‘Dutch philosophy’ at work in Uruzgan

The Canadian Globe and Mail has an article about the Dutch troops in Uruzgan (hat tip Sargasso) that really made my day. One quote, emphasis mine:

The Dutch went into Uruzgan expecting the same kind of bloody welcome that Canadians have found in Kandahar. (…) But the bloodbath never happened. This past week, the first four-month rotation of Dutch troops started to leave Uruzgan after having completed 400 patrols, established two forward bases and started the slow work of building roads, bridges, schools, and clinics — all without a single soldier killed in action, and just two injuries from hostile forces. (…) The success is fragile, Dutch commanders caution, and might be partly the result of luck, insurgents focusing on battles elsewhere or the cautious pace of their arrival. But the early results in Uruzgan also suggest that something these commanders call the “Dutch philosophy” is worth a hard look. It’s a strategy focused on supporting the local government rather than killing its supposed enemies, talking with the Taliban instead of fighting them, and treading carefully with an understanding of how little any foreigner knows about this untamed country.

Isn’t it beautiful, the simple concept of honestly trying to understand the country that you are supposed to reconstruct, the honesty of army commanders acknowledging that their success may simply be luck, the very idea that somewhere competent people are actually achieving something positive in an ocean of negative forces? Wow.

I was first planning to play down the information in this post with lots of caveats and links to all sorts of nasty things, like this one, and with references to Srebrenica etcetera, so as not to appear too naïve. And I am also sure our esteemed commenters will set me straight right away and add the necessary nuance. Today, however, I would like to ditch my personal cynicism for a moment and enjoy this bit of positive news “as is”.

From Vancouver to Vladivostok

Not unlike the cold old days, the US and Russia have been at odds over the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the recent ministerial meeting in Brussels (Belgium currently has the OSCE’s rotating chairmanship), the Russian ambassador complained about an imbalance in the Organisation’s work, specifically that too much emphasis was being put on the “human dimension.” That’s an OSCE bit of jargon that covers things like free and fair elections, protection of human rights and so forth. (This was all reported in the German newspaper whose web site could be better organized, page 6 of the December 5 edition, but can one find the article on said web site? No. Try here, instead, as long as the link lasts.)

Ambassador Lavrov said that the OSCE should give equal focus to the military and economic aspects of security and cooperation in Europe. This is kind of a nutty thing for a Russian ambassador to be saying.
Continue reading

Russia to Veto Kosovar Independence

According to dpa (as related on page 6 of today’s FAZ), the Russian ambassador in Serbia said that Russia would use its UN Security Council veto to put the kibosh on any UN action to recognize the independence of Kosovo. He couched his argument a tiny bit more diplomatically, in that he said Russia would veto a solution that is not acceptable to both sides, i.e., Serbian and Kosovar. But it’s essentially a foregone conclusion that the Serbian government will not look favorably on independence for its former province.

A status recommendation is expected at the end of January from UN representative Martti Ahtisaari. The dpa report says to expect him to recommend limited independence under the auspices of the EU. That’s confusing, even for diplomatic language, and it might be enough of a fig leaf to avoid a UN confrontation.

If not, it will be interesting to see how EU leaders, particularly German ones, who often praise the UN as a source of legitimacy (see Iraq, for instance), react in this case. (German public and commentator reaction will be interesting too; sometimes it seems that the UN here is regarded as a politics-free and near-holy Instanz.) My bet is that a Russian veto will be roundly ignored and recognition extended in some form on a bilateral basis. Consistency being a hobgoblin and all that.

Litvinenko, UKIP, Berlusconi

The Litvinenko case just gets weirder, although perhaps a little simpler. Yesterday’s Observer ran a long report based on the testimony of a Russian doctoral student in London who got in touch with him whilst looking for information on Chechnya. Apparently he boasted of having not only a dossier on the Yukos case, but also sources in the FSB who would provide him with documents on command. He also said he planned to blackmail the Russian government and prominent persons with these documents, in order to escape his financial dependence on Berezovsky.

