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Catfish and Cod
Saturday, October 18, 2003
TSA: Terribly Silly Aardvarks.
(Link path: The View from Chaos Manor, ABC News)

Pournelle's response to the latest TSA incompetency:

The purpose of TSA is to expand and employ more TSA people. It has nothing to do with providing security, which is best done by locking the cockpit doors and arming the pilots.

Then How do you explain the job cuts?

No, Dr. Pournelle. The TSA's purpose is to serve as a fig leaf to hide or distract the real efforts to stop the terrorists, or the lack thereof. Since it doesn't actually do anything, its secondary job is to be as cheap as possible. Thus, it won't have the money to even do the minor jobs it supposedly is capable of, and there's no way any bright boy could build it into the security system it actually ought to be.

Jerry Pournelle can be quite an original thinker when he chooses to be. But currently, he's following standard conservative doctrine without considering the situation. Sure, if the TSA lives long enough, it will become a self-perpetuating money sink. But it's just out of the cradle. Right now, it's just a pitiful excuse, a minor psychological deterrent, and a major hassle.

But if you tell people it's useless, no one will believe you... and those that do will call for strengthening it.
Cool space references: I.
(Link path: The Space Elevator Reference)

Marc Boucher is head of The Mars Institute, a organization that broke away from the Mars Society last year over doctrinal differences. (I must write a post someday about the holy wars and religious issues of space policy.) He's a frequent collaborator with Keith Cowing and an ardent space advocate.

He is now assimilated into the blogosphere, with an emphasis on space elevators. And what is a space elevator you ask? Excellent question... why don't you find out?

Political infighting.
(Link path: The Gray Lady, free and pointless registration required)

State Dept. Study Foresaw Trouble Now Plaguing Iraq

"It was mostly ignored," said one senior defense official. "State has good ideas and a feel for the political landscape, but they're bad at implementing anything. Defense, on the other hand, is excellent at logistical stuff, but has blinders when it comes to policy. We needed to blend these two together."

What lessons should we learn here, class?

1) Different executive departments have different strengths.

2) Different executive departments have a bias against listening to each other's conclusions, probably because of a perception that they have opposing ideologies or opposing politics.

3) Different executive departments therefore don't communicate well, and make mistakes as a result.

4) Political infighting weakens the government.

5) Someone needs to stop the political infighting, and ensure that the government works smoothly.

6) The task of overseeing and managing the executive departments, under Article II of the Constitution, falls to the President of the United States.

7) The President's advisors have been aggravating, not alleviating, the political infighting.

8) The President must stop the infighting, or he must be replaced.
Illumination, and Vladimir Borovsky.
(Link path: Trying to Grok, Amrivati, Front Page magazine)

Sometimes the truth can be seen more clearly from a different perspective. And sometimes it's even harder to distinguish from the side effects of your own point of view. Here we review (from an American perspective) an interview with Vladimir Borovsky, a Soviet and post-Soviet dissident. The interview (conducted by Front Page magazine) may be read without comment here. (Bias notice: Front Page is significantly aligned with the paleoconservative movement.)

Q: Welcome Vladimir, it is a great honour to speak with you. Thank you for your time. Let’s begin with the issue of how Putin's Russia aided Saddam before as well as during the recent war. There were even reports that Saddam had been taken to Syria in the convoy of the Russian embassy staff. This remains unconfirmed, of course, but due to Putin's disposition, it is still quite believable.

C&C: In your not so humble opinion. The Russian government would not be so stupid as to risk being caught aiding Saddam Hussein directly in the middle of a battleground. However, it is true that Russia sold large amounts of munitions to Saddam before, during, and after the sanctions were put in place, and Russia probably has much to hide with respect to Iraq.

What is the significance of all of this? Would it be too much to say that America's alliance with Russia might be a blunder for American foreign policy?

A leading question if I ever heard one. Both participants in the discussion believe the conclusion stated; they simply want to air the rationales.

Bukovsky: It is worse than a blunder. For several years I tried to alert everyone I know in the US and here that their perception of present day Russia is wrong (see for instance our open letter to President Bush signed with Elena Bonner).

You can read that letter if you want, but he's going to repeat large sections of it later in the interview almost verbatim, so you'll miss very little if you don't read it. Bukovsky is primarily concerned in the letter with the effects of recent events on the Chechen war and the struggle for a more open political process in Russia.

But the political establishment in the West simply does not want to know the truth. It is much more convenient for them to close their eyes on what is going on in Russia and to pretend they don't know.

But why is that convienent? Is it convienent so that they can improve their power base, or is it convienent because pushing for more open conditions in Russia would be counterproductive right now?

Once again, like during the detente of the 1970s, Western political establishment behaves evasively and dishonestly, and once again it will end up in a disaster.

And how was detente a disaster? It bought time, and the entire Cold War was a waiting game. As long as the United States and the rest of the West outlasted the Soviet Union and prevented the outbreak of World War III, we were going to win.

But of course, from the point of view of a Soviet dissedent, detente was a disaster: it relieved pressure on the Soviet establishment, and it allowed some Soviet ideas to percolate into the West. As Berevosky's only goal is the destruction of all vestiges of the Soviet system, he sees anything other than steadfast advancement towards his goal as counterproductive.

