Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Who will really be running the show at the Iraq security conference?

The upcoming Iraq security conference that will include the U.S., Syria, and Iran could either be a breakthrough success or a glorious waste of time, depending on who is really calling the shots behind the scene. If the U.S. insists on exercising the primary influence, nothing good will come of the conference, not because of the U.S. per se, but because of the Neoconservative agenda. On the other hand, if Iraq is running its own show and can manage to muscle the U.S. to being a mere observer, this could be a real breakthough for Iraq.

The key to success is Iraq's ability to talk and bargain and negotiate with its neighbors, primarily Syria and Iran, as an independent state and not as a puppet of the U.S.

Yes, it is also important for the U.S. to be attending along with Iran and Syria, and to have at least superficial discussions with "the enemy", but the really important thing is for the U.S. to intentionally refrain from strongarming any of the participants.

The criteria for judging the success of the conference should be simply: Does Iraq appear to be an independent state, able to chart its own course, free from meddling by the U.S.?

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, February 26, 2007

Are the other major world powers implicitly sanctioning U.S. military action against Iran?

The Bush administration has clearly signaled its intentions to "confront" Iran over its so-called "nuclear ambitions." Athough nominally claiming an intention to pursue diplomatic approaches as its "preference", it is crystal clear that regime change is the preferred course of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. They pay only lip service to diplomacy. The question though is where this leaves the other world powers, including those on the UN Security Council. With full knowledge of the Bush administration's disdain for diplomacy and proclivity for regime change, France, Germany, Russia, China, et al are doing precious little to deter the U.S. from picking a fight with Iran. It is as if they really didn't care, as if they had the full intentions of implicitly sanctioning U.S. efforts at regime change in Iran.

Whatever the true motives of these other world powers, their lack of commitment to defusing the U.S. "runaway train" is tantamount to implicitly approving of any draconian measures that the U.S. may pursue.

So many seemingly good, smart, and capable people, but so little of anything even remotely resembling a conscience.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why we need seven political parties

I was thinking the other day about whether maybe in 2008 we need to see a third party presidential candidate. The article in The New York Times by David Kirkpatrick entitled "Christian Right Labors to Find ’08 Candidate" reminded me of the extent to which many voters feel very disenfranchised. We've had left-wing third-party candidates and right-wing candidates, but not always at the same time. It would be very interesting to have a four-way presidential election.

I envision some future election for president and Congress where we have seven major political parties:
  1. Mainstream left wing (Democrats).
  2. Mainstream right wing (Republicans).
  3. Far left wing (e.g., anti-war, environmental, Nader, etc.).
  4. Far right wing (e.g., fundamentalist Christians).
  5. Centrist leaning left.
  6. Centrist leaning right.
  7. Broad centrist "umbrella" party appealling to hardcore centrists as well as both the moderate right wing and moderate left wing, with an emphasis on tolerance not found in today's mainstream left and right wings.
I envision that this 7th party could be the larger party due to its inclusive toleranc.

Individual congressional districts or states might go with one of the other "fringe" parties and then we would see more coalition politics, but I suspect that most people would be very willing to give up a significant amount of partisan polliticking if only they knew that the "winner" would be much more respectful of their individual rights and interests.

-- Jack Krupansky

How solid is evidence of Iran pursuing nuclear weapons?

An article in the Los Angeles Times by Bob Drogin and Kim Murphy entitled "U.N. calls U.S. data on Iran's nuclear aims unreliable - Tips about supposed secret weapons sites and documents with missile designs haven't panned out, diplomats say" reports that:
... officials said the CIA and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons."Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that's come to us has proved to be wrong," a senior diplomat at the IAEA said. Another official here described the agency's intelligence stream as "very cold now" because "so little panned out."

Clearly, the proponents of confronting Iran over its alleged "nuclear ambitions" are using the same kind of dangerous connect-the-dots intelligence synthesis that was used to justify going after WMDs in Iraq.

What really bugs me is that the Democrats in Congress are asleep at the wheel and not doing anywhere near enough to confront the administration over Iran the administration's "ambitions" to attack Iran with as little regard to American interests and "blood and treasure" as we had when we "liberated" Iraq.

