Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Today's Reading Assignment

From Gateway Pundit, who has some surprising numbers on Iraq. Hint: the situation there is not nearly as bad as you've been led to believe. In fact, some American cities have a higher incidence of violence than Baghdad.

Hat tip: Powerline.

Let's Talk, Part II

According to Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, the U.S. is prepared to enter into talks with Iran, if Tehran gives up its on-going uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. Secretary Rice indicates that Washington and its European allies are prepared to offer incentives for compliance, and possible sanctions for non-compliance. Dr. Rice's comments came after a series of press reports indicated that the U.S. was considering direct negotiations with Iran on its nuclear issue.

We've expressed major misgivings about this diplomatic track, but the Bush Administration appears fully committed. There is a very good possibility that Iran may merely use the talks to push its propaganda points, berate the U.S., stall for time, and give its nuclear engineers the months or years they may need to produce an Iranian bomb. Despite that possibility, the White House seems to believe that it can somehow reach an accord with Tehran, and those favoring a diplomatic solution have the upper hand in policy debates, at least for now.

The State Department insists that it is not "negotiating with terrorists," given Iran's long support for Hizballah and other Middle Eastern terrorist groups. In fact, there doesn't appear to be any effort to link the proposed talks with broader discussions on Tehran's terrorist ties and other issues of concern. In diplomatic terms, that type of linkage might be "premature."

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with establishing firm, non-negotiable conditions for talks between the U.S. and Iran, focused squarely on the nuclear issue. Here's a list of things we would demand from Tehran as a starting point for any direct talks:

1) Immediate suspension of all uranium enrichment activities.
2) No notice inspections of all known/suspected nuclear facilities
3) Installation of monitoring cameras at all known/suspected sites
4) Short-notice transfer of all enrichment efforts to a Russian facility, with all activities monitored by the IAEA
5) Clearly defined limits on the amount and purity of enriched uranium that can be produced
6) Immediate closure of the Iranian facilities at Khondab (heavy water plant), Esfahan (uranium enrichment), and Natanz (centrifuge operations). The nuclear reactor at Bushehr will remain in operation, but only under strict international supervision
7) Short-term inspections of all enriched uranium produced domestically by Iran, and a strict accounting of all inventories
8) Agreement to "Open Skies"-style overflights, to monitor known and suspected facilities
9) Inspection of all know/suspected medium-range missiles and support facilities
10) Medium-term dismantlement of the Khnodab, Esfahan and Natanz facilities
11) Renounce any intention to develop nuclear weapons, and provide complete transparency on nuclear issues, similar to Libya's actions when it abandoned its nuclear program

Intrusive? Hardly. In fact, such conditions have been a part of nuclear accords proposed and signed in the past. If Iran is serious about these talks, they'd be willing to comply. Refusal to meet these conditions might offer real insight into the Iranian mindset, and tell the Bush Administration if this option should actually be pursued.

What a Novel Concept

With hurricane season upon us, states along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard are adopting a novel approach to storm preparation, preaching the virtures of self-reliance and personal readiness. Today's edition of The New York Times reports that personal preparedness has become the new buzzword in hurricane-prone areas. A number of coastal states have launched media campaigns, reminding citizens of the need to take responsibility for their own preparations.

The need for such reminders is regrettable, but obviously necessary. In the aftermath of Katrina last year, it was obvious that many survivors had not taken the necessary preparations for survival after the storm, and they expected the government and private charities to provide literally literally everything. And, more than a few became angry when FEMA failed to show up on therr doorstep the morning after the storm, with ice, water, chainsaws and keys to a rental house or apartment in hand. Obviously, the magnitude of the storm was overwhelming, and many residents were not prepared for the devastation that occurred in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. But that doesn't excuse (or eliminate) the need for individual preparations.

If there's a "hidden blessing" in last year's hurricane season, it would be value of personal responsibility and individual preparation before the next storm--a requirement that should have been stressed from Day One. Have those lessons been absorbed? The Times article cites a recent Mason-Dixon poll which revealed that most coastal residents have taken no steps to fortify their homes, most don't have emergency supplies stockpiled, and most don't have a personal survival or evacuation plan. These are likely the same folks who believe that a revamped FEMA and state agencies will be more efficient in delivering assistance after future storms. And when that doesn't happen, they will be happy to tell the nearest TV news crew that the government has "abandoned" them.

The results of that survey beg some obvious questions. In a post-Katrina world, if residents have been warned to prepare for hurricanes (and fail to take the necessary precautions), what do we owe them, in terms of assistance after the storm? While most Americans have nothing but sympathy for the victims of a major hurricane, there is a growing sense of frustration about residents and home owners who fail to prepare themselves for the storm, particularly when they have the means to take basic precautions.

Of course, it's hard to gauge levels of individual preparation, and there isn't a politician alive who would deny post-storm assistance to someone who didn't have a personal survival kit, or an emergency evacuation plan. But, as we learned after Katrina, the American people have finite patience for bureaucratic incompetence after a storm. Now comes the sticky question of what we owe to people who refuse to to assume any degree of responsibility for themselves and their families. As the state of Florida recently discovered, you can hold a tax-free holiday and encourage people to stock up on storm supplies, but you can't make them walk into Home Depot or Lowe's and actually make those purchases.

Encouraging personal responsibility is both a welcome and novel approach for government, even at the state level. But ensuring some measure of individual compliance and preparation is a totally different matter. How do you make someone prepare for a storm? The obvious answer would be to deny or withhold certain types of assistance, unless the claimant can demonstrate a dire need. But that would take genuine political courage, something that's as hard to find as plywood in a home improvement store--the day before a Category IV storm churns ashore.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Another Wade Through the Muck

The gang at is at it again. A few weeks ago, we reported on the website's attempt to "slime" President Bush's nominee to run the CIA, Air Force General Michael Hayden. In an effort to potentially de-rail the nomination, recirculated old rumors that Hayden had a one-night stand with a female Air Force Captain, during a visit to the Balkans in 2001. With the held of an award-winning investigative journalist and a retired counter-intelligence officer, we took a look at the allegations and found them seriously lacking. The charge of infidelity was based on the accusations of the woman's ex-husband, a retired Air Force major. The Air Force conducted an official investigation into the matter, and found no evidence to support the allegation. Case closed, or so we thought.

Now, is offering the "inside" story of how Hayden won confirmation by the Senate, despite the infidelity rumors and questions about the surveillance programs he ran as NSA director. If you can believe the website (and that's a stretch), then General Hayden mounted one of the most effective intimidation campaigns in the history of Washington, D.C.

"The primary word was fear," a Congressional source tells "Few senators wanted to make an enemy of the general - President George Bush's choice to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

"There was little chance to stop the nomination anyway. A lot was at risk for needlessly antagonizing such a powerful man. When he took over NSA (National Security Agency) there was a blood purge. Heads will roll at CIA soon enough. Gen. Michael Hayden is not a person you want angry with you, that's for sure."

When the votes were counted, only 15 senators dared to go against the general. Hillary Clinton, re-inventing herself as a "moderate" in preparation for a run for President in 2008, was not one of them. If any senator distinguished themselves by refusing to "rubber stamp" the general, it was Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

If Hayden turns out to be half as bad as some observers fear, Feingold will have been right.
Naming an active-duty general as head of the CIA sends a chill down the back of many who cherish the Constitution and it's provisions for protection of free speech. Everyone in their right mind knows we must fight terrorism every way we can. But in doing that, the White House should be careful how they curb individual freedoms and try and control or mislead the news media.

Top aides to several senators, including Carl Levin of Michigan, spoke with after reading our copyrighted story on Hayden [see "related stories" box below], which included a claim by a former Air Force officer that his young wife confessed to him she'd had an affair with the general when they worked together at NSA.

We can tell our readers that at least one top editor on a newspaper that had a copy of Kevin Furlong's complaint to the Air Force Inspector General's Office, decided not to go with the story after an intensive investigation, for fear of possible retaliation.

The Levin aide had the information before the vote, but in the end, the Democrat senator lined up with the Bush administration and supported Hayden's nomination.

"All we wanted was for Sen. Levin to ask Hayden, under oath, if any complaint against him involving adultery with a subordinate female officer, was ever filed with the Air Force IG," an MCC editor said.

One of the problems the above-mentioned newspaper had in nailing down and publishing the story was the refusal by the Air Force to even acknowledge whether or not they had such a complaint in their files.

At least inquiring about the alleged affair would place Hayden's response on record, but no senator was willing to go there. For whatever reason.

Let's see...if the website is correct, then many--if not most--of the senators voting for confirmation were afraid to cross paths with the prospective CIA nominee? True, the director of that spy agency is a powerful man, but so are the men and women who make up the "World's Most Exclusive Club" a.k.a., The United States Senate. The idea that one nominee could transform most of the Senate into sniveling pansies is nothing short of ludicrous, particularly when you consider the controversy surrounding the Hayden nomination. In today's political climate, opponents of Hayden would have used whatever was available to torpedo the nomination, assuming that the charges had some basis in fact.