Q: Vladimir, and what is it exactly that is, as you say, "going on in Russia"?

Bukovsky: Contrary to popular belief in the West, it is not on the way to democracy and a market economy. The last presidential elections show you what kind of democracy this country has established for itself, when the voters had a choice between a Communist leader and a KGB colonel. That is elections Russian-style.

True, it isn't ideal by a long shot. But it's still better than what you had before. It's even better than 1993, because Yeltsin wasn't really going to lose those elections and everyone knew it.

Indeed, the KGB has won. After ten years of some hesitant, half-hearted attempts at reform, the power was handed back to them, once again, and they were very quick to re-establish their authority throughout the country, as well as to reinstate the old symbols of the Soviet Union - the national anthem and the Red flag in the Army. The last outlets of independent media were closed down one by one. We did not have political prisoners for ten years; we have them now.

What I want to know is, why does Berekovsky think this situation will continue? The real solution to Russia's problems is a robust economy, including a middle class, and the entrance of Western ideas into Russia. These items will not and cannot be stopped by the KGB-friendly Putin regime. "Engagement" with the West and improvement in the economy following the Soviet collapse are now the heart of their power, and they can't relinquish it. They are therefore powerless to stop the rise of new powers in their society that will eventually challenge them for supremacy. This strategy is directly analogous to the American strategy for the democratization of China, which is in much the same state as Russia (the only substantial difference is that the Communist Party is still nominally in charge of China).

Several people are already imprisoned for speaking out against the war in Chechnya, or some abuses of the military powers over there, or about the pollution by the military nuclear waste. Chechnya today is one of the festering wounds of the country, where, in view of many international observers, actually a genocide is perpetrated against the small defenceless nation.

Yes, but what exactly would you like us to do? These KGB and military types you complain about are (a) all getting old, (b) still have nukes, and (c) are willing to play the Western game (as opposed to pre-collapse, when they tried to play their own game). We'd been trying to talk the Russian government out of Chechnya for years prior to the Eleventh, with no success. Why would complaints about Chechnya help at this time?

Q: Vladimir, could you kindly just expand a bit on what kind of regime you think is developing in Russia? What are the real agendas of the new leaders? How do you think they truly regarded Saddam and the war on Iraq? What is their primary strategy now?

Bukovsky: Since the Soviet system was not eradicated, nor even conclusively defeated, lots of old features (and structures) remained practically intact. Above all, most people's attitude to the world remains the same, as most of them did not perceive the demise of the old regime as natural or inevitable. These feelings are running strongest among the military, the FSB (former KGB), the state bureaucracy in general. As a result, Russia today is a schizophrenic state, with one foot in the past, another is in the air, meant to be planted in the future (but never is). Add up to that a "new feature" - criminalization of the society in general, and of power structures in particular (of which the FSB is practically in control of organized crime).

I think people recognize these facts much more than Bukovsky realizes. In Hollywood movies, for instance, the Russian mafia man (with close government ties) and the corrupt Russian bureaucrat have become new cliches (replacing the aggressive and officious Soviet men of elder days.) The image in America of Russia is of a country stuck in its development: unable to go back to the glory days of communism, but unable to proceed forward either.

The "leaders" are no different, since most of them are former KGB officers of a provincial level, with all the complexes one can expect to find in such people. They spent time assuring each other that Russia is still a Great Power, and like all gangsters, they crave to be treated with "respect".

And so we spend time giving them exactly what they want -- respect -- so that they don't make trouble. Since they are no longer aggressive, and don't have the ability or desire to make terribly much mischief with the power they have, this strategy works in keeping things relatively calm. Meanwhile, the middle class grows in power and wealth...

At the same time, they are well aware of the country's economic plight and are preoccupied with the problem of external debts. Accordingly, their foreign policy is schizophrenic, too. On the one hand, they need Western financial favors, on the other they don't like to be perceived as depending on them. Look at what has happened in the run up to war with Iraq.

This is all known and to be expected.

Due to the overall political situation (split in the NATO, split in the EU), Putin was dealt the best hand at the table. He could have got lots of favors from the US. Yet, at the last moment he choose to bluff, trying to play one part of NATO against the other while continuing to supply Iraq with weapons, intelligence, military advice, etc. For a moment he thought he could prolong the crisis indefinitely, blocking the war and retaining position of advantage. But the bluff was called, and he was left with less than nothing. Instead of getting $10 billion offered to him by Bush, plus 7 billion pounds offered by Blair as an investment into Russian oil industry, he has got France as an ally. These people in Kremlin look truly pathetic when they think they play world politics.

It certainly wasn't the best choice for Putin. Putin hasn't burned all bridges, because his diplomatic position and the possession of all those nukes ensure that America won't openly make Russia an enemy again. But neither will he receive terribly open friendship until he repudiates the "weasel alliance" with the European Core (aka "old Europe", aka "the new Holy Roman Empire".)

On the other hand, look at the Western reaction to this obvious foul play. All the media revelations of Russian mischief in Iraq were promptly hushed by the White House.

