I underestimated 9/11


On the morning of september 11th 2001, being a student of international relations i naturally ask me self “what will be the implication of this event?”
i naively thought, the world is still dominate by handful of major states, their relative power will not be change by this, their interest wont shift dramatically, and the US will pump up their security to make sure this attack is an isolated instance, therefore the 9/11 attack will just be a footnote in history.

9 years have gone pass, i am sad to say 9/11 has been the catalyse that lead to many of the major movement and event of this decade, contrary to what i thought.
a brief look back at the movement and events that 9/11 have contributed

2008 financial crisis: 9/11 cause a recession that had to be quickly counter by dropping real interest rate to near 1% by the Federal Reserve of US. the low interest rate facilitated the housing bubble that went bust in 2007 which tigger the most severe recession since the great depression of the 30s.

New Atheist Movement: the religious extremist that perpetrated the 9/11 attack is what got the intellectuals to reconsider their accommodating attitude towards religion in public spaces. their conclusion was: atheist need to take their stand, and religion need to be intellectually crushed. This led to many intellectuals to write anti-religious books. After the attack of 9/11, people were ready for them. Many of the new atheist books become best sellers.

Two wars with no end in sight: Afganistan and Iraq

Growing state power and secrecy: Just in the US and just to name a few, wiretapping, strip-search and confiscation at airports, torture, extraordinary rendition, assassination program, all can be done to US citizens and without warrant.

Wikileaks: wikileaks and its supports are direct backlash of growing government power and ceding liberty.

Barack Obama: without the two wars, and an economy in ruin, Obama could not be elected president in 2008.

so yeah, i may have underestimated 9/11

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What Wikileaks means


What Wikileaks means
1. Radically improved the incentive for potential whistleblowers.
The is achived by three important innovations, legal, technological and credibility.
Legally, Wikileaks channels received information through various jurisdiction to take advantage of the strongest press protection laws around the world. According to Wikileak:s

“Online submissions are routed via Sweden and Belgium which have first rate journalist-source shield laws. In Sweden, not only does the law provide protection against any official inquiry into journalists’ sources, but it allows a source whose identity has been revealed without permission to initiate criminal prosecutions against an unfaithful journalist who has breached his or her promise of confidentiality.”

Technological, Wikileaks established a permanent and untraceable cyber leak submission service. Wikileaks submission page allows potential whistleblowers to access it via various urls, and the server that host it are physically located is various locations around the world, which in effect render it impossible to shut down. Wikileaks submission technology does not keep any information that will allow submission to be able to trace back to its submitter.
Credibility, Wikileaks establish its self as a trust destination for wide exposure of sensitive information through its pristine record of protecting the identity of its sources, breaking of a high profile news (collateral murder, Afghan/Iraq War Diaries) and the fact that wikileaks is an outsider operation funded by non-corporate donators. This kind of credibility tells potential whistleblowers that the treatment of their submission wont be influenced by the kind of established power that they are trying to expose. This is perhaps the most important rationale for the existence of WIkileaks because most of its alternative in mainstream media are own by corporations and are entrenched with established power. See the difficulty for Daniel Ellsberg to get anyone to publish The Pentagon Papers.
The combination of legal and technical anonymity and credibility significantly reduce the cost (risk) and increase the reward (high profile exposure) for potential whistleblowers.

2. Establishing a legitimate avenue for hackers to publish confidential information of public interest anonymously.
This is the side-effect (or conspiracy theorist may suggest the original intention) of Wikileaks. It is no where specified that submitter has to have legitimate access to the information they are submitting. If the source of leaked information does not necessarily have to come from an insider, it will make it more difficult for the exposed organization to track down the leaker.

3. Insert the threat of public exposure into the consciousness of corporate boardrooms and government offices.
This threat will grow more powerful as Wikileaks emerge as a permanent and widely accepted institution. This threat means the powerful cannot reliably believe their action can stay as a secret when it is against the public interest. Knowing this may deter the powerful from doing thing they cant publicly defend.

4. Promotion of “scientific journalism”.
Scientific journalism is the idea that journalist should make the raw material that form the bases of their report available to audiences for verification purpose. Widely adaptation of this principle will bring more raw material into light and make it easier to separate the good journalist from the bad.

