November 30, 2008

Mumbai Terror: Scotland Yard lends assistance, plan was to kill 5000

As Scotland Yard detectives arrive in Mumbai, the latest news suggests terrorists had extensive training and were planning for months.

Devastation: Wrecked by explosions and fire, below is a picture of the Harbour Bar at the Taj Mahal Palace on Saturday. A few days ago it was one of India's finest venues, above. Now all that remains is a charred shell

The only terrorist captured alive after the Mumbai massacre has given police the first full account of the extraordinary events that led to it – revealing he was ordered to ‘kill until the last breath’. Azam Amir Kasab, 21, from Pakistan, said the attacks were meticulously planned six months ago and were intended to kill 5,000 people.

He revealed that the ten terrorists, who were highly trained in marine assault and crept into the city by boat, had planned to blow up the Taj Mahal Palace hotel after first executing British and American tourists and then taking hostages. Mercifully, the group, armed with plastic explosives, underestimated the strength of the105-year-old building’s solid foundations.

As it is, their deadly attacks have left close to 200 confirmed dead, with the toll expected to rise to nearly 300 once the hotel has been fully searched by security forces.

The news comes as it is also revealed that the terrorists were funded by British Mosques'

Read more here

Scroll down for further postings on Mumbai terror attacks

Mumbai Terror Analysis: Praiseworthy Linkage

Presented are links to three influential weblogs’ and a fine columnist, highlighting some of the more pertinent questions arising from the Mumbai attacks.

Via American Power: Mumbai and the Ideological Challenge to the West

Via Chesler Chronicles: The Thanksgiving Day Massacre in Mumbai

Via The Interpreter: Mumbai: Messages from the ruins

From Mark Steyn: Mumbai could happen just about anywhere

For the world’s decision makers, foreign policy experts, and military and strategic analysts Mumbai should serve as a wake up call that the traditional approach to terrorism needs reviewing. Though the attacks were localized, the terrorists successfully took hold of a major city and drew the world media attention to their message of hate. For terror cells aspiring to wreak more havoc for their own selfish reasons or, as aspirants of the al-Qa'ida cause, Mumbai may serve as a prototypical model for future terror strikes; precisely why local, regional, and international intelligence establishment cannot overlook ANY terror armies, whether resident, regional and/or internationally based.

November 29, 2008

Mumbai Terrorism Crises: Possible Sources, Implications and Questions raised ...

Greg Sheridan continues his analysis of the Mumbai attacks and the implications for the wider war on terror:

… The terrorist massacres in Mumbai this week are India's 9/11...

… They represent, too … a definitive merger of internal Indian conflicts with the global war on terror … they also represent a formal notice of combat to the American president-elect, Barack Obama ...

… The Indian military has let it be known that it believes the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba … US intelligence, on the other hand, believes the attacks bear the unmistakable signs of al-Qa'ida.

… Pramit Chaudhuri, senior editor of the Hindustan Times and one of India's most brilliant and influential strategic analysts, outlines a different theory … telling local newspapers’ that the attack could have been a combined effort by LeT and al-Qa'ida ...

… Even if the Pakistani Government is not involved, its growing status as a failed state is evident in the home that regional terrorists have found in its lawless provinces … Al-Qa'ida now has more Pakistani and Afghan recruits than Arabs...

On a positive note, the Indian Government and “senior think tank figures and others have had a lot of communication from the Obama team in the past few days. This is a heartening sign because one of the strategic objectives of the terrorists was surely to harm India-US relations ...

There remain many unanswered questions. Why the focus on foreigners? Does it mean that the attacks were as much against the West and if so, what aspect of this? Our presence in Afghanistan, Iraq or both? Alternatively, was it in protest to India’s continuing alignment with Western allies? And in terms of likely sources, the tactics used are interesting for they are certainly different those used on urban India in the past. For example, we cannot help but think that the attackers set out to fight until the very end or at least, until captured otherwise why show their faces to media groups. Questioning of those seized will be highly revealing and generate much media hype which may be precisely what the architects of the attacks are hoping for.

We must be patient, in good time, we shall learn more...