And that's where runs into trouble. The adultery allegation was filed by the woman's husband, Major Kevin Furlong, who had gone through a bitter divorce with his ex-wife. According to Major Furlong, his former wife (who has refused comment on the matter) confessed the alleged affair during a marital counseling session. However, he could not provide any substantiation for that claim. The Eighth Air Force Inspector General's office (which conduced the inquiry) actually obtained notes from the counseling session, but they provided no record of the infidelity claim from the former Mrs. Furlong. reports that this "information" was provided to aides to several top senators, including Michigan's Carl Levin. However, Levin and his colleagues decided not to pursue the adultery allegation in the confirmation hearings, for obvious reasons--there was no proof to support the allegations, other than the complaint originally filed by retired Major Furlong. And when a detailed Air Force investigation found no basis for that claim, it became a dead issue. Whatever he may be, Carl Levin is not a dumb politician. Without any evidence to back up the adultery charges, he elected to stay away from the allegations. Smart move.

Even wackier than the "fear and intimidation" charge is the website's claim that a "top" newspaper refused to pursue the story, for fear of retaliation. As with other charges from, the allegation is long on sensationalism, short on the facts. Who is this editor? What paper does he or she work for? Obviously, the editor in question doesn't work for The New York Times, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, or the Washington Times, all of which have published classified "exclusives" for a number of years.

Truth be told, I'll bet that the MSM outlets that looked at this story (and there were more than a few) found it lacking, and without independent confirmation, decided not to publish or broadcast the information. For the record, also notes that the paper was unable to publish the story because the Air Force refused to acknowledge that the matter had been investigated. That's rather strange, since the 8th Air Force IG report has been posted on the internet (that's where we found it), so the idea that this unnamed paper couldn't confirm the inquiry is simply bizarre.

Unfortunately, this story will keep reverberating around the internet for years to come. Like the legend of the grassy knoll in Dallas, and the CIA's "campaign" to use crack cocaine to destroy African-Americans, some myths never die, even when obliterated by the truth.

My charge to remains the same: put up or shut up. Your original claim against General Hayden could not be substantiated, so you come back with dark stories of fear and intimidation. Once again, your allegations demand clear, unequivocal proof. The ball's back in your court. We won't hold our breath in waiting for a substantive reply.

A Moment in Baghdad

Our thoughts and prayers go out to CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier, who was seriously wounded in an IED attack in Baghdad on Monday. Our condolences to the families of CBS News camerman Paul Douglas, sound technician James Brolan, and an unidentified U.S. soldier, who died in that blast. At least six other U.S. soldiers were wounded in the attack; keep them in your prayers, too.

The incident is still under investigation, but here's what we know so far: Dozier and her crew were embedded with members of the 4th Infantry Division, on patrol in Baghdad. The patrol had stopped to inspect a check-point manned by Iraqi soldiers when a car packed with explosives was detonated, killing Douglas, Brolan and the solider, and wounding seven others, including Dozier. According to a CBS spokesman, Dozier was working on a story about Memorial Day in Iraq at the time of the incident.

We may never know what motivated Ms. Dozier and her crew to leave the relative safety of an armored HUMVEE and accompany the soliders to that check-point. Perhaps it was a desire to see things for themselves, or get better footage for a "package" that would be featured on The CBS Evening News. By most accounts, Dozier, Douglas and Brolan were used to taking risks; Dozier has spent more time in Iraq than any other CBS News Correspondent, and Douglas and Brolan were veterans of battlefields from the Balkans to the Middle East. They understood the risks associated with climbing out of an armored vehicle to have "a look for themselves."

My own, brief career in journalism never carried me to a war zone, but I've talked to plenty of reporters who've been there. Many talked of developing a "sixth sense" about certain situations or environments, and knowing when to back away. Balancing that against a desire to get the story is a tough job for any journalist, especially someone trying to negotiate the cut-throat world of network television news. According to her CBS bio, Ms. Dozier earned her job the hard way; she went to the Middle East as a reporter, not for the network, but as a "bureau chief" for CBS's New York affiliate, WCBS-TV. Her early work for CBS News was on the radio side (hardly a "star" assignment), and she slowly worked her way into a TV correspondent's job, doing the tough, dirty jobs that few others volunteered for.

From what I've read, putting herself in harm's way (or potentially, in harm's way) was something Ms. Dozier did on a regular basis. In hindsight, it would be easy to second-guess her decision--and grossly unfair. Ms. Dozier and her colleagues made a choice, based on their assessment of the situaition. Unfortunately for them (and members of the 4th ID), there was danger lurking on that Baghdad street, with devastating consequences for both journalists and soldiers alike.

While I often disagree with the tone of network news reports from Baghdad, I do admire men and women who are willing to get out on the streets and report the story. But, from a style standpoint, I do have a minor beef. Watching today's TV reports from any war zone, you'll note that most end with the correspondent doing an on-camera "stand-up." The stand-up serves two purposes; first, it allows the reporter to sum-up his piece, and (secondly) it gives the correspondent some needed face time on camera, allowing him (or her) to "connect" with viewers back home and their bosses back in New York. Wars have made the reputation of more than one broadcast correspondent, including the patron saint of CBS News, the late Edward R. Murrow.

But it hasn't always been that way. A few months ago, CBS News Sunday Morning paid tribute to the network's retiring Far East correspondent, Bruce Dunning. Mr. Dunning spent years reporting from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and in homage to his career, Sunday Morning replayed one his most famous reports, filmed on the last plane out of Da Nang before that city fell to the North Vietnamese. The flight--and Dunning's report--are harrowing, even through the prism of time. The charter 727 was grossly overloaded; frantic South Vietnamese tried to storm the plane, in an effort to get out, only to be beaten by equally desperate security personnel. Others clung to the aircraft's rear stairway as it took off, losing their grip and plunging to their death in the jungle below. The CBS camera caught it all, and Dunning's precise, understated narration captured the mood exactly, without fancy graphics, computer animation or phony histronics.

Dunning's flight out of Da Nang should be required viewing for any television reporter aspiring to be a combat correspondent. It's straightforward journalism; no ambivalance, no moral equivocation, no references to the North Vietnamese as "insurgents." By today's standards, it's a bit quaint, even unsophisticated. Perhaps that's one reason that Dunning's career never advanced beyond CBS's Tokyo bureau. But you cannot dispute the power or truth captured in that report from South Vietnam in the spring of 1975.

For Ms. Dozier and those wounded American soldiers, we wish full and complete recovery from her injuries in Iraq. And for Mr. Dunning, a long, happy retirement, and a faculty slot at a first-class journalism school. The next generation of TV war reporters could learn a lot from him.

Slowing the Pace

The New York Times is reporting that Iran's uranium enrichment efforts have slowed a bit over the past month, suggesting that Tehran has encountered technical problems with the process, or may be trying to avoid a nuclear confrontation with the U.S.

Much of the information in the Times' account is based on conversations with European diplomats, who have reviewed the results of recent inspections in Iran. According to the inspectors, Iranian engineers stopped pouring UF6 gas into their centrifuges only six days after the process began--even as crowds in Tehran and other cities celebrated the achievement. One official interviewed by the Times described Tehran's pace as "more diplomatic than technical," suggesting that the slowing pace may provide an opening for negotiations.

To its credit, the paper notes that the Europeans have a motive in circulating this theory. As we observed over the weekend, the Europeans desperately want the U.S. to join the diplomatic process, and enage in direct talks with Iran. Getting the U.S. involved would serve serve a number of purposes, including (A) adding legitimacy to their own diplomatic efforts, (B) forestalling potential U.S. and/or Israeli military strikes and (C) avoiding tough decisions over Iran in the UNSC, and in talks with the U.S.

For the Europeans, the process is paramount, even if prospects for a negotiated solution are dim, at best. While the Times acknowledges the Europeans' ulterior motive, they still offer plenty of "evidence," that suggests the time for diplomacy may be at hand.

"Even peering through the keyhole, the International Atomic Energy Agency's findings and Tehran's own statements have combined to raise questions about its claims of irreversible breakthroughs in developing indigenous nuclear technology."

"For instance, the inspectors found that Iran in the first enrichment campaign used not only its own raw uranium but material it had imported from China. Its domestic supplies are reportedly laced with impurities that can reduce the efficiency of delicate centrifuges or cut their lives short."

But there may be other explanations for the Iranian slow-down, which receive less prominence in the Times account. An anonmyous administration official (here we go again) observed that "it could simply mean that we're not looking in the right places," a reference to a suspected secret nuclear program that Iran may be operating. We've written extensively about that possibility in the past, along with Tehran's dual-track development efforts. If Iran's enrichment efforts are thwarted (for whatever reason), then its heavy water plant at Khondab could yield a plutonium-based bomb in less than a decade.

Officially, the Bush Administration is resisting efforts to join the diplomatic circus, although the idea of talks with Iran is apparently being debated within the State Department. Tehran's sudden slow-down in its enrichment efforts is not, in our view, sufficient reason to open direct talks with Iran. And even the Times acknowledges, there may be multiple reasons for the changing pace of Iran's nuclear efforts--chief among them, problems with centrifuge designs and arrays. As we noted previously, technical delays provide a powerful motivation for negotiation, to give Iran's nuclear engineers enough time to overcome their problems, with less worry about a preemptive U.S. or Israeli attack.

Tehran has clearly followed the example of North Korea, and discovered that fraudulent diplomacy can achieve impressive results. Pyongyang had no intention of keeping its 1994 agreement with the U.S. and South Korea, but it maintained the charade for more than seven years, achieving its nuclear ambitions and obtaining badly needed shipment of oil from the United States. At last report, European negotiators were said to be working on a package of incentives for Tehran, in hopes of achieving some sort of deal on the Iranian nuclear program.

