Friday, January 29, 2010

Today we have a new message from Al Qaeda, purportedly from Osama bin Laden. In it, I believe, we see a continuation of a new trend in AQ communication: find ways to tie their brand of Qutbist Salafism to what they perceive as the source of other anti-western ideologies.

Who is AQ's new enemy? Meet the new boss -- same as the old boss. Globalization, Western Governments, International Corporations, and the President of the United States. Only, AQ no longer hates them because they are the Jahili Corrupters of the True Islam, or the Zionist-Crusader Alliance to Destroy the Umma. Now they deserve destruction for pollution and green house gas emissions.

Perhaps I would have been more convinced if the message had ended with OBL screaming "with our powers combined...", yet, his ability to co-opt these issues as AQ's own is severely limited -- as much as AQ wants to appear inclusionist and pragmatically issue-driven in their mission, they remain, in fact, an elitist, exclusionist movement.

They are lead by inflexible billionaire demagogues drawn from the elites of their home countries. For every message attempting to "issue include" new groups or individuals, there is a message of exclusion or purging -- usually from Abu Yahyia al Libi.

Yet, as was proven by the efficacy of the M-11 Bombings in Madrid, Al Qaeda has realized one important thing -- that while they have little ability to power-project into Western Nations, they do have the ability to radicalize and inspire western self-starters through their strategic communications. I agree with Jarret Brachman's analysis that AQ has rebranded itself from a terrorist organization that uses the media to a media organization that uses terror.

One worrying possibility -- IntelCenter (the masters of connecting terrorists to other people with lines) has done an excellent job correlating AQ communications and actual attacks, and with 2 such communications from bin Laden this week, I hope that their warnings on this issue are off base.

While I'm sure there will be a big media spin-up surrounding this new communication from AQ, lets not lend too much credence to the message that Osama has spread here.

AQ railing against globalization is like Scott Brown railing against pick-up trucks.

AQ does not choose their enemies based on the ratification of the Kyoto Protocols, nor are they looking to partner-up with the Green movement. AQ simply seeks out non-religious language with which to mask their twistedly corrupted brand of Political Islam. This message is merely AQ's attempt to further define their enemies through language that doesn't sound as millenarianly cosmic as their actual beliefs. I think we may be witnessing Adam Ghadan's input here.

Thanks for reading, see below for the pertinent quotes from bin Laden's message. Please tell me what you think as well!

From today's Osama bin Laden message:
“This is a message to the whole world about those responsible for climate change and its repercussions – whether intentionally or unintentionally – and about the action we must take…”

“Speaking about climate change is not a matter of intellectual luxury – the phenomenon is an actual fact.”

“All the industrial states…[are to blame for climate change]…yet the majority of those states have signed the Kyoto Protocol and agreed to curb the emission of harmful gases.”

“However, George Bush junior, preceded by [the US] congress, dismissed the agreement to placate giant corporations. And they are themselves standing behind speculation, monopoly and soaring living costs.”

“They are also behind ‘globalisation and its tragic implications’. And whenever the perpetrators are found guilty, the heads of state rush to rescue them using public money.”

“Noam Chomsky [the US academic and political commentator] was correct when he compared the US policies to those of the Mafia. They are the true terrorists and therefore we should refrain from dealing in the US dollar and should try to get rid of this currency as early as possible.”

“I am certain that such actions will have grave repercussions and huge impact.”‘

“Those heinous crimes that shocked humanity, nothing of worth mentioning significance has changed. After all this, their new agent [President Obama] was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received to further deceive and humiliate mankind.”

“The bitter truth has become clear; namely, the world is abducted by the owners of the giant corporations.”

“The world has a historic opportunity to be liberated from dependency on America because it is, with God’s grace, in a critical predicament, drowned in the quagmires of Iraq, and lost among the mountains of Afghanistan.”

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon will unveil steps next week that the military will take to lay the ground for a repeal of its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which permits gays to serve in uniform as long they hide their sexual orientation, officials said on Thursday.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, will present an "implementation plan" to U.S. lawmakers next Tuesday, spelling out measures that the Pentagon will take internally before the White House and the Congress move to change the law.

While I can only imagine that the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Conway, is currently apoplectic. As reported by the Washington Times this past November:

Gen. Conway has gone further than others in stating his opposition to a change in policy, according to the former official, who has been privy to private conversations on the matter. "He feels very strongly that [removing the ban] would be disruptive, and he opposes it," said the former official.

