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Topic: WW3 (Read 188859 times)
Reply #100 on:
August 19, 2004, 09:12:03 PM »
I did surf around the site some, and was impressed by the methodology mentioned. Approaching issues via their zero-based analysis makes a lot of sense. Still, the background info available on the web site seems tailored to attract captains of industry; I don't get a sense of the players behind the scenes.
One of the interesting aspects of having Pat Tray as an instructor are the interesting characters who show up at his academy. Though you never hear anything overt from them, there is plenty that can be intuited. I was hoping to get the same kind of read on the Stratfor folks: who they are, where they come from, how close to the sharp end they've been, etc. My guess is they don't publish that info as it could impact their data collection, but if you know anything anecdotal, I'm interested.
Reply #101 on:
August 26, 2004, 09:21:46 AM »
My sense of it is that they have not personally seen much action.
Anyway, here's this from today:
Geopolitical Diary: Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004
Events in An Najaf are moving to their logical conclusion. Grand Ayatollah
Ali al-Sistani has returned to Iraq and, in spite of recent heart treatment,
is showing remarkable resiliency -- and is leading a march on An Najaf
designed to bring a peaceful end to the rising of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi
Army. That is what will happen, if all goes according to script.
We assume there to be a script since: (a) al-Sistani chose to go to London
for non-emergency surgery when the U.S. attack began; (b) was permitted to leave London as things moved to their climax (his plane could have been found to have serious engine problems just before takeoff); and (c) was cleared to land in Kuwait and drive back into Iraq. We would think that if the United States and Britain expected problems, they would have found ways of delaying his return.
The script is therefore that he will march to An Najaf, accept the return of
the Imam Ali shrine from al-Sadr, make a speech suitably condemning the United States for occupying Iraq and demanding its withdrawal from An Najaf and other cities -- and proceed to implement a deal giving his followers prominent roles throughout the Iraqi government. Obviously, things could go wrong. Al-Sistani could decide not to play according to the script; al-Sadr might decide it would be healthier for him to hold on to the An Najaf mosque; or uncontrolled violence could suddenly break out without any real planning. All of this is possible, but the most likely outcome is an end to the standoff and al-Sistani moving into closer collaboration with the Americans.
This leaves the Iranians in as bad a shape as they can be in Iraq, with all
of their plans shot to pieces -- and even their control over Iraqi Shia
gone. The Iranians clearly need to do something. This was obviously on the mind of the U.S. Air Force that, according to the Iranians at least, sent
aircraft into Iranian air space. According to an Iranian News Agency (IRNA) report, five U.S. aircraft penetrated Iranian air space on the night of Aug. 19. They came in over the southwestern border and circled the city of Khorramshahr for a while, flying at about 30,000 feet
We tend to believe the report. First, the specificity lends credence to it.
Second, the political environment of the past few weeks would make
Washington want to send a signal to the Iranian government to accept events in Iraq, as well as to signal the Iranians that continued development of Iranian nuclear weapons would lead to decisive air action. The IRNA report referenced the capture and release of some British sailors and the U.S. undoubtedly wanted to signal mutual danger. It is difficult to imagine a military purpose for a flight of five aircraft -- presumably fighters -- at 30,000 feet. The U.S. has better reconnaissance platforms that would fly at different altitudes. As for testing air defenses: If the Iranians can't see five aircraft at 30,000 feet, they certainly can't build a nuclear weapon.
This was a political demonstration and we suspect there have been others. It is interesting that the Iranians decided to publicize it when it became clear that al-Sistani was returning to Iraq, but not before. Iranian
diplomats started to speculate publicly -- at about the same time -- that
war could be closer than might be thought. The Iranians appear to be
signaling Washington back that they are not intimidated.
The question will be whether their lack of intimidation will cause them to
raise the pot in Iraq, or whether their calmness in the face of provocation
means they are about to toss their hand in. Either way, the next move comes out of Tehran.
Copyrights 2004 - Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reply #102 on:
August 30, 2004, 01:11:09 AM »
A very long and thoughtful read:
The 9/11 Report: A Dissent
Reply #103 on:
August 30, 2004, 06:55:19 AM »
August 29, 2004 The 9/11 Report: A Dissent
"But to layer another
official on top of the director of central intelligence, one who would be in
a constant turf war with the secretary of defense, is not an appealing
solution. Since all executive power emanates from the White House, the
national security adviser and his or her staff should be able to do the
necessary coordinating of the intelligence agencies. That is the traditional
pattern, and it is unlikely to be bettered by a radically new table of
By RICHARD A. POSNER
Richard A. Posner is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for
the Seventh Circuit, a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law
School and the author of the forthcoming book ''Catastrophe: Risk and
THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
The idea was sound: a politically balanced, generously financed
committee of prominent, experienced people would investigate the
government's failure to anticipate and prevent the terrorist attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001. Had the investigation been left to the government, the
current administration would have concealed its own mistakes and blamed its
predecessors. This is not a criticism of the Bush White House; any
administration would have done the same.
And the execution was in one vital respect superb: the 9/11 commission
report is an uncommonly lucid, even riveting, narrative of the attacks,
their background and the response to them. (Norton has published the
authorized edition; another edition, including reprinted news articles by
reporters from The New York Times, has been published by St. Martin's, while
PublicAffairs has published the staff reports and some of the testimony.)
The prose is free from bureaucratese and, for a consensus statement,
the report is remarkably forthright. Though there could not have been a
single author, the style is uniform. The document is an improbable literary
However, the commission's analysis and recommendations are
unimpressive. The delay in the commission's getting up to speed was not its
fault but that of the administration, which dragged its heels in turning
over documents; yet with completion of its investigation deferred to the
presidential election campaign season, the commission should have waited
until after the election to release its report. That would have given it
time to hone its analysis and advice.
The enormous public relations effort that the commission orchestrated
to win support for the report before it could be digested also invites
criticism -- though it was effective: in a poll conducted just after
publication, 61 percent of the respondents said the commission had done a
good job, though probably none of them had read the report. The
participation of the relatives of the terrorists' victims (described in the
report as the commission's ''partners'') lends an unserious note to the
project (as does the relentless self-promotion of several of the members).
One can feel for the families' loss, but being a victim's relative doesn't
qualify a person to advise on how the disaster might have been prevented.
Much more troublesome are the inclusion in the report of
recommendations (rather than just investigative findings) and the
commissioners' misplaced, though successful, quest for unanimity. Combining
an investigation of the attacks with proposals for preventing future attacks
is the same mistake as combining intelligence with policy. The way a problem
is described is bound to influence the choice of how to solve it. The
commission's contention that our intelligence structure is unsound
predisposed it to blame the structure for the failure to prevent the 9/11
attacks, whether it did or not. And pressure for unanimity encourages just
the kind of herd thinking now being blamed for that other recent
intelligence failure -- the belief that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of
At least the commission was consistent. It believes in centralizing
intelligence, and people who prefer centralized, pyramidal governance
structures to diversity and competition deprecate dissent. But insistence on
unanimity, like central planning, deprives decision makers of a full range
of alternatives. For all one knows, the price of unanimity was adopting
recommendations that were the second choice of many of the commission's
members or were consequences of horse trading. The premium placed on
unanimity undermines the commission's conclusion that everybody in sight was
to blame for the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Given its political
composition (and it is evident from the questioning of witnesses by the
members that they had not forgotten which political party they belong to),
the commission could not have achieved unanimity without apportioning equal
blame to the Clinton and Bush administrations, whatever the members actually
The tale of how we were surprised by the 9/11 attacks is a product of
hindsight; it could not be otherwise. And with the aid of hindsight it is
easy to identify missed opportunities (though fewer than had been suspected)
to have prevented the attacks, and tempting to leap from that observation to
the conclusion that the failure to prevent them was the result not of bad
luck, the enemy's skill and ingenuity or the difficulty of defending against
suicide attacks or protecting an almost infinite array of potential targets,
but of systemic failures in the nation's intelligence and security apparatus
that can be corrected by changing the apparatus.
That is the leap the commission makes, and it is not sustained by the
report's narrative. The narrative points to something different, banal and
deeply disturbing: that it is almost impossible to take effective action to
prevent something that hasn't occurred previously. Once the 9/11 attacks did
occur, measures were taken that have reduced the likelihood of a recurrence.
But before the attacks, it was psychologically and politically impossible to
take those measures. The government knew that Al Qaeda had attacked United
States facilities and would do so again. But the idea that it would do so by
infiltrating operatives into this country to learn to fly commercial
aircraft and then crash such aircraft into buildings was so grotesque that
anyone who had proposed that we take costly measures to prevent such an
event would have been considered a candidate for commitment. No terrorist
had hijacked an American commercial aircraft anywhere in the world since
1986. Just months before the 9/11 attacks the director of the Defense
Department's Defense Threat Reduction Agency wrote: ''We have, in fact,
solved a terrorist problem in the last 25 years. We have solved it so
successfully that we have forgotten about it; and that is a treat. The
problem was aircraft hijacking and bombing. We solved the problem. . . . The
system is not perfect, but it is good enough. . . . We have pretty much
nailed this thing.'' In such a climate of thought, efforts to beef up
airline security not only would have seemed gratuitous but would have been
greatly resented because of the cost and the increased airport congestion.
The problem isn't just that people find it extraordinarily difficult
to take novel risks seriously; it is also that there is no way the
government can survey the entire range of possible disasters and act to
prevent each and every one of them. As the commission observes,
''Historically, decisive security action took place only after a disaster
had occurred or a specific plot had been discovered.'' It has always been
thus, and probably always will be. For example, as the report explains, the
1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center led to extensive safety
improvements that markedly reduced the toll from the 9/11 attacks; in other
words, only to the slight extent that the 9/11 attacks had a precedent were
significant defensive steps taken in advance.
