner to join a ticket headed by Obama, who prevailed during the primaries by making the case that he is an outsider who can bring change to Washington.

Biden has a compelling personal story: His wife and daughter were killed in a car accident a few weeks after he was first elected, but two sons survived serious injuries in the crash. Biden commuted home to Wilmington daily to care for them, a practice he continues to this day. The oldest son, Beau, is now Delaware's attorney general and a National Guard member whose unit is being deployed to Iraq in October.

Biden got another scare 10 years ago, when two brain aneurysms kept him out of the Senate for several months.

This week Biden returned from a trip to the former Soviet state of Georgia that he made at the invitation of the embattled country's president, a well-timed reminder of the value he could bring to Obama's ticket.

Fighting between Georgia and Russia has only increased the sense that Americans will turn to the candidate they believe will be a strong international leader.


Was the move of Bush's Georgian protégé, an obvious provocation of Russia which we knew the US media would not adequately and honestly cover, intended to help bolster McCain's chances this fall?

American voters are tired of Bush's wars, but they also see the world as a dangerous place, and they see McCain as having the credentials to lead the world in a dangerous international arena, far more so than Obama. Senator Biden's presence will strengthen the Obama ticket, much as Bush, Sr's, presence strengthened the Reagan ticket, and much as Cheney's presence strengthened the Bush, Jr, ticket (?).

Bush can help with fundraising -- and does fantastic raising money -- but how else can such an unpopular President help McCain get elected? By helping create an unstable world where McCain is seen as the candidate we need to deal with the instability?

We now conclude by finishing our review of The Brezhnev Doctrine: Alive and Well by Srdja Trifkovic, August 21, 2008, with which we had begun Part 1:

The two "American" doctrines suffer from the same problem, however, as the Brezhnev Doctrine that we are remembering today. Each act of resistance, however costly for the defender, undermines the hegemon's credibility and self-confidence. After 1968, just beneath the drab surface of "Real Socialism," anti-Sovietism was rampant. Back then, and for almost two decades thereafter, members of the Politburo were old, sluggish, devoid of fresh ideas, and oblivious to the long-term challenges to their hegemony. The neoconservative strategists who run the show under Bush and who will continue running it under McCain are, by contrast, hyperactive and still convinced that hegemony can be maintained as the divinely-ordained, morally mandated, open-ended and self-justifying mission for decades to come.

The Soviets were dull and dumb. Their heirs in Washington are insane; and quos deus vult perdere, dementat prius. There is hope.


"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Whom The Gods Would Destroy, Part 2

We begin Part 2 by reviewing another recent article by Srdja Trifkovic, this one entitled Caucasian Games: The Score:

A week after Georgia's failed attempt to conquer the breakaway province of South Ossetia, the crisis is over. The only major issue still unresolved concerns Mikheil Saakashvili's motivation. His order to attack on the night of August 7-8 was a breathtakingly risky move; but was it a calculated, or reckless gamble? That Saakashvili acted with the tacit approval (if not active encouragement) of the United States is reasonable to assume, considering the presence of over a hundred U.S. military advisors in Georgia. Actively involved at all levels of planning, training and equipping the Georgian army, they could not have not known what was coming. Had the Bush administration wanted to stop Saakashvili it could have done so.

It did not do so, however, because the foreign policy strategists in Washington—Russophobic to boot—assumed that they had a win-win situation:

Had Georgian troops occupied Southern Ossetia in a Blitzkrieg operation modelled after Croatia's "Operation Storm" that expelled a quarter-million Krajina Serbs in August 1995, while the Russians remained hesitant or ineffective, Moscow would have suffered a major strategic and (more importantly) psychological defeat after almost four years of sustained strategic recovery following the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine in 2004.

On the other hand, if Russia were to intervene the mainstream media machine would duly react with a campaign of demonization unseen since at least August 1968 (Prague), if not August 1961 (Berlin Wall). The U.S. would block Russia's entry into the WTO, try to suspend her G-8 membership, and retroactively justify the deployment of missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. "Old" Europeans, above all Germans, would be forced to abandon their détente with Moscow. Last but not least, a bloodied, resentful Georgia would become chronically anti-Russian, regardless of Saakashvili's personal fortunes, thus ensuring long-term "Western" (i.e. American) presence in the region.
In the event the plan did not work:

The Georgian army performed so poorly in the field that a military fait accompli on Day One was out of the question. It could not even secure the Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, which lay virtually undefended within miles of the Georgian border.

It promptly committed atrocities that made the innocent-victim-of-aggression narrative somewhat difficult to construct even for the likes of The Post or CNN.

The Russian response came swiftly, indicating that the new tandem Medvedev-Putin acts in unison when setting political objectives and functions smoothly in achieving them.

The military action was executed competently and achieved all its objectives within 48 hours, in sharp contrast with the protracted and bloodly stalemate in Chechnya a decade ago, let alone the Afghan quagmire in the 1980s.

Moscow stopped short of taking the whole of Georgia and effecting a regime change in Tbilisi, while demonstrating its ability to do so—thus creating room for third-party diplomatic initiatives based on Russia’s position of overwhelming strength.

The Europeans went out of their way to keep their dialogue with Moscow open, brokering a ceasefire pleasing to Moscow (Sarkozy) and maintaining the schedule of previously announced top-level contacts (Merkel).

NATO's expansion eastwards is now finally over: no major European member of the alliance, with the possible exception of the ever-pliant Britain, accepts Bush's argument that vital Western interests are at stake in whose flag flies over Tskhinvali.

Kosovo did establish a precedent, after all, the one that Mosow will exploit to its advantage while making Washington sound hypocritical when invoking "international law" and the respect for territorial integrity of states.

Stretched to the limit in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States responded with Miss Rice's forgettable platitudes in Tbilisi, thus implicitly admitting Washington's inability to intervene along the Russian periphery.


Back to Saakashvili. If he acted in the hope of a decisive political and even military American response to Russia's predictable reaction, he is naive. If he willingly accepted the role of collateral damage in the scenario of discrediting Russia, he is stupid. And if he thought that he could do a Tudjman with impunity, he is insane.

