Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Pakistan: The crisis
on: September 12, 2008, 05:42:13 PM
Tensions between the United States and Pakistan continue to mount. Although the U.S. Special Operations Command clearly has been conducting operations in Pakistan for years, the White House chose to make it known that the United States was prepared to conduct such operations without Pakistani permission. The head of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, responded by saying, “No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside of Pakistan.” He said that he had told this directly to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. And, on Thursday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas took it a step further by saying that the army had been ordered to hit back in the face of any action by foreign forces on Pakistani territory.
The crisis with the United States comes at the worst time for the Pakistani military. The external crisis is unfolding amid a deteriorating political, economic and security situation. While Kayani and his generals appear to be willing to work with the new president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his governing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the crisis with Washington can lead to civil-military tensions because of potential disagreements between the military and the government over how to deal with overt unilateral U.S. military action on Pakistani soil. Already there is a perception that Zardari and his PPP are more flexible on the issue. However, since the United States’ violation of Pakistani sovereignty is a politically sensitive issue, Kayani has moved to take the hard-line position. But this response should not be dismissed as merely internal Pakistani politics. There is a serious crisis going on in U.S.-Pakistani relations.
The United States has long been suspicious of the commitment of the Pakistani military, and particularly its Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), to the fight against al Qaeda. In fact, there were elements in the ISI who did not want to see former President Pervez Musharraf align with the Americans after 9/11. And there has long been suspicion among the Americans that not only wasn’t the Pakistani army doing all it could, but that some elements might be passing information about U.S. operations to al Qaeda, allowing the militants to escape.
When he spoke of unilateral action in Pakistan, U.S. President George W. Bush was saying that he was not comfortable with joint operations under these circumstances. From the point of view of the U.S. military, this has been a long time coming. Indeed, there undoubtedly have been operations in Pakistan against al Qaeda that were unilateral, but this is extending it from operations against al Qaeda to the Taliban.
The Taliban are a military organization, operating as guerrillas. They maintain base camps in Pakistan that are not detected and destroyed by the Pakistanis. In the past, their level of activity was insufficient to warrant destabilizing American relations with Pakistan. That is no longer the case. The Taliban have grown much stronger, and U.S. and NATO forces are under pressure from them. Reinforcements are being sent to them. But the base camps and the lines of supply that go into Pakistan are the center of gravity of the Taliban. The United States is no longer in a position to ignore this. The Taliban are too strong.
Therefore, the United States and Pakistan are on a collision course. The Taliban have roots in Pakistan and sympathizers in the military. Attacking the Taliban’s bases and cutting off the flow of supplies is difficult politically for Pakistan. The United States, on the other hand, is not doing well in Afghanistan. It needs the Taliban in Pakistan to be destroyed, and it is saying that if the Pakistanis don’t do it, the United States will have to — and this will take more than Special Operations forces to achieve.
This moment was bound to come. The United States could not manage Afghanistan so long as the Taliban had sanctuary in Pakistan. The Pakistanis were not going to fight a war in Pakistan to solve the American problem. So we are now down to the final crisis of the war that began seven years ago. Iraq is under control. Afghanistan is coming apart. The key to Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan is unable, by itself, to deal with the Taliban. The United States has little choice but to abandon Afghanistan or go into Pakistan.
Thus the crisis.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media
on: September 12, 2008, 12:10:13 PM
This from the reporter for the Reuters piece.
Just a quick updater on the story we did. Aside from China, a quick search shows it caem out in Brunei, Zaire, Ireland, New Zealand and, jus today, in a photo spread in El Universal in Mexico.
It was also picked up by ABC and the International Herald Tribune.
I don't think I can remember a story that go such attention, at least not in a long while.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 2 Franklin, 1 Madison
on: September 12, 2008, 10:50:43 AM
"Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance
that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said
to be certain, except death and taxes."
-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 13 November
Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Begelow, ed., vol. 12
"Finally, there seem to be but three Ways for a Nation to acquire
Wealth. The first is by War as the Romans did in plundering their
conquered Neighbours. This is Robbery. The second by Commerce
which is generally Cheating. The third by Agriculture the only
honest Way; wherein Man receives a real Increase of the Seed
thrown into the Ground, in a kind of continual Miracle wrought by
the Hand of God in his favour, as a Reward for his innocent Life,
and virtuous Industry."
-- Benjamin Franklin (Positions to be Examined, 4 April 1769)
Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 645.
"In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can
readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be
said to reign as in a state of nature."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 52, 8 February 1788)
Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 52.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Case Study: Bystanders doing nothing...
on: September 12, 2008, 10:24:04 AM
"if I, or other people willing to get involved in a critical situation need to enlist the help of others, what's the best way to do it? Do any of the LEO or military guys have any insight?"
A very good question from Maija. Although LEOs and military may be much more likely to have such experience(s), ANYONE with any experience is encouraged to speak up.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: September 11, 2008, 10:25:42 AM
Full Header | View Printable Version | Download this as a file
September 10, 2008
In today's Political Diary:
- House of the Living
- See No Rangel, Hear No Rangel
- Reversal of Fortune (Quote of the Day I)
- Paglia in Love (Quote of the Day II)
- Juneau Soap Opera
Back From the Dead
Most political analysts still predict GOP House losses in November and a wider
Democratic majority in 2009, but gone is talk of landslide casualties. House
Republicans returned to Washington this week positively overjoyed that they've not
only caught up with Democrats in generic congressional polls, but pulled into the
lead. The latest USA Today poll has Republicans up by four points on the question:
Who do you support, the Republican or the Democrat for Congress in your district?
This is an amazing turnaround in the polls and even more pronounced turnaround in
the mood of Congressional Republicans. When House GOP members convened on Monday,
there was little talk of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout package, but lots of
celebration of the new poll numbers. "Not too long ago, the feeling in our caucus
was near suicidal," one House Republican tells me. "It was every man for himself.
And there was no campaign money to spread around."
Now, says Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, "Republicans actually think we can gain
seats in the House."
One reason the polls have shifted is that Democrats have become even more unpopular
than Republicans. Says Mr. Garrett: "Voters are finally aware that it's the
Democrats, not us, who control Congress." The public has begun directing its angst
and anger at Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, rather than the
long-gone Tom DeLay.
Another coup for Republicans was the pro-drilling campaign launched by conservative
House GOPers while Democrats went home for summer vacation. Each day, House
Republicans held a vigil for a pro-exploration energy policy even though Democrats
turned out the House lights and shut off the microphones. Mike Pence of Indiana was
one of the ringleaders who gave the Pelosi Democrats heartburn. In his district, he
says, voters paid attention. Nancy Pelosi's decision to take what he called a
"five-week paid vacation" backfired because it "angered voters when gas prices are
Finally, Republicans in the House also are celebrating the Sarah Palin effect.
"She's helping big-time with fundraising," says one conservative House member. "We
saw the effect immediately after she was chosen by McCain." Earlier this year, GOP
money woes had given Democrats a multitude of GOP incumbents to shoot at without
fear of retaliation. Not any more.
"I actually think we can win back the majority in the house," says Rep. Garrett,
ever the optimist. "But I'm probably the only one who thinks that." Yes, well, in
1994 Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich were the only ones who foresaw a GOP sweep in
-- Stephen Moore
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is standing by her chairman.
Charles Rangel, the embattled head of the House Ways and Means Committee, has asked
for three separate House Ethics Committee investigations of himself in recent weeks.
That has led House Republicans to demand he step down as chairman until the issues
are resolved. Speaker Pelosi, who ran her 2006 campaign to take back the House from
"a culture of corruption," is having none of it.
"Charlie Rangel is a very distinguished member of the House of Representatives," Ms.
Pelosi told Politico.com on Monday. "Whatever the leaders on their side say, he is
very well-respected by members on both sides of the aisle."
Still, it is embarrassing that Mr. Rangel has had to announce this week that he must
pay overdue state, local and city taxes on $75,0000 in unreported rental income from
a vacation property in the Dominican Republic. That follows a controversy over how
he was able to obtain several rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, one of which he
used improperly as a campaign office. Then there's the matter of his use of
Congressional stationery and influence to raise money for a public affairs institute
in New York that bears his name. "Since this is the man who writes the tax laws of
the United States, we need new leadership until we get all the facts," Rep. Eric
Cantor, a member of the House Republican leadership, told me.
Of course, Republicans can't afford to parade around on too high a horse. Two of
their Appropriations Committee members, Reps. Jerry Lewis of California and Don
Young of Alaska, have come under federal investigation over earmarks secured for
supporters. Neither Republican has been charged with wrongdoing, but the probes have
tarnished the ability of Republicans to carry on crusades against Mr. Rangel and
other errant Democrats.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I
"First [Barack Obama's] startling and lofty rhetoric grew stale from overuse. And
now his once engaging (for some) ideas are being overtaken by events. His call for
quick retreat from Iraq, overtaken by the surge and the smell of victory, has forced
him to reverse field and admit the surge has been an unexpected (by him) success.
Then the declining economy forced him this week to back away from his soak-the-rich
tax increases for fear of further damaging the economy. Of course, the perils of
Pauline still may threaten Gov. Palin, and two months is time enough for many more
strange twists. But one week on from the Republican convention, it is fair to say
that never in modern history has a presidential ticket benefited so much from its
convention. And never have the hopes and energy of a moribund party risen so quickly
or so high" -- Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley, on how Sarah Palin and the
reemergence of John McCain "maverick" persona have lifted the GOP.
Quote of the Day II
"Pow! Wham! The Republicans unleashed a doozy -- one of the most stunning surprises
that I have ever witnessed in my adult life. By lunchtime, Obama's triumph of the
night before had been wiped right off the national radar screen. In a bold move I
would never have thought him capable of, McCain introduced Gov. Sarah Palin of
Alaska as his pick for vice president. I had heard vaguely about Palin but had never
heard her speak. I nearly fell out of my chair. . . . This woman turned out to be a
tough, scrappy fighter with a mischievous sense of humor. . . . In terms of
redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the
biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of
high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats
of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment" -- feminist
critic Camille Paglia, writing at Salon.com.
Half the Washington press corps is now winging its way to Alaska to scour the record
for something embarrassing on Gov. Sarah Palin. Luring them is a seeming scandal
already called Troopergate that broke in July, when Mrs. Palin fired Department of
Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. In recent weeks the state legislature has
opened an investigation into the dismissal and hired an independent counsel to
determine if laws were broken.
Her critics accuse Mrs. Palin of firing Mr. Monegan because he had refused to fire
State Trooper Michael Wooten, who had gone through a messy divorce with the
governor's sister. If the charge is true, it would certainly hurt Mrs. Palin's
reformist credentials -- although her powers of office entitled her to fire
Commissioner Monegan for any reason or no reason at all.
Still, there is reason to suspect the scandal is little more than a political smear
attempt. The investigation is being run by a Democrat in the state Senate (the
Republican who would have been in charge recently stepped down to fight allegations
of his own corruption). Mr. Monegan is a disgruntled former employee who never told
anyone about the alleged pressure to fire Trooper Wooten before his own firing. And
Mr. Monegan broke his allegations on a blog run by an also-ran gubernatorial
candidate who was crushed by Mrs. Palin in the 2006 elections. What's more, Trooper
Wooten's record would hardly seem to make him ideal state trooper material. He's a
four-time divorcee whom Mrs. Palin says threatened to kill her father. He admitted
to using a Taser on his 11-year-old stepson and to killing a moose out of season.
He's also had to fight allegations of drunk driving and other infractions.
The scandal also seems trumped up in light of legitimate reasons Mrs. Palin had for
firing Commissioner Monegan. The two disagreed over cuts in the public safety
department's budget as well as her insistence that he focus state trooper attention
on rural drug use. Mr. Monegan had been forced out of his previous job running the
police force of Anchorage. The man who fired him then was Mayor Mark Begich, the
Democrat now running for U.S. Senate against embattled Republican Ted Stevens.
In Alaska, politics always seems a little inbred. Mrs. Palin has remained mum since
she was tapped to be John McCain's running mate nearly two weeks ago, but seven
members of her administration have declined requests by investigators to be
interviewed. The state legislature is now weighing whether to hand down subpoenas --
though it's unlikely that the governor herself would be subpoenaed. With so much
fodder, however, any reporter with an eye for detail will be able to come back from
an Alaska trip with attention-getting tidbits. You don't become a change agent by
making friends, so there will be plenty of pols on both sides of the aisle eager to
fill a reporter's notebook with their criticisms of Mrs. Palin. To beat this story,
the McCain/Palin campaign may need to start filling a few of those pages itself.
-- Brendan Miniter
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: September 11, 2008, 10:23:01 AM
"Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations,
entangling alliances with none."
-- Thomas Jefferson (First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801)
Reference: Inauguration Addresses of the Presidents
"How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely
prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the
preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?"
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 41, 1788)
Reference: The Federalist
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Holland
on: September 11, 2008, 10:11:09 AM
his religion prohibited him from rising for other people
Amsterdam - All Dutch attorneys, including Muslims, should rise when a judge enters a court room, Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told Dutch parliament on Tuesday. Hirsch Ballin said the Dutch Council for Jurisprudence felt that rising for a judge is "the common way to show respect for the court and legal authority."
The minister was responding to a question posed by legislator Henk Kamp (Liberals), who inquired about a news report which said a Rotterdam court had made an agreement with a Muslim attorney that he could remain seated when a judge enters the courtroom.
Mohammed Enait, who was sworn in as an attorney last month, said his religion prohibited him from rising for other people. Enait has remained seated as the judge entered.
Last week the Rotterdam court decided that although the : behavioral code requires attorneys to rise when a judge enters the court, exceptions could be made "in extraordinary situations" such as that of Enait.
Hirsch Ballin told parliament that the Dutch Council for Jurisprudence would inform all involved parties of its position that no exceptions could be made. http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/s...-minister.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes removes article
on: September 11, 2008, 10:03:03 AM
NYT.com Removes Article Mentioning Obama's Muslim Roots
NYT.com Removes Article Mentioning Obama's Muslim Roots
By Noel Sheppard (Bio | Archive)
September 9, 2008 - 10:25 ET
UPDATE: Link to article in question now works as of 6:45PM.
On March 6, 2007, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof published an article entitled "Obama: Man of the World."
In it, Kristof addressed Barack Obama's upbringing, including his early life in Jakarta when he "got in trouble for making faces during Koran study classes in his elementary school."