The commission's contention that ''the terrorists exploited deep
institutional failings within our government'' is overblown. By the
mid-1990's the government knew that Osama bin Laden was a dangerous enemy of
the United States. President Clinton and his national security adviser,
Samuel Berger, were so concerned that Clinton, though ''warned in the
strongest terms'' by the Secret Service and the C.I.A. that ''visiting
Pakistan would risk the president's life,'' did visit that country (flying
in on an unmarked plane, using decoys and remaining only six hours) and
tried unsuccessfully to enlist its cooperation against bin Laden. Clinton
authorized the assassination of bin Laden, and a variety of means were
considered for achieving this goal, but none seemed feasible. Invading
Afghanistan to pre-empt future attacks by Al Qaeda was considered but
rejected for diplomatic reasons, which President Bush accepted when he took
office and which look even more compelling after the trouble we've gotten
into with our pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. The complaint that Clinton was
merely ''swatting at flies,'' and the claim that Bush from the start was
determined to destroy Al Qaeda root and branch, are belied by the
commission's report. The Clinton administration envisaged a campaign of
attrition that would last three to five years, the Bush administration a
similar campaign that would last three years. With an invasion of
Afghanistan impracticable, nothing better was on offer. Almost four years
after Bush took office and almost three years after we wrested control of
Afghanistan from the Taliban, Al Qaeda still has not been destroyed.
It seems that by the time Bush took office, ''bin Laden fatigue'' had
set in; no one had practical suggestions for eliminating or even
substantially weakening Al Qaeda. The commission's statement that Clinton
and Bush had been offered only a ''narrow and unimaginative menu of options
for action'' is hindsight wisdom at its most fatuous. The options considered
were varied and imaginative; they included enlisting the Afghan Northern
Alliance or other potential tribal allies of the United States to help kill
or capture bin Laden, an attack by our Special Operations forces on his
compound, assassinating him by means of a Predator drone aircraft or
coercing or bribing the Taliban to extradite him. But for political or
operational reasons, none was feasible.
It thus is not surprising, perhaps not even a fair criticism, that the
new administration treaded water until the 9/11 attacks. But that's what it
did. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, ''demoted'' Richard
Clarke, the government's leading bin Laden hawk and foremost expert on Al
Qaeda. It wasn't technically a demotion, but merely a decision to exclude
him from meetings of the cabinet-level ''principals committee'' of the
National Security Council; he took it hard, however, and requested a
transfer from the bin Laden beat to cyberterrorism. The committee did not
discuss Al Qaeda until a week before the 9/11 attacks. The new
administration showed little interest in exploring military options for
dealing with Al Qaeda, and Donald Rumsfeld had not even gotten around to
appointing a successor to the Defense Department's chief counterterrorism
official (who had left the government in January) when the 9/11 attacks
I suspect that one reason, not mentioned by the commission, for the
Bush administration's initially tepid response to the threat posed by Al
Qaeda is that a new administration is predisposed to reject the priorities
set by the one it's succeeding. No doubt the same would have been true had
Clinton been succeeding Bush as president rather than vice versa.
Before the commission's report was published, the impression was
widespread that the failure to prevent the attacks had been due to a failure
to collate bits of information possessed by different people in our security
services, mainly the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. And, indeed, had all these bits been collated, there would
have been a chance of preventing the attacks, though only a slight one; the
best bits were not obtained until late in August 2001, and it is unrealistic
to suppose they could have been integrated and understood in time to detect
The narrative portion of the report ends at Page 338 and is followed
by 90 pages of analysis and recommendations. I paused at Page 338 and asked
myself what improvements in our defenses against terrorist groups like Al
Qaeda are implied by the commission's investigative findings (as distinct
from recommendations that the commission goes on to make in the last part of
the report). The list is short:
(1) Major buildings should have detailed evacuation plans and the
plans should be communicated to the occupants.
(2) Customs officers should be alert for altered travel documents of
Muslims entering the United States; some of the 9/11 hijackers might have
been excluded by more careful inspections of their papers. Biometric
screening (such as fingerprinting) should be instituted to facilitate the
creation of a comprehensive database of suspicious characters. In short, our
borders should be made less porous.
(3) Airline passengers and baggage should be screened carefully,
cockpit doors secured and override mechanisms installed in airliners to
enable a hijacked plane to be controlled from the ground.
(4) Any legal barriers to sharing information between the C.I.A. and
the F.B.I. should be eliminated.
(5) More Americans should be trained in Arabic, Farsi and other
languages in widespread use in the Muslim world. The commission remarks that
in 2002, only six students received undergraduate degrees in Arabic from
colleges in the United States.
(6) The thousands of federal agents assigned to the ''war on drugs,''
a war that is not only unwinnable but probably not worth winning, should be
reassigned to the war on international terrorism.
(7) The F.B.I. appears from the report to be incompetent to combat
terrorism; this is the one area in which a structural reform seems indicated
(though not recommended by the commission). The bureau, in excessive
reaction to J. Edgar Hoover's freewheeling ways, has become afflicted with a
legalistic mind-set that hinders its officials from thinking in preventive
rather than prosecutorial terms and predisposes them to devote greater
resources to drug and other conventional criminal investigations than to
antiterrorist activities. The bureau is habituated to the leisurely time
scale of criminal investigations and prosecutions. Information sharing
within the F.B.I., let alone with other agencies, is sluggish, in part
because the bureau's field offices have excessive autonomy and in part
because the agency is mysteriously unable to adopt a modern communications
system. The F.B.I. is an excellent police department, but that is all it is.
Of all the agencies involved in intelligence and counterterrorism, the
F.B.I. comes out worst in the commission's report.
Progress has been made on a number of items on my list. There have
been significant improvements in border control and aircraft safety. The
information ''wall'' was removed by the USA Patriot Act, passed shortly
after 9/11, although legislation may not have been necessary, since, as the
commission points out, before 9/11 the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. exaggerated the
degree to which they were forbidden to share information. This was a
managerial failure, not an institutional one. Efforts are under way on (5)
and (6), though powerful political forces limit progress on (6). Oddly, the
simplest reform -- better building-evacuation planning -- has lagged.
The only interesting item on my list is (7). The F.B.I.'s
counterterrorism performance before 9/11 was dismal indeed. Urged by one of
its field offices to seek a warrant to search the laptop of Zacarias
Moussaoui (a candidate hijacker-pilot), F.B.I. headquarters refused because
it thought the special court that authorizes foreign intelligence
surveillance would decline to issue a warrant -- a poor reason for not
requesting one. A prescient report from the Arizona field office on flight
training by Muslims was ignored by headquarters. There were only two
analysts on the bin Laden beat in the entire bureau. A notice by the
director, Louis J. Freeh, that the bureau focus its efforts on
counterterrorism was ignored.
So what to do? One possibility would be to appoint as director a
hard-nosed, thick-skinned manager with a clear mandate for change -- someone
of Donald Rumsfeld's caliber. (His judgment on Iraq has been questioned, but
no one questions his capacity to reform a hidebound government bureaucracy.)
Another would be to acknowledge the F.B.I.'s deep-rooted incapacity to deal
effectively with terrorism, and create a separate domestic intelligence
agency on the model of Britain's Security Service (M.I.5). The Security
Service has no power of arrest. That power is lodged in the Special Branch
of Scotland Yard, and if we had our own domestic intelligence service,
modeled on M.I.5, the power of arrest would be lodged in a branch of the
F.B.I. As far as I know, M.I.5 and M.I.6 (Britain's counterpart to the
C.I.A.) work well together. They have a common culture, as the C.I.A. and
the F.B.I. do not. They are intelligence agencies, operating by surveillance
rather than by prosecution. Critics who say that an American equivalent of
M.I.5 would be a Gestapo understand neither M.I.5 nor the Gestapo.
Which brings me to another failing of the 9/11 commission: American
provinciality. Just as we are handicapped in dealing with Islamist terrorism
by our ignorance of the languages, cultures and history of the Muslim world,
so we are handicapped in devising effective antiterrorist methods by our
reluctance to consider foreign models. We shouldn't be embarrassed to borrow
good ideas from nations with a longer experience of terrorism than our own.
The blows we have struck against Al Qaeda's centralized organization may
deflect Islamist terrorists from spectacular attacks like 9/11 to retail
forms like car and truck bombings, assassinations and sabotage. If so,
Islamist terrorism may come to resemble the kinds of terrorism practiced by
the Irish Republican Army and Hamas, with which foreign nations like Britain
and Israel have extensive experience. The United States remains readily
penetrable by Islamist terrorists who don't even look or sound Middle
Eastern, and there are Qaeda sleeper cells in this country. All this
underscores the need for a domestic intelligence agency that, unlike the
F.B.I., is effective.
Were all the steps that I have listed fully implemented, the
probability of another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 would be
reduced -- slightly. The measures adopted already, combined with our
operation in Afghanistan, have undoubtedly reduced that probability, and the
room for further reduction probably is small. We and other nations have been
victims of surprise attacks before; we will be again.
They follow a pattern. Think of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the Tet
offensive in Vietnam in 1968. It was known that the Japanese might attack
us. But that they would send their carrier fleet thousands of miles to
Hawaii, rather than just attack the nearby Philippines or the British and
Dutch possessions in Southeast Asia, was too novel and audacious a prospect
to be taken seriously. In 1968 the Vietnamese Communists were known to be
capable of attacking South Vietnam's cities. Indeed, such an assault was
anticipated, though not during Tet (the Communists had previously observed a
truce during the Tet festivities) and not on the scale it attained. In both
cases the strength and determination of the enemy were underestimated, along
with the direction of his main effort. In 2001 an attack by Al Qaeda was
anticipated, but it was anticipated to occur overseas, and the capability
and audacity of the enemy were underestimated. (Note in all three cases a
tendency to underestimate non-Western foes -- another aspect of
Anyone who thinks this pattern can be changed should read those 90
pages of analysis and recommendations that conclude the commission's report;
they come to very little. Even the prose sags, as the reader is treated to a
barrage of bromides: ''the American people are entitled to expect their
government to do its very best,'' or ''we should reach out, listen to and
work with other countries that can help'' and ''be generous and caring to
our neighbors,'' or we should supply the Middle East with ''programs to
bridge the digital divide and increase Internet access'' -- the last an
ironic suggestion, given that encrypted e-mail is an effective medium of
clandestine communication. The ''hearts and minds'' campaign urged by the
commission is no more likely to succeed in the vast Muslim world today than
its prototype was in South Vietnam in the 1960's.
The commission wants criteria to be developed for picking out which
American cities are at greatest risk of terrorist attack, and defensive
resources allocated accordingly -- this to prevent every city from claiming
a proportional share of those resources when it is apparent that New York
and Washington are most at risk. Not only do we lack the information needed
to establish such criteria, but to make Washington and New York impregnable
so that terrorists can blow up Los Angeles or, for that matter, Kalamazoo
with impunity wouldn't do us any good.