Yes, many of us expected more hay to be made of Russian duplicity than actually was done. But I think (Borovsky's attitude to the contrary) that it was wise not to bring it up at the moment. After all, "the search is still ongoing" and these revelations can be made at any time in the near future if we find it advantageous.

We were told that France will be punished, but Russia will be forgiven. Why? Oh, we need Russia for dealing with North Korea! Jesus Christ! Do you guys ever learn? Are you going, (as we used to say in Russia), to step three times on the same rakes in the same movie? This is not funny, really. I can tell you in advance that Russia will be playing the same trick in Korea as it did in Iraq. They will offer mediation, but in secret they will build up Korean stakes, hoping to prolong the crisis and to milk you without delivering.

This will be less likely in North Korea than in Iraq, because China, not Russia, controls the Korean situation. Of course they will try to milk us -- they will do that no matter what the situation is. The question is, is it the right thing to do? Berekovsky hates any money we give Russia because, in his opinion, we do nothing but strengthen the current power structure by doing so (and thus fail to hasten the day Russia becomes a true democracy). Perhaps we do. But it may be a fair price to pay to keep the nukes of Pyongyang and Moscow under wraps. Besides, the place we're likely to be blackmailed is Iran, not North Korea. The Russians hold more powerful cards in the Iranian situation, because they control Iran's access to uranium.

And at the end, when they are caught red-handed again, you will "forgive" them because you need their help in yet another hot spot. Do you not look pathetic, too?

Q: This is all quite disturbing if your analysis is correct. Let me ask this: don't the Russians have their own problem with militant Islam? Why wouldn't this push them to ally themselves with the West?

Bukovsky: No, they don't. Contrary to Russian propaganda, (and contrary to the Western public perception generated by it), Chechens are not militant islamists. They are just a small nation fighting off blatant aggression.

True, but they are willing to deal with the Islamist devil in order to improve their defenses. And according to the Bush Doctrine, that makes them as bad as the terrorists themselves.

I'm not saying I agree with the Bush Doctrine, or this specific application. But propaganda or no propaganda, the Bush Administration decision to not support Chechen freedom is logical (given their assumptions).

Most of other regions, where Muslims used to live in the former Soviet Union, are not part of Russia anymore. Two more Muslim areas, Tartarstan and Bashkorstan, are remarkably peaceful even now, in spite of the Chechen conflict. And, both being enclaves in the Russian territory, they are unlikely to be as potentially dangerous as any borderland might have been. So, we can only consider the North Caucasus, where Russians themselves have caused all the trouble, and where those troubles could be terminated any time with a modicum of good will.

Absolutely, the Russian could end the Chechen problem immediately if they so chose. They choose not to, primarily out of pride. But I don't believe that even a change to a more democratic Russian government would solve that problem. A sea change in Russian cultural attitudes towards border provinces and centralized control is necessary, and that will take a long time.

Q: Vladimir, let me switch over to Iraq for a moment and the Western anti-war demonstrations we saw while the U.S. was liberating Iraq. What did you think of the protests? How could the Left have discredited itself with such shamelessness in allying itself with a barbaric fascist regime, as well as with Islamo-fascists and anti-Semites? What do you think this tells us about the contemporary Left? Has it completely degenerated?

That question is as loaded as a six-shooter with seven bullets in it. Bias! Bias! Get your white-hot anger right here!

Bukovsky: But this is nothing new. Twenty years ago the Left aided and abetted the equally barbaric Soviet regime.

Note that when Front Page and Bukovsky speak of "the Left", they mean different things. Bukovsky means the European Left and the far left of American politics. Front Page also means the far left, but they like to think that all Democrats are really allies of the far left, that is, communists.

Even the current "peace campaign" is just a copy of the 1980s campaign for nuclear disarmament of the West and against placement of "American" missiles in Europe, against SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) and Western re-armament program. Even some participants are the same.

True, and the blogosphere has been pointing this out for over a year now. But mainstream anti-war sentiment has little to do with these yahoos.

This fact simply confirms what I am saying since 1993: we did not win the Cold War. We did not finish off our enemies either in the East (where old communist nomenklatura and the KGB are still in power), or in the West (where their old collaborators are still a major political force).

Bukovsky is resorting to overhyped rhetoric here. While the communists still exist, they are no longer considered a serious challenger to World Domination (TM). That is what we mean when we say that the Cold War was won.

Q: So wait a second. Can we still win the Cold War in this context? What would have to happen for us to acknowledge a real victory?

Bukovsky: Precisely what I said: we have to finish off our enemies both in the East and in the West.

If we subscribe to Bukovsky's ideology, the Cold War will go on forever. A free society can't prohibit the existance of a Communist Party, or even allowing them a small part in public discourse. A society that prohibits them subscribes to the very repression that Bukovsky opposes.

I think it is self-evident that the war is neither finished nor won if your enemies are still in power. For the sake of illustration, just imagine that in 1955 (ten years after the WW 2 was officially finished), a former Gestapo officer was elected as a Chancellor of Germany and publicly announced that he was proud of his past. Or that former Nazi collaborators organized mass demonstrations across Europe in defense of war criminals. Would we consider the outcome of the WW 2 as a victory for Western democracy? Of course not.