Here is my question -- what do you think on this issue? As someone with an incalculable respect for those who serve in uniform, and as someone who has never served in the military, I hesitate to decry anyone willing to stand within the ranks. I do, however, have this question:

In 1942 a Vice Admiral in the US Navy decried the suggestion that African Americans be allowed to serve in non-segregated units, arguing that it would destroy unit cohesion and the fighting spirit of the services. I believe that Colin Powell would beg to differ, not to mention William Harvey Carney.

The fact is that there are many homosexuals serving in the armed forces of the United States, whether they are permitted to express their sexuality or not. Furthermore, the stop-loss possibilities of repealing "don't ask -- don't tell" seem to far outweigh the possible issues that it may present in the short term -- something I believe that Lt. Dan Choi has effectively argued in the past.

My question, at long last, is this -- what are the valid arguments against the repeal of "don't ask -- don't tell"? I find the "unit cohesion" issue un-convincing. I also would like as many competent, patriotic people serving their nation as possible, regardless of their race, creed, or sexual orientation.

That being said, I myself am merely a student-observer of military affairs, and I welcome your input and comments on the issue. Please post your comments below!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Banning candidates in elections is a bad idea. Period. If anyone is going to decide who should be accepted or rejected in the electoral process, it should be voters. That’s the point of an election.

With the recent announcement that Iraq's electoral commission intends to ban even more candidates from running in the nation's March parliamentary elections, the US is understandably peeved. The idea that "the only solution is political" has become a bit of a buzz-phrase, but that doesn't mean it is wrong. A purely military solution is simply not feasible - just killing everyone isn't going to work in Iraq.
Since a military solution in Iraq is a non-starter, that leaves a political solution as the only available option. For a political solution to work, incentives must be provided for one’s opponents to participate in society – the economy, the media, and the political process. These incentives include amnesty for low-level opponents, guarantees against reprisals, jobs, education, and other opportunities to participate. Not letting your opponents participate in elections is, to put it mildly, quite counterproductive to these policies.

When candidates are banned from political office, even for well-justified and ostensibly legal reasons, it only gives the public more reason to doubt the political process. And the public, in this case, is usually right. Governments ban candidates for office when they present a threat to the incumbent’s rule – we see this clearly in Iran. Banning candidates in Iraq, undoubtedly a more permissive political environment than Iran, only does needless damage to the perception of democracy.

Ironically, although we are seeing backsliding in Iraq on this issue, in Afghanistan the approach is almost the opposite. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s words from today’s London conference illustrate this point precisely:

“Many low- and mid-level Taliban are driven to extremism more by economic opportunity or local politics than by ideology. With the right incentives, they can become part of Afghan democracy.”

Presumably, providing incentives to the Taliban in order to reintegrate them into Afghanistan’s fledgling democracy would not include banning them from public office.

Although the US is not yet publicly 100% on board with accommodating the Taliban, it would appear that they are moving in that direction. Even in the face of the slow pace of the US policy adjustment, the Karzai Administration is moving at full speed in the direction of reconciliation and reintegration.

This is the right approach. Getting extremist groups to participate in the political process should be the ultimate goal of the US in both Iraq and Afghanistan. If the ideas and ideologies of the US and these countries’ western-backed governments are better than those of their opponents (and I believe they are), then let them stand on their merits and be judged by the public.

Ultimately, it is a lot better for electoral opponents and parliamentary opposition members to argue and yell than it is for them to shoot at each other. Although meant for a different context, Winston Churchill’s words come to mind: “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war. “General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO’s forces in Afghanistan, probably said it best: “I believe that a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome. And it's the right outcome."

You have to let your opponents run for office if you want them to participate in the political process. That’s how democracy works.

While I consider us at D&D pithy, analytic and jovial, sometimes it is best to leave these things to the professionals. Here is what I would have liked to say to Justice Alito after his "Joe Wilson" moment during last night's State of the Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Stephen Colbert:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Prece-Don't
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I thought this was a very good speech. There were really no parts that I thought were lacking in factual correctness or innacurracy. Obama told the American people the truth and that is his highest responsibility. He did not attempt to play on the emotions of American as was evident in every single George W Bush speech. Their were notable invitees but he did not feel the need to fill gaps in his speech by referring to them. This was a smart speech that treated the American like adults who are capable of hearing bad news as long as it comes with some hope for tomorrow. Bravo Obama and the behind the speech staffers who really make this happen

Thanks to everyone who joined us for our liveblogging.  We enjoyed ourselves, and we hope you enjoyed it too!

10:24 PM - Jeff's SNAP ANALYSIS - This was a surprising speech from President Obama.  In it, he clearly sought to define his perspective on domestic economic issues and challenges, while attacking and redifining those who oppose his vision of change.  He briefly touched upon international issues such as free trade, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation -- but the main shock tonight was the fiesty approach to his views, and the views of his challengers and detractors.  While there were occasional moments of flippancy, they were followed by serious moments of gravitas.  I think that there will be many things said in the coming moments, and in the days to come, on the issues and perspectives presented here.