The report states that the focus of our antiterrorist strategy should
not be ''just 'terrorism,' some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the
strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more
specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism.'' Is it? Who knows?
The menace of bin Laden was not widely recognized until just a few years
before the 9/11 attacks. For all anyone knows, a terrorist threat unrelated
to Islam is brewing somewhere (maybe right here at home -- remember the
Oklahoma City bombers and the Unabomber and the anthrax attack of October
2001) that, given the breathtakingly rapid advances in the technology of
destruction, will a few years hence pose a greater danger than Islamic
extremism. But if we listen to the 9/11 commission, we won't be looking out
for it because we've been told that Islamist terrorism is the thing to
Illustrating the psychological and political difficulty of taking
novel threats seriously, the commission's recommendations are implicitly
concerned with preventing a more or less exact replay of 9/11. Apart from a
few sentences on the possibility of nuclear terrorism, and of threats to
other modes of transportation besides airplanes, the broader range of
potential threats, notably those of bioterrorism and cyberterrorism, is
Many of the commission's specific recommendations are sensible, such
as that American citizens should be required to carry biometric passports.
But most are in the nature of more of the same -- more of the same measures
that were implemented in the wake of 9/11 and that are being refined, albeit
at the usual bureaucratic snail's pace. If the report can put spurs to these
efforts, all power to it. One excellent recommendation is reducing the
number of Congressional committees, at present in the dozens, that have
oversight responsibilities with regard to intelligence. The stated reason
for the recommendation is that the reduction will improve oversight. A
better reason is that with so many committees exercising oversight, our
senior intelligence and national security officials spend too much of their
The report's main proposal -- the one that has received the most
emphasis from the commissioners and has already been endorsed in some
version by both presidential candidates -- is for the appointment of a
national intelligence director who would knock heads together in an effort
to overcome the reluctance of the various intelligence agencies to share
information. Yet the report itself undermines this proposal, in a section
titled ''The Millennium Exception.'' ''In the period between December 1999
and early January 2000,'' we read, ''information about terrorism flowed
widely and abundantly.'' Why? Mainly ''because everyone was already on edge
with the millennium and possible computer programming glitches ('Y2K').''
Well, everyone is now on edge because of 9/11. Indeed, the report suggests
no current impediments to the flow of information within and among
intelligence agencies concerning Islamist terrorism. So sharing is not such
a problem after all. And since the tendency of a national intelligence
director would be to focus on the intelligence problem du jour, in this case
Islamist terrorism, centralization of the intelligence function could well
lead to overconcentration on a single risk.
The commission thinks the reason the bits of information that might
have been assembled into a mosaic spelling 9/11 never came together in one
place is that no one person was in charge of intelligence. That is not the
reason. The reason or, rather, the reasons are, first, that the volume of
information is so vast that even with the continued rapid advances in data
processing it cannot be collected, stored, retrieved and analyzed in a
single database or even network of linked databases. Second, legitimate
security concerns limit the degree to which confidential information can
safely be shared, especially given the ever-present threat of moles like the
infamous Aldrich Ames. And third, the different intelligence services and
the subunits of each service tend, because information is power, to hoard
it. Efforts to centralize the intelligence function are likely to lengthen
the time it takes for intelligence analyses to reach the president, reduce
diversity and competition in the gathering and analysis of intelligence
data, limit the number of threats given serious consideration and deprive
the president of a range of alternative interpretations of ambiguous and
incomplete data -- and intelligence data will usually be ambiguous and
The proposal begins to seem almost absurd when one considers the
variety of our intelligence services. One of them is concerned with
designing and launching spy satellites; another is the domestic intelligence
branch of the F.B.I.; others collect military intelligence for use in our
conflicts with state actors like North Korea. There are 15 in all. The
national intelligence director would be in continuous conflict with the
attorney general, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, the secretary of homeland security and the president's national
security adviser. He would have no time to supervise the organizational
reforms that the commission deems urgent.
The report bolsters its proposal with the claim that our intelligence
apparatus was designed for fighting the cold war and so can't be expected to
be adequate to fighting Islamist terrorism. The cold war is depicted as a
conventional military face-off between the United States and the Soviet
Union and hence a 20th-century relic (the 21st century is to be different,
as if the calendar drove history). That is not an accurate description. The
Soviet Union operated against the United States and our allies mainly
through subversion and sponsored insurgency, and it is not obvious why the
apparatus developed to deal with that conduct should be thought maladapted
for dealing with our new enemy.
The report notes the success of efforts to centralize command of the
armed forces, and to reduce the lethal rivalries among the military
services. But there is no suggestion that the national intelligence director
is to have command authority.
The central-planning bent of the commission is nowhere better
illustrated than by its proposal to shift the C.I.A.'s paramilitary
operations, despite their striking success in the Afghanistan campaign, to
the Defense Department. The report points out that ''the C.I.A. has a
reputation for agility in operations,'' whereas the reputation of the
military is ''for being methodical and cumbersome.'' Rather than conclude
that we are lucky to have both types of fighting capacity, the report
disparages ''redundant, overlapping capabilities'' and urges that ''the
C.I.A.'s experts should be integrated into the military's training,
exercises and planning.'' The effect of such integration is likely to be the
loss of the ''agility in operations'' that is the C.I.A.'s hallmark. The
claim that we ''cannot afford to build two separate capabilities for
carrying out secret military operations'' makes no sense. It is not a
question of building; we already have multiple such capabilities -- Delta
Force, Marine reconnaissance teams, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, the C.I.A.'s
Special Activities Division. Diversity of methods, personnel and
organizational culture is a strength in a system of national security; it
reduces risk and enhances flexibility.
What is true is that 15 agencies engaged in intelligence activities
require coordination, notably in budgetary allocations, to make sure that
all bases are covered. Since the Defense Department accounts for more than
80 percent of the nation's overall intelligence budget, the C.I.A., with its
relatively small budget (12 percent of the total), cannot be expected to
control the entire national intelligence budget. But to layer another
official on top of the director of central intelligence, one who would be in
a constant turf war with the secretary of defense, is not an appealing
solution. Since all executive power emanates from the White House, the
national security adviser and his or her staff should be able to do the
necessary coordinating of the intelligence agencies. That is the traditional
pattern, and it is unlikely to be bettered by a radically new table of
So the report ends on a flat note. But one can sympathize with the
commission's problem. To conclude after a protracted, expensive and much
ballyhooed investigation that there is really rather little that can be done
to reduce the likelihood of future terrorist attacks beyond what is being
done already, at least if the focus is on the sort of terrorist attacks that
have occurred in the past rather than on the newer threats of bioterrorism
and cyberterrorism, would be a real downer -- even a tad un-American.
Americans are not fatalists. When a person dies at the age of 95, his family
is apt to ascribe his death to a medical failure. When the nation
experiences a surprise attack, our instinctive reaction is not that we were
surprised by a clever adversary but that we had the wrong strategies or
structure and let's change them and then we'll be safe. Actually, the
strategies and structure weren't so bad; they've been improved; further
improvements are likely to have only a marginal effect; and greater dangers
may be gathering of which we are unaware and haven't a clue as to how to
Richard A. Posner is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for
the Seventh Circuit, a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law
School and the author of the forthcoming book ''Catastrophe: Risk and
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
C-Bad Dog, Lakan Guro DBMA
Reply #104 on:
August 31, 2004, 09:18:08 AM »
Thanks for that one Dog Russ.
Changing gears, here's this on North Korea.
FIRST OF A SERIES
By Robert Windrem
NBC News Investigative ProducerJan. 15, 2003 - In the far north of North Korea, in remote locations not far from the borders with China and Russia, a gulag not unlike the worst labor camps built by Mao and Stalin in the last century holds some 200,000 men, women and children accused of political crimes. A month-long investigation by NBC News, including interviews with former prisoners, guards and U.S. and South Korean officials, revealed the horrifying conditions these people must endure ? conditions that shock even those North Koreans accustomed to the near-famine conditions of Kim Jong Il?s realm.
?It's one of the worst, if not the worst situation ? human rights abuse situation ? in the world today,? said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who held hearings on the camps last year. ?There are very few places that could compete with the level of depravity, the harshness of this regime in North Korea toward its own people.?
Satellite photos provided by DigitalGlobe, which first appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, confirm the existence of the camps, and interviews with those who have been there and with U.S. officials who study the North suggest Brownback?s assessment may be conservative.
Among NBC News? findings:
At one camp, Camp 22 in Haengyong, some 50,000 prisoners toil each day in conditions that U.S. officials and former inmates say results in the death of 20 percent to 25 percent of the prison population every year.
Products made by prison laborers may wind up on U.S. store shelves, having been ?washed? first through Chinese companies that serve as intermediaries.
Entire families, including grandchildren, are incarcerated for even the most bland political statements.
Forced abortions are carried out on pregnant women so that another generation of political dissidents will be ?eradicated.?
Inmates are used as human guinea pigs for testing biological and chemical agents, according to both former inmates and U.S. officials.
Efforts by MSNBC.com to reach North Korean officials were unsuccessful. Messages left at the office of North Korea?s permanent representative to the United Nations went unanswered.
Eung Soo Han, a press officer at South Korea?s U.N. consulate, said: ?It is a very unfortunate situation, and our hearts go out to those who suffer. We hope North Korea will open up its country, and become more actively involved with the international community in order for the North Korean people to be lifted out of their difficult situation.?
Labor, death, abuse
NBC?s investigation revealed that North Korea?s State Security Agency maintains a dozen political prisons and about 30 forced labor and labor education camps, mainly in remote areas. The worst are in the country?s far Northeast. Some of them are gargantuan: At least two of the camps, Haengyong and Huaong, are larger in area than the District of Columbia, with Huaong being three times the size of the U.S. capital district.
Satellite photos provided by DigitalGlobe show several of the camps, including the notorious Haengyong, for the first time outside official circles. Plainly visible are acres upon acres of barracks, laid out in regimented military style. Surrounding each of them is 10-foot-high barbed-wire fencing along with land mines and man traps. There is even a battery of anti-aircraft guns to prevent a liberation by airborne troops.