On the other hand, the role of Mario Scaramella becomes a little clearer with this must-read report in the Independent. It seems that essentially everything he has told British reporters is untrue. He is not an investigating magistrate, nor a professor, nor does his “Environmental Crime Protection Project” exist in any signal way. Instead, he appears to be a political operative of some kind.
Continue reading

A Russian Sickness

Yegor Gaidar, a former Prime Minister of Russia, was rushed to a hospital in Dublin last week. The next morning, he checked out and apparently flew to Moscow, where he checked back into a hospital. According to the Moscow Times, he was still there on Wednesday.

What’s ailing Gaidar? It’s not lead poisoning. It’s probably not polonium poisoning. Beyond that, no one is saying.

Anatoly Chubais, a colleague of Gaidar from the early days of Russia’s transition and now head of the Russian electricity system, told the press that doctors believed the illness might not be natural. The Irish Foreign Ministry, through an anonymous spokesperson (how’s that for conviction!), denied that there was anything suspicious or untoward about the illness.

Strange business indeed. Settling of old scores? Preparation for changes in Russia? Or something natural and coincidental?

So what does the US *really* think of EU defence?

Getting away from the eternal baboon threat displays and absurd disinformation for a moment, what do we know about EU and US defence? The lazy/cowardly/decadent/anti-imperialist Euros refuse to do anything, spend any money, or fight, and the US is permanently and increasingly stronger, right? Let’s see what the professionals think. The latest issue of Parameters, the journal of the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute at Fort Carlisle, is out and it’s a special on Europe. (Mmm, a treat.)

Stephen J. Coonen writes that the EU’s efforts in the security arena should not be seen as competitive with NATO, but complementary and providing means to act if NATO does not – something which cannot be overemphasised enough, in my opinion. He assesses EU and US capabilities and concludes that the power gap is small, and specifically concentrated in a few areas such as strategic airlift and satellite reconnaissance. He argues that “sound plans” exist to reduce the gaps, for example, the NATO C-17 purchase and the SALIS project, which jointly leases Antonov-124 aircraft to support NATO and EU-RRF operations, the Anglo-French Stormshadow missile and more (see note 29, if you’re like that, or for a more sensational argument read all about France’s latest ICBM test).
Continue reading

More Stages of the Globalisation Process

Who knew Hungary has an entire shopping centre devoted to Chinese-owned businesses? Der Standard reports on the “Asia Centre” in the 16th district of Budapest, home to a community that has made Hungary the biggest entrepot for Chinese goods in central Europe. Last year, $4bn of Chinese exports entered Hungary, of which two-thirds was re-exported. The centre is 90 per cent utilised and is going to expand. Not entirely surprisingly, its owners are the Austrian construction group Strabag and the Austrian mutual banks’ investment arm, Raiffeisen Investment AG.

Apparently, there may be as many as 60,000 Chinese in Hungary, the flourishing legacy of a botched late-communist trade agreement. In order to keep up appearances after the two sides failed to agree anything substantive, they ended visa requirements between China and Hungary. This came into its own a year later, when large numbers of people quit China after the Tiananmen Square massacre and arrived in a Hungary that was about to be the first mover in the wave of revolutions. Originally, their businesses shot out of the ground around the eastern railway station’s freight yards. Later, the Austrian investors built the new centre.

It’s striking that they will be very well placed if this railway project comes to fruition.

On the other hand, there’s a fist. Jörg Haider’s election posters this time around carried photos of two “violent Chechens”, whose access to social services was then cut off. They haven’t been accused of an offence, and neither does the Klagenfurt police know of any case involving a Chechen.