10:21 PM - Dave - Well that's all she wrote.  My snap analysis - great speech, but my question is about the follow-through.  Can he stay on top of Congress and make them productive, rather than petty?  Congress is a wild beast to tame, and it's a tall order even for Obama.  All in all, a well-delivered speech and a great job of attempting to reclaim the narrative.

10:20 PM - Jeremy - Good Political slogan "We are America" (following my "everyone is just as american as everyone else).

10:18 PM - Dave - Ahhhh, the camera shot of my Congressman, and my hero - Patrick Kennedy.  And as Jeremy said, he looks relatively sober!

10:17 PM - Jeff - ... and here it is.  An attempt to reclaim the mantle of change.  Can he do it?

10:16 PM - Dave - Don't hold your breath, Jeremy.

10:15 PM - Jeremy - I would like Obama to say, "there is no such thing as the real america, the people on wall street are just as the same as the people on main street in Iowa because we are all americans deserving of the same respect and rights afforded to all citizens who contribute to making this the greatest country on earth."

10:14 PM - Jeremy - Head of the Marine Corps is very against repealing don't ask don't tell.  Fact: more women are thrown out of the armed forces for being gay than men (by far).

10:13 PM - Jeff - Prediction...CONFIRMED

10:13 PM - Dave - There's the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.  Can he follow through this year?

10:12 PM - Dave - I thought the way he glazed over Afghanistan without any significant discussion was fairly glaring.

10:11 PM - Jeff - I am worried that any sanctions will not dissuade the Islamic Republic from their current path -- this was unnecessary, and only throws water on the grease fire of Khamenei's comments on Israel today.

10:10 PM - Jeremy - Reducing nuclear stockpiles saves us money, we also need to upgrade our warheads (Dirty secret: we arent sure all our missiles still fire)

10:09 PM - Jeremy - It should be noted that while Bush was always saying support the troops he consistenly cut benefits for veterans (fact courtesy of my healthcare lobbyist girlfriend).

10:07 PM - Jeremy - Reality Check: Not all troops are combat troops. Obama does not mean all US troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year.

10:07 PM - Dave - I know I'm not the only one who thinks Iraq is going to disintigrate over the next year.  More to come on that in the next few weeks.

10:06 PM - Jeff - Obama and the Predator/Reaper strikes.  I am waiting for the Yemen issue here -- and I think we can expect a call on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

10:06 PM - Jeremy - Reality Check: Troops will not be coming home in any big way in 2011

10:05 PM - Dave - First foreign policy mention.  Not surprising that he focused on domestic issues, but over an hour?

10:04 PM - Jeff - Napolitano is truly rocking Janet Reno chic!

10:03 PM - Dave - He's right to call out the GOP on insisting on 60 votes to get anything done, but are they going to change?

10:03 PM - Jeff - The Party of No and Leadership - this is an edgier Obama

10:02 PM - Jeff - "We still have the largest majority in decades, and people still expect us to solve problems" -- this is a throwing of the gauntlet

10:02 PM - Dave - He's hitting all the right notes now, but he needs to stay on this after the speech to make any change.

10:01 PM - Jeremy - Great line "what frustrates Americans is that every day in Washington is election day."

10:00 PM - Jeff - I think I can safely say that we here at D&D share Obama's concerns with the recent Supreme Court Decision -- though he needs to be careful with the term "Foreign Enemies"

10:00 PM - Jeremy - Justice Kennedy was just shaking his head when obama criticised the supreme courts decision on campaign fincance. Once again the Supreme court should not be there!!

9:59 PM - Dave - This appeal to common sense sounds tired to me.  He said it in the campaign, but was unable to change anything.  How is he going to make this year different?  I think he has to stay on this bully pulpit.  He's off to a great start.  I like the earmark website, even just for the symbolic value.

9:57 PM - Jeff - "Lets try common sense -- a novel concept."  I think Rush Limbaugh just had another heart scare

9:57 PM - Jeremy - Republicans say tax cuts for the wealthy help our economy. What country have they been living in for the past decade. Studies show that the rich tend to save the money they get from tax cuts and the middle class tends to spend their tax cuts on trampoleens etc (yes i know i cant spell)

9:56 PM - Jeff - Obama has shocked DC with this speech tonight.  He is not pulling his punches and he is not shying away from defining his opponants on his terms.  This is Teddy Roosevelt's Bully Pulpit!

 9:55 PM - Dave - Whoa that's some bright yellow!