There actually were quite a number of ex-Nazis (from the lower ranks of the Party, of course) in power in Germany in 1955. And there were pro-Nazi sentiments held elsewhere in the world in 1955: the Arab world, Spain, certain areas of South America. The situation is more analogous than you might think.

Why did it not happen? Because the Nazi were defeated, removed from power, put on trial in Nuremberg, while German society was subjected to a de-nazification process. Nothing of the sort took place after the Cold War.

Because Russia was not occupied, as Germany was and as Iraq is now. Would you like us to try invading Russia? Thanks, but we're not that stupid. But the only ways to de-ideologize a country are military occupation... or voluntary acceptance and cooperation in the process. It can't be done otherwise. The proper model for de-Communization is not Nazi Germany, but apartheid South Africa. In the nineties, F. W. de Klerk saw the handwriting on the wall and made the arrangements to remove the poison from South African society. A future Russian president could do the same. Gorbachev could if he regained power -- he has the attitude to do it. Yeltsin and Putin are too corrupt and too much a part of the system to try. I wonder what Putin's successor will do?

Can it still happen? Well, it can happen if there are radical changes of attitude among Western political establishment. And it better be changing, otherwise we will not be able to deal with the problems we discuss.

Western political attitudes mean very little in this context. Russia itself must choose to repudiate its Communist past. In my opinion, this will happen once the "old guard" dies off.

Q: Vladimir, in terms of the recent war in Iraq, are you confident that the American victory might precipitate a domino effect in the sense that a force of democratization and liberalization will spread throughout the authoritarian Middle East?

Bukovsky: No, I am not confident in this at all. For this to happen, we need a success of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries liberated by the Western allies recently. However, the outcome in both of them is questionable. I fear a protracted period of instability, infighting, poverty, corruption and even a gradual return to power of those just ousted by the military action. In short, something like we observe now in the former communist countries of the Eastern Europe.

Strike "Eastern Europe" and replace it with "Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and former Yugoslav countries". Bukovksy is suffering from myopia, and if he can't properly judge the state of, say, the Czech Republic, than I have no faith in his opinion on Iraq.

Q: So how exactly does Russia view Syria, Iran and North Korea?

Bukovsky: Again, like anything else in Russia, its attitude to old allies is schizophrenic. On the one hand, there are strong feelings of sympathy toward them among the military, the KGB and nomenklatura, who have actually created those monsters and brought them up (and those forces constitute the power-base of the current leadership). On the other, they are good bargaining chips in the geopolitical games, but only if they are capable of stirring up troubles. So, first of all, they must be encouraged, strengthened, emboldened, thus raising the stakes, and raising Russia's importance with it.

But again, Russia now feels more restrained in their aid, because they don't actually want any of these places to blow up. And Russia has less to give than before...

Iran is slightly different in the sense it was never a Soviet creature. But the game is the same.

Q: Vladimir, in this post-Saddam era, what is the main threat to Western security? And what is the most prudent course for the West to take in the War on Terror?

Bukovsky: I am not a great believer in the "Global War on Terrorism". First, I don't believe in global wars.

After the Napoleonic Wars, the wars of imperalism, the World Wars, and the Cold War, anyone who doesn't believe in a global war is a fool.

Second, I don't believe in a war with abstraction which no one can define precisely.

"Terrorism" is a convienent word that specifies the Islamic militants without calling them "Islamic militants". The war is not actually on terrorism.

You are bound to make colossal blunders if you engage in either. If we are talking about a war with Islamic fanatics, employing only military means is clearly not enough. We would need to develop the instruments of ideological warfare which the West has never bothered to create even during the Cold War.

I suppose the Voice of America is just twiddling its thumbs, then. Multinationals are wasting all their time encouraging market economies and advertising campaigns. The West conducts ideological war very well, thank you very much. We haven't properly re-tooled it for the current conflict, however, and that does need some work.

Of course, Bukovsky may mean something more direct and controlling, something more akin to the Nazi and Soviet propaganda systems. To which I say: go straight to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

This is not going to be easy, but it seems inevitable. I suspect our immediate priority after Iraq will be nuclear proliferation (e.g. North Korea). Here again we need to employ techniques of the Cold War rather than pure military power. In short, whichever way you look, you cannot escape a conclusion that, excellent as it may be, your military hardware is not enough. You must develop the appropriate software.

I think everyone agrees that military force is not the only tool the U.S. needs in its arsenal. The question is, what other tools will be employed, and in the pursuit of what strategy?

Q: Overall, in your view, how is the world lining up in the War on Terror? Is Europe even ready to fight for freedom anymore? What do you think is going to happen in Europe? Will France and Russia form an axis? Will Germany join them?

Bukovsky: After living half of my life in the USSR, and the other half in the West (of which quite a few years in the US), I know all three fairly well, and I am always amazed how little these three worlds understand each other. It became almost a platitude to say that Americans are naive and idealistic, while Europeans are cynical and sophisticated. Americans tend to re-invent the world every five years, while Europeans are still fighting wars started centuries ago.

