Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: January 22, 2007, 12:51:19 PM
15 December 2006 09:09
Another C -- circumcision -- looks set to be added to the “Abstain, Be Faithful and Condomise” HIV prevention campaigns after conclusive evidence emerged this week that removing a man’s foreskin can halve his chances of catching HIV.
Two clinical trials, in Uganda and Kenya, have confirmed previous South African research into the protective power of circumcision.
The news has been hailed as one of the most significant breakthroughs in the fight against HIV for years, with the potential to prevent millions of new infections.
Circumcision as a prevention measure is not a part of the South African government’s draft strategic plan on HIV/Aids, although Aids experts expect this now to change rapidly.
The way is open for governments and funders to roll out mass circumcision campaigns and several of the biggest donor organisations are said to be looking at providing funding.
No African country has yet adopted mass circumcision as a policy, although several countries have been discussing the measure. And some, such as Kenya, have created task teams to tackle implementation.
Swaziland has “circumcision Sundays” to encourage men to undergo the operation.
The Kenyan and Ugandan clinical trials were terminated early, after preliminary research found that circumcision was so safe and effective that it would be unethical not to offer the operation to the uncircumcised control group.
In 2005 a similar trial in South Africa’s Orange Farm was also halted on ethical grounds after it found at least a two-thirds reduction in new HIV infections among circumcised men. Research into whether circumcision also protects female sexual partners from HIV infection is ongoing, although there is indirect evidence suggesting it will.
Male circumcision as a public health measure has been controversial, with some arguing that it is mutilation. There is also concern that circumcised men may practise riskier sex out of over-confidence, and that circumcision may be culturally inappropriate.
However, studies in Africa indicate most men would have the operation as protection against HIV, even if circumcision is not part of their culture.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergic and Infectious Diseases, which oversaw the latest research, said there did not seem to be a significant rise in risky sex among circumcised men, although this would continue to be monitored. As circumcision confers only partial protection, men and their partners are still urged to practise safer sex, especially condom usage.
“This data is going to put some people on the spot,” said Harvard researcher Daniel Halperin, who has advocated expanding circumcision for several years. “The response of the international agencies and donors will be crucial. Many people were basically putting aside the Orange Farm data and saying lets see what Uganda and Kenya show. It’s now shown to be at least 50% to 60% effective. Considering how many people are dying from this disease, that is a rather powerful result. Circumcision services need to be made available, safe and affordable.
“The ideal scenario now would be an increase in male circumcision and a decrease in concurrent sexual partners, probably the two strongest things impacting on the spread of HIV, along with consistent condom use.”
In the Kenyan trial, involving 2 784 men, circumcision reduces participants’ risk of catching HIV by 53%. In the Ugandan research there was 48% reduction among the 4 996 participants.
The protective effect is the result of the removal of the mucosal inner lining of the foreskin, which is far more vulnerable to HIV infection than vaginal mucus membranes. An uncircumcised penis also provides a comfortable environment for other sexually transmitted diseases, in turn providing a portal into the body for HIV.
The challenge will now be to be to spread the news among men and their partners, and to implement safe mass circumcision campaigns. One danger is that men may use unregulated and risky circumcision providers, such as “initiation” schools.
In South Africa, the most common method is to use forceps and scissors to slice off the unwanted piece of skin. The wound is cauterised and stitched with dissolvable thread, and healing takes, at most, six weeks.
The procedure is often carried out under local anaesthetic injected into the base of the penis.
But there is growing research into other techniques, including “bloodless” procedures where the foreskin is held tightly in a clamp for several days until the blood-starved skin dies and drops off. Involuntary erections can, however, interfere with the procedure, while the different kinds of clamp need to be sized to fit each individual man.
Other options being examined are surgical glue rather than stitching, because it is fast and potentially less vulnerable to infection. However, the highly adhesive glue could lead to serious -- and potentially permanent -- problems if applied accidentally to the wrong areas.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: January 22, 2007, 12:47:07 PM
In a related vein, this from the Washington Post last month:
Testimony Helps Detail CIA's Post-9/11 Reach
Europeans Told of Plans for Abductions
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 16, 2006; A01
MILAN -- A few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the CIA station chief
in Rome paid a visit to the head of Italy's military intelligence agency,
Adm. Gianfranco Battelli, to float a proposal: Would the Italian secret
services help the CIA kidnap terrorism suspects and fly them out of the
The CIA man did not identify which targets he had in mind but was "expressly
referring to the possibility of picking up a suspected terrorist in Italy,
bringing him to an airport and sending him from there to a foreign country,"
Battelli, now retired, recalled in a deposition.
This initial secret contact and others that followed, disclosed in newly
released documents, show the speed and breadth with which the CIA applied in
post-9/11 Europe a tactic it had long reserved for the Third World --
"extraordinary rendition," the extrajudicial abduction of Islamic radicals
overseas for interrogation in friendly countries.
A year after the first contact, the CIA officer held another meeting with
his Italian counterparts, this time sharing a list of more than 10
"dangerous people" the agency was tracking in Italy, Belgium, Austria and
the Netherlands, according to a deposition from Gen. Gustavo Pignero,
another high-ranking Italian military intelligence official. "It was clear
that this was an aggressive search project, that their willingness to employ
illicit means was clear," Pignero said, adding that the list was later
destroyed and he could not recall the names.
U.S. spies drew up suspect lists with the help of European intelligence
agencies and chased some of the men around the globe before putting a brake
on the operations in early 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq,
according to documents unearthed in criminal investigations, lawsuits and
All told, the U.S. agency took part in the seizure of at least 10 European
citizens or legal immigrants, some of them from countries not cited in that
list of "dangerous people" received by the Italian spies. Four renditions
occurred on European soil: in Sweden, Macedonia and Italy. Six operations
targeted people who were traveling abroad or who had been captured in
Pakistan; European intelligence agencies provided direct assistance to the
CIA in at least five of those cases, records show.
Each prisoner was then secretly handed over to intelligence services in the
Middle East or Africa with histories of human rights abuses. Some remain
imprisoned in those countries; others have been taken to the U.S. naval
prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. One man was later released after being taken
from the Balkans to Afghanistan, the victim of an apparent case of mistaken
In the early stages, the CIA had prepared even more ambitious plans,
according to the depositions from the Italian intelligence officials, who
testified last summer during a criminal investigation into a CIA-sponsored
kidnapping of a radical Islamic cleric in Milan.
For example, Pignero said in his deposition that the CIA's Rome station
chief had offered in 2002 to abduct a fugitive leader of the Red Brigades --
a Marxist network blamed for dozens of assassinations in Italy -- who had
found refuge in South America. "The Americans would capture him and turn him
over to us, and we in return would have to 'extradite' him to Italy without
any legal proceedings," Pignero said.
In exchange, the CIA wanted help in abducting Islamic radicals living in the
Italian cities of Turin, Vercelli and Naples, Pignero said. Italian
intelligence officials rejected the offer, he added, because it was
"contrary to international laws."
Reports of clandestine CIA operations have fueled deep public anger in
Europe, where many people regard renditions as a blatant violation of
national sovereignty and international law. Since last year, prosecutors
have opened four separate criminal investigations into CIA activities in
Europe. A dozen countries have conducted legislative inquiries into whether
local spy agencies were involved.
Last month, a European Parliament committee investigating CIA operations in
Europe condemned the practice of rendition "as an illegal and systematic
instrument used by the United States" and called it "counterproductive in
the fight against terrorism."
"I think that after the 11th of September, the CIA thought that all the ways
useful to capture their enemies, the alleged terrorists, were now possible,"
Giovanni Claudio Fava, an Italian legislator who led the parliamentary
probe, said in an interview in Brussels. "They wanted to clean Europe of all
these dangerous, alleged terrorists. They didn't have faith in the quality
and capacity of our own security controls and our justice system."
In the past year, U.S. officials have sought to repair the diplomatic
damage. They have met repeatedly with their European counterparts to defuse
opposition to renditions, the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo and the
disclosure in November 2005 that the CIA had set up secret prisons for
terrorism suspects in Eastern Europe.
John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
said U.S. diplomats have made some headway. But he added that ongoing
political disputes have "undermined cooperation and intelligence
"I'd say that many European government officials and academics acknowledge
now that there is a legal murkiness that applies to international
terrorism," he said in a telephone interview from Washington. "On the
negative side of the ledger, we do continue to have these hysterical,
inflated allegations denouncing the United States that unfortunately do fan
the flames of suspicion and anti-Americanism."
The CIA declined to comment.
'He Was Too Loud'
The most detailed disclosures about the CIA's European rendition project
have emerged from Milan, where Italian prosecutors have spent two years
investigating the disappearance of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a militant
Egyptian-born cleric known as Abu Omar.
When Nasr vanished in February 2003, police and prosecutors in Milan thought
at first that he had slipped out of the country on his own, perhaps to join
resistance forces in Iraq in advance of the U.S.-led invasion. The CIA lent
credence to their suspicions a few months later, when it delivered an
intelligence bulletin to Rome stating that Nasr had been seen in the
In fact, prosecutors later discovered, Nasr had been grabbed on the street
in Milan as he was walking to a mosque and stuffed into a white van, which
sped to Aviano Air Base, a joint U.S.-Italian military installation. From
there, he was put on a plane to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and onward to
Cairo, where Nasr claims he was tortured for months with electric shocks and
Prosecutors in Milan have since issued arrest warrants on kidnapping charges
for 25 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force officer, alleging that they
conspired with Italian secret service agents to abduct Nasr. Although none
of the Americans is likely to be extradited to Italy, prosecutors have
served notice that they intend to try them in absentia and asked a judge
last month to formally indict the defendants.
Senior Italian intelligence officials have also been charged in the case,
including Gen. Nicolo Pollari, director of the Italian military intelligence
agency known as Sismi. Pignero, his former deputy, was arrested in June,
shortly after he gave his deposition to prosecutors. He died of cancer three
months later, on Sept. 11.
European investigators are still examining other mysterious cases of missing
or detained people. Among them is the disappearance a few weeks before
Nasr's kidnapping of another Egyptian-born Islamic fundamentalist.
Gamal al-Menshawi, a physician and occasional mosque preacher who knew Nasr
personally, had left his home in Graz, Austria, bound for the Islamic holy
city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. His wife was waiting for him there, but he
never arrived, according to Egyptian exiles in Austria and Italy who know
Menshawi's trail vanished after he arrived in Amman, Jordan, for a flight
connection. He later surfaced in Egypt. European Parliament investigators
have concluded he was detained there for two years without facing charges.
He was released in 2005 and is living in Alexandria, Egypt, according to
Austrian journalists. He has severed contact with friends and colleagues in
Europe, who strongly suspect he was subjected to a rendition, although they
lack proof or direct evidence of U.S. involvement.
Arman Ahmed al-Hissini, imam of the Viale Jenner mosque in Milan and an
acquaintance of Menshawi and Nasr, said both have been silenced by the
Egyptian security services.
"The Arab secret services, they give names to the CIA of people who they
want, people who are on the outside, such as Europe," said Hissini, an
Egyptian native known locally as Abu Imad. "They give the names to the CIA,
because the CIA can go to work in these countries."
There is also little doubt about Menshawi's fate among those who knew him in
Austria's Islamic community.
"I see the American government as being primarily responsible," said Mohamed
Mahmoud, chairman of a group called Islamic Group of Austria. "This is not
the first time someone has disappeared."
"The Americans look around in Europe for who is being loud, who is speaking
out, and then those people are kidnapped," he added. "He was very vocal; he
was too loud for them. He talked openly about Egypt's government, about the
U.S. government, about the Islamic community in Austria."
'They Needed Information'
About the same time, another Islamic militant from Austria disappeared
during a stopover at the Amman airport.
Masaad Omer Behari, a Sudanese citizen who had lived in Austria for more
than a decade, has said he was arrested by Jordanian secret service agents
on Jan. 12, 2003, as he was traveling home to Vienna from a trip to Sudan.
Behari told European Parliament investigators in October that he was held
for three months in a Jordanian prison, where he was interrogated about
Islamic militants in Austria and elsewhere in Europe. "On the first day I
was in prison, they told me they did not think I was a terrorist, but that
they needed information about the Islamic scene in Vienna," he said.
Documents obtained by the investigators show that Behari had been under
surveillance by Austria's domestic intelligence service since 1998, when he
was interrogated about an alleged plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy in
Vienna. Behari said he was innocent and never faced charges, but was
pressured by Austrian secret service agents to leave the country after the
Sept. 11 hijackings.
"I have experienced hard times because I did not cooperate with the security
authorities in Europe and with the Americans," Behari said, according to a
transcript of his testimony. The Austrians "threatened me that they would
cause me problems. I thought it was only 'blah-blah,' but it was the truth."
Austrian authorities said they have not opened official inquiries into the
disappearances of Menshawi or Behari, in part because neither is an Austrian
"Since the alleged abductions did not take place on Austrian soil, in an
Austrian airplane or on an Austrian ship, we see no need for action," said
Rudolf Gollia, spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry.
Special correspondent Shannon Smiley in Berlin contributed to this report.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Movies
on: January 22, 2007, 12:17:46 PM
A friend recommends this:
Letter from Adrian
Hello Dear Friends,
The time has come for BEYOND THE CALL on PBS....TOMORROW!
Who: From the brothers who brought you the Academy Award nominated GENGHIS BLUES comes the next great adventure....BEYOND THE CALL.
What: PBS nationwide airing of BEYOND THE CALL on the award winning series INDEPENDENT LENS.
Where: In your home
When: TOMORROW...Tuesday, January 23rd in the evening. Check local listings for exact time in your area. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/beyondthecall
Why: Because you will be inspired and entertained.
MySpace page with film trailer: http://www.myspace.com/beyondthecall
In an Indiana Jones meets Mother Teresa adventure three middle-aged men, former soldiers and modern-day knights travel the world delivering life saving humanitarian aid directly into the hands of civilians and doctors in some of the most dangerous yet beautiful places on Earth, the front lines of war.
More than five years in the making; nearly a year of theatrical screenings, festival showings, standing ovations and many awards, the time has come for BEYOND THE CALL to have its big TV premiere! We are very excited that BEYOND THE CALL will air nationwide on PBS's award winning series INDEPENDENT LENS this Tuesday, January 23rd in the evening. Please check your local listings for exact time in your area. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/beyondthecall
This will be the one-hour version. The language has been cleaned up so young people and those sensitive to naughty language can view safely.
Rumor has it that BEYOND THE CALL will have additional airings on other days and times throughout this opening week (January 22 - 28), but they will be at odd hours. Check local listings.
Please keep your eyes open for the 35mm feature film version of BEYOND THE CALL, still doing the film festival circuit and theatrical run across the US and around the world through the spring, summer, and into the fall. I and the stars (Ed Artis, Jim Laws and Walt Ratterman) will try to make as many of the screenings as possible.
We are working diligently putting together the extras-packed BEYOND THE CALL DVD that will go on sale in mid February. It will be available on the film's website www.beyondthecallthemovie.com
. We are putting the finishing touches on the www.beyondthecallthemovie.com
website. It will be up in time for the PBS airing. On the site you will be able to leave your email address so that we can contact you as soon as the DVDs are ready. We will not use your emails for any other reason.
The initial production run of BEYOND THE CALL DVDs will be limited, so please sign up so you can be assured a DVD purchase as soon as it comes out.
Thank you so very much for your continued support and encouragement!
Any and all assistance that you can offer to help get the word out about this nationwide PBS airing through your press, organizations, websites, bloggers, etc. contacts would be greatly appreciated. Please contact Independent Lens publicist Mary Lugo at email@example.com
or you can contact me directly.
You can get in touch with the subjects of the film at http://www.kbi.org
(415)716-0660 mobilewww.wadirum.com http://www.myspace.com/beyondthecallhttp://www.pbs.org/independentlens/beyondthecall
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: January 22, 2007, 12:08:04 PM
Making Lenin Proud
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
January 22, 2007; Page A14
"The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation."
-- Vladimir Lenin
Mexican historian and author Enrique Krauze has written that he believes that the "last Marxist in history [will] die at a Latin American university." At a minimum, Mr. Krauze seems to have gotten the geography right.
Most of the rest of the world has stuffed communism into the dustbin of history but, as events over the past week remind, Latin America has not. Earlier this month, President Hugo Chávez officially took control of Venezuela's central bank and declared himself a communist. He then traveled to Ecuador to attend the swearing-in ceremony of his latest and perhaps most promising protégé, Rafael Correa, as that country's new president. Mr. Correa has lost no time emulating his mentor.
Mr. Correa, who was Ecuador's finance minister in 2005, was well known in the early stages of the presidential campaign last year as an anti-American, anti-market extremist with a view that "dollarization was the biggest economic error [Ecuador] has ever committed." But when he failed to win in the first round of voting in October, he was forced to adopt a more measured tone and backed off his pledge to end dollarization.
The trouble for Ecuadoreans, as we are now seeing, is that their new president's stripes have not changed. In his first week on the job, he has already demonstrated a profound understanding of Lenin's dictum that power over monetary matters is a revolutionary essential. To that end, he has begun an effort to destroy Ecuador's dollarization. From there, taxation and inflation will do much of his work for him.
At his inauguration last Monday Mr. Correa put on quite a show. Most extraordinary was his not-so-subtle admission that Mr. Chávez is going to be the power behind the Ecuadorean throne. Most Latin governments guard their independence as a matter of national pride. But Mr. Correa appeared quite happy to let the world know that he will be outsourcing Ecuadorean sovereignty to Venezuela.
Ecuador, the new president declared, is "leaving the night of neoliberalism behind" and the new "Bolivarian" government will pursue "21st-century socialism." He denounced competition and called for cooperation instead. He held up a sword that Mr. Chávez had given him as a gift and cried, "Look out, look out, Bolívar's sword is passing through Latin America," a reference to the Chávez agenda, which calls for South American integration under the thumb of the continent's largest energy producer. The Venezuelan president was perched behind the new president, eyes narrowed, enthusiastically applauding the performance. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was also an honored guest, sitting next to Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Ecuador's political instability is legendary and Mr. Correa is the eighth president in 10 years. He will have to move quickly in his goal to consolidate power and if he is to avoid the fate of his predecessors, he will also have to move carefully.
Rewriting the constitution is so central to his agenda that on inauguration day he decreed a March 18 national referendum on the issue. The only problem is that Mr. Correa hasn't the power to call a constitutional referendum. Changes to the constitution fall under congress. Since Mr. Correa's party has no members in the 100-seat chamber and his coalition is shaky, it is not entirely clear that he will be able to push through the constitutional changes he seeks. His socialist revolution via a constitutional coup could be delayed.
Still, that doesn't leave the aspiring authoritarian without options. He has Lenin's millstones to fall back on, if only he can resurrect a local currency. This explains the assault on dollarization now under way.
The adoption of the greenback as Ecuador's currency seven years ago has been extremely popular among Ecuadoreans of all classes. A long history of repeated bouts of hyperinflation, which destroyed both wages and savings, has finally come to an end and been replaced by a new sense of stability. Mr. Correa knows full well that he cannot strip Ecuadoreans of this one economic gain without facing the kind of rebellion that brought down previous governments. Yet the control he yearns for will not be his as long as the dollar reigns.
To reverse dollarization and introduce a fiat currency, Mr. Correa will have to undermine the dollar economy. One step in that process is stifling commerce with the U.S., his country's largest trading partner. He has already pledged that under his guidance Ecuador will move away from trade liberalization with the gringos and throw its lot in with Mr. Chávez's Bolivarian Alternative for America trading block.
Protectionism will help weaken the dollar economy but it may not be enough to provoke a crisis. A forced restructuring of the country's $10.3 billion in external debt will provide further assistance by damaging the country's creditworthiness and discouraging new investment, particularly because it is well known that Ecuador's debt service as a percentage of gross domestic product is lower than Colombia's or Brazil's. Creditors understand that paying what is owed is a matter of willingness. Nevertheless, Mr. Correa's finance minister, Ricardo Patino, last week proposed a haircut of 60% on the country's debt and invited a team of Argentine officials -- otherwise known as the world's most experienced deadbeats -- to Quito this week to act as advisers.
It will be claimed that the "savings" on debt service will be used to help the poor. This will boost Mr. Correa's populist appeal but politicians never have enough revenue to meet their goals. Low growth rates and disappointing oil prices will exacerbate revenue shortfalls. In a fiscal crisis it is easy to imagine a government like Mr. Correa's issuing script or a new currency in parallel to the dollar.
The new president seems to be prepared for just such an outcome. In the past he has called for a regional currency and he has now announced that he will end central-bank autonomy. Once foreign investment and trade dry up and the bottomless pit of corruption and social spending drains public coffers, dollarization will be the scapegoat. Mr. Correa can then begin to print his own notes and make Lenin proud.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: January 22, 2007, 12:02:56 PM
The Murder of Hrant Dink
By ELIF SHAFAK
January 22, 2007; Page A15
ISTANBUL -- "I feel like a pigeon," Hrant Dink wrote in his last article. "Like a pigeon I wander uneasily amidst this city, watching my back constantly, so timid and yet, so free." That pigeon was gunned down Friday by a young Turkish fanatic on one of the most crowded streets of Istanbul.