More disturbingly, there seems to be a willingness in some European circles to tolerate " a certain degree" of nuclear activity within Iran. Buried in the Times article is this gem, from a German diplomat:

"...German officials have begun to argue that allowing a low level of Iranian enrichment activity— essentially, allowing the Iranians to maintain their current activity — is harmless. "They've cracked the code," one senior German official said last week. "We're kidding ourselves if we think we are going to deny them the knowledge" of how to produce nuclear fuel."

If it were only that simple. The real issue here is Iran's ability to produce large quantities of highly-enriched uranium, necessary for the production of nuclear weapons. Tehran has already achieved a toe-hold in that area (as evidenced by recent efforts), and they will likely continue efforts to improve the quality of their output, as well as their volume. The comments from that German official suggest that some Europeans are quite prepared to let Iran move further along the nuclear path (afterall, the current activity is "harmless"), presumably while the diplomatic efforts continue.

The obvious contradiction in that approach should be enough to keep the U.S. off the diplomatic track, at least for now. Left unchecked, the current level of "harmless activity" will eventually grow into a full-scale uranium enrichment program and produce a nuclear weapon. The idea that Iran won't overcome its technical hurdles is ludicrous, as is the notion that Tehran will someone contain its enrichment efforts at current levels. But when the diplomatic "process" becomes your overriding concern, such matters are trivial, details to be discussed somewhere down the road, about the time Iran actually joins the nuclear club.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Should There be Any Debate?

According to The New York Times, the Bush Administration is weighing the possibility of holding direct talks with Iran over its nuclear issue. Judging from the Times account, most of the support for negotiations comes from current and former State Department officials. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice is said to have broached the subject with top aides, after recent discussions with European allies. Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are said to oppose talks with Tehran.

For now, I'll cast my lot with Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld. As we observed earlier this week, Iran has offered little proof that it will negotiate in good faith, and actually work toward a solution for the nuclear issue. On-going talks with the Europeans have produced nothing to date; ditto for negotiations with Moscow on a possible deal to move Iran's uranium enrichment efforts to a Russian facility. In fact, Iran's diplomatic strategy seems more aimed at creating the illusion of serious talks, aimed at buying time for its nuclear program.

European leaders and diplomats are said to be "anxious" for the U.S. to enter talks with Iran. And for obvious reasons. Not only would American participation add more weight and legitimacy to the process, it would also reduce prospects for U.S. military action, and demands for the Europeans to support the use of force. From their perspective, the process is paramount, even if prospects for a negotiated settlement are dim, at best.

Serious talks with Tehran should be preceded by a set of conditions that are not negotiable. First, Iran agrees to end its nuclear development efforts. Secondly, all Iranian nuclear facilities are subject to no-notice inspections by the IAEA, U.S. and European teams for at least the next decade, and thirdly, critical facilities at Khondab, Esfahan and Natanz will be dismantled and detroyed, under the supervision of the international community. Such actions would prove that Iran is serious about nuclear talks. If such conditions are not met, then any prospective nuclear talks would be almost meaningless. Vice-President Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld seem to understand that. It will be interesting to see if the State Department and the diplomacy crowd can absorb that lesson as well.

Friday, May 26, 2006

It Wasn't Even Close

By an overwhelming, 78-15 vote, the Senate has confirmed General Mike Hayden as the next CIA director. In this space a few weeks ago, we predicted that Hayden's confirmation hearings might well become a tour-de-force, with the Air Force general easily demonstrating his command of intelligence issues, and his qualifications to run the CIA.

You may recall that some politicians and pundits expected an "uphill" battle for Hayden's confirmation, predicting "tough" questions about the the general's tenure as NSA director and the surveillance programs he oversaw. In the end, those battles never really materialized. Opposition to Hayden quickly melted away, leaving only the Senate's hard-core left to oppose him.

Hayden faces major hurdles in completing needed reforms at the CIA, but as we've noted on several occasions, he's more than up to the challenge. The process of fixing our intelligence system took another step forward this morning, with the confirmation of General Hayden. I would imagine the "leak brigade" at Langley is a bit upset, because Hayden will likely accelerate the process of ferreting out staffers who provide classified information to the press. For that clique, life is about to get a lot tougher.

A Fix For Troubled Schools

Today's Washington Post has a fascinating story (written by Nick Anderson), on a novel education experiment in Maryland. For years, Forrestville High School was one of the worst in that state, with rampant discipline problems, a high dropout rate, and abysmal scores on standardized tests. To fix these problems, local leaders implemented a novel--some might say radical--solution; they converted Forrestville High School into Maryland's first public military academy.

Yesterday, the first students to fully benefit from that experiment walked across the stage and received their high school diplomas. Since entering Forrestville in 2002, they have been a part of a student cadet corps, wearing Army Junior ROTC uniforms to class every day, and subjected to a discipline code that is far more rigorous than most public schools. It was hoped that a more focused, structured environment would lead to improved student performance in the classroom.

According to the Post, results of the Forrestville experiment have been mixed (so far). Standardized test scores remain low, and only a handful of students take advanced placement exams. But for some students, the academy approach has produced dramatic changes. Anderson cites the example of one graduating senior:

For Ashley Bembry, it worked. She entered the academy in ninth grade with a talk-back attitude and a tendency to hang with the wrong crowd. "My ninth-grade year, I was so negative," the 17-year-old from Forestville said. "Oh my goodness, I was getting suspended left and right. I had a mouth on me, I really did."

But now she has graduated from the academy as a cadet second lieutenant, an honor roll student, with plans to attend Bowie State University and perhaps become a teacher.

Her mother, Josephine Bembry, said Ashley and her brother Ashford, who is in the class of 2007, benefited from "a taste of discipline, order, structure."

Reading the article, one also gets the impression that the Forrestville academy's most serious problems lie at the district level, not at the school. Since 2002, the Prince George's County, Maryland school system (which controls the academy) has had four different superintendents. Some have been less-than-supportive of the effort, forcing the school to constantly re-justify its approach and performance.

Obviously Forrestville would benefit from stable leadership at the top of the school system, more consistent support, and the time needed to get the job done. At this juncture, it may be too much to expect impressive results; the 2006 senior class was the first to spend all four years in a cadet corps environment; as underclassmen, they were taunted and harassed by older students who were not a part of the JROTC program. In that environment, a number of new cadets decided to transfer to other schools, or drop out altogether.

Despite these problems, the success stories from the 2006 class should offer hope for the future of the school. This year's valedictorian received an academic scholarship from the University of Wisconsin; the salutorian turned down a slot at West Point for a scholarship from Cornell. More importantly, many members of the inagural class seem to have gained a new sense of self-discipline, ethics and self-worth, qualities that should serve them well in life.

If I were a parent of student in the Forrestville Academy, I would encourage school officials to stay the course, and evaluate the school's performance in another four years, after the academy system has fully taken hold. A similar academy in one of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods (created before Forrestville) has produced even more impressive results. Chicago officials have also consistently supported their academy, which may partly explain its performance. Within three years of its opening, the Chicago school averaged a daily student attendance of 95%, (far above other inner city schools). Discipline problems are reportedly well below those of other public schools, suggesting that the academy is producing the desired, disciplined environment. Academically, the reading scores of the academy's 11th graders are within a few points of the state average, although math scores remain well below the Illinois standard.

Obviously, a military environment isn't for every high school student. And, I don't believe that a military academy model or Junior ROTC program can save every failing school. But in some districts--with support from political leaders and education officials--a public military academy offers a viable alternative for creating a structured, disciplined environment that can promote learning and achievement. The idea seems to be slowly spreading across the country. But, reading the Post article and other reports, it seems clear that the academy model (like most education reforms) faces its strongest opposition from education bureaucrats. For them, a high school built around a cadet corps for JROTC program is a threat to their status quo, which must be protected above all else. It would be a shame if the Forrestville experiment eventually fell victim to those forces.

A Life in Radio

For those of us who once labored over a hot mike, spent long weekends or overnights running pre-recorded programs, and gave a part of our lives to radio, Mitch Berg has a poignant tribute to one of our own, a man named Joe Hanson. Mr. Hanson, who was a long-time radio producer and engineer in the Twin Cities, passed away recently.

Reading the story of Hanson's life and career, I was struck by a sudden case of "what if." You see, I too, once chased the dream called radio. As a young man, I spent more than five years in the medium, working my way through college as a disc jockey, newscaster and football play-by-play man at small market stations in the south and Mid-West. During that interlude, I covered much of the same territory described by Mitch Berg; long nights and weekends at some podunk station in the middle of nowhere, spinning records or making sure that some syndicated program aired at the right time.

Working conditions were often grim; station politics and intrigue rivaled the Russian Politburo; young DJs and board operators were often hired and fired on the whim of a program director or general manager. At some stations, you were never more than one format deviation or miscue from the unemployment line. When you moved up to a slightly larger market, there was the ratings book to worry about. A god called Arbitron ruled your existence; good numbers meant more money, and (hopefully) a shot in a bigger market. If the audience wasn't there, neither was your job. It was that brutally simple.

If the work environment was bad, wages were usually worse. Rush Limbaugh was reportedly fired seven times in his early broadcast career, and found himself (at age 30) earning far less money than he had a decade earlier, as a morning DJ in Pittsburgh. Another broadcast icon, Sean Hannity, earned $1,000 a month as a talk show host in Huntsville, AL in the late 1980s--about the same thing I earned as a radio news director at the start of that decade. Of course, that was a step up from my first, full-time radio job, fresh out of college, with a bachelor's degree in journalism. That gig paid a princely $900 a month--in 1979.