-- Jack Krupansky

Will U.S. generals quit if Bush orders attack on Iran?

An article on The Sunday Times (UK) by Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter entitled "US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack" reports that:

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

Fascinating, if the report is indeed true.

There are of course other wildcards. What if we want until we disengage troops from Iraq, but still have foces based in Iraq, relatively close to Iran? Will we really then not "have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion"? I'm skeptical if anyone say that is undoubtedly true. And what if Israel forces our hand by air strikes against Iran? What then? Would the generals and admirals refuse to respond? One can hope, but who really knows for sure.

I think it's safe to assume that the U.S. will not attempt to invade and occupy Iran while fully engaged in occupying and pacifying Iraq. If for no other reason than that Iran has the U.S. over a barrel and will willingly make any number of symbolic concessions and give the U.S. a symbolic diplomatic success against Iran and its so-called "nuclear ambitions" in exchange for simply allowing Iran to continue on its current path, and the idea that the U.S. will revisit Iran somewhere down the road.

-- Jack Krupansky

Will the U.S. attack Iran?

Everybody is chattering about whether the U.S. is going to invade Iran. Not having the actual answer to the question, I do have some information to share that is not generally available.

Back on December 17, 2001 there was a talk at the Heritage Foundation, a hard-right wing conservative "think tank" in Washington, D.C., entitled Victory: What It Will Take to Win at which the primary presenter was Angelo Codevilla of The Claremont Institute. He is basically a card-carrying Neoconservative. His name is not widely known, but he is one of the key formulators of the "doctrine" that guides the Neoconservatives. The talk was in fact open to the public, and I attended. That link points to what should be a video of the talk.

My recollection was that the key point of the talk was that it was not necessary for the U.S. to invade all of our ememies, but simply to invade enough and with enough firm resolve that the others would see the futility of resisting our ultimatums to bend to our will. That was in 2001, well before Iraq became the public focus of "the global war on terrorism."

The invasion of Iraq was presumed and had been talked about in earnest since 1998, and it was assumed that between Afghanistan and "success" in Iraq, that would be enough for most of the other "failed states" to cave in. In fact, Libya did cave in without any significant military threat. And we might even be seeing North Korea do at least a partial cave-in... maybe. Syria and Iran on the other hand are not showing signs of caving to "diplomatic" pressure.

So, the approach or "doctrine" espoused by Codevilla, without any opposition from his fellow Neoconservatives, probably still stands as the primary doctrine that guides whether we will invade any other countries.

My suspicion is that the Neoconservatives believe that we won't have to invade both Syria and Iran (or North Korea), but that there is a strong likelihood that we will need to invade and topple one, and that then the other will in fact cave.

The problem with the doctrine right now is that Iraq is widely viewed (outside of Neconservative circles) as a collossal failure and that neither Syria nor Iran believes that an invasion is an absolute certainty. In fact, both countries probably believe that they can embarrass the U.S., at least the U.S. Congress, into refusing to back an invasion.

All of that said, I strongly suspect that many Neoconservatives and others in the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby do in fact believe that a full military invasion of Iran will be necessary. Whether there is sufficient political support for that view is entirely debatable, but the existance of that view is not. Sure, we do in fact hear these people publicly state that their "preference" is for a diplomatic solution, but that "all options remain on the table." Most sensible people interpret that as a ruse and that the commitment to diplomacy on the part of the hard-core Neoconservatives is weak if not outright nonexistant.

My belief is that even the diehard Neoconservatives know that their own clock is ticking and that they don't have even a fraction of the support for going after Iran that they mustered for going after Iraq. A lot of their invasion talk is probably in fact the simple bluster of has-beens on their way out the door. Nonetheless, Bush and Cheney and Gates and Rice are still in power, and may be feeling desperate, so all bets are off. I would rate the probability of invading Iran in 2008 at no more than 40%, but that is definitely not zero, either.

I suspect that Iran knows that it has the U.S. and the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby and their right-wing "unipolarist" agenda over a barrel and that Iran can probably do a symbolic "cave" that allows it to remain intact and not give in to many if any of the Neoconservative demands in exchange for some mostly symbolic actions that permit the Neoconservatives to claim a symbolic "victory" ("mission accomplished"?). For example, Iran could agree to allow Russia or some sort of international consortium to operate and "control" its nuclear facilities. Iran does not want that, but it would be trivial for Iran to re-take control at some later date, and the Neoconservative agenda would be "defused."