Few people can inspire a whole nation in their lifetime, fewer still with their death. Hrant Dink did both. He was a prominent journalist, the editor of the Armenian weekly Agos, an outspoken intellectual, a peace activist, a true citizen of Istanbul and a dear friend. When the news of his assassination broke, thousands poured into the streets, chanting, "We are all Hrant Dink, we are all Armenian!" People slept in front of his office, guarding the spot where he'd fallen with candles and flowers.
The next day, all the main Turkish papers, left or right, spoke in a chorus of outrage on their front pages. Even more hard-line writers sincerely mourned his loss, asking where things had gone wrong. His death shattered the country and the grief cut across all sorts of ideological and social divides. His funeral will be attended by people from all religions, ethnicities and political inclinations. For Hrant Dink was a man impossible not to love, and far from "denigrating Turkishness," the crime which an Istanbul court convicted him of (under the anti-free-speech Article 301), for talking about the killings of Armenians in the closing days of the Ottoman Empire, he truly loved this land.
That his death was interpreted by some beyond Turkey as proof that Turks don't belong in the European Union would have upset Hrant. Without close ties to the EU, and the West as a whole, he worried that the country will become less democratic and more insular. His Turkey is a tapestry, a place where conflicting voices coexist. His best friends, companions and colleagues were Muslim Turks.
Yet Hrant Dink was, since his early childhood, used to discrimination. As he was getting ready to appeal his six-month sentence (eventually suspended) to the European Court of Justice, he wrote that, "I had no other option left. Why is it that although everyone tried under Article 301 has been acquitted one way or another, I have been sentenced to prison? Is it because I am Armenian and they wanted to intimidate me, teach me my limits?" Hrant knew the price to be paid for being in the political and ethnic minority, and still refused to withdraw into a glass ghetto.
Surrounded with friends and family, Hrant Dink was in many ways a lonely man. As critical as he was of Turkish ultranationalism, he had little time for Armenian ultranationalism. At his talks in the U.S., Europe and Australia to Armenian groups, he never played to the gallery. The biases and generalizations about Turkey and Turks in the Armenian diaspora frustrated him. "There is a big difference between Armenians in the diaspora and Armenians in Turkey," he once said. "You guys are Armenian one day a year, on the 24th of April" -- the commemoration of the 1915 massacres and deportations -- "whereas we are Armenian every day of the year but on that one."
Hrant opposed a French bill last year that sought to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, as well as a similar law now under discussion in the U.S. Congress. "If they pass the law in France, I will go there," he said, "and though I believe the opposite, I will openly say that there was no genocide." As a genuine supporter of freedom of expression, Hrant believed that it should be up to people, Turks and Armenians together, to find the means to reconcile, not to politicians to pass judgment on that history.
Many people asked Hrant why he didn't leave Turkey for Europe or America. The answer he gave was the inspiration for one that a Turkish-Armenian characters in my last novel, "The Bastard of Istanbul," offers.
"But why would I want to do that? This city is my city. My family's history in this city goes back at least 500 years. Armenian Istanbulites belong to Istanbul, just like the Turkish, Kurdish, Greek and Jewish Istanbulites do. We have first managed and then badly failed to live together. We cannot fail again."
Ms. Shafak is the author of "The Bastard of Istanbul" (Viking, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues
on: January 22, 2007, 12:00:35 PM
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The Truth About Clarence Thomas
By JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG
January 22, 2007; Page A14
Clarence Thomas has borne some of the most vitriolic personal attacks in Supreme Court history. But the persistent stereotypes about his views on the law and subordinate role on the court are equally offensive -- and demonstrably false. An extensive documentary record shows that Justice Thomas has been a significant force in shaping the direction and decisions of the court for the past 15 years.
That's not the standard storyline. Immediately upon his arrival at the court, Justice Thomas was savaged by court-watchers as Antonin Scalia's dutiful apprentice, blindly following his mentor's lead. It's a grossly inaccurate portrayal, imbued with politically incorrect innuendo, as documents and notes from Justice Thomas's very first days on the court conclusively show. Far from being a Scalia lackey, the rookie jurist made clear to the other justices that he was willing to be the solo dissenter, sending a strong signal that he would not moderate his opinions for the sake of comity. By his second week on the bench, he was staking out bold positions in the private conferences where justices vote on cases. If either justice changed his mind to side with the other that year, it was Justice Scalia joining Justice Thomas, not the other way around.
Much of the documentary evidence for this comes from the papers of Justice Harry Blackmun, who recorded the justices' votes and took detailed notes explaining their views. I came across vivid proof while reading the papers as part of my research for a book about how the Rehnquist Court -- a court with seven justices appointed by Republican presidents -- evolved into an ideological and legal disappointment for conservatives.
Justice Thomas's first term was especially interesting. He replaced legendary liberal icon Thurgood Marshall, and joined the court just a year after David Souter took William Brennan's seat. There appeared to be a solid conservative majority, with the court poised to finally dismember the liberal legacy of the Warren Court. But that year it instead lurched inexplicably to the left -- even putting Roe v. Wade on more solid ground.
Justice Thomas's first year on the job brought to life the adage that a new justice makes a new court. His entry didn't merely change the vote of the liberal justice he replaced. It turned the chessboard around entirely, rearranging ideological alliances. Justice Thomas acted as a catalyst in different ways, shoring up conservative positions in some cases and spurring others -- the moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in particular -- to realign themselves into new voting blocs.
Consider a criminal case argued during Justice Thomas's first week. It concerned a thief's effort to get out of a Louisiana mental institution and the state's desire to keep him there. Eight justices voted to side with the thief. Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that although it "may make eminent sense as a policy matter" to let the criminal out of the mental institution, nothing in the Constitution required "the states to conform to the policy preferences of federal judges."
After he sent his dissenting opinion to the other justices, as is custom, Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Kennedy changed their votes. The case ended up 5-4.
Justice Thomas's dissents persuaded Justice Scalia to change his mind several times that year. Even in Hudson v. McMillan, the case that prompted the New York Times to infamously label Justice Thomas the "youngest, cruelest justice," he was again, initially, the lone dissenter. Justice Scalia changed his vote after he read Justice Thomas's dissent, which said a prison inmate beaten by guards had several options for redress -- but not under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment."
* * *
From the beginning, Justice Thomas was an independent voice. His brutal confirmation hearings only enforced his autonomy, making him impervious to criticism from the media and liberal law professors. He'd told his story, and no one listened. From then on, he did not care what they said about him.
Clarence Thomas, for example, is the only justice who rarely asks questions at oral arguments. One reason is that he thinks his colleagues talk too much from the bench, and he prefers to let the lawyers explain their case with fewer interruptions. But his silence is sometimes interpreted as a lack of interest, and friends have begged him to ask a few questions to dispel those suggestions. He refuses to do it. "They have no credibility," he says of critics. "I am free to live up to my oath."
But the forcefulness and clarity of Justice Thomas's views, coupled with wrongheaded depictions of him doing Justice Scalia's bidding, created an internal dynamic that caused the court to make an unexpected turn in his first year. Justice O'Connor -- who sought ideological balance -- moved to the left. With the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, the court now is poised to finally fulfill the hopes of the conservative movement. As George W. Bush told his legal advisers early in his presidency, he wanted justices in "the mold of Thomas and Scalia." Interestingly, on President Bush's marquee, Justice Thomas got top billing.
Ms. Crawford Greenburg, legal correspondent for ABC News, is the author of "Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story for Control of the United States Supreme Court," published tomorrow by Penguin Press.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: where to start.....
on: January 22, 2007, 10:38:40 AM
I think for most people you can't go wrong with our first series, "Real Contact Stickfighting". RCS is mostly focused on solo training and is mostly presented in a format of breaking down a particular strike, footwork pattern, stick combination, etc and then practicing along with Top Dog. The instructional material is interspersed with fights ("If you see it taught, you see if fought.") and interviews.
Lonely Dog's "Power" DVD" is outstanding for all levels.
The KK material is particularly accessible for people with a background in Muay Thai. Some beginners without a MT background find it not too hard to pick up, and some don't.
For getting started in two-man training I would suggest "Combining Stick & Footwork" featuring, , , ahem , , , me. After this try the KK DVD again and you may find that you are ready.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Condolences...
on: January 22, 2007, 10:29:38 AM
A nice obituary posted on the Eskrima Digest:
Tatang Bo Sayoc Has Passed Away
Tatang Bo Sayoc Has Passed Away
Written by Administrator
Wednesday, 03 January 2007
With sadness we announce the passing of Tatang Baltazar "Bo" Sayoc.
He passed away on January 3, 2007 at his home in Cavite, Philippines.
After his time in the Merchant Marines, Tatang Bo immigrated to the
United States in 1962 and introduced his children to the Martial Arts at a
very young age. By the time his eldest children were in their early teens they
were already assisting in running his school in Queens, New York. This was the
time of the largest migration of Filipino Martial Artists on the East Coast.
They were all welcomed and hosted by Tatang Bo Sayoc and the Sayoc family. The
then relatively unknown weapon masters would dine, train and exchange ideas
about the direction of their equally obscure art. As those who have known him
will all state, Tatang Bo was always open to all ideas and evolution of the
In time, these men would become a veritable who's who in the Martial
His children exposed to some of the very best weapon experts on the
planet on a daily basis.
"That's was just the way it is" as Tatang Bo would often say.
By the early 80's Tatang Bo quietly moved his family to SouthWest
Florida and worked as a correctionals officer until his retirement in the
early nineties. He worked quietly, the inmates never knew he taught martial
arts until they had seen a local tv crew cover his school years later. He
would often tell his students of which techniques he found useful and what he
felt was unusable in that environment. Everything he taught was based on
whether or not it could be of applicable value. He did all this with very
little need for personal acclaim or self - promotion. Although he never stated
it out loud, one could tell that he valued the FMA so much that instead of
keeping it a family art he would open his doors once again in such a small
Southern community. One that collectively barely even knew where the
Philippine islands were, let alone the words Kali, Arnis or Eskrima.
The Florida schools were literally small humble warehouses of concrete
and sweat, and many students who came looking for a commercialized school or a
traditional "eastern" martial art would eventually realize Tatang Bo's school
was not for them.
If Tatang Bo didn't like what he saw the individual was kindly turned
away or directed elsewhere.A student's first day was spent getting
finger-printed, photographed for ID and evaluated. Then you were handed live
machetes and sticks. The evaluation never ceased. Only those who could peel
away the layers from Tatang Bo's teachings were allowed to hang around. He was
developing Feeder- based students without ever stating so. In time, he knew
that his sons would eventually take over the family art and would often say
so. In the meantime, he would always take students to see the now established
FMA luminaries if they were anywhere in the state of Florida. He wanted the
Florida students to experience a small slice of what it was like during the
old days. A sense of the history of the Filipino arts. Tatang Bo was always
greeted by them as a brother.
"Where had he been?" "What have the Sayocs been up to?"
Tatang Bo was doing what he had always done, stayed in the sidelines and
allow others to shine. Promote everyone's events as much as he can. Hone his
skills. Evolve his art. Get his students out there in the public doing demos,
almost every weekend - up and down the Florida coastline, often in open
tournaments when they wouldn't be allowed to participate unless they had on a
traditional white gi.
Tatang Bo would often come in to class from an overnight shift still
wearing his uniform. Or get ready to work right after the night classes. He
would change into his workout attire and he was good to go. He would never
miss a day, he was always in his school teaching the handful of students. The
schools he had were always small in number, it always felt like you were a
family just gathering around to train and talk. He often spoke about his
family and their accomplishments in FMA. By the time a student met Tatang's
sons it was if they'd known them all along. As quiet as he was about his own
skills, he was in contrast very eager to let everyone know about his family's
accomplishments. He was always placing the spotlight on those he felt were
worthy of it.
By the early nineties, Tatang Bo had established his school and retired
to Imus, Cavite in the Philippines. He visited the states a couple of more
times, once more to record his Finger Touch curriculum. Several years later,
in frailer heatlh due to several strokes Tatang attended the annual Sayoc
Sama Sama and witnessed how much his family art's had grown. He was still in
good humor, and perhaps it was because he was able to see that all the effort
had been worth it. It was left unsaid but many knew it was probably the final
time they would be in his presence. As always, Tatang Bo was more interested
in what you had done than what he was going through.
"That's was just the way it is."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Petraeus Time or Bush stumbles again?
on: January 20, 2007, 11:25:40 PM
Bush's new Iraq strategy has a chance--but it needs revision.
BY REUEL MARC GERECHT
Sunday, January 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Can one back President Bush's new strategy in Iraq? Yes. For all its serious faults, his new approach is the first one since the fall of Baghdad to offer a chance to reverse the radicalization of Iraq. But it needs revision quickly.
Too much of this new plan leaves unchanged the disastrous approach of John Abizaid and George Casey, the two top generals on Iraq. The new offensive, assuming it doesn't peter out through a slow arrival of soldiers, or become enfeebled by "Iraqi leadership" in its execution, envisions a too-small U.S. force doing too much. Recent remarks by Defense Secretary Robert Gates--predicting troop reductions within a year, and saying that we might not need an additional five brigades in Baghdad for a successful operation--are a frightening echo of the self-defeating, undermanned optimism that came from the U.S. military under Mr. Gates's predecessor.
The good news is that by emphasizing a military, not political, strategy to diminish Iraq's debilitating violence, the president has correctly set aside one of the primary factors destroying the Shiite Arab center. While waiting for a "political solution" to the Sunni insurgency, we watched Shiite timidity and patience turn to anger--and to a revenge which now threatens the integrity of the Shiite-led Iraqi government. Gens. Abizaid and Casey had gambled that they could stand up an effective Iraqi military and police against the Sunnis before violence threatened everything in Baghdad. That bet collapsed with the destruction of the Shiite shrine in Samarra in February 2006--but the administration kept playing the same hand as if nothing had happened. The reversal of this soft-power, politics-not-troops mentality is an essential step forward.
Still, David Petraeus, who will succeed Gen. Casey as the overall boss in Iraq and who is one of America's finest, most adaptable commanders, may have to perform a miracle to compensate for this shortfall in manpower, especially if the required five brigades for Baghdad take months to arrive, and if Washington allows the offensive to move forward before he is even in charge. The president can pre-empt these lethal problems by ensuring Gen. Petraeus's rapid arrival in Iraq and by allowing him to determine how many soldiers he needs.
Nevertheless, there is a dismaying hesitancy in the military's and the White House's deliberations on this conflict. Although the president wants a new approach, the Pentagon, the State Department and even the National Security Council appear wedded to the past. The contradiction between what the president says and what his government does has never been greater. We need to move rapidly: The enemy is digging in and the drift to full-scale civil war is gaining speed.
The administration needs to rethink its understanding of Iraqi culture and politics, as the "new" strategy still contains ideas that have catastrophically guided American officials in the Green Zone ever since Sunni Arab insurgents started killing Americans in significant numbers. U.S. officials still believe they must soon see sectarian reconciliation, a reversal of de-Baathification, and a nonsectarian, equitable distribution of oil wealth.
All these achievements are meant to placate the aggrieved Sunni Arabs, who represent 15% of the population. But no one knows how many Sunni Arabs sympathize with their brethren who've been killing Shia. It certainly seemed like a very large number before the Shiites started counterattacking through their militias. The statements of Iraqi Sunni Arab organizations, the coverage of the Iraqi Sunni press and the region's Sunni Arab media, which often quotes and echoes the opinions of Iraqi Sunnis, suggest strongly that there is substantial communitarian support for both domestic and foreign suicide bombers.
For the serious ex-Baathists, Sunni supremacists and Iraqi Sunni fundamentalists--the lethal hardcore of the insurgency--it's still a good bet that they're not into democratic negotiations. They probably don't think much at all about an equitable distribution of oil revenues--or wanting their jobs back in the new army's officer corps.
De-Baathification for the Shiites and the Sunnis is really about only one thing: the army. But from the moment the U.S. started building a more representative Iraqi military in 2003, there was no way in hell the old Baathist Sunni officer corps could come back. And now, with the Shiites killing Sunnis, even the most enlightened of the proscribed Baathist officers (this isn't a large group) know that return would be suicide. No one knows how many Sunni Arabs would turn against their uncompromising, murderous brethren and align themselves with Shiites if the right "deal" were struck. It's a very good guess that such men, if they exist in any number, would get mowed down by their radical compatriots.
If the U.S. and Iraqi governments are going to bring peace to the "Sunni triangle," they must break the back of the insurgency. A minority, used to the prerogatives of a communitarian dictatorship, the Sunnis have been trying to derail the new Iraq: They must come to know that they will lose everything if they don't abandon violence as their principal political tool. They must know that if they choose to cease their violent opposition, they will not be murdered for doing so. This means, as it has always meant, a combined American and Shiite Iraqi occupation of major Sunni Arab cities. If the Sunni community hasn't hopelessly gone into a dominance-or-death opposition, then it could still come to its senses, provided the violent hardcore among them is neutralized and the Shiites and the Kurds allow them sufficient access to oil wealth. Shiite death squads have certainly taught the Sunnis of Baghdad that there are worse things than infidel U.S. troops in their neighborhoods.
Baghdad is the first step. And as retired general Jack Keane and the military historian Frederick Kagan have been pointing out, restoring security in Baghdad will take at least 18 months and all the troops the president pledged. To quote Gen. Keane: "We need all five brigades in Baghdad as soon as possible. It will take three to four months to clear neighborhoods of death squads and insurgents, and at least the rest of the year to establish proper security for the population." This is going to be a long, hard slog. And the Americans, not the Iraqis, are going to have to lead it.
The president's stated contention--that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's army and police will lead efforts to cleanse the city, while the Americans just support them--will produce dismal results. Mr. Maliki's pride doesn't win battles. George Bush has been fond of underscoring the counterinsurgency success in Tal Afar, in which the Iraqi army played an important supporting role. If Gen. Petraeus is really put into a supporting role in the Battle of Baghdad, then we've lost already.
Gen. Petraeus will have to deal with Muqtada al-Sadr. The thuggish son of Iraq's most revered clerical family, he has become for many Shiites in Baghdad a rapturously praised defender. This esteem is merited: He, not any American general, increased the security of the average Shiite in the capital. And if he is smart, he'll attack the Americans before they have the chance to deploy much new strength. If the Americans successfully down Sunni insurgents in the capital, then they will go after Mr. Sadr.
But the U.S. military should absolutely not go after Mr. Sadr first. We may barely have sufficient forces to handle a one-front war against Sunni insurgents and holy warriors. We need to show the Shiite community, which by no means has embraced Mr. Sadr's radicalism en masse, that the Battle of Baghdad's primary thrust isn't against the capital's large Shiite ghetto.
The key here is how Shiites view the first encounter. If it goes against the insurgents, then a subsequent attack on Mr. Sadr and his militia might not provoke a large-scale uprising. And he just may play along. He and his forces were mauled by the Americans in 2004. Since then they haven't been particularly bold in attacking U.S. soldiers. Mr. Sadr has recently manifested some statesmen-like behavior, and has been more correct in his behavior toward Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual guide of Iraq's Shia and a bulwark of moderation. Yet Washington ought to plan on Mr. Sadr hitting U.S. forces--another reason why Gen. Petraeus, who appears acutely sensitive to the Sadr conundrum, should be given as many brigades as the U.S. can rapidly pull together.
Wars are often decided by one battle, where the genius and resources of one commander proves decisive. We are undoubtedly at that point in Iraq. The Bush administration should ensure that Gen. Petraeus has everything he needs, and that any opposition inside the military to him and a larger, longer counterinsurgency campaign is squelched. America and Iraq probably won't get a second chance.
Mr. Gerecht is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics
on: January 18, 2007, 09:54:57 AM
Shades of Gray
By JOHN FUND
January 18, 2007; Page A16
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Ted Kennedy, the nation's most persistent backer of nationalized health care, must be smiling at the irony. Almost four decades after he first proposed the idea, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Kennedy relative by marriage, is touting his own version of universal coverage, and, if adopted, the idea could go nationwide quickly. It's no wonder critics are already dubbing the ostensibly Republican chief executive "Schwarzenkennedy."
This isn't the first time Mr. Kennedy has found a Republican to carry water for him. In 1971, after Medicare spending had increased by more than 70% in five years (although the number of people enrolled grew by only 6%), Richard Nixon declared a "health-care cost crisis" and worked with Mr. Kennedy to propose mandatory employer-provided health insurance. The idea foundered, but a modified version now has been revived by Mr. Schwarzenegger, who wants to require that every person buy health insurance, or be covered by an employer or the government. Massachusetts has a more modest law in place, and an adviser to Mitt Romney helped Schwarzenegger aides on their plan.
Liberals are overjoyed at the about-face by a governor who in 2005 vetoed a Democratic bill that would have merely expanded the state's coverage of children, saying the $300 million price tag was too high. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez praises the governor's new proposal: "This is a plan Assembly Democrats could have written."
Indeed, they already have -- and Mr. Schwarzenegger fiercely opposed it at the time. In 2003, then-Gov. Gray Davis, fighting to stave off his recall, signed a law mandating employers with 20 or more employees provide health coverage or pay into a state fund that would provide it. After Mr. Davis was recalled, Mr. Schwarzenegger helped lead an effort to repeal what he called a "job-killing health-care tax." In 2004, 51% of voters agreed and repealed universal coverage in the same election in which George W. Bush lost the state by 10 percentage points and the highly liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer was re-elected by 20 points.