Americans do indeed change their worldviews faster than Europeans, and left the European wars behind. This was a conscious decision on our part, and we are quite happy with the results, thank you very much.

You may proclaim your Global War on Terrorism, (and you may even believe in it), but Europeans are just trying to solve their own problems using the context you have thus created. And why shouldn't they?

Our problems are also your problems, to a degree. Why shouldn't they work with us?

As far as the international terrorism is concerned, Americans remind me someone I know in Israel who used to be a dove, almost a pacifist and Palestinian apologist until his car's front window was smashed by the Palestinian stone-throwers. Then, he immediately became an arch-hawk, ready to kill every Palestinian in sight.

A good reason not to be a stone-thrower, isn't it? You turn apologist doves into enemies. On the flip side, someone who is kind to everyone until wronged attracts friends, and sticks by those who return the favor. And God help anyone who wrongs us.

Galen: "Good thing for you that I don't hold a grudge."

Gideon: "Yes, you do."

Galen: "Never contradict [someone] when he's saving your life -- again!"

Gideon: "I thought you said you don't hold a grudge?"

Galen: "I don't. I have no surviving enemies... at all."

Europe lives with terrorism for at least half a century, and somehow managed to cope with it feeling no need to declare a Global War.

And this is good because...?

When I was just kicked out of the USSR in the mid-70s, every country in Europe had its local terrorist organization, and the Palestinian terrorism on the top of it all. Italy had "Red Brigades", Germany had Baader-Meinhoff group, Spain had ETA, Britain had IRA, France had "Action Direct", etc. Mind you, those groups were far more dangerous than Al Quaeda because most of them were trained, supplied and supported by the Soviet Union. And they were far more active, too. Not a month would pass by without one terrorist action or another in Europe. In Italy, for example, they have managed to kidnap, torture and execute former Prime Minister. But somehow Americans did not perceive it as a world drama, nor did they call for a Global War until ... the front window of their car was smashed. So, what do you expect from the Europeans? Enthusiasm? Hurrraaay! At last, at last our American cousins have noticed international terrorism!

Al-Qaeda was the attack the U.S. because no other terror group dared. All the European terror groups of the twentieth century were leftist or seperatist. Many were encouraged by the Soviet Union, as Berekovsky noted. However, all of them understood one unwritten but ironbound rule: never attack targets in the United States, or you might trigger a Global War. (And this Global War will likely involve a nuclear exchange.) We didn't crack down on these terror groups for the very same reason. The Cold War was a giant chess game, with immediate death for both kings if the rules were violated. Aren't you glad we obeyed the rules?

But the Cold War is over, in that Russia no longer considers it a patriotic duty to invade Europe and vaporize America. So the rules specific to the Cold War are off, and the gloves are off as well. We are now fighting terrorism because we feel we can, and we must.

Sure, there is cynicism. The Europeans are good at being cynical. And it's understandable, given that we turned a blind eye to many of their problems. Note: many, not all. We helped with the IRA and brokered the agreement that ended the Troubles. Granted, we did it because of our heavy Irish population, but we did do it. And note that we did it only after the Cold War was over, and it was safe to do so.

The key to understanding present European manoeuvres, squabbles and splits is emergence of the European Union, something most Americans are yet to notice and to stop treating with benign indifference.

I've been talking about the attempt by the European Core to establish a New Holy Roman Empire for a while now. So has most of the blogosphere. But the EU has been taking pains not to make a big enough shout to be heard over the Atlantic. America in general recognizes France's ambition and saw its attempt to bully the rest of Europe into the antiwar "weasel alliance". But they haven't tied that yet to the European Union.

This is far more sinister development for us, poor Europeans, than any Al Qaeda (which we tend to treat as yet another police problem).

It is a police problem, but it's many other things as well. However, what Bukovsky says has some merit: the Union will be with us when al-Qaeda is long dead.

Here is not the place to explain in detail what is the EU. Suffice it to say that I call it EUSSR, and many European politicians who oppose the EU have picked up my quip.

It's not quite that bad. There are too many guarantees on some free speech and press, and too many different voices within the Empire -- oops, sorry, I mean the Union -- to silence them easily. However, centralized control by a nomenklatura (a more democratic one than Russia's, but a nomenklatura nonetheless) is the goal of the current EU elite and the current leadership of the European Core.

Essentially this is yet another attempt by the Left to build yet another socialist Tower of Babel - an over-regulated, over-bureaucratized federal state with the "deficit of democracy" (as the pro-EU politicians call the utterly undemocratic nature of the monster).

Can't disagree with that one. The EU, as currently proposed, is a mess. The Core politicians are trying to push through their plans now because the Union's growth has now spread to the point that the Core no longer has populational or economic dominance. Only through ideological, legal, or diplomatic dominance can the Core continue to hold supreme power in Europe -- and Chirac already spoiled diplomacy by being a bully.