9:54 PM - Jeremy - Pay as you doesn't matter because it doesn't include supplemental defense spending, which as i said earlier is our second biggest expense.

9:54 PM - Jeff - The Nuclear Option through Executive Order!

9:53 PM - Dave - I remain highly skeptical of this "spending freeze."  It just reeks of cheap politics.

9:53 PM - Jeff - This is weird -- he just proposed alot of new spending.  Gone are the days of the Obama/McCain debate where he called for a "scalpel, not a hatchet".  I want to see where he is going on this line.

9:52 PM - Jeremy - Good admission "I have added another trillion dollars to the national debt to help stave off economic collapse." In order to pay off that debt Obama is going to freeze spending for three years. (which was McCains plan during the campaign) However it should be noted that the defense budget is not covered by the freeze which after social security is our biggest expense

9:51 PM - Jeff - It's like Kubrick filming the State of the Union.

9:51 PM - Dave - That overhead camera angle made me dizzy.

9:51 PM - Jeff - Obama is definitely feisty tonight -- a bit less gravitas than a normal State of the Union-- it feels almost like the campaign has started tonight.  An interesting move.

9:51 PM - Dave - Once again, a friendly reminder that this isn't my fault.

9:50 PM - Jeremy - Just the facts!  Another great line "all this spending occurred before I walked through the door."

9:49 PM - Dave - Nice to see him calling out the GOP on being the Party of No, but I think it might be too late to salvage health care.

9:49 PM - Jeremy - Obama is finally taking the opportunity to reshape the debate on Health Care.  It's about time -- but it may be too late

9:48 PM - Jeff - this is the obama I like. Just the facts ma'am, just the facts. Healthcare reform will lower the national debt. Hells yea it will!!

9:47 PM - Jeff - Couple that with the Economists' reporting of the "Obama Effect" of 11 trillion, we are in good shape!

9:46 PM - Jeremy - Some Fun History: During one of Bill Clinton's state of the union speeches the teleprompter failed at the begining of the speech and he spoke for over an hour off of memory.

9:45 PM - Dave - I'm pretty sure Obama is the funniest President we've had since William Henry Harrison, who was a stand-up comic in his spare time.

9:45 PM - Jeremy - Did Scott Brown get invited to the State of the Union?  I feel like he didn't because now would be the time for the camera to pan to him

9:45 PM - Jeff - Obama just made a classic pivot from humor to the passion of Health Care

9:44 PM - Jeremy - I will be disappointed if Obama doesn't bring up the national debt in this speech because its a huge national security concern and the American public needs to know that

9:42 PM - Dave - I certainly support student loan reform!

9:40 PM - Jeff - That is officially a double down on the Doha Trade Agreement and an exhortation for the Senate to move on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement!

9:39 PM - Jeff - Can we really turn the rust belt into the photovoltaic belt in this short a time span?

9:38 PM - Jeremy - Important educational fact: notice that the joint chiefs and the supreme court justices never clap (justices probably shouldn't be there to begin with but that's just my opinion...separation of powers....)

9:37 PM - Jeff - Oh!  Smackdown on Climate Change!  paraphrase -- even if you are an idiot, you like money don't you?

9:37 PM - Jeremy - I have so little faith in the intelligence of some congressman that i am honestly shocked that they all know when to stand up and sit down in unison

9:36 PM - Dave - Climate Smackdown!

9:36 PM - Jeremy - I am totally for more nuclear power. Its much safer these days. Not so much about off shore drilling but if thats what the republicans need to get over the hippy solar panels then so be it

9:35 PM - Jeff - This new push on future jobs and a future generation of light water reactors is reminiscent of the TVA of the New Deal.

9:35 PM - Laura and Catie - Where is Pelosi looking???

9:34 PM - Jeremy - To Second Obama, Americans need to realize that they are not losing their jobs because the banks screwed up, the economic collapse just brought to light the fact that we are no longer a manufacturing country. Those jobs have gone overseas and arent coming back. Unfortunately too many americans dont have the education and training to do skilled jobs. The solution government sponsored retraining programs and better education in math and science for all americans and being able to write better wouldnt hurt but lets not get ahead of ourselves

9:34 PM - Dave - Someone at CNN has a great sense of humor for showing Chris Dodd when Obama talked about "punishing the banks."

9:33 PM - Dave - Once again, I'm glad he's trying to elevate the issues above partisan politics. However, I would like to see some ideas about how to make it so.

9:32 PM - Jeremy - Great Line! No second place for America!

9:32 PM - Jeff - That was just an amazing line!

9:31 PM - Jeff - What happened to the Spending Freeze?

9:29 PM - Jeremy - I would love to have the government pay for me to get a solar panel for my house.