But the next year, Mr. Schwarzenegger suffered a stinging defeat as public employee unions spent $130 million in a special election to defeat four reform initiatives he supported. A chastened governator swung left by hiring as top aides Susan Kennedy and Daniel Zingale, two former deputy chiefs of staff to the recalled Mr. Davis; Jason Kinney, a Davis speechwriter, joked that he had decided "to finish the second term of Gray Davis." No one is laughing now. The behind-the-scenes architects of much of the governor's plan were Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Zingale, who also served as Mr. Davis's director of managed health care.
Last November, Gov. Schwarzenegger won landslide re-election in part by winning 91% of Republicans with an ironclad pledge not to raise taxes. He pounded Phil Angelides, his Democratic opponent, for wanting to raise taxes by $7 billion to pay for universal health care. But now the estimated cost of the Schwarzenegger plan to cover California's uninsured, including two million illegal aliens, is $12 billion. State subsidies for people to buy insurance will extend to those earning up to $50,000 a year, more than California's median income. "He's creating a welfare state where more than half the people are in the wagon being pulled than outside the wagon pulling," says one health-care analyst.
As bad as the policy implications are, the governor's plan may be fatally flawed, politically. He insists it doesn't raise taxes, despite billions in new charges on doctors, hospitals and employers. He prefers to call the new revenue "in-lieu fees" and "coverage dividends." "He excoriated Phil Angelides, rightly, for proposing the same tax increases he has put on the table," says GOP state Sen. Tom McClintock. "He is now pushing the second largest tax increase in California history. I won't be able to trust anything he says."
Whether the new revenue is a tax or not is important, because if it is a tax the plan must garner a very difficult two-thirds vote in both legislative houses. Barring that, the California Supreme Court will have trouble with the concept. A fee on employers who don't offer health insurance probably requires only a majority vote. However, the imposition of a levy on the gross revenues of doctors and hospitals is almost certainly a tax that would require two-thirds approval.
Then there are the feds. The $5 billion a year in extra federal Medicaid money, which the governor is banking on, is shaky. An even greater barrier is Erisa, the 1974 federal pension law that preempts all state laws that regulate employee benefits. Last summer, a federal judge threw out Maryland's so-called "Wal-Mart law" requiring large firms to spend 8% of their payroll on health care because "state laws which impose health or welfare mandates on employers are invalid under Erisa." Just yesterday a federal appeals court upheld the ruling voiding the Maryland law.
Rather than pursue a legally dubious universal coverage proposal, Mr. Schwarzenegger should have pursued the universal access he used to tout. He could sign up more of the nearly one million Californians eligible for current health programs but not yet enrolled. The 49 coverage mandates that make insurance so expensive (Idaho has only 13) could be reduced and residents allowed to buy coverage from other states. Nurse practitioners could be allowed to set up their own clinics. Instead, the governor's plan piles on a new mandate that bars insurers from turning down anyone based on health status or age. When New Jersey instituted a similar rule in 1993, premiums jumped 500%.
Mr. Schwarzenegger insists he is pursuing a centrist course that borrows from both the right and left. But more realistically, he is imitating Richard Nixon's old strategy of throwing rhetorical bones to his right while attempting to appease the left with liberal programs. Emmet John Hughes, an Eisenhower speechwriter who knew Nixon well, once said he "judged any declaration of speech not by its content but by its impact." That explains Nixon's dramatic lurches into or toward wage price controls, a guaranteed annual income and mandatory employer health insurance.
Arnold Schwarzenegger used to claim he admired Ronald Reagan most "because he stuck by his principles when others wouldn't." But with his Rube Goldberg health plan Mr. Schwarzenegger has demonstrated that at his core he prefers roles more suited to Tricky Dick than the Gipper. Should he succeed, the long-term dream of nationalized health care held by Ted Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton, will be closer to reality than ever.
Mr. Fund is a columnist for OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: January 18, 2007, 09:51:29 AM
January 18, 2007; Page A16
If Republicans are wondering how best to shorten their time in the minority, they could do worse than to build on this week's Senate earmark victory. That reform success proves how good policy translates into good politics.
The Senate on Tuesday passed significant earmark reform, 98-0. But that unanimous tally masks the bitter battle that preceded the vote. When Republican freshmen Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint first launched an effort last summer to make earmarks more transparent, they struggled. Republicans had to be dragged into even minimal reform, and among their first acts after losing the election was to attempt to slip thousands more earmarks into their lame-duck spending bills.
Still, minority status has a way of focusing the mind, and combined with continued DeMint-Coburn shaming, Senate Republicans appear to have re-embraced some principles. When Majority Leader Harry Reid last week attempted to water down House Democrats' earmark reform, Messrs. Coburn and DeMint rallied enough fellow Republicans (and a few Democrats) to outmaneuver the spenders. Red-faced at getting caught trying to submarine their own party's plan for reform, Senate Democrats did an about-face and jumped on the earmark-reform bandwagon.
The result was a mini-competition as to which side of the aisle was tougher on earmarks, and a final bill that goes beyond even the House reform. Senator DeMint passed (98-0) an amendment that broadens the definition of an earmark; even those slipped into last-minute conference reports will have to be disclosed. Under the original Senate legislation, 95% of earmarks would have escaped scrutiny.
More amazing was Democrats' new enthusiasm for oversight. Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin -- who started off trying to tank Mr. DeMint's reform -- finished by passing an amendment (also 98-0) that requires lawmakers to post their earmark requests on the Internet 48 hours before a vote. (The House version of the bill simply requires a public disclosure form.) California Democrat Dianne Feinstein also joined in, passing by voice vote a provision that would bar lawmakers from including earmarks in the classified parts of a bill or a conference report unless they also included language in unclassified terms describing the project, funding levels and sponsor. Classified reports were among the ways that former Rep. Duke Cunningham -- now in federal prison -- hid his earmark payoffs.
None of this is to suggest earmarks will disappear in Washington. The real test will be whether lawmakers can restrain themselves from inserting pork-barrel projects. The news isn't encouraging. We hear federal agency telephones have been ringing off the hook, as Congressmen use back-channels to secure earmarks that they'd rather not appear in public.
Still, the reform is a good start. Republicans made headlines with their demands last week, and the news stories were a welcome change for a public appalled by Congress's spend-happy ways. If conservatives had shown this sort of commitment to their small-government ideals back when it mattered, they might still be in the majority.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Education/Parenting
on: January 18, 2007, 09:36:38 AM
Aztecs vs. Greeks
Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise.
BY CHARLES MURRAY
Thursday, January 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
If "intellectually gifted" is defined to mean people who can become theoretical physicists, then we're talking about no more than a few people per thousand and perhaps many fewer. They are cognitive curiosities, too rare to have that much impact on the functioning of society from day to day. But if "intellectually gifted" is defined to mean people who can stand out in almost any profession short of theoretical physics, then research about IQ and job performance indicates that an IQ of at least 120 is usually needed. That number demarcates the top 10% of the IQ distribution, or about 15 million people in today's labor force--a lot of people.
In professions screened for IQ by educational requirements--medicine, engineering, law, the sciences and academia--the great majority of people must, by the nature of the selection process, have IQs over 120. Evidence about who enters occupations where the screening is not directly linked to IQ indicates that people with IQs of 120 or higher also occupy large proportions of positions in the upper reaches of corporate America and the senior ranks of government. People in the top 10% of intelligence produce most of the books and newspaper articles we read and the television programs and movies we watch. They are the people in the laboratories and at workstations who invent our new pharmaceuticals, computer chips, software and every other form of advanced technology.
Combine these groups, and the top 10% of the intelligence distribution has a huge influence on whether our economy is vital or stagnant, our culture healthy or sick, our institutions secure or endangered. Of the simple truths about intelligence and its relationship to education, this is the most important and least acknowledged: Our future depends crucially on how we educate the next generation of people gifted with unusually high intelligence.
How assiduously does our federal government work to see that this precious raw material is properly developed? In 2006, the Department of Education spent about $84 billion. The only program to improve the education of the gifted got $9.6 million, one-hundredth of 1% of expenditures. In the 2007 budget, President Bush zeroed it out.
But never mind. A large proportion of gifted children are born to parents who value their children's talent and do their best to see that it is realized. Most gifted children without such parents are recognized by someone somewhere along the educational line and pointed toward college. No evidence indicates that the nation has many children with IQs above 120 who are not given an opportunity for higher education. The university system has also become efficient in shipping large numbers of the most talented high-school graduates to the most prestigious schools. The allocation of this human capital can be criticized--it would probably be better for the nation if more of the gifted went into the sciences and fewer into the law. But if the issue is amount of education, then the nation is doing fine with its next generation of gifted children. The problem with the education of the gifted involves not their professional training, but their training as citizens.
We live in an age when it is unfashionable to talk about the special responsibility of being gifted, because to do so acknowledges inequality of ability, which is elitist, and inequality of responsibilities, which is also elitist. And so children who know they are smarter than the other kids tend, in a most human reaction, to think of themselves as superior to them. Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it. That among those obligations, the most important and most difficult is to aim not just at academic accomplishment, but at wisdom.
The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one's own intellectual limits and fallibilities--in a word, humility. This is perhaps the most conspicuously missing part of today's education of the gifted. Many high-IQ students, especially those who avoid serious science and math, go from kindergarten through an advanced degree without ever having a teacher who is dissatisfied with their best work and without ever taking a course that forces them to say to themselves, "I can't do this." Humility requires that the gifted learn what it feels like to hit an intellectual wall, just as all of their less talented peers do, and that can come only from a curriculum and pedagogy designed especially for them. That level of demand cannot fairly be imposed on a classroom that includes children who do not have the ability to respond. The gifted need to have some classes with each other not to be coddled, but because that is the only setting in which their feet can be held to the fire.
The encouragement of wisdom requires mastery of analytical building blocks. The gifted must assimilate the details of grammar and syntax and the details of logical fallacies not because they will need them to communicate in daily life, but because these are indispensable for precise thinking at an advanced level.
The encouragement of wisdom requires being steeped in the study of ethics, starting with Aristotle and Confucius. It is not enough that gifted children learn to be nice. They must know what it means to be good.
The encouragement of wisdom requires an advanced knowledge of history. Never has the aphorism about the fate of those who ignore history been more true.
All of the above are antithetical to the mindset that prevails in today's schools at every level. The gifted should not be taught to be nonjudgmental; they need to learn how to make accurate judgments. They should not be taught to be equally respectful of Aztecs and Greeks; they should focus on the best that has come before them, which will mean a light dose of Aztecs and a heavy one of Greeks. The primary purpose of their education should not be to let the little darlings express themselves, but to give them the tools and the intellectual discipline for expressing themselves as adults.
In short, I am calling for a revival of the classical definition of a liberal education, serving its classic purpose: to prepare an elite to do its duty. If that sounds too much like Plato's Guardians, consider this distinction. As William F. Buckley rightly instructs us, it is better to be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. But we have that option only in the choice of our elected officials. In all other respects, the government, economy and culture are run by a cognitive elite that we do not choose. That is the reality, and we are powerless to change it. All we can do is try to educate the elite to be conscious of, and prepared to meet, its obligations. For years, we have not even thought about the nature of that task. It is time we did.
The goals that should shape the evolution of American education are cross-cutting and occasionally seem contradictory. Yesterday, I argued the merits of having a large group of high-IQ people who do not bother to go to college; today, I argue the merits of special education for the gifted. The two positions are not in the end incompatible, but there is much more to be said, as on all the issues I have raised.
The aim here is not to complete an argument but to begin a discussion; not to present policy prescriptions, but to plead for greater realism in our outlook on education. Accept that some children will be left behind other children because of intellectual limitations, and think about what kind of education will give them the greatest chance for a fulfilling life nonetheless. Stop telling children that they need to go to college to be successful, and take advantage of the other, often better ways in which people can develop their talents. Acknowledge the existence and importance of high intellectual ability, and think about how best to nurture the children who possess it.
Mr. Murray is the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This concludes a three-part series which began on Tuesday.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 18, 2007, 09:33:45 AM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
The Democratic Field
It's Hillary versus everybody else.
Thursday, January 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Illinois Senator Barack Obama's announcement this week that he's likely to enter the Presidential race adds a dash of glamour and excitement to the Democratic field. But all of his media attention doesn't change the basic truth of the 2008 primary contest: The race is between Hillary Rodham Clinton and everybody else.
New York's junior Senator hasn't announced yet, but her troops have long been massing, ready to march on her orders. And what a political machine it is, starting with her husband, who has made it clear he is aching for her to run. Psychoanalyzing the Clintons is perilous, but we suspect the former President doesn't like the way his years in office ended, with impeachment, the Marc Rich pardon and Al Gore's failure to deliver a third symbolic term. A victory for his wife would be a kind of political redemption for him too.
Mrs. Clinton brings her own considerable strengths, not least intelligence and self-discipline. She has performed far more smoothly in the Senate than many observers expected, and she hasn't been a polarizing figure in New York (winning 67% of the vote in November).
Then there are those Clinton legions--of fund-raisers, union chiefs, party bosses, think tank operatives, media consultants. Mrs. Clinton blew through more than $30 million during her all but uncontested Senate re-election campaign, and she will have little trouble raising another $100 million or more. Longtime aide Harold Ickes--famous for his silent depositions in Clinton II--is the seasoned hand on money matters and he'll also bring on Big Labor. Meanwhile, former White House chief of staff John Podesta has set up the Center for American Progress, from which she can poach left-leaning policy ideas.
From her national perch on the Armed Services Committee, Mrs. Clinton has so far also walked a remarkable tightrope on the Iraq war, only recently coming out for some sort of "cap" on the number of troops. A major story over the coming year will be whether she can resist the defeatist tug of her party's antiwar left as she tries to win the Democratic nomination.
Which brings up her biggest liability--the fear in many Democratic hearts that she's not "electable." Mrs. Clinton carries much of the scandal baggage of her husband's tenure without much of his political charisma. If one potential Democratic theme is to run against the "divisive" Bush Republicans, Hillary is not your ideal "uniter." Perhaps American voters won't want to hear about Arkansas, et cetera, all over again, but then is that a risk Democrats want to take?
This is where Mr. Obama comes in, bidding to be the un-Hillary. At age 45, he's already managed the remarkable feat of writing his own autobiography, literally and politically. He's applauded for saying he's proud that he did inhale, and he has the virtue of being a genuinely fresh face. But campaigns have a way of filling in a candidate's resumes in ways other than they design, including their positions on actual issues. Mr. Obama is already moving left on national security--which is dangerous ground for a political rookie amid what the Pentagon calls "the long war" on terror.
North Carolina's John Edwards is another vigorous contender, though the erstwhile Vice Presidential candidate failed to deliver his home state to John Kerry last time around. This time he's raising the decibels on his "two Americas" campaign theme, hoping to catch some of that Hubert Humphrey political magic. If he can sell this message as a millionaire trial lawyer, he'll have earned the nomination.
The rest of the Democratic field includes two governors--Iowa's Tom Vilsack and New Mexico's Bill Richardson--who have solid state records, and Mr. Richardson also has foreign-policy credentials. But both will have trouble breaking through the fund-raising barriers erected by the campaign-finance limits they themselves have supported. This is a shame, because both men have something to offer. And then there is the usual gaggle of Senators--Dodd, Biden and even Kerry--who are running because . . . well, because that seems to be what their DNA has programmed them to do.
If we were betting on a wild card challenger, we'd look instead to Al Gore. The former Vice President has been coy about his intentions. But he might be getting a ton of free publicity for his global warming "documentary" come Oscar time, and there's little doubt he could raise money if he got in. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, there are a lot of Democrats who feel passionately about him and his near-win in 2000.
There are cycles in politics, and, after eight years of Republicans in the White House, Democrats in 2008 will have the public's normal desire for change on their side. On the other hand, they will also have to show they can be trusted on national security in a post 9/11 world, especially running against the likes of Republicans John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. Mrs. Clinton's studied middle-ground on security suggests she understands that. The main Democratic drama of the coming months will be whether her party really trusts that she and her husband have learned enough not to repeat the mistakes of the 1990s.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics
on: January 17, 2007, 03:01:10 PM
January 17, 2007; Page A18
The myth persists in some media circles that the federal budget deficit is "surging" or ballooning or something terrible -- all of which is served up as ammunition for those in Congress who want a tax increase. At the risk of being drummed out of the guild, we thought you'd rather have the real story.
The deficit has in fact declined by some $165 billion over the past two fiscal years, and according to the most recent data has continued to fall in the first quarter of fiscal 2007. The latest Treasury estimates for January show that tax receipts in December were $18 billion higher than a year earlier, helping to boost the budget surplus for the month to $40 billion, up from $11 billion a year ago. December is typically a good month for revenues due to year-end tax payments.
Meanwhile, for the first three months of fiscal 2007 through December, revenues climbed 8.1%, building on double-digit revenue increases in the previous two years. Corporate income taxes were up a remarkable 22.2% in the first fiscal quarter, showing that the government continues to grab a nice chunk of the rising business profits that so many of our politicians like to deplore. Individual income taxes rose 8.8%, thanks to strong wage and salary growth. Much of this revenue comes from "the rich," believe it or not.
In the most surprising budget news, federal spending was nearly flat in the first fiscal quarter. This was despite a 22.1% increase in Medicare spending due largely to the new prescription drug benefit, and a 10.7% increase in defense. Those increases were offset by lower spending for flood insurance and disaster assistance compared with the peak of post-Katrina payments a year ago. So the first quarter deficit was $85 billion, down sharply from $119 billion a year earlier.
All in all, despite huge outlays for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nation's fiscal picture is brightening. We hate to ruin the press corps's day with such cheerful news, but there it is.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: January 17, 2007, 02:57:31 PM
Pues, faltando participacion en espanol, he aqui algo en ingles:
Hugo and Mahmoud
January 17, 2007; Page A18
We've known for some time that Hugo Chávez is a menace to the economic well-being of his own people. But the question that seems increasingly urgent is whether he's becoming a threat to U.S. security interests -- both in the Western Hemisphere and beyond.
Specifically, we'd like to know what Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Bill Delahunt make of Mr. Chávez's weekend summit with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian President stopped by Caracas on Saturday as part of a four-day engagement with Latin America's new leftist governments. On Sunday, the Iranian communed with Nicaragua's new boss, Daniel Ortega, and then on Monday he hit the inauguration of Ecuador's new pro-Chávez President Rafael Correa.
The Caracas visit was Mr. Ahmadinejad's second in four months. "This is just a prelude of what we will do," declared Mr. Chávez, in a televised speech announcing the creation of a joint $2 billion fund to finance development and other projects. "This large and strategic fund, brother, is going to be converted into a mechanism of liberation," he added, saying their goal is to build "a network of alliances."
In Managua, the Iranian also signed a "broad cooperation accord" with Mr. Ortega. Mr. Chávez openly funded the Sandinista's Presidential campaign last year, and he earlier supported Evo Morales in Bolivia. Venezuelan soldiers have reported that they are under orders to give Colombian rebels safe haven, and Mr. Chávez signed contracts last year to buy Russian MiGs and open a Kalishnakov factory at home.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan is using his recent election victory to consolidate his grip on the economy. A week ago, he announced he would nationalize the country's electricity and telephone companies; he already controls the oil business. His goal here is to redistribute income but especially to shrink the private economy in order to reduce the space in which any political opposition can operate.
The Caracas Stock Exchange Index fell 16% last week, but that didn't phase Señor Chávez. He's moving to withdraw the license of a prominent independent television network, and he has asked Congress to grant him temporary executive power to rule by decree. "The world should know: Our revolution is not turning back," he said. "This is the path our boat is on: socialism. Country, socialism, or death."
The world should have known this a long time ago but too many people chose to ignore it. Mr. Chávez took office in 1999 on a promise to end corruption and injustice. By 2000, human rights groups warned of a deterioration in constitutional protections, and Mr. Chávez began importing Cuban security agents along with Cuban doctors and teachers to spread propaganda.
Each time Mr. Chávez has faced resistance, he has tightened the screws. Price and capital controls and property seizures became state policy. Employees of the state-owned oil company and its contractors were fired if they opposed the government; political opponents were jailed.
All the while, Mr. Chávez has had American enablers who excused his growing repression, or blamed it on a reaction to U.S. policy. Foremost among them has been Mr. Dodd, who has defended Mr. Chávez as "democratically elected" despite his clear trend toward authoritarianism. In 2004, the circumstances surrounding a recall referendum were so anti-democratic that the European Union refused to act as an observer. Jimmy Carter nonetheless blessed the outcome amid heavy irregularities, and the U.S. State Department endorsed the process. Other politicians, such as Mr. Delahunt, embraced and flattered Mr. Chávez for his PR stunt of offering cut-rate oil to poor Americans.