The Right and the Extremists

Meanwhile, on the other side of the hill, French conservatives are no more united than the Left. In fact, they are much less so, as they are a long way from even choosing a leader yet. Candidates are proliferating: as well as Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé is back, Dominique de Villepin refuses to give in, Michéle Alliot-Marie just entered the fray, and Jacques Chirac is still leaving the option of a third campaign open at the age of 71. The key insight is that the party structure is tenuous, two right-wing traditions exist, and the leading personalities despise each other. It’s like the Borgas with spin-doctors. On the Right, it won’t be anything as simple as an election that decides the issue, because the main party (the UMP, a King’s party set up in 2002 to support Chirac) is really a coalition wrapped around the Gaullist RPR, which has its own leader.

De Villepin, Juppé and the old fella all represent the same thing – the hunt by Jacques Chirac for an alternative to Sarkozy who can be trusted to maintain the social peace and carry on the Gaullist tradition. The problem being, of course, that De Villepin is damaged goods, Juppé is a rush-job and a crook, having just returned from trouble with the law, and Chirac is old, unpopular and has scandals like a dog has fleas. Sarkozy, for his part, represents the heritage of the non-Gaullist “droite classique” and, more importantly, appeals to the cult of America. His argument (everything is terrible and only I, the new young US-style leader, know what to do) and his prescription (free markets and mass surveillance) bear a far closer resemblance to Tony Blair than anything found on Ségolene Royal.

But the Chirac side fears that he will either win, and strike down with great vengeance on them, or scare the public to the Left. Hence the snark hunt for a stop-Ségo-and-Sarko candidate, which is another way of saying Jacques Chirac.
Continue reading

200 Gigabits a Second

Todd Underwood of Internet consultants Renesys has an interesting post for the day AMSIX, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, set the world record for Internet traffic through a single facility. At 2110 CET on Monday, the world’s biggest IX saw more than 200 gigabits a second of netty goodness hurtling through its multiple 10GB Ethernet switches. That’s a whole lotta traffic. And love, this being Amsterdam.

But what especially interests me about it is that somehow, everyone does these things differently. In North America, public IXen don’t really count for much—even the mighty Equinix sees only half AMSIX’s traffic across all its exchanges. Traditionally, ISPs and telcos have preferred to set up private interconnections, or else pay a private exchange operator like Equinix. In Europe, though, public exchanges run by their users as co-operatives, where everyone connects to shared high-capacity Ethernet switches, have been a vital part of the Internet infrastructure from the word go, with LINX in Tookey Street, London SE1 being the first. Over the years, they have grown spectacularly and continue to do so—a year ago, AMS-IX was doing half the traffic it is now, LINX has doubled since January, and DECIX in Frankfurt is up 150 per cent this year.

There’s obviously a political/cultural analogy here. The Americans prefer to set up their own private wires, and the Europeans prefer sharing a really big Ethernet ring, operated as a non-profit organisation. And the South Koreans have arrived at a sort of hybrid solution, doing private interconnection in a very big way but within a shared facility. But there doesn’t seem to be any great difference in the results.

Geek culture bleg: If multiple Linux boxes are boxen, multiple muxes are muxen, more than one VAX used to be VAXen, why aren’t more than one switch switchen?

Re-Christianise to fight genocide!

Europe must re-Christianise to resist terror!

A Roman Catholic nun has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for her role in the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Theophister Mukakibibi was jailed by a traditional Rwandan court for helping ethnic Hutu militiamen kill Tutsis hiding in a hospital where she worked.

Mukakibibi is the first nun sentenced by a Rwandan court for crimes committed during the genocide.

Two other Catholic nuns were found guilty by a Belgian court in 2001, and male priests have also faced trial.

Theophister Mukakibibi worked at the National University Hospital in the town of Butare during the genocide.


According to Jean Baptiste Ndahumba, president of the local gacaca court in Butare, the nun selected Tutsis sheltering in the hospital and threw them out for the militias to kill.

He said she did not spare pregnant women, and was also accused of dumping a baby in a latrine, the Reuters news agency reports.

“She used to hold meetings with militiamen and had an army officer as her escort during the killings,” Mr Ndahumba said…

Posted, as they say, without comment.