I could well be wrong about my own suppositions and conclusion that Iran could well escape the "noose", but it is important to understand where the Neoconservatives are coming from and what they think they are trying to do.

-- Jack Krupansky

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Saturday, February 24, 2007


-- Jack Krupansky



-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Is the "surge" in Iraq working?

An article in The New York Times by Marc Santora entitled "Baghdad Plan Is a 'Success,' Iraq Prime Minister Tells Bush" tells us that Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of the First Cavalry Division in Baghdad said that "there had been a substantial reduction in violence in the past 48 hours", but then they quote him as adding a critical caveat:

They're watching us carefully... There's an air of suspense throughout the city. We believe, there's no question about it, that many of these extremists are laying low and watching to see what it is we do and how we do it. How long that will last, we don't know.

The good news is that it could have been a whole lot worse, if the insurgents had decided to step up their own attacks.

Now the question is whether the insurgents are in fact intentionally lying low waiting for complacency to set in, or whether they might in fact simply try to outwait the U.S. forces and regroup for renewed activity in a year or eighteen months.

Most sensible people are likely to presume that the initial calm will not likely be any more than a calm before a storm.

My belief is that the insurgents are primarily interested in fighting U.S. troops as long as they are in Iraq but would be equally joyful if the U.S. departed. They can wait and fight or simply wait. Which they do will be anybody's guess.

My suspicion is that random events are more likely to determine the outcome. Eventually somebody is likely to lose patience and do something stupid. In general, one act of stupidity tends to lead to a downwards spiral of stupid responses. It is also possible that somebody might do something that is not clearly stupid but that could be misinterpreted in a stupid manner.

Do not forget that "the fog of war" tends not to be an accurate characterization of the degree of rational behavior that can be expected in an armed conflict.

-- Jack Krupansky

Requirements for troops in Iraq

I like this new approach to preventing President Bush from escalating the war in Iraq, namely, by blocking new deployments by requiring troops to meet a series of conditions and training guidelines. It makes perfect sense and only an idiot or insane person could argue against requiring fresh troops to have proper training. To me, it seems unconscionable for troops being sent into the line of fire not to have a proper rest from the front line, proper personal protection, proper vehicle protection, proper rest, a clear mission, a date certain that will be able to leave, and a commander in chief who refuses to seek the support of the representatives of the people.

But, it seems rather silly to me to resort to such a convoluted strategy rather than simply pulling the plug and simply cutting funding until the President submits a "war plan" that Congress is overwhelmingly willing to fund.

And, I would say that if Congress doesn't feel strongly enough about the quagmire in Iraq to push for impeachment, then maybe they should simply say their piece and promptly sit down, shut up, and stay out of the way.

Congress should either support the President (albeit with reservations) or impeach him, but hog-tying him seems like a glorious waste of time, even though it is sure to score bonus political points and be loads of fun to boot.

In short, if Congress wishes to add requirements for deploying fresh troops to Iraq, that's great and I'm all for it, but Congress should then also have the common sense to give the President amble time and resources to implement those new "requirements."

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Connecting the dots over Iran: maybe the dots aren't so connected

Yesterday I posted for a second day about the dangerous connect-the-dots approach to intelligence that the U.S. is engaged in over Iran and how it is just as unlikely to be correct as our so-called intelligence about WMDs in Iraq before the "liberation" of Iraq. Today, in an article in the Washington Post by Karen DeYoung entitled "Pace Demurs on Accusation of Iran - General Says He Knows Nothing Tying Leaders to Arms in Iraq", when pressed, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, clearly distanced himself from the allegations that the government of Iran is directly involved with supplying arms to the insurgency in Iraq, saying that what he "would not say is that the Iranian government, per se, knows about this" and that he "would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit." Clearly he knows how weak the case is, but he is stuck between his political masters and a hard place.