Perhaps it's time these Americans paid attention to the kind of "socialism" and "revolution" that their support is helping Mr. Chávez to build in Venezuela.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: January 17, 2007, 08:11:54 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Back-Channel Negotiations Between Israel and Syria
Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Syria and Israel held secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006, and that the two have developed a framework for a peace agreement. Highlights of the deal include Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights to pre-1967 borders -- in exchange for retaining control over the use of water from the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret -- and an end to Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Syrian moves to distance the country from Iran. The report said the meetings were conducted primarily by academics, with the full knowledge of senior Israeli and Syrian authorities. A few hours after the story was released, officials from both countries issued denials, labeling the report "absolute nonsense," a "bluff" and "completely false."
That Syria and Israel have been holding back-channel talks should hardly come as a surprise. Lacking the strategic depth to sufficiently ensure its national security, Israel has long been in the business of quiet diplomacy with its Arab neighbors. Jordan and Egypt both engaged in secret meetings with Israel well before their respective peace agreements were made public. An Israeli-Syrian deal, however, is still far off in the distance.
Ruled by Alawites -- who practice an offshoot of Shiite Islam -- Syria is a minority-based regime in the Sunni Arab world. The Syrian government has a history of keeping its distance from its Arab neighbors, despite its calls for Arab nationalism, seeking instead a closer relationship with its Shiite allies in Tehran. The Syrians have developed a strong alliance with Iran through Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which serves Syrian interests by keeping pressure on Israel as well as keeping the Lebanese political, security and intelligence apparatus under Syrian control. Hezbollah's ability to gridlock the Lebanese government through mass protests and block any moves to hold Syrian leadership accountable for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri is a current case in point.
Syria's insurance policy against Israel comes through its support for nonstate militant assets in the region, namely Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. Syria's sponsorship of these groups also allows it to maintain leverage in the region by making itself an integral part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and any flare-ups in Lebanon. Without a sufficient deterrent capability, Syria is unwilling to surrender this leverage -- and the Israelis know this.
At the same time, Israel is not ready to let go of the Golan Heights, a 15-by-32-mile territory seized by Israeli troops during the 1967 Six Day War. The Golan is of enormous strategic value to Israeli defenses, as its boundaries encompass the 7,296-foot Mount Hermon. Prior to Israel's creation in 1948, Syrian forces used this highland to attack northern Jewish villages. After Israel seized the Golan in 1967, Mount Hermon became a key observation post for Israel to use to point its guns at any hostile invader approaching the country's northeastern border. Apart from its military importance, the Golan Heights also provides Israel with roughly one-third of its water supply.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad inherited his foreign policy agenda from his father, Hafez al Assad. It stipulates that Syria must consolidate its control over Lebanon, maintain its influence over the Arab-Israeli conflict, preserve its regional status and regain the Golan Heights from Israel. Carefully managing Syria's relations with the United States to avoid provoking regime change also was a key part of al Assad's strategy to ensure Syrian national security. Though Syria is keenly interested in retaking the Golan, it will not sacrifice its militant assets without sufficient security guarantees from the United States and Israel.
The atmosphere of distrust between Syria and Israel has been exacerbated by the intensifying U.S.-Iranian standoff over Iraq. With Iran well on its way to joining the nuclear club and consolidating its gains in Iraq, the Syrians see Iran as an attractive ally in the region. Tehran is just as eager to develop Syria into an Iranian satellite, and has greatly expanded its military and economic assistance for the country in an effort to earn the Syrians' trust.
But the ruling clerics in Tehran are well aware that Syria's loyalties are flexible, and that the al Assad regime will look after its own interests before sticking its neck out for Iran. This was exemplified in the summer conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, during which Syria was extremely careful to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. Iran's distrust of the al Assad regime will become particularly critical as Iran moves deeper into hot water with its plans for Iraq and its nuclear program. The Iranians fear that, should it face a serious threat to the survival of the al Assad regime, Syria could switch loyalties down the road and join the fold of Arab states making peace with Israel.
It is this weakness in the Syrian-Iranian alliance that Western governments will try to exploit, and the Haaretz report on the Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations appears to work toward that objective. In conjunction with the revised U.S. strategy on Iraq, the Israelis have carefully timed a series of leaks about Israeli military plans to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities as part of a psychological warfare strategy to undermine Iranian confidence. In order to beef up this campaign, Israel can fuel distrust between Iran and Syria by publicizing its back-channel dealings with the al Assad regime. These leaks will be met with a downpour of denials, but the intended damage already will have been done; Iran and Syria will continue to second-guess each other as the risk of pursuing an increasingly belligerent policy reaches dangerous levels.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 17, 2007, 06:26:20 AM
Disagree. He is very young, and has very little experience at the national level. He has only one statewide race-- the one two years ago which put him in the Senate. Even this is much less than it seems. The original Republican candidate, whose name slips my mind, dropped out of the race when his divorcing wife made apparently founded accusations about him in strip clubs or something like that. So at the last minute, bomb thrower and carpetbagger Alan Keyes stepped in. Don't get me wrong: I love AK (don't agree with everything he says, but possibly one of the most principled and articulate men in American politics today) but for him to step in very late, very underfunded, and being his very uncompormising self did not make for much of a challenge for Osama.
I caught Osama on , , , the Jay Leno show I think it was. On a personal level a very appealing fellow, and he seems to manifest well the desire of many American people to proceed without personal rancor towards the opposition, but his actual positions are quite the standard liberal democratic fare.
My prediction, he will run a while, be well liked by the Dem faithful, do surprisingly well against Lady Evita, and then, due in part to the fact that he will not have been personally nasty towards her, will be swept up in grand unity ticket with him as VP candidate.
President Bush's many unprincipled domestic policies and his perceived incompetence in leading the Iraqi front of the Islamo Fascist war combined with the unprincipled Republican Congress have left the Republicans in array.
Tax and regulate McCain?
I had strong hopes for Newt Gingrich, but some recent moves of his (e.g. a special on FOX saying he was dedicating himself to the return of God to the American political sphere or some comletely unsound strategy--politically speaking-- like that) read to me like he has decided not to run.
There is a good chance that Reps will seek the equivalent of "Dem-lite" RINO Gov. Schwarzenegger of CA.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: January 16, 2007, 09:13:21 PM
GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
Rhetoric and Reality: The View from Iran
By George Friedman
The Iraq war has turned into a duel between the United States and Iran. For the United States, the goal has been the creation of a generally pro-American coalition government in Baghdad -- representing Iraq's three major ethnic communities. For Iran, the goal has been the creation of either a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad or, alternatively, the division of Iraq into three regions, with Iran dominating the Shiite south.
The United States has encountered serious problems in creating the coalition government. The Iranians have been primarily responsible for that. With the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June, when it appeared that the Sunnis would enter the political process fully, the Iranians used their influence with various Iraqi Shiite factions to disrupt that process by launching attacks on Sunnis and generally destabilizing the situation. Certainly, Sunnis contributed to this, but for much of the past year, it has been the Shia, supported by Iran, that have been the primary destabilizing force.
So long as the Iranians continue to follow this policy, the U.S. strategy cannot succeed. The difficulty of the American plan is that it requires the political participation of three main ethnic groups that are themselves politically fragmented. Virtually any substantial group can block the success of the strategy by undermining the political process. The Iranians, however, appear to be in a more powerful position than the Americans. So long as they continue to support Shiite groups within Iraq, they will be able to block the U.S. plan. Over time, the theory goes, the Americans will recognize the hopelessness of the undertaking and withdraw, leaving Iran to pick up the pieces. In the meantime, the Iranians will increasingly be able to dominate the Shiite community and consolidate their hold over southern Iraq. The game appears to go to Iran.
Americans are extremely sensitive to the difficulties the United States faces in Iraq. Every nation-state has a defining characteristic, and that of the United States is manic-depression, cycling between insanely optimistic plans and total despair. This national characteristic tends to blind Americans to the situation on the other side of the hill. Certainly, the Bush administration vastly underestimated the difficulties of occupying Iraq -- that was the manic phase. But at this point, it could be argued that the administration again is not looking over the other side of the hill at the difficulties the Iranians might be having. And it is useful to consider the world from the Iranian point of view.
The Foundation of Foreign Policy
It is important to distinguish between the rhetoric and the reality of Iranian foreign policy. As a general principle, this should be done with all countries. As in business, rhetoric is used to shape perceptions and attempt to control the behavior of others. It does not necessarily reveal one's true intentions or, more important, one's capabilities. In the classic case of U.S. foreign policy, Franklin Roosevelt publicly insisted that the United States did not intend to get into World War II while U.S. and British officials were planning to do just that. On the other side of the equation, the United States, during the 1950s, kept asserting that its goal was to liberate Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union, when in fact it had no plans, capabilities or expectations of doing so. This does not mean the claims were made frivolously -- both Roosevelt and John Foster Dulles had good reasons for posturing as they did -- but it does mean that rhetoric is not a reliable indicator of actions. Thus, the purple prose of the Iranian leadership cannot be taken at face value.
To get past the rhetoric, let's begin by considering Iran's objective geopolitical position.
Historically, Iran has faced three enemies. Its oldest enemy was to the west: the Arab/Sunni threat, against which it has struggled for millennia. Russia, to the north, emerged as a threat in the late 19th century, occupying northern Iran during and after World War II. The third enemy has worn different faces but has been a recurring threat since the time of Alexander the Great: a distant power that has intruded into Persian affairs. This distant foreign power -- which has at times been embodied by both the British and the Americans -- has posed the greatest threat to Iran. And when the element of a distant power is combined with one of the other two traditional enemies, the result is a great global or regional power whose orbit or influence Iran cannot escape. To put that into real terms, Iran can manage, for example, the chaos called Afghanistan, but it cannot manage a global power that is active in Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously.
For the moment, Russia is contained. There is a buffer zone of states between Iran and Russia that, at present, prevents Russian probes. But what Iran fears is a united Iraq under the influence or control of a global power like the United States. In 1980, the long western border of Iran was attacked by Iraq, with only marginal support from other states, and the effect on Iran was devastating. Iran harbors a rational fear of attack from that direction, which -- if coupled with American power -- could threaten Iranian survival.
Therefore, Iran sees the American plan to create a pro-U.S. government in Baghdad as a direct threat to its national interests. Now, the Iranians supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003; they wanted to see their archenemy, former President Saddam Hussein, deposed. But they did not want to see him replaced by a pro-American regime. Rather, the Iranians wanted one of two outcomes: the creation of a pro-Iranian government dominated by Iraqi Shia (under Iran's control), or the fragmentation of Iraq. A fragmented Iraq would have two virtues. It would prove no danger to Iran, and Iran likely would control or heavily influence southern Iraq, thus projecting its power from there throughout the Persian Gulf.
Viewed this way, Iran's behavior in Iraq is understandable. A stable Iraq under U.S. influence represents a direct threat to Iran, while a fragmented or pro-Iranian Iraq does not. Therefore, the Iranians will do whatever they can to undermine U.S. attempts to create a government in Baghdad. Tehran can use its influence to block a government, but it cannot -- on its own -- create a pro-Iranian one. Therefore, Iran's strategy is to play spoiler and wait for the United States to tire of the unending conflict. Once the Americans leave, the Iranians can pick up the chips on the table. Whether it takes 10 years or 30, the Iranians assume that, in the end, they will win. None of the Arab countries in the region has the power to withstand Iran, and the Turks are unlikely to get into the game.
The Unknown Variables
Logic would seem to favor the Iranians. But in the past, the Iranians have tried to be clever with great powers and, rather than trapping them, have wound up being trapped themselves. Sometimes they have simply missed other dimensions of the situation. For example, when the revolutionaries overthrew the Shah and created the Islamic Republic, the Iranians focused on the threat from the Americans, and another threat from the Soviets and their covert allies in Iran. But they took their eyes off Iraq -- and that miscalculation not only cost them huge casualties and a decade of economic decay, but broke the self-confidence of the Iranian regime.
The Iranians also have miscalculated on the United States. When the Islamic Revolution occurred, the governing assumption -- not only in Iran but also in many parts of the world, including the United States -- was that the United States was a declining power. It had, after all, been defeated in Vietnam and was experiencing declining U.S. military power and severe economic problems. But the Iranians massively miscalculated with regard to the U.S. position: In the end, the United States surged and it was the Soviets who collapsed.
The Iranians do not have a sterling record in managing great powers, and especially in predicting the behavior of the United States. In large and small ways, they have miscalculated on what the United States would do and how it would do it. Therefore, like the Americans, the Iranians are deeply divided. There are those who regard the United States as a bumbling fool, all set to fail in Iraq. There are others who remember equally confident forecasts about other American disasters, and who see the United States as ruthless, cunning and utterly dangerous.
These sentiments, then, divide into two policy factions. On the one side, there are those who see Bush's surge strategy as an empty bluff. They point out that there is no surge, only a gradual buildup of troops, and that the number of troops being added is insignificant. They point to political divisions in Washington and argue that the time is ripe for Iran to go for it all. They want to force a civil war in Iraq, to at least dominate the southern region and take advantage of American weakness to project power in the Persian Gulf.
The other side wonders whether the Americans are as weak as they appear, and also argues that exploiting a success in Iraq would be more dangerous and difficult than it appears. The United States has substantial forces in Iraq, and the response to Shiite uprisings along the western shore of the Persian Gulf would be difficult to predict. The response to any probe into Saudi Arabia certainly would be violent.
We are not referring here to ideological factions, nor to radicals and moderates. Rather, these are two competing visions of the United States. One side wants to exploit American weakness; the other side argues that experience shows that American weakness can reverse itself unexpectedly and trap Iran in a difficult and painful position. It is not a debate about ends or internal dissatisfaction with the regime. Rather, it is a contest between audacity and caution.
The Historical View
Over time -- and this is not apparent from Iranian rhetoric -- caution has tended to prevail. Except during the 1980s, when they supported an aggressive Hezbollah, the Iranians have been quite measured in their international actions. Following the war with Iraq, they avoided overt moves -- and they even were circumspect after the fall of the Soviet Union, when opportunities presented themselves to Iran's north. After 9/11, the Iranians were careful not to provoke the United States: They offered landing rights for damaged U.S. aircraft and helped recruit Shiite tribes for the American effort against the Taliban. The rhetoric alternated between intense and vitriolic; the actions were more cautious. Even with the Iranian nuclear project, the rhetoric has been far more intense than the level of development seems to warrant.
Rhetoric influences perceptions, and perceptions can drive responses. Therefore, the rhetoric should not be discounted as a driving factor in the geopolitical system. But the real debate in Iran is over what to do about Iraq. No one in Iran wants a pro-U.S. government in Baghdad, and blocking the emergence of such a government has a general consensus. But how far to go in trying to divide Iraq, creating a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and projecting power in the region is a matter of intense debate. In fact, cautious behavior combined with extreme rhetoric still appears to be the default position in Tehran, with more adventurous arguments struggling to gain acceptance.
The United States, for its part, is divided between the desire to try one more turn at the table to win it all and the fear that it is becoming hopelessly trapped. Iran is divided between a belief that the time to strike is now and a fear that counting the United States out is always premature. This is an engine that can, in due course, drive negotiations. Iran might be "evil" and the United States might be "Satan," but at the end of the day, international affairs involving major powers are governed not by rhetoric but by national interest. The common ground between the United States and Iran is that neither is certain it can achieve its real strategic interests. The Americans doubt they can create a pro-U.S. government in Baghdad, and Iran is not certain the United States is as weak as it appears to be.
Fear and uncertainty are the foundations of international agreement, while hope and confidence fuel war. In the end, a fractured Iraq -- an entity incapable of harming Iran, but still providing an effective buffer between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula -- is emerging as the most viable available option.
© Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interrogation methods
on: January 16, 2007, 03:42:12 PM
From the Early Bird:
January 16, 2007
Interrogation Research Is Lacking, Report Says
Few Studies Have Examined U.S. Methods
By Josh White, Washington Post Staff Writer
There is almost no scientific evidence to back up the U.S. intelligence community's use of controversial interrogation techniques in the fight against terrorism, and experts believe some painful and coercive approaches could hinder the ability to get good information, according to a new report from an intelligence advisory group.
The 374-page report from the Intelligence Science Board examines several aspects of broad interrogation methods and approaches, and it finds that no significant scientific research has been conducted in more than four decades about the effectiveness of many techniques the U.S. military and intelligence groups use regularly. Intelligence experts wrote that a lack of research could explain why abuse has been alleged at U.S. facilities in Afghanistan, Cuba and Iraq.
"Since there had been little or no development of sustained capacity for interrogation practice, training, or research within intelligence or military communities in the post-Soviet period, many interrogators were forced to 'make it up' on the fly," wrote Robert A. Fein, chairman of the study, published by the National Defense Intelligence College. "This shortfall in advanced, research-based interrogation methods at a time of intense pressure from operational commanders to produce actionable intelligence from high-value targets may have contributed significantly to the unfortunate cases of abuse that have recently come to light."
The report explores scientific knowledge on interrogation in the wake of reported abuse around the globe. The study, sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity, was posted yesterday on the Federation of American Scientists' Web site, at http:www.fas.org/irp/dni/educing.pdf.
In it, experts find that popular culture and ad hoc experimentation have fueled the use of aggressive and sometimes physical interrogation techniques to get those captured on the battlefields to talk, even if there is no evidence to support the tactics' effectiveness. The board, which advises the director of national intelligence, recommends studying the matter.
"There is little systematic knowledge available to tell us 'what works' in interrogation," wrote Robert Coulam, a research professor at the Simmons School for Health Studies in Boston. Coulam also wrote that interrogation practices that offend ethical concerns and "skirt the rule of law" may be narrowly useful, if at all, because such practices could undermine the legitimacy of government action and support for the fight against terrorism.
The Bush administration has long advocated the ability to use aggressive interrogation tactics on terrorism suspects. After abuse came to light at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and the Navy's prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Congress forced the government to limit its approaches to long-standing military doctrine but allowed a loophole that lets the CIA continue such techniques.
The Army's new field manual on intelligence, approved in September, specifically bans some of the most aggressive techniques -- such as "waterboarding," beatings, sensory deprivation and depriving a detainee of food -- and draws clear boundaries for all military personnel who participate in interrogations. Army officials abandoned more coercive techniques because of the abuse scandals and evidence that Army and contract interrogators had developed approaches in the field based on vague guidance.
The new study finds that there may be no value to coercive techniques.
"The scientific community has never established that coercive interrogation methods are an effective means of obtaining reliable intelligence information," wrote Col. Steven M. Kleinman, who has served as the Pentagon's senior intelligence officer for special survival training.
Kleinman wrote that intelligence gathered with coercion is sometimes inaccurate or false, noting that isolation, a tactic U.S. officials have used regularly, causes "profound emotional, psychological, and physical discomfort" and can "significantly and negatively impact the ability of the source to recall information accurately."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: January 16, 2007, 11:32:54 AM
RUSSIA/IRAN: Russia has completed transfers of the Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said. The Tor-M1 is a high-accuracy missile designed to intercept cruise missiles as well as both manned and unmanned aircraft. Despite U.N. sanctions on Iran, Russia insists that the contract was in line with international law and that the system is for defensive purposes only.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Jacksonian Warfare: Part Five
on: January 16, 2007, 01:15:00 AM
In the case of the Cold War, the failure of the Soviet Union to make a formal surrender, or for the conflict to end in any way that could be marked as V-USSR Day, has greatly complicated American policy toward post-Cold War Russia. The Soviet Union lost the Cold War absolutely and unconditionally, and Russia has suffered economic and social devastation comparable to that sustained by any losing power in the great wars of the century. But because it never surrendered, Jacksonian opinion never quite shifted into magnanimity mode. Wilsonians, Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians all favored reconstruction support and aid; but without Jacksonian concurrence the American effort was sharply limited. Advice was doled out with a free and generous hand, but aid was extended more grudgingly.
This is far from a complete account of Jacksonian values and beliefs as they affect the United States. In economic as well as defense policy, for example, Jacksonian ideas are both influential and unique. Convinced that the prime purpose of government is to defend the living standards of the middle class, Jacksonian opinion is instinctively protectionist, seeking trade privileges for U.S. goods abroad and hoping to withhold those privileges from foreign exports. Jacksonians were once farmers; today they tend to be service and industrial workers. They see the preservation of American jobs, even at the cost of some unspecified degree of "economic efficiency", as the natural and obvious task of the federal government’s trade policy. Jacksonians can be convinced that a particular trade agreement operates to the benefit of American workers, but they need to be convinced over and over again. They are also skeptical, on both cultural and economic grounds, of the benefits of immigration, which is seen as endangering the cohesion of the folk community and introducing new, low-wage competition for jobs. Neither result strikes Jacksonian opinion as a suitable outcome for a desirable government policy.
The Indispensable Element
Jacksonian influence in American history has been—and remains—enormous. The United States cannot wage a major international war without Jacksonian support; once engaged, politicians cannot safely end the war except on Jacksonian terms. From the perspective of members of other schools and many foreign observers, when Jacksonian sentiment favors a given course of action, the United States will move too far, too fast and too unilaterally in pursuit of its goals. When Jacksonian sentiment is strongly opposed, the United States will be seen to move too slowly or not at all. For anyone wishing to anticipate the course of American policy, an understanding of the structure of Jacksonian beliefs and values is essential.
