The Minimalist

One American perspective of events in international relations: Politics, Development, Diplomacy, and Whatnots

Reading List Until End of June 2013

I will probably end up reading more than these but I figured I would share what I am reading. It is my belief that no matter what occupational field you’re in, it is a good idea to read books that help you stay abreast in your field, but also read genres outside of it for some balance. Personally I like to mix in literature and philosophy into my reading repertoire. So here are a few:

121109_chellaney_cover_tnWater: Asia’s New Battleground
by Brahma Chellaney

Winner Take All - US CoverWinner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World
by Dambisa Moyo

WhyNationsFailWhy Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty
by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

Land Grabbers CoverThe Land Grabbers: The New Fight for Who Owns the Earth
by Fred Pearce

Shambaugh_Cover_MedChina Goes Global: The Partial Power
by David Shambaugh

97412On the Shortness of Life
by Seneca

tumblr_m2j9hfyvdY1qd9a66o1_400What is the What
by David Eggers

9781435108806_p0_v1_s260x420The Rubayat
by Omar Khayyam

9780143104933Shahnameh (The Book of Kings)
by Abolgasem Ferdowsi

RebelThe Rebel
by Albert Camus

The-Great-Convergence-Mahbubani-Kishore-9781610390330*The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World
by Kishore Mahbubani

Ok I already read this one so I guess it’s cheating. It’s worth a read and makes some interesting suggestions regarding global institutions and how to meet future challenges. It is not so dense that one cannot read it in 2-3 days. I only mention this because Mr. Mahbubani will be speaking at Asia Society on this book. You can watch it live for those who cannot make it at http://asiasociety.org

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , ,

Open Letter to NYC Councilmembers on Brooklyn College

This is in regards to these series of articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/opinion/litmus-tests-for-israel.html
http://www.thenation.com/blog/172641/brooklyn-college-president-defends-bds-forum

I sent my open letter to the following NYC Councilmembers:

dgreenfield@council.nyc.gov
ljames@council.nyc.gov
MNelson1@council.nyc.gov
MWeprin@council.nyc.gov
gbrewer@council.nyc.gov
slevin@council.nyc.gov
joddo@council.nyc.gov
dhalloran@council.nyc.gov
sgonzalez@council.nyc.gov
jwilliams@council.nyc.gov

I encourage those of you who believe in academic freedom and the right to free speech to do the same.

February 5, 2013

Dear Councilmen and Councilwomen,

I am writing to express my outrage with the stance that many of you have taken in suppressing academic freedom at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. It is appalling that as public servants in a position of power, you would utilize your offices to actively intimidate those who disagree with you, but also engage in the old practice of injustice: hypocrisy.

I do not agree with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. I do not believe that it will be effective. I do not endorse, nor do I share the beliefs that some of the speakers who will be attending the event at Brooklyn College have. To put it simply, just like some of you, I do not agree.

But it does not matter. Councilmen and Councilwomen, I cannot speak for my fellow veterans and active duty service members in the military, but I did not serve to only protect the right to free speech that I agree with. Public discourse and academic freedom is not to be granted only to those who have the same belief system that you do. Not to mention, the event is not planning to incite violence.

If you are concerned that the event will offend people, so much so that some of you took it upon yourselves to implicitly threaten funding to the school*, then I do have a few questions.

How many of you wrote to the MTA in protest of the Pamela Geller advertisements that made bigoted statements implying that Muslims were not civilized? **

How many of you wrote to the MTA in protest of the ads that quote the Quran superimposed on the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11, which incites bigotry towards those who practice the Islamic faith? ***

Are we to believe that as long as the money comes from private sources, then the right to offend (and mind you this is not even academic) should be protected? Or is it because you agree with those bigoted statements? Perhaps both?

This is what I mean by hypocrisy. Either that or you are only interested in protecting the right to free speech for those who can pay for it. That is truly outrageous. That right has been paid for, and to this day there are still those who serve in the belief that they are paying for it. I am not going to assume that you know how they are paying for it due to your actions, but they are paying for it with their service.