9:29 PM - Dave - He's very focused on domestic policy. Not a single mention of Afghanistan or Iraq so far. Not that I'm surprised.
9:28 PM - Jeremy - Prediction Confirmed!

9:27 PM - Jeremy - If more money goes to small banks for small business loans doesnt that mean the big banks will give even less money out for small businesses than before? Not sure thats a great idea...

9:26 PM - Jeremy - Prediction, Obama announces the building of America's first high speed train, a project that will create thousands of jobs (please let it run from boston to DC!)

9:25 PM - Jeff - Boener seems to be a big fan of a new jobs bill ... and interesting gambit. Keynsian economics meets the high speed train!

9:25 PM - Jeremy - I worry that this has been too positive thus far, I feel like the 25 million unemployed are saying "who gives a shit about the guy in Phoenix!"

9:24 PM - Dave - Obama has to walk a very fine line here talking about the financial recovery. Unemployed people, of whom there are many, don’t want to hear that the bank recovery worked. Like Jeremy said, he needs to continue addressing us as adults, not children.

9:23 PM - Jeremy - Keep saying not a single dime, good bumper sticker phrase.

9:22 PM - Jeff - This is a good vein for Obama to run with - who doesn't love a tax cutter?

9:21 PM - Jeremy - Common misconceptions spread by the ridiculous right: 1. No terrorist attacks happened in the Bush administration (...if you don't count 9/11). 2. Obama bailed out the banks and AIG...(Actually he just continued the programs that Bush started)...ok bailing out the auto industry was probably a bad move on Obama's part

9:18 PM - Jeff - Too big to care? Populist root canal?

9:18 PM - Jeremy - Obama does a lot better when he speaks straight to the American people with the tone that says "i know you are smart so I am not going to dumb this down or offer you half truths." Obama needs to sympathize with those who are unemployed and blame the banks but he should not fixate on trying to act equally as mad as they are. George W. Bush was the President that you could have a beer with, Obama is the President you hope to learn from every time he speaks. Speech writers please cut down on sad speech and focus on what we the democratic party should from this day be known for: straight talks and facts. Bush and the Republicans wanted to scare you into submission, Obama wishes to educate and with your help lead us to salvation. Economic recovery will not be a quick victory, it will be one of patient minute success.

9:15 PM - Dave - While I think that the Wall Street/Main Street cliche is overplayed, I like that he is setting this as an adult discussion about real issues, not about politics.

9:14 PM - Jeff - And Blanktown, Swingstate.

9:13 PM - Dave - Is this the part where he reminds us that this is all Bush's fault?

9:12 PM - Jeff - There's a template for the first few minutes of the speech. It's like a Mad-Lib.

9:08 PM - Jeff - Justice Kennedy was giving Obama the stink-eye!

9:06 PM - Dave - First correct prediction of the night goes to Jeremy, for predicting the red tie.

9:04 PM - Jeremy - Republicans led the charge to war in both Afghanistan and Iraq and yet they seem entirely opposed to any mention of tax increases. It appears that the republican party is actually intent on the downfall of the Republic. Apparently Republicans missed the civics class when the rest of the students learned about how taxes pay for things like wars and and supplemental defense spending. (Another blog idea: why don't we teach civics anymore?) News flash people we need to pay China back all that money we borrowed at some point and the longer we wait the more interest we have to pay. I do not have such a low opinion of the Republican party to think that they think they can just will away our national debt. However, I do believe that they are selfish enough to put off tax increases until they either die or retire. The one thing I want to hear Obama say tonight is "i want to be honest with the American people, we need to raise taxes, but only on those who can afford to pay." Lets get it on

8:59 PM - Jeff - How is Holder's mustache so much darker than his hair? Just For Men?

8:58 PM - Dave - My pregame prediction/recommendation – Obama needs to regain his position as the adult in the room. During the campaign, Obama got tremendous credit for keeping his calm and being rational, rather than engaging in low politics. He needs tonight to regain that poise and lead, rather than play the political games.

8:57 PM - Jeremy - Purple. I like it.

8:47 PM - Dave - The beer is cold, the pizza is warm, and lots of unimportant people are milling about on the chamber floor. It must be almost time for the State of the Union! I'm here with Jeff and Jeremy, and we'll be bringing you our (hopefully) insightful analysis during the night. The comments section is open, so send us your thoughts too!

F&*K it, we'll do it LIVE!

Dear loyal followers (and new readers who have stumbled in here from HuffPo)...

Join us TONIGHT at 9 PM EST as D&D goes boldly where many others have gone -- with our own twist!