Ahn Myong Chol, a guard at the camp (which is sometimes known as Hoeryong) from 1987 through 1994, examined the satellite photos of Camp 22 for NBC News. They were taken in April, eight years after he left. But he says little has changed. He was able to pick out the family quarters for prisoners, the work areas, the propaganda buildings.
Looking at the imagery, Ahn noted what happened in each building:
?This is the detention center,? he said. ?If someone goes inside this building, in three months he will be dead or disabled for life. In this corner they decided about the executions, who to execute and whether to make it public.
?This is the Kim Il Sung institute, a movie house for officers. Here is watchdog training. And guard training ground.?
Pointing to another spot, he said: ?This is the garbage pond where the two kids were killed when guard kicked them in pond.?
Another satellite photo shows a coal mine at the Chungbong camp where prisoners are worked to exhaustion in a giant pit.
?All of North Korea is a gulag,? said one senior U.S. official, noting that as many as 2 million people have died of starvation while Kim has amassed the world?s largest collection of Daffy Duck cartoons. ?It?s just that these people [in the camps] are treated the worst. No one knows for sure how many people are in the camps, but 200,000 is consistent with our best guess.
?We don?t have a breakdown, but there are large numbers of both women and children.?
Beyond the pale
It is the widespread jailing of political prisoners? families that makes North Korea unique, according to human rights advocates.
Under a directive issued by Kim?s father, North Korea?s founder, Kim Il Sung, three generations of a dissident?s family can be jailed simply on the basis of a denunciation.
NBC News interviewed two former prisoners and a former guard about conditions in the camps. The three spent their time at different camps. Their litany of camp brutalities is unmatched anywhere in the world, say human rights activists.
?Listening to their stories, it?s horrific,? said David Hawk, a veteran human rights campaigner and a consultant for the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Hawk has interviewed many former prisoners in Seoul.
?It?s hard to do more than one or two a day because they?re just so painful to hear: horrific mistreatment - all sorts of suffering, beatings to death, executions.?
Kang Chol-Hwan is now a journalist with Chosun Ilbo, South Korea?s most important newspaper. His recent book, ?The Aquariums of Pyongyang,? is the first memoir of a North Korean political prisoner. For nearly a decade, he was imprisoned because his grandfather had made complimentary statements about Japanese capitalism. He was a 9-year-old when he arrived at the Yodok camp. His grandfather was never seen again, and prison conditions killed his father.
?When I was 10 years old,? Kang recalled, ?We were put to work digging clay and constructing a building. And there were dozens of kids, and while digging the ground, it collapsed. And they died. And the bodies were crushed flat. And they buried the kids secretly, without showing their parents, even though the parents came.?
The system appears to draw no distinction between those accused of the crime and their family members.
Soon Ok Lee, imprisoned for seven years at a camp near Kaechon in Pyungbuk province, described how the female relatives of male prisoners were treated.
?I was in prison from 1987 till January 1993,? she told NBC News in Seoul, where she now lives. ?[The women] were forced to abort their children. They put salty water into the pregnant women?s womb with a large syringe, in order to kill the baby even when the woman was 8 months or 9 months pregnant.
?And then, from time to time there a living infant is delivered. And then if someone delivers a live infant, then the guards kick the bloody baby and kill it. And I saw an infant who was crying with pain. I have to express this in words, that I witnessed such an inhumane hell.?
Testing on humans
Soon also spoke about the use of prisoners as guinea pigs, which a senior U.S. official describes as ?very plausible. We have heard similar reports.?
?I saw so many poor victims,? she said. ?Hundreds of people became victims of biochemical testing. I was imprisoned in 1987 and during the years of 1988 through ?93, when I was released, I saw the research supervisors ? they were enjoying the effect of biochemical weapons, effective beyond their expectations ? they were saying they were successful.?
She tearfully described how in one instance about 50 inmates were taken to an auditorium and given a piece of boiled cabbage to eat. Within a half hour, they began vomiting blood and quickly died.
A shot of the enormous Chunbong camp from space.
?I saw that in 20 or 30 minutes they died like this in that place. Looking at that scene, I lost my mind. Was this reality or a nightmare? And then I screamed and was sent out of the auditorium.?
Prison guard Ahn?s memories are, like the others?, nothing short of gruesome. Every day, he said there were beatings and deaths.
?I heard many times that eyeballs were taken out by beating,? he recalled. ?And I saw that by beating the person the muscle was damaged and the bone was exposed, outside, and they put salt on the wounded part. At the beginning I was frightened when I witnessed it, but it was repeated again and again, so my feelings were paralyzed.?
Moreover, said Ahn, beating and killing prisoners was not only tolerated, it was encouraged and even rewarded.
?They trained me not to treat the prisoners as human beings. If someone is against socialism, if someone tries to escape from prison, then kill him,? Ahn said. ?If there?s a record of killing any escapee then the guard will be entitled to study in the college. Because of that some guards kill innocent people.?
President Bush told author and Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward last year that he was well aware of the camps and the atrocities. That, officials say, partly explains why Bush insisted on North Korea?s inclusion in the ?axis of evil? in his 2002 State of the Union address.
?I loathe Kim Jong Il,? Bush told Woodward during an interview for the author?s book ?Bush at War.? ?I?ve got a visceral reaction to this guy because he is starving his people. And I have seen intelligence of these prison camps ? they?re huge ? that he uses to break up families and to torture people.?
Brownback, a senator with a reputation as a human rights advocate, thinks that the prison camps and abuses have for too long taken a back seat to nuclear arms and other Korean issues.
?It seems that what happened is that there got to be a complex set of issues, and people said, ?Well OK, it?s about our relationship with China, it?s about the Korean Peninsula, it?s about this militaristic regime in North Korea that we don?t want to press too much because they may march across the border into South Korea.?
Brownback says the North?s nuclear program, its missile tests and generally unpredictable behavior has blurred a critical issue:
?I think people just got paralyzed to really put a focus on the human face of this suffering,? he said.
Lisa Myers, Rich Gardella and Judy Augsberger of NBC News and Michael Moran of MSNBC.com contributed to this report.
war on drugs
Reply #105 on:
September 14, 2004, 12:41:38 PM »
In an earlier response about what we need to change concerning our war on terrorism:
(6) The thousands of federal agents assigned to the ''war on drugs,''
a war that is not only unwinnable but probably not worth winning, should be reassigned to the war on international terrorism.
I cannot agree with this more. The only reason we have a war on drugs is because we have drug addicts. It does absolutely no good to fight the producers and marketers.
We have to overcome ourselves.
Reply #106 on:
September 14, 2004, 12:49:03 PM »
I agree with your conclusion.
Reply #107 on:
September 17, 2004, 12:52:26 PM »
THE MUDDLE IN IRAQ
By RALPH PETERS
September 17, 2004 -- FIGHTING terror is like fighting a fire. It's easiest in the early stages, before the flames spread. But if you sit idly by, hoping that the fire will burn itself out, you're likely to find yourself up against an inferno.
Confronted by global terror, the Clinton administration hoped the problem would go away by magic. Faced with incipient terror in Iraq last year, the Bush administration insisted that the magic of freedom would make it disappear.
But policies that rely on magic of any kind beg for disaster.
We don't yet face a disaster in Iraq ? thanks to the quality and commitment of our troops. And the Bush administration, despite its errors, has had a great stroke of luck in Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who has shown not only a solid grasp of the problems Iraq faces, but the will to solve them no matter what it takes.
At the moment, it's almost impossible to find a balanced view of Iraq in America. The partisans of both political parties are out in force, insisting either that Iraq's a magnificent place with a minor litter problem, or that it's an inferno where countless legions of terror are being forged.
The reality's in the middle, but still more hopeful than not. Despite the lurid media reports, more good things than bad are happening in Iraq. Progress is slow and painful. But it's still progress.
The media report an increase in violence, occasionally noting that the terrorists hope to influence the U.S. election. But there's much more to the carnage than Bush vs. Kerry.
Despite the impression created by intermittent attacks, the terrorists have shifted their priority away from attacking our troops. Every time they go after our soldiers or Marines, our enemies suffer disproportionate casualties. So they're concentrating on killing Iraqis ? government officials, the police, educators, doctors and businessmen.
This gains them short-term headlines and creates local chaos, but it's alienating the population. Bombing crowds of young men applying for jobs is not an effective way to win hearts and minds. The Iraqis may not want us to stay forever, but they do not want the terrorists in power.
And there's another, more significant reason why the violence has increased: Our troops are on the offensive again, reclaiming towns and cities where terrorists grabbed power after the Bush administration faltered in Fallujah this past spring.
Despite the frantic efforts of the Arab media to stop our destruction of the terrorists and insurgents, Prime Minister Allawi and the key members of his government are hanging tough. They know that Iraq doesn't have a chance unless terror is uprooted. They support our troops. In response, the Bush administration has been willing to apply military power again, as long as it doesn't create embarrassing headlines before November.
We're retaking one city after another. But the core problem remains Fallujah, where the administration's surrender ? despite the tactical success of our Marines ? allowed our enemies to create a terrorist city-state. The violence that seeped across central Iraq over the summer came from terror's safe haven in Fallujah.
Allawi wants Fallujah brought into line. Our military has the muscle. Operations will be harder now than they would have been four months ago, since our enemies have had time to prepare for a siege. But we can do it.
The delay is because the Bush administration wants to avoid serious combat until after our elections. The Bushies are using airstrikes against terrorist safe houses, but that won't retake the city.
The truth is that the terrorists are the lesser problem. The greater impediment to progress has been our presidential elections and the policy distortions they create.
The polarization, dishonesty and manipulation on both sides aids the terrorists. When John Kerry states categorically that he'll bring our troops home within four years, it promises the terrorists that they only have to hang on. When he declares our efforts a disaster, he encourages our enemies to believe they're winning. And when he promises a "more sensitive" war on terror, it's read as a pending declaration of surrender.
Kerry blathers. Bush delays. Iraq burns.
Meanwhile, our intelligence community has once again shown its weakness by covering its backside, instead of finding terrorists. A National Intelligence Council report revealed this week paints a bleak picture of the future of Iraq. Why? Because the intel bureaucrats don't want to be blamed if things go wrong. There's nothing safer than assuming failure.
I dealt with the NIC during my days as an intelligence officer. I always found it more interested in playing it safe than in serving our country. Clearly, nothing has changed.