November 28, 2008

Mumbai Terrorism Crises: Listen up President Obama

Despite everything you Americans have done, the terrorists are saying, we can still hit you. We can hit your friends in their economic heartlands, and we can ...

As news filters through that a BBC tycoon is listed amongst the victims The Australian's Greg Sheridan argues that the attacks send a strong message to Obama.

This is a devastating assault on India, its democracy, its way of life and its brilliant economy, all of which excite envy and hatred from Islamic extremists.

But it is also a message from Terror Central to US president-elect Barack Obama.

Despite everything you Americans have done, the terrorists are saying, we can still hit you. We can hit your friends in their economic heartlands, and we can hunt down your citizens in the commercial capitals of your friends.

Only last week, al-Qa'ida ideological boss Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a statement exhorting jihadists everywhere to continue hunting Americans and British.

These attacks, in which US and British passport-holders were singled out for individual murder - as well, apparently, as Jews - have the al-Qa'ida imprint.

They demonstrate once more the savage, sectarian nihilism of the terror movements. It will nonetheless take some time for the identity and the origins of the perpetrators of this terrorist atrocity to become clear. >> more
Via: The Australian

At the heart of the matter it's simply another case of Islamic radicals once again targeting Westerners. This is no ordinary part of India; Mumbai not merely chic but India’s financial center. Islamic fundamentalists have now targeted Western civilians in Bali, Tanzania, Kenya, Cairo, London, Madrid, New York City, and Washington D.C. Those foolishly hoping for abatement in the war on terror following Obama’s victory may be in for a surprise. Is it time we take the fight to the enemy? India is a major U.S. ally, a democracy that is well armed, will Europe and America act or stand on the sidelines and if it does, how will it act?

See also:

Bolt's view

This is the struggle Obama inherits, and it will not end until Islamists horrify enough fellow Muslims by their pointless slaughter - and until Bush's dream is fulfilled, and Muslim nations share our love for the freedom now under such savage attack in Mumbai.

Westerners feel the heat in Mumbai

But was this brazen killing also a deliberate attack on Westerners? The terrorists appeared to target foreigners. Horrified witnesses say the gunmen demanded British and American passports and then dragged off hostages. Israeli citizens have reportedly been singled out too. The gunmen struck popular tourist sites — five-star hotels, a cinema and a favourite restaurant for overseas visitors.

November 25, 2008

How wrong the war now that Iraq is better off…

Here is an uncommon argument in favor of the Iraq war presented in the most cannot be ignored, matter of fact terms. Avoided are any ideological and ethical nuances, as University of Chicago professor Eric Posner shows us that life has improved for many ordinary Iraqi’s since Saddams regime was toppled. According to Posner, many more would have died if Hussein had stayed in power.

... conditions have greatly improved in Iraq. Security and other services are returning; whether or not democracy lasts, dictatorial rule seems unlikely to recur. Oil revenues pour in. The economy, thanks in part to the high price of oil, is growing (or perhaps was, now that the price of oil is down). The majority of the country—Shiites and Kurds who suffered grievously under Saddam’s reign—have significant political power. It is likely that if the poll were conducted today, a majority would agree that an invasion—of their own country by a distrusted and now hated foreign power—was “right.

About one hundred thousand Iraqis have died as a result of the war; probably many more. Many others have been maimed, still others abused in various ways. Even with greatly increased political and (what has not been measured but is probably more significant) religious freedom, could these human costs be justified?

To answer this question, one needs to look at the counterfactual: how would Iraqis be doing if the war had not occurred. The status quo ante was one in which Saddam Hussein was in power but his power was constrained by a sanctions regime that had immiserated Iraq and indeed had killed many thousands of Iraqi children.

