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Sunday September 7, 2003


Rams @ Giants.
1200 Central.

In the run-up to the second anniversary of 9/11, and on the eve of President Bush's address to the nation, The Globe and Mail has an interesting look into some of the lesser know (but far more wide-ranging) aspects of the war on terror.

What are these quiet Americans doing in the capital of Mauritania, a nation that has never made the front pages and sits a continent and a half removed from the immediate interests of the United States? And what are their colleagues in a dozen other far-flung regions doing, handing out money and guns and hard-won secrets to governments and warlords and military men in the southern islands of the Philippines, on the steppes of Uzbekistan, in the dense jungle between Venezuela and Brazil?

The guys in the sunglasses have a name for this not-so-secret campaign. They call it World War Four, an unofficial title that is now used routinely by top officials and ground-level operatives in the U.S. military and the CIA. It is a global war, one of the most expensive and complex in world history. And it will mark its second anniversary this week, on Sept. 11.

The White House would rather it be known as the war on terrorism. But in its strategies, political risk and secrecy, it is more like the Cold War, which the CIA types like to consider World War Three. Its central battles, in Afghanistan and Iraq, have been traditional conflicts. But while the public's attention was focused on those big, controversial and expensive campaigns, the United States was busy launching a broader war whose battlefields have spread quietly to two dozen countries.

Go read it all--it's really quite an eye-opener and leads me to one important conclusion. Whether or not you agree with the strategy (and really, I'm of two minds since it is fraught with risks), after reading it you get a sense of what President Bush was referring to in the weeks and months immediately after 9/11. This will be a war unlike any others. It will last a very long time. There will be some actions that are visible and others that we will never know about. Many nations will work with us--some will help with intelligence, some with military, etc. You're either with us or agin' us. These are some of the (para) phrases that I remember Bush making in the days and weeks after 9/11. It is truly a world war in ways that the previous two (or three) were not--mainly geographically. It may not be as hot as WWI and WWII, but it is certainly more global.

This, initially bizarre story, get even curiouser and curiouser as we learn more:

Before his death, Wells told police someone had clamped the bomb to him and forced him to rob the bank - but it killed him before police could solve the riddle. The manifesto directed the delivery man to several different locations in town, where he was apparently supposed to disarm the so-called "collar bomb" in stages.

Early report of smuggling of radioactive material out of Russia:

A Swedish man was arrested on the boarder between Russia and Finland as he tried to smuggle 90 kg radioactive material out Russia.

Wednesday September 3, 2003

North Korea will take up a larger portion of the foreign policy agenda in the coming months. Here's a look at the depth of the problems in that country from The New Yorker. Excerpt:

The cannibalism story is perhaps the most extreme, but it's certainly not unique. There are many reports among the people who have fled North Korea, persistent reports, of cannibalism. What interested me is that these stories are believed by North Koreans. It's a measure of the devastation they experienced. Even if these stories occasionally have a little bit of the quality of urban legend, it seems to me that we are inclined to disbelieve them, because we'd prefer not to credit them and because they sound far-fetched. But cannibalism isn't all that strange an idea, given the level of starvation there. What these stories are saying, it seems to me, is that the desperation is so extreme that it's totally credible that that would be going on—that the level of hunger is that great. And it's true: the estimates are that two to three million people starved to death in the course of the past decade. Starving to death doesn't happen overnight. Starving to death isn't even a matter of having insufficient food for a couple of months. It's total starvation over a long period of time, a complete breakdown of bodies.

But not only starvation, there's also this:

The picture that has emerged from their accounts certainly confirms everything that one had suspected. It's a place where the level of sheer physical brutality is extreme and the psychic violence is constant. There is no such thing as individual rights of any kind. The state is ubiquitous and all-pervasive. There is no idea of privacy or of independent thought. To get a sense of how perfectly oppressive it is, it's worth realizing that there are no dissidents. They simply disappear—they're sent to camps or executed. The system of social control is based on the idea that an entire family can be held accountable for any perceived slight by any single member of that family. So if you happen to be listening to a South Korean radio broadcast, or you say something like "Gee, I hear North Korea started the Korean War," your entire family can be purged—taken off to camps, and never heard from again.

These are just the threats they pose to their own people. Here are the threats they pose to the world:

North Korea is probably the largest threat to international security in the world. There don't seem to be many people left who doubt that they have the atom bomb; they've essentially admitted as much. They have claimed that, in the past eight or nine months, after dropping out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and throwing out the inspectors, they restarted their reactors and started reprocessing spent fuel rods. That could mean that they are now in a position to start producing atom bombs. They have been known to sell absolutely everything they've got. They trade in drugs, they trade in counterfeit money, they trade in weapons. There is no scruple there to overcome. So the biggest fear is probably less that they're going to lob a nuclear bomb than that they would put one on the open market, that they'd become a nuclear Wal-Mart.

So what's the answer? The North Koreans have wanted us to participate in bilateral talks which we (smartly) have rejected. It seems clear that the North Koreans don't want to outright blackmail us with a room full of people--they'd rather do that in private. So now we're engaged in these multilateral talks which will probably go nowhere. That, my friend, is a good thing. Because this much we know: the North Koreans will not back down. If anyone is to acquiesce, it will be the U.S. That's what we've done every time. Even if we were to come to some kind of an agreement, how could we trust them? They have no scruples. They are liars and cheaters. Moreover, they would never agree to any kind of an inspection regime which would actually verify compliance.

So I think the diplomatic route will be a sure route to failure. Of course Jimmy Carter thinks differently. President Carter has already been deceived by the North Koreans once--the 1996 "Agreed Framework". The only thing we can agree on this that the North Koreans lied and cheated (surprise...that's what liars and cheaters do). Here's the summation to President Carter's USA Today article:

There must be verifiable assurances that prevent North Korea from becoming a threatening nuclear power, with a firm commitment that the U.S. will not attack a peaceful North Korea. This is a time for sustained and flexible diplomacy between our two governments, to give peace and economic progress a chance within a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

You would think that a guy who has been involved in past negotiations and obviously has an interest in the subject would at least read a newspaper. Hello, Jimmah...the North Koreans already have nukes. They've as much as admitted it. They said they were going to test one in the near future. They already are a nuclear power.

I hope you haven't read all of this expecting an answer to this problem--I sure don't have one. All I know is what has failed in the past (diplomacy) will also fail this time. Oh yeah, and Mr. Carter should stick to building houses.