About me and other countries

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

With Hezbollah's entry into the war between Israel and Hamas, Fourth Generation war has taken another developmental step forward. For the first time, a non-state entity has gone to war with a state not by waging an insurgency against a state invader, but across an international boundary. Again we see how those who define 4GW simply as insurgency are looking at only a small part of the picture.
I think the stakes in the Israel-Hezbollah-Hamas war are significantly higher than most observers understand. If Hezbollah and Hamas win – and winning just means surviving, given that Israel's objective is to destroy both entities – a powerful state will have suffered a new kind of defeat, again, a defeat across at least one international boundary and maybe two, depending on how one defines Gaza's border. The balance between states and 4GW forces will be altered worldwide, and not to a trivial degree.
So far, Hezbollah is winning. As Arab states stood silent and helpless before Israel's assault on Hamas, another non-state entity, Hezbollah, intervened to relieve the siege of Gaza by opening a second front. Its initial move, a brilliantly conducted raid that killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two for the loss of one Hezbollah fighter, showed once again that Hezbollah can take on state armed forces on even terms (the Chechens are the only other 4GW force to demonstrate that capability). In both respects, the contrast with Arab states will be clear on the street, pushing the Arab and larger Islamic worlds further away from the state.
Hezbollah then pulled off two more firsts. It responded effectively to terror bombing from the air, which states think is their monopoly, with rocket barrages that reached deep into Israel. One can only imagine how this resonated worldwide with people who are often bombed but can never bomb back. And, it attacked another state monopoly, navies, by hitting and disabling a blockading Israeli warship with something (I question Israel's claim that the weapon was a C-801 anti-ship missile, which should have sunk a small missile corvette). Hezbollah's leadership has promised more such surprises.
In response, Israel has had to hit not Hezbollah but the state of Lebanon. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, referring to the initial Hezbollah raid, said, "I want to make clear that the event this morning is not a terror act but the act of a sovereign state that attacked Israel without reason." This is an obvious fiction, as the state of Lebanon had nothing to do with the raid and cannot control Hezbollah. But it is a necessary fiction for Israel, because otherwise who can it respond against? Again we see the power 4GW entities obtain by hiding within states but not being a state.
What comes next? In the short run, the question may be which runs out first, Hezbollah's supply of rockets or the world's patience with Israel bombing the helpless state of Lebanon. If the latter continues much longer, the Lebanese government may collapse, undoing one of America's few recent successes in the Islamic world.
The critical question is whether the current fighting spreads region-wide. It is possible that Hezbollah attacked Israel not only to relieve the siege of Hamas in Gaza but also to preempt an Israeli strike on Iran. The current Iranian government is not disposed to sit passively like Saddam and await an Israeli or American attack. It may have given Hezbollah a green light in order to bog Israel down locally to the point where it would not also want war with Iran.
However, Israel's response may be exactly the opposite. Olmert also said, "Nothing will deter us, whatever far-reaching ramifications regarding our relations on the northern border and in the region there may be." The phrase "in the region" could refer to Syria, Iran, or both.
If Israel does attack Iran, the "summer of 1914" analogy may play itself out, catastrophically for the United States. As I have warned many times, war with Iran (Iran has publicly stated it would regard an Israeli attack as an attack by the U.S. also) could easily cost America the army it now has deployed in Iraq. It would almost certainly send shock waves through an already fragile world economy, potentially bringing that house of cards down. A Bush administration that has sneered at "stability" could find out just how high the price of instability can be.
It is clear what Washington needs to do to try to prevent such an outcome: publicly distance the U.S. from Israel while privately informing Mr. Olmert that it will not tolerate an Israeli strike on Iran. Unfortunately, Israel is to America what Serbia was to Russia in 1914. That may be the most disturbing aspect of the "summer of 1914" analogy.

AT&T launched its Homezone television service in two areas on Wednesday, combining Internet functionality and satellite television into a single package. The option will be made available to customers in Ohio and San Antonio, Texas, with a launch in 80 percent of its coverage area by the end of the year.
Television service would be provided by DISH Network, with AT&T providing Internet access to download video content, as well as using Yahoo online services to offer additional functionality. Homezone is also expected to allow the company to offer television services in places where its fiber-optic lines will not reach.
That fiber optic service, now being called U-Verse, is not expected to be widely available for another two years. The offering is currently available in a test mode in San Antonio, where AT&T is headquartered. The company says U-Verse will make an appearance in other markets by the end of the year.
"AT&T Homezone combines the entertainment that consumers want most in a way that goes well beyond anything our competitors offer today," chief marketing officer Rick Welday said. "This new service underscores the company's strategy to integrate the three screens that many consumers value most today: the TV, PC and cell phone."
Homezone bundles will be priced between $80 and $140 USD per month, depending on the area and features selected.
Future enhancements to Homezone include HDTV service, and music and video content from partner Akimbo. Eventually, customers will gain remote DVR programming functionality through Cingular phones, AT&T said.

Which two American institutions are the among most expensive and least effective? Public education below the university level is clearly the first, strangled by a governmental near-monopoly, and William Tucker explains how American health care is similarly impeded by regulation.
A complicated system of mutual dependency distorts the incentives. "The FDA is like the FCC and Big Pharma is like the regional Bells" is what Mr. Kessler hears from Don Listwin, a former Cisco executive who now heads the Canary Foundation, a Silicon Valley-based effort to promote preventive medicine. In other words, in medicine as in telecom, the big players end up exploiting regulations more than opposing them, if only to preserve their monopolies. The Food and Drug Administration--understandably but narrow-mindedly--wants "cures" for cancer and other diseases. Thus tens of thousands of chemicals are screened, only a handful make it even to Phase I trials, and by the time a new drug is approved a billion dollars has been spent. Even then the new drug may help only 10% of patients.
Yet if someone were to invent a device with a wide, preventive usefulness--say, a nanotech implant that would spot the proteins that indicate the first minute presence of cancer--it would have to go through the same process of billion-dollar testing. Since the government and insurance companies are reluctant to add anything to their repertoire of coverage--and since such a device would be targeted at the much broader pool of people who are not sick--research might well stall in its earliest phases for lack of reimbursement-funding. ...
In one hilarious sequence, Mr. Kessler recounts trying to draw his own blood sample, in the hope of checking his cholesterol. But clinics won't draw blood without a doctor's orders. Drugstores think you want the syringe to shoot heroin. Unless you want to just gouge your own finger, you're in the clutches of organized medicine. Imagine how tightly it grips something a bit more sophisticated.
As I wrote earlier about America's health care problem:
Rather than require all practicing physicians to be certified by a government-approved authority, the government should simply require that physicians disclose their credentials and leave the certifications to private organizations (as is done in most professional fields). This would open the door for thousands of lower-cost, lower-skill physicians who would be more than able to treat common maladies like colds and broken bones. You don't need an MD to set a broken arm, so why should you have to pay for one? Because currently the government says so. Medication is similar. Consumers need the government to ensure that drug companies disclose all the potential side-effects of their products, but we don't need the FDA to tell us what we can and can't put in our bodies if we're willing to take known risks.
In the attempt to protect us from ourselves, the government stifles medical innovation and restricts the market, driving costs up and severely limiting the options available for treatments of every sort of illness.