For some reason, the link to this piece doesn't work anymore. Does the New York Times no longer want folks to read the following paragraphs (h/t Gateway Pundit via NBer mitchflorida):
"I was a little Jakarta street kid," he said in a wide-ranging interview in his office (excerpts are on my blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground
). He once got in trouble for making faces during Koran study classes in his elementary school, but a president is less likely to stereotype Muslims as fanatics -- and more likely to be aware of their nationalism -- if he once studied the Koran with them.
Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it'll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset."
Moreover, Mr. Obama's own grandfather in Kenya was a Muslim. Mr. Obama never met his grandfather and says he isn't sure if his grandfather's two wives were simultaneous or consecutive, or even if he was Sunni or Shiite.
Further complicating the matter is that Kristof posted a link to this piece at his "On the Ground" blog the night before it appeared in print, and solicited opinions. That link doesn't work, either. Even more mysterious, Obama's official campaign website still has the article available. Makes one wonder what the Times is feeling so squeamish about. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sh...s-muslim-roots
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel asks for corredor to attack Iran
on: September 11, 2008, 10:01:44 AM
second article of the morning:
Israel asks U.S. for arms, air corridor to attack Iran
Israel asks U.S. for arms, air corridor to attack Iran By Amos Harel and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondents Tags: U.S., bunker buster, Iran
The security aid package the United States has refused to give Israel for the past few months out of concern that Israel would use it to attack nuclear facilities in Iran included a large number of "bunker-buster" bombs, permission to use an air corridor to Iran, an advanced technological system and refueling planes.
Officials from both countries have been discussing the Israeli requests over the past few months. Their rejection would make it very difficult for Israel to attack Iran, if such a decision is made.
About a month ago, Haaretz reported that the Bush administration had turned down an Israeli request for certain security items that could upgrade Israel's capability to attack Iran. The U.S. administration reportedly saw the request as a sign preparations were moving ahead for an Israeli attack on Iran.
Diplomatic and security sources indicated to Haaretz that the list of components Israel included:
Bunker-buster GBU-28 bombs: In 2005, the U.S. said it was supplying these bombs to Israel. In August 2006, The New York Times reported that the U.S. had expedited the dispatch of additional bombs at the height of the Second Lebanon War. The bombs, which weigh 2.2 tons each, can penetrate six meters of reinforced concrete. Israel appears to have asked for a relatively large number of additional bunker-busters, and was turned down.
Air-space authorization: An attack on Iran would apparently require passage through Iraqi air space. For this to occur, an air corridor would be needed that Israeli fighter jets could cross without being targeted by American planes or anti-aircraft missiles. The Americans also turned down this request. According to one account, to avoid the issue, the Americans told the Israelis to ask Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for permission, along the lines of "If you want, coordinate with him."
Refueling planes. An air attack on Iran would require refueling of fighter jets on the way back. According to a report on Channel 10 a few weeks ago, the U.S. rejected an Israeli request for more advanced refueling tankers, of the Boeing 767 model.
The refueling craft the Israel Air Force now uses are very outmoded, something that make it difficult to operate at long distances from Israel. Even if the Americans were to respond favorably to such a request, the process could take a few years.
The IDF recently reported that it is overhauling a Boeing 707 that previously served as the prime minister's plane to serve as a refueling aircraft.
Advanced technological systems. The Israeli sources declined to give any details on this point.
The Israeli requests were discussed during President George W. Bush's visit to Israel in May, as well as during Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Washington in July. In a series of meetings at a very senior level, following Bush's visit, the Americans made clear to the Israelis that for now they are sticking to the diplomatic option to halt the Iranian nuclear project and that Jerusalem does not have a green light from Washington for an attack on Iran.
However, it appears that in compensation for turning down Israel's "offensive" requests, the U.S. has agreed to strengthen its defensive systems.
During the Barak visit, it was agreed that an advanced U.S. radar system would be stationed in the Negev, and the order to send it was made at that time. The system would double to 2,000 kilometers the range of identification of missiles launched from the direction of Iran, and would be connected to an American early warning system.
The system is to be operated by American civilians as well as two American soldiers. This would be the first permanent U.S. force on Israeli soil.
A senior security official said the Americans were preparing "with the greatest speed" to make good on their promise, and the systems could be installed within a month.
The Israeli security source said he believed Washington was moving ahead quickly on the request because it considered it very important to restrain Israel at this time.
At the beginning of the year, the Israeli leadership still considered it a reasonable possibility that Bush would decide to attack Iran before the end of his term.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in private discussions, even raised the possibility that the U.S. was considering an attack in the transition period between the election in November and the inauguration of the new president in January 2009.
However, Jerusalem now assumes that likelihood of this possibility is close to nil, and that Bush will use the rest of his time in office to strengthen what he defines as the Iraqi achievement, following the relative success of American efforts there over the past year and a half. http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1019989.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel-
on: September 11, 2008, 03:19:29 AM
Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: OLMERT’S CANCELED TRIP TO MOSCOW, THE BROADER PICTURE
The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert canceled
his trip to Moscow scheduled for Sept. 14. The trip was apparently canceled because
of a recommendation made Sept. 7 by the Israeli police to indict Olmert on bribery
charges. While the explanation seems plausible, it is unlikely. If Olmert was unable
to go because of political heat at home, a high-level Israeli official could have
gone in his place or the visit could been rescheduled.
Instead, the cancellation seems to indicate that Israel is switching its strategy on
how to handle a resurgent Russia, from a policy of accommodation to one of potential
The relationship between Russia and Israel has had its fair share of ups and downs,
beginning with a close alliance between the nascent Jewish state and the Soviet
Union in the late 1940s. This was followed by a period of Soviet patronage of
Israel's enemies, mainly Egypt and Syria, which was designed primarily to strike at
U.S. interests in the Middle East but which also threatened Israel as an ancillary
effect. But with the end of the Cold War, Moscow's influence receded from the Middle
Israel's biggest existential threat is not from its Arab neighbors but rather from a
global power seeking to establish its own interests in the Middle East. In other
words, Israel's neighbors only become a threat once they obtain outside patronage
making them bold, organized and armed enough to strike at Israel from all sides.
While Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan and is eyeing a similar
relationship with Syria, there is no guarantee that an emergent global power would
not offer alternatives to Israel's neighbors -- alternatives that have been lacking
in the post-Cold War world.
Russia is exactly such a power. A resurgent Russia once again looking for potential
allies in the Middle East (such as Iran, Syria or perhaps in a highly hypothetical
scenario even Egypt) that would challenge the United States has always been one of
Israel's main concerns. Therefore, Israel actively engaged in checking Russian power
by selling weapons to Georgia. The idea was to contain Moscow and force it to deal
with challenges on its periphery, thus keeping it from mucking about in the Middle
Israel got wind of Moscow's plans for Georgia before the Aug. 8 intervention and
decided that a confrontation with the Kremlin was not a wise strategy, precisely
because Israel understands the danger in Russian support of Syria and Iran. Hence, a
week before Russian tanks rolled into South Ossetia, Israel announced that it would
end all weapon sales to Georgia. This was followed by a general acquiescent attitude
toward Moscow after the Georgian intervention, to the obvious chagrin of the
Americans who were looking for a concerted effort against the Kremlin. The
subsequent Olmert visit on Sept. 14 was supposed to affirm an accommodating policy
toward Moscow and to secure guarantees from the Kremlin that Iran and Syria would
not be emboldened to threaten Israel.
However Russia has not fallen into line with Israel's overtures. This is not because
Moscow is hoping for open confrontation with Israel, but rather because Russia's
current priority is to keep Americans embroiled in the Middle East. To do that, from
the Kremlin perspective, Iran has to remain a threat and -- if possible -- Syria
ought to re-emerge as a threat. Russian actions, designed to allow Moscow room to
maneuver in the Caucasus and Europe, have therefore -- as an ancillary consequence
-- threatened Israel's national security.
Specifically, a resurgent Russia supporting Iran with nuclear technology and
advanced strategic air-defense systems, like the late-model variants of the S-300,
is a direct threat to Israel even though Moscow's actual intention is to embolden
Tehran against the United States. A particularly nightmarish scenario for Israel
would be a refocused and reorganized Syria (or a hypothetical post-coup Egypt) with
renewed Russian patronage.
This changes the strategic calculus that Israel has had since the end of the Cold
War. For the past 18 years Israel's biggest concern was not the strength of the Arab
states, but rather their weakness -- the fear that if there was a war with its
neighbors Israel's military superiority would be so catastrophic that it would
destroy the enemy to the point where the resulting chaos would usher in not another
secular state but an Islamist one that would sponsor waves of terror attacks against
Israel therefore found itself in the odd position of wanting (and often overtly
trying) to keep various Arab secular dictators in power in order to avoid having to
deal with a worse alternative. With Russia back in the game, a secular regime backed
by the Kremlin is much worse than an unaligned Islamist regime from Israel's
perspective. Therefore, Israel may still have a few cards to play should Russia jump
back into the sandbox, starting with destabilizing neighbors that choose to side
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: September 10, 2008, 03:35:36 AM
Se me informa que el articulo que hizo el servicio de noticias Reuters sobre nuestro "Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack" se ha publicado en el periodico "El Universal" de Mexico. Se lo agradeceria si alguien aqui pudiera localizarlo y "post" (?Como se dice "to post"?) lo aqui.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Evan Tanner
on: September 10, 2008, 02:33:11 AM
“I believe there are people out there that just have a warrior spirit, whether it’s fighting or something, they’ve got to do it. It’s hard to identify with me; it’s just something I do.”
---Evan Tanner, 2005
"I will do nothing lightly. When I walk, I will walk heavily. When I fight, I will fight with conviction. When I speak, I will speak strongly. When I feel, I will feel everything. When I love, I will love with everything."
"And to think, there are still places in the world where man has not been, where he has left no footprints, where the mysteries stand secure, untouched by human eyes. I want to go to these places, the quiet, timeless, ageless places, and sit, letting silence and solitude be my teachers."
It is a shame that in this society we've been taught to judge a man's worth by what he owns instead of who he is. Everything is surface, and so few look beyond it. A man will sell his soul, he will lie, cheat and steal, for money. If he has it, he can buy respect. Wear the right clothes, drive the right car, have the right friends, that's all that matters. Our lives are consumed in a selfish, self absorbed quest for possessions, the latest and the best in a never-ending cycle until the day we die. We forget what it means to be truly human. We forget the things that really matter. We lose the magic of what life should be.
I won't live by rules that make no sense to me.
- Evan Tanner
"College dropout, adventurer, seeker, traveler, ditch digger, dishwasher, cable tech, concrete worker, steel worker, salad prep, busboy, ski resort security, ski resort rental shop technician. I've worked in a slaughter house. I've been a landscaper. I've done drywall, tile, countertops, wood flooring, roofing. I have been a plumber, worked as a bottle collector at a bar, a bouncer, a doorman, a head of a security team. I have been a basket room clerk, a carpenter, a framer building beach houses, a truss builder. I've lived on a farm. I've lived in the city. I've earned money mowing lawns, selling on ebay, and fighting. A teacher, a trainer, and a coach sometimes. There was a time when I was younger that I didn't know any better than to be a liar, a cheater, and a thief. I have since learned to despise those things. I have had great friendships. I have had great loves. I have been a lover, I have been a son, a brother, and a friend. And I was once a world champion."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: September 10, 2008, 02:26:13 AM
GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: U.S. TROOP ALLOCATIONS AND FUTURE PRIORITIES
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday that he will withdraw up to 8,000
troops from Iraq before he leaves office. At the same time, he intends to increase
the number of troops in Afghanistan. The reduction in forces will begin in November.
A Marine battalion will be withdrawn and its replacement will be sent to Afghanistan
instead. Then an Army brigade plus support troops will be withdrawn and not
replaced, bringing the total withdrawn to about 8,000 troops. That means that the
number of troops in Iraq when Bush leaves office will be slightly higher than when
the surge began.
There are two reasons for the withdrawal. First, there is clearly the need for
additional troops in Afghanistan. The situation there is deteriorating because the
Taliban have gained strength over recent years and because the number of troops
there is insufficient to defeat them or even to guarantee that at some point the
Taliban won't be able to inflict substantial regional defeats on U.S. and NATO
forces. Reinforcements have to be sent, and the primary pool of available forces is
either in Iraq or scheduled to go there.
Secondly -- and this is an objective and not partisan observation -- there is an
election going on in the United States, and the president wants John McCain to win.
That means that he must reinforce McCain's assertion that the surge has worked by
withdrawing at least some forces. The argument that the surge has succeeded is not
compatible with the argument that force levels can't be reduced. So between
Afghanistan and the election, some reduction was necessary.
What is interesting is that only an 8,000-troop reduction is being proposed. Bush
is following the recommendation of Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded U.S. forces in
Iraq and who, as U.S. Central Command chief, is now responsible for both Iraq and
Afghanistan. Petraeus is clearly uncomfortable with the state of things in Iraq. He
has said as much. The tensions within the Iraqi government are substantial, and if
they are not resolved, some of the factions may choose to resume the civil war.
Relations with Iran remain unclear, and in spite of some assurances that the
Iranians no longer have the kind of clout they used to with Iraqi Shiite militias,
that is a hypothesis that might be true but no one wants to see tested. Iraq remains
a priority over Afghanistan; its status is improved but uncertain, and the bulk of
U.S. forces remain committed to Iraq.
The problem the next president will face is that the U.S. military will be dealing
with more than reinforcing Afghanistan while maintaining stability in Iraq. U.S.
forces are also facing the much larger question, as we have discussed, of how to
deal with Russia after Georgia. This administration continues to discuss including
Georgia and Ukraine in NATO. We do not think this will happen, as European members
will block it, but NATO has already included the Baltic countries at a time when
NATO couldn't imagine an assertive Russia. Now, the United States and others have
made military guarantees to defend the Baltics but have not allocated the forces
needed to deter hypothetical Russian moves. We do not know that the Russians will do
anything there, but the point of deploying forces is to deter such an action. Put
simply, the United States cannot put the forces on the ground in the Baltics to act
as that deterrent.
There is a broader issue, however. The Russians and the Venezuelans are talking
about naval maneuvers in the Caribbean while U.S. warships are in the Black Sea.
The Russo-Venezuelan exercises cannot be taken seriously militarily, and it is
unlikely that the United States will try to get aggressive in the closed waters of
the Black Sea. That said, it is unclear what Russian capabilities and intentions
will be in five to 10 years, and it takes at least that long to enhance naval power
for the United States. If there is to be a competition with the Russians at sea,
Washington will need to budget more money for anti-submarine warfare systems,
enhanced anti-missile systems on more vessels and so on. These are systems that the
United States has and is funding, but not with a sense of urgency.