The whole concept of the project was invented by the Socialist International (in consultation and in cooperation with Moscow) at the end of 1980s,

Maybe the takeover of the Union as a tool for acheiving a centralized, socialist Europe was planned around 1990, but the Union itself wasn't. Winston Churchill advocated a United States of Europe clear back in 1946, and there were planners and dreamers even before that (not all of them socialists and communists, either). The question is not the existence of the Union, but its form and substance. Will it be a federal democratic government with a light hand on the peoples, or a centralized socialist empire that enforces petty regulations with a heavy hand?

and was viewed by them as a "convergence" mechanism (remember Gorbachev's slogan about "common European home"?).

"Convergence" was the name given by Gorby to his idea that the Cold War might end by the Soviet Union and the European West evolving together towards similar socialist (i.e., in between capitalist and communist) systems. (It was originally an idea proposed by Sakharov, a major Soviet dissident. It's therefore interesting that Bukovsky is dismissing it.) "Convergence" was a step on Gorbachev's path towards admitting defeat and integrating into the West. Some small efforts in the eighties might indeed have contributed to the socialist tendencies of today's Union.

"Convergence" is also a bugaboo of the paleoconservative loony bin. Its advocates believe that Russia's only faking, that the fall of the Soviet Union was just a trick, and that there's a long-term plot to subvert the West into a world government that's easily taken over by a secret group at the top level of the Communist hierarchy...

Sure, and they take orders from the Bavarian Illuminati. I'm quite willing to believe that there are plenty of unreconstructed Communists still in the Russian government, but this is ridiculous.

So, 15 years later half of this project has come to fruition (the other half - the Soviet bloc - has collapsed).

Bingo. It's no longer a Soviet project, if it ever was.

The real engine of the project today is Franco-German alliance (this is what President Bush should have called "the Axis of Evil"!).

It's "Axis of Weasel". Haven't you been paying attention?

Although both partners know theirs is a very uneasy partnership (French, being French, believe they will be ruling Europe while the Germans will be paying for everything; Germans, being Germans, believe they will establish new social-democratic ordnung in the unified Europe and thus achieve the dream of all German dreamers from Bismarck to Hitler), they also know they have to stick together through thick and thin lest the whole edifice collapses.

This is the best description I've ever seen of the ideological rationale of the Core countries to support the Union. (Bukovsky left out Belgium, which supports the Core because it will enrich Brussels (making it, in effect, the new Washington) and ensure the Belgian economy for decades if not centuries to come.

So, partly because of the elections problem in Germany (Schroeder knew he could win elections only on the anti-war ticket), partly because the time has come to stamp their authority in formulating "common European foreign policy", both France and Germany came up strongly against the war in Iraq.

You missed the part where France challenges America for global hegemony and control of the UN for la glorie de la belle France.

Accordingly, all those countries where leaders are conservative and/or anti-EU, (Italy, Spain, Denmark) came up in favor of the war.

Bingo. Many European positions are due to the development of different sides and a new alliance system in European politics. The primarily cardinal virtue of the Union is now that the alliances are arguing about words in treaties and maneuvering for power in Brussels rather than building up armies to try to enforce their ideas. While peace isn't everything, it's certainly something.

Eastern Europe, imprisoned in its own illusion that "the West" will come to them and sort out their problems,

No, we won't fix your problems. We find that to be more trouble than it's worth. What we will do is loan you the money to fix your economy, then let you solve your own problems without sticking our nose in too much. Oh, and we'll defend you while you're working on this if you'll return the favor. Do we get any credit for that?

would rather join the US than EU and, given the choice, will always side with the US as a better alternative than the EU.

And given your own earlier rhetoric, Bukovsky, they're right.

Chirac, being an idiot, did not understand it and tried to shout them down, thus fuelling the anti-EU sentiments in those countries and further splitting Europe.


Britain is a slightly different case. Some of my American friends wrote to me during the crisis praising Blair as "a true statesman of Churchillean stature". Like hell he is. But, ever since the 1956 Suez crisis, Britain always follows in the wake of the US foreign policy, and is keen on being identified as America's closest ally in Europe. Again, like France without Germany, Britain without the US is no more important than Denmark..

Bukovsky imagines that because Britian follows Europe's lead, it has no influence on us. The opposite is the case, and comments like the one Bukovsky so easily dismisses are evidence thereof. Blair knows this and plays us like a fiddle, gaining great power in the process.

Now, Blair's personal ambition is to become first President of united Europe, but he has a huge problem: 70% of British people does not want any further integration with the EU, and he has foolishly promised a referendum on the subject before his first elections in 1997. This promise came to haunt him now: clearly European partners would not even consider his candidacy unless Britain is fully integrated into EU. The crisis over Iraq gave Tony Blair first glimpse of hope: unless France and Germany want a direct and prolonged confrontation with the US (which they don't), first all-European President must be capable of mending the Trans-Atlantic bridges. And who is better suited for this job than our golden boy Tony, the best buddy of America?

Indeed. But Tony's price will not be the presidency. First, the current plans watered down the Presidency of Europe to the point that it really isn't a great prize. More importantly, the current state of the Union is incompatible with full British membership. Blair is going to have to become part of a coalition with Scandinavia, Denmark, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe -- the European Periphery -- to water down the Core's power-sucking tendencies. Only if he pulls off this negotiation successfully will he get the presidency of Europe. I hope he does, because the alternative is the sundering of Europe into an EU Core with no restrictions and a divided Periphery.