The sanctions regime, which began in 1990, destroyed Iraq’s economy (reducing GDP by as much as three quarters) and impoverished millions of Iraqis. Particular attention was given at the time to its effect on children. The contemporary critics of the sanctions pointed out that before the sanctions began, the child mortality rate was about 50 per 1000; during the sanctions, on one accounting the rate soared to about 128 per 1000 (click on "basic indicators" here). More conservative estimates
were in the range of a doubling of child mortality. Using the more conservative estimate, at one million births per year, this works out to an annual difference of 50,000 children surviving to the age of 5 (for various qualifications, see here). Today, the child mortality rate is below the pre-sanctions figure, and so every year in excess of 50,000 more Iraqi children survive than during the sanctions. The data are hotly contested but the trends are unmistakable and will continue to strengthen if security improves. Meanwhile, violent deaths of civilians, while still far too high, are declining; a very cautious estimate of 500-800 per month, based on the most recent reports on the Iraq Body Count website, is much lower than the avoided deaths of children compared to the sanctions regime. A conservative estimate is that more than 40,000 Iraqis survive per year today than during the sanctions regime, and probably most of them children. The tight correlation between GDP and child mortality across countries bolsters this conclusion.

Let’s suppose that the sanctions regime had continued for 10 years, from 2003 to 2013, and further that security flattens out—it doesn’t get worse, but it doesn’t get better. Under these assumptions, 400,000 Iraqi children would have died if the war had not occurred and the sanctions regime continued. Now, almost 100,000 Iraqis died during the war, and so one of the war’s benefits is that it saves the lives of 300,000 Iraqis (over 10 years).

The sanctions regime did not just kill children; it also killed adults, though no one knows how many. It also severely damaged Iraq’s economy, which had already been badly harmed by the Iran-Iraq war. The 2003 war damaged it even more, but now the economy is recovering. GDP per capita (PPP) in 2002 was about $2400; today it is about $3600. Everyone hears about how bad electricity is in Iraq, but that is news from Baghdad. For the country as a whole, there is more electricity generation today than there was prewar (see the Brookings report). If Iraq continues to recover, Iraqis will be a lot better off, financially, than they ever were, even taking into account the financial and physical hardships of the war years. And the recovery will benefit (and has benefited) the Kurds and Shiites in particular, who were badly treated during the Saddam regime, though the Kurds (not the Shiites) benefited from the (expensive) U.S. security umbrella and managed to enjoy some autonomy in the north.

Finally, the sanctions regime contained Saddam and protected the Kurds, but Saddam was still a dictator, and he tortured, murdered, and oppressed his own people. Shiites now have a chance to influence policy, for the first time in memory. Whether Iraq is really a democracy or not, its political system is clearly a lot healthier than it was under Saddam. Corruption is bad, but it was also bad under Saddam, and the middle east is filled with corrupt countries. >> more
Granted that Posner ethic would not be everyone’s” cup of tea” hence, is it right to kill one to save many, recall the words of the fictitious Spock, "The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few,...or the one".

In the interests of the greater good I believe such reasonong is valid.

For those interested in the Brookings Institution’s Iraq index on which Posner bases his case click here.

Update: Professor Eric Posner has made a correction to the original post. The poll referred to was not in the Brookings Report but in a CSIS report, see slides 113-14.

November 22, 2008

The Anti Americanism mindset

Confucius was right, “Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star”.

As I see it, a night clothed in a mistaken premise from which erroneous and foolhardy assertions are drawn. Consider a case in point, the London based alliance America in the World recently commissioned a study into anti Americanism in Britain, the results of which were perplexing in the least.

Presented are some of the findings:

50% of those Britons polled believe polygamy is legal in the U.S. Take that in for a minute. Think about that. 50% of those Briton’s polled actually think American men can have more than one wife.

1/3 of Britons believe Americans who have unpaid medical bills cannot receive emergency medical care. Fact: By law all U.S. hospitals must treat all emergency patients regardless of citizenship or ability to pay.

70% of Britons believe the European Union has done a better job at reducing carbon emissions than the U.S. when in fact, between 2000--2004, the U.S. slowed the growth of its carbon emissions by almost 10% while the great proponent of all things
environment, the E.U. increased its emissions for the same period.

80% of Britons wrongly believe that “from 1973 to 1990, the United States sold Saddam Hussein more than a quarter of his weapons.” Fact: The U.S. sold Saddam only 0.46 of his arsenal. The Russians 57%. The Chinese 13%. And our good friends the French provided 12%. So who really was the one who armed Saddam?

