Friday, January 22, 2010

Misc links:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ron Bailey at Reason:
Basically, China was promising to speed up the normal economic process in which the constant drive of competition pushes industries to continuously cut costs by reducing the amount of energy they use to produce goods and services. For example, the United States has cut its carbon emissions per dollar of GDP by about 45 percent since 1980, largely without government intervention.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Daniel Drezner: The Puzzle Palace of Chinese Preferences. Very good read. At some point, China will come to a head that Hayek alluded to long ago, sooner or later the economic freedom in the country will come into direct opposition with political freedom. It is truly difficult to have one without the other.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Good news for Guinea.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

With all the buzz over "counter-insurgency", there remains very little understanding of the term. Primarily, it is a low level partnership between government and local forces, as highlighted in today's profile of special forces Maj Jim Gant in the Washington Post:
In an unusual and unauthorized pact, Gant and his men were soon fighting alongside tribesmen in local disputes and against insurgents, at the same time learning ancient tribal codes of honor, loyalty and revenge -- codes that often conflicted with the sharia law that the insurgents sought to impose. But the U.S. military had no plans to leverage the Pashtun tribal networks against the insurgents, so Gant kept his alliances quiet.

No longer. In recent months, Gant, now a major, has won praise at the highest levels for his effort to radically deepen the U.S. military's involvement with Afghan tribes -- and is being sent back to Afghanistan to do just that. His 45-page paper, "One Tribe at a Time," published online last fall and circulating widely within the U.S. military, the Pentagon and Congress, lays out a strategy focused on empowering Afghanistan's ancient tribal system. Gant believes that with the central government still weak and corrupt, the tribes are the only enduring source of local authority and security in the country...

Intellectually, Gant is driven by a belief that Special Forces soldiers should immerse themselves in the culture of foreign fighters, as British officer T.E. Lawrence did during the 1916-1918 Arab revolt. In Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, Gant relied on his Special Forces training to build close bonds with local fighters, often trusting them with his life.

Too many commentators ignore the kinetic aspects and look at counter-insurgency as little more than a "soft" operation. I always grimace at the term "hearts and minds", which further obfuscates this. It is not a popularity contest. Counter-insurgency is about citizens respecting their government, demonstrating competency at the lowest level, and this includes enforcing security with sometimes violent means. Simultaneously, you gain the anti-corruption effects from Americans merely living and operating side by side with indigenous forces. The real difficulty in COIN is not getting tied up in overly local affairs.

Effective counter-insurgent operations are bottom up affairs. These wars aren't won in Washington, Kabul or Baghdad. Both the Anbar Awakening in Iraq and Bing West's Counter-insurgency classic "The Village" paint pictures of the American military engaging the enemy with local security forces at the lowest levels, demonstrating effective operations and leading from the front:
Soon afterward, Gant led those same police in fighting their way out of a complex insurgent ambush near the city of Balad, saving the lives of two policemen and an Iraqi girl while under heavy fire, and deliberately driving his Humvee over two roadside bombs to protect the police riding in unarmored trucks behind him.

Gant earned a Silver Star for his bravery, but he remembers most the goat sacrifice the police held for him that day. "We had just won a great battle. We had several [police] commandos there, with several goats, and they were putting their hands in the blood, and putting their handprints all over us and on the vehicles,"

h/t SWJ
Count Basie Remembers the Blues

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why did the Evil Empire fail?
Because a new generation of half-hearted Communists like Gorbachev were allowed to take the reins - and they just weren't evil enough to retain power. If Stalin had been in Gorby's shoes, he would have reinforced the foundations of totalitarianism by murdering a few million people...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ruins of Detroit

Monday, January 11, 2010

Foreign Policy: The Elephant in the Room. A contrarian take on India. I don't entirely buy it, but it asks why India always seems to get good press in the West.
China's Empty City:

h/t: Marginal Revolution
William Easterly helps us with some pointers on how to write about poor people.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Obama leans harder on Israel.
Report on DefenseTech: US shuts down arms shipment to Georgia in possible for working with the Israelis on an attack against Iran.

UPDATE: The Georgian Ambassador categorically denies that any scheduled arms shipment was canceled.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The always interesting Chris Blattman, on policy goals for Development Aid:
if you really wanted to waste your time the next two years you would start talking about reforming aid architecture... Coordination is the impulse of bureaucrats.

What would I do? I would stop trying to export the Patriot Act and take the long view: use what levers we have to strengthen oppositions (even the ones we don’t like), encourage more institutional checks and balances in centralized governments (i.e. almost every developing nation), and foster medium and large firms in foreign places. I think those are good bets for long term peace, security and growth.
Nigeria is an important regional power that is still struggling to emerge as a stable democracy in west Africa. The country is still dealing with two regions of domestic instability, with an ongoing insurgency in the oil producing Delta region, and violent clashes in the north. President Yar' Adua has not been seen in nearly two months while being treated for an undisclosed medical condition in Saudi Arabia. Who's on deck if the opposition gets its way and he is declared unfit? Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

via Greg Mankiw
Some interesting links on Iran I've run across lately:
  • The left-wing National Interest's article The Revolution Will Be Mercantilized, on the business dealings of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Some highlights:
    The new “military” organization of the IRGC was to be something quite different: a brotherhood of the Iranian sansculottes, an organic military force that shunned all the normal paraphernalia of the regular armed forces. It was a haphazard entity, making up for its lack of organization with revolutionary zeal...

    The oil income provided by Rafsanjani gave the IRGC access to hard currency (dollars) and the Guards, along with others in similarly privileged positions, were able to make a hefty profit by simply taking advantage of the subsidized exchange rates, and the cheap dollars this afforded them, to import goods and sell them to the Iranian public at the market rate for a huge profit. When this was coupled with political access and a network that spanned the entire Islamic Republic, competition proved increasingly easy to sideline and profits easier to make...

    Biding their time, the Guards expanded their portfolio of economic enterprises in order to increase their financial independence from the government and to avoid any unnecessary scrutiny of their activities...

    The Guards themselves became involved in similar schemes to do with satellite dishes, which were periodically outlawed because of the access they allowed to corrupting influences from the outside world. The Guards, however, took matters to another level entirely. It was widely suspected that they were involved in the illegal importation and even production of satellite dishes, which they would then sell, seize and resell. Similar suspicions abounded about the distribution of drugs, in particular opium, the traditional leisure drug of choice in Iran.
  • The soft line Hooman Majd writes in Foreign Policy downplaying the significance of the Green Revolution.
  • Finally, the very interesting three part Secrets of Khamenei's Life. Written by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a filmmaker and opposition spokesman, it provides an interesting look at the reclusive Ayatollah Khamenei. Some elements are certainly exaggerated, such as the claim attending daily prayers costs $500,000.
Copyright © Swing Right Rudie
A notebook to myself