October is going to be a bloody month ? it may appear to prove the pessimists right. But Iraq's future isn't tied to a 24/7 news cycle. The key event is going to be the election. Not our election, but the Iraqi vote scheduled for January.
Nobody else in the Middle East wants that election to take place. The U.N. is warning that security conditions may prevent voting ? giving the terrorists hope. But the Iraqi interim government is staying the course.
Fallujah is the military test of our resolve to secure the future of Iraq. But the January election is the strategic test. We must not let ourselves become discouraged. Those ballots are worth fighting for. No matter how bloody and flawed, an Iraqi vote held on schedule would be a tremendous victory for freedom.
Our enemies and fair-weather friends alike will try to disrupt the voting. Our response may decide the future of the entire Middle East.
Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace."
Reply #108 on:
September 20, 2004, 08:53:40 AM »
In the interests of thread coherency I move the following thread over to this one.-- Crafty
I am that wayward student, living in Istanbul, Turkey, who trained with Dave and Arlan, back at Warrior-Priest Art (Pandorf) of Santa Fe, NM-- while studying at St. John's College.
Sorry to chime in our your WW3 posting-- but just wanted to add my two cents and, humbly, correct you-- technically World War III was popularily known as the "Cold-War" (see CollinGray's "The Geopolitics of Superpower).
Before I digress and lose myelf in a maze of semantics and pointless intellectual machinations-- technically the US and her Allies have embarked upon WWIV, but lack the "political will" in a classical sense declare it as such. The issue of political will being the "sticking point" of the issue.
As to your citing of Paul Johnson and its attached article-- I would ask anyone who enjoyed the article to pick up "Modern Times" by that same author at your local bookstore. This is a most enjoyable history and describes how the rise of "moral relativism" is interwoven with the violence of the 20th centry (Fascism, National Socialism, Marxism-Lenisim and Maosim) and of the 21st century (to date: Religiosity-Islamic Fundamentalism).
For all of you who have subsribed to STRATFOR, please also consider checking out Daniel Pipe's website and "free weekly" at
Mr. Pipes is one of the best thinkers on the subject of Islamic Fundamentalism, Terrorism and the Middle East-- a definite must read!
Hey whom amongst you only walks arround with only one weapon these days?
Daniel (IstanbulBlue) the Aviation Consultant.
Glad for your imput and glad to hear from you. Pipes is excellent and I will look into your citiation.
I'm for bed shortly, but may I ask that you post this on the WW3 thread? Thread continuity, as versus starting lots of new threads, helps with the coherence of the Forum. With a forum as diverse as this one, every little bit helps.
PS: Concerning the name "WW3", I am aware that the Neocons consider the Cold War to have been WW3 and consider the current war to be WW4, but outside of their circle there are other definitions used.
Sorry about the posting's position on the board-- I am not used to using it, yet. I will work out the kinks for the sake of consistency.
I will send you a personal message-- in regards to my training and some questions I had in regards to starting up a "study group" in the future, in Istanbul. Though, currently, it looks like I might be out of work and back in the US by Jan 2005. I might end up moving to Lebanon or Cairo to learn some Arabic-- but that's another story, another world (grad school).
As to your comment-- about NEOCONS-- heck, I thought I was playing my cards close to my chest. I guess the fact that one of my academic/personal mentors include Seth Cropsey-- Joseph Cropsey's son (Levi Strauss Chair professor at U Chicago).
I have read some interesting things about Levi Strauss and his influence over those who became the Neocons. Some have accused him of saying, and the Neocons of believing, that the people need to be lied to sometimes to get them to go along with what must be done. Is this true in your opinion?
Reply #109 on:
September 21, 2004, 05:52:23 PM »
Text of Bush's Speech to the U.N.
Sep 21, 1:43 PM (ET)
By The Associated Press
Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for the honor of addressing this General Assembly. The American people respect the idealism that gave life to this organization. And we respect the men and women of the U.N., who stand for peace and human rights in every part of the world. Welcome to New York City, and welcome to the United States of America.
During the past three years, I've addressed this General Assembly in a time of tragedy for my country, and in times of decision for all of us. Now we gather at a time of tremendous opportunity for the U.N. and for all peaceful nations. For decades, the circle of liberty and security and development has been expanding in our world. This progress has brought unity to Europe, self-government to Latin America and Asia, and new hope to Africa. Now we have the historic chance to widen the circle even further, to fight radicalism and terror with justice and dignity, to achieve a true peace, founded on human freedom.
The United Nations and my country share the deepest commitments. Both the American Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaim the equal value and dignity of every human life. That dignity is honored by the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, protection of private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance. That dignity is dishonored by oppression, corruption, tyranny, bigotry, terrorism and all violence against the innocent. And both of our founding documents affirm that this bright line between justice and injustice - between right and wrong - is the same in every age, and every culture, and every nation.
Wise governments also stand for these principles for very practical and realistic reasons. We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. We know that oppressive governments support terror, while free governments fight the terrorists in their midst. We know that free peoples embrace progress and life, instead of becoming the recruits for murderous ideologies.
Every nation that wants peace will share the benefits of a freer world. And every nation that seeks peace has an obligation to help build that world. Eventually, there is no safe isolation from terror networks, or failed states that shelter them, or outlaw regimes, or weapons of mass destruction. Eventually, there is no safety in looking way, seeking the quiet life by ignoring the struggles and oppression of others.
In this young century, our world needs a new definition of security. Our security is not merely found in spheres of influence, or some balance of power. The security of our world is found in the advancing rights of mankind. These rights are advancing across the world - and across the world, the enemies of human rights are responding with violence.
Terrorists and their allies believe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Bill of Rights, and every charter of liberty ever written, are lies, to be burned and destroyed and forgotten. They believe that dictators should control every mind and tongue in the Middle East and beyond. They believe that suicide and torture and murder are fully justified to serve any goal they declare. And they act on their beliefs.
In the last year alone, terrorists have attacked police stations, and banks, and commuter trains, and synagogues - and a school filled with children. This month in Beslan we saw, once again, how the terrorists measure their success - in the death of the innocent, and in the pain of grieving families. Svetlana Dzebisov was held hostage, along with her son and her nephew - her nephew did not survive. She recently visited the cemetery, and saw what she called the "little graves." She said, "I understand that there is evil in the world. But what have these little creatures done?"
Members of the United Nations, the Russian children did nothing to deserve such awful suffering, and fright and death. The people of Madrid and Jerusalem and Istanbul and Baghdad have done nothing to deserve sudden and random murder. These acts violate the standards of justice in all cultures, and the principles of all religions. All civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all must fight the murderers.
We're determined to destroy terror networks wherever they operate, and the United States is grateful to every nation that is helping to seize terrorist assets, track down their operatives, and disrupt their plans. We're determined to end the state sponsorship of terror - and my nation is grateful to all that participated in the liberation of Afghanistan.
We're determined to prevent proliferation, and to enforce the demands of the world - and my nation is grateful to the soldiers of many nations who have helped to deliver the Iraqi people from an outlaw dictator. The dictator agreed in 1991, as a condition of a cease-fire, to fully comply with all Security Council resolutions - then ignored more than a decade of those resolutions.
Finally, the Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning. When we say "serious consequences," for the sake of peace, there must be serious consequences. And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world.
Defending our ideals is vital, but it is not enough. Our broader mission as U.N. members is to apply these ideals to the great issues of our time. Our wider goal is to promote hope and progress as the alternatives to hatred and violence. Our great purpose is to build a better world beyond the war on terror.
Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have established a global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. In three years the contributing countries have funded projects in more than 90 countries, and pledged a total of $5.6 billion to these efforts. America has undertaken a $15 billion effort to provide prevention and treatment and humane care in nations afflicted by AIDS, placing a special focus on 15 countries where the need is most urgent. AIDS is the greatest health crisis of our time, and our unprecedented commitment will bring new hope to those who have walked too long in the shadow of death.
Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have joined together to confront the evil of trafficking in human beings. We're supporting organizations that rescue the victims, passing stronger anti-trafficking laws, and warning travelers that they will be held to account for supporting this modern form of slavery. Women and children should never be exploited for pleasure or greed, anywhere on Earth.
Because we believe in human dignity, we should take seriously the protection of life from exploitation under any pretext. In this session, the U.N. will consider a resolution sponsored by Costa Rica calling for a comprehensive ban on human cloning. I support that resolution and urge all governments to affirm a basic ethical principle: No human life should ever be produced or destroyed for the benefit of another.
Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have changed the way we fight poverty, curb corruption, and provide aid. In 2002 we created the Monterrey Consensus, a bold approach that links new aid from developed nations to real reform in developing ones. And through the Millennium Challenge Account, my nation is increasing our aid to developing nations that expand economic freedom and invest in the education and health of their own people.
Because we believe in human dignity, America and many nations have acted to lift the crushing burden of debt that limits the growth of developing economies, and holds millions of people in poverty. Since these efforts began in 1996, poor countries with the heaviest debt burdens have received more than $30 billion of relief. And to prevent the build-up of future debt, my country and other nations have agreed that international financial institutions should increasingly provide new aid in the form of grants, rather than loans.
Because we believe in human dignity, the world must have more effective means to stabilize regions in turmoil, and to halt religious violence and ethnic cleansing. We must create permanent capabilities to respond to future crises. The United States and Italy have proposed a Global Peace Operations Initiative. G-8 countries will train 75,000 peacekeepers, initially from Africa, so they can conduct operations on that continent and elsewhere. The countries of the G-8 will help this peacekeeping force with deployment and logistical needs.
At this hour, the world is witnessing terrible suffering and horrible crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan, crimes my government has concluded are genocide. The United States played a key role in efforts to broker a cease-fire, and we're providing humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people. Rwanda and Nigeria have deployed forces in Sudan to help improve security so aid can be delivered. The Security Council adopted a new resolution that supports an expanded African Union force to help prevent further bloodshed, and urges the government of Sudan to stop flights by military aircraft in Darfur. We congratulate the members of the Council on this timely and necessary action. I call on the government of Sudan to honor the cease-fire it signed, and to stop the killing in Darfur.