It would be an understatement to say that the Jacksonian approach to foreign policy is controversial. It is an approach that has certainly contributed its share to the headaches of American policymakers throughout history. It has also played a role in creating a constituency abroad for the idea that the United States is addicted to a crude cowboy diplomacy—an idea that, by reducing international faith in the judgment and predictability of the United States, represents a real liability for American foreign policy.
Despite its undoubted limitations and liabilities, however, Jacksonian policy and politics are indispensable elements of American strength. Although Wilsonians, Jeffersonians and the more delicately constructed Hamiltonians do not like to admit it, every American school needs Jacksonians to get what it wants. If the American people had exhibited the fighting qualities of, say, the French in World War II, neither Hamiltonians, nor Jeffersonians nor Wilsonians would have had the opportunity to have much to do with shaping the postwar international order.
Moreover, as folk cultures go, Jacksonian America is actually open and liberal. Non-Jacksonians at home and abroad are fond of sneering at what must be acknowledged to be the deeply regrettable Jacksonian record of racism, or its commitment to forms of Christian belief that strike many as both unorthodox and bigoted. Certainly, Jacksonian America has not been in the forefront of the fight for minority rights, nor is it necessarily the place to go searching for avant garde artistic styles or cutting-edge philosophical reflections on the death of God.
But folk cultural change is measured in decades and generations, not electoral cycles, and on this clock, Jacksonian America is moving very rapidly. The military institutions have moved from strict segregation to a concerted attack on racism in fifty years. In civilian life, the belief that color is no bar to membership in the Jacksonian community of honor is rapidly replacing earlier beliefs. Just as Southerners whose grandfathers burned crosses against the Catholic Church now work very well with Catholics on all kinds of social, cultural and even religious endeavors, so we are seeing a steady erosion of the racial barriers. Even on issues of modernist art, Jacksonian America is moving. The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, once widely denounced by Jacksonians for its failure to include figurative sculptures, has now become one of the most visited and revered sites in the capital. On Memorial Day, thousands of leather-clad representatives of the Jacksonian culture visit it on their Harley-Davidsons, many of them accompanied by their wives riding pillion.
Jacksonian America performs an additional service: it makes a major, if unheralded, contribution to America’s vaunted "soft power." It is not simply the Jeffersonian commitment to liberty and equality, the Wilsonian record of benevolence, anti-colonialism and support for democracy, or even the commercial success resulting from Hamiltonian policies that attracts people to the United States. Perhaps beyond all these it is the spectacle of a country that is good for average people to live in: where ordinary people can and do express themselves culturally, economically and spiritually without any inhibition. The consumer lifestyle of the United States—and the consequences of federal policy to enrich the middle class and make it a class of homeowners and automobile drivers—wins the country many admirers abroad. For the first time in human history, millions of ordinary people have enough money in their pockets and time on their hands to support a popular culture that has more resources than the high culture of the aristocracy and elite. This culture is what hundreds of millions of foreigners love most about the United States, and its dissemination makes scores of millions of foreigners feel somehow connected to or even part of the United States. The cultural, social and religious vibrancy and unorthodoxy of Jacksonian America—not excluding such pastimes as professional wrestling—are among the country’s most important foreign policy assets.
It may also be worth noting that the images of American propensities to violence, and of the capabilities of American military forces and intelligence operatives, are so widely distributed in the media that they may actually heighten international respect for American strength and discourage attempts to test it.
This basically positive assessment would be incomplete without a description of the two most serious problems that the Jacksonian school perennially poses for American policymakers. Both of them spring from the wide ideological and cultural differences that divide the Jacksonian outlook from the other schools.
The first problem is the gap between Hamiltonian and Wilsonian promises and Jacksonian performance. The globally oriented, order-building schools of thought see American power as a resource to be expended in pursuit of their far-reaching goals. Many of the commitments they wish to make, the institutions they wish to build, and the social and economic policies they wish to promote do not enjoy Jacksonian support; in some cases, they elicit violent Jacksonian disagreement. This puts Hamiltonians and Wilsonians over and over again in an awkward position. At best they are trying to push treaties, laws and appropriations through a sulky and reluctant Congress. At worst they find themselves committed to military confrontations without Jacksonian support. More often than not, the military activities they wish to pursue are multilateral, limited warfare or peacekeeping operations. These are often unpopular both inside the military and in the country at large. Caught between their commitments (and the well-organized Hamiltonian or Wilsonian lobbies and pressure groups whose political clout is often at least partially responsible for these commitments) and the manifest unpopularity of the actions required to fulfill them, American policymakers dither, tack from side to side, and generally make an unimpressive show. This is one of the structural problems of American foreign policy, and it is exacerbated by the divided structure of the American government and Senate customs and rules that give a determined opposition many opportunities to block action of which it disapproves.
The second problem has a similar origin, but a different structure. Jacksonian opinion is slow to focus on a particular foreign policy issue, and slower still to make a commitment to pursue an end vigorously and for the long term. Once that commitment has been made, it is even harder to build Jacksonian sentiment for a change. This is particularly true when change involves overcoming one of the ingrained preferences in Jacksonian culture; it is, for example, much harder to shift a settled hawkish consensus in a dovish direction than vice versa. The hardest task of all is to maintain support for a policy that eschews oversimplification in favor of complexity. Having gotten Jacksonian opinion into a war in Vietnam or the Persian Gulf, it was very hard to get it out again without achieving total victory. Once China or Vietnam has been established as an enemy nation, it is very difficult to build support for normalizing relations or, worse still, extending foreign aid.
These problems, which are responsible for many of the recurring system crashes and unhappy stalemates in American foreign policy, can never be fully solved. They reflect profound differences in outlook and interest in American society, and it is the job of our institutions to adjudicate these disputes and force compromise rather than to eliminate them.
Efforts by policymakers to finesse these disputes often exacerbate the basic problem, which is the cultural, political and class distance between Jacksonian America and the representatives of the other schools. Attempts to mask Hamiltonian or Wilsonian policies in Jacksonian rhetoric, or to otherwise misrepresent or hide unpopular policies, may succeed in the short run, but ultimately they can lead to a collapse of popular confidence and the stiffening of resistance to any and all policies deemed suspect. When misguided political advisers persuaded the distinctively unmilitary Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis to put on a helmet and get in a tank for a television commercial, they only advertised how far out of touch with Jacksonian America they were.
From The National Interest No. 58, Winter 1999/2000.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Jacksonian Warfare: Part Four
on: January 16, 2007, 01:14:03 AM
The Japanese, another people with a highly developed war code based on personal honor, had the misfortune to create the same kind of impression on American Jacksonians. The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the gross mistreatment of American pows (the Bataan Death March), and Japanese fighting tactics all served to enrage American Jacksonians and led them to see the Pacific enemy as ruthless, dishonorable and inhuman. All contributed to the vitriolic intensity of combat in the Pacific theater. By the summer of 1945, American popular opinion was fully prepared to countenance invasion of the Japanese home islands, even if they were defended with the tenacity (and indifference to civilian lives) that marked the fighting on Okinawa.
Given this background, the Americans who decided to use the atomic bomb may have been correct that the use of the weapon saved lives, and not only of American soldiers. In any case, Jacksonians had no compunction about using the bomb. General Curtis LeMay (subsequently the 1968 running mate of Jacksonian populist third-party candidate George Wallace) succinctly summed up this attitude toward fighting a dishonorable opponent: "I’ll tell you what war is about", said Lemay in an interview, "You’ve got to kill people, and when you’ve killed enough they stop fighting."
By contrast, although the Germans committed bestial crimes against civilians and pows (especially Soviet pows), their behavior toward the armed forces of the United States was more in accordance with American ideas about military honor. Indeed, General Erwin Rommel is considered something of a military hero among American Jacksonians: an honorable enemy. Still, if the Germans avoided exposure to the utmost fury of an aroused American people at war, they were nevertheless subjected to the full, ferocious scope of the violence that a fully aroused American public opinion will sustain—and even insist upon.
For the first Jacksonian rule of war is that wars must be fought with all available force. The use of limited force is deeply repugnant. Jacksonians see war as a switch that is either "on" or "off." They do not like the idea of violence on a dimmer switch. Either the stakes are important enough to fight for—in which case you should fight with everything you have—or they are not, in which case you should mind your own business and stay home. To engage in a limited war is one of the costliest political decisions an American president can make—neither Truman nor Johnson survived it.
The second key concept in Jacksonian thought about war is that the strategic and tactical objective of American forces is to impose our will on the enemy with as few American casualties as possible. The Jacksonian code of military honor does not turn war into sport. It is a deadly and earnest business. This is not the chivalry of a medieval joust, or of the orderly battlefields of eighteenth-century Europe. One does not take risks with soldiers’ lives to give a "fair fight." Some sectors of opinion in the United States and abroad were both shocked and appalled during the Gulf and Kosovo wars over the way in which American forces attacked the enemy from the air without engaging in much ground combat. The "turkey shoot" quality of the closing moments of the war against Iraq created a particularly painful impression. Jacksonians dismiss such thoughts out of hand. It is the obvious duty of American leaders to crush the forces arrayed against us as quickly, thoroughly and professionally as possible.
Jacksonian opinion takes a broad view of the permissible targets in war. Again reflecting a very old cultural heritage, Jacksonians believe that the enemy’s will to fight is a legitimate target of war, even if this involves American forces in attacks on civilian lives, establishments and property. The colonial wars, the Revolution and the Indian wars all give ample evidence of this view, and General William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea showed the degree to which the targeting of civilian morale through systematic violence and destruction could, to widespread popular applause, become an acknowledged warfighting strategy, even when fighting one’s own rebellious kindred.
Probably as a result of frontier warfare, Jacksonian opinion came to believe that it was breaking the spirit of the enemy nation, rather than the fighting power of the enemy’s armies, that was the chief object of warfare. It was not enough to defeat a tribe in battle; one had to "pacify" the tribe, to convince it utterly that resistance was and always would be futile and destructive. For this to happen, the war had to go to the enemy’s home. The villages had to be burned, food supplies destroyed, civilians had to be killed. From the tiniest child to the most revered of the elderly sages, everyone in the enemy nation had to understand that further armed resistance to the will of the American people—whatever that might be—was simply not an option.
With the development of air power and, later, of nuclear weapons, this long-standing cultural acceptance of civilian targeting assumed new importance. Wilsonians and Jeffersonians protested even at the time against the deliberate terror bombing of civilian targets in the Second World War. Since 1945 there has been much agonized review of the American decision to use atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. None of this hand wringing has made the slightest impression on the Jacksonian view that the bombings were self-evidently justified and right. During both the Vietnam and Korean conflicts, there were serious proposals in Jacksonian quarters to use nuclear weapons—why else have them? The only reason Jacksonian opinion has ever accepted not to use nuclear weapons is the prospect of retaliation.
Jacksonians also have strong ideas about how wars should end. "There is no substitute for victory", as General MacArthur said, and the only sure sign of victory is the "unconditional surrender" of enemy forces. Just as Jacksonian opinion resents limits on American weapons and tactics, it also resents stopping short of victory. Unconditional surrender is not always a literal and absolute demand. The Confederate surrenders in 1865 included generous provisions for the losing armies. The Japanese were assured after the Potsdam Declaration that, while the United States insisted on unconditional surrender and acceptance of the terms, they could keep the "emperor system" after the war. However, there is only so much give in the idea: all resistance must cease; U.S. forces must make an unopposed entry into and occupation of the surrendering country; the political objectives of the war must be conceded in toto.
When in the later stages of World War II the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the prospect of an invasion of Kyushu, the southernmost of the major Japanese home islands, Admiral William Leahy projected 268,000 Americans would be killed or wounded out of an invasion force of 766,000. The invasion of the chief island of Honshu, tentatively planned for the spring of 1946, would have been significantly worse. While projected casualty figures like these led a number of American officials to argue for modification of the unconditional surrender formula, Secretary of State James M. Byrnes told Truman that he would be "crucified" if he retreated from this formula—one that received a standing ovation when Truman repeated it to Congress in his first address as president. Truman agreed—wisely. His efforts to wage limited war in Korea cost him re-election in 1952. Similarly, Lyndon Johnson’s inability to fight unlimited war for unconditional surrender in Vietnam cost him the presidency in 1968; Jimmy Carter’s inability to resolve the Iranian hostage crisis with a clear-cut victory destroyed any hope he had of winning the 1980 election; and George Bush’s refusal to insist on an unconditional surrender in Iraq may have contributed to his defeat in the 1992 presidential election. For American presidents, MacArthur is right: there is no substitute for victory.
In Victory, Magnanimity
Once the enemy has made an unconditional surrender, the honor code demands that he be treated magnanimously. Grant fed Lee’s men from his army supplies, while Sherman’s initial agreement with General Johnston was so generous that it was overruled in Washington. American occupation troops in both Germany and Japan very quickly lost their rancor against the defeated foes. Not always disinterestedly, GIs in Europe were passing out chocolate bars, cigarettes and nylon stockings before the guns fell silent. The bitter racial antagonism that colored the Pacific War rapidly faded after it. Neither in Japan nor in Germany did American occupiers behave like the Soviet occupation forces in eastern Germany, where looting, rape and murder were still widespread months after the surrender.
In both Germany and Japan, the United States had originally envisioned a harsh occupation strategy with masses of war crimes trials and strict economic controls—somewhat akin to the original Radical Republican program in the post-Civil War South. But in all three cases, the victorious Americans quickly lost the appetite for vengeance against all but the most egregious offenders against the code. Whatever was said in the heat of battle, even the most Radical Reconstructionists envisioned the South’s ultimate return to its old political status and rights. In the same way, soon after the shooting stopped in World War II, American public opinion simply assumed that the ultimate goal was for Germany and Japan to resume their places in the community of nations.
Not everybody qualifies for such lenient treatment under the code. In particular, repeat offenders will suffer increasingly severe penalties. Although many Americans were revolted by the harsh and greedy peace forced on Mexico (Grant felt that the Civil War was in part God’s punishment for American crimes against Mexico), Santa Anna’s long record of perfidy and cruelty built popular support both for the Mexican War and the peace. The pattern of frontier warfare, in which factions in a particular tribe might renew hostilities in violation of an agreement, helped solidify the Jacksonian belief that there was no point in making or keeping treaties with "savages."
In the international conflicts of the twentieth century, it is noteworthy that there have been no major populist backlashes calling for harsher treatment of defeated enemies. But when foreign enemies lack the good taste to surrender, Jacksonian opinion carries grudges that last for decades. Some of the roots of anti-China feeling in the United States today date back to mistreatment of American prisoners during the Korean War. U.S. food and energy aid to North Korea, indeed any engagement at all with that defiant regime, remains profoundly unpopular for the same reason. The mullahs of Iran, the assassins of Libya and Fidel Castro have never been forgiven by Jacksonian opinion for their crimes against and defiance of the United States. Neither will they be, until they acknowledge their sins.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Jacksonian Warfare: Part Three
on: January 16, 2007, 01:11:26 AM
Instinct, Not Ideology
Those who like to cast American foreign policy as an unhealthy mix of ignorance, isolationism and trigger-happy cowboy diplomacy are often thinking about the Jacksonian populist tradition. That tradition is stronger among the mass of ordinary people than it is among the elite. It is more strongly entrenched in the heartland than on either of the two coasts. It has been historically associated with white Protestant males of the lower and middle classes—today the least fashionable element in the American political mix.
Although there are many learned and thoughtful Jacksonians, including those who have made distinguished careers in public service, it is certainly true that the Jacksonian philosophy is embraced by many people who know very little about the wider world. With them it is an instinct rather than an ideology—a culturally shaped set of beliefs and emotions rather than a set of ideas. But ideas and policy proposals that resonate with Jacksonian core values and instincts enjoy wide support and can usually find influential supporters in the policy process.
So influential is Jacksonian opinion in the formation of American foreign policy that anyone lacking a feel for it will find much of American foreign policy baffling and opaque. Foreigners in particular have alternately overestimated and underestimated American determination because they failed to grasp the structure of Jacksonian opinion and influence. Yet Jacksonian views on foreign affairs are relatively straightforward, and once they are understood, American foreign policy becomes much less mysterious.
To begin with, although the other schools often congratulate themselves on their superior sophistication and appreciation for complexity, Jacksonianism provides the basis in American life for what many scholars and practitioners would consider the most sophisticated of all approaches to foreign affairs: realism. In this it stands with Jeffersonianism, while being deeply suspicious of the "global meliorist" elements found, in different forms, in both Wilsonian and Hamiltonian foreign policy ideas. Often, Jeffersonians and Jacksonians will stand together in opposition to humanitarian interventions, or interventions made in support of Wilsonian or Hamiltonian world order initiatives. However, while Jeffersonians espouse a minimalist realism under which the United States seeks to define its interests as narrowly as possible and to defend those interests with an absolute minimum of force, Jacksonians approach foreign policy in a very different spirit—one in which honor, concern for reputation, and faith in military institutions play a much greater role.
Jacksonian realism is based on the very sharp distinction in popular feeling between the inside of the folk community and the dark world without. Jacksonian patriotism is not a doctrine but an emotion, like love of one’s family. The nation is an extension of the family. Members of the American folk are bound together by history, culture and a common morality. At a very basic level, a feeling of kinship exists among Americans: we have one set of rules for dealing with each other and a very different set for the outside world. Unlike Wilsonians, who hope ultimately to convert the Hobbesian world of international relations into a Lockean political community, Jacksonians believe that it is natural and inevitable that national politics and national life will work on different principles from international affairs. For Jacksonians, the world community Wilsonians want to build is not merely a moral impossibility but a monstrosity. An American foreign policy that, for example, takes tax money from middle-class Americans to give to a corrupt and incompetent dictatorship overseas is nonsense; it hurts Americans and does little for Borrioboola-Gha. Countries, like families, should take care of their own; if everybody did that we would all be better off. Charity, meanwhile, should be left to private initiatives and private funds; Jacksonian America is not ungenerous but it lacks all confidence in the government’s ability to administer charity, either at home or abroad.
Given the moral gap between the folk community and the rest of the world—and given that other countries are believed to have patriotic and communal feelings of their own, feelings that similarly harden once the boundary of the folk community is reached—Jacksonians believe that international life is and will remain both anarchic and violent. The United States must be vigilant and strongly armed. Our diplomacy must be cunning, forceful and no more scrupulous than anybody else’s. At times, we must fight pre-emptive wars. There is absolutely nothing wrong with subverting foreign governments or assassinating foreign leaders whose bad intentions are clear. Thus, Jacksonians are more likely to tax political leaders with a failure to employ vigorous measures than to worry about the niceties of international law.
Indeed, of all the major currents in American society, Jacksonians have the least regard for international law and international institutions. They prefer the rule of custom to the written law, and that is as true in the international sphere as it is in personal relations at home. Jacksonians believe that there is an honor code in international life—as there was in clan warfare in the borderlands of England—and those who live by the code will be treated under it. But those who violate the code—who commit terrorist acts in peacetime, for example—forfeit its protection and deserve no consideration.
Many students of American foreign policy, both here and abroad, dismiss Jacksonians as ignorant isolationists and vulgar patriots, but, again, the reality is more complex, and their approach to the world and to war is more closely grounded in classical realism than many recognize. Jacksonians do not believe that the United States must have an unambiguously moral reason for fighting. In fact, they tend to separate the issues of morality and war more clearly than many members of the foreign policy establishment.
The Gulf War was a popular war in Jacksonian circles because the defense of the nation’s oil supply struck a chord with Jacksonian opinion. That opinion—which has not forgotten the oil shortages and price hikes of the 1970s—clearly considers stability of the oil supply a vital national interest and is prepared to fight to defend it. The atrocity propaganda about alleged Iraqi barbarisms in Kuwait did not inspire Jacksonians to war, and neither did legalistic arguments about U.S. obligations under the UN Charter to defend a member state from aggression. Those are useful arguments to screw Wilsonian courage to the sticking place, but they mean little for Jacksonians. Had there been no UN Charter and had Kuwait been even more corrupt and repressive that it is, Jacksonian opinion would still have supported the Gulf War. It would have supported a full-scale war with Iran over the 1980 hostage crisis, and it will take an equally hawkish stance toward any future threat to perceived U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf region.
In the absence of a clearly defined threat to the national interest, Jacksonian opinion is much less aggressive. It has not, for example, been enthusiastic about the U.S. intervention in the case of Bosnia. There the evidence of unspeakable atrocities was much greater than in Kuwait, and the legal case for intervention was as strong. Yet Jacksonian opinion saw no threat to the interests, as it understood them, of the United States, and Wilsonians were the only segment of the population that was actively eager for war.
In World War I it took the Zimmermann Telegram and the repeated sinking of American ships to convince Jacksonian opinion that war was necessary. In World War II, neither the Rape of Nanking nor the atrocities of Nazi rule in Europe drew the United States into the war. The attack on Pearl Harbor did.