The events in the Caucasus clearly indicate to small and weak countries that it is self-defeating to trust a distant mentor in Washington whose verbal commitments greatly exceede available resources. The outcome is a blessing in disguise for those of us who believe that America should not be "engaged" in each nook and cranny around the world, and who advocate a sane, give-and-take relationship with Moscow based on the acceptance that Russia has legitimate interests in her near-abroad.

I shall revisit these themes in detail next week, when I return home from the annual Grand European Tour.


Ah, but what was the real reason behind the adventurism of Bush's Georgian protégé?

Stay tuned for Part 3!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Dark Knight, Part 3 of 5

It was early morning, but, recovered from the previous night's exhaustive training session, Bruce Wayne was back down in the Batcave.

Doesn't he ever rest, Alfred wondered.

Right behind Alfred, Sasha was coming down the stairs. Glancing back at her, Alfred could tell Sasha was not recovered from her training session. She had a large bruise on her arm, and looked like she needed rest.

Alfred looked back at Wayne, as Sasha came up and stood next to him.

"Aren't you tired, Bruce?" she asked.

Bruce Wayne glanced back at Sasha and Alfred. "Good morning," he answered. "Not really. How are you? Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, but I'm still exhausted, physically." She glanced at Alfred, then stepped closer to the Batcomputer, looking at Bruce Wayne, and looking at his work. "Defeating me like you did is one thing, but then, unarmed, you leveled those three guys in the next fight." Sasha stepped closer yet, studying Wayne. "How did you do that? You weren't tired…" she paused. "Those are three of the best martial artists in the world."

Wayne looked at her. "I studied at a school in Asia."

Sasha looked intently at him. "I've seen the resumes of those three. Two of them taught at schools in Asia, and one of them teaches in a school here in Gotham City. They teach or have taught at the best schools in the world, they've won many competitions – they were armed, they outnumbered you three-to-one, you had just come out of a fight with me – granted, that probably wasn't too difficult for you, but it should have tired you out at least a little – and then you went through those three men like they were nothing. How do you do that?"

Sasha paused for a breath, and Alfred, sensing the direction the conversation was taking, took advantage of the opportunity to speak.

"Master Bruce, I think I shall bring us all some tea. Have you had breakfast, sir?"

Bruce Wayne was looking at Sasha. Glancing toward Alfred, he smiled. "Not yet." He paused. "I am a little hungry, if you are offering to bring something down to the Batcave."

"Breakfast for two then?"

"I was hoping it would be for three. I would like to go over a few things with the two of you while we're eating."

"I shall be delighted to join the two of you, sir."

Alfred turned around, and disappeared up the stairs that led to an exit in Wayne Manor near the kitchen.

Turning to Sasha, Bruce Wayne looked at her, then turned some more, and focused again on the Batcomputer.

"Those men have had the best training money can buy." Wayne paused. "They offer me the best training money can buy," he added, thoughtfully. "The training I received can't be bought. It's not for sale, not at any price."

Sasha considered Wayne's words carefully.

Glancing up and seeing she was puzzled, Wayne continued.

"The instructor I studied with didn't teach me any moves, or anything like that. I had already learned nearly all of that when I was with him."

"What did he teach you then?" Sasha was intrigued.

"He taught me things that transcend the mechanics of fighting."

"Like what?"

Ignoring the question, Wayne turned back to the Batcomputer, nodding at an image that was on the screen.

"The mayor's race is now between two candidates. One, Councilman McMullen, is seen as stronger in the 'War on Crime' because of his experience in law enforcement. However, many Gotham residents favor his opponent, Councilman Salama, who is younger, because they want some fresh ideas; McMullen has been in Gotham politics a long time, serving on the city council for two decades now, while Salama hasn't even completed one term on the city council."

Wayne nodded towards another photo.

"Some see Salama as a young upstart, and question his experience. The pundits have suggested that it was a smart move on Salama's part, naming an experienced city council member as his running mate. With Councilman Lidden as vice-mayor, that would compliment Salama's perceived inexperience, although it has been suggested that this may also co-opt the freshness of his ideas."

"What's all of this really about, though?"

"An investigative report tied McMullen to an organized crime cartel that is connected with The Demon. They traffic hard narcotics, guns… they control prostitution, and have been involved in trafficking women for forced prostitution. It is a very violent cartel, and one of the cartel's front organizations has been active in political fund-raising for McMullen."

"So Salama would be better?"

"Not exactly," Wayne answered. Another image came up on another screen on the Batcomputer. "Salama has for many years been a front man for this guy, a billionaire who believes narcotics should be legalized. And," Wayne turned back to the image of Councilman Lidden, "Lidden, too, has been connected to narcotics traffickers who, in turn, are connected to The Demon."

"So the mayor's race is a proxy fight for control of the heroin trade?"

"In part, yes. Of course, many other things are at stake, and many of those other things are legal. But drugs play a big part in this election cycle."

Absorbing it all, Sasha looked at Wayne, then abruptly asked, "So what did this teacher of yours teach you?"

Bruce Wayne turned to Sasha, and looked closely at her.

"I had a chance to meet the instructor who taught my teacher, back when my teacher was young. I didn't catch this instructor's name. In fact, I don't even know if he has one. He was an old man even then, when my teacher was in training." Wayne began the story, and Sasha listened closely. "When the communists took over in that country, decades ago, this instructor was an old man."

"This same guy you met? The guy who taught your teacher?"

"The same guy," Wayne nodded, then continued with his narrative. "The communists had lists of people they were rounding up, and this guy's name must have been on one of their lists. They sent a squad of soldiers into the village one day, and surrounded him. They looked him over closely, then told him to go with them." Wayne paused, reliving the story he had heard, as Sasha listened, imagining it all.

"What happened?" Sasha asked, curiosity overcoming the silence.

"The old man disappeared."

Scowling, Sasha nodded. "In my country, too, many people disappeared because of the communists."

"No," Wayne shook his head. "I mean, they didn't get him, because he disappeared."