Most Britons believe that since WWII the U.S. has more often than not sided with non-Muslims over Muslims. Brutal fact: in 11 out of 12 major conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, Muslims and secular forces, Arabs and non-Arabs, the United States has sided with Muslims and/or Arabs.”

No doubt, it is ignorance as in, lack of knowledge combined with unawareness - deliberate of otherwise.

To highlight the point, let us expand on the term by considering some of its synonyms, denseness, dumbness, illiteracy, naiveté, shallowness, and unscholarliness. Therefore, it goes that many a Briton (some 2000 were surveyed) is dense, dumb, illiterate, naïve shallow and lack education. I would venture to suggest that this in not really the case, more exactly it is media nourished stupidity and that my friends is bad, perhaps worse in fact, because it connotate’s a form of stupidity and, as another lesser-known individual once said, “Stupid is forever, ignorance can be fixed.” To put it more benignly, I am suggesting that many are simply foolish on the question of America in the world due mostly to external stimuli; print and electronic media. You see, as another blogger concluded, many are happy to have opinions fed to them rather than working to instill it “with reasonable and impartial examination of the facts’.

When all is said and done is it prejudice? As one commenter says, “does it mean a bent mindset defining prejudice? Well it is bent, its ugly, and... It’s wrong.” I could not agree more! For the most part, Soeren Kern, in writing for pajamas hit the nail on the head:

For one thing, Europe’s unaccountable left-wing media spoon-feeds the European masses with a daily diet of sensationalist anti-American propaganda, so much so that ordinary Europeans have developed a thoroughly skewed perception of American reality.

More recently, the present financial crises is fueling even more anti – Americanism, and once again Soeren Kern makes a worthy point:

Being relatively nimble, the United States is likely to come out of this current crisis on a financial footing that is far stronger than that of Europe. This implies that European resentment of America will increase, and even more so if millions of ordinary Europeans end up losing their life savings in insolvent European banks … As a result, Americans should expect European anti-Americanism to grow worse in the years ahead, regardless of who becomes the next American president. Whether or not Americans should care, that is another issue.”

Regards the United States of America, human nature retains an inordinate and profound faculty for self-deception and for that, we can thank the numerous leftist thinkers populating both academia and media.

What do you think?


November 15, 2008

America will remain Strong

... America’s capacity to regenerate and re-invent is driven by a broad range of structural advantages that most other nations can only dream of...

America’s critics can be naively ostentatious. The Obama victory, a ballooning deficit, and the financial crises are leading many a foreign policy and economic pundits to assume that America is finished. For those like myself, proponents for, and advocates of a strong and decisive America such events though concerning, beckon for a little perspective. After all, American declinism theories are nothing new and will be the subject of continuing debate.

Interesting term declinism, first coined by Samuel P. Huntington in a winter of ’88 response to Paul Kennedy’s ideas, in which the author deduced that:

“… although US predominance in world affairs is not so secure as it was, "the ultimate test of a great power is in its ability to renew its power..."
Remembering that this was written 20 years ago. It is in this very regard that America shall remain powerful, the capacity to turn the corner and regenerate itself in spite of politics and economics of the day remains her greatest strength. Needless to add, the likes of Fareed Zakaria will for example persist with their version of The Post-American World. But all things considered, and especially that of an impending Obama presidency, America is far from the ‘enfeebled superpower’ that Zakaria purports to. The endless stream of negative waffle coming from many a public intellectual, think tank theorists, and media elite is both unconstructive and damaging. No my friends, we are not Waving Goodbye to Hegemony just yet, nor are we ready to proclaim The End of the American Era. Obama is far removed from the declinist specialists; his view of America though not to the liking of us conservatives remains positive, to this end Kagan it seems, is right.

Obama, it should be said, has done little to deserve the praise of these declinists. His view of America's future, at least as expressed in this campaign, has been appropriately optimistic … declinism. It seems to come along every 10 years or so. In the late 1970s, the foreign policy establishment was seized with what Cyrus Vance called "the limits of our power". In the late '80s, scholar Paul Kennedy predicted the imminent collapse of American power due to "imperial overstretch". In the late '80s, Samuel P. Huntington warned of American isolation as the "lonely superpower". Now we have the "post-American world".