So, we all are fighting the EU, not Al Qaeda. Even I. Let me be a bit cynical: why do you think I am so pleased with the Iraq war? Because it split and weakened all my enemies. It split British Labor Party. Good. It split the EU. Good. It split NATO and forced it to re-consider its identity. Good. It made the UN irrelevant. Very good. It exposed Russia as a rogue state. Excellent. And if in the process it destroyed one of the worst tyrants of our time, so much the better. I wish the Iraqi people all the best.But only Americans still believe that old Europe is lining up to fight for freedom in the deserts of the Middle East...

No one believes that anymore. The French and Germans have made that quite clear in the last few months.

Q: Well then that leads me to this question: what about the UN and NATO? Should we try to create a new organization?

Bukovsky: Certainly, the old ones are obsolete and are more harmful than useless. UN always was, right from the moment of its creation by Stalin and FDR. It was meant to serve the "progressive causes", such as advancement of socialism, "national liberation", unilateral disarmament of the West, redistribution of wealth from the "rich North" to the "poor South" or just plain anti-Western propaganda. It should have been closed long ago, probably right after the war in Korea, the only known episode where it happened to play a positive role. This alone would have saved us lots of trouble, and hundreds of billions to boot.

Oh, so cynical. Yes, the UN General Assembly and UNESCO became controlled by socialists and the Third World by the late sixties. Nonetheless, the UN serves many useful functions, from world postal and telecommunications organizations to health care to providing a diplomatic nexus. We can't close the UN unless we build something better. Believe it or not, that's just as much trouble and just as expensive as keeping the current UN.

In essence, it is non-functioning and wasteful international body which reflects post-war aspirations, ambitions and delusions, as well as the political situation of the 1940s. Why should we keep this anachronism and pretend we respect it?

Only because no one can agree what the UN should become. Everyone knows the current UN structure should be junked.

Why should the Security Council be dominated by the powers which won a war almost half a century ago? Why France is still its "permanent member" while Japan is not? It makes no sense. If we are to update it, its structures should reflect the results of the Cold War, and should be dominated by those who won it. But I personally prefer to see it closed down because I do not believe in successful reforms of bad institutions.

But once again, it can only be closed if we build the new UN -- on a new foundation, I suppose -- first.

Instead, if there is a need for a replacement,

See, Bukovsky agrees with me!

some of its specialized institutions (such as the High Commission for Refugees, etc), thoroughly reformed and streamlined, can continue their function on the ad hoc basis supervised and financed by the G7.

Not a bad idea.

NATO is a different case altogether. It did play extremely useful role during the post-war decades, but it has lost its identity in the aftermath of the Cold War. A military alliance can not exist without a clearly identifiable albeit potential adversary. If Russia becomes a consultative member, let alone a full one, NATO will cease to exist as a military alliance. It might become a political forum, if there is a need for such institution, but there is clearly no role for the US to play there. Particularly as the EU is planning to create its own Rapid Deployment Force outside of NATO. So, my advice is: give NATO luxurious funerals, bury it with honors and leave. Few billion bucks more for your Treasury.

Not as long as we don't know whether the EU will be an effective diplomatic or military power. If it isn't, NATO must remain as a new aegis for the Periphery's alliance with the United States.

Q: Everything you are saying, Vladimir, suggests that U.S. diplomats simply have to rethink everything about how they see the world, their "allies" and their enemies.

Isn't that obvious?

So let's go back to the drawing board. Do you think the standard definition of the War on Terror is correct? How would you redefine it? And how would you advise to specifically fight it if, hypothetically, you became Bush's main advisor?

Bukovsky: What is the "standard definition"? I have not seen any, let alone a "standard" one. This is the whole point: your President has solemnly declared A Global War on abstraction which no one can define. Terrorism as a phenomenon has many different causes. People driven to desperation by a foreign occupation and conducting a guerrilla-type war against it - are they terrorists? Would you say that wartime Resistance in Europe against the Nazi occupation was terrorism? Would you say that dropping atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - two peaceful cities with no military objects in them - was an act of terror? If so, all governments commit such acts in time of war.

Terrorists are those who kill innocent women and children for political ends. But, of course, we're more specifically interested in defeating the terrorists that would like to attack Americans.

It was said long ago that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. For you and me, Yasser Arafat is a terrorist, for many others he is Nobel Peace Prize winner. So, what will it be, and who is going to decide?

Either the dominant power, or a world government. America, France, the Arabs, or the UN (which is to say, dictators and nomenklatura)? Take your pick.

President Bush? His speech was a disappointment in many respects. Expressions like "global war" were used in the past mostly by the Left, and it usually meant yet another propaganda campaign (Global War on Poverty, Global War on Illiteracy, etc).

"Propaganda campaign" implies that no results were achieved. Is that really the case?

A real war cannot be global, no country has enough resources for global war.

But alliances do. In the absence of effective opposition, the Axis alliance could have conducted Global War. With their allies, the West and the Soviet Union conducted something very close to a global war. And if it really tried, America might well have the resources for a truly global war... for a while.

