Back from Doha

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Consider this an open thread. Have been scrambling a lot today upon returning to Washington.
Big news in town is the debate over what to do in Libya — and what to regarding Japan. Both are enormous problems. The world is racing faster than we can process what is going on.
The debate about the No Fly Zone is morphing into a different kind of discussion — those who are thinking carefully about what, if anything, can be done to help the Libyan opposition and protect human life from Gaddafi’s revenge — and those who want to to do anything at all that would symbolize, if not deliver, American and Western support for the Opposition. In my book, this is the time to shelve emotion — and to think through very carefully what would make an on-the-ground difference and not delegitimate the Opposition and what would not.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

33 comments on “Back from Doha

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    This might become costly for non-subscribing addicts of The
    New York Times:
    “A Letter to Our Readers About Digital Subscriptions
    Published: March 17, 2011
    Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as
    we introduce digital subscriptions. It

    Reply

  2. Paul Norheim says:

    There was an interesting article in the Guardian today – excerpt:
    “Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
    Exclusive: Military’s ‘sock puppet’ software creates fake online identities to spread pro-
    American propaganda
    Nick Fielding and Ian Cobain
    guardian.co.uk,
    Thursday 17 March 2011 13.19 GMT
    The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media using
    fake online personas designed to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American
    propaganda.
    A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with the US Central Command
    (Centcom) to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will
    allow one serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities at once.
    The contract stipulates each persona must have a convincing background, history and
    supporting details, and that up to 50 controllers must be able to operate false identities from
    their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”.
    The project has been likened by web experts to China’s attempts to control and restrict free
    speech on the internet.
    Centcom’s contract requires the provision of one “virtual private server” in the United States
    and eight appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real
    people located in different parts of the world. It calls for “traffic mixing”, blending the
    persona controllers’ internet usage with the usage of people outside Centcom in a manner
    that must offer “excellent cover and powerful deniability”.
    Once developed the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in
    one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with a host of co-ordinated
    blogposts, tweets, retweets, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract
    suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special
    Operations Command.
    Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: “The technology supports classified
    blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent
    extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”
    He said none of the interventions was in English, as it would be unlawful to “address US
    audiences” with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom
    was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include
    Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.
    The multiple persona contract is thought to have been awarded as part of a programme called
    Operation Earnest Voice (OEV), which was first developed in Iraq as a psychological warfare
    weapon against the online presence of al-Qaida supporters and others ranged against
    coalition forces. Since then OEV is reported to have expanded into a $200m programme and
    is thought to have been used against jihadists across Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle
    East.
    OEV is seen by senior US commanders as a vital counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation
    programme. In evidence to the US Senate’s armed services committee last year, General David
    Petraeus, then commander of Centcom, described the operation as an effort to “counter
    extremist ideology and propaganda and to ensure that credible voices in the region are
    heard”. He said the US military’s objective was to be “first with the truth”.
    This month Petraeus’s successor, General James Mattis, told the same committee that OEV
    “supports all activities associated with degrading the enemy narrative, including web
    engagement and web-based product distribution capabilities”.””
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks
    ——————————
    I would guess that foreign policy blogs like this one will become more and more interesting
    for this kind of cyber-creeps in the future.

    Reply

  3. rc says:

    I’ll be more impressed and sympathetic when the Japanese have stopped their bullsh*t whaling ‘research’ programs. At present it just looks like: Whales – 3 : Tokyo – 0