But there was always the dream. Most of us had a mental image of our career, a path that would carry us from the small markets to New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, preferably by the age of 30. For me, a couple of years at the local tea kettle station would get me to Little Rock, Shreveport, Springfield, or Jackson, MS. From there, I'd try to land a job in Memphis, Birmingham, or Nashville, followed by a stint in St. Louis, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, or Dallas. After that, a coveted gig at WLS, WABC, or KHJ, and big-money radio stardom. Sure, it was a pipedream, but it was something to keep you going when payday at your 1,000 watt AM station was two days away, and you had $1.50 in your pocket.

My radio ambitions came to an end in 1981, during a format change at the Midwest station where I was the news director. The ratings book came out, and our audience numbers were in the toilet. A consultant directed a complete overhaul, so the entire staff was summoned to the general manager's office on a Friday afternoon and summarily dismissed. For me, that event triggered a crisis of confidence that led me to an Air Force recruiter's office, a different career and a new life. I still dabbled in radio from time-to-time during my military career, but it was now a hobby and no longer an obsession.

In hindsight, getting out of radio was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. As Mitch Berg describes in his post, the business has become even tougher over the past 20 years. Satellite-delivered syndicated programs and music formats now fill many stations' broadcast schedules. There is no longer a requirement for a "live" human being to be in the station while it's on the air. Computers control everything, from monitoring the transmitter, to airing local commercials and promos. There are fewer entry-level and "second" jobs in the business, in markets where aspiring broadcasters could learn their craft and even make mistakes. Now, the "talent" is a nameless voice from New York, Los Angeles or even Omaha, announcing the same song at the same time on scores of stations around the country. The "local" broadcaster is there is host the morning show (if he or she is lucky), sell and record commercials, and (of course) reboot the computer when the satellite feeds go down.

That's the medium that Joe Hanson devoted his life to. I never met Mr. Hanson, but I've known dozens of men just like him, individuals who pursued a dream in a tough, unforgiving business. A few still reach the very top, but for the rest, there is often frustration and disappointment. They deserve better, but they also know the business, the economics that drive it, and understand that radio isn't going to change; if anything, current trends will only accelerate, meaning even fewer jobs and depressed wages for those working in small and medium-sized markets.

And yet they soldier on, because, despite the low pay, crummy hours and non-existent benefits, they love the business, and still find some magic in Mr. Marconi's invention. Somehow, that's enough to keep them going, if only for a while.

R.I.P. Mr. Hanson.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jack Murtha's Latest Slander

When we last left Congressman Jack Murtha, he was insisting that U.S. Marines had indiscriminately killed Iraqi civilians near Haditha late last year. On Alan Colmes's Fox News Radio show last night, Murtha repeated the claim, comparing the alleged atrocities to U.S. bombing raids in World War II.

Reportedly, a dozen Marines are under investigation for the incident, which happened in November 2005. Murtha insisted that the "truth" (when it comes out) would be much worse than the initial reports. According to NewsMax, Colmes asked the Pennsylvania Congressman if the episode could be characterized as the deliberate, indiscriminate killing of civilians. Murtha agreed, and likened the incident to American bombing raids during the Second World War.

"In World War II we dropped bombs on all these different countries," he told Colmes. "We killed civilians. In wartime - this is wartime. You're not sitting in an office back here. This is wartime."

There is no doubt that civilians died in U.S. bombing raids during World War II. But Congressman Murtha slanders the thousands of aircrew members who gave their lives in an effort to destroy enemy targets and minimize civilian casualties. Perhaps Mr. Murtha has forgotten, but the American bombing campaign in Europe was built around the concept of daylight, precision bombing. Despite the limitations of 1940s technology, U.S. air planners and bomber crews made every effort to hit their targets and reduce collateral damage. Army Air Corps leaders, including General Hap Arnold and Lieutenant Generals Ira Eaker and Jimmy Doolittle, resisted British calls to halt daylight raids, and join the RAF in night-time, area attacks.

Instead, the U.S. continued its daylight campaign until the end of the war, and many crew members paid the ultimate price, trying to hit precise targets with bombs from their B-17s and B-24s. Professional photographer (and aviation buff) Tom Philo has put together some interesting data on U.S. bombers losses in Europe during World War II. On particularly bloody raids (Schweinfurt and Ploesti), U.S. bomber groups lost more than 50 aircraft, each carrying a crew of 10 men.

Critics will argue that the U.S. still engaged in the deliberate targeting of civilians, during the infamous raids on Dresden, Germany in early 1945 and the B-29 fire-bombing campaign against Japan. However, those claims fail to ignore important facts: namely, (in Dresden) the bulk of the damage was inflicted by the initial RAF raid, and beyond that, there were valid military reasons for targeting the city's rail yards, the primary target for U.s. and British bombers. Against Japan, night raids (using incendiary bombs) began after daylight, high-altitude attacks failed to produce desired results. This failure was partly due to technical problems with the new B-29s, effects of the jet stream (which blew bombers and their munitions off-course), the long distance between Japan and U.S. bomber bases on Guam, and the density of Japanese cities, where civilian, military and industrial targets were typically interspersed.

With his latest defamatory comments, Jack Murtha has achieved a new low (even by his standards) and owes an apology to everyone who served as a U.S. bomber crew member in World War II. That list includes some former Democratic colleagues, namely Senator George McGovern and the late Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen. I'm sure that Senator McGovern would be surprised to learn that he did nothing more than kill civilians during his 35 combat missions as a World War II B-24 pilot.

Inconvenient Questions

..for AlGore and his global warming movie, courtesy of Dr. Roy Spencer at TCS Daily. Don't hold your breath waiting for answers, either. As Matt Drudge reminds us, "Mr. Conservation" is the same guy who burned 400,000 pounds of jet fuel to attend the Kyoto Conference, and (more recently) Gore and his entourage drove the 500 meters from their hotel, to the headquarters of the Cannes Film Festival, where the movie premiered.

Missile Defense from the Sea

Our ballistic missile defense efforts took a potentially important step yesterday, with a successful test of a Navy Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) against an incoming missile in the final seconds of flight. The test marked the first time that any sea-based missile conducted a successful intercept of a ballistic missile in its terminal flight stage. The SM-2 (a modified, Block IV variant) was fired by the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie, operating in the Pacific Missile Range Facility near Hawaii.

The significance of this test cannot be understated. For years, the U.S. has been attempting to extend its ballistic missile defenses to sea-based platforms, with mixed results. In 2001, the Pentagon cancelled the Navy's SM-2 IVA Area Defense program, which was built around modified SM-2 missiles (equipped with an imaging infrared seeker, to track incoming missiles), fired from surface vessels equipped with the Aegis system. At the time of the cancellation, the initial SM-2/BMD effort was at least two years behind schedule, and $400 million over budget. Efforts at developing medium-range missile defenses proved more successful (more on that in a moment), but the lack of a sea-based, terminal defense capability meant that U.S. forces would have to rely on land-based Patriot missiles for short-range defense. In some regions (namely the Taiwan Strait), that capability either doesn't exist, or would be quickly overwhelmed by enemy ballistic missiles, underscoring the importance of terminal defenses on naval vessels.

To meet that requirement, the Navy and DOD's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) pursued more affordable variants of the SM-2 Block IV, culminating in yesterday's successful test launch near Hawaii. Additionally, the Pentagon has developed the longer-ranged SM-3, in an effort to create a layered, sea-based missile defense. The SM-3 is designed to intercept ballistic missiles in mid-course (outside the earth's atmosphere), and has been successful in 6 of 7 test flights (so far). Deployment of the terminal phase SM-2 would complement the SM-3 on 15 modified Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and 3 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, optimized for theater missile defense.

According to the Missile Defense Agency, "considerations to deploy SM-2 terminal defense missiles" are still under review, indicating that the project's future is far from assured. But, given the requirement for short-range defense of naval forces and shore facilities from missile attack (and yesterday's successful test launch) the terminal defense program should find more support in Congress and the Pentagon.

When Ronald Reagan first raised the possibility of missile defense two decades ago, he was roundly ridiculed, and program managers were chided for wasting money on technology that "would never work." Despite some over-publicized failures, BMD programs have advanced steadily over the past 20 years, affirming both the validity of Reagan's original vision, and his faith in America's ability to make the dream a reality.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tehran Sends Another Signal

Amid its current push for direct talks with Washington, the Ahmadinejad government took time out to send another signal Tuesday night, conducting a test launch of a Shahab-3 medium-range missile. The launch was conducted just hours before Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began a summit with President Bush in Washington.

Preparations for the launch were detected in advance, and the test came as no surprise. It's unclear if the missile launched on Tuesday was an extended-range version of the Shahab-3, which would allow Iran to strike targets beyond Israel. Tehran has been working on an extended range version of the missile for some time, with mixed results.

Iran has been offering feelers about a dialogue with the U.S., and the missile test was apparently intended (in part) to highlight the potential dangers of ignoring or opposing Tehran. But from my perspective, the Shahab-3 launch sends other signals, namely that Iran is still intent on developing weapons of mass destruction (and the platforms to deliver them), and that Ahmadinejad isn't serious about negotiating with the U.S.