To engage Jacksonians in support of the Cold War it was necessary to convince them that Moscow was engaged in a far-reaching and systematic campaign for world domination, and that this campaign would succeed unless the United States engaged in a long-term defensive effort with the help of allies around the world. That involved a certain overstatement of both Soviet intentions and capabilities, but that is beside the present point. Once Jacksonian opinion was convinced that the Soviet threat was real and that the Cold War was necessary, it stayed convinced. Populist American opinion accepted the burdens it imposed and worried only that the government would fail to prosecute the Cold War with the necessary vigor. No one should mistake the importance of this strong and constant support. Despite the frequent complaints by commentators and policymakers that the American people are "isolationist" and "uninterested in foreign affairs", they have made and will make enormous financial and personal sacrifices if convinced that these are in the nation’s vital interests.
This mass popular patriotism, and the martial spirit behind it, gives the United States immense advantages in international affairs. After two world wars, no European nation has shown the same willingness to pay the price in blood and treasure for a global presence. Most of the "developed" nations find it difficult to maintain large, high-quality fighting forces. Not all of the martial patriotism in the United States comes out of the world of Jacksonian populism, but without that tradition, the United States would be hard pressed to maintain the kind of international military presence it now has.
While in many respects Jacksonian Americans have an optimistic outlook, there is a large and important sense in which they are pessimistic. Whatever the theological views of individual Jacksonians may be, Jacksonian culture believes in Original Sin and does not accept the Enlightenment’s belief in the perfectibility of human nature. As a corollary, Jacksonians are pre-millennialist: they do not believe that utopia is just around the corner. In fact, they tend to believe the reverse—the anti-Christ will get here before Jesus does, and human history will end in catastrophe and flames, followed by the Day of Judgment.
This is no idle theological concept. Belief in the approach of the "End Times" and the "Great Tribulation"—concepts rooted in certain interpretations of Jewish and Christian prophetic texts—has been a powerful force in American life from colonial times. Jacksonians believe that neither Wilsonians nor Hamiltonians nor anybody else will ever succeed in building a peaceful world order, and that the only world order we are likely to get will be a bad one. No matter how much money we ship overseas, and no matter how cleverly the development bureaucrats spend it, it will not create peace on earth. Plans for universal disarmament and world courts of justice founder on the same rock of historical skepticism. Jacksonians just tend not to believe that any of these things will do much good.
In fact, they think they may do harm. Linked to the skepticism about man-made imitations of the Kingdom of God is a deep apprehension about the rise of an evil world order. In theological terms, this is a reference to the fear of the anti-Christ, who, many commentators affirm, is predicted in Scripture to come with the appearance of an angel of light—a charismatic political figure who offers what looks like a plan for world peace and order, but which is actually a Satanic snare intended to deceive.
For most of its history, Jacksonian America believed that the Roman Catholic Church was the chief emissary of Satan on earth, a belief that had accompanied the first Americans on their journey from Britain. Fear of Catholicism gradually subsided, but during the Cold War the Kremlin replaced the Vatican as the center for American popular fears about the forces of evil in the world. The international communist conspiracy captured the old stock American popular imagination because it fit cultural templates established in the days of the Long Parliament and the English Civil War. Descendants of immigrants from Eastern Europe had their own cultural dispositions toward conspiracy thinking, plus, in many cases, a deep hatred and fear of Russia.
The fear of a ruthless, formidable enemy abroad who enjoys a powerful fifth column in the United States—including high-ranking officials who serve it either for greed or out of misguided ideological zeal—is older than the Republic. During the Cold War, this "paranoid tradition" in American life stayed mostly focused on the Kremlin—though organizations like the John Birch Society saw ominous links between the Kremlin and the American Establishment. The paranoid streak was, if anything, helpful in sustaining popular support for Cold War strategy. After the Cold War, it is proving more difficult to integrate into effective American policy. To some degree, the chief object of popular concern in post-Cold War America is the Hamiltonian dream of a fully integrated global economy, combined with the Wilsonian dream of global political order that ends the nightmare of warring nation-states. George Bush’s call for a "New World Order" had a distinctly Orwellian connotation to the Jacksonian ear. Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, in his book The New World Order (1991), traces the call for that Order to a Satanic conspiracy consciously implemented by the pillars of the American Establishment.
The fear that the Establishment, linked to its counterpart in Britain and, through Britain, to all the corrupt movements and elites of the Old World, is relentlessly plotting to destroy American liberty is an old but still potent one. The Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderbergers, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers: these names and others echo through a large and shadowy world of conspiracy theories and class resentment. Should seriously bad economic times come, there is always the potential that, with effective leadership, the paranoid element in the Jacksonian world could ride popular anger and panic into power.
Another aspect of Jacksonian foreign policy is the aforementioned deep sense of national honor and a corresponding need to live up to—in actuality and in the eyes of others—the demands of an honor code. The political importance of this code should not be underestimated; Americans are capable of going to war over issues of national honor. The War of 1812 is an example of Jacksonian sentiment forcing a war out of resentment over continual national humiliations at the hand of Britain. (Those who suffered directly from British interference with American shipping, the merchants, were totally against the war.) At the end of the twentieth century, it is national honor, more than any vital strategic interest, that would require the United States to fulfill its promises to protect Taiwan from invasion.
The perception of national honor as a vital interest has always been a wedge issue driving Jacksonians and Jeffersonians apart. The Jeffersonian peace policy in the Napoleonic Wars became impossible as the War Hawks grew stronger. The same pattern recurred in the Carter administration, during which gathering Jacksonian fury and impatience at Carter’s Jeffersonian approaches to the Soviet Union, Panama, Iran and Nicaragua ignited a reaction that forced the President to reverse his basic policy orientation and ended by driving him from office. What Jeffersonian diplomacy welcomes as measures to head off war often look to Jacksonians like pusillanimous weakness.
Once the United States extends a security guarantee or makes a promise, we are required to honor that promise come what may. Jacksonian opinion, which in the nature of things had little faith that South Vietnam could build democracy or that there was anything concrete there of interest to the average American, was steadfast in support of the war—though not of the strategy—because we had given our word to defend South Vietnam. During this year’s war in Kosovo, Jacksonian opinion was resolutely against it to begin with. However, once U.S. honor was engaged, Jacksonians began to urge a stronger warfighting strategy including the use of ground troops. It is a bad thing to fight an unnecessary war, but it is inexcusable and dishonorable to lose one once it has begun.
Reputation is as important in international life as it is to the individual honor of Jacksonians. Honor in the Jacksonian imagination is not simply what one feels oneself to be on the inside; it is also a question of the respect and dignity one commands in the world at large. Jacksonian opinion is sympathetic to the idea that our reputation—whether for fair dealing or cheating, toughness or weakness—will shape the way that others treat us. Therefore, at stake in a given crisis is not simply whether we satisfy our own ideas of what is due our honor. Our behavior and the resolution that we obtain must enhance our reputation—our prestige—in the world at large.
Jacksonian America has clear ideas about how wars should be fought, how enemies should be treated, and what should happen when the wars are over. It recognizes two kinds of enemies and two kinds of fighting: honorable enemies fight a clean fight and are entitled to be opposed in the same way; dishonorable enemies fight dirty wars and in that case all rules are off.
An honorable enemy is one who declares war before beginning combat; fights according to recognized rules of war, honoring such traditions as the flag of truce; treats civilians in occupied territory with due consideration; and—a crucial point—refrains from the mistreatment of prisoners of war. Those who surrender should be treated with generosity. Adversaries who honor the code will benefit from its protections, while those who want a dirty fight will get one.
This pattern was very clearly illustrated in the Civil War. The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia faced one another throughout the war, and fought some of the bloodiest battles of the nineteenth century, including long bouts of trench warfare. Yet Robert E. Lee and his men were permitted an honorable surrender and returned unmolested to their homes with their horses and personal side arms. One Confederate, however, was executed after the war: Captain Henry Wirz, who was convicted of mistreating Union prisoners of war at Camp Sumter, Georgia.
Although American Indians often won respect for their extraordinary personal courage, Jacksonian opinion generally considered Indians to be dishonorable opponents. American-Indian warrior codes (also honor based) permitted surprise attacks on civilians and the torture of prisoners of war. This was all part of a complex system of limited warfare among the tribal nations, but Jacksonian frontier dwellers were not students of multicultural diversity. In their view, Indian war tactics were the sign of a dishonorable, unscrupulous and cowardly form of war. Anger at such tactics led Jacksonians to abandon the restraints imposed by their own war codes, and the ugly skirmishes along the frontier spiraled into a series of genocidal conflicts in which each side felt the other was violating every standard of humane conduct.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Jacksonian Warfare: Part Two
on: January 16, 2007, 01:09:02 AM
As Hiram W. Evans, the surprisingly articulate Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, wrote in 1926, the old stock American of his time had become
a stranger in large parts of the land his fathers gave him. Moreover, he is a most unwelcome stranger, one much spit upon, and one to whom even the right to have his own opinions and to work for his own interests is now denied with jeers and revilings. ‘We must Americanize the Americans,’ a distinguished immigrant said recently.
Protestantism itself was losing its edge. The modernist critique of traditional Biblical readings found acceptance in one mainline denomination after another; Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran seminaries accepted critical, post-Darwinian readings of Scripture; self-described "fundamentalists" fought a slow, but apparently losing, rearguard action against the modernist forces. The new mainline Protestantism was a tolerant, even a namby-pamby, religion.
The old nativist spirit, anti-immigrant, anti-modern art and apparently anti-twentieth century, still had some bite—Ku Klux crosses flamed across the Midwest as well as the South during the 1920s—but it all looked like the death throes of an outdated idea. There weren’t many mourners: much of H.L. Mencken’s career was based on exposing the limitations and mocking the death of what we are calling Jacksonian America.
Most progressive, right thinking intellectuals in mid-century America believed that the future of American populism lay in a social democratic movement based on urban immigrants. Social activists like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger consciously sought to use cultural forms like folk songs to ease the transition from the old individualistic folk world to the collective new one that they believed was the wave of the future; they celebrated unions and other strange, European ideas in down home country twangs so that, in the bitter words of Hiram Evans, "There is a steady flood of alien ideas being spread over the country, always carefully disguised as American."
What came next surprised almost everyone. The tables turned, and Evans’ Americans "americanized" the immigrants rather than the other way around. In what is still a largely unheralded triumph of the melting pot, Northern immigrants gradually assimilated the values of Jacksonian individualism. Each generation of new Americans was less "social" and more individualistic than the preceding one. American Catholics, once among the world’s most orthodox, remained Catholic in religious allegiance but were increasingly individualistic in terms of psychology and behavior ("I respect the Pope, but I have to follow my own conscience"). Ties to the countries of emigration steadily weakened, and the tendency to marry outside the group strengthened.
Outwardly, most immigrant groups completed an apparent assimilation to American material culture within a couple of generations of their arrival. A second type of assimilation—an inward assimilation to and adaptation of the core cultural and psychological structure of the native population—took longer, but as third, fourth and fifth-generation immigrant families were exposed to the economic and social realities of American life, they were increasingly "americanized" on the inside as well as without.
This immense and complex process was accelerated by social changes that took place after 1945. Physically, the old neighborhoods broke up, and the Northern industrial working class, along with the refugees from the dying American family farm, moved into the suburbs to form a new populist mix. As increasing numbers of the descendants of immigrants moved into the Jacksonian Sunbelt, the pace of assimilation grew. The suburban homeowner with his or her federally subsidized mortgage replaced the homesteading farmer (on free federal land) as the central pillar of American populism. Richard Nixon, with his two-pronged appeal to white Southerners and the "Joe Six-pack" voters of the North, was the first national politician to recognize the power of this newly energized current in American life.
Urban, immigrant America may have softened some of the rough edges of Jacksonian America, but the descendants of the great wave of European immigration sound more like Andrew Jackson from decade to decade. Rugged frontier individualism has proven to be contagious; each successive generation has been more Jacksonian than its predecessor. The social and economic solidarity rooted in European peasant communities has been overmastered by the individualism of the frontier. The descendants of European working-class Marxists now quote Adam Smith; Joe Six-pack thinks of the welfare state as an expensive burden, not part of the natural moral order. Intellectuals have made this transition as thoroughly as anyone else. The children and grandchildren of trade unionists and Trotskyites now talk about the importance of liberal society and free markets; in the intellectual pilgrimage of Irving Kristol, what is usually a multigenerational process has been compressed into a single, brilliant career.
The new Jacksonianism is no longer rural and exclusively nativist. Frontier Jacksonianism may have taken the homesteading farmer and the log cabin as its emblems, but today’s Crabgrass Jacksonianism sees the homeowner on his modest suburban lawn as the hero of the American story. The Crabgrass Jacksonian may wear green on St. Patrick’s Day; he or she might go to a Catholic Church and never listen to country music (though, increasingly, he or she probably does); but the Crabgrass Jacksonian doesn’t just believe, she knows that she is as good an American as anybody else, that she is entitled to her rights from Church and State, that she pulls her own weight and expects others to do the same. That homeowner will be heard from: Ronald Reagan owed much of his popularity and success to his ability to connect with Jacksonian values. Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan in different ways have managed to tap into the power of the populist energy that Old Hickory rode into the White House. In both domestic and foreign policy, the twenty-first century will be profoundly influenced by the values and concerns of Jacksonian America.
The Jacksonian Code
To understand how Crabgrass Jacksonianism is shaping and will continue to shape American foreign policy, we must begin with another unfashionable concept: Honor. Although few Americans today use this anachronistic word, honor remains a core value for tens of millions of middle-class Americans, women as well as men. The unacknowledged code of honor that shapes so much of American behavior and aspiration today is a recognizable descendent of the frontier codes of honor of early Jacksonian America. The appeal of this code is one of the reasons that Jacksonian values have spread to so many people outside the original ethnic and social nexus in which Jacksonian America was formed.
The first principle of this code is self-reliance. Real Americans, many Americans feel, are people who make their own way in the world. They may get a helping hand from friends and family, but they hold their places in the world through honest work. They don’t slide by on welfare, and they don’t rely on inherited wealth or connections. Those who won’t work and are therefore poor, or those who don’t need to work due to family money, are viewed with suspicion. Those who meet the economic and moral tests belong to the broad Middle Class, the folk community of working people that Jacksonians believe to be the heart, soul and spine of the American nation. Earning and keeping a place in this community on the basis of honest work is the first principle of Jacksonian honor, and it remains a serious insult even to imply that a member of the American middle class is not pulling his or her weight in the world.
Jacksonian honor must be acknowledged by the outside world. One is entitled to, and demands, the appropriate respect: recognition of rights and just claims, acknowledgment of one’s personal dignity. Many Americans will still fight, sometimes with weapons, when they feel they have not been treated with the proper respect. But even among the less violent, Americans stand on their dignity and rights. Respect is also due age. Those who know Jacksonian America only through its very inexact representations in the media think of the United States as a youth-obsessed, age-neglecting society. In fact, Jacksonian America honors age. Andrew Jackson was sixty-one when he was elected president for the first time; Ronald Reagan was seventy. Most movie stars lose their appeal with age; those whose appeal stems from their ability to portray and embody Jacksonian values—like John Wayne—only become more revered.
The second principle of the code is equality. Among those members of the folk community who do pull their weight, there is an absolute equality of dignity and right. No one has a right to tell the self-reliant Jacksonian what to say, do or think. Any infringement on equality will be met with defiance and resistance. Male or female, the Jacksonian is, and insists on remaining, independent of church, state, social hierarchy, political parties and labor unions. Jacksonians may choose to accept the authority of a leader or movement or faith, but will never yield to an imposed authority. The young are independent of the old: "free, white and twenty-one" is an old Jacksonian expression; the color line has softened, but otherwise the sentiment is as true as it ever was.
Mrs. Fanny Trollope (mother of novelist Anthony Trollope) had the misfortune to leave her native Britain to spend two years in the United States. Next to her revulsion at the twin American habits of chewing tobacco in public places and missing spittoons with the finished product, she most despised the passion for equality she found everywhere she looked. "The theory of equality", Mrs. Trollope observed,
may be very daintily discussed by English gentlemen in a London dining-room, when the servant, having placed a fresh bottle of cool wine on the table, respectfully shuts the door, and leaves them to their walnuts and their wisdom; but it will be found less palatable when it presents itself in the shape of a hard, greasy paw, and is claimed in accents that breathe less of freedom than of onions and whiskey. Strong, indeed, must be the love of equality in an English breast if it can survive a tour through the Union.
The third principle is individualism. The Jacksonian does not just have the right to self-fulfillment—he or she has a duty to seek it. In Jacksonian America, everyone must find his or her way: each individual must choose a faith, or no faith, and code of conduct based on conscience and reason. The Jacksonian feels perfectly free to strike off in an entirely new religious direction. "I sincerely believe", wrote poor Mrs. Trollope, "that if a fire-worshiper, or an Indian Brahmin, were to come to the United States, prepared to preach and pray in English, he would not be long without a ‘very respectable congregation.’" She didn’t know the half of it.
Despite this individualism, the Jacksonian code also mandates acceptance of certain social mores and principles. Loyalty to family, raising children "right", sexual decency (heterosexual monogamy—which can be serial) and honesty within the community are virtues that commend themselves to the Jacksonian spirit. Children of both sexes can be wild, but both women and men must be strong. Corporal punishment is customary and common; Jacksonians find objections to this time-honored and (they feel) effective method of discipline outlandish and absurd. Although women should be more discreet, both sexes can sow wild oats before marriage. After it, to enjoy the esteem of their community a couple must be seen to put their children’s welfare ahead of personal gratification.
The fourth pillar in the Jacksonian honor code struck Mrs. Trollope and others as more dishonorable than honorable, yet it persists nevertheless. Let us call it financial esprit. While the Jacksonian believes in hard work, he or she also believes that credit is a right and that money, especially borrowed money, is less a sacred trust than a means for self-discovery and expression. Although previous generations lacked the faculties for consumer credit that Americans enjoy at the end of the twentieth century, many Americans have always assumed that they have a right to spend money on their appearance, on purchases that affirm their status. The strict Jacksonian code of honor does not enjoin what others see as financial probity. What it demands, rather, is a daring and entrepreneurial spirit. Credit is seen less as an obligation than as an opportunity. Jacksonians have always supported loose monetary policy and looser bankruptcy laws.
Finally, courage is the crowning and indispensable part of the code. Jacksonians must be ready to defend their honor in great things and small. Americans ought to stick up for what they believe. In the nineteenth century, Jacksonian Americans fought duels long after aristocrats in Europe had given them up, and Americans today remain far more likely than Europeans to settle personal quarrels with extreme and even deadly violence.
Jacksonian America’s love affair with weapons is, of course, the despair of the rest of the country. Jacksonian culture values firearms, and the freedom to own and use them. The right to bear arms is a mark of civic and social equality, and knowing how to care for firearms is an important part of life. Jacksonians are armed for defense: of the home and person against robbers; against usurpations of the federal government; and of the United States against its enemies. In one war after another, Jacksonians have flocked to the colors. Independent and difficult to discipline, they have nevertheless demonstrated magnificent fighting qualities in every corner of the world. Jacksonian America views military service as a sacred duty. When Hamiltonians, Wilsonians and Jeffersonians dodged the draft in Vietnam or purchased exemptions and substitutes in earlier wars, Jacksonians soldiered on, if sometimes bitterly and resentfully. An honorable person is ready to kill or to die for family and flag.
Jacksonian society draws an important distinction between those who belong to the folk community and those who do not. Within that community, among those bound by the code and capable of discharging their responsibilities under it, Jacksonians are united in a social compact. Outside that compact is chaos and darkness. The criminal who commits what, in the Jacksonian code, constitute unforgivable sins (cold-blooded murder, rape, the murder or sexual abuse of a child, murder or attempted murder of a peace officer) can justly be killed by the victims’ families, colleagues or by society at large—with or without the formalities of law. In many parts of the United States, juries will not convict police on almost any charge, nor will they condemn revenge killers in particularly outrageous cases. The right of the citizen to defend family and property with deadly force is a sacred one as well, a legacy from colonial and frontier times.
The absolute and even brutal distinction drawn between the members of the community and outsiders has had massive implications in American life. Throughout most of American history the Jacksonian community was one from which many Americans were automatically and absolutely excluded: Indians, Mexicans, Asians, African Americans, obvious sexual deviants and recent immigrants of non-Protestant heritage have all felt the sting. Historically, the law has been helpless to protect such people against economic oppression, social discrimination and mob violence, including widespread lynchings. Legislators would not enact laws, and if they did, sheriffs would not arrest, prosecutors would not try, juries would not convict.
This tells us something very important: throughout most of American history and to a large extent even today, equal rights emerge from and depend on this popular culture of equality and honor rather than flow out of abstract principles or written documents. The many social and legal disabilities still suffered in practice by unpopular minorities demonstrate that the courts and the statute books still enjoy only a limited ability to protect equal rights in the teeth of popular feeling and culture.
Even so, Jacksonian values play a major role in African-American culture. If anything, that role has increased with the expanded presence of African Americans in all military ranks. The often blighted social landscape of the inner city has in some cases re-created the atmosphere and practices of American frontier life. In many ways the gang culture of some inner cities resembles the social atmosphere of the Jacksonian South, as well as the hard drinking, womanizing, violent male culture of the Mississippi in the days of Davy Crockett and Mark Twain. Bragging about one’s physical and sexual prowess, the willingness to avenge disrespect with deadly force, a touchy insistence that one is as good as anybody else: once over his shock at the urban landscape and the racial issue, Billy the Kid would find himself surprisingly at home in such an environment.