    Reply

  4. Paul Norheim says:

    Speaking of Libya; isn’t this just back to normal” – i.e. 1969-2003? Gaddafi being the
    brutal, shrewd and unpredictable pariah he always was – albeit with more visible internal
    tensions and old provincial conflicts resurfacing?
    What actually sparked the revolt in Libya, was the detention in Benghazi, on February 15
    2011, of Fathi Terbil, a human rights lawyer who represents the families of around 1200
    inmates who were massacred in 1996 by the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli’s Abu Slim prison.
    Fathi Terbil’s detention preceded a planned protest on February 17, in which the families
    of these inmates were to have participated. Who were these inmates? Criminals? Political
    prisoners? Islamists? Perhaps more of the latter, but I haven’t yet found any concrete info
    on this. But that’s the local events that sparked the revolt.
    One may ask whether the events in Libya are halting the momentum of the Arab
    revolution? Yes, probably – because the Libyan revolt and civil war is viewed within the
    same optics and narrative as the events in the neighboring countries – a narrative it only
    partially belongs to. The tribal and Islamist components and the conflict between the
    provinces within the country (a conflict preceding Gaddafi’s rule), as well as the absence
    of even the caricatures of basic democratic institutions make Libya a very special case.
    But also a tempting focus, due to the spectacularly dressed villain who rules the country.
    The outcome aside: the more the Western powers get openly and directly involved in the
    civil war in Libya, the more we risk that this particular conflict is transformed into “us”
    versus “them” – a conflict that is actually first and foremost a “Libyan” conflict that
    preceded the short period when Gaddafi was regarded as an “ally” of the West.
    Like it or not, but this revolution also has an “African” dimension. Within the narrative of
    the Arab awakening, Libya is kind of a distraction – just like the (latent) conflict in an oil
    rich and messy African country like Angola would represent a distraction.
    I personally have no doubt that there will be more “distractions” like Libya in the not so
    distant future in several countries south of Sahara (among the likely candidates:
    Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Angola, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda…). But in the context of the Arab
    awakening, the monarchies on the Arabian peninsula represent a challenge that goes to
    the contemporary core of this revolt, starting in Tunisia; and the West “owns” this
    particular conflict to a much larger degree than they are responsible for the situation in
    Libya.
    Luckily – both for us and for them – the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt did not focus on
    us – although we certainly would have deserved the blame, since we supported their
    autocratic leaders. I’m afraid this lucky phase of the revolution has passed. From now off,
    it will not only be more messy, but it will also be much more about us, the West, and our
    alliances with the decadent and absolute monarchies on the Arab peninsula. Our support
    of some of the worst regimes on the planet, and especially our support of the Saudi
    family, goes to the core of our dilemma and our responsibility, to a much larger degree
    than the Libyan conflict. The latter happened as much despite of, as because of us.
    As for the Arab awakening and our role in it, I would suggest that we focus more on
    events in places like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia right now. In the overall picture of the
    “Arab awakening”, the biggest and most direct challenges and dilemmas for “us” (as well
    as for the inhabitants in the region) are related to the oil rich, deeply conservative and
    religious monarchies on the Arab peninsula.

    Reply

  5. DonS says:

    “That little twerp is so lucky to be an American.”
    Indeed. That is exactly the critical question that is being sorted out.
    It shouldn’t take luck to insure so-called American, Constitutional, human rights to be to be applied to a individual who is:
    — gay
    — whistle blower
    — untried, unconvicted
    — no suicidal documentation
    Indeed. Manning has had anything but luck. He has had the nasty black side of the American national security obsession-perversion, representing the accelerating erosion of actual American values, never in favor of the little man in the first place, come down on him like a ton of bricks.
    It’s a wee bit encouraging to see this travesty gaining the least bit of attention across a reasonably broad spectrum, for whatever reasons.

    Reply

  6. Don Bacon says:

    Gawd — I thought this Oz-guy was gone.
    news report:
    FOREIGN Minister Kevin Rudd hit out at G8 nations for failing to back the establishment of a flight-exclusion zone over Libya.
    I didn’t know Kevin could fly.

    Reply

  7. Don Bacon says:

    kotz, you’re wrong when you say “While the Opposition forces are grievously pounded by Gaddafi

    Reply

  8. kotzabasis says:

    This is political vaudeville at its best. While the Opposition forces are grievously pounded by Gaddafi

    Reply

  9. Don Bacon says:

    They threw a gay Army soldier into a Marine brig and got just the results they were looking for, humiliation and torture. The Marines are looking for a few good men, and sending the rest to perdition. From 2006: “Two students from Mendocino High School in Northern California are suing the Marine Corps in San Francisco federal court, alleging that they were raped by recruiters.”
    Shores of Tripoli. And the piss-ant in chief says ‘so what.’