Yet the evidence of American decline is weak. Yes, as Zakaria notes, the world's largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore and the largest casino in Macau. But by more serious measures of power the US is not in decline, not even relative to other powers. Its share of the global economy last year was about 21 per cent, compared with about 23 per cent in 1990, 22 per cent in 1980 and 24 per cent in 1960. Although the US is suffering through a financial crisis, so is every other important economy. If the past is any guide, the adaptable US economy will be the first to come out of recession and may find its position in the global economy enhanced.

Meanwhile, US military power is unmatched … America's image is certainly damaged, as measured by global polls, but the practical effects of this are far from clear. Is the US's image today worse than it was in the '60s and early '70s, with the Vietnam War; the Watts riots; the My Lai massacre; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy; and Watergate? Does anyone recall that millions of anti-American protesters took to the streets in Europe in those years?

Sober analysts such as Richard Haass acknowledge that the US remains the single most powerful entity in the world. But he warns: "The United States cannot dominate, much less dictate, and expect that others will follow." That is true. But when was it not? Was there ever a time when the US could dominate, dictate and always have its way? Many declinists imagine a mythical past when the world danced to the US's tune.

Nostalgia swells for the wondrous American-dominated era after World War II, but between 1945 and 1965 the US suffered one calamity after another. The loss of China to communism; the North Korean invasion of South Korea; the Soviet testing of a hydrogen bomb; the stirrings of post-colonial nationalism in Indochina: each proved a strategic setback of the first order. And each was beyond America's power to control or even to manage successfully. >> more

To paraphrase what we wrote in the first paragraph, America’s capacity to regenerate and re-invent is driven by a broad range of structural advantages that most other nations can only dream of. Economic cycles come and go, some worse than others, deficits hover, foreign and domestic crises and the ongoing process of globalization will provide challenges, yet neither of these will counteract the advantages - its sheer present and potential dynamism, one borne of longstanding political and economic liberalism, its size, wealth, competitiveness and human capacity. For this, we ought to be grateful for only America remains the principle provider of public good and keeper of the peace. For the 21st century to have any chance of being peaceful, it must continue having a rule based international order which cannot exist, in the absence of U.S. global strategic power.

As a final point, and for those with the Newsweek or Zakaria mindset, I submit the wise words of Robert J. Lieber:

Over the years, America’s staying power has been regularly and chronically underestimated—by condescending French and British statesmen in the nineteenth century, by German, Japanese, and Soviet militarists in the twentieth, and by homegrown prophets of doom today. The critiques come and go. The object of their contempt never does.

Recommended reading: Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set Robert J. Lieber

November 6, 2008

On Obama's victory

If your are tired of watching endless exit polls, your candidates every move and now suffering from election withdrawal symptoms you are probably not alone, it’s been an emotional and tumultuous ride.

Many questions prevail, with yet, only half-baked answers. What exactly lost it for McCain? Will an Obama Presidency End Racism in America? To what extent was media bias to blame?

On another note, local conservative journalist, Andrew Bolt had this to say:

John McCain is beaten, and this is what I haven’t yet seen or heard. Screams that the vote was rigged, lawyers taking the result to court, the loser blaming anyone but himself, angry celebrities vowing to move overseas, stickers claiming the winner stole the election, furious reporters denouncing ads by the losers’ critics, furious reporters blaming the winner’s evil genius, the bitter losers warning the country “is more divided than ever” … Graceful losers in a democracy need to be acknowledged just as much as graceful winners, if not more. At the very least, it may help to ensure the example catches on.
And another noteworthy point:

… a another gentle lesson to the Left … So now we know for sure. The Noam Chomsky … view of America is wrong. In George W. Bush’s America, a land allegedly rife with militarism and racism, the white military hero lost and the black memoirist won a slashing election victory ...
In terms of simple numbers, America remains politically divided if these figures are correct:

Final vote tally: OBAMA: 63,685,576 to MCCAIN: 56,280,668 representing a 7.4 million difference or just over 6%, McCain was beaten not thrashed.