Because we believe in human dignity, peaceful nations must stand for the advance of democracy. No other system of government has done more to protect minorities, to secure the rights of labor, to raise the status of women, or to channel human energy to the pursuits of peace. We've witnessed the rise of democratic governments in predominantly Hindu and Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian cultures. Democratic institutions have taken root in modern societies, and in traditional societies. When it comes to the desire for liberty and justice, there is no clash of civilizations. People everywhere are capable of freedom, and worthy of freedom.
Finding the full promise of representative government takes time, as America has found in two centuries of debate and struggle. Nor is there any - only one form of representative government - because democracies, by definition, take on the unique character of the peoples that create them. Yet this much we know with certainty: The desire for freedom resides in every human heart. And that desire cannot be contained forever by prison walls, or martial laws, or secret police. Over time, and across the Earth, freedom will find a way.
Freedom is finding a way in Iraq and Afghanistan - and we must continue to show our commitment to democracies in those nations. The liberty that many have won at a cost must be secured. As members of the United Nations, we all have a stake in the success of the world's newest democracies.
Not long ago, outlaw regimes in Baghdad and Kabul threatened the peace and sponsored terrorists. These regimes destabilized one of the world's most vital - and most volatile - regions. They brutalized their peoples, in defiance of all civilized norms. Today, the Iraqi and Afghan people are on the path to democracy and freedom. The governments that are rising will pose no threat to others. Instead of harboring terrorists, they're fighting terrorist groups. And this progress is good for the long-term security of us all.
The Afghan people are showing extraordinary courage under difficult conditions. They're fighting to defend their nation from Taliban holdouts, and helping to strike against the terrorists killers. They're reviving their economy. They've adopted a constitution that protects the rights of all, while honoring their nation's most cherished traditions. More than 10 million Afghan citizens - over 4 million of them women - are now registered to vote in next month's presidential election. To any who still would question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies, the Afghan people are giving their answer.
Since the last meeting of this General Assembly, the people of Iraq have regained sovereignty. Today, in this hall, the Prime Minister of Iraq and his delegation represent a country that has rejoined the community of nations. The government of Prime Minister Allawi has earned the support of every nation that believes in self-determination and desires peace. And under Security Council resolutions 1511 and 1546, the world is providing that support. The U.N., and its member nations, must respond to Prime Minister Allawi's request, and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal, and free.
A democratic Iraq has ruthless enemies, because terrorists know the stakes in that country. They know that a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a decisive blow against their ambitions for that region. So a terrorists group associated with al Qaeda is now one of the main groups killing the innocent in Iraq today - conducting a campaign of bombings against civilians, and the beheadings of bound men. Coalition forces now serving in Iraq are confronting the terrorists and foreign fighters, so peaceful nations around the world will never have to face them within our own borders.
Our coalition is standing beside a growing Iraqi security force. The NATO Alliance is providing vital training to that force. More than 35 nations have contributed money and expertise to help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. And as the Iraqi interim government moves toward national elections, officials from the United Nations are helping Iraqis build the infrastructure of democracy. These selfless people are doing heroic work, and are carrying on the great legacy of Sergio de Mello.
As we have seen in other countries, one of the main terrorist goals is to undermine, disrupt, and influence election outcomes. We can expect terrorist attacks to escalate as Afghanistan and Iraq approach national elections. The work ahead is demanding. But these difficulties will not shake our conviction that the future of Afghanistan and Iraq is a future of liberty. The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat, it is to prevail.
The advance of freedom always carries a cost, paid by the bravest among us. America mourns the losses to our nation, and to many others. And today, I assure every friend of Afghanistan and Iraq, and every enemy of liberty: We will stand with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq until their hopes of freedom and security are fulfilled.
These two nations will be a model for the broader Middle East, a region where millions have been denied basic human rights and simple justice. For too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability. Oppression became common, but stability never arrived. We must take a different approach. We must help the reformers of the Middle East as they work for freedom, and strive to build a community of peaceful, democratic nations.
This commitment to democratic reform is essential to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption, and maintain ties to terrorist groups. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders capable of creating and governing a free and peaceful Palestinian state.
Even after the setbacks and frustrations of recent months, goodwill and hard effort can achieve the promise of the road map to peace. Those who would lead a new Palestinian state should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people, and create the reformed institutions of a stable democracy. Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel. Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations. And world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.
The democratic hopes we see growing in the Middle East are growing everywhere. In the words of the Burmese democracy advocate, Aung San Suu Kyi: "We do not accept the notion that democracy is a Western value. To the contrary; democracy simply means good government rooted in responsibility, transparency, and accountability." Here at the United Nations, you know this to be true. In recent years, this organization has helped create a new democracy in East Timor, and the U.N. has aided other nations in making the transition to self-rule.
Because I believe the advance of liberty is the path to both a safer and better world, today I propose establishing a Democracy Fund within the United Nations. This is a great calling for this great organization. The fund would help countries lay the foundations of democracy by instituting the rule of law and independent courts, a free press, political parties and trade unions. Money from the fund would also help set up voter precincts and polling places, and support the work of election monitors. To show our commitment to the new Democracy Fund, the United States will make an initial contribution. I urge other nations to contribute, as well.
Today, I've outlined a broad agenda to advance human dignity, and enhance the security of all of us. The defeat of terror, the protection of human rights, the spread of prosperity, the advance of democracy - these causes, these ideals, call us to great work in the world. Each of us alone can only do so much. Together, we can accomplish so much more.
History will honor the high ideals of this organization. The charter states them with clarity: "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,""to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,""to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom."
Let history also record that our generation of leaders followed through on these ideals, even in adversity. Let history show that in a decisive decade, members of the United Nations did not grow weary in our duties, or waver in meeting them. I'm confident that this young century will be liberty's century. I believe we will rise to this moment, because I know the character of so many nations and leaders represented here today. And I have faith in the transforming power of freedom.
May God bless you. (Applause.)
Reply #110 on:
September 22, 2004, 11:26:48 AM »
Bush, in Shift, Taps Into Emergency Iraq Funds
Tue Sep 21, 9:09 PM ET
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has begun tapping into its $25 billion emergency fund for the Iraq war to prepare for a major troop rotation and intense fighting this fall, administration officials said on Tuesday,
despite the White House's initial insistence that it had enough money.
The Pentagon has already used more than $2 billion from what the White House dubbed its "contingency reserve" fund for Iraq. The money is being used to ramp up production of armored Humvees to support the troop rotation, as well as to buy body armor and bolster fuel supplies, the officials told Reuters.
The decision to use the $25 billion in Iraq reserves underscores concern within the administration about the rise in anti-American violence in Iraq.
The decision follows last week's announcement that President Bush
plans to divert nearly $3.5 billion from Iraqi water, power and other reconstruction projects
to improve security.
The White House had initially asserted it would not need additional war funding until January or February, 2005 -- well after the November presidential election.
Even after requesting the $25 billion reserve fund in May, White House officials insisted it was an "insurance policy" that they hoped not to tap, though they acknowledged that could change if violence flared up.
"As we've always said, our troops in the field will have what they need, when they need it," said Chad Kolton, spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget.
"In this case, making some of those resources available now ensures that our troops will have the equipment they need going into the fall (rotation)," Kolton added.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry accused Bush this week of hiding plans to call up more members of the part-time National Guard and Reserve after the election.
The Bush campaign called Kerry's assertion "false and ridiculous," and administration officials said the Pentagon decided to tap into the reserve fund because resources were running low as the fiscal year nears its Sept. 30 end.
Congressional aides and defense analysts said the use of the reserve funds could be an early sign that the Pentagon will run out of money sooner than the White House had expected.
Bush has so far spent $120 billion in Iraq, not including the $25 billion contingency fund, and officials said he could seek another $50 billion in February.
With the rate of spending in Iraq already at more than $1 billion a week, the Pentagon may not have enough money to "get past Christmas," let alone wait until February, said John Pike, a defense analyst with GlobalSecurity.org. He said the White House could need closer to $75 billion next year.
Steven Kosiak, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the administration could shift funding around to fill any shortfall. He added that
the decision to dip into the reserve fund so soon was further evidence "the war is costing more than the administration anticipated."
Critics have long accused Bush of understating war costs.
Before the invasion, then-White House budget director Mitch Daniels predicted Iraq would be "an affordable endeavor," and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz even assured Congress: "We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon."
Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, said tapping into emergency reserves was "another example of this administration saying one thing and doing another."
"This administration is riddled with flip-flops," Conrad added, echoing a charge Bush uses against Kerry.
Connections between Terrorist Organizations and Street Gangs
Reply #111 on:
September 23, 2004, 01:02:52 PM »
Here's the text from
In the Hat's
most recent post. A great weblog, so if you can, check it out.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
WAS THIS INEVITABLE?
One of my out of town readers just sent me an item from the Brownsville, Texas paper, The Herald. On September 3, Emma Perez-Trevino wrote about contacts between AL-QAIDA and the MARA SALVATRUCHA, a street gang with sets in Los Angeles, Texas, the US-MEXICO border and as far away as Virginia, New York and Boston. Just so you know, MS has a lot of sets, some of whom operate under the Sureno flag. Others don't. Look for the MS13 placa to determine if they're Sureno. Non-affiliates drop the 13.
The information on this possible alliance came from the U.S. House Select Committee on Homeland Security. According to a member of that committee, Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz, a Democrat from Texas, "We have been in contact wtih El Salvadoran officials and they have verified that Al-Qaida has been active in these gangs."
Ortiz, along with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Jim Turner, both Texas Democrats, have asked for more cooperation between the Border Patrol, the FBI and the CIA. All three pols called the OTM policy (Other Than Mexican), "nothing more than a conduit for terrorists." Apparently, 80% to 90% of the 25,000 OTMs arrested on the U.S. side of the border are released on their own recognizance with nothing more than a promise to appear for a hearing. Guess how many actually show up.
For the complete story, a Google search for the Brownsville Herald will take you to the site. I don't do links.
The concept of streets gangs making alliances with foreign powers is not new. In 1987, four members of Chicago's El Rukn gang were convicted of accepting $2.5 million from Lybia to plan and execute terrorist attacks in the U.S. That same year, Jeff Fort, founder of the Blackstone Rangers traveled to Lybia where Muammar Qaddafi presented him with a rocket launcher. The FBI intercepted the weapon and arrested Fort. Louis Farrakhan made the introductions and accompanied Fort to Lybia. More recently, Jose Padilla, a Chicago street gangster was arrested for trying to organize a dirty bomb attack in the U.S.