Let's Talk

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has apparently launched a "dialogue" campaign towards the United States. Earlier this month, Ahmadinejad sent an 18-page letter to President Bush, the first direct communication between Iranian and U.S. heads of state of state in more than 25 years. From the U.S. perspective, the correspondence was wacky, even offensive; Ahmadinejad devoted most of his letter to a familiar litany of complaints against the U.S., mixed in with odd musings on theology. The Bush Administration quickly--and correctly--rejected Ahmadinejad's letter, saying it provided no basis for renewed contacts with Iran.

Apparently undeterred by that rejection, Iranian officials are still pushing for a new dialogue with Washington. Today's Washington Post reports that a number of Iranian officials have conveyed their desire (through intermediaries) for direct talks with the United States. The head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council recently passed that message to Mohammed El-Baradei (head of the International Atomic Energy Agency), for transmission to Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. Similar requests were conveyed through other channels, including Islamic nations friendly to the U.S. (Indonesia, Kuwait), European countries (France, Britain) and even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

What's driving this sudden demand for direct talks? Experts interviewed by the Post believe that the recent requests signal a change in Iranian strategy. Readers will note that many of these experts seem to come from sectors of the government (including the CIA) that have consistently opposed Bush Administration policies toward Iran. Not surprisingly, most of these analysts view the Iranian request as genuine, and believe the U.S. should respond to Tehran's overture. The Post even managed to track down Paul Pillar, the former CIA analyst who was forced to retire from the agency last fall, after publicly criticizing the administration. Predictably, Pillar believes engagement is a good idea:

"Much stranger first steps have led to dialogues than this letter. And as weird as the letter may be, if the Iranians want to begin discussions based on the theme of righteousness, that's something we should not be afraid to engage on...We have pretty strong arguments about justice and righteousness of our own, so we should not shy away from that."

The salient question, of course, is why do the Iranians want to talk now, after refusing American gestures for years? The Post believes that Tehran wants to avoid a showdown over its nuclear program, and realizes the window for diplomacy is closing fast. Some experts also believe that the domestic situation has changed in Iran; with "reformers" now out of power, Ahmadinejad's hard-line government (a relative concept in Tehran) can now engage the U.S., claim credit for any successful negotiations and enhance its standing at home.

There may be an element of truth in that, but I'll take a more cynical view. Following the North Korean model, the Iranians have learned that the U.S. is reluctant to engage in military action while diplomatic efforts are underway, and may use any negotiations as a way to "buy time" for its nuclear development efforts. You'll recall that Washington began serious talks with Pyongyang about its nuclear program in the early 1990s; the disastrous "Agreed To" framework was a bonanza for North Korea. In exchange for supposedly giving up its nuclear ambitions, Pyongyang received security guarantees, shipments of oil from the U.S., and South Korean promises to build light-water reactors. The deal finally unraveled after the U.S. discovered that North Korea had violated the agreement by maintaining a clandestine development program, building nuclear weapons. But the agreement "bought" eight precious years for Pyongyang, allowing them to realize their nuclear ambitions.

Tehran has already demonstrated a similar "talk and stall" approach in recent nuclear discussions with Germany, France and Britain, and in negotiations with Moscow to shift uranium enrichment efforts to a Russian facility. Negotiations on these issues have been underway for more than a year, with no signs of progress. But even vague hopes for a diplomatic solution have been enough to sustain the process--and deter military action. By including Washington in the talks, Iran may believe it can buy even more time, forestall possible U.S. military action, and even prevent a potential Israeli military strike.

While millions of ordinary Iranians (and a few officials in the current government) genuinely want a dialogue with the United States, their desires must be measured against Tehran's recent policies toward our government and our citizens. Since the 1979 revolution, successive Iranian regimes have pursued policies that are contrary to U.S. interests, directly endanger American lives, and provide no realistic foundation for dialogue.

And, despite calls for engagement, Ahmadinejad shows no inclination of abandoning those policies. He is continuing to pursue nuclear weapons and delivery systems that threaten the entire Middle East and parts of southern Europe. His government remains the major sponsor of Islamic terrorism, and has provided support for attacks that have killed scores of Israeli citizens and U.S. military personnel in Iraq. That sort of track record suggests that the Iran is not serious about negotiations with the U.S., and probably views potential talks as a little more than a ploy. Until Tehran actually changes its policies, both at home and abroad, the Bush Administration will be well-advised to keep the communications channels closed.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This Should Come as No Surprise

...but the Pentagon has identified China's growing military power as a potential threat to U.S. interests in the Far East, and eventually, the CONUS.

In its annual report to Congress, the DOD said China has "the greatest potential of any nation to compete militarily with the U.S.," although its current power-projection capabilities are limited. The report echoed themes found in last year's study, which warned that Beijing's growing military forces can already alter regional military balances.

Of particular concern is China's build-up opposite Taiwan. According to the report, Beijing has deployed more than 700 short-range missiles opposite the island, giving it the ability to saturate the island's key military and port facilities, hampering the ability of U.S. forces to potentially aid Taiwan. Additionally, China's growing air and naval forces could eventually challenge American control of the seas to the east of Taiwan, further complicating our military operations in the region.

Analysts were also "surprised" by China's growing strategic forces, including recently-deployed mobile ICBMs. Those missiles are designed for more distant targets--including population centers in the western U.S. Beijing is also revamping its military doctrine, to take advantage of new technologies in satellite navigation and precision weapons.

To be sure, China's military still has some significant shortfalls. It's SSBN fleet is microscopic, and its amphibious lift capabilities remain limited. That latter deficiency represents an Achilles heel for the Chinese military machine, limiting its ability to mount an invasion of Taiwan. But, with Beijing's economy roaring along, the cost of building more landing craft and roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) ships can be easily (and eventually) overcome.

The report notes that Beijing has not fully explained the motivation for its continuing military build-up. That must be an input from Foggy Bottom. You don't need a Phd in International Relations to understand that China wants to be the regional hegemon in the Far East, and eventually bring Taiwan back into its fold. To do that, you need a powerful military, able to engage adversaries (read: the U.S.) on equal or near-equal terms. China's continuing military build-up is simply a reflection of those aims.

Crossing the Red Line

It received only passing attention in the press, but there are new indications that Iran is rapidly approaching an Israeli "red line" in regards to its nuclear program. For some time, Israeli leaders have stated that there is a point in the nuclear development process that Tehran will not be allowed to pass. Reaching that stage--and attempting to move beyond it--will invite Israeli military action.

Not surprisingly, the Israelis have always been a bit vague as to what constitutes the "red line" and when Tehran will reach that point. This "vagueness" was the product of two factors; first, there was genuine debate within Israeli political, military and intelligence circles as to how far Iran had progressed in its nuclear program. Secondly, the Israelis wanted to avoid tipping its hand to the international community, potentially revealing its level of knowledge about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, and military planning for dealing with the threat.

At this point, potential Israeli military strikes against Iran are just that--a potential threat. But the red line that might prompt such action is coming into focus. In a weekend interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, weekend, new Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the key issue with Iran was not the production of nuclear weapons, but rather the acquisition of the know-how needed to build a bomb:

"This technological threshold is nearer than we anticipated before. This is because they are already engaged very seriously in enrichment," Olmert said. "The technological threshold is very close. It can be measured in months rather than years."

Olmert's comments indicate that his government now defines the red line in terms of the technical ability, and not a finished product. Some Israeli analysts believe that the Iranian program is progressing more rapidly than their U.S. counterparts. One recent CIA estimate said that Tehran may be a decade away from having a nuclear weapon, and would need several years to acquire the necessary knowledge. Israeli estimates suggest a much more compressed timeline, with some speculation that Iran might have its first nuclear device within two years.

The Israeli Prime Minister's warning about Iran came just weeks after his Mossad chief delivered similar, dire predictions in conversations with senior U.S. officials. As we noted at the time, Olmert's decision to send the Mossad director to Washington (in preparation for this week's U.S.-Israeli summit) was designed to not only convey Tel Aviv's concerns, but remind Washington that Israel's patience is not unlimited. Olmert's comments might have also been intended to prod stronger U.S. action against Iran, with a veiled hint that "if you don't do something, we will."

There are obvious risks in this strategy. Deciding when Iran has reached the knowledge threshhold becomes a matter of subjective intelligence analysis, with much greater margin for error. Then, there's the thorny issue of whether military strikes can eliminate enough of Iran's "knowledge base" to create long-term delays in nuclear weapons development. The British tried a similar approach with their massive raid on Germany's ballistic missile center an Peenemunde in 1943. A strike by hundreds of RAF heavy bombers killed scores of German rocket scientists and technicians, but delayed the Nazi V1 and V2 program by only nine months.

More importantly, the knowledge "red line" moves the decision-point for Israeli military action much closer. If Iran is indeed only months away from having the know-how to build a bomb, the Israel may be only weeks away from making its own decision. In his talks with Mr. Olmert, President Bush may find himself in the difficult position of trying to dissuade the Israelis from near-term military action, while making the case for continued diplomatic efforts--efforts that have yet to bear fruit.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Protecting Europe

As predicted in this space several months ago, the U.S. is proposing deployment of ballistic missile defenses in Europe, to protect both our allies (and, eventually) the CONUS from an Iranian missile attack. According to The New York Times, a recommendation on the site is expected to be made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later this summer. Eventually, the U.S. hopes to base at least 10 anti-missile interceptors at a European site by 2011. Poland and the Czech Republic are said to be the leading contenders for the anti-missile site, which would cost an estimated $1.6 billion.