Survey Issue Autopsy ’08

The American Issues Project has been active throughout the 2008 election cycle. The group first came to the fore with an ad exposing Barack Obama's connection with domestic terrorist, William Ayers. A follow-up ad spotlighted the role congressional liberals played in blocking sensible oversight and reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Still, it is time to look at what happened to the Republican Party and find the road to recovery for the GOP. Here the project conducted a survey of 4 swing states BEFORE the votes were cast and the result are telling:

American Issues Project Releases Issue Autopsy ’08; Survey says Voters Punished Republicans for Abandoning Conservative Principles ...

Washington, DC - The decisive defeat Republicans suffered in Tuesday's election came because conservative voters decided the party had lost its way, not because the electorate has shifted to the left, according to Issue Autopsy '08, a survey of swing state voters in Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia commissioned by the American Issues Project, the group that accounted for the largest outside expenditures made to advocate conservative issues during this election cycle.

"Tuesday's elections were a shellacking that revealed the Republican brand is diluted to the point where the American people do not really know what the GOP stands for anymore," said Ed Martin, the organization's president. "The clear lesson from the American Issues Project survey is that while the United States remains a center-right country, voters no longer trust the Republican Party to represent those interests in Washington."

The survey found that approximately 72 percent of those voters agreed that: "The Republican Party used to stand for keeping government spending under control, but not anymore." More than 75 percent of likely voters agreed with the statement: "When the Republican Party took control of Congress in 1994, they promised to reform government and clean up corruption in Washington, but they failed to live up to that promise."

Respondents gave Democrats huge edges on fiscal issues, typically a Republican strength ... On the immediate economic issue, the credit crisis and bailout, voters blame Republicans more than Democrats by 11 points (34 percent to 23 percent). By a huge majority (69 percent to 21 percent) the voters also believe the bailout passed by Congress is unfair to taxpayers.

"Going forward, we intend to be very active during the 2009 legislative session, when a liberal-dominated Congress and a far-left administration will set their sights on a massive expansion in the role of the federal government, in everything from health care and labor law to taxes and spending,"

In order to gauge a true reading of voter intent the American Issues Project conducted its election analysis survey pre-election, November 2 and 3, 2008, via telephone interviews. The survey consisted of likely voters and early voters in four swing states: Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Colorado. Three hundred interviews were conducted in each of the four states for a total sample of 1,200 likely and early voters. Interviews were stratified by region within each state to accurately reflect historic voter turnout patterns. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 2.8 percent.

Obama, the 47-year-old freshman Senator now faces a daunting series of national security and economic challenges with nearly half the country still sceptical about his rise to the most powerful position on the planet. The next four years will be just as interesting as the past; we wish him luck.

On a positive note, one consistent with the true subject matter of this blog, and notwithstanding imminent foreign policy challenges, I do not believe that Obama was the candidate of American decline, therefore we will not write the U.S. off just yet, the subject of my next post.

Finally, I came across this here and thought it did demonstrated class:

November 2, 2008

U.S. Election: A Canadian's view

"... Ignore the rest of the issue for a moment because they are obscuring the big issue … the real goal of Obama is Socialism, it doesn’t work and it bankrupts the Government and it morally bankrupts the people, your country has morally stood up the defeated and the dismayed, you have fortified freedom for millions if not billions. You feed, clothe and comfort the destitute of the world and rush in to sort out disasters no matter where they happen. You are good and generous and you are the vanguard of freedom in the world, you are industrious, well trained and disciplined …Please vote and make your mark on history and America swerves with a new encounter with Socialism … "

The economic, strategic, political, and international challenges to be confronted by the 44th president are vast - from the global financial crises to mullahs wanting nuclear power and weaponry, this election the most exciting since ’60, and most important since ’80, is of paramount importance. The issues aside, Todd Reinhardt provides us with a highly intelligible Canadian perspective on the implications of an Obama victory. This and many other warnings are out there, pity too few are listening … either way my hopes and prayers are with the next leader …