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Oh Don, doncha know?
    In Bubbaland, USA, guilt is established by simple accusation. When implemented its a process that allows sticking objects in assholes, hanging people from their wrists, stacking them up in naked piles, putting leashes on them, freezing them, herding them into storage containers until they asphyxiate in searing heat, and detaining them indefinitely on the merit of a simple accusation.
    And whats more, you’re a “great American” if you advocate for this system of “justice”.
    Who can doubt that Drew has an American flag flying from the antennae of his transister AM radio????? Semper FI, and let God sort ’em out, doncha know?

    Reply

  11. JohnH says:

    Drew must be thinking about Israeli occupied territories.
    Or maybe he’s thinking about Rachel Corrie, Furkan Dogan, or the 34 killed aboard the USS Liberty…

    Reply

  12. Don Bacon says:

    drew: “That little twerp is so lucky to be an American. In all but 10 other
    countries, he would already be shot.”
    Actually, in most other countries “that little twerp,” who hasn’t been convicted of anything, wouldn’t have been tortured or shot either.
    But it sounds like drew would be more comfortable in 190+ other unspecified countries where un-convicted people are summarily shot. Like where, drew?

    Reply

  13. Don Bacon says:

    Mar 15, 2011
    Authorized Departure of DoD Dependents From Bahrain
    By COMUSNAVCENT/5th Fleet Public Affairs
    The Department of Defense approved an authorized departure today for eligible DoD family members and non-essential civilian personnel living in Bahrain. Families of military personnel and DoD civilian employees are authorized to voluntarily depart Bahrain due to the ongoing demonstrations and continued unrest.
    This announcement aligns with the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning permitting the authorized departure of U.S. Embassy Manama eligible family members issued late March 14 and will remain in effect until the Department of State terminates the authorized departure. Operations at U.S. Fifth Fleet and NSA Bahrain remain normal, and U.S. service members and family members are not being evacuated.

    Reply

  14. drew says:

    Oh, great. The tragic victimization of Bradley Manning.
    That little twerp is so lucky to be an American. In all but 10 other
    countries, he would already be shot.
    And Ezra Klein, weighing in? Does Ezra have his own car yet? Does
    his mother let him stay out after midnight on weeknights?

    Reply

  15. DonS says:

    Re Bradley Manning —
    ” The forced nudity imposed on Bradley Manning followed by the forced resignation of P.J. Crowley has clearly created a media tipping point in this story. In addition to the scathing New York Times Editorial from Monday (Manning’s treatment “conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects”), editorial condemnation has now come from The Los Angeles Times (“punishment, not protection, is the purpose of these degrading measures”) and The Guardian (“There was at least the ghost of an excuse for bullying foreign combatants but no US need for mistreating one of their own”). Perhaps most notably, even the military-revering, establishment-defending Washington Post Editorial Page today emphatically condemns these conditions as “uncomfortably close to the kind of intimidating and humiliating tactics disavowed after the abuses at the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons that eroded the country

    Reply

  16. Don Bacon says:

    JohnH: “Qadhafi has the West right where he wants it. After coming in from the cold a few years ago, he now understands the meaning of Western loyalty.”
    You got that right, well said. He’ll probably gain some true friends out of this, like Iran and Venezuela. Turkey? It’s stick it to Uncle Samuel time, for good reason.
    OT: Where’s questions? My down-scrolling finger is suffering for lack of use.

    Reply

  17. drew says:

    Don, I opposed intervention in Libya. But I did not oppose
    somebody in the neighborhood doing something to protect the
    revolutionaries, who seemed to believe that the USA would
    intervene. I think, in this respect, I am on the same page as our
    stalwart bracketology dude, who said — twice — over several days
    — the the “noose is tightening” around Gaddafi’s somewhat
    unattractive throat. Obviously, the presidents rhetoric should have
    carried the day. I have no idea why it did not.
    The time is past for the USA to intervene in the Middle East. They
    hated us for our two prior invasions; now it is their’s to police. No
    more mercenary action on behalf of people who profess hatred for
    us. Robert Taft: our new secretary of state.

