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February 02, 2007


Global Warming, coming soon to a theater near you.
Posted by Rosa Brooks

Speaking of grim reports that the Administration probably won't listen to, I urge everyone to curl up for a few minutes with the report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Remember all those horrifying sci-fi movies about the end of the world as we know it? Or maybe you once read The Drowned World, a 1962 novel by J.G. Ballard? If you can get through the scientific bureaucratese, this report will send similar chills down your spine (and you might as well cherish those chills, because chills are going to be few and far between in the warmer global future coming inexorably our way). But the Bush Administration is still resisting mandatory emissions caps, and proposing instead that we combat global warming by putting giant mirrors into outer space.

In addition to the environmental and economic imoact of global warming, we should all be getting nervous about the national security implications of climate change. For one take on that, this 2004 Pentagon-commissioned report is worth a look.


NIE and Delusion
Posted by Michael Signer

Sorry I've been AWOL recently -- work has been a little crazy, to say the least.

It's worth reading Laura Rozen's quick hit on the newly-released National Intelligence Estimate:

My quick read sense: this does nothing to bolster the administration's case for surge, except to argue against the wisdom of a 'rapid' withdrawal. Otherwise, totally bleak. Offers very little support that this will succeed.

The WaPo describes the report:

The estimate, which represents the views of all elements of the intelligence community, presents a much grimmer picture of the situation in Iraq than the Bush administration has acknowledged in the past.

It is just amazing how many reports this Administration can produce that it won't listen to.  Kind of flips that old Fitzgerald saw about the definition of high intelligence as the ability to hold two competing ideas in your own head at the same time. 

February 01, 2007


Satellites and Space Junk
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Finally! Someone (in Switzerland!) created a blog  for civil military issues. Its got some  good article links, too. Switzerland is also the home of D-CAF   (I know what you’re thinking, but it is not something to drink with marzipan) it is the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces.

Okay, I digressed.  Really what I wanted to talk about was last week’s shoot down of an old weather satellite by China.  It’s a big problem—but not so much for the alarming “they’re comin; for us!” reasons that were in the news. No, its actually not that exciting: It is one of those pernicious global public sector problems that will get us in the end if we don't figure out a way to regulate it cooperatively. Remember that homeless garbage barge from Long Island? The one that floated around for months and thousands of miles in 1987…trying to get rid of its refuse that nobody wanted?  The satellite explosion is a bit like that.

According to this article , the satellite was a nasty oozing old thing. And now that is has been blown up, our planet has a toxic-space necklace of orbiting garbage made up of a barge worth of lethal shards. This nasty junk will now circle Earth—each piece a zillion times heavier in space than it would be in your Hazmat glove--and could possible wreak all sorts of havoc. Suppose it hit a super expensive new satellite, one that provides early warning, research data or even couch potato fare?  China’s space ambitions are nothing compared to a bunch of angry Direct TV addicts who don’t get to watch CSI.

When the Little Prince visits a planet inhabited by a geographer, he asks him “What place would you advise me to visit now?”  The geographer says “The planet Earth.  It has a good reputation”  Well, not anymore, apparently. 

John Edwards Gets Hawkish on Iran?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

There is a question mark there because I'm a bit confused. Last week, Edwards said: ""Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table, Let me reiterate – all options must remain on the table." Whatever the merits of this position, it doesn't seem to gel too well with his efforts to be the "anti-war" candidate in the Democratic primaries. I tried to look online for more Edwards statements on Iran, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot. I did find this, however, from a Post article during the 2004 elections:

A John F. Kerry administration would propose to Iran that the Islamic state be allowed to keep its nuclear power plants in exchange for giving up the right to retain the nuclear fuel that could be used for bomb-making, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards said in an interview yesterday.

Edwards's notion of proposing such a bargain with Iran, combined with Kerry's statement in December that he was prepared to explore "areas of mutual interest" with Iran, suggests that Kerry would take a sharply different approach with Iran than has President Bush.

With that said, it is tough sometimes to interpret Iran quotes, as we found out yesterday. Let's say, for example, if someone says: "any type of military action against Iran should be an absolute last resort and every effort should be made to avoid confrontation," or "we have no intention of attacking Iran" and then they say something like "all options should be left on the table," then those two statements, while different in tone, are not necessarily contradictory. The argument could be made that its possible to believe both things simultaneously.

First Ever Muslim in Israel's Cabinet
Posted by Shadi Hamid

This is a big deal:

Flanked by two bodyguards courtesy of the Israeli secret service, Raleb Majadele cruised through the corridors of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, as admirers and adversaries stopped to wish the country's first Arab Muslim minister well on his first day on the job.

January 31, 2007


RIP, Molly Ivins and Bob Drinan
Posted by Rosa Brooks

Two people I knew and admired died this week: Father Bob Drinan, the first Roman Catholic priest to be elected to Congress and a dedicated human rights activist, and Molly Ivins, syndicated columnist and dedicated Texan progressive. Both were outspoken, brave, and funny, their toughness exceeded only by their kindness and their deep commitment to justice. We need more people like them.

Failed States, or the State as Failure?
Posted by Rosa Brooks

Oy. Even my husband assures me that absolutely everything I just wrote is going to be misunderstood, and it will serve me right for sticking my nose into a hornet's nest. But as long as I'm courting controversy, let me expand on something else I said in my previous post: "Principles of democratic self-determination notwithstanding, there is no human right to statehood. The nation-state is a rather recent human invention, and not a particularly happy one. Questioning the value of a particular social-political unit-- which is all the state is-- should not be equated with questioning the right to exist of a particular group of people."

Let me draw out, here, a critique of the idea of the state as the fundamental building block of international society.

Strictly speaking, legal recognition of statehood is a matter for the international community to determine. The standard international law definition of a state is drawn from Article 1 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States: "The state as a person of international law sh