The degree to which African-American society resembles Jacksonian culture remains one of the crucial and largely overlooked elements in American life. Despite historical experiences that would have completely alienated many ethnic minorities around the world, American black popular culture remains profoundly—and, in times of danger, fiercely—patriotic. From the Revolution onward, African Americans have sought more to participate in America’s wars than to abstain from them, and the strength of personal and military honor codes in African-American culture today remains a critical factor in assuring the continued strength of American military forces into the twenty-first century.
The underlying cultural unity between African Americans and Anglo-Jacksonian America shaped the course and ensured the success of the modern civil rights movement. Martin Luther King and his followers exhibited exemplary personal courage, their rhetoric was deeply rooted in Protestant Christianity, and the rights they asked for were precisely those that Jacksonian America values most for itself. Further, they scrupulously avoided the violent tactics that would have triggered an unstoppable Jacksonian response.
Although cultures change slowly and many individuals lag behind, the bulk of American Jacksonian opinion has increasingly moved to recognize the right of code-honoring members of minority groups to receive the rights and protections due to members of the folk community. This new and, one hopes, growing feeling of respect and tolerance emphatically does not extend to those, minorities or not, who are not seen as code-honoring Americans. Those who violate or reject the code—criminals, irresponsible parents, drug addicts—have not benefited from the softening of the Jacksonian color line.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jacksonian Warfare
on: January 16, 2007, 01:05:32 AM
I suppose this piece could readily be placed in an already existing thread, but I think it worth both the prestige of its own thread and the time it takes to read it.
PS: Note that it was written before 911
The Jacksonian Tradition
by Walter Russell Mead
In the last five months of World War II, American bombing raids claimed the lives of more than 900,000 Japanese civilians—not counting the casualties from the atomic strikes against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is more than twice the total number of combat deaths that the United States has suffered in all its foreign wars combined.
On one night, that of March 9-10, 1945, 234 Superfortresses dropped 1,167 tons of incendiary bombs over downtown Tokyo; 83,793 Japanese bodies were found in the charred remains—a number greater than the 80,942 combat fatalities that the United States sustained in the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined.
Since the Second World War, the United States has continued to employ devastating force against both civilian and military targets. Out of a pre-war population of 9.49 million, an estimated 1 million North Korean civilians are believed to have died as a result of U.S. actions during the 1950-53 conflict. During the same war, 33,870 American soldiers died in combat, meaning that U.S. forces killed approximately thirty North Korean civilians for every American soldier who died in action. The United States dropped almost three times as much explosive tonnage in the Vietnam War as was used in the Second World War, and something on the order of 365,000 Vietnamese civilians are believed to have been killed during the period of American involvement.
Regardless of Clausewitz’s admonition that "casualty reports . . . are never accurate, seldom truthful, and in most cases deliberately falsified", these numbers are too striking to ignore. They do not, of course, suggest a moral parallel between the behavior of, say, German and Japanese aggressors and American forces seeking to defeat those aggressors in the shortest possible time. German and Japanese forces used the indiscriminate murder of civilians as a routine police tool in occupied territory, and wholesale massacres of civilians often accompanied German and Japanese advances into new territory. The behavior of the German Einsatzgruppen and of the Japanese army during the Rape of Nanking has no significant parallel on the American side.
In the Cold War, too, the evils the Americans fought were far worse than those they inflicted. Tens of millions more innocent civilians in communist nations were murdered by their own governments in peacetime than ever died as the result of American attempts to halt communism’s spread. War, even brutal war, was more merciful than communist rule.
Nevertheless, the American war record should make us think. An observer who thinks of American foreign policy only in terms of the commercial realism of the Hamiltonians, the crusading moralism of Wilsonian transcendentalists, and the supple pacifism of the principled but slippery Jeffersonians would be at a loss to account for American ruthlessness at war.
Those who prefer to believe that the present global hegemony of the United States emerged through a process of immaculate conception avert their eyes from many distressing moments in the American ascension. Yet students of American power cannot ignore one of the chief elements in American success. The United States over its history has consistently summoned the will and the means to compel its enemies to yield to its demands.
Through the long sweep of American history, there have been many occasions when public opinion, or at least an important part of it, got ahead of politicians in demanding war. Many of the Indian wars were caused less by Indian aggression than by movements of frontier populations willing to provoke and fight wars with Indian tribes that were nominally under Washington’s protection—and contrary both to the policy and the wishes of the national government. The War of 1812 came about largely because of a popular movement in the South and Midwest. Abraham Lincoln barely succeeded in preventing a war with Britain over the Trent Affair during the Civil War; public opinion made it difficult for him to find an acceptable, face-saving solution to the problem. More recently, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were all haunted by fears that a pullout from the Vietnam War would trigger a popular backlash.
Once wars begin, a significant element of American public opinion supports waging them at the highest possible level of intensity. The devastating tactics of the wars against the Indians, General Sherman’s campaign of 1864-65, and the unprecedented aerial bombardments of World War II were all broadly popular in the United States. During both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, presidents came under intense pressure, not only from military leaders but also from public opinion, to hit the enemy with all available force in all available places. Throughout the Cold War the path of least resistance in American politics was generally the more hawkish stance. Politicians who advocated negotiated compromises with the Soviet enemy were labeled appeasers and paid a heavy political price. The Korean and Vietnam Wars lost public support in part because of political decisions not to risk the consequences of all-out war, not necessarily stopping short of the use of nuclear weapons. The most costly decision George Bush took in the Gulf War was not to send ground forces into Iraq, but to stop short of the occupation of Baghdad and the capture and trial of Saddam Hussein.
It is often remarked that the American people are more religious than their allies in Western Europe. But it is equally true that they are more military-minded. Currently, the American people support without complaint what is easily the highest military budget in the world. In 1998 the United States spent as much on defense as its NATO allies, South Korea, Japan, the Persian Gulf states, Russia and China combined. In response to widespread public concern about a decline in military preparedness, the Clinton administration and the Republican Congress are planning substantial increases in military spending in the years to come.
Americans do not merely pay for these forces, they use them. Since the end of the Vietnam War, taken by some as opening a new era of reluctance in the exercise of American power, the United States has deployed combat forces in, or used deadly force over, Cambodia, Iran, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Sudan, Afghanistan, the South China Sea, Liberia, Macedonia, Albania and Yugoslavia. This is a record that no other country comes close to matching.
It is also generally conceded that, with the exception of a handful of elite units in such forces as the British Army, American troops have a stronger "warrior culture" than do the armies of other wealthy countries. Indeed, of all the nato countries other than Turkey and Greece, only Great Britain today has anything like the American "war lobby" that becomes active in times of national crisis—a political force that under certain circumstances demands war, supports the decisive use of force, and urges political leaders to stop wasting time with negotiations, sanctions and Security Council meetings in order to attack the enemy with all possible strength.
Why is it that U.S. public opinion is often so quick—though sometimes so slow—to support armed intervention abroad? What are the provocations that energize public opinion (at least some of it) for war—and how, if at all, is this "war lobby" related to the other elements of that opinion? The key to this warlike disposition, and to other important features of American foreign policy, is to be found in what I shall call its Jacksonian tradition, in honor of the sixth president of the United States.
The School of Andrew Jackson
It is a tribute to the general historical amnesia about American politics between the War of 1812 and the Civil War that Andrew Jackson is not more widely counted among the greatest of American presidents. Victor in the Battle of New Orleans—perhaps the most decisive battle in the shaping of the modern world between Trafalgar and Stalingrad—Andrew Jackson laid the foundation of American politics for most of the nineteenth century, and his influence is still felt today. With the ever ready help of the brilliant Martin Van Buren, he took American politics from the era of silk stockings into the smoke-filled room. Every political party since his presidency has drawn on the symbolism, the institutions and the instruments of power that Jackson pioneered.
More than that, he brought the American people into the political arena. Restricted state franchises with high property qualifications meant that in 1820 many American states had higher property qualifications for voters than did boroughs for the British House of Commons. With Jackson’s presidency, universal male suffrage became the basis of American politics and political values.
His political movement—or, more accurately, the community of political feeling that he wielded into an instrument of power—remains in many ways the most important in American politics. Solidly Democratic through the Truman administration (a tradition commemorated in the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners that are still the high points on Democratic Party calendars in many cities and states), Jacksonian America shifted toward the Republican Party under Richard Nixon—the most important political change in American life since the Second World War. The future of Jacksonian political allegiance will be one of the keys to the politics of the twenty-first century.
Suspicious of untrammeled federal power (Waco), skeptical about the prospects for domestic and foreign do-gooding (welfare at home, foreign aid abroad), opposed to federal taxes but obstinately fond of federal programs seen as primarily helping the middle class (Social Security and Medicare, mortgage interest subsidies), Jacksonians constitute a large political interest.
In some ways Jacksonians resemble the Jeffersonians, with whom their political fortunes were linked for so many decades. Like Jeffersonians, Jacksonians are profoundly suspicious of elites. They generally prefer a loose federal structure with as much power as possible retained by states and local governments. But the differences between the two movements run very deep—so deep that during the Cold War they were on dead opposite sides of most important foreign policy questions. To use the language of the Vietnam era, a time when Jeffersonians and Jacksonians were fighting in the streets over foreign policy, the former were the most dovish current in mainstream political thought during the Cold War, while the latter were the most consistently hawkish.
One way to grasp the difference between the two schools is to see that both Jeffersonians and Jacksonians are civil libertarians, passionately attached to the Constitution and especially to the Bill of Rights, and deeply concerned to preserve the liberties of ordinary Americans. But while the Jeffersonians are most profoundly devoted to the First Amendment, protecting the freedom of speech and prohibiting a federal establishment of religion, Jacksonians see the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, as the citadel of liberty. Jeffersonians join the American Civil Liberties Union; Jacksonians join the National Rifle Association. In so doing, both are convinced that they are standing at the barricades of freedom.
For foreigners and for some Americans, the Jacksonian tradition is the least impressive in American politics. It is the most deplored abroad, the most denounced at home. Jacksonian chairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are the despair of high-minded people everywhere, as they hold up adhesion to the Kyoto Protocol, starve the UN and the IMF, cut foreign aid, and ban the use of U.S. funds for population control programs abroad. When spokesmen for other schools of thought speak about the "problems" of American foreign policy, the persistence and power of the Jacksonian school are high on their list. While some of this fashionable despair may be overdone, and is perhaps a reflection of different class interests and values, it is true that Jacksonians often figure as the most obstructionist of the schools, as the least likely to support Wilsonian initiatives for a better world, to understand Jeffersonian calls for patient diplomacy in difficult situations, or to accept Hamiltonian trade strategies. Yet without Jacksonians, the United States would be a much weaker power.
A principal explanation of why Jacksonian politics are so poorly understood is that Jacksonianism is less an intellectual or political movement than an expression of the social, cultural and religious values of a large portion of the American public. And it is doubly obscure because it happens to be rooted in one of the portions of the public least represented in the media and the professoriat. Jacksonian America is a folk community with a strong sense of common values and common destiny; though periodically led by intellectually brilliant men—like Andrew Jackson himself—it is neither an ideology nor a self-conscious movement with a clear historical direction or political table of organization. Nevertheless, Jacksonian America has produced—and looks set to continue to produce—one political leader and movement after another, and it is likely to continue to enjoy major influence over both foreign and domestic policy in the United States for the foreseeable future.
The Evolution of a Community
It is not fashionable today to think of the American nation as a folk community bound together by deep cultural and ethnic ties. Believers in a multicultural America attack this idea from one direction, but conservatives too have a tendency to talk about the United States as a nation based on ideology rather than ethnicity. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, among others, has said that the United States is unlike other nations because it is based on an idea rather than on a community of national experience. The continuing and growing vitality of the Jacksonian tradition is, for better or worse, living proof that she is at least partly wrong.
If Jeffersonianism is the book-ideology of the United States, Jacksonian populism is its folk-ideology. Historically, American populism has been based less on the ideas of the Enlightenment than on the community values and sense of identity among the British colonizers who first settled this country. In particular, as David Hackett Fischer has shown, Jacksonian populism can be originally identified with a subgroup among these settlers, the so-called "Scots-Irish", who settled the back country regions of the Carolinas and Virginia, and who went on to settle much of the Old West—West Virginia, Kentucky, parts of Indiana and Illinois—and the southern and south central states of Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. Jacksonian populism today has moved beyond its original ethnic and geographical limits. Like country music, another product of Jacksonian culture, Jacksonian politics and folk feeling has become a basic element in American consciousness that can be found from one end of the country to the other.
The Scots-Irish were a hardy and warlike people, with a culture and outlook formed by centuries of bitter warfare before they came to the United States. Fischer shows how, trapped on the frontiers between England and Scotland, or planted as Protestant colonies in the hostile soil of Ireland, this culture was shaped through centuries of constant, bloody war. The Revolutionary struggle and generations of savage frontier conflict in the United States reproduced these conditions in the New World; the Civil War—fought with particular ferocity in the border states—renewed the cultural heritage of war.
The role of what we are calling Jacksonian America in nineteenth-century America is clear, but many twentieth-century observers made what once seemed the reasonable assumption that Jacksonian values and politics were dying out. These observers were both surprised and discomfited when Ronald Reagan’s political success showed that Jacksonian America had done more than survive; it was, and is, thriving.
What has happened is that Jacksonian culture, values and self-identification have spread beyond their original ethnic limits. In the 1920s and 1930s the highland, border tradition in American life was widely thought to be dying out, ethnically, culturally and politically. Part of this was the economic and demographic collapse of the traditional home of Jacksonian America: the family farm. At the same time, mass immigration from southern and Eastern Europe tilted the ethnic balance of the American population ever farther from its colonial mix. New England Yankees were a vanishing species, limited to the hills of New Hampshire and Vermont, while the cities and plains of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island filled with Irishmen, Italians, Portuguese and Greeks. The great cities of the United States were increasingly filled with Catholics, members of the Orthodox churches and Jews—all professing in one way or another communitarian social values very much at odds with the individualism of traditional Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Celtic culture.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Savate
on: January 16, 2007, 12:59:13 AM
Just a quick yip here to say that as time goes by I appreciate Savate more and more. It is one of the systems upon which we draw for our kicking (Krabi Krabong and Panajakman/Sikaran being the two other main influences, with smatterings of Jun Fan Gung Fu).
Things I like about Savate:
1) the kicks are designed to take advantage of shoes.
2) properly done, the kicks are incredibly speeding, non-telegraphic and can change target mid-delivery-- lots of PIA
3) the kicks do not require a commitment of body mass the way Muay Thai does
4) the kicking concept includes a high level of understanding concerning where to put the foot down.
Although I am a certified "white glove" (roughly "advanced intermediate") my Savate comes principally from Paul Vunak, who got his from Daniel Duby. My sense of things is that Paul had some distinctive approaches to his Savate--whether these were his development or from Duby I cannot say.
Regardless, this way of doing things interfaces very well with the other structures upon which we draw in our Kali Tudo.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: January 16, 2007, 12:28:57 AM
Dublin imam takes on the fanatics
A Muslim cleric is taking a stand against those who preach Islamic extremism in Ireland and think that the cult of the suicide bomber is noble
Sunday January 14, 2007
Beneath a basketball net in a freezing sports hall, a Muslim cleric is waging war on Islamic extremism.
Imam Shaheed Satardien is taking a stand against those Muslims in Ireland whom he claims are too sympathetic to Osama bin Laden and the cult of the suicide bomber. At Friday prayers in the sports hall in north-west Dublin, the South African-born former anti-apartheid activist warns his multinational congregation against blaming other religions and the West in general for all Muslims' ills.
Cast out by the majority Islamic community in Dublin for his outspokenness, the 50-year-old preacher says he has received death threats. 'I am standing firm in my beliefs,' Satardien says. 'The truth is more important than being popular or living a quiet life. Extremism has infected Islam in Ireland. It's time to get back to the spiritual aspect of my religion and stop it being used as a political weapon.'
The imam from Cape Town fled his native country following death threats, he says, from Islamic extremists in South Africa. His younger brother, Ibrahim, was shot dead in 1998 following a row with Islamic radicals in the city. When Satardien was told he would be next, he travelled to Ireland, the birthplace of his maternal grandmother, and pleaded for asylum.
'I never, ever, expected that Muslims would come under the influence of extremists in Ireland when I arrived here with my family. So I was shocked to find support for Osama bin Laden, to discover the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood and even al-Qaeda here in Dublin.'
Satardien fell out with the main Dublin mosque at Clonskeagh, singling out the influence of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian born sheikh who has spoken openly in support of suicide bombers and issued fatwas on gays.
According to Satardien, al-Qaradawi's European headquarters is based at the Clonskeagh mosque in south Dublin. Its own website refers to al-Qaradawi and to Clonskeagh as the headquarters of the sheikh's European Council for Fatwa and Research. The authorities at the Clonskeagh mosque and at the South Circular Road mosque, the other main establishment in Dublin, angrily deny the extremist accusation. They point out that these mosques attract thousands of mainstream Muslims to their doors each week.
Satardien, however, is adamant that extremist Wahhabi sects have infiltrated the republic's 40,000-strong Muslim community, especially in Dublin. 'Young, impressionable Muslims in Ireland are being raised to think that suicide bombers are cool. I know for a fact that when the Americans killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq who died after an airstrike in June last year] there were prayers for him in this city. This was for a man who slaughtered other Muslims. What I am trying to do is convince the young people that such practices are un-Islamic, that there is another way,' he says.
Although his mosque is tiny, Satardien has attracted a loyal following from 20 nationalities of Muslims now living in Ireland. Haris Puskar, 19, fled from Bosnia to Ireland with his family while he was still at primary school. A victim of Serb ethnic cleansing in Banja Luka in the early 1990s, Puskar now speaks English with a Dublin accent and is an ardent Gaelic football fan.
'The imam preaches the same kind of tolerant Islam that my family grew up with back in Bosnia. He is a moderate voice against the extremists. I also like him because he preaches in English, which is the language I have grown up speaking since I came to Ireland at the age of eight,' he says.
Moshin Khan, a 35-year-old shopkeeper, originally from Lahore in Pakistan, agrees. 'I like the message this imam gives us. I don't like extremism - here, in this mosque, there is the teaching of true Islam.'
Satardien has applied to the local schools around Blanchardstown, which has the largest concentration of Muslims in the republic, to speak to students. 'I want to tell the kids from all faiths about true Islam, not the radicalised, false version they hear about in the media.'
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: January 15, 2007, 11:00:23 PM
I wasn't quite sure in which thread to put this one, so eenie meenie minie moe, here it goes:http://www.ahiida.com/index.php?a=subcats&cat=20
I suppose depending on where one is starting, this is progress or regress , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: January 15, 2007, 08:12:24 PM
Saudis May Ban Letter ‘X’
A group of Islamic clergy in Saudi Arabia has condemned the letter "X” because of its similarity to a hated banned symbol – the cross.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which has the ultimate say in all legal, civil and governance matters in the kingdom, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against the "X.” It came in response to a Ministry of Trade query about whether a Saudi businessman could be granted trademark protection for a new service with the English name "Explorer.”
The request from the businessman, Amru Mohammad Faisal, was turned down. "Experts who examined the English word ‘explorer’ were struck by how suspicious that ‘X’ appeared,” Youssef Ibrahim writes in the New York Sun.
"In a kingdom where Friday preachers routinely refer to Christians as pigs and infidel crusaders, even a twisted cross ranks as an abomination.”
In response to the turndown, Faisal wrote an article that appeared on several Arabian Web sites, sarcastically suggesting that the authorities might consider banning the "plus” sign in mathematics because of its similarity to the cross. Among the commission’s earlier edicts is the 1974 fatwa declaring that the Earth is flat.http://newsmax.com/archives/ic/2007/...803.shtml?s=ic
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Complex Insurgency
on: January 15, 2007, 07:52:23 PM
Iranians in Iraq: Making a Complex Insurgency Even More So
The United States is in the process of interdicting the Iranian support network for Sunni insurgents in Iraq. And a strange network it is. Given that a significant portion of Sunni insurgents are Baathists and jihadists -- actors hostile to Iran -- Tehran has been careful to back only those Sunni militants who are not part of the jihadist alliance and has tried to create splinter groups by exploiting differences among jihadist factions and between jihadist and Iraqi Islamists. Iranian support of the Sunni insurgency is only making a complex insurgency even more so.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said Jan. 15 that Washington plans to "go after" what it says are networks of Iranian and Syrian agents in Iraq.
Iran's primary militant assets in Iraq are Shiite militias and unaffiliated gunmen. But Iran's support for the Iraq insurgency is not limited to its Shiite allies. Tehran also has been providing support to segments of the Sunni insurgency. Though it might sound like a contradiction for Shiite Iran to support Sunni groups in Iraq, it is not unprecedented -- and there is a certain logic behind the groups the Iranians choose to support.
Reports of Iranian support for Sunni insurgents have percolated in the media for quite some time but, given the sectarian tensions in Iraq, Iran has managed to brush off such reports. The understanding has been that Iran is not in a position to support Sunni insurgents, given the deep theological differences and divergent political objectives between the two sects. Sunni insurgents have mostly been either Iran's archenemies the Baathists, or jihadists attacking Iraqi Shia. There are also Sunni nationalists in Iraq who are trying to protect Sunni interests following the downfall of Saddam Hussein and the resulting rise of the Shia. Iran has not been able to use any of these three groups to its advantage.