It will be for the next administration to determine how serious the Russians are
going to be in a decade. But the U.S. Navy is certainly going to try to lay claim to
a greater budget share, while NATO and U.S. troops in Europe may no longer appear to
be an anachronism. Keeping substantial forces in Iraq, building up forces in
Afghanistan, reinforcing NATO and funding faster and deeper naval development are
not possible within the current Defense Department budget. Something has to give,
and that is either some of these commitments or the budget. President Obama or
President McCain will have an interesting opening act.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Spending Explosion
on: September 09, 2008, 11:43:28 PM
The Spending Explosion
September 10, 2008; Page A14
Here's a prediction: The media will report today that the federal budget deficit is big and getting bigger. What most of them won't report, alas, is that the cause of these deficits is an explosion in federal spending. The era of big government is back, bigger than ever.
The real news in yesterday's Congressional Budget Office semiannual report is that federal expenditures on everything from roads to homeland security to health care will on present trends reach 21.5% of GDP next year. That's a larger share of national output than at anytime since 1992. If the cost of the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prove to be large and are taken into account, next year federal outlays could be higher as a share of the economy than at anytime since World War II. In this decade alone, federal spending has increased by almost $1.2 trillion, or 57%.
The federal deficit is expected to hit $407 billion for fiscal 2008 (which ends at the end of this month) and $438 billion next year. Still, the deficit is expected to be only 3% of GDP, which is in line with the average of the last 30 years. We hope Congress and the Presidential candidates don't obsess over the deficit per se, because the real fiscal drag from government comes from how much it spends, not how much it borrows.
The Bush tax cuts also aren't the budget problem. Until this year federal tax collections have been surging. In the four years after the 2003 tax cuts become law, tax receipts exploded by $785 billion. This year revenues have declined by 0.8%, but a major reason is the $150 billion bipartisan tax rebate that has hit the Treasury without spurring the economy. Without these nonstimulating rebates, federal tax payments would have climbed another 2.5%, according to CBO. Revenue is expected to be a healthy 18.5% of GDP next year without any tax increase.
Another myth is that the war on terror has busted the budget. While operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are expensive, defense spending is $605 billion this year, or about 4.5% of GDP. That only seems large by comparison to the holiday from history of the 1990s, when defense fell to 3% of GDP. As recently as 1986, defense spending was 6.2% of GDP.
The real runaway train is what CBO calls a "substantial increase in spending" that is "on an unsustainable path." That's for sure. The nearby chart shows how much some federal accounts have expanded since 2001, and in inflation-adjusted dollars. This year alone, federal agencies have lifted their spending by 8.1%, with another 7% raise expected for 2009. There's certainly no recession in Washington. The CBO says that, merely in the two years that Democrats have run Congress, federal expenditures are up $429 billion -- to $3.158 trillion.
The fiscal blowouts have included a record farm bill, notwithstanding record farm income; an aid bill for distressed homeowners, extended unemployment benefits, and more generous veterans benefits. Next up: votes on $50 billion for Detroit auto firms, an $80 billion energy bill, as much as $50 billion for spending masked as a "second stimulus," plus $100 billion or more for the Fannie and Freddie rescue. Rather than sort through priorities, Congress is spending more on just about everything.
Meanwhile, remember that "pay as you go" spending promise that Speaker Nancy Pelosi made in 2006? We called it a ruse at the time, and the last two years have proved it. Senator Judd Gregg (R., N.H.) has tallied up at least $398 billion in "paygo" violations so far. Earmarks were also supposed to be cut in half by this Congress. In 2008 there were some 11,000 at a cost of $17 billion, the second most ever, and far more than half the peak of 14,000 in 2006.
The point to keep in mind is that this big spending blitz is coming even before a new President and Congress arrive next year with far more spending promises in tow. As they contemplate their choice for President, voters might want to consider which of the candidates is likely to be a check on Congressional appetites, rather than a facilitator.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Useful idiots at it again
on: September 09, 2008, 11:40:42 PM
September 10, 2008; Page A14
The Kremlin has been dusting off old Bolshevik intimidation techniques since the U.S. signed a missile defense partnership with Poland last month. The Russian foreign ministry promised that its response "would go beyond diplomacy," and a Russian general mused that this meant its nuclear missiles would have to target Poland. Who would have thought such talk would find an accommodating ear in the U.S. Congress?
That will be the question when Illinois Republican Representative Mark Kirk offers an amendment in the coming days to the Defense Appropriations bill to restore funding for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. The money was struck in May by Democrats who justified the cuts by claiming that the Iranian threat was not developing quickly and a deal with Poland hadn't been signed. Now Iran has tried to orbit its first satellite and a deal with Poland is in place, so we'll soon see if House Democrats and Barack Obama change with the new reality.
Even as Polish leaders were risking Russia's wrath by signing the U.S. deal, California Democrat Ellen Tauscher declared that the missile defense partnership was proceeding way too fast. Ms. Tauscher wrote on the left-wing Huffington Post last month that the U.S.-Polish pact would "build an ideologically-based system that is untested and certainly not ready, against a threat that has not yet emerged."
Ms. Tauscher chairs the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee and so can be a real obstacle to the Polish deal and other attempts to forge closer alliances with countries on the Russian periphery. Ditto for House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, who loves earmarks but can't see fit to help our Polish allies.
As distressing, these missile defense objections have been echoed by Barack Obama spokeswoman Wendy Morigi, who recently explained the Presidential candidate's position as "Congress will not and should not fund a system until testing has proven that it works, and that testing will not be completed until 2010 at the earliest."
The timing of these remarks couldn't have been worse. Polish leaders finally struck the missile deal, after months of national debate, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia. The agreement is largely symbolic, since the 10 interceptors couldn't possibly stop a Russian attack and are really aimed at Iran. But the symbolism is still useful as a message to Moscow that its Georgian imperialism won't cower everyone in Eastern Europe. It is also an expression of Poland's confidence in America as an ally. "We're determined this time around to have alliances backed by realities, backed by capabilities," says Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
On Monday, Mr. Sikorski met with Mr. Kirk and John McCain in Chicago to discuss missile defense in Poland. While some have questioned whether the deal signed in August will get through Poland's parliament, Mr. Sikorski tells us there will be no problem with ratification, most likely by the end of the year. On the other hand, U.S. failure to honor its new commitments to Poland would be disastrous to the country's faith in NATO. "We do feel that NATO should revive its role as a military organization," Mr. Sikorski notes.
The Tauscher-Obama objections will make Polish leaders wonder if their new agreement will be undercut by the next Administration, or in a Congress likely to be run by Democrats for years to come. And the comments will delight Vladimir Putin, who would like nothing better than to show Poles and Ukrainians that it's risky to trust the inconstant Americans.
The Pentagon has made significant progress in missile defenses this decade, and our allies are eager to participate in their development. Once sites are developed, either at home or abroad, they can be upgraded as the technology improves. The point of defenses is to deploy them before a threat is real, so we aren't caught by surprise. The Tauscher-Obama "ideologically-based" hostility to the Polish agreement helps to explain why a majority of Americans aren't sure they trust Democrats on matters of national security.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's Next Target
on: September 09, 2008, 11:22:29 PM
Russia's Next Target
Could Be Ukraine
By LEON ARON
September 10, 2008; Page A15
Perhaps the most urgent question in the world affairs today is whether Russia's invasion and continuing occupation of Georgia was a singular event. Or was it the onset of a distinct, and profoundly disturbing, national security and foreign policy agenda?
Much as one would like to cling to the former theory, the evidence favors the latter. A European delegation led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy did manage this week to get assurances that Russian troops would withdraw from Georgia (excepting Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose independence Moscow says is "irrevocable"). But ultimately, this short war is likely to be remembered as the beginning of a decisive shift in Russia's national priorities. The most compelling of these new priorities today seems to be recovery of the assets lost in the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, which Vladimir Putin has called the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."
How does Russia achieve this goal? By dominating the domestic politics and, more importantly, economic- and foreign-policy orientation, of the former Soviet republics. Anything considered antithetical to Russia's interests, as interpreted by the current Kremlin leadership, must be discarded -- be it democratization, oil and gas exports that bypass Russia, and, especially, the membership in the Western organizations such as the European Union and NATO. And if, in the process, Russia must sacrifice most or even all of the fruits of the post-Soviet rapprochement with the West -- including membership in the G-8, entry to the World Trade Organization or ties to the EU -- so be it.
Russia's "targets of opportunity" include simmering border disputes (and virtually all Russia's borders with newly independent states could be disputed, since they are but the very badly demarcated internal borders of the Soviet Union), and the presence of the ethnic Russian or Russian-speaking minorities in neighboring countries.
Apart from Estonia and Latvia -- where ethnic Russians constitute over a quarter of the population, but where NATO membership raises the risk for the Kremlin -- by far the most likely target is Ukraine. Kiev has repeatedly defied and angered Russia by the domestic politics of democratization, a decidedly pro-Western orientation, and the eagerness of its leadership to join NATO. Nearly one in five Ukraine citizens are ethnically Russian (a total of almost eight million) and live mostly in the country's northeast, adjacent to the Russian border.
Mr. Putin has made his contempt for Ukrainian sovereignty clear, most notably at the NATO summit in Bucharest last April when, according to numerous reports in the Russian and Ukrainian press, he told President Bush that the Ukraine is "not even a real state," that much of its territory was "given away" by Russia, and that it would "cease to exist as a state" if it dared join NATO. Clearly, Vice President Cheney's trip to Ukraine this past weekend, where he expressed America's "deep commitment" to this "democratic nation" and its "right" to join NATO, was intended as a message to Moscow.
Still, there is no better place to cause a political crisis in Ukraine and force a change in the country's leadership, already locked in a bitter internecine struggle, than the Crimean peninsula. It was wrestled by Catherine the Great from the Ottoman Turks at the end of the 18th century. Less than a quarter of the Crimeans are ethnic Ukrainians, while Russians make up over half the inhabitants (the pro-Ukrainian Crimean Tatars, one-fifth).
Ever since the 1997 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine, signed by President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, a solid majority of the Russian parliament has opposed the recognition of the Crimea as Ukrainian territory. Russian nationalists have been especially adamant about the city of Sevastopol, the base for Russia's Black Sea fleet and the site of some of the most spectacular feats of Russian military valor and sacrifice in World War II and the Crimean War of 1854-55.
Nationalist politicians, including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, have repeatedly traveled to Crimea to show the flag and support the Russian irredentists -- many of them retired Russian military officers who periodically mount raucous demonstrations. In 2006, their protests forced the cancellation of the joint Ukraine-NATO Sea Breeze military exercises. Sevastopol was and should again be a Russian city," Mr. Luzhkov declared this past May, and the Moscow City Hall has appropriated $34 million for "the support of compatriots abroad" over the next three years. On Sept. 5, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vladimir Ogryzko accused the Russian consulate in the Crimean capital of Simferopol of distributing Russian passports to the inhabitants of the peninsula.
With almost three-quarters of Sevastopol's 340,000 residents ethnically Russian, and 14,000 Russian Navy personnel already "on the inside" (they've been known to don civilian clothes and participate in demonstrations by Russian Crimean irredentists), an early morning operation in which the Ukrainian mayor and officials are deposed and arrested and the Russian flag hoisted over the city should not be especially hard to accomplish. Once established, Russian sovereignty over Sevastopol would be impossible to reverse without a large-scale war, which Ukraine will be most reluctant to initiate and its Western supporters would strongly discourage.
A potentially bolder (and likely bloodier) scenario might involve a provocation by the Moscow-funded, and perhaps armed, Russian nationalists (or the Russian special forces, spetznaz, posing as irredentists). They could declare Russian sovereignty over a smaller city (Alushta, Evpatoria, Anapa) or a stretch of inland territory. In response, Ukrainian armed forces based in the Crimea outside Sevastopol would likely counterattack. The ensuing bloodshed would provide Moscow with the interventionist excuse of protecting its compatriots -- this time, unlike in South Ossetia, ethnic Russians.
Whatever the operational specifics, the Russian political barometer seems to augur storms ahead.
Mr. Aron, director of Russian studies and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author, most recently, of "Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2006" (AEI Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: September 09, 2008, 11:18:46 PM
The Foreign Policy Difference
By FOUAD AJAMI
September 10, 2008
The candidacy of Barack Obama seems to have lost some of its luster of late, and I suspect this has something to do with large questions many Americans still harbor about his view of the dangerous world around us. Those questions were not stilled by the choice of Joe Biden as his running mate.
To be sure, the Delaware senator is a man of unfailing decency and deep legislative experience; and his foreign policy preferences are reflective of the liberal internationalist outlook that once prevailed in the Democratic Party. To his honor and good name, Sen. Biden took a leading role in pushing for the use of American military power in the Balkans when the Muslims of Bosnia were faced with grave dangers a dozen years ago. Patriotism does not embarrass this man in the way it does so many in the liberal elite. But as Bob Woodward is the latest to remind us, it is presidents, not their understudies, who shape the destiny of nations.
So the Obama candidacy must be judged on its own merits, and it can be reckoned as the sharpest break yet with the national consensus over American foreign policy after World War II. This is not only a matter of Sen. Obama's own sensibility; the break with the consensus over American exceptionalism and America's claims and burdens abroad is the choice of the activists and elites of the Democratic Party who propelled Mr. Obama's rise.
Though the staging in Denver was the obligatory attempt to present the Obama Democrats as men and women of the political center, the Illinois senator and his devotees are disaffected with American power. In their view, we can make our way in the world without the encumbrance of "hard" power. We would offer other nations apologies for the way we carried ourselves in the aftermath of 9/11, and the foreign world would be glad for a reprieve from the time of American certitude.
The starkness of the choice now before the country is fully understood when compared to that other allegedly seminal election of 1960. But the legend of Camelot and of the New Frontier exaggerates the differences between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. A bare difference of four years separated the two men (Nixon had been born in 1913, Kennedy in 1917). Both men had seen service in the Navy in World War II. Both were avowed Cold Warriors. After all, Kennedy had campaigned on the missile gap -- in other words the challenger had promised a tougher stance against the Soviet Union. (Never mind the irony: There was a missile gap; the U.S. had 2,000 missiles, the Soviet Union a mere 67.)
The national consensus on America's role abroad, and on the great threats facing it, was firmly implanted. No great cultural gaps had opened in it, arugula was not on the menu, and the elites partook of the dominant culture of the land; the universities were then at one with the dominant national ethos. The "disuniting of America" was years away. American liberalism was still unabashedly tethered to American nationalism.