Serve the people of New York City, including the ones you don’t agree with.

Joao Hwang
Former US Army (2000 – 2006)
Operation Enduring Freedom IV
Operation Iraqi Freedom IV

* http://www.scribd.com/doc/123394756/Letter-from-Lew-Fidler
** http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/01/10/anti-muslim-ads-return-to-nyc-subways/
*** http://observer.com/2012/12/pamela-geller-mta-new-anti-islam-ads-to-debut-this-month-now-with-25-more-mta-disclaimer/

Filed under: Governance, New York City Local, , , ,

In Any War Betwen the Civilized Man and Pam Geller…

No this is not a continuation of my arguments against Michelle Bachmann. I feel that most people already know what the problem is and quite frankly there are other (and more subtle) means of fearmongering going on.

So starting today in New York City, the American Freedom Defense Initiative led by Pamela Geller has its posters up on public transportation. Specifically, this is what the posters are of:

There is both a overt and subversive message in those posters and it relies on two conditions for the poster to resonate with people: (1) people are not very well read on Islam and the tenets of the faith, and (2) people feel threatened by a religion and culture that is very different from their own.

To start with, the message creates a false dichotomy and bigotry. I make my case in simple points:

1. The ad is not about calling jihadists savages. It calls people who practice jihad savages. The “ist” while it may seem like a minor distinction makes all the difference. Jihadists is a term that is used to describe individuals of the Muslim faith who advocate the use of violence to promote their version of Islam, however it may be (and even the jihadists have their differences but the essence is the same). All those who practice the Muslim faith are not jihadists, and in proportion to the total population of those who are of the Muslim faith, I would say that jihadists are a minority.

Jihad on the other hand is a concept in Islam that has to do with a “struggle.” For many Muslims, this means resistance from temptation and the struggle to maintain the tenets of their faith. This could range from premarital sex to not eating bacon. You get the idea right? This is no different from any other religion or even not having a religion. It has to do with self-control and self-discipline.

To put it simply, jihad is not necessarily a violent concept. Those who practice the Muslim faith practice jihad. Those who practice the Muslim faith and practice jihad with violence to coerce others are jihadists. This distinction is very important.

2. The bigotry lies in that the savage label is put on those who practice jihad (all Muslims), when not all are jihadists. Here is the real problem though. When confronted with “jihad” what was the mental image or impression that is being made? An important concept for all those who practice the faith gets lumped into that mental image. For those who are unfamiliar or not read on Islam (and even for those who know), the mental image is of what jihadists do: the violence. The advertisements not only reinforces this miseducation, it creates a false dichotomy.

3. The advertisement presents a dichotomy: Support Israel/Defeat Jihad. The subtle message here is: Support Israel/Defeat Islam. Not only is this an apples to oranges comparison (Israel is a state, Islam is a faith), but it is an attempt to paint all Muslims as jihadists. This subtlety might almost come off as a conspiracy theory if it wasn’t for Geller’s own campaigns.

Geller has advocated in the past to shut down an exhibit on Islam in Washington DC. What was wrong with it? Geller felt that the exhibit painted a “rosy and romanticized picture of Islam” (REF: Her own blog). What was the exhibit? It was on Islam’s contribution to science. For those that do not know, Islam did much to contribute to science, mathematics, and was also responsible for preserving western philosophy and history from the classical era, so…the exhibit wasn’t a concerted effort at fabrication. She has a habit of tying what did happen (the contributions of the Muslim World) with a foreboding sense of an Islamization of America (which can mean whatever she chooses that to mean).

OR

Just read her blog. I think most people will see her for what she is. I did write this because I was surprised that some people actually buy what she is selling, and actually agree with this campaign without putting much thought into it.

Filed under: New York City Local, , , ,

Michelle Bachmann | Check your history, this has been done before.