Elements of the Pentagon and White House are both all but saying that the government of Iran is arming the insuregncy in Iraq. Or as The Post puts it:

Pace's comments came a day after U.S. military officials in Baghdad alleged that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government have directed use of weapons that are killing U.S. troops in Iraq. No information was provided to substantiate the charge. Administration officials yesterday deflected requests for more details, even as they repeatedly implied Tehran's involvement.
[My emphasis.]

This is classic Neoconservative "connect the dots" promotion of a position that is not sustained by hard-core facts. If they did have the facts, they could simply let the facts stand by themselves. But lacking hard-core facts, they have to rely on exploiting fear, emotion, and raw passion and resort not only to implying connections where none exist, but repeatedly implying a unsustained conclusion. Back in the old days, they had a name for this: "The Big Lie." Tell a lie repeatedly, loud enough, and with enough passion, and people will eventually believe it. This is a shameful way to run a government, but to the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby, the ends do in fact justify the means.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dangerous connect-the-dots intelligence rears its ugly head again - Part II

Yesterday I posted about the dangerous connect-the-dots approach to intelligence that the U.S. is engaged in and how it is just as unlikely to be correct as our so-called intelligence about WMDs in Iraq before the "liberation" of Iraq. Today the U.S. military gave a semi-secret briefing to the media to lay out the "evidence" of an alleged link between Iran and the insurgency in Iraq. I wish I could report to you my impressions of the evidence, but the U.S. military is not providing the evidence to the public. My guess is that the Pentagon knows that the public is unlikely to buy the official line, but that maybe they were hopeful that maybe a few opportunistic Pro-Israel journalists will spoon feed the public a story that at least partially benefits the Pentagon' pre-determined conclusion.

By definition, the media reports of the Pentagon "display" of evidence are vague and sketchy, to the point of us needing to ask the obvious question of why bother. The answer is that the Pentagon's political masters and shadow puppetmasters, the Neoconservatives, honestly and sincerely believe that they can actually control and manipulate and direct the media as long as they concoct the right story and keep the media on a very short leash.

Here is some of the media coverage:

There was very little new information from this semi-secret briefing. It seemed exclusively designed to manipulate emotion and passion rather than to make a solid case.

The fact that the briefing was done so secretively and with such deliberate and acknowledged anonymity renders the whole affair to be a completely non-credible effort.

I'll give some examples from the media coverage that in their own words challenge the Pentagon's credibility.


During the briefing, the senior United States military officials were repeatedly pressed on why they insisted on anonymity in such an important matter affecting the security of American and Iraqi troops. A senior military official said that without anonymity, for example, the military analyst could not have contributed to the briefing.

The official also criticized recent news reports, saying they overstated the importance of today’s presentation, which had been previously announced and then delayed. The delay came about in part because officials in Washington had not been as persuaded as those in Baghdad that the original presentation was sufficiently strong. Officials here did not address that element of the internal debate.

Stars & Stripes:

“If Iran ceased tomorrow to provide extremists with weaponry, munitions and training, there would still be sectarian violence existing in this country,” said the senior defense official. “But what they are doing is acting as an accelerant to sectarian violence here.”


The U.S. military said the munitions are being provided to Shiite groups in Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds force, which answers directly to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But they don't have a very strong evidence of a linkage between Shiites and Quds force, nor do they have any evidence that Iran's leadership directed the Quds forces to engage in the transfer of weapons.


The briefing on Iran was revised heavily after officials decided it was not ready for release as planned last month.

Suggesting that the Pentagon knew what pre-determined conclusion they wished to present, but needed to "fix" the intelligence to match the conclusion.


The display appeared to be part of the White House drive that has empowered U.S. forces in Iraq to use all means to curb Iranian influence in the country, including killing Iranian agents.

Yes, finally we get to the true agenda, having nothing to do with whether Iran supplied arms.


"We know more than we can show," said one of the senior officials, when pressed for tangible evidence that the Epps were made in Iran.

That's a direct admission that the Pentagon realizes that they haven't presented a solid case. Clearly, they were pressured into making these claims against Iran by their political masters and the shadow Neoconservative puppetmasters.

Washington Post:

"The supreme leader's side of the government is the side of the government that we are most concerned about, because they are the policy making side of the government," the analyst said. "The Quds force basically takes directions from the supreme leader."