Confused, Sasha looked at Bruce Wayne. "Do you mean he got away and hid from them?"

"No, hiding is for children. I mean he disappeared, right before their eyes."

Captivated, Sasha's mouth opened.

"As in 'Now you see him, now you don't,'" Wayne explained.

Turning back to the Batcomputer, Bruce Wayne added, "The communist soldiers were so scared, they never came back to the village."

Whom The Gods Would Destroy, Part 1

We begin by reviewing The Brezhnev Doctrine: Alive and Well by Srdja Trifkovic, August 21, 2008 (I have fixed a couple of typos):

On August 21, 1968—40 years ago today—the Soviet army entered Czechoslovakia, followed by smaller contingents from four other Warsaw Pact countries. The occupation ("Operation Danube") marked the end of the Prague Spring, a doomed attempt by Alexander Dubcek's reformist faction of the Czechoslovak Communist Party to build "socialism with a human face."

Ideological justification for the intervention was provided by the Brezhnev Doctrine, which was defined by its author as the obligation of the socialist countries to ensure that their "freedom for determining the ways of advance of their respective countries" should not "damage either socialism in their country or the fundamental interests of other socialist countries":

The sovereignty of a socialist country cannot be opposed to the interests of the world of socialism ... [T]he norms of law cannot be interpreted narrowly, formally, in isolation from the general context of class struggle in the modern world... Czechoslovakia's detachment from the socialist community would have clashed with its own vital interests and would have been detrimental to the other socialist states... Discharging their internationalist duty toward the fraternal peoples of Czechoslovakia and defending their own socialist gains, the USSR and the other socialist states had to act decisively.


This doctrine was applied de facto by the Soviets in Berlin in 1953 and in Hungary in 1956, but only over Czechoslovakia in 1968 was it clearly defined: by entering the "socialist community of nations," its members implicitly accepted that the USSR—the leader of the "socialist camp"— was not only the enforcer of the rules but also the judge of whether and when an intervention was warranted. No country would be allowed to leave the Warsaw Pact, or challenge its communist party's monopoly on power.

Thirty years after Prague 1968 the USSR was gone and the Warsaw Pact dismantled, with NATO expanding into its former heartland. The principles of the Brezhnev Doctrine were not defunct, however. They were given a new life in the liberal guise. In 1991 the Maastricht Treaty accelerated the erosion of EU member countries' sovereignty by the Brussels regime of unelected bureaucrats. On this side of the ocean the passage of NAFTA was followed in 1995 the Uruguay round of GATT that gave us the WTO. The nineties laid the foundation for the new international order. By early 1999 the process was sufficiently far advanced for President Bill Clinton to claim that, had it not bombed Serbia, "NATO itself would have been discredited for failing to defend the very values that give it meaning." This was but one way of restating Brezhnev's dictum that "the norms of law cannot be interpreted narrowly, formally, in isolation from the general context of the modern world." The international system in existence ever since the Peace of Westphalia was signed in 1648 was dead as far as the United States was concerned.

The old system based on state sovereignty was imperfect and often violated, but nevertheless it provided the basis for international discourse from which but few powers had openly deviated. The key difference between Brezhnev and Clinton was in the limited scope of the Soviet leader's self-awarded outreach. His doctrine applied only to the "socialist community," as opposed to the unlimited, potentially world-wide scope of "defending the values that give NATO meaning." Like his Soviet predecessor, Clinton used an abstract and ideologically loaded notion as the pretext to act as he deemed fit, but no "interests of world socialism" could beat "universal human rights" when it came to determining where and when to intervene. The "socialist community" led by Moscow stopped on the Elbe. It was replaced by the "International Community" led by Washington, which stops nowhere. The credentials of a "democracy" are easy to establish in this scheme: democratic governments act in accordance with the will of the international community—like the late Franjo Tudjman, say. When they don't, they are ipso facto undemocratic and liable to punishment. The less logic and predictability, the stronger the position of the Hegemon.


A couple of key points here:

First, under the new rules coming into force by precedent set in America and Western Europe, internationalism trumps nationalism. A nation may be destroyed to provide the raw material for an international structure; other than victim, the only role a nation plays in this is that any nation may unilaterally begin the process of dismembering another nation.

Second, the only defense against this internationalism is strength; Yugoslavia then Serbia got dismembered by the United States and the European nations, but Russia and China can defend themselves, so, while they would be candidates to face dismemberment and preemptive war according to the political rhetoric in certain circles in the West, the reality is that they are safe as long as they are strong.

(And don't think this is unconnected to my Uighuristan and The New Frontier series.)

Today, forty years after Prague 1968, we have the Bush Doctrine, a mature synthesis of Brezhnev's and Clinton's legacy. Initially, when Afghanistan was invaded in 2001, Bush merely asserted the right of the U.S. to treat countries that harbor or help terrorist groups as terrorists themselves. Within a year his emerging doctrine included additional elements: preventive war asserted the right of the United States to depose foreign regimes deemed detrimental to its security even if that threat was not immediate (Iraq); while "promoting democracy," by force if need be, came to be treated as a legitimate strategy for combating the spread of terrorism.

The formal codification came in The National Security Strategy unveiled in September 2002, which presented the specter of open-ended political, military, and economic domination of the world by the United States acting unilaterally. The strategy defined two main categories of enemies: "rogue states" and "potentially hostile powers." Both warranted preemptive strikes "by direct and continuous action using all the elements of national and international power... We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively." The United States would not only will confront "evil and lawless regimes" but will put an end to "destructive national rivalries." To that end, the administration pledged "to keep military strength beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." As AEI's Thomas Donnelly triumphantly asserted in early 2003, 'Any comprehensive U.S. 'threat assessment' would conclude that the normal constraints of international politics—counterbalancing powers—no longer immediately inhibit the exercise of American might."


Keep in mind that the people deciding which countries are dangerous rogue states are also tied in to American business. They will make a great deal of money from the oil and natural gas industry by supplying fossil fuels which are found in or transit through certain nations; these "certain nations" are high on the list of nations which need forcible regime change. Collaboration in business deals is an offer they can't refuse.