We will be Live Blogging President Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address, sharing our imput, analysis, and commentary as the address unfolds! Our comment sections will be wide open, and we can't wait to hear your thoughts on our thoughts on President Obama's thoughts.

To those of you scanning this post, here are the highlights:

Tonight. 9 PM. State of the Union. Live Blogging.

So... Turn on the TV, grab a cold one, and long on to D&D!

see you all then!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

FINAL UPDATE at 1:18 AM EST -- 3:32 PM Korean Time

A bit of clarification and scope -- it appears that North Korea fired approximately 30 heavy artillery shells into the region around the NLL. They have also banned all maritime activity on their western coast. South Korea responded by firing 100 "warning shots" into the region.

UPDATE at 11:32 PM EST -- 1:32 PM Korean Time
As of now, it appears that there is all quiet in the NLL (northern limit line) in the Western Sea Zone. However, today's salvos of heavy artillery into the region are the most recent escalation involving the contested maritime border between North and South Korea. Here is the relevant timeline:

March 29, 2009 -- North Korea Declares 2 "No Sail/No Fly" Zones in the long-contested Western sea border between North and South Korea

November 10, 2009 -- A South Korean Patrol Ship opened fire on a North Korean naval vessel that had crossed the NLL (northern limit line), exchanging fire with that vessel, killing one North Korean sailor, wounding 3.

November 16, 2009 -- South Korea evacuates naval ships from the Western sea after detecting signs that North Korea had activated radar for surface to ship missiles deployed on the Ongjin Peninsula, Hwanghai Province, and had painted South Korean ships.

December 22, 2009 -- North Korea declared a "peacetime firing zone" along both sides of the NLL, to counter "the reckless military provocative manoeuvres by the warmongers in the South Korean military." warning of the deployment of both land based artillery and land to sea missiles.

January 25, 2010 -- North Korea unilaterally announced a shipping ban on both sides of the NLL, specifically in the region of east of the island of Baeknyeong and and west of the island of Daechyong, both locations of South Korean Naval and Marine Bases.

TODAY -- North Korea opened fire with land based artillery into the contested maritime border region, an action that was met with retaliatory "warning shots" fired by South Korean forces.

For D&D Snap Analysis of this new escalation of the Korean Maritime Crisis, read below!

UPDATE at 10:12 PM EST -- 12:12 PM Korean Time
As more news is rolling in, it appears that North Korea has fired multiple land based artillery rounds into the Western sea, a committal act that was met with South Korean retaliatory "warning shots" fired into the same maritime region. First reports from anonymous sources in the South Korean Defense Ministry are that there was no damage or casualties.

This event, coupled with the recent naval battle in the same region on the North/South Korean maritime border seems to suggest that North Korea has become increasingly sensitive about South Korean forces in the region, as both exchanges of fire have been instigated by North Korean forces reacting to South Korea's presence near the zone. On March 29, Pyongyang announced 2 "No Sail" zones in the Western sea, part of which included South Korean territorial waters -- suggesting that they may be preparing for possible missile tests in the area. Time will tell.

Check back soon for further news and analysis.

Previous Post Follows:
The AP and Yonhap News is reporting an exchange of heavy artillery fire between North and South Korean Forces along their disputed western sea border, the same region that witnessed the recent bloody gun battle between North and South Korean naval vessels.

The AP story can be found HERE

Check back soon for updates and analysis

1. Can someone please explain to me why Rod Blagojevich is not in jail? I mean, come on DOJ. The FBI has this guy on tape talking about wanting to sell President Obama's vacant senate seat, yes the words "for sale" were never mentioned in the phone calls but just like pornography, I know corruption when I see it and someone saying they arent going to give "something for nothing" seems pretty clear to me. Even without that little incident Blagojevich is also facing charges of trying to leverage state approval for the sale of the Chicago Cubs on the condition that the editorial staff of the Chicago Tribune stop calling for his resignation (which they were pursuing on a account of about a dozen other federal crimes this mope is accused of...

If the Democratic party is so worried about losing Obama's Senate seat to a Republican on account of Illinois voters being tired of the corruption that is so very evident in the Illinois Democratic party why doesnt Eric Holder light a fire under someone's ass at the DOJ and get charges filed against the former governor for any one of the charges mentioned. This will send a clear sign to voters that we acknowledge that corruption has happened but we are going to deal with it harshly. I am an outsider to Chicago politics but from where I am sitting it appears to me that Blagojevich is getting a pass. Why are ordinary Americans going to jail for nickle and dime offenses while this disgrace of a politician is allowed to parade himself all over network television. Anyone want to take odds as to how long it takes Trump to say those words that the Governor is so accustomed to hearing...You're Fired