We are at a great remove from that time and place. Globalization worked its way through the land, postmodernism took hold of the country's intellectual life. The belief in America's "differentness" began to give way, and American liberalism set itself free from the call of nationalism. American identity itself began to mutate.
The celebrated political scientist Samuel Huntington, in "Who Are We?," a controversial book that took up this delicate question of American identity, put forth three big conceptions of America: national, imperial and cosmopolitan. In the first, America remains America. In the second, America remakes the world. In the third, the world remakes America. Back and forth, America oscillated between the nationalist and imperial callings. The standoff between these two ideas now yields to the strength and the claims of cosmopolitanism. It is out of this new conception of America that the Obama phenomenon emerges.
The "aloofness" of Mr. Obama that has become part of the commentary about him is born of this cultural matrix. Mr. Obama did not misspeak when he described union households and poorer Americans as people clinging to their guns and religion; he was overheard sharing these thoughts with a like-minded audience in San Francisco.
Nor was it an accident that, in a speech at Wesleyan University, he spoke of public service but excluded service in the military. The military does not figure prominently in his world and that of his peers. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Party convention, as was the case on the campaign trail, he spoke of his maternal grandfather's service in Patton's army. But that experience had not been part of his own upbringing.
When we elect a president, we elect a commander in chief. This remains an imperial republic with military obligations and a military calling. That is why Eisenhower overwhelmed Stevenson, Reagan's swagger swept Carter out of office, Bush senior defeated Dukakis, etc.
The exception was Bill Clinton, with his twin victories over two veterans of World War II. We had taken a holiday from history -- but 9/11 awakened us to history's complications. Is it any wonder that Hillary Clinton feigned the posture of a muscular American warrior, and carried the working class with her?
The warrior's garb sits uneasily on Barack Obama's shoulders: Mr. Obama seeks to reassure Americans that he and his supporters are heirs of Roosevelt and Kennedy; that he, too, could order soldiers to war, stand up to autocracies and rogue regimes. But the widespread skepticism about his ability to do so is warranted.
The crowds in Berlin and Paris that took to him knew their man. He had once presented his willingness to negotiate with Iran as the mark of his diplomacy, the break with the Bush years and the Bush style. But he stepped back from that pledge, and in a blatant echo of President Bush's mantra on Iran, he was to say that "no options would be off the table" when dealing with Iran. The change came on a visit to Israel, the conversion transparent and not particularly convincing.
Mr. Obama truly believes that he can offer the world beyond America's shores his biography, his sympathies with strangers. In the great debate over anti-Americanism and its sources, the two candidates couldn't be more different. Mr. Obama proceeds from the notion of American guilt: We called up the furies, he believes. Our war on terror and our war in Iraq triggered more animus. He proposes to repair for that, and offers himself (again, the biography) as a bridge to the world.
Mr. McCain, well, he's not particularly articulate on this question. But he shares the widespread attitude of broad swaths of the country that are not consumed with worries about America's standing in foreign lands. Mr. McCain is not eager to be loved by foreigners. In November, the country will have a choice between a Republican candidate forged in the verities of the 1950s, and a Democratic rival who walks out of the 1990s.
For Mr. McCain, the race seems a matter of duty and obligation. He is a man taking up this quest after a life of military and public service, the presidency as a capstone of a long career. Mr. McCain could speak with more nuance about the great issues upon us. When it comes to the Islamic world, for example, it's not enough merely to evoke the threat of radical Islamism as the pre-eminent security challenge of our time. But his approach and demeanor have proven their electoral appeal before.
For Mr. Obama, the race is about the claims of modernism. There is "cool," and the confidence of the meritocracy in him. The Obama way is glib: It glides over the world without really taking it in. It has to it that fluency with political and economic matters that can be acquired in a hurry, an impatience with great moral and political complications. The lightning overseas trip, the quick briefing, and above all a breezy knowingness. Mr. Obama's way is the way of his peers among the liberal, professional elite.
Once every four years, ordinary Americans go out and choose the standard-bearer of their nationalism. Liberalism has run away with elite culture. Nationalism may be out of fashion in Silicon Valley. But the state -- and its citadel, the presidency -- is an altogether different calling.
Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University. He is also an adjunct research fellow of the Hoover Institution.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon
on: September 09, 2008, 10:56:02 PM
September 10, 2008
One rap on Sarah Palin's qualifications to be Vice President is that she governs one of our least populated states, with a budget of "only" $12 billion and 16,000 full-time state employees. On the other hand, it turns out that the Governor's office in Alaska is one of the country's most powerful.
For more than two decades Thad Beyle, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, has maintained an index of "institutional powers" in state offices. He rates governorships on potential length of service, budgetary and appointment authority, veto power and other factors. Mr. Beyle's findings for 2008 rate Alaska at 4.1 on a scale of 5. The national average is 3.5.
Only four other states -- Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia -- concentrate as much power in the Governor's office as Alaska does, and only one state (Massachusetts) concentrates more. California may be the nation's most populous state, but its Governor rates as below-average (3.2) in executive authority. This may account in part for Arnold Schwarzenegger's poor legislative track record. The lowest rating goes to Vermont (2.5), where the Governor (remember Howard Dean) is a figurehead compared to Mrs. Palin.
In Alaska, the Governor has line-item veto power over the budget and can only be overridden by a three-quarters majority of the Legislature. In 1992, the year Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected President, his state budget was $2 billion and among the smallest in the country. Compared to that, Sarah Palin is an executive giant.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jordan goes extra-territorrial
on: September 09, 2008, 09:53:27 PM
Criminalizing Criticism of Islam
By ELIZABETH SAMSON
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
September 10, 2008
There are strange happenings in the world of international jurisprudence that do not bode well for the future of free speech. In an unprecedented case, a Jordanian court is prosecuting 12 Europeans in an extraterritorial attempt to silence the debate on radical Islam.
The prosecutor general in Amman charged the 12 with blasphemy, demeaning Islam and Muslim feelings, and slandering and insulting the prophet Muhammad in violation of the Jordanian Penal Code. The charges are especially unusual because the alleged violations were not committed on Jordanian soil.
Among the defendants is the Danish cartoonist whose alleged crime was to draw in 2005 one of the Muhammad illustrations that instigators then used to spark Muslim riots around the world. His co-defendants include 10 editors of Danish newspapers that published the images. The 12th accused man is Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who supposedly broke Jordanian law by releasing on the Web his recent film, "Fitna," which tries to examine how the Quran inspires Islamic terrorism.
Jordan's attempt at criminalizing free speech beyond its own borders wouldn't be so serious if it were an isolated case. Unfortunately, it is part of a larger campaign to use the law and international forums to intimidate critics of militant Islam. For instance, in December the United Nations General Assembly passed the Resolution on Combating Defamation of Religions; the only religion mentioned by name was Islam. While such resolutions aren't legally binding, national governments sometimes cite them as justification for legislation or other actions.
More worrying, the U.N. Human Rights Council in June said it would refrain from condemning human-rights abuses related to "a particular religion." The ban applies to all religions, but it was prompted by Muslim countries that complained about linking Islamic law, Shariah, to such outrages as female genital mutilation and death by stoning for adulterers. This kind of self-censorship could prove dangerous for people suffering abuse, and it follows the council's March decision to have its expert on free speech investigate individuals and the media for negative comments about Islam.
Given this trend, it's worth taking a closer look at the Jordanian case.
The prosecutor is relying on a 2006 amendment to the Jordanian Justice Act that casts a worryingly wide net for such prosecution. Passed in response to the Danish cartoons incident, the law allows the prosecution of individuals whose actions affect the Jordanian people by "electronic means," such as the Internet. The 2006 amendment, in theory, means anyone who publishes on the Internet could be subject to prosecution in Jordan. If the case against the 12 defendants is allowed to go forward, they will be the first but probably not the last Westerners to be hit by Jordan's law.
Amman has already requested that Interpol apprehend Mr. Wilders and the Danes and bring them to stand before its court for an act that is not a crime in their home countries. To the contrary. Dutch prosecutors said in July that although some of Mr. Wilders's statements may be offensive, they are protected under Dutch free-speech legislation. Likewise, Danish law protects the rights of the Danish cartoonists and newspapers to express their views.
Neither Denmark nor the Netherlands will turn over its citizens to Interpol, as the premise of Jordan's extradition request is an affront to the very principles that define democracies. It is thus unlikely that any Western country would do so, either. But there is no guarantee for the defendants' protection if they travel to countries that are more sympathetic to the Jordanian court.
Unless democratic countries stand up to this challenge to free speech, other nations may be emboldened to follow the Jordanian example. Kangaroo courts across the globe will be ready to charge free people with obscure violations of other societies' norms and customs, and send Interpol to bring them to stand trial in frivolous litigation.
A new form of forum shopping would soon take root. Activists would be able to choose countries whose laws and policies are informed by their religious values to prosecute critical voices in other countries. The case before the Jordanian court is not just about Mr. Wilders and the Danes. It is about the subjugation of Western standards of free speech to fear and coercion by foreign courts.
Ms. Samson, an attorney specializing in international and constitutional law, will join the Hudson Institute this fall.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: September 09, 2008, 09:06:18 PM
" , , , while the medical staff are making sure he is ok you start prancing like a peacock and doing something that is appropraite for a gay strip club, that is a tad to demeaning in my view."
Oh. I only noticed the part where he did some Muay Thai Wai Kru looking sort of a thing. Sexual movements?
We're in complete agreement!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: September 09, 2008, 05:32:53 AM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
September 9, 2008; Page A24
The good news is that Barack Obama said on ABC Sunday that he might not go through with his plans to increase taxes.
The bad news is that the economy has to be mired in recession to avoid the largest tax increase in the nation's history.
Our check of the Dow Jones Factiva database suggests that other than viewers of ABC's "This Week," only three or four newspapers carried an account of Senator Obama's amended tax plan. While it's possible that the story of a deferred tax increase could shock the media into paralysis, we take it as an encouraging sign. The education of Barack Obama continues apace.
For the record, here is what he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
Mr. Stephanopoulos: "So even if we're in a recession next January, you come into office, you'll still go through with your tax increases?"
Senator Obama: "No, no, no, no, no. What I've said, George, is that even if we're still in a recession, I'm going to go through with my tax cuts. That's my priority."
Mr. Stephanopoulos: "But not the increases?"
Senator Obama: "I think we've got to take a look and see where the economy is. The economy is weak right now. The news with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, I think, along with the unemployment numbers indicates that we're fragile. I want to accelerate those tax cuts through a second stimulus package, get more money into the pockets of ordinary Americans, see if we can stabilize the housing market, and then we're going to have to reevaluate at the beginning of the year to see what kind of hole we're in."
* * *
Even individuals staring down the barrel of Mr. Obama's tax increases should not wish for an economic recession to give them a reprieve. The relevant point is that it was early last year, when the "Bush economy" was still humming, that Senator Obama first proposed pushing taxes sharply upward on "the wealthy," while giving what he calls "tax cuts" (actually they are credits, not rate reductions) to "the middle class."
At the time, Mr. Obama was the long shot in the Democratic Presidential sweepstakes, and it made some political sense to reassure the party's intensely liberal primary voters with class-war boilerplate on taxes.
Under ObamaTax 1.0, he would have repealed all the Bush tax cuts, lifted the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax, put the top marginal rate up to 39.8% and raised the rate on capital gains and dividends to at least 25% from 15% now. The official campaign line was that tax rates really don't matter to economic growth.
Summer arrived, the Clinton challenge was history and with the general election ahead came ObamaTax 2.0. It posited that the top rate on capital gains now would be 20%, described on this page August 14 by economic advisers Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee as "almost a third lower than the rate President Reagan set in 1986." This was progress.
Now with the big vote less than 60 days off and John McCain pounding him as a tax-raiser and pulling ahead in some polls, the Democratic nominee has decided to release ObamaTax 3.0, the most interesting upgrade so far. If the economy is still weak in January, a President Obama might defer all of the planned increases.
Several interpretations of this shift are possible, none of which reflect badly on Senator Obama's political learning curve.
At the bloodless level of simply wishing to win, the Obama camp may have concluded that in the sprint to November it is a losing strategy to be the election's only doctrinaire tax raiser. A tight race tends to focus political minds, and none forget Walter Mondale's catastrophic promise in his 1984 acceptance speech: "Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did."
Beyond this lies the economic reality of jacking up income, investment and payroll taxes on "the wealthy" amid a flat or falling economy. In the standard narrative, these taxpayers exist as fat cats atop hedge funds, banks and megacorporations. Let's toss into the vat the top-tier managers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Beltway's own fat-cat sinecure.
The reality is that the creators of new jobs in the economy are more likely to be rising entrepreneurs or filers under Subchapter S, who typically pay taxes at individual rates. Hanging three or four tax millstones around their productive necks in January if the economy is weak will likely produce unimpressive growth and job numbers in the first year of the new Obama Presidency, and likely beyond. That in turn could drag down the Democrats in Congress who will get credit for voting these higher taxes into law.
Thus Mr. Obama's unambiguous answer Sunday to whether he'd insist on his tax increases if the economy is in an official recession: "No, no, no, no, no." It seems Mr. McCain is right that taxes do matter.
Mr. Obama's most ardent primary supporters may not like it, but we'll take the five "Nos" as evidence that Senator Obama may be learning the difference between liberal doctrine and sensible governance.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Logic and political arguement
on: September 08, 2008, 05:56:42 PM
"What does this explain? , , , That most people focus less on thinking and emphasize other ways of interacting with the world than that."
"Sometimes I rely on my intuition or my feelings to make decisions."
Right. These functions have their purposes.
"When is this valid?"
When things turn out well.
" and when is it not?" "
When they don't
(Secret tip: Yes I know that additional points can be made with regards to what I just said. I'm just being silly.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli STrategy post Russia-GA
on: September 08, 2008, 05:23:23 PM
Another serious read from Stratfor:
ISRAELI STRATEGY AFTER THE RUSSO-GEORGIAN WAR
By George Friedman
The Russo-Georgian war continues to resonate, and it is time to expand our view of
it. The primary players in Georgia, apart from the Georgians, were the Russians and
Americans. On the margins were the Europeans, providing advice and admonitions but
carrying little weight. Another player, carrying out a murkier role, was Israel.
Israeli advisers were present in Georgia alongside American advisers, and Israeli
businessmen were doing business there. The Israelis had a degree of influence but
were minor players compared to the Americans.