Furthermore, these people deciding which countries need regime change also make money from the military-industrial complex, so they make money from war and preparations for war.

One point that Dr. Trifkovic does not address, and of which he may well be unaware, is the corruption that goes beyond the conflicts of interest I just commented on: as we know from the Sibel Edmonds case, these same people don't just make the decisions about which countries to attack; they make money from the heroin which is produced in or transits through these countries.

Oil and heroin both move through the Balkans now, and both move through the Central Asian republics where we have our bases in support of the War on Terror.

This doctrine still stands as the ideological basis and fully developed self-referential framework for the policy of permanent global interventionism. Unlike Brezhnev and Clinton, however, Bush has added divine sanction to his doctrine: "History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom's fight," he announced in his 2002 State of the Union address; "We've come to know truths that we will never question: Evil is real, and it must be opposed. Rarely has the world faced a choice more clear or consequential." By postulating America as "the good," and those who resist her will as the incarnation of evil, and by telling the rest of the world that the choice is clear and had to be be made, the President precluded any meaningful debate about the correlation between ends and means of American power: we are not only wise but virtuous; our policies are shaped by values, not by prejudices.


The "either-you're-with-us-or-you're-with-the-terrorists" mentality.

I can see Hitler telling his people they are either with him or they're with the communists.

I can see Stalin telling his people they are either with him or they're with the Nazis.

You can -- and should -- be against both.

As the series continues, we will briefly consider the recent hostilities in the Caucusus, before we come back to the last two paragraphs of Dr. Trifkovic's article.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Dark Knight, Part 2 of 5

Alfred looked at the training room. From it emanated a terrible noise, the clash of resounding arms – it was a sword fight! But it was terrible, violent – not like in the movies.

He walked over and looked in the room. In the dim light, he could make out two figures, a large one, with a cape, cowl and gauntlets visible in outline, attacking a smaller, feminine-looking figure, who was obviously having all she could do to defend herself.

He watched as the big, dark figure attacked, again and again. He had an oriental-style sword, like the kind they used in martial arts movies – what was it called? a katana? – and he struck at her repeatedly.

The smaller figure was parrying, dodging, blocking, but still seemed to be in a desperate battle for her very survival.

Alfred studied the tall, malevolent figure. At over six-and-a-half feet tall, dressed in flowing black, wearing a cowl with tall, pointed ears, the figure was rampaging in the training room. Alfred thought back to his own service, when he did his duty years ago for Her Majesty's government; he and the others he served with had been highly trained, heavily armed, supported by the best an entire kingdom had to offer. Yet, he thought, under absolutely no circumstances would he have felt comfortable battling the looming, menacing figure that was now raging against poor Sasha in the training room. Even though this was just a training session, the figure was terrifying.

The figure struck again and again with his sword; he struck with speed and cunning, but also with anger, fury – a frightening power, carefully channeled. Sasha was obviously getting tired, but her attacker was like a machine, coming at her over and over.

Sasha let out a yelp as the figure landed a powerful blow on her right arm. The body armor and protective equipment she was wearing kept her from being seriously injured, but the blow still hurt her, knocking her own sword out of her hand as she tumbled and fell to the ground. Alfred winced, knowing she would have a bruise on her arm. Why, he wondered, was this figure battling her so furiously?

Exhausted, she seemed pathetic on the floor, looking up as the figure lunged to within feet of her, stopping his last blow a foot away from her, then glaring down at her sprawled outline.

"Your enemy imploded two skyscrapers full of people, killing thousands of innocent victims, as well as the firefighters who were trying to save those victims."

The figure's voice was a low, raspy whisper; unnerving, unforgettable.

"The reason was to cover up a money-laundering scheme, and to justify this 'War on Crime' that would provide an opportunity to profiteer even as they took over Gotham City's heroin trade. The people they are dealing with have their weapons in-place, and are planning to destroy Gotham City outright, just as the Gotham Trade Center was destroyed."

He paused to let his words sink in, then moved his weapon closer to her head.

"Just as Gotham City will get no mercy from them, so will you get no mercy from me. You must be ready."

At these words, the referee stepped in. "Defender, sword down, move to Polygon Delta."

The giant, menacing figure turned to the referee, bowed and placed his sword on the floor, then hurried to another area nearby, as the referee walked quickly several steps behind him.

In Polygon Delta, three large, armed men stood ready, as the giant figure approached them. Facing the referee, they bowed to him, then the three men and the giant figure exchanged quick bows. The referee stepped between them, raising his right hand. "Ready," he lowered his right hand and stepped back quickly as he said "Fight!"

Meanwhile, Sasha was getting up, as an attendant recovered the weapons that were on the floor of Polygon Gamma.

Sasha and Alfred exchanged glances. Alfred smiled a reassuring smile, but Sasha looked miserable.

Alfred turned and walked back out of the training room, pausing to look around the Batcave.

Nestled inside Wayne Manor, with its security system and guards, the Batcave was itself defended by a state-of-the-art surveillance and defense system, designed by Wayne Enterprises technicians, incorporating cutting edge technology unavailable even to government clients. Wayne Manor was like a castle, but dug down deep inside it, the Batcave was like a castle within a castle. The Batcave even had its own army, professional martial artists, employees of Wayne Enterprises Corporate Security, who trained and exercised full-time, practicing constantly, training with the Batcave's master to keep him in tip-top condition.

But, the Batcave had another, more powerful defender.

Dwelling deep in its depths, like a powerful spring ready at a moment's notice to be released on a terrifying rampage, the Batcave was also home to Gotham City's Dark Knight.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The New Frontier, Part 6

In Part 4 we were reviewing China's tough Xinjiang policy backfires by Antoaneta Bezlova, dated August 15, 2008. In Part 5 we took a detour and finished reviewing another article, so we now continue with China's tough Xinjiang policy backfires:

Resentment against Chinese rule in Xinjiang has flared for years. Many among China's eight million Uyghurs - Turkic people that make up the biggest Muslim group in the region - dream of recreating a fabled "Kashgaria". The short-lived kingdom sprang up after a prolonged Muslim rebellion against the Qing Dynasty in the mid-19th century. China's Manchu rulers eventually reconquered the region and in 1884 created Xinjiang (new frontier) province.