But Tehran also wants to avoid overusing Shiite militants in Iraq in order to prevent a rift between Iraqi Shia and the United States; it intends to use its Arab Shiite allies as an instrument in consolidating its interests in Iraq. At the same time, the Iranians need to ensure that the Sunni insurgency would keep the United States tied down in Iraq so that U.S. forces would not be in a position to threaten Iran.
To those ends, Iran has had to gain some influence within the complex universe of Iraq's Sunni insurgency. The Iranians have backed certain elements of the insurgency -- such as Kurdish Islamist militant organization Ansar al-Sunnah -- that are Sunni Islamists, are not part of the jihadist alliance and are opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Many elements of Ansar al-Sunnah reportedly have been operating from inside Iran.
Moreover, the proliferation of both jihadist and Sunni nationalist groups in Iraq has allowed Iran to take advantage of their differences. By offering support in the form of training, weapons and logistics to these groups, Iran has been able to influence Sunni militants and encourage attacks that suit its interests. Such groups are willing to accept assistance from wherever it may come in order to enhance their own positions within the insurgent movement, and are unlikely to become Iranian proxies. They have their own agendas, which they see as being served through cooperation with Iran. Some of these groups feel that the United States is a far greater threat than Iran, while others simply want access to the sophisticated technology the Iranians have to offer.
Iran actually has a long history of supporting Sunni groups under the guise of promoting pan-Islamist causes. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas are two prime examples of Arab Sunni groups that have received Iranian assistance. In fact, PIJ's founders were heavily influenced by the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought the current Iranian regime to power.
In Iraq, Iranian support for Sunni militants will further complicate an already complex insurgency, making it all the more difficult for U.S. and Iraqi forces to contain it. It will also create suspicions and rifts among various Sunni groups that will cause intra-Sunni violence. On the other hand, the situation provides an opportunity for Washington to drive a wedge between the Iranians and their Iraqi Shiite allies by showing that Tehran has actually been backing their enemies. This is why Iran has tried to encourage the Sunni militants it supports to focus on U.S. and other non-Shiite targets.
Should the United States decide to adopt this strategy of trying to cultivate frictions between Iran and its Iraqi Shiite allies, its success will depend on how convincing the evidence is. Given the level of anti-U.S. sentiment in Iraq, Shiite acceptance of what the United States has to say will vary from group to group. But creating any rifts between Iran and the Iraqi Shia could weaken the degree of leverage Tehran seems to enjoy in the maelstrom of Iraq.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Knives for good
on: January 15, 2007, 02:41:57 PM
The news freely covers the wrong use of knives. This thread is for examples of the good use of knives.
Although the following story strikes me as having some odd details (why would a 200 pound bear attack a full grown man in the middle of summer?) I share it here:
A man stabbed a black bear to death with a 15-cm hunting knife, saying he knew he would otherwise become "lunch" after it attacked him and his dog on a canoeing portage in northern Ontario.
Tom Tilley, a 55-year-old from Waterloo, Ont., said his American Staffordshire dog Sam growled a warning, then rushed to his defence as the bear came at them on a trail north of Wawa on Friday.
Tom Tilley and his dog, shown in an undated photo, escaped an attack by a black bear while portaging near Wawa, Ont.
(Waterloo Region Record/Canadian Press)
As Sam battled with the nearly 90-kilogram bear, Tilley jumped on its back and stabbed it with his knife.
"Love is a very powerful emotion and my thought right away was: 'You're not going to kill my dog,'" Tilley told the Waterloo Region Record.
"I really consider my dog a hero. Without that first warning, I would have had the bear clamping down on my neck."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: January 15, 2007, 01:22:42 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Iraq, Iran and a Question of Engagement
Editor's Note: An error in the Jan. 12 Geopolitical Diary as originally published has been corrected on our Web site to say the Israelis discussed using nuclear weapons against Iran.
Though the United States has opted not to engage Iran or Syria directly over the issue of Iraq, Iraqi leaders appear to be doing just that. On Sunday, President Jalal Talabani met with his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al Assad, in Damascus, and National Security Minister Wael Shirwan was in Tehran, seeking assistance on security matters.
Meanwhile, fallout from the arrests of five Iranian officials -- during a U.S. raid at an Iranian government office in Arbil on Jan. 11 -- continued, with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari calling for the prisoners' release.
That likely was enough to satisfy the Iranians, who have refrained from any aggressive reactions in response to the raid. In fact, Tehran reciprocated a signal from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said recently that she would be willing to meet "anytime, anywhere" with Iranian leaders (provided Tehran had suspended Iranian enrichment). On Sunday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Al Arabiya television that Tehran is not opposed to talks with Washington, so long as conditions were appropriate and just.
Ahmadinejad went on to say that the states neighboring Iraq -- including Iran and Saudi Arabia, could be helpful in improving security there. Interestingly, that statement came on the same day that Iranian national security chief Ali Larijani was meeting in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah, to whom he delivered a letter from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
It is clear to the Iranians that pressure from the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, has been a major factor in Washington's decision not to engage Tehran directly with regard to the future of Iraq. It also is clear to Tehran that Riyadh would be willing to work toward a negotiated settlement with Iran on that issue, as long as Saudi and Sunni interests in Iraq are secured. Therefore, the thrust of Khamenei's missive could be guessed.
For its part, Riyadh -- fearing it would be sidelined in any diplomatic settlement over Iraq -- long has pressed the United States to prevent Iranian domination there. And with Washington now actively aligning itself with the Arab states against Iran, Saudi Arabia is positioned as a player in any future settlement.
Not that any of that should threaten Iran, given its influence over the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. In fact, direct Saudi involvement in Iraqi affairs -- should that materialize -- would complicate matters for the United States and create another opening that Iran could attempt to exploit.
An excerpt from the Financial Times:
The contradiction at the heart of the US approach, however, is this: after casually overturning the Sunni order in Iraq and empowering the Shia in an Arab heartland country for the first time in nearly a millennium, Washington took fright at the way this had enlarged the power of the Shia Islamist regime in Iran. Now, while dependent on Tehran-aligned forces in Baghdad, and unable to dismantle the Sunni Jihadistan it has created in western Iraq, the US is trying to put together an Arab Sunni alliance against Iran. This is a fiasco with the fuel to combust into a region-wide conflagration.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two
on: January 15, 2007, 01:02:21 PM
The impact is pernicious. The reason why so few Britons can name a great Chinese brand or company, despite China's export success, is that there aren't any. China needs to build them, but doing that in a one-party authoritarian state, where the party second-guesses business strategy for ideological and political ends, is impossible. In any case, nearly three-fifths of its exports and nearly all its hi-tech exports are made by non-Chinese, foreign firms, another expression of China's weakness. The state still owns the lion's share of China's business and what it does not own, it reserves the right to direct politically.
Mark Kitto, a former Welsh Guardsman, has found at first-hand how difficult it is to sustain private ownership in China. He built up three Time Out equivalents in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou but, after seven years of successful magazine publishing, learnt last year that he was about to become a partner of the state. The only terms on which his licence to publish could be retained was if he were to accept a de facto takeover from China Intercontinental Press, controlled by China's State Information Council, the propaganda mouthpiece of the Communist party. It did not matter that he owned the shares, wanted to retain his independence and had been careful to stay within the party's publishing guidelines. The party now wanted control of his magazines and simply took it. It is an example repeated many times over.
China must become a more normal economy, but the party stands in the way. Chinese consumers need to save less and spend more, but consumers with no property rights or welfare system are highly cautious. To give them more confidence means taxing to fund a welfare system and conceding property rights. That will mean creating an empowered middle class who will ask how their tax renminbi are spent. Companies need to be subject to independent accountability if they are to become more efficient, but that means creating independent centres of power. The political implications are obvious.
China's future is shrouded in uncertainty. My belief is that what is unsustainable is not sustained. Change came in the Soviet Union with the fifth generation of leaders after the revolution; the fifth generation of China's leaders succeed today's President Hu Jintao in 2012. No political change will happen until after then, but my guess is that sometime in the mid to late 2010s, the growing Chinese middle class will want to hold Chinese officials and politicians to account for how they spend their taxes and for their political choices. What nobody can predict is whether that will produce another Tiananmen, repression and maybe war if China's communists pick a fight to sustain legitimacy at home or an Eastern European velvet revolution and political freedoms. Either way, China's route to becoming a world economic power is not going to proceed as a simple extrapolation of current trends.
This book has been something of a personal intellectual odyssey. My hypothesis when I began was that China was so different that it could carry on adapting its model, living without democracy or European enlightenment values. I have changed my mind and now see more clearly than ever the kinds of connection I identified in The State We're In between economic performance and so-called 'soft' institutions - how people are educated, how trust relations are established and how accountability is exercised (just to name a few) - are central. They are equally important to a good society and the chance for individual empowerment and self-betterment.
Early in my research, I tried out the still-emergent thesis at a small dinner in Lan Na Thai, one of the restaurants in Shanghai's Ruijin guest house, a complex of refurbished old mansions and traditional pavilions in the French quarter where communist leaders reputedly once ate and slept.
Over stir-fried curried chicken and crispy fried flying sea bass, the Chinese guests repeated politely and persuasively that China was making up new economic and political rules. Afterwards, I chanced to have a few words alone with one of the local rising government stars as we walked out of the complex. He kept his eyes on the ground. 'Don't allow yourself to be dissuaded, despite what you have heard. You are right that China is not different. I want my children to see a China with human rights and democratic institutions. And I am not alone.' He jumped into a taxi and was gone.
I have often thought about that chance exchange. Britain and the West take our enlightenment inheritance too easily for granted, and do not see how central it is to everything we are, whether technological advance, trust or well-being. We neither cherish it sufficiently nor live by its exacting standards. We share too quickly the criticism of non-Western societies that we are hypocrites. What China has taught me, paradoxically, is the value of the West, and how crucial it is that we practise what we preach. If we don't, the writing is on the wall - for us and China.
China's quest for oil
China's foreign policy is increasingly driven by the need to feed its growing appetite for oil. General Xiong Guangkai, deputy chief of the Chinese general staff, has said that China's energy problem needs to be taken 'seriously and dealt with strategically'.
That means less reliance on the Middle East; less transportation of oil via sea-lanes policed by the US navy; more capacity for the Chinese navy to protect Chinese tankers; and more oil brought overland by pipeline from central Asia.
Over the past two years, China has pulled off a string of strategic oil deals. In April 2005, Petro China and Canadian company Enbridge signed a memorandum to build a $2bn 'gateway' pipeline to move oil from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez is to build a Chinese-financed pipeline to the Pacific coast through Colombia, having given China oil and gas exploration rights in 2005. Saudi Arabia surrendered to Chinese courtship in 2004 and accorded exploration rights.
In Sudan, a major source of oil, China's blind eye to human rights and mass murder if it hinders its interests is demonstrated by Zhou Wenzhong's comment when Deputy Foreign Minister about the situation in Darfur where more than 250,000 have died.'Business is business,' he said. 'We try to separate politics from business and, in any case, the internal position of Sudan is an internal affair, and we are not in a position to influence them.'
Wrong: China has substantial influence on Sudan if it chose to exercise it. It does not, a commentary on China's approach to foreign policy and an awesome warning of the future if an unreconstructed China became yet more powerful.
Tiananmen: the legacy
The image of a single student halting a tank in Tiananmen Square is one of the most arresting in modern history. But the protests spread well beyond Beijing for six weeks in spring 1989 to encompass demonstrations in 181 cities.
The party and army were divided over how to respond; 150 officers openly declared that they would not fire on demonstrators after martial law was declared, and at least a third of the central committee wanted to reach a compromise with the protesters. The party's then general secretary, Zhao Ziyang, proposed a partial meeting of demands for reform. Nobody should be killed.
That was not the view of Deng and the party elders - the eight 'immortals', veterans of the Revolution. A 'counter-revolutionary' riot had to be suppressed. But before Deng could act, he had to leave Beijing to ensure that army groups 28 and 29, personally loyal to him, would provide the core of the force rather than the uncertain army groups based around the capital. Once in place, Zhao was then brutally deposed, remaining under house arrest until his death in 2005. Martial law was imposed on 19 May and a fortnight later the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square. Official estimates were that 5,000 soldiers and police officers were wounded and 223 killed. Civilian losses - 2,000 wounded and 220 killed - were lower. Many still languish in prison.
Tiananmen is the event that cannot be discussed in China; websites mentioning it are blocked. It was no 'counter-revolutionary riot' but a demand for freedoms that infected all China and very nearly succeeded.
Current leader Hu Jintao and his successors know they are not Deng and cannot command the loyalty of key elements of the army in the same way. Their best strategy is to deliver growth and jobs while trying to keep the lid on China's growing but still disconnected social protests. Whether the policy will carry on working is the open question asked daily in Beijing's inner circles.
· An edited extract from The Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century to be published by Little, Brown on 15 January, £20.
©Will Hutton 2007
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China
on: January 15, 2007, 01:01:37 PM
Sunday January 7, 2007
New China. New crisis
In the last decade China has emerged as a powerful, resurgent economic force with the muscle to challenge America as the global superpower. But, in his controversial new book, Will Hutton argues that China's explosive economic reforms will create seismic tensions within the one-party authoritarian state and asks: can the centre hold?
For more than 2,000 years, China's conceit was that it was the celestial kingdom, the country whose standing was endowed by heaven itself and whose emperors tried to reproduce heavenly harmony on Earth. All China basked in the reflected glow; foreigners were barbarians beyond the gilded pale who should not be allowed even to learn the art of speaking and writing Chinese.
When I first visited China in the autumn of 2003, such articles of Confucian faith seemed very far away, submerged by the lost wars and the 26 humiliating treaties of the 19th century, subsequent communist revolution and now the economic growth to which Beijing's motorway rings and Shanghai's skyline are tribute. This was a new China that had plainly left behind obeisance to the canons of Confucianism and the later cruelties of Mao. More than three years and a book later, I am less convinced.
All societies are linked to their past by umbilical cords - some apparent, some hidden. China is no different. Imperial Confucian China and communist China alike depended - and depend - upon the notion of a vastly powerful, infallible centre: either because it was interpreting the will of heaven or, now, of the proletariat. In neither system have human rights, constitutional checks and balances or even forms of democracy figured very much. As a result, China has poor foundations on which to build the subtle network of institutions of accountability necessary to manage the complexities of a modern economy and society. Sooner or later, it is a failing that will have to be addressed.
China is both very confident about its recent success and very insecure about its past, a potent mix that breeds a deep-seated xenophobia and shallow arrogance. China's economy in 2007 will be nearly nine times larger than it was in 1978 when Deng Xiaoping won the power struggle with the Maoists and began his extraordinarily sinuous, gradualist but successful programme of market-based economic reforms, groping for stones to cross the river, as he called it. China is now the fourth largest economy in the world - after the United States, Japan, and Germany - and is set to become the second largest within a decade. More than 150 million workers have moved to China's booming cities and 400 million people have been removed from poverty. It is a head-spinning achievement.
China is the new factor in global politics and economics, and its rulers and people know it. It now has more than $1 trillion of foreign exchange reserves, the world's largest. It is the single most important financier of the United States' enormous trade deficit. It is the world's second largest importer of oil. Before 2010, it will be the world's largest exporter of goods. It is, comfortably, the world's second largest military power. Last year, the Pentagon's four-yearly defence review stated that China is the power most likely to 'field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional US military advantages'. A new great power is in the making, but one whose pursuit of its self-interest takes the amorality of power to a new plane. It is not just the Chinese who should be concerned about its institutional and moral failings; all of us should be.
In China, you can almost smell the new self-confidence: it is in the skyscrapers built in months; it is in the brash and unashamed willingness to rip off and copy Western brands; it is in the well-groomed and inscrutable demeanour of the rich entrepreneurs, self-confident officials and assured academics.
I sat in a Beijing bar just over a year ago with a typical member of China's new class of rich businessmen who double up as members of the party, a combination of commercial and political power that China knew well as the old Confucian mandarinate, now strangely reproducing itself in a new guise after Mao tried to eliminate it forever in the Cultural Revolution.
In surprisingly fluent English and with his Mercedes waiting outside, he praised China's communist regime and its curious mix of capitalism and communism with all the enthusiasm of a Tory businessmen praising Thatcher. Chinese corruption? Think of Enron and party-funding scandals in London, he declaimed. Double standards between communist rhetoric and practice? What about the US and Britain's invasion of Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay? What I failed to realise, he insisted, betraying both assurance and insecurity, is that China will not surrender again the natural rank that it should never have lost. Western values, institutions and attitudes were being revealed for being straw men, blown away by resurgent China and the pragmatism of its communist leaders.
Yet Western values and institutions are not being blown away. The country has made progress to the extent that communism has given up ground and moved towards Western practices, but there are limits to how far the reformers can go without giving up the basis for the party's political control. Conservatives insist that much further and the capacity to control the country will become irretrievably damaged; that the limit, for example, is being reached in giving both trade unions more autonomy and shareholders more rights. It is the most urgent political debate in China.
The tension between reform and conservatism is all around. For example, the party's commitment now is no longer to building a planned communist economy but a 'socialist market' economy. The 26,000 communes in rural China, which were once the vanguard of communism, were swept away by the peasants themselves in just three years between 1979 and 1982, the largest bottom-up act of decollectivisation the world has ever witnessed. Hundreds of millions of peasants are, via long leases, again farming plots held by their ancestors for millenniums. China's state-owned enterprises no longer provide life-long employment and welfare for their workers as centrepieces of a new communist order; they are autonomous companies largely free to set prices as they choose in an open economy and progressively shedding their social obligations.
Equally amazing, China's communists have declared that the class war is over. The party now claims to represent not just the worker and peasant masses but entrepreneurs and business leaders, whom it welcomes into its ranks. The party refers to this metamorphosis as the 'three represents': meaning that the party today represents 'advanced productive forces' (capitalists); 'the overwhelming majority' of the Chinese (not just workers and peasants); and 'the orientation ... of China's advanced culture' (religious, political and philosophical traditions other than communism).
Party representatives say that the country is no longer pledged to fight capitalism to the death internationally, but, instead, wants to rise peacefully. China has joined the World Trade Organisation and is a judicious member of the United Nations Security Council, using its veto largely in matters that immediately concern it, such as Taiwan.
But for all that, it remains communist. The maxims of Marxist-Leninst-Maoist thought have to stand, however much the party tries to stretch the boundaries, because they are the basis for one-party rule. Yet the system so spawned is reaching its limits. For example, China's state-owned and directed banks cannot carry on channelling hundreds of billions of pounds of peasant savings into the financing of a frenzy of infrastructure and heavy industrial investment. The borrowers habitually pay interest only fitfully, and rarely repay the debt, even as the debt mountain explodes. The financial system is vulnerable to any economic setback.
Equally, China is reaching the limits of the capacity to increase its exports, which, in 2007, will surpass $1 trillion, by 25 per cent a year. At this rate of growth, they will reach $5 trillion by 2020 or sooner, representing more than half of today's world trade. Is that likely? Are there ships and ports on sufficient scale to move such volumes - and will Western markets stay uncomplainingly open? Every year, it is also acquiring $200bn of foreign exchange reserves as it rigs its currency to keep its exports competitive. Can even China insulate its domestic financial system from such fantastic growth in its reserves and stop inflation rising? Already, there are ominous signs that inflationary pressures are increasing.
These ills have communist roots. It is the lack of independent scrutiny and accountability that lie behind the massive waste of investment and China's destruction of its environment alike. The pace of desertification has doubled over 20 years, in a country where 25 per cent of the land area is already desert. Air pollution kills 400,000 people a year prematurely. A hacking cough in the Beijing smog or the stench when the wind comes from the north in Shanghai are reminders of just how far China still has to go.
Energy is wasted on an epic scale. But the worst problem is water. One-fifth of China's 660 cities face extreme water shortages and as many as 90 per cent have problems of water pollution; 500 million rural Chinese still do not have access to safe drinking water. Illegal and rampant polluting, a severe shortage of sewage treatment facilities, and chemical pollutants together continue to degrade China's waterways. In autumn 2005, two major cities - Harbin and Guangzhou - had their water supplies cut off for days because their river sources had suffered acute chemical spills from state-owned factories.
Enterprises are accountable to no one but the Communist party for their actions; there is no network of civil society, plural public institutions and independent media to create pressure for enterprises to become more environmentally efficient. Watchdogs, whistleblowers, independent judges and accountable government are not just good in themselves as custodians of justice; they also keep capitalism honest and efficient and would curb environmental costs that reach an amazing 12 per cent of GDP. As importantly, they are part of the institutional network that constitutes an independent public realm that includes free intellectual inquiry, free trade unions and independent audit. It is this 'enlightenment infrastructure' that I regard in both the West and East as the essential underpinning of a healthy society. The individual detained for years without a fair trial is part of the same malign system that prevents a company from expecting to be able to correct a commercial wrong in a court, or have a judgment in its favour implemented, if it were against the party interest.