2. The US government really has to start taking leaks more seriously. Obama getting mad and then sending Gibbs to tell the press how mad he is every single time national security information appears in the New York Times really isnt cutting it. Don't get me wrong, I think that there are several cases in American history where members of the government felt that those in power were betraying their responsibility to protect Americans and our core values and felt the need to break the law by leaking certain information in order to promote a national debate. Examples include the Pentagon Papers that revealed the Defense Department's own skepticism over its ability to achieve victory in Vietnam, the revelation of secret black prisons throughout the world used by the Bush administration to harshly interrogate terrorist suspects off the books, as well as the highly illigal warrantless wiretapping activities again conducted by the Bush administration. These are all things that I feel the American public deserved to know about and I applaud the bravery of those who leaked the information.

The type of leaking that I so strongly object to is the publication of draft reports and communications between high ranking officials. These leaks paint incomplete pictures of the inner workings of our government and provide our enemies with ample fodder for propoganda. The two worst instances of this occurred at the end of 2009 with the release of two private cables written by US Ambassador to Afghanistan General Eikenberry and US Commander General McCrystal. These leaks not only showed our hand to the insurgents currently fighting our soldiers in Afghanistan but also blatently showed President Karzai that his supposed partners in building Afghanistan (the U.S.) had little to no faith in him. General McCrystal's report was in draft form and had not yet been reviewed by Admiral Mullen or Secretary Gates. The leaking of this report started the national debate on the way forward in Afghanistan well before any one in the know was prepared for such a discussion. Who knows what effect this leak ultimately had on the final strategy announced by President Obama at West Point.

The US government needs to start taking these leaks more seriously and devote more energy to investigating and persecuting the leakers. It is not acceptable to consider national security leaks as par for the course. These people are jeoporidizing the very ability of our government to function. I am not saying we should start bugging the phones of reporters but some investigation needs to be done. The bottom line is that if people within our government feel so strongly that some piece of information needs to be made public for the very good of the country then their conviction should be strong enough to risk spending some time in jail.

And that's my fifty cents (inflation...)

Monday, January 25, 2010

When remarking on the DoD's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the esteemed think tanker Anthony Cordesman once remarked that it was "the most pointless and destructive planning effort imaginable...[and that] if God really hates you, you may end up working on [it]. So what is this document that all of DC and the security community at large is eagerly awaiting the release of and is it of any real significance?

First some quick background. The QDR is a document that was first conceived of in 1993, then referred to as the "Bottom-up Review" and was an attempt by the DoD to address the international security environment in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1996 Congress legislated that the Department of Defense conduct a "Quadrennial Defense Review" to address the U.S. military's strategic objectives and identify future security threats. To put it simply, the QDR is meant to be a time when the Defense leadership (Office of the Secretary of Defense) takes a step back from the day to day operations and attempts to think long term and answer the BIG questions. Who do we see as our enemies today and in ten years? Are we investing in the right technologies to fight these enemies? Do we possess the appropriate strategies and doctrine to face the current threats? Is the enemy we are fighting today going to be the same enemy we will be fighting in ten years?

Word on the street is that the Obama administration will be coming out with its QDR sometime in the next month. The QDR will be the most important document that the DoD puts out this year and in my opinion will likely be the most important document that the Obama administration generates as a whole, short of the budget, for some time to come. It may seem at first that I am disagreeing with the comments made earlier by Anthony Cordesman, however, I assure you that while the author does think quite highly of himself, he is not that foolish. I completely agree with Dr. Cordesman (who by the way is a Fletcher Grad) that every QDR done to date has been a collasal waste of time and resources. If you have had the unfortunate pleasure of reading all three QDR's you will notice that good chunks of them were simply copy and pasted from the previous QDR. You will also notice that they are devoid of any real strategy. The QDR was thought of as a strategy document that would supply direction to the entire armed forces, but instead it has mostly devolved into a petty fight between the services over who gets the bigger share of the budget.

Ironically, the years before the QDR existed were the years that the US military actually had a series of set strategies that for the most part worked. For the majority of the Cold War the U.S. military had a strategy of containing the spread of communism and despite dragging us into Vietnam, the strategy did manage to prevent the expansion of the Soviet Union. In the late 70's to early 80's, the U.S. military also adopted an "off-set strategy" whereby the DoD recognized that it could not produce nearly as many troops and weapons as the Soviets but would instead off-set their superiority in numbers with superior quality troops and high-tech weaponry (JDAM's, GPS, Star Wars etc). Finally, in the 90's the U.S. adopted the strategy of planning to be able to fight two conventional wars at the same time. Less of a detailed plan but a strategy none the less. However, despite jumping in head first into two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the DoD has yet to come up with a defined strategy in over 9 years of war.