What is this "basically" takes direction? Either we have solid evidence that direction was given or we don't. I think we're seeing the connect-the-dots fabrication process in action.

Washington Post:

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, is less directly involved, the analyst said. "It doesn't really matter what he thinks. He's not the supreme leader."

What does "less directly involved" really mean? This is essentially nonsense. These "analysts" are engaged in creative storytelling. They can't credibly claim that Iran is involved with the Iraq insurgency and then suggest that the President of Iran is not involved in any significant way.

Who knows, maybe it is a rogue operation. Maybe the government of Iran is not as monolithic and focused as some "analysts" claim.

Washington Post:

The officials said they would speak only on the condition of anonymity so the trio's explosives expert and analyst, who would normally not speak to reporters, could provide more information. The analyst's exact job description was not revealed to reporters. Reporters' cell phones were taken before the briefing, and the officials did not allow reporters to record or videotape the proceedings.

I'm sorry, but any kind of "briefing" held under such heavy-handed duress is clearly meant to be manipulative and controlling and is simply not credible. This is psychological warfare against free speech.

The "analyst" is making verbal, rhetorical claims whose veracity cannot be verified. Journalists, let alone the public, are unable to verify the background, competence, or possible political motivation of the analysts in order to judge or probe the quality of the "information" being presented by the analyst.

This is far worse than the UN Security Council presentation on Iraq by Colin Powell or Tony Blair's Iraq dossier.

Whatever lingering credibility the Pentagon may have had, they just sunk to yet another new low.

It wouldn't surprise me if all manner of arms were being smuggled across the Iran border, but as I said yesterday, it is a huge leap from alleging that arms were made in Iran to tagging the Iranian government as directing the flow of arms. If the Pentagon feels they can make such a case, let them. So far, they haven't offered up such a case.

The Neoconservatives must be so proud of themselves that they present such a case and couch it in terms that suggest that they cannot be challenged:

The Iranians tend to use Iraqi smugglers along three main entrance routes into Iraq, the analyst said. "The smoking gun of an Iranian standing over an American with a gun, it's never going to happen," he said. "It's plausible deniability, I mean, they invented it."

In other words, by definition, the Pentagon is saying that there will never be a smoking gun. How can they possibly know that, unless they simply know that there was never any gunshot, so hence there could not be any smoking gun? This aspect of this latest intelligence episode has the Neoconservative fingerprints all over it.

-- Jack Krupansky

Does Barack Obama have his own personal campaign blog?

Okay, so U.S. Senator Barack Obama is supposed to be the new, young, "fresh face" kid on the block. So, he should be "net savvy", right? Well, maybe he isn't. Simply hiring people to do all that "net stuff" is not good enough if you are trying and need to distance yourself from the old-school politicians. Techmeme drew my attention to a blog post by A VC entitled "That's Not How You Do It Obama" that complains that:

I had high hopes for Barack Obama's net savvy. But today his campaign blew it. I heard that he announced his candidacy for President today in Springfield, IL, where Lincoln did the same thing almost 150 years ago. I decided to go see the video. I went to Obama's website and clicked on the video. Turns out it only plays in Internet Explorer. Firefox and Apple users were directed to another link that didn't work for me. That sucks.
[My emphasis.]

But, A VC does flip flop and turn around and praise Obama:

But despite all the bungles today and they made a bunch, I do think Obama's team gets the net. They just have some work to do to get it right. The Obama website is certainly a lot better than Hillary's. So is Edward's for that matter. Both Obama and Edwards have links to flickr, youtube, facebook, and myspace pages on their home page. That's smart.
[My emphasis.]

What bugs me is that so many people believe it is only "the team" that is supposed to "get the net", and there appears to be little effort to get the candidates themselves to engage in online conversations on a daily basis.

I don't expect the old-school politicians to be savvy and comfortable enough to get into "this blog thing", but if you want to be truly hard-core "net savvy", start personally posting to a personal blog.

I see something called "Community Blogs" on the Obama web site, but no sign of a personal campaign blog with posts authored by the candidate himself on a regular basis.