Given Iran's growing missile menace, that figure may seem like a bargin, even with possible cost overruns. Iran currently has more than 200 short and medium-range ballistic missiles, capable of reaching targets as far away as Israel. Additionally, Israeli intelligence claims that Tehran recently obtained BM-25 intermediate range missiles from North Korea, athough that report has not been fully confirmed. The BM-25 would allow Iran to strike targets as far away as southern Europe, and (perhaps more importantly), it would require few modifications to carry a nuclear warhead. The BM-25 is based on the Soviet-era SS-N-6 sub-launched ballistic missile, which was designed solely for the purpose of delivering nuclear warheads. With this technological foundation, Iran will be capable of producing missiles that could target all of Europe by the end of this decade, and the CONUS within 10 years.

But deployment of the missile shield in Europe is far from assured. Russia, long concerned about any NATO or U.S. "encroachment" on its western border, is trying to stir up opposition to the plan in Poland. Beyond that, the usual alliance of socialist politicians and "green" political parties in Europe have voiced their opposition as well, intensifying debate over the proposed missile shield. European political leaders, afraid to do anything that might upset anyone, are wringing their hands over this one. Czech leaders, facing a parlimentary election in June, have avoided discussing the matter publicly, hoping it doesn't become a campaign issue. The Poles have seemed more receptive, but a deployment on their soil is far from a done deal, particularly when you factor in U.S. domestic opposition to the plan. If the Democrats regain control of the House and/or Senate this fall, missile defenses in Europe may become a moot point.

While we support the proposed deployment, there's something a little unsettling about the prospect of deploying an anti-missile shield to protect countries (Germany, France) that have done little to help the U.S. in recent years. Admittedly, the missile defenses on the continent will eventually protect the CONUS, but our European "friends" will be the immediate beneficiaries, including those who have pursued an anti-American foreign policies. Unfortunately, our missile defenses are not advanced enough to protect our true friends (Poland, Denmark, the U.K., Slovakia, Bulgaria, etc), while omitting those who have opposed us.

The U.S. has hinted at something of a partnership on this issue, promising that the proposed missile defenses will be consistent and compatible with any anti-missile interceptors developed by the Europeans. Don't hold your breath. European efforts in this area have lagged well behind the U.S., and for obvious reasons. Not only is it politically impossible to develop a European system, there was always the overriding belief that Good Ol' Uncle Sam would eventually step in, and deploy a system. That way, the Europeans can have it both ways: criticize the U.S. for being provactive (in fielding missile defenses on the continent), while, at the same time, reaping the benefits of that deployment. It happened before with the GLCM and Pershing II deployments in the 1980s, and it could well happen again, with the anti-missile base in eastern Europe.

The boys in Paris must be smiling right about now.

Signing Off at CBS

Mike Wallace officially "retired" from 60 Minutes last night, 38 years after he helped inagurate the network news magazine format. Over the decades that followed, Wallace and "60 Minutes" have spawned a legion of imitators, but none have been quite as successful as Don Hewitt's pioneering format, or its legendary senior correspondent.

Appropriately, last night's installment of 60 Minutes was a tribute to Wallace, the first correspondent hired by Hewitt when he launched the show back in 1969. In those days, neither the producer nor Wallace were on the fast-track at CBS. Hewitt--one of the true innovators in television history--had been relegated to the documentary unit, after being dumped as executive producer of the CBS Evening News With Douglas Edwards in the early 1960s.

Wallace's career was also in something of a rut at the time. He lost his job as anchor of the network's morning news program, after it was moved into head-to-head competition with NBC's "Today." Making matters worse, Wallace was still viewed with some degree of suspicion in the House that Murrow Built, thanks to his previous stints as a celebrity talk show host, game show emcee, an appearance on Broadway (in the play Reclining Figure), and a lucrative gig as pitch-man for Parliment cigarettes. After the death of his son Peter in 1962, Wallace decided to devote his life to more serious pursuits, buying out his Parliment contract, and signing on with CBS News. But Wallace was hardly a "star" at the network in the late 1960s, one reason that he was available for the Hewitt's news magazine experiment.

Despite Wallace's presence, the program struggled in its early days, often finishing near the bottom of the ratings. The show didn't crack the Nielsen Top 20 until someone at CBS decided to move 60 Minutes to the 7 p.m. slot on Sunday evenings, immediately after the network's NFL broadcasts. 60 Minutes quickly climbed to the top of the ratings, becoming a showcase for Wallace's "interrogation" style of interviewing. The program also became the biggest cash cow at CBS, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.

In fact, Wallace was considered so instrumental to the program's success--and CBS's bottom line--that the network changed its retirement policy, the same policy that had helped push Walter Cronkite out of the anchor chair in 1981. While Cronkite's Evening News had been #1 in the ratings for more than a decade, it couldn't match the profits generated by 60 Minutes, so Wallace was allowed to remain on the broadcast. Besides, the network had to find a way to keep another 60 Minutes alum (Dan Rather) in the fold, so Cronkite was permitted to retire.

Twenty-five years later, Rather has returned to the broadcast, after leading the Evening News into the ratings cellar, and destroying "60 Minutes II" franchise with his fraudulent "docu-gate" report. However, Rather has been only an occasional contributor to 60 Minutes over the past year or so, and there are no indications that he will assume a more prominent role with Wallace's retirement. The broadcast has plenty of highly-paid correspondents who aren't exactly anxious to share the load with Rather, not to mention the Couric factor. The incoming anchor of the CBS Evening News is also a correspondent for 60 Minutes, so more exposure for "The Dan" would mean fewer stories for the network's 16 million dollar woman.

And that brings us to the latest rumors making the rounds at Black Rock, CBS's corporate headquarters. Dan Rather's current contract with the network expires in August. One version suggests that Rather won't be offered a new deal; in other words, he's out when the contract expires. The other version indicates that CBS is offering a bottom-dollar renewal deal, with no specified duties beyond an occasional piece for 60 Minutes. In broadcast circles, it's the kind of deal you offer in hopes that the performer will refuse and retire, or decline and go somewhere else.

As Mike Wallace completes his victory lamp, it appears that CBS is preparing a different kind of send-off for Dan Rather. Stick a fork in CBS, he appears to be done.

A Shot Across the Bow

The big news on the Sunday talk shows this week came from Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Mr. Gonzalez opined that journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information.

Citing an obligation to protect national security, the Attorney General also stated that the government "would not hesitate" to track phone calls made by reporters as part of a criminal leak investigation. However, Gonzalez said federal officials would not mointor reporters' phone calls on a "routine" or random basis.

In the interview, Gonzalez refused to speculate whether The New York Times should be prosecuted for publishing stories on a previously-undisclosed NSA surveillance program, which tracks suspected terrorist communications between locations in the United States and overseas. The Attorney General also indicated that the government would not randomly check journalists' phone records, in an effort to identify illegal leakers.

Mr. Gonzalez's comments suggest that criminal probes into intelligence leaks (and government personnel who provide that information) is well advanced. You'll note that the AG said that we don't engage "domestic-to-domestic" surveillance without a court order." That tends to reinforce previous speculation--in this blog and other forums--that the current dust-up over media phone records is not a product of the recently-disclosed, NSA data-mining operation, but rather, an indication of on-going criminal investigations.

As we reported previously, the pattern for this sort of probe is well-established. When classified information is leaked to the media, the "originating" agency refers the matter to the Justice Department for investigation. At that point, the agency and the FBI begin a formal inquiry, in an effort to identify the leakers and determine what laws (if any) have been broken. Over a 10-year period, beginning in the mid-1990s, there were more than 600 such referrals from our intelligence agencies to the Justice Department. During that time, there were no major prosecutions (and, as far as I can tell) no dismissals of offending employees.

All that changed when the Bush Administration decided to go after leakers in a serious way, using all the tools at its disposal. Reading between the lines, it appears as though the leak investigation(s) are well-advanced, with federal agents and prosecutors having identified both the culprits and their clients in the press. At this point, many of the dots appear to have been connected; the next step is to build a case against the offending intelligence officers and their friends in the MSM. That reality may be a reason that a government source warned ABC's Brian Ross to "get new cell phones" a couple of weeks ago. Assuming that the feds have obtained a warrant, there is a strong probability that authorities are already wading through mountains of phone records and (possibly) monitoring conversations--gathering evidence that can be presented to a federal grand jury.

Mac Ranger summed it up best: this is going to be a very interesting summer in media and intelligence circles, and the "pucker factor" is extremely high in certain elements of the intel community. Reporters will howl (and there will be a major court battle), but I believe that AG Gonzalez is right: the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to publish all forms of classified information that can jeopardize national security when it enters the public realm. In that sense, Mr. Gonzalez's comments on ABC were a final shot across the bow for the MSM. The next salvo will be fired "for effect," in the form of subpoenas and indictments.

Friday, May 19, 2006

When a Suicide Attempt, Isn't

I've been on something of a rant against the MSM lately. I'd like to move on to other issues, but it's difficult when media outlets keep demonstrating that (a) they don't know what they're talking about, or (b) their leftist agenda colors everything they do, making it virtually impossible for them to get a story straight.

Consider this bit of breaking news from MSNBC. According to the network, there was a small uprising yesterday at the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Prisoners wielding fans, light fixtures and other "improvised" weapons attacked guards entering a cell block, as they attempted to prevent a terrorist from committing suicide. It was the fourth reported suicide attempt of the day.