Except during the brief existence of the two East Turkestan republics - in mid-1930s and after the end of World War II - the Uyghurs have continuously struggled in their quest for national identity, for most part away from the world's gaze.










But after the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, China claimed that the al-Qaeda had trained more than 1,000 members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Beijing succeeded in placing the group on the terrorist lists of the US and United Nations and resorted to a hard-line policy aimed at stifling unrest.

Through propaganda and extended security crackdowns the authorities have managed to put a lid on simmering ethnic resentment, but recent attacks have sparked fears that tough measures and omnipresent control may have driven more disaffected Uyghurs into joining the ranks of the global jihad movement.

"China's success in fighting those terrorists at home has made it impossible for them to survive underground and many are now training abroad," says Chu.


"Prohibition doesn't work -- legalize it and regulate it!"

ROFL.

"In 2001, it may have been premature to say that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement was part of the global jihad but by now many of its elements have spent so much time in the tribal border areas of Pakistan that we can't really say for sure what cause they stand for," says John Harrison of the Singapore-based International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

However, the coordinated targeting of symbols of the Chinese government in recent attacks shows a shift to tactics used by more traditional insurgent groups. "I would say there is less radicalization than before," Harrison suggests. "They are trying to show that their actions are aimed at whom they view as their main opponent - the Chinese government."


Which brings me to my point -- they are not like traditional jihadists, whose attitude is to kill them all (and themselves) and let Allah sort it out.

The continuous violence underscores China's undying problem with its restive ethnic minorities in far-flung regions like Xinijang and Tibet.

Chinese leaders like to take credit for developing the border regions, but Beijing's increasingly tight control on all aspects of the lives of minorities, including religious belief and cultural identity, have bred resentment.

China's most recent drive to assert control over the resource-rich Xinjiang region, through the "Go West" campaign, has spurred new investment and a wave of Han Chinese immigration, which has alienated the Uyghurs. In 1949 when the communist party came to power, the Uyghurs were 90% of the population of Xinjiang. Today they account for less than half.

This week, the government defended its record in the province. Mu Tielifuhasimu, commissioner of the region's administration, said the majority of Uyghurs are happy in Xinjiang and enjoy the freedom to practice their religion. "The overall situation is extremely good," he told a press conference.

Meanwhile, in Beijing state councilor Meng Jianzhu was meeting with Rehman Malik, adviser to the Pakistani prime minister on interior affairs and asking for more support from Islamabad in fighting terrorism. President Pervez Musharraf had admitted earlier that there were a number of Uyghur rebels from Xinjiang undergoing terrorist training in Pakistan's tribal areas.


And Chinese nationals are now being targeted in Pakistan, as well.

In fact, in the eastern half of "Turkestan", it appears China may replace the United States as the designated imperialist-power-to-be-hated.

The People's Republic of China: an up-and-coming "Great Satan"?

Stay tuned as we begin to explore how Chinese are being targeted by terrorists in China's near-abroad, South Asia.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The New Frontier, Part 5

We continue from Part 4 reviewing Xinjiang and China's strategy in Central Asia by Stephen Blank, April 3, 2004:

Massive 'go west' program to develop Xinjiang

To eliminate this perceived threat, China has undertaken a massive "go west" program for the better part of a decade, believing that the main spur to ethnic-nationalist and religious unrest is a lack of economic development and opportunity. Thus it has launched massive development projects in energy and transportation infrastructure to more fully tie Xinjiang to China's coastal development and to Central Asian economies.

But behind the objective of overcoming poverty - which, to be fair, is being realized - lies Beijing's unremitting drive to control Xinjiang. This development is also tied to the parallel and ongoing policy of officially sponsored large-scale migration into Xinjiang by Han Chinese that fosters immense local resentment and tension. All these policies aim to prevent anyone from demanding more democracy or genuine autonomy.


The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) -- China's "Wild West"?





Given what some observers consider the intrinsic fragility of the Chinese state, any sign of movement towards real democracy or federalism in Xinjiang, as in the case of Taiwan or Tibet, are excluded a priori. In fact, any call for democracy or even for a devolution of powers is considered by Beijing to be a threat to China's integrity, sovereignty and security. This rejection of democratic reforms is tied to China's deeply held historical view of sovereignty because any derogation of the latter in the name of the former is considered to be an invitation to disorder, chaos, and weakness.

Clearly, this is a classically imperial view of the state but also one that reflects a sense of being perpetually assailed by potential or actual threats. In other words, Xinjiang, like Tibet and Taiwan, is a neuralgic issue that when raised, brings out what some scholars see as Beijing's siege mentality.

Thus the textbook for party and government officials entitled Zhongguo Taiwan Wenti (China's Taiwan issue) rules out either of these alternatives (democracy or federalism) for Taiwan because confederations occur between independent and sovereign states - an admission China will not make. Furthermore, the textbook attacks federalism as unsuitable because "it does not fit the national tradition and is not suitable for the basic national conditions ... The current state structure form [the unitary system] is advantageous for national unification, consolidation among ethnic groups, political stability, and balanced regional development."


Any federalism is out of the question, because it is against Chinese Communist Party dogma.

Federalism is unacceptable, then, on domestic grounds ie, its threat to the unity of state power, not for any other reason. Were the regime forced to move in a federal direction for Taiwan or any other province, it could not then deny that structure to all the other provinces. Thus it would have to generalize a more decentralized and democratic form of rule across China.

Minority peoples live on insecure borders

And since the minority peoples live on China's insecure and troubled borders, in the context of Chinese history and prudent considerations of current political leaders, such devolution of power means both the end of their power and in their view the integrity of the Chinese state. This would particularly be true if ethnic discontent combined with the widespread internal labor unrest, permitting a dual-sided domestic opposition, for then internal and external oppositions would link up, representing precisely what Beijing regards as the gravest possible threat to the regime's security.


And Beijing is probably right on this count -- so there the communists stand, their fingers in holes in the dike.

