War Special

I had so much good war stuff that it would make the column too long to include all of it.

This Just In

I have added a few late links:

Craig Reynolds found an interesting connection between the FBI's Echelon Program and Bin Laden in the Sunday Times. He found a humorous take at The Onion in Freedoms Curtailed In Defense Of Liberty.

Kevin Mostyn says debka.com regularly reports fairly scary news ahead of the pack.

I found a critique of Steve Kirsch's brain fingerprinting idea, which I have added to that section.

Larry King on 9/11/2001

After a spate of contributions this spring, PSACOT underwent a long dry spell without word from Larry King, an American expatriate working in London, whose dry wit never fails to raise the tone of this column. I was expecting him to supply me with a wisecracking summary of the Conservative Party leadership race, among other summer follies, and I am sure I might have received such a "letter from Europe," if not for the events of Sept. 11. Instead, I received a touching and insightful letter you should read. Here's how it ends:

Given the situation, it's foolish to talk about fighting terrorism as if it's some impersonal force of nature, like flooding or mudslides, which can be contained and countered with proper engineering and a few sensible precautions. We have to come to grips with the fact that an entire culture is opposed to our culture.
What we do after that . . . damned if I know

I don't know either, Larry. I just don't know.

Mark Twain's War Prayer

Mark Twain wrote a short story about a congregation praying for victory which was interrupted by a stranger who pointed out what would happen to the men on the other side if their prayers were answered.

It concludes, "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said."

This was very popular during the Vietnam War. You can find the full text posted here.

Mental Health Effects Survey

Bob Kaplan sent me this URL. It is for real; a Stanford MD is researching the mental health effects of the events of Sept. 11.

Disagreement Stifled

National Review Cans Columnist Ann Coulter

The editor's right; he's not a government agency, so the first amendment don't enter into it, and as a lawyer, Coulter should know better. Even though she is a right-wing telebimbo, now is not the time to be dropping columns for unpopular opinions. We need more speech, not less. What she said was reprehensible, but let's argue about it, not stifle her.

Is Normal The Best We Can Do?

Amid all the commentary, Arianna Huffington struck me with this:

Is Normal The Best We Can Do?
The Gospel of Normalcy is being preached from the bully pulpit as our leaders try to convince patriotic Americans to return as quickly as possible to their normal lives.

The best passage is near the end:

Yes, we should get back to our normal lives. But why stop there? Why not commit ourselves to larger goals and a greater purpose -- to living not merely normal lives, but better ones?

Unusually intelligent, especially for a columnist with whom I am often in disagreement.

How To Prevent Hijacking

Steve Kirsch has a very good idea for improving security. I've known him since he worked at The Tech as an undergrad. He is a serial entrepreneur, and his ideas are always quite fully baked.

Here's how his white paper starts. I suggest you go and read the whole thing.

Our goal is to eliminate terrorism, but what's the best strategy? One approach would be to try to secure each individual asset. Unfortunately, this is a hopeless battle. For example, despite years of effort, there isn't an airport in the country that cannot be easily penetrated, as the FAA's "Red team" recently discovered. Not one single airport. So what makes us think we can ever make them all safe?
We need a new approach. The best way to defeat terrorists is to: (a) disallow them entry into the US, (b) expel foreign nationals in the US who are terrorists, and (c) restrict the mobility of any terrorists who are US citizens.
However, to accomplish these objectives, we would need a relatively fast and reliable method to determine who is a terrorist and who is not. Fortunately, there is a technology that is applicable to this task. Known as brain fingerprinting, it was invented over 10 years ago by Dr. Larry Farwell, a former faculty member of the Harvard Medical School.

Kirsch also has darn good ideas on a number of other subjects.

This Just In

I found this critique of Steve's proposal in a trustworthy place.

The recent special issue of PSACOT contained a reference to a Dr. Lawence Farwell and a device (based on electroencephalographic analysis) which might be referred to as a lie detector. The New York Times published an article concerning Dr. Farwell and his device on Tuesday, October 9, 2001, page D3, titled "Truth and Justice, by the Blip of a Brain Wave." Leaving aside the fact that the article reported that one attempt to duplicate Dr. Farwell's alleged results in uncovering concealed knowledge demonstrated a 48% success rate (i.e., flipping a two-sided coin would have been a better detector) and that the article reported that another researcher in the field had been able to train people to trick the lie detector, there is a more fundamental concern.