If Obama wants to be treated as "net savvy", he personally need to be net savvy, including a personal blog. It is not about knowledge or nice words... it is about commitment and action.

I await his (personal) reply... but I'm not holding my breath.

Maybe he simply feels that he is "too busy" to talk with us. Maybe he feels it is beneath him.

My personal advice to all of the campaigns: have your guy allocate 20 minutes of every day to doing a brief blog post. Not a full-length essay, but just a few quick thoughts about how events of that day affected him or hopes and expectations he has for the following day, or a reply to something staff may have found on some other blog. Something. Anything. But show us that he really does care what we think and actually does want to have a conversation rather than merely collect our votes.

I send that challenge not just to Obama since he is supposed to be the new-new guy, but to all of the candidates. I would love to see Hillary follow my advice, but I'm not holding my breath on that either.

-- Jack Krupansky

Can Hillary win with her lack of strong anti-war rhetoric?

There are certainly plenty of anti-war activists who will accept nothing less than a commitment to getting out of Iraq right now. Alas, the pragmatists and centrist such as Hillary, feel an obligation to tell the truth and tell us that it an't so simple. That will certainly cost her votes in the primaries, much as it cost Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut senatorial primary, but it isn't clear that it would cost her much at the national level or in the general election. She could very well lose all of those hard-core anti-war activists in the primaries, but the truth is that those activists will be split between Obama and Edwards, turning it into more of a three-way race. And, there will be plenty of states where pragmatism and centrism will carry the day. Further, there are plenty of Democrats who would rather simply win the presidency in 2008 even if it requires compromising on things like the feistiness of anti-war rhetoric.

In my personal view, the anti-war focus on Iraq is extremely misguided. The real focus should be on keeping out of Iran. Mistakes were made with Iraq, on both sides of the aisle. Did we learn anything from them? If so, let's apply those lessons to how we deal with Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, and the whole so-called "war on terror." Why aren't the anti-war activists focusing the lion share of their attention on the efforts of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby to fight a war with Iran? I'd like to hear their answers.

My own personal support for Hillary is tempored by her ties to the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. That is one source for her unwillingness to put more distance between herself and the "liberation" of Iraq. The good news is that her ties are relatively weak, mostly financial and pragmatic, and not deep ideological commitments such as is the case with the Neoconservatives.

Edwards is too much of a slick lawyer for me and not enough of a pragmatist or centrist. There is no way I can support his "type"... unless he starting changing his stripes and shifts towards more of a mainstream pragmatist and centrist. I think that is unlikely given his support base, but it's possible.

Obama is... a great unknown. He is clearly surfing the anti-war political winds quite well, but I haven't heard much to convince me that he has the kind of pragmatic, centrist credentials to carry the general election. Most of the press coverage focuses on his being "a new face" without political baggage and who he is as a person, but I don't care about any of that and am interested in his policy aspirations, in particular whether or not he has a deep commitment to pragmatism and centrism as opposed to left-wing activism and rhetoric.

I've voted Democrat for president since 1976. I'd vote for Hillary, but if the election were tomorrow and the choices were Edwards or Obama vs. McCain, I'd reluctantly switch parties and vote for McCain. I'm not attracted to McCain's policies per se, but I couldn't vote for Edwards and I'm too unimpressed with Obama to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The good news is that the activists are putting plenty of pressure on Hillary and that can only make her stronger and even more pragmatic. I'd much rather see her play the underdog in the primaries and grow through that process than simply float up to the nomination on a wave of euphoric acclamation.

Sure, a lot of people don't want to vote for Hillary and a lot of her "baggage", but winning the general election in 2008 is the real and only true objective... at least for most of us apart from a minority of left-wing activists.

Who will I vote for in the primary? I don't vote in the primaries since I'm an independent and I don't consider myself a "member" of any "party."

I still see the 2008 general election as being Hillary vs. McCain, the winner being... a coin flip. If the "surge" in Iraq works, McCain will be golden, but that appears to be a low probability scenario. If it doesn't, people are likely to want to simply vote against the Republicans, but it will be a coin flip whether they would really be willing to vote for Edwards or Obama. With Edwards or Obama against McCain on a failed surge in Iraq, my belief is that some portion of voters will simply not vote at all. That allows them to withhold their vote from the Republicans, but also withhold their vote from a weak Democrat as well.