That was the depressing part. I now have high hopes that the next QDR will offer up a concrete strategy for the DoD that moves it beyond the "war on terror". A basic question that the QDR will have to answer is who is the enemy? Is it local insurgencies, global jihadis, state sponsors of terrorism or all of the above? On an even more basic level I strongly believe that this QDR needs to firmly define "terrorism," specifically stating whether or not it is a criminal act or an act of war. Finally, the QDR will need to clearly state whether or not counterinsurgency is going to be the name of the game for the foreseeable future and if it is, how will be be changing the makeup of our forces to better reflect the enemy we face. This will undoubtedly mean making some very unpopular and very large cuts in the defense budget specifically things like next generation fighter planes, mid air refueling tankers and new super aircraft carriers (any of these ringing a bell!!)

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed reading about the QDR, its not the most fun document in the world but lets just hope the next one is actually worth reading. And if you happen to be walking down the halls at the Pentagon and you see someone with an ID card that reads "Kathleen Hicks" go ahead and give her a hug because despite being a great lady she is the one that God has chosen to to run this years QDR....

And that's my fifty cents (inflation)

Last week's Supreme Court decision on corporate direct spending on US elections may have an incredibly scary, unintended consequence. While there is an excellent breakdown of the issue here on Talking Points Memo, I wanted to talk about this issue on D&D as well, if only to start the debate!

Question: Are you an international corporation, possibly controlled by your national government?

Quetion: Are you incorporated in the United States?

Question: How would you like to try and influence the outcome of a US election?

If you answered these three questions "yes", or, in the case of Venezuelan Government controlled, US incorporated, Citgo: "claro que si! Viva Chavez!", boy are you in luck! In the eyes of the law, these corporations can spend, spend, spend in any and every election they see fit. Do your political ads suddenly smell less 'sulfery'? Thanks Hugo!


While the impacts of this Supreme Court decision have yet to be witnessed, one can only imagine that the impact of this 5-4 ruling may fundamentally change how elections play out. It is concerning food for thought, and I suspect to be reading more about this very soon. In the meantime, does anyone know how to say "Swift Boaters for Truth" in Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese?

The chattering classes love to play up the existential threat Al Qaeda poses to the United States.  Nevermind that their greatest success, 9/11, managed to kill less than 3,000 Americans and that they have since been unable to strike a major blow against the homeland.  Terrorism has become the front-line foreign policy issue, despite the fact that AQ and their ideological brethren are just that - terrorists, not destroyers of nations.

I don't mean to downplay the significance of 9/11.  It was a horrific event, and every one of the 2,973 innocent deaths was a tragedy.  However, it was never going to cause the collapse of the United States.  Tragic, yes; existentially threatening, no.

And now, rapidly approaching the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, the hollowness of AQ is becoming evident.  The organization we all feared has been exposed as nothing more than a few misguided ideologues and incompetent bumblers.  AQ is not a nightmare combination of the Nazis, SPECTRE, and Stalinist hardliners; in fact it is far closer to the Three Stooges in operational ability.  The exploits of the "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and the "Undie-bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab make 9/11 appear to be a once-in-a-lifetime success for AQ, driven by good fortune and luck rather than evil genius.

As if to confirm these diminished capabilities, an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden recently surfaced to praise the actions of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.  As is his style, bin Laden does not formally claim credit for the act, but heralds it as a reaffirmation of the message of 9/11 and promises more attacks.  At first glance this seems a chilling reminder of AQ, lurking in every shadow and airplane bathroom.  But a closer read reveals the emptiness of the message.

First of all, some analysts question the authenticity of the tape - is that really bin Laden, or a shallow impostor?  More importantly to my mind is the underlying question of why.  Why would bin Laden, the scrounge of the West and would-be slayer of imperialists, take to the airwaves in praise of someone who manged only to light his privates on fire before being subdued by unarmed civilians?

Perhaps the tape isn't from bin Laden because he is long dead or stuck incommunicado in a remote cave.  Or, maybe AQ does not have the ability to mount a successful operation inside the U.S. and has resorted to grabbing at any publicity it can in an attempt to remain relevant.  Either way, it should be clear that our deadly adversary needs to be redefined.  It is not an existential threat, it is a criminal nuisance.

There will always be terrorists and terror attacks.  If AQ is no longer a significant player there will be other groups to take it's place.  But terror is not a phenomenon confined to Islamic fundamentalists or bin Laden's disciples; who can forget Timothy McVeigh or Aum Shinrikyo?  We need to portray and understand terrorism for what it truly is - a source of tragic deaths, but not the potential downfall of the nation.

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