After a full-scale governmental convention and full Congressional consideration and full consultation with state authorities, the government decided for various reasons not to use devices of the type proposed by Dr. Farwell. In taking this action, the government stated (directly relevant portion underlined):

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

The foregoing has been the law in the United States since December 15, 1791. The above quote is sometimes referred to as the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Bin Laden's Secret Goal

One of Marlow's political science teachers at Columbia wrote this:

Bin Laden's secret goal is to overthrow the House of Saud
By Paul Michael Wihbey
Contrary to much of the conventional wisdom about Osama bin Laden, the Saudi fugitive is hardly a madman. In fact, he has developed a stunningly deceptive regional war calculus that stands a reasonable chance of success.
Despite the massive build-up of allied forces, bin Laden's strategy depends on a set of well-conceived geopolitical assumptions that he fervently believes can turn Western military capability to his strategic advantage.
His strongest belief is that Saudi Arabia can be brought to its knees, the House of Saud deposed and a new theocracy, based on his version of a pure and uncontaminated Islam, can rise to power in the Arabian peninsula. Hoping to seize state power as Ayatollah Khomeini did in Iran in 1979, bin Laden plans to use Afghanistan as a staging ground for self-declared leadership in exile. The overriding goal is to return to Saudi Arabia in triumph and put an end to the existing regime.
Such an accomplishment would dramatically tilt the Middle Eastern balance of power in favour of radical forces led by Iraq, Iran, Syria and, of course, the global terrorist network. Even before the attacks on New York and Washington, bin Laden's power was felt at the highest level of the Saudi regime. Several days before the September 11 attacks, the Saudi chief of intelligence, who held that post for 25 years, Prince Turki, brother of the Saudi foreign minister, was abruptly fired from his post.
Turki was hardly a man to be dismissed in such fashion; he was responsible for Saudi affairs with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Saudi liaison with American intelligence services. It seems that Turki was the first high-ranking victim of a power struggle between two competing factions in the Saudi royal family over how to deal with American requests to neutralise bin Laden.
Turki's removal from authority portended further upheaval within the ruling elite of the House of Saud. Only two weeks later, and a week after the attack on America, reliable reports strongly suggest that the ailing King Fahd flew to Geneva with a massive entourage and now remains secluded behind the heavily protected walls of private estates registered in the name of his European business partners.
To bin Laden, King Fahd's departure can only be considered a victory in his campaign to rid Saudi Arabia of the contamination of American rule through their surrogates in the House of Saud. With King Fahd's health maintained on a 24-hour medical watch, and the Saudi royal family divided between the conservative, religious faction of Crown Prince Abdullah and that of the defence minister, King Fahd's full brother, Prince Sultan, Saudi Arabia's future political course and, with it, the stability of the Gulf is about to be decided.
Bin Laden has waited for this since 1991, when he was cast aside by the Saudis for offering his fighting forces in defence of the kingdom against Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden is intimately aware of the fragility of the Saudi power structure.
He is the scion of a family, led by his father, Mohamed, that, in the mid-1960s, engineered the transfer of the Saudi throne away from the corrupt King Saud to the pious King Faisal. In effect, Mohamed bin Laden was a king-maker and his son grew up with an intimate knowledge of the personal proclivities and weaknesses of the senior members of the ruling elite.
He came to despise what he saw as a corrupt and malignant power structure indistinguishable from the American political system. Undeterred by deference and loyalty, he understood that the legitimacy of the Saudi royal family could be undermined by championing an alternative, indigenous religious ideology. Large numbers of young disaffected Saudis felt increasingly alienated by a regime that could neither defend itself by its own means nor maintain a standard of living that has dropped from $18,000 per capita in the 1980s to $6,000 in 2000.
With a deteriorating economic and political environment, bin Laden may decide that the time is approaching to activate the thousands of Saudi dissidents in the kingdom who form the core of his support, and thereby exploit the schism between Abdullah and Sultan to launch the destabilisation of the Saudi monarchy.
Militant protests and even subversive military action targeting oil terminals and pipelines, as well as attacks on civilian and military American assets in Saudi Arabia, could disrupt American war plans and force them to think again about targeting bin Laden, the Taliban and regional terrorist networks.
It is this scenario of internal Saudi confusion and political instability that bin Laden considers the soft underbelly of American strategy. The more it is seen that the Saudi royal family can no longer maintain internal cohesion and consensus within the royal family, the greater the probability that Saudi religious dissidents will heed the call of bin Laden and rise up against the regime.
Such a scenario provides a clear escape route for bin Laden from the closing ring of fire around Afghanistan. Should he be able to escape and seek refuge among the thousands of supporters in Saudi Arabia, he will no doubt be greeted as a Mahdi, whose arrival on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia will mark a dramatically new geopolitical landscape.
The radicalisation of Iran by the ayatollahs pales by comparison. Possibilities of widespread regional conflict may emerge as the latest military equipment and the vast reserves of Saudi oil become available to facilitate bin Laden's strategic goal - to destabilise and undermine the Western economic system.
The author is strategic fellow at the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Washington DC.

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