It will be all so confusing if Hillary isn't the Democratic Nominee, but it is in fact up to the Democrats to make their own choice.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dangerous connect-the-dots intelligence rears its ugly head again

If you thought the "intelligence" that got us into the Iraq quagmire was really bad, we are now seeing a replay of the same horribly misguided "connect the dots" approach used with regard to what role Iran may be playing in the Iraq "insurgency."

Before I go on, let me remind you that we wouldn't be seeing this "insurgency" if the U.S. hadn't created the Iraq quagmire in the first place. Iran is no angel, but blaming Iran for the insurgency is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

In an article in The New York Times by Michael Gordon entitled "Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says" the U.S. appear to be placing a misguided degree of emphasis on an alleged role of Iran in the Iraq insurgency. The essence of the "connect the dots" intelligence ruse is to take a lot shopping list of small or vague or dubious fragments of evidence and assertions and then start making very strong statements that are far out of proportion to the loose and weak nature of the underlying "evidence". The proponents of connect-the-dots intelligence are counting on raw emotion and passion to make up for the lack of any conclusive, hard evidence. Sure, occasionally they have alleged hard evidence, but all to often they simply are refusing alternative explanations or depending on exaggerated extrapolations to give the illusion of a strong claim based on minimal or vague evidence.

To be sure, I wouldn't be surprised if quite a number of Iranians were involved in Iran, but the leap from being Iranian to hard evidence that the individuals are acting at the direction of the Iranian government is quite a leap. The key question is whether the evidence justifies that leap. Given the record of the intelligence agencies before the invasion of Iraq, one would be best advised to maintain a skeptical ear. The connect-the-dots strategy for "intelligence" is simply not credible.

In the Times article we find all manner of weasel words that scream out at us about the weak nature of the "proof" of Iran's involvement in Iraq. To wit:

  1. "... United States intelligence asserts ..."
  2. "... The assertion of an Iranian role  ..."
  3. "... although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete ..."
  4. "... provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim ..."
  5. "... Any assertion of an Iranian contribution ..."
  6. "... The officials said they were not trying to lay the basis for an American attack on Iran."
  7. "... Administration officials said they recognized that intelligence failures related to prewar American claims about Iraq’s weapons arsenal could make critics skeptical about the American claims."
  8. "... The link that American intelligence has drawn to Iran ..."
  9. ".. militants believed to be working at the behest of Tehran."
  10. "... what intelligence agencies regard as an increasing body of evidence pointing to an Iranian link ..."
  11. "... Some American intelligence experts believe ..."
  12. "... All source reporting since 2004 indicates ..."
  13. "... Iran is assessed ..."
  14. "... The likely aim is  ..."
  15. "... Other officials believe ..."
  16. "... Iranians are also believed ..."
  17. "... Assessments by American intelligence agencies say ..."
  18. "... adding to the view that the device is an Iranian-supplied and Shiite-employed weapon ..."

Once again we are faced with political masters who have a pre-determined conclusion and agenda and are seeking to "fix" the intelligence around that view.

Why would they do this again when they know how bad things turned out last time? Simple: It worked before. Sure, their public claims were proven false, but that had the opportunity to pursue their real agenda. The Democrats in Congress continue to be asleep at the wheel and appear to be once again poised to accept this connect-the-dots form of "intelligence" to set American foreign policy.

-- Jack Krupansky

Will Iraq be "doomed" if current U.S. mission fails?

The subtitle for a Reuters article entitled "Petraeus: Baghdad crackdown must succeed" says "New commander says 'mission doable' but Iraq will be 'doomed' if it fails." I do not buy that at all. Actually the full quote from General Petraeus was:

The mission is doable...The prospects for success are good. Failing that, Iraq will be doomed to continuing violence and civil strife and surely that is a prospect all must strive to avoid.

So, that is a somewhat different usage of the term doomed.