The Soviets have tried to conduct a global war of "liberation from the chains of capitalism", and we know how they have ended.


War is a blunt instrument. It must have a limited and well-defined goal, well-calculated cost (both material and political).

I'd like you to meet this guy I know. His name is Colin Powell...

In this sense, global war is absurdity, an open-end proposition with no clear, achievable goals.

Yet people have declared global war on a regular basis all through history, regardless of their ability to wage it, and always with the same goal: to Rule the World. That it is absurd does not mean people will not try. And there's always the danger that, one day, one of these people will actually win...

And it is dangerous to proclaim such a war, even if you do it as a figure of speech. You gear up people's expectations, and then you got caught in it like in a trap. It is easy to start, but very difficult to stop. Think of the Soviets.

We'll be in trouble unless we redefine our goals; but I think we're already in the process of doing that.

Then, tell me, what is in common between North Korea and Iran? Nothing, except both hate the West.

There's this little matter of nuclear weapons programs (aided by former elements of the Soviet system, I might add) in both locales.

Yet, your President has managed to lump them together in his Axis of Evil speech. Why? What for?

Because he's in a hurry, that's why. Both of them are finishing their nuclear weapons programs at about the same time.

If you have two unconnected enemies, the last thing you need is to push them together and encourage them to get united. Besides, strategy you would have to apply against them will be vastly different. So, what is the purpose of uniting them in your speech?

Because the Bush Administration is incompetent.

Learn a bit from the Soviets. They had never called their invasions a war.

We have this little thing called accountability. We're kind of partial to it.

When they occupied Hungary in 1956, or Czechoslovakia in 1968, they called it "internationalist assistance". When they invaded Afghanistan in 1979, they called it "temporary stationing of a limited military contingent".

We did that once upon a time, in a place then called French Indochina. It didn't work too well, and ever since, we've avoided euphamisms. They're dangerous to the health of our domestic regime, not to mention the truth.

Why use such inflammatory words as "war", let alone "global war"? It does inflame anti-war sentiments.

And doing what we've done without calling it a "war" wouldn't?

And it does mislead your followers.

No, we're being honest about the difficulties. However, it does mislead people about the actions we're taking.

In short, I would have advised President Bush to act a lot, but to say as little as possible.

That is something you can't do in a democracy. Bukovsky fundamentally doesn't understand that you have to be seen to act in a democracy or you don't keep your power. Bush was working quietly until September 11 happened. Then he had to declare a war.

Take on your enemies one by one, each time calculating your steps calmly and precisely. Work out your strategy, develop instruments, improve your intelligence (September 11 was, after all, a monumental failure of your intelligence).

Beneath the "global war" aegis, the government is actually doing all of this.

Don't get entangled in alliances and coalitions with dubious regimes.

The problem is that we already did, in the Cold War, and now we're trying to disentangled. (And "avoid entangling alliances" is old, old advice around here.)

And, for Christ sake, don't declare global wars.

Al-Qaeda declared one first, if you will remember.

But, I am not likely to be his advisor: the White House is proclaimed to be a non-smoking area.

Oh, you're real funny.

Q: Well, perhaps they would make an exception for you to smoke if you made a scene about it. . . .so, in any case, Vladimir, the last question and let's crystallize the main theme: what is the main lesson we must implement from the past in order for us to win the War on Terror?

Bukovsky: I guess old Nicolo Macchiavelli was right: once you have started a war, you have to defeat your enemy conclusively. You cannot leave him wounded and bleeding, this is too dangerous.

Yes, but then you have to be nice to him once he's defeated.

I don't mean only Saddam Hussein, but also the larger war we were engaged in for nearly 50 years. Saddam and North Korea, the Western Left and rouge regime of Putin in Russia are all just remnants of the war with Communism which we never won conclusively but stopped it one day too soon. Metaphorically speaking, this was as stupid and reckless as leaving minefields and gangs of marauders scattered in the hills after a war. I am afraid, we will be destined now in the new century to stumble into those old minefields until and unless we set ourselves a task to systematically clear those remnants of the past century's war.

It is definitely true that most of the problems we have today are due to the problems all over the world caused by the Cold War. Someone's going to have to go through the world and set up a new paradigm. Again: who will it be?
Hi everyone, I'm back.
(Catch of the day)

After a month and a half hiatus, I've decided to start posting again.

I debated for quite a while whether or not to give up on this blog. I have a very demanding life, and I can't keep up the posting rate that I would prefer. Not only do I feel that I have a lot to say, my significant ego would like to keep posting ten comments a day and attract a horrendous number of site visits. But my Real Life -- teaching, research, sports (playing and watching), and social engagements [Social engagements? For a graduate student? --ed. Yeah, I go out from time to time. You got a problem with that? Only if your bosses do. --ed.] keeps interrupting.

Nonetheless, I return. Because I feel passionately about the world, and its affairs, and I desperately want the world to be improved, and I think my ideas and my beliefs can make a difference in that improvement.

Foolish? Possibly. But I like to think Martin Luther, and Thomas Paine, and Salam Pax, thought in much the same way. And they succeeded. So why shouldn't I?

And so, it begins. Again.