On the other side of the coin, Italian mobster Lucky Luciano made a deal with the Government during the war. In exchange for his help in gathering intelligence and putting friends on the ground prior to the invasion of Sicily, Luciano was allowed to leave prison and deported at the end of the war. Even without the aid of the internet and satellite phones, Luciano had no trouble calling the shots to his New York crime family from his villa in Palermo.
We'll see what develops with the MS.
Reply #112 on:
October 01, 2004, 06:25:35 PM »
Very discouraging piece , , ,
Pulling Back the Curtain: What a Top Reporter in Baghdad Really Thinks About the War
Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi confirms that she penned a scathing letter that calls the war in Iraq an outright "disaster." She also reveals that reporters in Baghdad are working under "virtual house arrest."
By Greg Mitchell
(September 29, 2004) -- Readers of any nailbiting story from Iraq in a major mainstream newspaper must often wonder what the dispassionate reporter really thinks about the chaotic situation there, and what he or she might be saying in private letters or in conversations with friends back home.
Now, at least in the case of Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi, we know.
A lengthy letter from Baghdad she recently sent to friends "has rapidly become a global chain mail," Fassihi told Jim Romenesko on Wednesday after it was finally posted at the Poynter Institute's Web site. She confirmed writing the letter.
"Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity," Fassihi wrote (among much else) in the letter. "Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler." And: "Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come."
After she confirmed writing the letter on Wednesday, Paul Steiger, editor of the Wall Street Journal, stood up for her, telling the New York Post that her "private opinions have in no way distorted her coverage, which has been a model of intelligent and courageous reporting, and scrupulous accuracy and fairness."
Fassihi, 32, covered the 9/11 terror attacks in New York for the The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. and has also worked for the Providence Journal.
The reporter's letter opens with this revelation: "Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference. Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons.
"I am house bound.... There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second."
Fassihi observed that the insurgency had spread "from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq." The Iraqi government, he wrote, "doesn't control most Iraqi cities.... The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health--which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers--has now stopped disclosing them. Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.
"A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq."
For journalists, Fassihi wrote, "the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood....
"The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day.
"I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathists to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive."
And what of America's "hope for a quick exit"? Fassihi noted that "cops are being murdered by the dozens every day, over 700 to date, and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly....
"Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?
"I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad...."
Making clear what can only, at best, appear between lines in her published dispatches, Fassihi concluded, "One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle."
Reply #113 on:
October 03, 2004, 12:36:24 PM »
The Muslim "debate" on hostage-taking and beheading.
BY AMIR TAHERI - WSJ.com
Sunday, October 3, 2004 12:01 a.m.
Who are we allowed to seize as hostage? Who are we allowed to kill?
For the past few weeks these questions have prompted much debate throughout the Muslim world. The emerging answer to both questions is: Anyone you like!
Triggered by the atrocity at a school in Beslan, in southern Russia, last
month, the debate has been further fueled by kidnappings and "exhibition
killings" in Iraq. Non-Muslims may find it strange that such practices are
debated rather than condemned as despicable crimes. But the fact is that the seizure of hostages and "exhibition killing" go back to the early stages
of Islamic history.
In the Arabia of the seventh century, where Islam was born, seizing hostages was practiced by rival tribes, and "exhibition killing" was a weapon of psychological war. The Prophet codified those practices, ending freelance kidnappings and head-chopping. One principle of the new code was that Muslims could not be held hostage by Muslims. Nor could Muslims be subjected to "exhibition killing." Such methods were to be used solely against non-Muslims, and then only in the context of armed conflict.
Seized in combat, a non-Muslim would be treated as a war prisoner, and could win freedom by converting to Islam. He could also be ransomed or exchanged against a Muslim prisoner of war. Non-Muslim women and children captured in war would become the property of their Muslim captors. Female captives could be taken as concubines or given as gifts to Muslims. The children, brought up as Muslims, would enjoy Islamic rights.
Centuries later, the initial code was elaborated by Imam Jaafar Sadeq, a
descendant of the Prophet. He made two key rulings. Whoever entered Islam was instantly granted "full guarantee for his blood." And non-Muslims, as long as they paid their poll tax, or jiziyah, to the Islamic authority would be protected.
Recalling this background is important because what we witness in the Muslim world today is disregard of religious tradition in favor of political
A survey of Muslim views over the past weeks shows overwhelming, though not unanimous, condemnation of the Beslan massacre. But in all cases the reasons given for the condemnation are political rather than religious. Muslim commentators assert that Russia, having supported "the Palestinian cause," did not deserve such treatment. Sheik Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Sunni Muslim scholar based in Qatar, was among the first to condemn the Beslan massacre. At the same time, however, he
insists that a similar attack on Israeli schools would be justified because
Israeli schoolchildren, if not killed, could grow up to become soldiers.
(Sheik Qaradawi also justifies the killing of unborn Israelis because, if
born, they could become soldiers.)
That view is shared by Ayatollah Imami Kashani, a cleric working for the
Iranian government. He claims that, regardless of what it has done against the people of Chechnya, Russia must not be attacked because it has supported "the greater cause" of Palestine. In other words Chechen Muslims are less worthy of consideration than Palestinian ones. That view is shared by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a grouping of 57 Muslim countries. Its secretary-general, Abdelouahed Belkeziz, has issued a strong condemnation of Beslan. But he has not said a word about dozens of other terrorists attacks carried out by Islamists across the globe.
Implicit in all this is that killing innocent people in the lands of the
"infidel" is justified for as long as the victims are not citizens of
states sympathetic to "the Arab cause," whatever it happens to be at any given time. That position was highlighted in the Arab reaction to the kidnapping of two French journalists by Islamists in Iraq last month. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa led the call for their release with these words: "France is a friend of the Arabs; we cannot treat friends this way."
This was echoed by Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, spiritual leader of
Hezbollah, who appealed for the release of the Frenchmen, something he has not done for any of the 140 foreigners who have been kidnapped in Iraq. Yasser Arafat has been more specific. "These journalists support the
Palestinian cause and the Iraqi cause," he said in a statement issued in
Ramallah. "We need guarantees for the security of friends who support us in battle."
In other words the Frenchmen must be freed because they support the Arabs, not because holding hostages is wrong.
The French authorities have reinforced that sentiment. Prime Minister
Jean-Pierre Raffarin speaks of the Iraqi insurgency as "la r?sistance."
And Foreign Minister Michel Barnier has announced that France would reject the international conference on Iraq, proposed by the Bush administration, unless "elements opposed to the occupation," meaning the terrorists, are invited.
Mr. Belkeziz, the OIC secretary-general has also promised to leave no stone unturned to ensure the release of the French hostages. The same Mr. Belkeziz has said nothing about hostages from some 30 other countries, including some members of his own organization. Nor has he been moved by the cold-blooded murder of 41 hostages, including Muslims, from 11 different nationalities.
Abbasi Madani, a former leader of the Front for Islamic Salvation, has
started a hunger strike "in solidarity with our French brethren." This
is rich coming from a man whose party and its allies caused the death of some 200,000 people in his native Algeria during the 1990s. Mr. Madani never missed a meal in solidarity with the countless Algerians, including women and children, that his fellow Islamists slaughtered.
Yet even more disturbing is the attitude of Muslim organizations in France
and Britain. Both have sent delegations to Iraq to contact the terrorists
and ask for the liberation of two French, and one British, hostages. The
French delegation, led by Mohamed Bechari, went out of its way to advertise France's "heroic opposition" to the Iraq war in 2003. "I am here
to defend France's Arab policy," Mr. Bechari told reporters. "In Iraq as well as in Palestine, France is for the Arabs."
The two British Muslim delegates made their case in a different way by
arguing that, although Britain participated in toppling Saddam Hussein, a
majority of the British were opposed to the war. Thus British hostage Ken
Bigley should be released not because hostage-taking is wrong but because such a move could strengthen anti-war sentiment in Britain.
By refusing to come out with a categorical rejection of terrorism, Muslim
leaders and opinion-makers are helping perpetuate a situation in which no
one is safe. The 9/11 attacks against the United States were based on the
claim, made by al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that all citizens of
democratic countries could be murdered because, being actual or potential voters, they have a share of responsibility for the policies of their governments.
The assumption that only Americans and Israelis are targeted has proved
false as Islamists have murdered hundreds of peoples from all faiths,
including Islam, in a dozen countries in the past three years. Today, it is
enough for anyone to designate himself as an Islamic "mujahid," fighting
for Palestine and opposing the "occupation" in Iraq, to get carte blanche
from millions of Muslims, including many in authority, for kidnapping and
That no one, Muslim or "infidel," is safe was made clearer by a statement
from Abu Anas al-Shami, the self-styled "mufti" of al Qaeda, who was
reportedly killed in Iraq in an American air attack last month. "There are
times when mujahedeen cannot waste time finding out who is who in the
battlefield," he wrote. "There are times when we have to assume that whoever is not on our side is the enemy."
Al-Shami's position echoes a fatwa of the late Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali,
one of the founders of the Islamic Republic in Iran. Ayatollah Khalkhali
wrote: "Among those we seize hostage or kill, some may be innocent. In that case, Allah will take them to his paradise. We do our job, He does His."
Mr. Taheri is an Iranian political commentator based in Paris.
Copyright ? 2004 Dow Jones & Company, I
Reply #114 on:
October 03, 2004, 12:39:13 PM »
Jack Kelly: The desperation of the insurgents
In Iraq, as on Guadalcanal in WWII, we are grinding the enemy down
Sunday, October 03, 2004
John Kerry has changed positions on Iraq more often than some of his supporters have changed their underwear. But if he sticks with his current position for the rest of the campaign, Americans will have the debate on Iraq policy we deserve to have.
For Kerry and most of his fellow Democrats, every war is like Vietnam, an (in their view) American overreach that begins in hubris and ends in tragedy.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Powl Smith, a counterterrorism expert on the staff of the MultiNational Forces in Baghdad, thinks Iraq is more like Guadalcanal.
Guadalcanal is an island in the Solomons chain uncomfortably close to Australia. It was the site of the first American counteroffensive against the Japanese in World War II.