But as the Xinjiang issue has moved onto the international agenda because of the US-led "war on terrorism", China also has been forced to respond to charges of its repression in the region, by publishing a White Paper on Xinjiang in 2003. This white paper is a comprehensive effort to justify Beijing's governance there and answer its critics. But in fact it only confirms the validity or legitimacy of an internationalization of the problem and - with unconscious irony - overtly spells out the continuing imperial tradition in Chinese statecraft towards Xinjiang. Thus it states:

"China has a centuries-old tradition of developing and protecting its border areas by stationing troops to cultivate and guard the frontier areas. According to historical records, all the dynasties in Chinese history adopted the practice of stationing troops to cultivate and guard the frontier areas as an important state policy for developing border areas and consolidating frontier defense. The beginning of this practice by the central authorities on a massive scale in Xinjiang can be traced back to the Western Han Dynasty, to be subsequently carried on from generation to generation. This policy had played an important part in uniting the nation, consolidating frontier defense, and promoting social and economic development in Xinjiang."


It goes beyond "That's the way we've always done it" -- they see the historical dynamic as working against them if they don't colonize and garrison the periphery.

However, the agency responsible for such consolidation, the Bingtuan, or the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), is a major factor, if not the major factor, in what is considered the regional gulag in Xinjiang. Thus the white paper states:

"As an important force for stability in Xinjiang and for consolidating frontier defense, the XPCC and the ordinary people attach equal importance to production and militia duties. It has set up in frontier areas a 'four-in-one' system of joint defense that links the PLA, the Armed Police, the XPCC, and the ordinary people, playing an irreplaceable special role in the past five decades in smashing and resisting internal and external separatists' attempts at sabotage and infiltration and in maintaining the stability and safety of the borders of the motherland."


Special corps is quasi-military-business grouping

Another assessment of the XPCC describes it as a quasi-military/business conglomerate. It consists of 2.4 million people, including workers and their families, virtually all of them Han Chinese. It has its own schools, media, hospitals, courts, and prisons. It owns about one-third of the land, and its industrial production equals approximately 25 percent of Xinjiang's total output, yet its primary function is to ensure social stability and conduct extensive political work.


A government "mafia" in a way?

Thus despite all the undoubted achievements of economic development, Xinjiang province remains troubled. Indeed, the Australian Sinologist Greg Austin has even written that China, according to its own official sources in Beijing, has lost control of the borders of Xinjiang with Central Asia, specifically Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and cannot prevent infiltration across those borders. American observers like S Frederick Starr and Graham Fuller, writing for the Central Asia Caucasus Institute of Johns Hopkins University, also maintain that China cannot evade the classic dilemma of minority people's uprisings against colonialist powers within the latter's home territory, the so-called metropole.

In other words, no matter whatever policies China adopts, it is likely to face continuing and long-term unrest, including violent, even possible "terrorist" operations, in Xinjiang and even in Beijing itself. While this problem has not reached the level in other conflicts, such as Kashmir or Palestine, it is real enough and growing. Worse, Chinese experts appear to concede that there is no way out.


But of course, there is a way out.

Thus besides the challenge of sustaining economic development, meeting the calls for domestic reform, and dealing with Taiwan, Tibet and North Korea, one can add Xinjiang to the list of major challenges confronting the Chinese government.


China needs to rethink its dogma, and allow a degree of federalism.



The alternative is that, the more the communists tighten their grip...



... the more will slip through Beijing's fingers.

Stay tuned for Part 6

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The New Frontier, Part 4

We continue from Part 3 reviewing Xinjiang and China's strategy in Central Asia by Stephen Blank, April 3, 2004:

These assertions offer significant clues to understanding Chinese policies in Central Asia, including Xinjiang, because they make clear that Chinese policies are intrinsically strategic in concept and goal, if not in implementation. Analysts like Wu Xinbo confirm the linkage between domestic and foreign policy when they argue that "China is still a country whose real interests lie mainly within its boundaries, and to a lesser extent, the Asia-Pacific region, where developments may have a direct impact on the country's national interests".

Foreign analysts, too, discern key strategic significance in China's domestic policies in Xinjiang and its western borderlands more generally vis-a-vis major Asian actors, especially India and the US. Since September 11, China sees Washington's military presence in Central Asia - the US air base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan is only 200 miles from China - as presaging a potentially permanent threat to Xinjiang and China.

Because Xinjiang, like Taiwan, is a border region that has historically been the scene of numerous struggles and wars over territory, the question of Xinjiang's future goes to the most basic issues of what constitutes the Chinese state both territorially and politically, ie what will be its territorial boundaries and how will political power in that state be constituted.


China has many areas of concern. The Communists have never been able to conquer Taiwan; the Nationalists and the Communists disagree over who rules and who should rule greater China, but so far Taiwan and the Mainland seem to agree that there is one China.

Then there is the matter of Tibet.

Now we have renewed unrest in Xinjiang.

Should any one of these places couple a declaration of independence from Beijing with significant territorial control over an area that Beijing now claims, might the other dominoes fall?

And, if so, what would happen to the People's Republic of China?

Might it collapse as the Soviet Union did?

As we pointed out in Part 3, the insurgency in Xinjiang seems, within the past year, to be very professional -- quite un-characteristic of militant Islamist extremists.

Might one of the very last campaigns of the Cold War be ongoing in Xinjiang to bring about the collapse of the last great Communist power?

We transition to where we left off in another article, China's tough Xinjiang policy backfires by Antoaneta Bezlova, dated August 15, 2008:

While difficult to be independently verified, the incidents showed a high level of coordination, creating a thread of unrest in southern Xinjiang through a series of bombings and armed assaults. In one incident two attackers rammed a truck into a group of police in the city of Kashgar and then attacked them with knives and homemade grenades, killing 16. Another attack followed several days later, with bombers hitting 17 targets, including a police station and a government building in the city of Kuqa.