More interesting, perhaps, was the decision, publicly announced by the Israelis, to
end weapons sales to Georgia the week before the Georgians attacked South Ossetia.
Clearly the Israelis knew what was coming and wanted no part of it. Afterward,
unlike the Americans, the Israelis did everything they could to placate the
Russians, including having Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert travel to Moscow to
offer reassurances. Whatever the Israelis were doing in Georgia, they did not want a
confrontation with the Russians.
It is impossible to explain the Israeli reasoning for being in Georgia outside the
context of a careful review of Israeli strategy in general. From that, we can begin
to understand why the Israelis are involved in affairs far outside their immediate
area of responsibility, and why they responded the way they did in Georgia.
We need to divide Israeli strategic interests into four separate but interacting
The Palestinians living inside Israel's post-1967 borders.
The so-called "confrontation states" that border Israel, including Lebanon, Syria,
Jordan and especially Egypt.
The Muslim world beyond this region.
The great powers able to influence and project power into these first three regions.
The Palestinian Issue
The most important thing to understand about the first interest, the Palestinian
issue, is that the Palestinians do not represent a strategic threat to the Israelis.
Their ability to inflict casualties is an irritant to the Israelis (if a tragedy to
the victims and their families), but they cannot threaten the existence of the
Israeli state. The Palestinians can impose a level of irritation that can affect
Israeli morale, inducing the Israelis to make concessions based on the realistic
assessment that the Palestinians by themselves cannot in any conceivable time frame
threaten Israel's core interests, regardless of political arrangements. At the same
time, the argument goes, given that the Palestinians cannot threaten Israeli
interests, what is the value of making concessions that will not change the threat
of terrorist attacks? Given the structure of Israeli politics, this matter is both
substrategic and gridlocked.
The matter is compounded by the fact that the Palestinians are deeply divided among
themselves. For Israel, this is a benefit, as it creates a de facto civil war among
Palestinians and reduces the threat from them. But it also reduces pressure and
opportunities to negotiate. There is no one on the Palestinian side who speaks
authoritatively for all Palestinians. Any agreement reached with the Palestinians
would, from the Israeli point of view, have to include guarantees on the cessation
of terrorism. No one has ever been in a position to guarantee that -- and certainly
Fatah does not today speak for Hamas. Therefore, a settlement on a Palestinian state
remains gridlocked because it does not deliver any meaningful advantages to the
The Confrontation States
The second area involves the confrontation states. Israel has formal peace treaties
with Egypt and Jordan. It has had informal understandings with Damascus on things
like Lebanon, but Israel has no permanent understanding with Syria. The Lebanese are
too deeply divided to allow state-to-state understandings, but Israel has had
understandings with different Lebanese factions at different times (and particularly
close relations with some of the Christian factions).
Jordan is effectively an ally of Israel. It has been hostile to the Palestinians at
least since 1970, when the Palestine Liberation Organization attempted to overthrow
the Hashemite regime, and the Jordanians regard the Israelis and Americans as
guarantors of their national security. Israel's relationship with Egypt is publicly
cooler but quite cooperative. The only group that poses any serious challenge to the
Egyptian state is The Muslim Brotherhood, and hence Cairo views Hamas -- a
derivative of that organization -- as a potential threat. The Egyptians and Israelis
have maintained peaceful relations for more than 30 years, regardless of the state
of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Syrians by themselves cannot go to war with
Israel and survive. Their primary interest lies in Lebanon, and when they work
against Israel, they work with surrogates like Hezbollah. But their own view on an
independent Palestinian state is murky, since they claim all of Palestine as part of
a greater Syria -- a view not particularly relevant at the moment. Therefore,
Israel's only threat on its border comes from Syria via surrogates in Lebanon and
the possibility of Syria's acquiring weaponry that would threaten Israel, such as
chemical or nuclear weapons.
The Wider Muslim World
As to the third area, Israel's position in the Muslim world beyond the confrontation
states is much more secure than either it or its enemies would like to admit. Israel
has close, formal strategic relations with Turkey as well as with Morocco. Turkey
and Egypt are the giants of the region, and being aligned with them provides Israel
with the foundations of regional security. But Israel also has excellent relations
with countries where formal relations do not exist, particularly in the Arabian
The conservative monarchies of the region deeply distrust the Palestinians,
particularly Fatah. As part of the Nasserite Pan-Arab socialist movement, Fatah on
several occasions directly threatened these monarchies. Several times in the 1970s
and 1980s, Israeli intelligence provided these monarchies with information that
prevented assassinations or uprisings.
Saudi Arabia, for one, has never engaged in anti-Israeli activities beyond rhetoric.
In the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Saudi Arabia and Israel
forged close behind-the-scenes relations, especially because of an assertive Iran --
a common foe of both the Saudis and the Israelis. Saudi Arabia has close relations
with Hamas, but these have as much to do with maintaining a defensive position --
keeping Hamas and its Saudi backers off Riyadh's back -- as they do with government
policy. The Saudis are cautious regarding Hamas, and the other monarchies are even
More to the point, Israel does extensive business with these regimes, particularly
in the defense area. Israeli companies, working formally through American or
European subsidiaries, carry out extensive business throughout the Arabian
Peninsula. The nature of these subsidiaries is well-known on all sides, though no
one is eager to trumpet this. The governments of both Israel and the Arabian
Peninsula would have internal political problems if they publicized it, but a visit
to Dubai, the business capital of the region, would find many Israelis doing
extensive business under third-party passports. Add to this that the states of the
Arabian Peninsula are afraid of Iran, and the relationship becomes even more
important to all sides.
There is an interesting idea that if Israel were to withdraw from the occupied
territories and create an independent Palestinian state, then perceptions of Israel
in the Islamic world would shift. This is a commonplace view in Europe. The fact is
that we can divide the Muslim world into three groups.
First, there are those countries that already have formal ties to Israel. Second are
those that have close working relations with Israel and where formal ties would
complicate rather than deepen relations. Pakistan and Indonesia, among others, fit
into this class. Third are those that are absolutely hostile to Israel, such as
Iran. It is very difficult to identify a state that has no informal or formal
relations with Israel but would adopt these relations if there were a Palestinian
state. Those states that are hostile to Israel would remain hostile after a
withdrawal from the Palestinian territories, since their issue is with the existence
of Israel, not its borders.
The point of all this is that Israeli security is much better than it might appear
if one listened only to the rhetoric. The Palestinians are divided and at war with
each other. Under the best of circumstances, they cannot threaten Israel's survival.
The only bordering countries with which the Israelis have no formal agreements are
Syria and Lebanon, and neither can threaten Israel's security. Israel has close ties
to Turkey, the most powerful Muslim country in the region. It also has much closer
commercial and intelligence ties with the Arabian Peninsula than is generally
acknowledged, although the degree of cooperation is well-known in the region. From a
security standpoint, Israel is doing well.
The Broader World
Israel is also doing extremely well in the broader world, the fourth and final area.
Israel always has needed a foreign source of weapons and technology, since its
national security needs outstrip its domestic industrial capacity. Its first patron
was the Soviet Union, which hoped to gain a foothold in the Middle East. This was
quickly followed by France, which saw Israel as an ally in Algeria and against
Egypt. Finally, after 1967, the United States came to support Israel. Washington saw
Israel as a threat to Syria, which could threaten Turkey from the rear at a time
when the Soviets were threatening Turkey from the north. Turkey was the doorway to
the Mediterranean, and Syria was a threat to Turkey. Egypt was also aligned with the
Soviets from 1956 onward, long before the United States had developed a close
working relationship with Israel.
That relationship has declined in importance for the Israelis. Over the years the
amount of U.S. aid -- roughly $2.5 billion annually -- has remained relatively
constant. It was never adjusted upward for inflation, and so shrunk as a percentage
of Israeli gross domestic product from roughly 20 percent in 1974 to under 2 percent
today. Israel's dependence on the United States has plummeted. The dependence that
once existed has become a marginal convenience. Israel holds onto the aid less for
economic reasons than to maintain the concept in the United States of Israeli
dependence and U.S. responsibility for Israeli security. In other words, it is more
psychological and political from Israel's point of view than an economic or security
Israel therefore has no threats or serious dependencies, save two. The first is the
acquisition of nuclear weapons by a power that cannot be deterred -- in other words,
a nation prepared to commit suicide to destroy Israel. Given Iranian rhetoric, Iran
would appear at times to be such a nation. But given that the Iranians are far from
having a deliverable weapon, and that in the Middle East no one's rhetoric should be
taken all that seriously, the Iranian threat is not one the Israelis are compelled
to deal with right now.
The second threat would come from the emergence of a major power prepared to
intervene overtly or covertly in the region for its own interests, and in the course
of doing so, redefine the regional threat to Israel. The major candidate for this
role is Russia.
During the Cold War, the Soviets pursued a strategy to undermine American interests
in the region. In the course of this, the Soviets activated states and groups that
could directly threaten Israel. There is no significant conventional military threat
to Israel on its borders unless Egypt is willing and well-armed. Since the
mid-1970s, Egypt has been neither. Even if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were to
die and be replaced by a regime hostile to Israel, Cairo could do nothing unless it
had a patron capable of training and arming its military. The same is true of Syria
and Iran to a great extent. Without access to outside military technology, Iran is a
nation merely of frightening press conferences. With access, the entire regional
After the fall of the Soviet Union, no one was prepared to intervene in the Middle
East the way the Soviets had. The Chinese have absolutely no interest in struggling
with the United States in the Middle East, which accounts for a similar percentage
of Chinese and U.S. oil consumption. It is far cheaper to buy oil in the Middle East
than to engage in a geopolitical struggle with China's major trade partner, the
United States. Even if there was interest, no European powers can play this role
given their individual military weakness, and Europe as a whole is a geopolitical
myth. The only country that can threaten the balance of power in the Israeli
geopolitical firmament is Russia.
Israel fears that if Russia gets involved in a struggle with the United States,
Moscow will aid Middle Eastern regimes that are hostile to the United States as one
of its levers, beginning with Syria and Iran. Far more frightening to the Israelis
is the idea of the Russians once again playing a covert role in Egypt, toppling the
tired Mubarak regime, installing one friendlier to their own interests, and arming
it. Israel's fundamental fear is not Iran. It is a rearmed, motivated and hostile
Egypt backed by a great power.
The Russians are not after Israel, which is a sideshow for them. But in the course
of finding ways to threaten American interests in the Middle East -- seeking to
force the Americans out of their desired sphere of influence in the former Soviet
region -- the Russians could undermine what at the moment is a quite secure position
in the Middle East for the United States.
This brings us back to what the Israelis were doing in Georgia. They were not trying
to acquire airbases from which to bomb Iran. That would take thousands of Israeli
personnel in Georgia for maintenance, munitions management, air traffic control and
so on. And it would take Ankara allowing the use of Turkish airspace, which isn't
very likely. Plus, if that were the plan, then stopping the Georgians from attacking
South Ossetia would have been a logical move.
The Israelis were in Georgia in an attempt, in parallel with the United States, to
prevent Russia's re-emergence as a great power. The nuts and bolts of that effort
involves shoring up states in the former Soviet region that are hostile to Russia,
as well as supporting individuals in Russia who oppose Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin's direction. The Israeli presence in Georgia, like the American one, was
designed to block the re-emergence of Russia.
As soon as the Israelis got wind of a coming clash in South Ossetia, they -- unlike
the United States -- switched policies dramatically. Where the United States
increased its hostility toward Russia, the Israelis ended weapons sales to Georgia
before the war. After the war, the Israelis initiated diplomacy designed to calm
Russian fears. Indeed, at the moment the Israelis have a greater interest in keeping
the Russians from seeing Israel as an enemy than they have in keeping the Americans
happy. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney may be uttering vague threats to the
Russians. But Olmert was reassuring Moscow it has nothing to fear from Israel, and
therefore should not sell weapons to Syria, Iran, Hezbollah or anyone else hostile
Interestingly, the Americans have started pumping out information that the Russians
are selling weapons to Hezbollah and Syria. The Israelis have avoided that issue
carefully. They can live with some weapons in Hezbollah's hands a lot more easily
than they can live with a coup in Egypt followed by the introduction of Russian
military advisers. One is a nuisance; the other is an existential threat. Russia may
not be in a position to act yet, but the Israelis aren't waiting for the situation
to get out of hand.