    Reply

  18. Don Bacon says:

    Libya is finished? I would say it would have been more “finished” if some rag-tag protesters would have eased the country to a takeover from god knows who.
    Libya was a staunch U.S. ally last year. No more. That’s the finished part.
    Now the interventionists can talk about attacking the king of Bahrain. Good luck on that, too.

    Reply

  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    THE ROVING EYE
    House of Saud ‘liberates’ Bahrain
    By Pepe Escobar
    To follow Pepe’s articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here…..
    http://atimes.com/atimes/others/Pepe2011.html
    United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Bahrain to meet King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Saturday. Saudi Arabia invades Bahrain on Monday. This has got to be just a coincidence; Gates and the king were obviously discussing the fortunes of Ferrari and MacLaren in the (postponed) Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain.
    Moreover, this walks like an invasion, talks like an invasion, but it’s not really an invasion, as White House spokesman Jay Carney confidently reassured world public opinion. It helps that said opinion happened to be conveniently narcotized, transfixed by the heartbreaking post-tsunami drama in Japan to the point of ignoring some distant rumblings in a tiny Gulf kingdom.
    Let’s imagine that neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi decided to send North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops to help not the Libyan rebels but Muammar “King of Kings” Gaddafi to protect his “sensitive installations”. After all, as Gaddafi assured the world, these rebels are “terrorists”.
    That’s exactly what happened with the House of Saud sending armored carriers, tanks and 1,000 troops – part of “Peninsula Shield” forces – to Bahrain to repress an unarmed, civilian, domestic opposition (al-Qaeda or Iran “terrorists”, take your pick) demanding political reform.
    While the whole West – plus the Arab League – was involved in the dead-end no-fly zone debate concerning Libya, the Gulf neighbors ensured an all-drive zone through the causeway linking Saudi Arabia to Bahrain’s capital Manama. Gates must have been jet-lagged to oblivion; he had said he was convinced the al-Khalifas “are serious about serious reform”.
    “The US and world community must show they will not stand by while this thug al-Khalifa uses tank power to murder fellow Bahrainis.”
    Substitute Gaddafi for al-Khalifa, airpower for tank power, and Libyans for Bahrainis, and these are the exact words pronounced in outrage by US Senator John Kerry. But outrage is for the “thug” in Libya; the al-Khalifa and the Saudis are our “valuable allies”.
    continues….
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MC16Ak03.html
    Ya gotta love Pepe, doncha??? Unless, of course, you are one of the scumbags running Foreign Policy scams out of the White House.

    Reply

  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Drew, stop with the multiple screen names. Its fooling no one.
    I said, on the previous thread, I’m not interested in responding to horseshit. I meant it.
    I offer this just in case facts matter.

    Reply

  21. drew says:

    POA, in regard to the junk image of Narita you offer, I’ve a very
    good friend there managing flight ops and logistics for Delta. She
    flew in yesterday, incidentally. Without her iodide.
    One, it’s chaotic.
    Two, it’s not radioactive.
    I offer this just in case facts matter.

    Reply

  22. responding to POA Responding to Responding says:

    They’re shutting it down, over there. It’s a tough situation, but the
    Japanese are probably the only people in the world tougher and
    smarter than Americans, and they’re shutting it down. It’s not that
    big a deal. The media doesn’t like science and gets a better story
    out of a Hollywood-esque nightmare, but … please.
    The tsunami is a catastrophe; I don’t know how people can view the
    pictures and not start to weep.
    I used to live in Japan and traverse these coastal cities and villages.
    Houses, in Japan, are not made to withstand tsunami.

    Reply

  23. responding to johnH says:

    Gaddafi has already announced that he is spurning the west for
    China, Russia etc. I would expect him to restart his weapons and
    chemical warfare programs, and sustain the link from Moscow to
    Venezuela. I don’t worry much about Moammar, but his son seems
    to be the first MTV despot: cool, hangs out with the hedge fund
    dudes, but another stone killer.