To address the other issues that Michelle Bachmann brings up in her letter to House Representative Keith Ellison, it is important to clarify a couple of things.

First, it has to do with the idea that it is illegal for the US Government to have meetings or negotiate with the Muslim Brotherhood. Which is interesting because according to the list that determines that, the Foreign Terrorist Organization List, the Muslim Brotherhood is not on that list. (REF: http://1.usa.gov/PX11oc). Before one says, “of course it’s not on it, the State Department (DoS) is the one that maintains it”, the DoS does not do it alone but consults the Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury, and Congress. So, there is no legal issue here.

The main point that needs to be clarified: the Obama Administration is not the only administration to conduct dialogue or negotiate with unseemly groups, terror list or not. There is a historical precedent for this:

- Nixon Administration: Henry Kissinger was sent to China to establish warmer relations with them. Bear in mind that China was still communist at this point and this was at the height of the Cold War. The objective here was to split the two communist giants: the Soviet Union and China.

- Reagan Administration: Donald Rumsfeld was sent to meet with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. The details of the discussions are up for debate so I will not speculate here. It is known is that Saddam Hussein did support a Palestinian terrorist organization during that time period.

- Reagan Administration: the Iran-Contra affair with Oliver North. The short of this is that the US was facilitating the purchase of weapons from Iran to be delivered to the Contras in Nicaragua, paid for by narcotics produced in Nicaragua. By the way, this was not during Shah Reza Pahlavi’s rule. This is after the 1979 Revolution and the Ayatollah is in charge. Also, take a wild guess where those drugs were sold.

- Reagan Administration: working through Pakistan, the US helped the Mujahedeen fight against the Soviet Union and its client in Afghanistan. Of course, it was done through then President Zia Ul-Haq who along with the ISI made sure that the Mujahedeen that got the lion’s share of the arms and support went to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani. Those names should be familiar to everyone who is paying attention to Afghanistan. The both are some of the biggest names in the insurgency.

- Bush Jr. Administration: the US worked with Pakistan, which was led by President Pervez Musharraf, in the Global War on Terror. Except that there is mounting evidence that the tradition continues, with elements of the ISI supporting extremists and terror groups not just in Afghanistan, but also in the Jammu-Kashmir region. Also I don’t think I am alone in this, but I just didn’t believe it when former President Musharraf denied not knowing that Osama Bin Laden was where he was.

The point is that the US government and previous administrations do this all the time, for better of for worse. This is just a short list too and does not include US relationships with groups and governments who commit grave human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing, genocide, or are dictatorships suppressing democratic values that most people, if not all in the US believe in. The US engages in dialogue and negotiates with unseemly groups and people to pursue foreign policy interests. In some cases it works out in US favor (Kissinger in China), and sometimes it bites us in the ass (Afghanistan and the Mujahedeen).

If Michelle Bachmann were raising concerns over the relationship between the US government and the Muslim Brotherhood because of the potential for blowback to US foreign policy interests, then it would be a reasonable concern. If she was facing criticism for this, then I too would #IStandwithBachmann.

But this is not why Bachmann was writing this letter. That is not the argument she is making.

Bachmann is making the argument that this relationship will destroy the US from within, and lead to the establishment of Sharia Law. I am not going to argue whether or not these organizations are actually seeking to do so. Some of them might be taken out of context, and she may be right about some of them, truth be told I do not know.

Regardless of that, what Bachmann is doing is a huge leap, a slippery slope argument if you will, that to have a dialogue and negotiate with certain groups will automatically lead to supplanting our laws, our Constitution, with Sharia Law. This argument demonstrates an incredible lack of faith in not just the Obama Administration, but also almost all Administrations before it. It also demonstrates a belief that our institutions and systems cannot stand before the rigors of open discussion and the competition of ideas, and that the American people will accept such a change without protest.

I find that to be an incredulous accusation on the character of the American people. This is a condemnation to the faculties of the American people and reducing us to timid, submissive, and fearful beings.