Israel is in control of the Palestinian situation and relations with the countries
along its borders. Its position in the wider Muslim world is much better than it
might appear. Its only enemy there is Iran, and that threat is much less clear than
the Israelis say publicly. But the threat of Russia intervening in the Muslim world
-- particularly in Syria and Egypt -- is terrifying to the Israelis. It is a risk
they won't live with if they don't have to. So the Israelis switched their policy in
Georgia with lightning speed. This could create frictions with the United States,
but the Israeli-American relationship isn't what it used to be.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post
on: September 08, 2008, 02:28:19 PM
THE FOUNDATION: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
“Let us hear of the dignity of man’s nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God.” —John Adams
“This is hardly the first presidential campaign to pit an antiabortion Republican ticket against pro-choice Democrats. Never before, however, has the difference been so stark. Obama advocates abortion rights even more sweeping than those enacted under Roe v. Wade. ‘The first thing I’d do as president,’ he assured the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year, ‘is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.’ The measure would not only codify Roe, it would eliminate even restrictions on abortion that the Supreme Court has allowed—the federal ban on government funding of abortion, for example, or the law prohibiting partial-birth abortion. During last month’s forum at the Saddleback Church, Obama was asked when ‘a baby gets human rights.’ He fudged: ‘Answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.’ But there is nothing hesitant about Obama’s abortion stance. As an Illinois lawmaker, he opposed a bill making it clear that premature babies born alive after surviving a failed abortion must be protected and cannot be killed or simply left to die. Even after virtually identical legislation—the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002—passed unanimously in the U.S. House and Senate, Obama continued to oppose the state version. On abortion, no presidential candidate has ever been so extreme. And when has a Republican ticket ever been so unabashedly antiabortion?” —Jeff Jacoby
“Let me say of myself and almost everyone I know in the press, all the chattering classes and political strategists and inside dopesters of the Amtrak Acela Line: We live in a bubble and have around us bubble people. We are Bubbleheads... And when you forget you’re a Bubblehead you get in trouble, you misjudge things. For one thing, you assume evangelical Christians will be appalled and left agitated by the circumstances of Mrs. Palin’s daughter. But modern American evangelicals are among the last people who’d judge her harshly. It is the left that is about to go crazy with Puritan judgments; it is the right that is about to show what mellow looks like. Religious conservatives know something’s wrong with us, that man’s a mess. They are not left dazed by the latest applications of this fact. ‘This just in—there’s a lot of sinning going on out there’ is not a headline they’d understand to be news. So the media’s going to wait for the Christian right to rise up and condemn Mrs. Palin, and they’re not going to do it because it’s not their way, and in any case her problems are their problems. Christians lived through the second half of the 20th century, and the first years of the 21st. They weren’t immune from the culture, they just eventually broke from it, or came to hold themselves in some ways apart from it. I think the media will explain the lack of condemnation as ‘Republican loyalty’ and ‘talking points.’ But that’s not what it will be. Another Bubblehead blind spot. I’m bumping into a lot of critics who do not buy the legitimacy of small town mayorship... and executive as opposed to legislative experience. But executives, even of small towns, run something. There are 262 cities in this country with a population of 100,000 or more. But there are close to a hundred thousand small towns with ten thousand people or less. ‘You do the math,’ the conservative pollster Kellyanne Conway told me. ‘We are a nation of Wasillas, not Chicagos’.” —Peggy Noonan
RE: THE LEFT
“[Sarah Palin is]... the object of the cultural disdain of a left that loves the working class in theory, but is mystified or offended by its lifestyle and conservative values in reality. If there’s ever been an exemplar of the rural America that, in Barack Obama’s telling, ‘bitterly’ clings to its guns and religion, it’s Sarah Palin. It’s her misfortune to be a pioneer with the wrong ideology. So much bile was directed at Clarence Thomas because he was the ‘wrong’ kind of black man. Pro-life, pro-gun and a down-the-line, if populist, conservative, Palin is a traitor to her gender and thus encounters the sort of fury always directed at apostates... A lot of Palin-hatred is couched in terms of her lack of experience. Fair enough, but there’s a tone of contemptuous dismissiveness about the experience that she does have—fueled no doubt by her career in ‘fly-over country’ so remote no one really flies over it. The Obama campaign is loath to admit that she’s governor of Alaska, pretending instead she’s still mayor of tiny Wasilla, and the outraged commentary in the press makes it sound like the vice presidency is an office of such import that it would be better if the newcomer were at the top of the ticket and the wizened pro at the bottom—just like the Democrats.” —Rich Lowry
FOR THE RECORD
“Unlike Barack Obama, who thought so highly of himself that he wrote two autobiographies before he accomplished anything, Mrs. Palin has raised a family, run a business, managed a city and governed a state. She took on corrupt members of her own party, toppled a sitting Republican governor and said ‘no’ to Alaska’s infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’ She is pro-life, pro-family, pro-Second Amendment and pro-free enterprise. She is the governor of America’s most natural resource-rich state and is an advocate of oil drilling in ANWR. (Perhaps she can talk some sense into McCain on that issue.) Oh, and she has an 80 percent approval rating among Alaskans.” —Doug Patton
“In our administration, our mission has been to appoint the best qualified people we could find, to fill substantial jobs with substantial individuals. And the result of this merit-based approach, not surprisingly, is that more women have served in top-level policy positions in our administration than in any previous one. And they’ve served with distinction, earning promotions and reappointments at a very high rate. We can be proud of what you and the other women have accomplished...I’m very happy about everything that American women are doing, yes, because it is good for women, but also because it’s good for America.” —Ronald Reagan
“Frankly, what the tank ride did for Michael Dukakis, the plywood Parthenon just might do for Obama. Then again, this entire event, seemingly a miscalculation of epic proportions, could have been an example of perfect political acumen. For example, before becoming transfixed by Temple Obama, I was reading up on Obama’s relationship with ex-Weather Underground member and unrepentant Capitol- and Pentagon-bomber William Ayers—news of which the Obama campaign has been eager to downplay if not squelch entirely. I was also trying to unravel the ties between Obama, Obama’s unsavory fundraiser Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko, and Rezko’s unsavory money source Iraqi-British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi. (This is another story journalists are being pressured not to cover, as Andrew Walden at Accuracy in Media has shockingly and extensively documented, in this case by Auchi’s legal eagles.) And who knew Obama’s veep nominee Joe Biden had Rezko connections through a longtime associate named Joseph Cari Jr., who admitted involvement in a Rezko kickback scheme? And on it goes. But then, suddenly, Temple Obama went up, and with it, like incense in the fire, all patience for hard news.” —Diana West
“Currently, the United States has the second-highest corporate tax rate of all industrial societies, after economically anemic Japan. The U.S. federal rate of taxation is 35 percent, and when the average state and local corporate tax rates are added, American corporations pay, on average, a 39.27 percent tax on their incomes. China is at 25 percent; Mexico is at 28 percent; socialist Sweden is at 28 percent; and prosperous Ireland is at a mere 12.5 percent. If these comparative rates continue for much longer, the United States economy will mortally bleed jobs and prosperity to a world—both nominally socialist and free market—that has learned the low corporate tax lesson from Reagan’s America that current Washington has forgotten. Obama’s solution to the problem of jobs and industry going offshore is to lean toward protectionist policies (renegotiate NAFTA, oppose new free trade treaties, etc.). When one combines Obama’s plans to tighten international trade, create carbon trading regulations that will be the equivalent of a further $100 billion corporate tax, raise taxes generally on business, as well as his mind-numbingly counterproductive ‘windfall’ profit taxes on petroleum product companies (full disclosure: as a rational person, I support and provide professional advice to the petroleum industry), one has a formula for economic catastrophe not seen since Herbert Hoover’s similar Depression-inducing policy in 1929.” —Tony Blankley
“Beginning in the 1950s, conservatives forged a political philosophy and, over the next several decades, built an intellectual infrastructure to popularize their principles and apply them to policy problems. And they found political leaders who could implement those solutions. In short, conservatism advanced because conservatives refused to get in tune with the times. They possessed the moral vision and intellectual courage to compose a better tune. They offered leadership, and they accepted the responsibilities that go with it. But too many Republicans have spent the last several years demonstrating that they can’t be trusted to lead... If they want to regain power, Republicans would be wise to re-embrace conservative principles. Liberalism is a bankrupt philosophy that has been tried and found wanting in one major policy issue after another, from national defense to social welfare, from education to the national economic policy. That’s why candidates run away from liberal ideas when it’s time for a general election. Republicans must run toward conservative policies if they want the tides of history to sweep them back into power.” —Ed Feulner
SELECT READER COMMENTS
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: September 08, 2008, 01:42:44 PM
I must be getting to be a crotchety old fart, but I don't care for it at all when I see fighters continuing to pound on someone obviously already KTFO. I don't care that it is within the rules.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: La experiencia del Gathering
on: September 08, 2008, 01:34:18 PM
Hablando del tema de cuchillos escondidos:
Por unos anos he tratado de instalar en la cultura de nuestros Gatherings el concepto de usar y defender cuchillos escondidos-- y en el Gathering del Agosto 10 puedo decir que por la primera vez estoy contento.
Mi pensamiento es lo siguiente: Lo que se nos pasa en condicion de adrenalina, lo que sea, es algo que aprendemos en una manera muy, muy profunda-- !y una pelea Dog Brothers si' es una experiencia de adrenalina! Por lo cual me parece una tremenda oportunidad instalar no solo habilidades fisicas, sino tambien maneras de pensar.
Aunque nuestras peleas son del mundo "ritual" (?como se dice "ritual"?) en mi opinion queremos instalar el buen habito de averiguando la posibilidad de armas escondidas y experimentando con los retos (challenges) de usar nuestras armas escondidas por que en la calle la cosa puede ser asi'.
Espero que me puedan entender mi espanol.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: September 08, 2008, 01:22:48 PM
", , , for a long time I have belonged to an old social/business club (The California Club) here in LA; it's comfortable and quiet. Mostly Republican, but a few Democrats. All great people. It's fun to listen to Pete Wilson argue politics in the steam room, a CEO express his business opinion on the squash court, or Warren Christopher criticize Rice over lunch."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Big Three Bailout
on: September 08, 2008, 04:39:12 AM
Detroit's Blackmail Attempt
Is Beyond Shameless
By PAUL INGRASSIA
September 8, 2008; Page A19
It was only a matter of time, unfortunately. And now that Michigan is an election-year swing state and Detroit's auto makers are posting sales declines topping 20% each month, the time has arrived. The issue of a government bailout for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler is moving to center stage.
Barack Obama has said yes to this proposal early on, and last week John McCain climbed on board. So much for change and fighting pork-barrel spending. We're moving beyond moral hazard here, folks, and into a moral quagmire. At least the Chrysler bailout of 1980 was structured so that taxpayers could reap a reward for taking a financial risk on the company's future. That's not what's happening now.
Late last year, in its energy bill, Congress authorized $25 billion of low-interest loans to high-risk borrowers -- a strategy perfected by home-mortgage lenders in recent years. In this case the high-risk borrowers are the loss-plagued Detroit car companies. The loans are supposed to help them develop new, fuel-efficient cars, and retool their factories to produce them. Detroit, not being satisfied with this taxpayer largess, wants $50 billion.
This is bad public policy for reasons of philosophy, practicality and precedent. And by the way, this is a dumb idea for the car companies too, simply in terms of their own self-interest.
Philosophically, if the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae debacles teach us any lesson, it is that subsidizing private profits with public risk is a terrible idea. Implicit government backing has led the managements of these two companies to make reckless investments that have backfired badly. Now government backing has become explicit, and under the plan announced by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson yesterday, taxpayers likely will pay billions to keep Fannie and Freddie solvent -- with the exact amount uncertain.
The Detroit Three got into their current quandary by making decades of bad decisions, with some help from the United Auto Workers union. Yet despite the current crisis, General Motors is still paying dividends to shareholders, the car companies are paying bonuses to executives, and the private-equity billionaires at Cerberus who bought Chrysler are trying to reap enormous rewards from their risky investment. Meanwhile the UAW's Jobs Bank -- which pays laid-off workers for doing nothing -- remains in place.
Of course, we can all hope that shareholders do well, that executives reap handsome rewards for work well done, that the Cerberus billionaires make more billions on Chrysler, and that workers get paid on whatever terms the car companies agree. But we taxpayers shouldn't subsidize any of this.
The only reason we should bail out any private company is the risk that its demise would wreak havoc on the entire economy. Bear Stearns conceivably passed the test; its collapse could have threatened the U.S. financial system, and the government didn't make the mistake of bailing out shareholders or management.
But just what calamity are we trying to avoid by subsidizing loans to Detroit? That we'll all be sentenced to the indignities of driving Hondas, Mazdas or BMWs? Toyota and Honda, the current leaders in hybrids and alternative-fuel technology, did their research and development on their own dimes.
Even if Ford, GM and Chrysler were to go out of business -- and it's highly unlikely that all three will simply cease to exist -- there will be plenty of good cars for Americans to buy. And many will be made in America, even if they carry foreign nameplates. Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and other foreign car companies have expanded greatly their U.S. manufacturing operations in recent years. They're doing so because Americans are buying their cars.
As a practical matter, Americans could choose to buy more Detroit cars. Frankly, they should -- considering such outstanding products as the Ford Focus, a fuel-efficient and comfortable compact, and the Chevrolet Malibu, a terrific new mid-sized sedan. But they're not. Americans are voting with their dollars, which is their right.
And what about the precedent the government would set? If we bail out Detroit, where do we stop? The newspaper industry is in financial trouble because more readers and advertisers are turning to the Internet. Newspapers are good for democracy -- Thomas Jefferson said he would choose newspapers over government, after all -- so shouldn't they get low-interest government loans to help them adjust to the Internet? Of course not, and ditto for Detroit.
If Detroit's auto makers would apply more than knee-jerk analysis to what's being proposed, they would reject it quickly. No matter what their spin, including the patently absurd claim that government-guaranteed, below-market loans aren't a bailout, loan subsidies will paint them in the public mind as corporate welfare recipients that can't compete on their own. That can't be good for sales.
More fundamentally, the last thing these companies need just now is more debt. They are leveraged to the hilt, and risk climbing into a financial hole from which they'll never recover. Better to raise money by selling more assets (e.g., Ford's recent sale of Jaguar and Land Rover) or raising more equity -- even if new investors would require management changes or other measures.
All this said, if Detroit's short-sightedness and political expediency make a bailout inevitable, let's make sure taxpayers stand to get rewarded for their risk. In 1980, the government didn't lend any money directly to Chrysler, instead guaranteeing loans to the company made by private lenders, mostly banks, in the amount of $1.2 billion (bailouts, like everything else, were cheaper back then). But in return, the government got warrants to buy Chrysler stock at a very low price. When Chrysler staged its spectacular recovery and paid off the bank loans seven years early, the warrants soared in value and the government earned some $400 million.
Then CEO Lee Iacocca tried to get the government to forego its profits -- he even got into a telephone shouting match with Treasury Secretary Donald Regan. But Regan, backed by President Reagan, stuck to his guns.
One other stipulation: any low-interest loans to develop fuel-efficient cars should be made available to all car companies, not just the Detroit Three. The law passed by Congress last year is framed to make this highly unlikely. But if developing fuel-efficient and alternative-energy cars is deemed worthy of taxpayer subsidies for public-policy purposes, it's just common sense not to put all our eggs in Detroit's basket.
Mr. Ingrassia, a former Detroit bureau chief for this newspaper, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his automotive coverage. He writes on automotive issues for The Journal, Condé Nast Portfolio and other publications.
Write to Paul Ingrassia at paul.ingrassia
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part three
on: September 08, 2008, 04:10:21 AM
Even now, after his "conversion," Dr. Fadl is no one's idea of a modern secular thinker. Rather, his manifesto rejects the inherent radicalism of jihadism in favor of more orthodox conservative values, a return to a kind of Islamic mean. More than that, it is a frank recognition of reality—namely, that the jihadist fervor of men like Zawahiri can only lead Muslims down one dead-end street after another.
How widespread is this recognition? That remains to be seen, as do its consequences. As Max Boot has noted in COMMENTARY,1 it takes neither a large organization nor particularly deep pockets to perpetrate devastating terrorist attacks, and terrorist groups have shown considerable resilience even in the face of the most devastating setbacks. Furthermore, although al Qaeda may have been gravely wounded in the past year, Hizballah has grown considerably stronger and more confident. The Bush administration kept its nerve in Iraq, and may finally have won the war. But it seems to have lost its nerve vis-à-vis Iran's quest to become a nuclear power. Israel defeated Yasir Arafat's second intifada, but it may soon be beset by a third one, this time planned and instigated by Hamas.