    Reply

  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “POA, you grossly misunderstand the situation in Japan. It’s not even as bad as three mile island”
    I’m not allowed to comment honestly in response to you.

    Reply

  25. drew says:

    Steve, what’s so cool about all the vulgarity on your web site? Why
    not shut it off?

    Reply

  26. JohnH says:

    I’d say Qadhafi has the West right where he wants it. After coming in from the cold a few years ago, he now understands the meaning of Western loyalty. Expect him to respond accordingly, whether by joining Al-Qaeda or by other means spawned by his own devious mind. Who knows? He may decide to sell Libyan oil to China or North Korea instead of to France and Italy.
    So the West gets pissed off? What then? An invasion? Well, that really works well! Iraq has never pumped more oil than it did under Saddam. And the Afghan pipeline route looks more distant with every attack on a wedding party or funeral procession.
    The alternative? Well, the West could have taken a longer term view and encouraged genuine democracies to develop in Tunisia and Egypt. Then allow them to spill over into Libya.
    But no–democracies mean legitimate regimes. Israeli paranoia and the energy/security imperative override any hope for legitimacy. It blocks any real strategic thinking about making the people of these countries into stable, strategic partners.
    And of course, Israeli paranoia and the energy/security imperative mean that every attempt will be made to foil democracy in Egypt and Tunisia, which can only lead to more violent uprisings throughout the Arab world in the future.
    And for this kind of policy we put almost 10% of GDP into military spending? As Reagan said, the American people know how to spend their hard earned money better than the gov-vomit does!

    Reply

  27. Paul Norheim says:

    “Aren’t they all open?” (Dan Kervick)
    I guess they are. However, my hunch is that this is a
    discreet hint from a busy host that whenever someone, for
    example Paul Norheim, wants to share his extensive
    reflections and opinions on polar bears, German literature
    in the 1920’s, or the educational system in Norway; or
    whenever for example Questions wants to type rants or
    paste excerpts on subjects that happens to occupy her
    mind at the moment – the open thread is an excellent
    place to do so.
    I guess the thought behind this concept is that my rants
    on polar bears or German literature are slightly less
    distractive on an open thread, than on those dedicated to
    the catastrophe in Japan or the revolution in the Middle
    East. Just my two cents.

    Reply

  28. drew says:

    Libya is finished. I’m not sure what the point of all the educated
    handwringing, still ongoing at Cafe Milano etc., would be.
    I was wrong, I wrote that Gaddafi would wrap it up yesterday.
    POA, you grossly misunderstand the situation in Japan. It’s not
    even as bad as three mile island. The tsunami, that was bad. The
    reactors, they’re being hosed off and shut down.

    Reply

  29. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, our puppet in Iraq isn’t exactly playing footsies with protesters, either. But, uh, we aren’t gonna talk about that, are we? Our Humanitarian knob is knotched for specific settings, to be selected by the current official “Humanitarian Concerns Director”.
    We are currently on the “Hypocritical Concern” setting. Its right next to the “Piss on the Palestinians” setting.
    Judging from events unfolding in Japan, all this might be kinda moot anyway. If it turns into a “REAL EMERGENCY”, Obama might just hafta run out and get another pair of tennis shoes, because basketball might just require ALL his attention. Hiding in plain sight, doing what you love. Who could ask for more?
    Well, anyway, finding Tokyo’s airport at night won’t be a problem anymore. Just follow the glowing Jet Stream.

    Reply

  30. Dan Kervick says:

    “Consider this an open thread.”
    Aren’t they all open?

    Reply

  31. Don Bacon says:

    The hospital in Bahrain is still under siege with many casualties. This could be much more interesting than Libya b/c Iran and U.S. are both involved tangentially, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States directly.

    Reply

  32. Maw of America says:

    I would direct your attention to two other elephants in the room, both of which portend tremendous angst for Obama. First is the brutal, almost sadistic treatment of protesters by our supposed ally, Bahrain. The second is the brutal, almost sadistic treatment of an American by our government – namely Bradley Manning.
    Neither will be tolerated for long.

    Reply

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