The attacks occurred in a medium-security, communal living section of the prison. When guards spotted a prisoner attempting to hang himself, they entered the cell block and were attacked by other prisoners. A Defense Department spokesman said the detainees tried to prevent guards from rescuing the terrorist who was attempting suicide. Guards were able to quell the disturbance and prevent the prisoner from committing suicide. Prisoners involved in the incident were later moved to a maximum security area of the prison.

The "unwritten" message in this account is that conditions are so harsh at "Club Gitmo" that prisoners are attempting suicide to end their misery. And dutifully, MSNBC provides the number of attempted suicides at the prison since it opened back in 2002. Naturally, there's no frame of reference--for example, how does the number of attempted suicides at Gitmo compare to other correctional facilities, just the suggestion that Gitmo is a hell-hole for detainees.

There's also no speculation as to whether the suicide attempt might have been staged, to lure guards inside for the assault. Maybe I've watched too many prison movies, but it would seem that an attack on that scale--and using the types of "weapons" cited--would require some degree of advanced planning and preparation.

To their credit, the folks at MSNBC do manage to stumble across a more likely explanation for the uprising, and Thursday's "rash" of suicide attempts. Seems that these events occurred on a day when a number of Saudi prisoners were remanded to their home country. That transfer, coupled with reports that Gitmo may be closing soon, probably had the terrorists sufficiently agitated to try something--anything--to delay a return to the harsh confines of a "real" Middle East prison. The terrorists at Gitmo understand that if the facility there actually shuts down, many of them will face their own "homecomings," and an uncertain future at the hands of their countrymen.

Thursday's uprising at Guantanamo Bay was probably motivated by three major goals: (a) Kill or seriously injure American guards; (b) Interrupt and delay the rendition process, and (c) Get the Gitmo issue back into the MSM, and re-open the debate on redention, military tribunals, and the ultimate disposition of terrorist suspects. The MSM may not realize it, but there was a lot more going on in that cellblock that a mere suicide attempt.

Brian Ross's Latest "Expose."


Alert readers who saw last night's ABC report tell me the Air Force contract in question was for a giant video screen, allowing spectators to more easily view the Thunderbirds' aerial show. The Navy's precision flying team (The Blue Angels) already has a video system, but it didn't cost the taxpayers a dime. Following the example of various college football programs, the Navy worked a trade with the system's owner. In return for using the screen to show the Blue Angels' performance, the system's owner air commercials on the big screen, before and after the show. ABC wondered why the Air Force didn't follow the Navy's lead (a fair question), and why the screen was purchased, even though the Thunderbirds never specifically requested it. However, the report still falls far short of the mark in proving that Generals Moseley, Hornburg and Jumper somehow conspired to steer the contract to Hornburg's firm.


ABC News is reporting that three top Air Force generals--two retired, the other, the service's current Chief of Staff--are under investigation by the FBI for alleged contracting improprieties. On the surface, those allegations seem quite daming, particularly in light of the recent Air Force contracting scandal that sent a high-ranking civilian official to prison. But on closer examination, it appears as though ABC has omitted critical details of the purported "scandal" and the accompanying inquiry.

According to "Chief Investigative Correspondent" Brian Ross, the current Air Force Chief of Staff (General T. Michael Moseley) and his predecessor, General John Jumper, may have helped steer a contract for the USAF Thunderbirds precision flying team, to a company that had another retired four star (General Hal Hornburg) as a partner. At the time of his retirement, General Hornburg was commander of the Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC), headquartered at Langley AFB, VA. The Thunderbirds, based at Nellis AFB near Las Vegas, fall under ACC.

ABC hasn't made Ross's video report available, and the details posted at The Blotter (Ross's ABC website) are a bit sketchy. We know the amount of the contract, but what type of equipment or services did the contract cover? I've seen a few opaque references to a "sound system," but there's no clear indication of exactly what the money was supposed to buy.

Additionally, The Blotter doesn't name the firm that now employs General Hornburg. Retired generals working for defense contractors is nothing new--what we need are specific details on the size of the firm, it's relationship with DOD, and (most importantly) whether Hornburg was actively involved in lobbying for the Thunderbirds contract, or working on other projects for the firm. The distinction is critical; many retired flag officers work for large defense firms with thousands of employees. If Hornburg was actively soliciting the Thunderbirds deal, that's one thing. But if he was merely part of a large firm that sought the bid, then ABC's charge is little more than "guilt by association."

Mr. Ross does note that the contract was eventually cancelled after a rival firm filed a formal complaint--SOP in federal contracting circles. But you won't get any real perspective on the matter until you dig into the comments section, and a post from a reader named Oxy.

1) YOU REPORT: Gen Moseley and Gen Jumper are SUBJECTS of an investigation.
TRUTH: Only retired Gen Hornburg is a subject, the others are witnesses.

2) YOU REPORT: Gen Moseley and Gen Jumper “awarded the contract.”
TRUTH: The contract was awarded by competitive bid and the selection was made in the discretion of
the Source Selection Authority, a Colonel working at Air Combat Command.

3) YOU REPORT: The contract was cancelled after the Air Force General Counsel questioned the integrity of
the process.
TRUTH: An unsuccessful bidder filed a protest and the Air Force cancelled the contract due to mistakes
in the selection process completely unrelated to either Gen Moseley or Gen Jumper.

As ABC knows (or should), the Air Force is strictly prohibited from commenting on an ongoing FBI investigation. So you incorrectly report Gen Moseley and Gen Jumper are subjects, and they can do
nothing to defend themselves. A year from now when the FBI has completed their investigation and Gen Moseley and Gen Jumper are cleared, will you report your errors? You are here to check up on our government, and I have respect and gratitude that you do, but in this case you failed to report accurately and innocent careers are being damaged.


Reader JESH offers addtional information that was also ignored by ABC:

"...There is another side -- the truth -- which was repeatedly told to these reporters which they ignored INCLUDING the fact that this company intended to get this to the USAF FOR FREE. ABC ignored that. USAF lawyers and contracting forced this through detailed competitive bidding and knew everything about this including Hornburg's proper involvement during the one year cool down period. If a problem existed during the contracting process they would have never let it go through the process. Hornburg violated nothing -- why put a 36 year career on the line for this. Ask ABC about it. See if they post it."

Again, there are many unanswered questions in this case, but the observations of Oxy and JESH certainly cast this "scandal" in a different light. The award of "single source" contracts is a daily occurrence in the DOD, with the decision on who receives multi-million dollar contracts is often deferred to lower-ranking personnel. Both the Air Force and its largest command (ACC) are multi-billion dollar enterprises. There's no way the Air Force Chief of Staff or ACC Commander can monitor every $50 million contract awarded for goods or services.

If the Thunderbirds contract was approved by a Colonel in the ACC Contracting Office (again, SOP in the Defense Department), then it is quite possible that Moseley and Jumper had no knowledge of the deal. A more salient question might be the relationship between General Hornburg and the contracting officer. But, as JESH points out, the Air Force was well aware of potential problems with the deal, and thoroughly vetted it before allowing the contract to be approved. However, that claim is clearly missing from Ross's "expose."

Mr. Ross and his team at ABC style themselves as investigative journalists, demanding answers to tough questions. In this case, it seems, Ross and company owe the public some answers as well. Without those answers, Mr. Ross's report is little more than a hit piece, filled with scandalous accusations, but missing the details needed to support those charges. Back in the days when American journalism had standards, Ross's report would have never been aired--a producer would have likely told him to keep digging, and see if he could actually substantiate those allegations. Today, Ross's shoddy work is showcased on World News Tonight. My, how times have changed.

The Moonbats Weigh In

I was impressed by General Hayden's opening statement and answers during yesterday's first round of his Senate confirmation hearings. The same cannot be said the Senate Moonbat Brigade, which was out in full force on Thursday, and will continue its verbal sniping today.

Some of the early exchanges between Hayden and the Senators were priceless, largely because of the lunacy of the questions. John Hinderaker of Powerline has an excellent summary of yesterday's verbal exchanges, including sound bites. In each example, General Hayden emerges as the well-reasoned voice of a senior intelligence official; the Senators as little more than snippy political hacks.

If I were a resident of Wisconsin or California, I would be embarrased at the "questions" posed by Senators Russ Feingold and Diance Feinstein. If ignorance is bliss, then both Feingold and Feinstein are happy individuals, indeed.

Expect more of the same today.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Rest of the Story

Reading this AP dispatch from London, I can't decide if it's a legitimate news story (on the first British landng of the A380 Super Jumbo jet), or a press release for Airbus, the aircraft's European manufacturer.

The AP story is filled with fun facts on the massive size of the double-decker airliner, and the infrastructure upgrades required to accomodate the A380 at London's Heathrow Airport. There's even a description of the plane's initial flight to Britain, including a pass over the factory in Wales that builds the wings for the A380.

Along the way, the AP even takes a few swipes at Boeing, noting that the A380 will soon pass the American 747 as the world's largest passenger jet. The wire service dutifully notes that Airbus has recieved 159 orders for the giant aircraft, suggesting that the 747's era of dominance is coming to an end.

What's wrong with this story?