In truth, there are some very real things that will be "doomed" if the current U.S. mission fails:

  1. The credibility of Petraeus himself.
  2. The credibility of Defense Secretary Gates and the rest of his Pentagon staff.
  3. The credibility of Preseident Bush and his team for their misguided vision, strategy, and execution, and their misguided agenda for invading Iraq in the first place.
  4. The credibility of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby for pushing the concepts of "liberation", "freedom", "democracy", "war on terror", etc. all to justify invading Iraq to pursue their own agenda that had nothing to do with the events of 9/11.
  5. The efforts of the U.S. to shape and be in control of the form of government in Iraq.
  6. The efforts of the U.S. to shape and be in control of Iraq's relations with Syria and Iran.
  7. The efforts of the U.S. to shape and be in control of Iraq's attitude towards Israel.
  8. The efforts of the U.S. to maintain a military presence in Iraq as a component of its misguided policies towards Iran (and Syria).
  9. The overall credibility of the U.S. for not pursuing a rational peace plan for the Middle East.

But, Iraq itself is not "doomed." To be sure, Iraq will see a lot of chaos and strife as Iraqi power bases incrementally wend themselves towards some form of "accommodation", both between groups within Iraq and with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria.

It may take three to five years, but eventually Iraq will settle down to being a relatively peaceful neighbor in the Middle East. Yes, the process to get there will be chaotic, but the continued presence and participation of the U.S. and its military force and meddling bureaucrats and Neoconservative agenda is a distinct impediment to that process. The U.S. is actively preventing Iraq from navigating the shoals of democracy. The U.S. needs to get out and it needs to do it as soon as possible. The mere presence of the U.S. is adding to this feeling of "doom" that some speak of.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Media confusion over enriched unranium vs. weapons-grade uranium

I read a rather misleading headline for an article in The Independent by Anne Penketh entitled "Iran steps up production of weapons-grade uranium". In fact, if you read the article, there is not even a single reference to weapons-grade uranium production. Yes, Iran is ramping up enrichment of uranium, but there is a huge gap between enriching uranium (to the level needed to fuel a nuclear power plant) and enriching it to the level needed for producing nuclear weapons.

Weapons-grade uranium is not an amount of uranium, but a very high ratio (90%) of the U-235 isotope relative to the more common U-238 isotope. Achieving that high ratio takes a significantly greater level of sophistication than building a plant capable of enriching uranium sufficient for use in a nuclear power plant.

The open question is whether the journalist (or her editor) made an honest mistake, or was there an actual intent to deceive the public.

We'll have to see if they post a correction.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Bush tax increase coming?

We always read about President Bush and his tax cuts and how unwilling he is to consider reducing those tax cuts to cut the federal budget deficit, but now I read that he is proposing to increase my income taxes. I am not rich, hardly better off than your average mid-range professional, so raising my income taxes seems like an odd thing for President Bush to be proposing. Nonetheless, here is what I read in a Washington Post article by Michael A. Fletcher entitled "Bush reaches out to Democrats":

Under Bush's health-care-coverage plan, the federal government would create a tax deduction to offset the cost of health insurance. The value of employer-provided health insurance that exceeds the deduction would be taxed as income.

I happen to work for a fairly large company that does provide a reasonable level of health insurance that is well above average and "free" to me. I would have to pay tax on the excess value of that coverage over the federal deduction. Ouch.

Adding insult to injury, I personally don't even need all of that health care coverage, being single and rather healthy (I don't even get colds or flu anymore). Sure, someday I may need that coverage. When it's "free", it is not a big deal, but the thought that I would have to pay for something I don't need does not seem fair at all.

In truth, my employer does provide a number of health care coverage options and I could even get cash back for less coverage, but it is unclear whether I would still be able to get below the federal threshold so that I wouldn't have to pay extra tax.

I opt to get the full coverage because the reduced coverage gives me only a small amount of cash back. But, with the federal excess being taxed, it is very likely that the tax savings by reducing my coverage would significantly exceed the modest cash back which happens to be taxable as well. The details remain to be seen.

As my former account liked to say, what goes into the "tax goose" in Congress rarely resembles what comes out the other end of that goose. Promises vs. reality. You get the picture.

Whether the new Bush plan will become law is a very open question.

But it is worth considering how it might affect your own personal budget and financial situation.

-- Jack Krupansky