Still, al Qaeda's decline offers a kind of portrait-in-miniature of a civilization that seems perpetually to be collapsing in on itself. Here is a movement in which suicide—that is, self-destruction—is treated as the ultimate act of self-assertion. A movement that sees itself as an Islamic vanguard, leading the way toward a genuine Muslim umma, but is permanently at war with the Muslim communities it inhabits. A movement whose attacks beyond the Islamic world have mainly had the effect of accelerating the very forces by which it is sealing its own fate. To use an inexact astronomical analogy, this is a movement with the quality of a supernova: even as an envelope of superheated gas rapidly expands outward, its core is compressing and ultimately implodes.
A similar pattern played out with the pan-Arabist regimes of the 1950's and 60's. And the same forces are at work today in Iran, where the regime's outward-directed, "revolutionary" activities—from supporting Hamas to engineering Hizballah's de-facto takeover of Lebanon to developing nuclear weapons—seem almost purposely designed to counterbalance the weight of the regime's manifold domestic discontents.
As for how the United States and its allies should attempt to deal with this new reality, one temptation is simply to stay away, on the theory that no good can come from putting our hands in such a mess. This is roughly the view of the libertarian and paleoconservative Right, and perhaps a majority of the Left. But the view hardly bears discussion: all mention of Israel aside, access to Middle Eastern energy resources is a vital American interest and will almost certainly remain so for decades. The Muslim world is also inextricably a part of the Western one, particularly in Europe. Nor is the global terrorist threat likely to go away even if al Qaeda does. The possibility that a regime that sponsors or supports terrorists might be in a position to supply them with weapons of mass destruction is a direct threat to us.
A second option, associated with the so-called realist school, contends that with rare exceptions, the U.S. should deal with the Muslim world more or less as it is, without seeking to change it.2 This is a view that has much to recommend it—at least in the hands of a master diplomatic practitioner. But Metternichs are hard to come by, and in the hands of lesser statesmen, realism easily slides into passive acquiescence in an intolerable status quo—or into intolerable changes to it. Witness the readiness of Colin Powell, as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff during the first Bush administration, to accept Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 as a fait accompli.
A third view, shared to varying degrees by neoconservatives and liberal internationalists, is that the U.S. and the West have no choice but actively to seek domestic reforms in Muslim countries. Needless to say, such a course is fraught with risks and often prone to mishandling, overreaching, and failure. But some version of it is the only approach that can, if not heal the pathologies of the Muslim world, then at least ameliorate and contain them so that they do not end up arriving unbidden on our doorstep, as they did one morning in September 2001.
This is not the place to lay out precisely how the U.S. might go about pursuing such a course with greater success than it has achieved thus far. But a few points are worth noting in light of the experience detailed above:
First, while we should pursue democratic (and economic) openings wherever we realistically can do so, our overarching and primary aim is to make the Muslim world unsafe for radicalism—whether that radicalism is of the Islamist, pan-Arabist, or Baathist variety. This means a policy of unyielding opposition to groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and to the Iranian and Syrian regimes, despite growing calls to come to terms with all of them. But we must also come to terms with the limits of what intervention in Muslim politics can plausibly achieve. In particular, we need to be attentive to the fact that Western-style political or social prescriptions can often be counterproductive.3
Second, the experience of the so-called Anbar Awakening of tribal leaders against al Qaeda is an instructive reminder that the Muslim world does not, as was widely asserted in the wake of September 11, divide merely between a handful of extremists and a "vast majority" of moderates who can easily be rallied to our side. Instead, Muslim societies typically divide into at least three significant blocs: a "pre-modern" element, consisting mainly of tribesmen, peasants, nomads, and the like; a "modern" element, typically urban, educated, and, by the standards of their societies, middle-class; and an "anti-modern" element, consisting mostly of Islamists but also of members of the Baath party and other fascistic groups.
So far, many of our democracy-promotion efforts have been aimed at the middle group, the one most familiar to us. But this is not, in all cases, politically the most consequential element. What we have learned in Iraq is that it is possible, indeed necessary, to isolate anti-moderns by creating political alliances between the urban middle class and the tribes.
Third, we can seek ways to cultivate nationalist sentiment in the Muslim world, not least because jihadists detest, and fear, the notion of Arab and Muslim nationalism as yet another locus of loyalty that has nothing to do with Islam. In hindsight, Iraq's near-miraculous soccer victory in last year's Asian Cup was a significant moment in its evolution as a post-Baathist state, confirming that there really is such a thing as an Iraqi nationalism shared by Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds alike.
Finally, although the internal factors that ultimately did so much to cripple al Qaeda were, so to speak, written into its very DNA, they were not triggered until the United States proved itself capable of defeating the bin Laden gang militarily—first incompletely in Afghanistan, later decisively in Iraq. The importance of these confrontations lay not only in the actual killing or capture of al Qaeda's leadership and its foot soldiers but also in the demonstration to a watching Muslim world of the full extent of American power and the comparative weakness of al Qaeda. Its defeat finally pricked the Muslim myth that the jihadists were a military match for the U.S., just as Israel's victory in the Six-Day war of 1967 made a mockery of the martial pretensions of pan-Arabism and dealt Nasser a near-fatal blow.
Now the government of neighboring Iran has invested some $20 billion of scarce national treasure, and the weight of the regime's prestige, in its nuclear programs. Aside from the inherent case for getting rid of these programs for the threat they pose to core U.S. interests, it ought at least to be considered that their swift destruction might, far from rallying Iranians to their leaders' side, produce precisely the opposite effect.
These suggestions are only a sketch of a policy. But effective policy depends above all on a correct understanding of the people, places, and things toward which it is being applied. To speak of an Islamic civilization is to speak in error. Rather, there is a Muslim world. It is fractured, and fractious. At times, Muslim causes or conflicts spill over into the non-Islamic world, as they did in the 1990's. Today, thanks in no small part to our actions, they remain internal—expression not, or not merely, of a clash of civilizations, but of the convulsion of one. In this internal disunity lie our strength and our opportunity—and ultimately, perhaps, the reform of the Muslim world itself.
Bret Stephens is a member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal and the author of the paper's "Global View," a weekly column.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: September 08, 2008, 04:09:38 AM
But the Soviet (and Yugoslav) collapse had another important consequence: it reshaped the map of the Muslim world by bringing newly independent post-Soviet states into its fold. Some independence movements, notably in Chechnya and Bosnia, took on an Islamic coloration. Elsewhere, a pan-Islamic consciousness, which had already gained considerable momentum with the 1979 Iranian revolution and the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, was spreading rapidly. It was aided immeasurably by advances in mass communication and by the worldwide establishment of thousands of Saudi-funded madrassas preaching an inflexible version of desert Islam. If, previously, the very idea of an "Islamic civilization" would have seemed at most a remote abstraction to most Muslims living within it, in the 90's it became at least possible to imagine this as an expression not only of common religious identity but also of shared political aspirations.
Most deeply invested in the concept were the Islamist radicals for whom the abolition of the caliphate represented not the passing of an outdated institution but a historical calamity. To them, the 90's presented its own set of opportunities. Unable to dislodge the "apostate regimes" of the Middle East through terrorist campaigns, they decided to focus on dislodging their patron—the United States—from the region.
The idea of killing large numbers of Westerners, particularly Americans, had the additional advantage of being both plausible and popular. Plausible, because the Reagan administration's precipitous withdrawal from Beirut after the 1983 bombings of our Marine barracks and embassy, followed a decade later by the Clinton administration's equally precipitous withdrawal from Somalia, suggested a superpower easily frightened. And popular because the U.S. really was broadly detested throughout the Muslim world, not least on account of its support for the selfsame apostate regimes that were detested by the radicals.
The strategy of an "escalating sequence" of terrorist attacks on American targets was explicitly laid out by the jihadist theoretician Abu Bakr Naji (the name is almost certainly a pseudonym) in a document, The Management of Savagery, published on the Internet in 2004. Predicated on the idea that everyone loves a winner, it was not, in its own terms, a bad strategy.
In the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration and other governments had been quick to brand Osama bin Laden as an outcast among Muslims. But the overwhelming weight of evidence suggested differently. There were large public demonstrations of support for bin Laden in the Philippines and Indonesia. In the Muslim areas of Thailand, the name "Osama" became suddenly popular among newborn boys and girls, according to an October 2001 report in the Hindustan Times. Portraits of bin Laden were hot-selling items from Bangladesh to Nigeria. A poll found that fully 42 percent of Kuwaitis, whose country the U.S. had liberated only a decade earlier, considered bin Laden a "freedom fighter." Among Palestinians, 9/11 made bin Laden "the most popular figure in the West Bank and Gaza, second only to Arafat," according to a Fatah leader in Nablus.
Al Qaeda's popularity would not soon fade. In 2004, the Pew Global Survey found 55 percent of Jordanians and 65 percent of Pakistanis holding a favorable view of bin Laden. Nor was al Qaeda slow to capitalize on its stardom. By 2002, European intelligence agencies were reporting a sharp uptick in the organization's recruitment efforts. More worrisomely, al Qaeda was able to transform itself from a group into a movement. Some jihadist outfits, like Abu Musab al Zarqawi's Tawhid wal-Jihad and the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, swore loyalty oaths directly to bin Laden. Others, including Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah, began imitating al Qaeda's methods by attacking prominent Western targets. Cells sprang up in Gaza. Al-Qaeda "wannabes" murdered 52 people in the London bombings of July 2005 and plotted to murder the prime minister of Canada.
But it was the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that, as Naji wrote in The Management of Savagery, had the most galvanizing effect on would-be jihadists. Even before the U.S. toppled the Taliban, the radical televangelist Sheik Yussuf al-Qaradawi had decreed: "Islamic law says that if a Muslim country is attacked, the other Muslim countries must help it, with their souls and their money, until it is liberated." His call was widely heeded. By late 2006, al Qaeda could count on as many as 5,000 to 10,000 active members in Iraq, many of whom (including nearly all the senior leadership) had come from abroad. And while they were never the major part of the Sunni insurgency that gripped the country until last year, they accounted for an estimated 90 percent of all suicide bombings.
Late 2006 was also the moment when it became at least conceivable that Naji's strategy, which foresaw the creation of "liberated zones" under the dominion of al-Qaeda-like groups, might actually succeed on the ground. Al Qaeda in Iraq had largely "liberated" Anbar province through an unbridled campaign of terror against other Sunnis. It had also pursued a policy of deliberate carnage against Iraq's Shiites, with the intent, and effect, of creating all-but ungovernable chaos in the country. In the United States, the report of the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, recommended that no more U.S. troops be committed to Iraq, while the Democratic party, which had largely supported the initial decision to invade Iraq, began issuing increasingly hectic calls for immediate withdrawal.
Had those calls become U.S. policy, Naji's strategy might have been vindicated. The "fall of prestige of America" that he prognosticated would have accelerated dramatically throughout the Muslim world. Precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would have been seen by jihadists and their fellow travelers in a similar light to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988—as proof that it was possible to defeat a superpower, and as a harbinger of their enemies' complete rout. Al Qaeda would have had every incentive to apply the Iraq model—the "management of savagery"—to other Muslim states, particularly weaker secular states like Jordan, deemed guilty of "apostasy." And al Qaeda's own prestige would have been hugely boosted, offering a large pool of new recruits to replenish those who had been lost.
That, however, is not how matters have turned out, at least so far. President Bush pushed ahead with his "surge" strategy, under a new commanding officer using tried and true counterinsurgency tactics. Its effects were soon felt. Al Qaeda's ranks were decimated, and the flow of foreign fighters dried up.
In late 2007, the U.S. military captured letters from two of al Qaeda's "emirs" in Iraq. One of them appraised his situation thus:
There were almost 600 fighters in our sector before the [Sunni] tribes changed course 360 [sic] degrees. . . . Many of our fighters quit and some of them joined the deserters. . . . As a result of that the number of fighters dropped down to 20 or less. We were mistreated, cheated, and betrayed by some of our brothers who used to be part of the jihadi movement, therefore we must not have mercy on those traitors until they come back to the right side or get eliminated completely.
The second emir offered similar testimony:
The Islamic State of Iraq [al Qaeda] is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar province. Al Qaeda's expulsion from Anbar created weakness and psychological defeat. This also created panic, fear, and the unwillingness to fight.
Nor was it only in Iraq that al Qaeda found itself on the run. In summer 2007, a National Intelligence Estimate warned that the terrorist group was once again in a position to strike the U.S. Yet less than a year later, CIA Director Michael Hayden offered a strikingly different assessment to the Washington Post. "On balance, we're doing pretty well," he said. "Near-strategic defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. Near-strategic defeat for al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al Qaeda globally . . . as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on [its] form of Islam." Polls found declining levels of support for al Qaeda and other Islamist groups in several places in the Muslim world; in Pakistan, Islamist parties were trounced in February's parliamentary elections. Key al-Qaeda leaders were also killed in Predator strikes in the Pakistani hinterland bordering Afghanistan.
In short, al Qaeda's star has dimmed considerably, and it is important to consider the reasons why. Though there can be little question that the surge accounts for a large part of the explanation, it is equally true that the surge would not have succeeded without the support of the very Sunnis who, until 2007, had provided sanctuary and support to men like Zarqawi and his minions. This switch is in turn explained by al Qaeda's barbaric treatment of ordinary Sunnis and their tribal leaders during the period of the "Anbar caliphate."
And that raises a question: why did al Qaeda put itself "in a state of war with the masses in the region" (in Naji's words) rather than using those masses as allies or pawns in their war against America and the so-called apostate governments? The answer, it turns out, is inscribed in the very nature of the jihadist movement.
"All existing so-called Muslim societies are also Jahili societies," wrote Sayyid Qutb, al Qaeda's intellectual godfather, in his 1964 book Milestones. By "Jahili societies," Qutb was referring to the pre-Islamic, pagan world of Arabia that lived in "ignorance of divine guidance." Put simply, Qutb, his fellow travelers, and his spiritual heirs were, and are, not merely at war with the modern world, as defined by liberal democratic government and Western social mores. They are also murderously inclined toward "heretical Muslims," particularly Shiites. They object violently to Muslim attempts to fashion a kind of compromise modernity between Western and Islamic norms. They seek to overthrow secular Muslim regimes like Indonesia and Jordan, and religious Muslim regimes like Saudi Arabia that maintain relations with the West.