As we noted a few months back, both Airbus (and the A380 program) are in a bit of trouble. The super jumbo was conceived when oil prices were below $40 a barrel, and a 555-passenger jetliner made economic sense. Now, with a barrel of crude hovering in the $70 range, airlines are looking for aircraft that are more fuel efficient, particularly on long-haul trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes. Instead of rolling out a super jumbo of its own, Boeing wisely opted for development of fuel-efficient jets., notably the 787 "Dreamliner." Over the past two years, the American manufacturer has racked up 291 firm orders for the 787, compared with only 259 for both the A380 and the A350, designed to compete directly with the Dreamliner.

Making matters worse, American airports appear to be in little hurry to expand facilities to accomodate the A380. A 2002 GAO study conservatively estimated that facility upgrades needed to accomodate New Large Aircraft (read: A380) at 10 major U.S. airports will total at least 2.1 billion dollars--a cost that will be borne (ultimately) by travelers and local taxpayers. At Heathrow, upgrades for the A380 have (so far) run $850 million. The two billion total for U.S. airports is likely low, and there is opposition in some communities (notably Los Angeles) to expand terminals and runways to handle the super jumbo. Without wide access to the U.S. market, the A380 is ultimately doomed; in other words, a passenger flying from Singapore or Hong Kong on an A380 would have to change planes in Tokyo or Sidney, adding time (and cost) to the journey.

Not surprisingly, many airlines are opting instead for the Dreamliner, or the latest-generation Boeing 777, fuel-efficient jets, capable of serving long-haul routes, and compatible with existing U.S. airport facilities. While the largest U.S. airports will inevitably expand to accomodate the A380, they will likely remain a rarity at U.S. terminals for years to come, and that will likely translate into fewer orders for Airbus.

Make no mistake: the A380 is a technical marvel. But so were the Spruce Goose, the Lockheed L-1011 and the B-70. Ultimately, none of those designs were successful, because they were the wrong aircraft at the wrong time. The same judgment may ultimately befall the A380.

But that sort of context is obviously missing from the AP story. Reading their account from London, you'd think that Airbus has driven the final stake in Boeing's coffin. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. What are they teaching in journalism schools these days?

Striking the Right Note

I haven't been able to watch much of General Mike Hayden's confirmation hearings to be CIA Director. But, based on some soundbites I've heard (and partial transcripts I've reviewed), it appears that Hayden is striking the right notes in his testimony.

Consider his observation that the "CIA needs to get off the front page of the newspaper," both as a story and a source for stories. With the exception of a few outposts at Langley, you could almost hear the "amen" chorus across the intelligence community. Beyond members of the leakers brigade (appearing soon in a federal court near you), there is broad consensus within the intel rank-and-file that the CIA has lost its way, and needs a steady hand to get the agency back on course.

Hayden was also spot-on in his assessment that the agency has become a "political football." With assistance from malcontents on the inside, the agency has become (at least publicly) a defacto think tank for the Democratic Party. As Hayden noted, the agency's "leak" culture and various scandals have obscured the CIA's very real contributions to national security.

As we recently predicted in this space, General Hayden is more than capable of handling his interrogators in the Senate. When it comes to intelligence, he's clearly the smartest guy in the room, and second-guessers from both parties will look more foolish than informed when challenging him on various intel issues.


I was also intrigued by the opening remarks of the committee chairman, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas. Roberts praised the NSA (and its former leader, General Hayden) for its reaction to 9-11, and it's handling of those controversial programs. Senator Roberts noted that he has been to NSA and was briefed on those programs from the start. Translation: I've been in the loop since Day One, the programs are run within the letter of the law, and anyone who challenges them on "legal grounds" is playing a losing hand. Of course, the risk of looking foolish has never stopped the likes of Carl Levin or Arlen Spector. They'll keep lobbing their "tough" questions at General Hayden, and he'll keep knocking them out of the park.

Waxing Nostalgic

As the mid-term elections approach, you're bound to see more articles like this one, by Fred Kaplan in Slate. Mr. Kaplan, who writes the "War Stories" column for Slate, seems to be waxing nostalgic for the good 'ol days of the Clinton Administration, and the Agreed To Framework with North Korea.

According to Kaplan, the U.S.-North Korean framework, "however flamed," kept Pyongyang from building "dozens of A-bombs" during the 1990s. He also finds it ironic that the Bush Administration appears to be going along with European efforts to provide similar incentives to Iran, in hopes of curtailing Tehran's nuclear ambitions. More on that in a moment.

As you'll recall, the deal between Washington and Pyongyang was supposed to have the same effect on North Korea's nuclear program. In exchange for the North giving up its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. and South Korea agreed to provide a package of incentives, including light-water reactors for Pyongyang, oil shipments, and assurances that the U.S. would not use nuclear weapons against North Korea. There was also an agreement for Washington and Pyongyang to move toward normalized relations, and for an expanded talks between North and South Korea.

The Agreed To Framework never lived up to expectations, and Kaplan puts most of the blame on Washington and Seoul. The "right-wingers" who then occupied the Blue House pulled out of the deal after a North Korean commando submarine washed up on the ROK's eastern shore. Influential members of Congress also opposed the notion of "rewarding" Kim Jong-il's regime, claiming that the north could not be trusted.

Turns out that the conservatives in Seoul and Washington were right. While Kaplan notes that the IAEA kept monitoring North Korea's heavy water reactor, the North was not living up to its end of the bargain. Shortly after the Bush Administration took office in 2001, our intelligence agencies discovered that Pyongyang had been secretly enriching uranium, and had probably produced a small inventory of nuclear weapons. The "observed compliance" at the Yongbyon Nuclear Complex (where the IAEA observed inactivity) was nothing but a ruse.

Ditto for the "negotiations" between the U.S. and North Korea on ballistic missile production. Kaplan claims that the two sides were close to reaching a deal on halting Pyongyang's missile program. History records that North Korea's missile programs continued apace during the late 1990s, with Pyongyang exporting SCUD technology to additional customers in the Middle East, and developing more advanced, long-range missiles like the TD-1 and TD-2. In fact, while the Clinton team was trying to strike a deal with Pyongyang, the North Koreans test-fired a TD-1 that sailed over Japan before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Tokyo was understandly upset, but the U.S. kept talking--exactly what Pyongyang wanted.

When the Bush Administration took office, they (rightfully) abandoned the tatters of the Agreed To Framework, opting instead for a regional approach, involving the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the U.S. True, these talks haven't produced any real progress, but (most importantly) they haven't produced a flawed agreement that rewards Pyongyang for bad behavior. If Bush had followed Clinton's lead, we'd still be shipping fuel oil to North Korea and pressuring South Korea to complete those light-water reactors, while Pyongyang simply smiled and kept building more nuclear weapons.

Kaplan is right about one thing (in a rather indirect sense). Given the colossal failure of the Agree To Framework, it is surprising that the U.S. and its European allies are proposing a similar deal with Iran. I'll also agree with his supposition that the lack of viable alternatives is driving the the current policy. But there should be a major distinction in dealing with Iran in contrast to past negotiations with North Korea. While Mr. Clinton was happy to give North Korea wide latitude in complying with the agreement, Mr. Bush and his partners cannot give the same discretion to Tehran. "Don't trust--and verify" should be the mantra governing any potential deal with Iran.

What would that mean? For starters, full, unfettered access to all Iranian nuclear facilities, surprise inspections at all known and suspected sites, and implementation of any other measures deemed necessary for ensuring complete compliance. And those conditions are just for the nuclear issue; any "real" deal with Tehran should also address Iran's support for terrorist groups that pose a direct threat to regional security, and require that Tehran sever those ties as well.

In return, delivery of any promised "carrots" should be carefully calibrated to verified compliance by Iran. One the great failings of the framework with North Korea was the fanciful belief that Pyongyang would eventually comply, if we delivered enough fuel oil and the South Koreans built those reactors. The U.S. kept delivering fuel oil to North Korea throughout the Clinton years, long after questions about Pyongyang's compliance began to surface. Kim Jong-il must have been tickled pink; not only was American oil was flowing into his ports (giving him a chance to expand stockpiles of that badly-needed commodity), North Korea was also able to expand its nuclear arsenal, while supposedly complying with the Agreed To Framework. From Pyongyang's perspective, it was a Win-Win-Win deal.

Talk of a similar deal with Tehran is ominous, to say the least. Iran has obviously studied the North Korean model, and adopted similar strategies in dealing with the west on the nuclear issue. The first rule from Pyongyang's playbook is simple: Open a dialogue and stretch the talks out as long as possible. Rule Two: When you finally get an attractive deal, take it, and make sure the terms favor you. Rule Three: Don't give up anything in return; maintain an illusion of compliance, while continuing your nuclear efforts in secret. Rule Four: When your fraud is finally exposed, be defiant, make threats and demand more talks. When the west meekly complies, start the process all over again.

According to a recent poll, a surprising number of Americans are now equating the Clinton Administration with "The Good Old Days." But a clear analysis of his "policies" reveals that Clinton created his Era of Good Feeling, by merely postponing hard decisions on emerging threats (such as terrorism and Iran), or enterring into the poorly-conceived agreement with North Korea, that eventually blew up in our face. Confronting the Iran threat, the Bush Administration may feel that diplomacy is its only viable, short-term option. But brokering an "Agreed To" deal with Iran (long on carrots, short on sticks) would be an unmitigated disaster. No matter how much Mr. Kaplan may long for the halcyon days of Madeline Albright and the Clinton State Department, the Agrred To Framework with Pyongyang represented a low ebb for U.S. diplomacy in the post-Cold War era, and it is a model to be avoided, rather than duplicated.