This is fear mongering.

I will continue this tomorrow or the day after and close my arguments to show that this is an abuse of the intelligence profession for a political performance piece.

Filed under: Conflict, Diplomacy, Governance, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Michelle Bachmann | Bad Counterintelligence Work

I think it is time to revisit the Michelle Bachmann / Huma Abedin affair. Admittedly my last post focused on my emotions a bit more than I would have liked, and the core problems with what Bachmann had done was not articulated as clearly as I had hoped. This is not to say that my last post was wrong because I still believe that she is challenging people’s loyalty through weak analytical work.

I also think it’s important to not single out Bachmann either. Michelle Bachmann is not the only one making insinuations, but is one of a handful of members of congress doing this. Ms. Huma Abedin is also not the only individual being targeted. I say this to make it clear that when I read Bachmann’s letter, I did not just zero in on the part with Ms. Abedin, I did read the whole document (REF: http://scr.bi/NYrkoP). I will cover the other points on that document in the next day or so but I felt the need to point out to those individuals, who for some reason think that Bachmann is doing this because she is truly concerned with national security, a key problem with that argument.

What Bachmann is claiming to be raising concerns about is of a counterintelligence concern. It is the concern that sensitive information is being leaked to the benefit of an organization that was not intended to be the recipient, in this case the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also a concern about infiltration and undue influence on US decision making process surreptitiously by outside forces, namely through disinformation. This is why she is “just asking questions” about how certain individuals were vetted to get access to sensitive information.

So remember, Bachmann wanted answers on how certain individuals were able to obtain clearances or “avoid being disqualified” and wanted investigations on the other Muslim Brotherhood connections through organizations in the US.

Also remember that this was articulated by her to House Representative Keith Ellison, and given that this letter was a response to Ellison’s concerns, it was not the first letter either.

These two points are important to remember because the day after Senator John McCain came out in defense of Ms. Abedin, and as other public figures stood up against Bachmann, Bachmann was given an opportunity to explain herself.

On 20 July 2012, the next day, Bachmann goes on the air with Glenn Beck and guess what she does? She goes ahead and makes claims that Mr. Ellison has a long history of association with the Muslim Brotherhood (REF: http://bit.ly/NQoF5U). By making this statement, she is once again making insinuations, this time that Mr. Ellison is not to be trusted to act in the best interest of the US.

Then here’s a riddle for Bachmann. Then why did she send him that letter? If Ellison is not going to act in the best interest of the US and he has a long history of association with the Muslim Brotherhood, would it not be a problem to send that “bulletproof letter” outlining in detail with “54 footnotes” to someone who can alert the very people she is trying to deny access and influence?

You don’t even have to think of this in counterintelligence terms either really. Even Hollywood is pretty good at this. When they make police movies where detectives are staking out a house, guess what is the last thing they do? They don’t tell the people they are watching that they are watching. When you do that, they don’t behave as they would normally behave and then it becomes that much more difficult to “investigate” and “get questions answered.”

Bachmann, as a member of the House Select Intelligence Committee had appropriate channels to bring up these issues discreetly, KEY WORD IS DISCREET. Discreetly she did not.

Don’t believe for a second that she is doing this because she is concerned about US national security. She wanted a reaction, and it just turns out it is not the reaction that she wanted. She is perverting the intelligence profession for a political play.

I will get that to another day (probably tomorrow), and it will start with the status of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the long history of the US negotiating and dealing with iffy groups. And when I mean iffy, I mean even groups on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Communists, Countries that Sponsor Terrorism, Dictatorships, Serial Human Rights Abusers, etc. And when I mean negotiating and dealing, I mean establishing sometimes close relationships and not just through the intelligence and military arms of the US government, diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties. This is not something new and has been done by administrations in both parties. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t a cause for concern but it is the type of concern that makes all the difference.

Filed under: Governance, , , , , , , , , , ,

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