They are also—crucially—at war with the pre-modern world: traditional tribal societies in which authority is handed down from father to son and in which Islam is a religion and not a binding legal code or political ideology. Typically, Muslim regimes have been careful to accommodate their tribes, plying them with money, government jobs, small arms, and other tokens of honor, and above all by allowing them to govern their internal affairs. This was (generally) true even in Saddam's Iraq. To the jihadists, however, tribal structures represent a twofold political challenge: first, they instill a powerful sense of local identity as opposed to a strictly pan-Islamic one; second, their systems of patronage and charity get in the way of the jihadists' agenda of radical social change.
It was this anti-tribalist attitude, combined with the utter savagery with which the jihadists put it into practice, that proved to be al Qaeda's undoing in Iraq. And that was not the only manner of its undoing. Precisely because of the post-9/11 transformation from a group to a movement, al Qaeda's leadership lost control of what in the West would be called message discipline.
"I repeat the warning against separating from the masses, whatever the danger," wrote Ayman al-Zawahiri to Zarqawi in an intercepted 2005 letter, stressing the need to avoid killing other Muslims, including Shiites. Zarqawi ignored the advice. The mass killings of fellow Muslims reversed the popular support previously garnered through attacks on Western targets. Worse, al Qaeda picked fights with countries that might have otherwise looked the other way at its activities. As late as early 2002, for example, Saudi Arabia's interior minister, Prince Nayef, was flatly denying that al Qaeda even existed in his country. Four years later, after spectacular al-Qaeda attacks on the kingdom, the same prince was threatening to "cut off the tongues" of bin Laden and Zawahiri.
Most significantly, al Qaeda's failures and reversals began to sow deeper doubts about its basic purposes. The breakthrough came with the publication of The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World, a systematic refutation of al Qaeda's theology and methods by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, a/k/a "Dr. Fadl." The importance of this work derived from the standing of its author. Dr. Fadl was the first "emir" of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the author of the 1988 Foundations for the Preparation of Holy War, a bible among jihadists.
There are various theories as to why Dr. Fadl—now imprisoned in Egypt—wrote the book; these range from a long and bitter personal feud with Zawahiri to coercion by the Egyptian government to a genuine ideological volte face. Whatever the case, its chief significance lies in its insistence that jihadist activities must be subordinate to ordinary moral considerations. The jihadi, Dr. Fadl writes, cannot steal for the sake of jihad, or murder Muslim civilians, religious minorities, or foreign tourists, or seek the overthrow of existing Muslim governments, or cavalierly decree the apostasy of others, or disobey his parents. ("We find parents," Dr. Fadl states severely, "who only learn that their son has gone to fight jihad after his picture is published in the newspaper as a fatality or a prisoner.")
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How to manage savagery
on: September 08, 2008, 04:08:41 AM
How to Manage Savagery
By BRET STEPHENS
September 5, 2008
"Islam has bloody borders." So wrote Samuel Huntington in "The Clash of Civilizations?," his 1993 Foreign Affairs article later expanded (minus the question mark) into a best-selling book. Huntington argued that, eclipsing past eras of national and ideological conflict, "the battle lines of the future" would be drawn along the "fault lines between civilizations." Here, according to Huntington, was where current and coming generations would define the all-important "us" versus "them."
At the time of its writing, "The Clash of Civilizations?" had, beyond the virtues of pithiness and historical sweep, something to recommend it on purely empirical grounds. It seemed especially plausible as applied to the "crescent-shaped Islamic bloc" from the Maghreb to the East Indies.
In the Balkans, for example, Orthodox Serbs were at the throats of Bosnian and later Kosovar Muslims. In Africa, Muslims were either skirmishing or at war with Christians in Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In the Caucasus, there was all-out war between Orthodox Russia and Muslim Chechnya, all-out war between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan, and violent skirmishes between Orthodox Ossetia and Muslim Ingushetia.
In the Middle East, some 500,000 U.S. troops had intervened to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Israel had just endured several years of the first Palestinian intifada, soon to be followed by a fraudulent peace process leading, in turn, to a second and far bloodier intifada. Further to the east, Pakistan and India were at perpetual daggers drawn over Kashmir. There were tensions—sometimes violent—between the Hindu majority and the large Muslim minority in India, just as there were between the Christian minority and the Muslim majority in Indonesia.
For Huntington, all this was of a piece with a pattern dating at least as far back as the battle of Poitiers in 732, when Charles Martel turned back the advancing Umayyads and saved Europe for Christianity. Nor was the pattern likely to end any time soon. "The centuries-old military interaction between the West and Islam is unlikely to decline," he wrote. To the contrary: "It could become more virulent."
As predictions go, Huntington's landmark thesis seemed in many ways to have been borne out by subsequent events. Long before 9/11, and long before George W. Bush came to office, anti-American hostility within the Muslim—and, particularly, the Arab—world was plainly on the rise. So was terrorist activity directed at U.S. targets. Meanwhile, the advent of satellite TV brought channels like al-Jazeera and Hizballah's al-Manar to millions of Muslim homes and public places, offering their audience a robust diet of anti-American, anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic "news," propaganda, and Islamist indoctrination.
It should have come as no surprise, then, that Muslim reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001 tended toward the euphoric—in striking confirmation, it would seem, of Huntington's bold thesis. And that thesis would seem to be no less firmly established today, when opinion polls show America's "favorability ratings" plummeting even in Muslim countries once relatively well-disposed toward us: in Turkey, for example, descending from 52 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2008, and in Indonesia from 75 percent to 37 percent in the same period (according to the Pew Global Survey). These findings are all the more depressing in light of the massive humanitarian assistance provided to Indonesia by the U.S. after the 2004 tsunami. The same might be said of Pakistan where, despite similarly critical U.S. assistance after the 2005 earthquake, already low opinions of the U.S. have sunk still further.
Nor is the phenomenon of "Muslim rage" directed against America alone. In Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France and Germany—countries with widely varying foreign policies toward, and colonial histories in, the Muslim world—terrorist plots, terrorist attacks, spectacular murders, and mass rioting have made vivid the gulf that separates embittered and often radicalized Muslim minorities from the societies around them. Even in tiny, inoffensive Belgium, whose government was among the most vocal in opposing the war in Iraq and has bent over backward to respect the sensitivities of the Muslim community, the entire Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, according to the Flemish newspaper Het Volk, has been turned into a "breeding ground for thousands of jihad candidates."
And yet even as these trends unfolded, and continue to unfold, a second and almost opposite set of trends can be perceived today. Contrary to Huntington's forecast, much of world conflict is now overwhelmingly characterized by fighting and competition not between or among civilizations but within them. And nowhere is this truer than in the Muslim world.
Look again at the peripheries of the Islamic crescent where Huntington perceived a collision course between Islam and the West. In the Balkans, NATO intervention in Bosnia and later in Kosovo secured Muslim populations and ultimately ended the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic. In Africa, U.S. diplomatic mediation helped to bring an end to the 22-year second Sudanese civil war and to initiate de-facto autonomy—with the ultimate goal of independence—for that country's largely Christian south. In Israel, the second intifada with its wave of suicide bombings was all but stopped cold by a combination of aggressive counterinsurgency operations and the building of a separation fence.
In the Caucasus, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended with a ceasefire that has held to this day, while Chechnya was brought to heel by a brutal military campaign directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Kashmir, there has been no direct fighting between India and Pakistan; the head of the main jihadist group lamented this past July that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had "murdered the Kashmir cause." Even as far afield as Mindanao in the Philippines, the radical Islamist Abu Sayyaf movement has been crippled by a combination of Filipino and American arms.
True, not all the wars of the Islamic periphery have ended: Hamas's Kassam rockets continue to fly from Gaza into Israel, and Hizballah, itself an Iranian proxy, has fully re-armed following the summer 2006 Lebanese war. In January 2007, Ethiopia invaded neighboring Somalia to depose a Taliban-like regime. Bombay was hit with a Madrid-style bombing attack on its commuter rails in 2006. Thailand's Muslim minority has been restive and violent.
Remarkably, however, the wars that chiefly roil the Islamic world today are no longer at its periphery. They are at the center, and they pit Muslims against other Muslims. The genocide in Darfur is being perpetrated by a regime that is every bit as Muslim—and black—as its victims. The Palestinians went from intifada to civil war: in 2006 and 2007, nearly as many Palestinians died violently at the hands of other Palestinians as at the hands of Israelis. In Lebanon, there have been bloody clashes this year among Shiites, Sunnis, and Druze. Last year, the Lebanese government had to send troops into Palestinian refugee camps to suppress an insurrectionary attempt by a Syrian-sponsored terrorist group.
It does not end there. Saudi Arabia has been under attack by al Qaeda since 2003. In November 2005, Jordan suffered devastating suicide bombings at three Amman hotels in which nearly all the victims were, like their murderers, Sunni Muslims. In Afghanistan, a Muslim government led by Hamid Karzai—a Pashtun—fights an Islamist rebellion by Taliban remnants and their allies, also mostly Pashtun. In Pakistan, the axis of conflict has shifted from the east to the west, where sizable areas are under the control of Islamist militants; in 2007 alone, some 1,500 Pakistanis were killed in terrorist attacks, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto notably among them.
Then there is Iraq. Though Americans naturally focus on the more than 4,000 U.S. servicemen killed so far since the country was liberated in April 2003, that figure pales in comparison with the number of Iraqis killed in inter- and intra-sectarian violence: Sunnis against Shiites and Kurds, Sunnis against Sunnis, Shiites against Sunnis, Shiites against Shiites. Cumulatively, the number of civilian deaths since early 2006, when sectarian fighting got under way in earnest, now stands at just over 100,000 (according to the Brookings Institution).
All this serves as a useful reminder of another significant fact. In the years immediately prior to 9/11, non-Muslims tended to be the likeliest targets of terrorism. In recent years, Muslims themselves have overwhelmingly been their co-religionists' primary victims. In 2007, of the nearly 8,000 deaths due to terrorism in the Middle East, only a handful were Israeli. Similarly, of the roughly 270 suicide bombings in 2007, some 240 took place in predominantly Muslim countries. Nearly 100 mosques were also the targets of terrorist attack, many at the hands of Muslims.
Taking the long view, one might note that intra-Islamic feuding is as old as the religion itself. Of Muhammad's immediate successors—the "righteous caliphs," according to Sunni tradition—the first, Abu Bakr, may have been poisoned; the next three are all known to have been assassinated, with the murder of the third caliph (Othman) resulting in the schism from which the Shiite branch of Islam emerged. The Abassid revolt destroyed the Umayyad caliphate in the 8th century; the early 9th century was marked by civil war between the sons of the fifth Abassid caliph, Haroun al-Rashid. Al Qaeda itself has ancient Islamic antecedents: the 8th-century Kharajites, for instance, were notorious for their extreme puritanism, frequent recourse to violence, and the belief that they could declare their Muslim opponents to be infidels and treat them accordingly.
To be sure, endless feuding is hardly unique to Islamic civilization: the history of the West is also one of intense competition, bitter conflict, and outbursts of religious fanaticism. On the whole, though, these conflicts have dissipated and evanesced as the West has almost universally adopted democratic forms of governance. By contrast, Islam's foundational patterns not only persist into the present day but in many ways have intensified.
There have been devastating civil wars in Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen, and an even more terrible war between Iran and Iraq. Even a partial list of prominent political assassinations in the Muslim world since World War II runs to over 100 names. It includes two prime ministers and a president of Egypt; two presidents and a prime minister of Bangladesh; three prime ministers and a president of Iran; a king and two prime ministers of Jordan; two presidents, a president-elect, a prime minister, and a former prime minister of Lebanon; a president of Syria; a king and two prime ministers of Jordan; a king and a former prime minister of Iraq; a president, a prime minister, and former prime minister of Pakistan; a king of Saudi Arabia. And these are just the successful attempts. The list of coups in the Muslim world is about as long. In Syria alone there have been no fewer than nine since 1949.
Several explanations have been offered for this history of violence. There is the absence of democracy, which forecloses opportunities for non-violent political change and pushes most forms of dissent into the mosque. There is the oil curse, which allows states like Saddam Hussein's Iraq to finance expensive wars, buy political support, sustain huge sclerotic bureaucracies, and prevent the diversification and modernization of their economies. There is the endemic tribalism of Muslim, and particularly Arab, societies, and the values that go with it: the claims of kinship, the premium on familial honor, the submission to established hierarchies, suspicion of those outside the clan. There is the moral abdication of the Muslim intellectual class, which, with some notable exceptions, fell prey to nearly every bad idea that came its way, from fascism to socialism to third-worldism. And there is the history of Islam itself, which has made a virtue of military conquest, dealt sharply with heretics, and, until the abolition of the caliphate in 1924 by Turkey's Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, typically combined political with religious authority.
There is also the fact that European colonial regimes overstayed their welcome in their Middle Eastern possessions, with the effect that more or less liberal movements like the Egyptian Wafd came to be seen as stooges of the West, incapable of achieving national goals through nonviolent means. Partly as a result of this failure, the Muslim world soured on liberalism before it ever really tasted it, and traditional liberal parties and policies were discredited in favor of more radical alternatives: the Muslim Brotherhood, the violent Arab nationalisms of the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq, Gamal Abdel Nasser and the "Free Officers" in Egypt, Algeria's National Liberation Front, and so on. Despite the manifest failings of these movements, and the triumph of liberal politics from Mexico City to Warsaw to Seoul, liberalism has never really recaptured its good name in the Muslim world beyond a handful of courageous individuals.
Exactly how to weigh the relative importance of these factors is hard to say; plainly they are mutually reinforcing. And while Muslim and especially Arab societies are not alone in suffering from them, they have come together in a unique way in those societies to produce a culture of perpetual failure and worsening crisis.
Should this have been more apparent to Huntington when he wrote "The Clash of Civilizations?" Perhaps. It may have been obscured, in part, by what later turned out to be the Muslim world's own version of a holiday from history. The Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988, and the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in the following year seemed to cool Iran's revolutionary ardor. Civil wars in Lebanon and Yemen were brought to an end, leaving most existing Arab regimes as entrenched as ever. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant the Middle East was no longer a cold-war battleground. Socialism lost favor, and some Middle Eastern regimes began expressing an interest in reforming their economies. From the outside, at least, one could almost begin imagining a "New Middle East," as Israel's Shimon Peres did with consummate naiveté in a 1993 book.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude
on: September 07, 2008, 12:22:34 PM
After the seminar today we did a bit together and he showed me his current understandings and movement. Deeply satisfying to see how he has grasped and evolved with the things we have worked together over the years, his understading of DBMA. His teaching here in Hawaii is deep and strong.