No group has claimed responsibility. Li Wei, China authority on terrorism issues, has blamed the attacks on the East Turkestan movement, a group that China alleges is engaged in separatist activities seeking to establish an independent state. But the online appearance of two videotaped threats against the Beijing Olympics has been linked to the Turkestan Islamic Party - a group experts say is an offshoot of the secessionist movement with ties to al-Qaeda.


But, that smells fishy, doesn't it? Or, as I wrote in Uighuristan, Part 1, I smell a rat!

Since when has Al Qaeda discriminated among its targets, with a focus on military and government targets, rather than just haphazard killing of infidels, government or civilian??





Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The New Frontier, Part 3

We begin The New Frontier, Part 3 by reviewing Xinjiang and China's strategy in Central Asia by Stephen Blank, April 3, 2004, and hit paydirt in the very first paragraph:

Xinjiang, like Taiwan and neighboring Tibet, is a neuralgic issue for China, which desperately needs internal stability in that predominantly Muslim, resource-rich and strategically important region. Beijing's strategic and energy objectives are based on stability in Xinjiang and its Central Asian policies grow out of its preoccupation with stability there.


Right there in a nutshell:

"Beijing's strategic and energy objectives are based on stability in Xinjiang and its Central Asian policies grow out of its preoccupation with stability there."

At the beginning of Part 1, as in previous posts, we wondered who might benefit from instability in Xinjiang, and this gives us a clue to the answer: China's enemies. Communist China's weakest link may be its dependence on Xinjiang as an oil-producing region, and as a region through which natural gas and trade flow.



As we continue, keep in mind the article we are reviewing is from 2004:

The recent bombings in Uzbekistan, a Central Asia neighbor which does not border Xinjiang, though, has concerned Beijing, which was quick to label them as the work of "terrorists", though the exact motive for the violence is not known. Beijing also has been quick to blame dissent among the Muslim Uighurs on "terrorists", and in December it issued a list of what it called terrorist organizations and individuals.

According to China's own official sources, it has imperfect control - some say no control - of the borders of Xinjiang with Central Asia, specifically Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and it cannot prevent border infiltration into Xinjiang, where many Uighurs are dissatisfied with China's governance and seek genuine autonomy. Whatever policies China adopts, however, it is likely to face continuing and long-term unrest, including possible violence in Xinjiang and related violence elsewhere, according to Western military and strategic analysts.


China's control of Xinjiang's borders with Central Asia is "imperfect" to say the least.

In this context, it is worth considering another, very recent, article from Asia Times Online, entitled China's tough Xinjiang policy backfires by Antoaneta Bezlova, dated August 15, 2008:

BEIJING - China's success in eliminating clusters of Muslim insurgencies in the western province of Xinjiang may have pushed an alleged separatist movement across the border into Pakistan and Afghanistan, exposing it to greater influences by jihadi groups in those countries.


The first connection to note: the separatists or terrorists or whatever we call them are definitely no longer indigenous, but are connected to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Afghanistan has been a state with terrorist training camps in it for a couple of decades now. The mujahideen got their start in the jihad against the Soviet Union, but later, after the Soviets had been driven out, the entire nation ultimately was taken over by hardline jihadists who were far less discriminating in their choice of enemies.

Pakistan, in particular, was set on a course of jihadism by an elite that saw Islam as a rallying point in its independence movement, and which later saw jihadism as a means to wage a proxy war against rival India, and as a means to attain strategic depth in the event of a massive Indian attack.

Continuing with China's tough Xinjiang policy backfires:

With the Beijing Summer Olympic Games well underway, the Muslim majority province of Xinjiang has seen a spate of deadly attacks on government establishments and security personnel. Three violent incidents over the past 10 days have been interspersed with the release of two videos threatening the Olympics. In the latest assault, which took place on Tuesday near the border city of Kashgar, three security staff manning a road checkpoint were stabbed to death.

"Since the beginning of this year we have seen the deployment of some new tactics by insurgents," says Professor Chu Shulong, head of the Institute for International Strategic Studies at Qinghua University. "They are no longer targeting civilians by planting bombs on buses as they did in the 1990s but attacking government personnel, army and the police. This is aimed at winning the general population on their side."


Interesting the changes in insurgent tactics since the beginning of the year: "They are no longer targeting civilians by planting bombs on buses as they did in the 1990s but attacking government personnel, army and the police. This is aimed at winning the general population on their side."

The world's militant Islamists target infidels indiscriminately, and care not whether a few innocent Muslims die in the process: it's for the long-term betterment of Muslims, and Allah understands.

Instead, the insurgency in Xinjiang now seems very professional, very careful -- distinguishing between legitimate targets and innocents, making an effort to appeal to ordinary Uighurs while not alienating others.

Why?

We return to the 2004 article, Xinjiang and China's strategy in Central Asia:

Since the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, China's severe crackdown on unrest in Xinjiang has, if anything, become even more Draconian. It remains to be seen whether China uses the Uzbekistan violence to further strengthen its hand against dissatisfied elements in Xinjiang.

Since September 11, Beijing has been quick to label all forms of unrest there as expressions of Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism, even though this unrest goes back at least 20 years and is as much nationalistic as anything else. Thus the various forms of unrest displayed by the local Uighurs, a Muslim people, against Beijing's government represent a classic pattern of resistance to the colonial expropriation of land and to the officially sponsored migration of Han Chinese farmers, soldiers - often the same people - and officials into Xinjiang.

This policy of moving Hans into Xinjiang has also realized a classic colonialist system of economic and social stratification that is visible in many other cases of internal colonialism. In those cases, too, the representatives of the dominant nationality enjoy disproportionate economic and political advantages in education, job placement, and access to public goods.


And we have already seen documentation of all of this in the Uighuristan series.

China applies 'terrorist' labels to dissent

Chinese foreign policy has also been enlisted in the task of labeling virtually any and all manifestations of opposition as being terrorist conspiracies. Beijing successfully prevailed upon the administration of US President George W Bush to label the East Turkistan Independence Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist group, thereby rewarding the China for supporting the US-led "war against terrorism".