Nobel worthy?
If we believe that transparency in governments process will make war less likely, then WIkileaks work in transparency should at least deserve a mention as a contender for Nobel Peace Prize. Or consider this, would Vietnam War have gone as it did if the The Pentagon Papers had a timely release? Would the US and its “coalition of the willing” had jump in to Iraq if we it was known to the public that there is no substantial evident of Iraq’s nuclear weapon programe or any link between Iraq and 9/11 attacks? In 2006, Nobel Commitee recognized the role of economics in promoting peace and gave the Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus for his work in micro finance. I hope in 2011 they will do the same for journalism and transparency.

More leaks please.
What hinders Wikileaks’s works (other than propagandas against them) is they do not have enough volunteer Journalist to analyse their huge backlog of submissions. Going forward, Wikileaks could remedy this problem and become even more irreplaceable by offering their submission service to other journalists and news organizations. To do this, submitters could nominate non-Wikileaks journalist or news organizations to handle the submitted information and or Wikileaks can develop journalistic partners to outsource reporting and analysis to. This will greatly speed up the publishing of submitted information. Other journalistic organization will also gain by having leaked information channel through Wikileaks’ submission service to shield them from potential lawsuits from thus freeing their hands to work on news they would otherwise have give up due to fear of legal retribution.

War crime or fog of war?


From Wikileaks

Staying in iraq will only create more instances like this, that end up on the leaflet of extremist propaganda. Kudos for Wikileaks for leaking this, more power to them. I have never made an donation, but i am seriously thinking about sending a donation to Wikileaks because of how important i think what they do is.

more from Huffington Post.
and a survey of blog reactions to the video from The Daily Dish.

UPDATE: Wired interviewed one of the soldier who was there.

Yes, We all know soft power have limits


Not too long ago, America wanted Europe to:

*adopt more American approaches to addressing the global financial crisis;
*shoulder more of the military and economic load in Afghanistan; and
*accept more responsibility for holding the detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay.

And Europe wanted the opposite — for America to:
*adopt more European approaches to addressing the global financial crisis;
*shoulder more of the military and economic load in Afghanistan; and
*accept more responsibility for holding the detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay.

These conflicts of interest have been worked out not with hard power tools of threats and intimidation but with soft power tools of shaming and suasion. And the results so far are:

*America is going to adopt more European approaches to addressing the global financial crisis;
*America is going to shoulder more of the military and economic load in Afghanistan; and
*America is going to accept more responsibility for holding the detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay.

On these bases Peter Feaver argues that there are limit to US soft power, even with Obama at the helm.

Claiming European soft power potency over the US (and Obama) on these three particular subjects is really just stating the obvious. The US lost their soft power over these issues; when the US were the epicenter of the global financial crisis; when the US sidetrack into Iraq; and when the US insist on their Guantanamo Bay prison. Soft power only works when your position is attractive to begin with, it cant be use to enhanced morally bankrupted policies, no one serious ever claim that it can.

To Olbermann, Please be fair.


A few thoughts after watching what might be an unfair characterization of Mccain’s Iraq/Oil remark that by Olbermann

Here is the quote as shown on Huffington Post

My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will – that will then prevent us – that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.

Lets be frank here,America and the middles eastern oil dependent economies of the world are tied to the middle east because of the oil. Mccain was simply stating the truth.

Now, there are two ways to understand what Mccain is actually implying.

1, The cynical interpretation, Americans are in Iraq to force the Iraqis to give us their oil at a cost lower than it would have been without an invasion.

2, The pragmatic interpretation, America and the middles eastern oil dependent economies therefore has to intervene (militarily if needed) to prevent the region from sliding into chaos.

If I have to justify what Mccain has said, I would argue with the second point and elaborate by suggesting the possibility that if one day America no longer needs middle eastern oil, than it would cost American less to let that regions problem solve it selfs, without American intervention. Which is properly its current attitude towards non-resource/strategically unimportant regions, Darfur, Myanmar, Tibet, etc.

Iraq unlike Vietnam is a conflict of identity


Military strategist Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations explain how Iraq is a conflict of identity unlike Vietnam which was an ideological conflict. He further argue it is precisely this difference that has caused the initial Iraq strategy to fail and the current surge strategy to be more effective in reducing violence. His analysis is the best I have read on military strategy in Iraq so far. Having said that without political settlement (over land and oil) and trust building between the three Iraqi factions peace will be hard to perpetuate.


This interviw is a part of the Conversation with History series.

I hope Obama, Hillary and McCain all know the issues discussed in this interview.