Similarly, China has used its superior power vis-a-vis neighboring Central Asian regimes, particularly Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, to get them to suppress Uighur nationalists in those countries and to maintain official silence about the sometimes troubling situation in Xinjiang if they wish to have friendly relations - and significant economic ties - with China.


And those ties are significant, as China opens up a new economic frontier in Central Asia.

While China's interests in Central Asia transcend the suppression of any form of neighborly support for the Uighurs, its extensive and significant strategic and energy interests in the region are clearly tied to Xinjiang's internal developments. Indeed, one can say that China's policies in Central Asia represent an outward projection of its own fears for its internal security.

The linkages between Central Asia and Xinjiang are evident to the Chinese establishment. As a Chinese analyst told journalist Willem Van Kemenade, if Central Asia disintegrates, the chaos will reach Xinjiang. On the other hand, the analyst said, if those countries stabilize and succeed, that will invariably stimulate deeper drives for self-rule in Xinjiang - a no-win situation for China.

In other words no matter what Beijing does or what happens in Central Asia, unrest in Xinjiang will continue. At the same time Chinese scholars explicitly articulate the connection between Xinjiang and Central Asia, arguing that, China's policy to expand economic cooperation with Central Asia is undertaken, among other reasons, because to a large extent the stability and prosperity of northwest China is closely tied to Central Asia's stability and prosperity.


An interesting dilemma that China may have.

Next local war could be in Central Asia

Likewise, several Chinese military and political analysts have asserted, even before September 11, that the next likely theater of a major local war that will threaten, if not involve, China will take place in Central Asia. Certainly China feels itself threatened by terrorists operating out of Central Asia and by elements in Xinjiang. Even if many of these statements are self-serving, this perception is quite real and should not be taken lightly. Similarly, another Chinese observer, Gao Shixian, states that "China deems the area to be of the utmost strategic interest and a source to fill China's energy needs".

Thus economic growth, energy and strategic interests are inextricably tied together. But the precondition for realizing China's strategic and energy objectives is founded on the premise of internal stability in Xinjiang. Thus China's Central Asian policies as a whole are fundamentally strategically conceived and grow out of a preoccupation with internal stability in Xinjiang.


Again, not news to those who have read Uighuristan, but interesting.

Could this be the reason for Chinese colonialism in Xinjiang and beyond, in Central Asia?

Sinification of Xinjiang and an increased presence of ethnic Chinese beyond Xinjiang, coupled with Central Asian economic ties to China that make peaceful relations with China more necessary for the Central Asian republics, could guarantee the stability of China's "New Frontier" -- and of China's oil and natural gas supplies.



Stay tuned as The New Frontier continues!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The New Frontier, Part 2

We pick up where we left off at the end of Part 1, reviewing Chinese Government Concerned about Hizb ut-Tahrir in Xinjiang, July 31, 2008:

RUNNING ON XINJIANG TIME

Though a part of China, many areas in Xinjiang feel a world away from the booming and cosmopolitan cities on the Chinese coast, far to the east.

In Kashgar, a city close to the Pakistan and Afghan borders, some women not only cover their heads, but also veil their faces. In some cases, dark brown cloths envelope the whole head.




Clocks in many mosques, restaurants, cafes and shops are set to Xinjiang time. This is two hours behind Beijing time, the official standard for the entire country, which means China's sun does not set until after 10 p.m. in Kashgar in the summer.

Exiled groups and human rights campaigners have long chastised China for its religious restrictions. The government hits back and says it guarantees freedom of religion in its constitution, as long as believers respect the law.

Many are not convinced Hizb ut-Tahrir is the threat the Chinese government says it is in Xinjiang.

"This does not exist. They have come up with this group's name themselves," said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress. "They are trying to mislead the world and deflect from concern for the Uighur people."

For its part, Hizb ut-Tahrir denies it advocates violence

"Hizb ut-Tahrir and Muslim voices that do not toe the government line have been severely oppressed by the Chinese government," Taji Mustafa, media representative for Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, told Reuters in an emailed statement.

"It is well known across the world that since its founding in 1953, Hizb ut-Tahrir has exclusively engaged in non-violent political and intellectual work," Mustafa added. He did not comment on whether the group was active in Xinjiang.




SPLITTISM

China maintains the threat is real. Hizb ut-Tahrir is likewise banned in countries such as Uzbekistan, where it has also been blamed for violence.

In November, China's Xinhua news agency announced sentences ranging from death to life in jail for six Uighurs accused of "splittism and organizing and leading terrorist groups," and implicated Hizb ut-Tahrir.

One of the men was found guilty of "proactively carrying out extremist religious activities and promoting 'jihad', establishing a terrorist training base and preparing to set up an 'Islamic caliphate,"' Xinhua reported.

In April, the Xinjiang government blamed Hizb ut-Tahrir for inciting protests in Khotan, in which the World Uyghur Congress said about 1,000 people took to the streets.

"By linking the unrest to Hizb ut-Tahrir there's legal cause for suggesting that these individuals were involved in a transnational conspiracy to set up an Islamic state and destabilize China," Gladney said.

"It's not clear that the civil unrest had any of those goals in mind," he added. "They were pretty disorganized."

Still, authorities launched a propaganda drive last year targeting what China says are the true intentions of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

"Be very clear about the 'Islamic Liberation Party's' reactionary nature," the Kashgar government said in a notice on its website. "Be very clear about their pervasive and actual threat to Xinjiang and Kashgar."

Yet while some Uighurs say they have heard of Hizb ut-Tahrir, they dismiss it as being irrelevant to their situation.

"What we want is simple -- freedom," said a Uighur resident of Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, who asked not be identified, fearing repercussions with the authorities. "But there are too many Han and too few of us."






Islamic extremists trying to establish a global caliphate?

Or, peaceful people seeking their human rights?

We know how oppressive the Communist Chinese government is, and we know how violent the Islamist militants are.

Terrorist activity provokes an already oppressive government, whose reaction helps recruit more terrorists. The Uighur people are caught in the middle; if the Chinese don't eliminate their culture altogether, Wahhabi-style extremists will destroy it by forcing it to become like the Taliban or like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, there's the growing flow of heroin through the region....

Stay tuned!