The Marines seized the Japanese airstrip on the island in a surprise attack. But, as Lt. Col. Smith noted in an article in The Weekly Standard, "the Japanese recovered from our initial success, and began a long and brutal campaign to force us off Guadalcanal."
We held off the Japanese, and the tide in the Pacific was turned. Ever thereafter, the Japanese were on the defensive. But it took six months and 6,000 U.S. casualties (compared to 24,000 Japanese) to do it.
In Iraq as at Guadalcanal, we achieved stunning initial success. In Iraq as at Guadalcanal, the enemy has fought back ferociously, because they realize defeat would leave them in an untenable position. And in Iraq, as on Guadalcanal, we are grinding the enemy down.
American troops and Iraqi security forces have been killing terrorists in bunches. Maj. Gen. Gary Harrell, commander of Special Operations Forces in Central Command, told Bret Baier of Fox News that there are fewer than 10,000 enemy combatants in Iraq, and there may be fewer than 5,000.
The gruesome tactics of the terrorists in Iraq -- kidnappings and beheadings and suicide bombings -- have been cited by Democrats and journalists as signs that things are getting worse.
But to thoughtful observers, these seem more like signs of desperation.
Gilles Kepel, a French Arabist, thinks the followers of Osama bin Laden are losing, badly.
Not only have the Islamists failed to achieve their goal of seizing power in Muslim lands, they have suffered since Sept. 11, 2001, a string of major defeats, Kepel noted. The Taliban has been ousted in Afghanistan. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have turned towards the West. Islamists in Sudan and Libya are in retreat. The plight of the Palestinians has worsened. The Americans are in Baghdad.
"Kepel argues that the insurgents' brutal tactics in Iraq -- the kidnappings and beheadings, the car bombing massacres of young Iraqi police recruits -- are increasingly alienating the Muslim masses," wrote Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. "No sensible Muslim would want to live in Fallujah, which is now controlled by Taliban-style fanatics. Similarly, the Muslim masses can see that most of the dead from al-Qaida bombings in Turkey and Morocco were fellow Muslims."
Iraqis have noticed that they, and not the Americans, are now the chief targets: "Since Jan. 1 more than 700 Iraqi security force members have been killed, and hundreds of Iraqis seeking to volunteer for the police and military have been killed as well," said Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who is in charge of training the Iraqi security forces, in an article in The Washington Post Sept. 26.
But this hasn't discouraged them. There continue to be more volunteers for the Iraqi police, national guard and army than there are training slots available.
The level of violence in Iraq is likely to increase over the next few months as the terrorists try desperately to derail the Iraqi elections slated for January. They know that successful elections could be the final nail in their coffins.
In his Sept. 28 New York Times column, David Brooks noted the risks the people of El Salvador were willing to take to vote in elections in the midst of the civil country in the 1980s, and how just having those elections undermined the insurgency.
"As we saw in El Salvador and as Iraqi insurgents understand, elections suck the oxygen from a rebel army," Brooks said. "They refute the claim that violence is the best way to change things. Moreover, they produce democratic leaders who are better equipped to win an insurgency war."
Jack Kelly is national security writer for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (
Reply #115 on:
October 05, 2004, 12:20:41 PM »
THE ARMY WINS
By RALPH PETERS
October 5, 2004 -- IN a remarkable display of skill, elements of the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division and newly trained Iraqi national forces drove the terrorists from the city of Samarra last week. Killing over 100 of freedom's enemies and capturing many more, our troops lost a single soldier.
The two-day sweep through Samarra incorporated lessons learned on the ground over the past several months especially the need to win swiftly in urban settings. Our soldiers performed flawlessly under difficult conditions. Iraqi commandos, backed by our Special Forces, liberated two key mosques before a hostile media could intervene on terror's behalf. The city's population is glad that their oppressors are gone.
Has Sen. Kerry acknowledged the performance of our troops? Has he thanked them? Of course not. The senator and his posse of defeatists resent American victories in the final weeks before our presidential election.
We're supposed to lose, you understand.
There's an enormous and troubling disconnect between the situation on the ground in Iraq and the portrait of disaster hawked by Kerry & Co. abetted by the media. The victims of this disinformation campaign are our soldiers, the American people and the law-abiding citizens of Iraq.
Indeed, the Dems have declared defeat so loudly and insistently that they've convinced much of the world that freedom's cause is lost in the Middle East.
But let me tell you who isn't convinced: Our soldiers. Last week, I was privileged to speak to and listen to hundreds of U.S. Army officers and enlisted soldiers at the Land Combat Exposition in Heidelberg, Germany the headquarters of our ground troops in Europe. Even I was surprised by the complete absence of griping. I did not hear a single criticism of our engagement in Iraq.
Now, soldiers complain. It's a hallowed tradition. Yet, not one of the troops with whom I spoke suggested we were losing in Iraq. Those soldiers, from generals down to the junior enlisted ranks, are the ones who pay the bills that come due in blood. And they were proud to have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many were getting ready to go back. They believed in what their country asked them to do.
But the most inspiring exchanges I had weren't with those in uniform. It was the military spouses, left behind while their loved ones went to war, who really got to me.
I recall two splendid young women whose husbands serve in the same infantry battalion the most dangerous of assignments in Iraq's Sunni triangle. They went out of their way to let me know that they supported their husbands proudly and without reservation
Yet who might be asked to pay a higher price? When protesters pretend to represent the best interests of our troops, how dare they speak for those young wives who risk so much because they, too, believe in our country and its calling?
I was fortunate to hear Maj.-Gen. Marty Dempsey, commander of our 1st Armored Division, share a rigorous analysis of the challenges faced by "Old Ironsides" during the unit's recent tour of duty in Iraq. There was no nonsense in that briefing, no self-glorification just an appreciation of what American soldiers can achieve and a determination to do everything possible to help them.
Gen. B.B. Bell, our Army's senior commander in Europe, has the job of preparing his troops for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan along with other wide-ranging strategic responsibilities. A charismatic leader, Bell is determined to capture the knowledge bought with blood on Iraq's battlefields so that our doctrine is worthy of our soldiers. What I saw, at every rank, was a level of professionalism and dedication that shames my own generation of Cold War-era soldiers.
We've never had better troops in our nation's history and they're winning under very tough conditions.
What do we hear on the home front? A presidential candidate appears determined to provide aid and comfort to the enemy, while encouraging the terrorists to resist with all their might until he's elected.
Kerry and his acolytes revel in reciting casualty figures even though Kerry realizes full well that our losses in Iraq, painful though they are, are lower than those from one minor Civil War battle. And the stakes in Iraq are higher by far than any of the senator's supporters can admit.
Our Army deserves better. As do our Marines, who are readying themselves for the job of retaking Fallujah in cooperation with revamped Iraqi forces. How on earth have we sunk so low that a man who would be president is willing to undercut those in uniform, while encouraging our enemies to believe against all evidence that they're winning?
As this column long has maintained, our troops can perform the mission in Iraq. All they need is stalwart support from our nation's leaders. President Bush has wavered now and then, but last week's win in Samarra suggests that the administration has regained its nerve.
What could our troops expect from a President Kerry? Must we accept that the lives and limbs lost have all been squandered in vain?
When terrorist bombs inevitably go off in the streets of Samarra again, the Kerry crowd will insist that the blasts mean that retaking the city was useless. But the senator, who has seen war firsthand, knows better. Military operations under such conditions are complex, often-lengthy affairs. There is no such thing as a flawless victory.
But there is such a thing as victory. Last week, in a superb lightning operation, Maj.-Gen. John R. S. Batiste and his Big Red One gave the Iraqi people and America a significant win.
Wouldn't it be lovely if Kerry could summon up the decency to thank them?
Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace."
Reply #116 on:
October 07, 2004, 05:12:42 PM »
Subject: What Dick Morris thinks Bush should say.
DEBATE TIPS FOR THE CHIEF
BY DICK MORRIS
October 7, 2004 -- THE strategy required for coaching a President for a debate is the exact opposite of that you have to use to prep a challenger. Challengers need to learn as much as they can to prepare for all questions and become conversant with every area of policy. A president is already informed; the coach's job is to help him sift through what he knows and hone from it a coherent response to challenges from his adversary.
In a sense, a challenger needs to learn more. An incumbent needs to concentrate on what he has to say.
To this end, perhaps these ideas can help Camp Bush as they prepare to undo the massive damage of the first debate.
When Kerry says that homeland security is inadequate and that only 5 percent of the shipping containers are inspected or points out that thousands of pages of wire intercepts have not been translated . . .
. . . Bush should say: "It is very easy to pick on one aspect of our security approach and say it is flawed. But remember one basic fact: If I told you on Sept, 12, 2001 that there would be no further attacks on U.S. soil for the next three years, you'd have thought I was out of my mind. But there have been no attacks. If we're inspecting 5 percent of containers, it's the right 5 percent. Judge us on our record: We have kept America safe."
When Kerry says we shouldn't have attacked Saddam because he wasn't involved in the 9/11 conspiracy . . .
. . . Bush's answer ought to be: "Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor. Hitler had nothing to do with it. But FDR realized we needed to fight all fascism, not just the fascist regime that attacked us. Yes, Hitler made it easy on FDR by declaring war on us. But if he hadn't, does anyone doubt that Roosevelt would have gone to war with Germany anyway?"
When Kerry calls the war in Iraq a mistake and a diversion from the War on Terror . . .
. . . Bush should hit him between the eyes: "Al Qeada operatives are congregating in Iraq. We can kill them there before they can spread mayhem around the world. If we can hunt down those who would attack us in the caves of Pakistan and of Afghanistan and the streets of Fallujah and Baghdad, how is that a diversion from the War on Terror? It's not. It is fundamental to success in that war."
And when Kerry accuses Bush of neglecting our allies . . .
. . . The president must set the record straight: "We have the single most important ally in the fight against terror: Pakistan is helping us hunt down terrorists who have escaped from Afghanistan. As to France, Germany and Russia, the evidence of the Oil-for-Food scandal suggests that no amount of diplomacy would have induced them to abandon a regime that was paying them vast sums of money to stay loyal."
If Kerry says we let bin Ladin escape . . .
. . . Bush has to say: "It's easy to second-guess a specific military decision, but I leave those questions to the generals who are trained to make them. We may not have bin Laden, but he is running from cave to cave to cave and hasn't been able to strike at us. And we do have Saddam. And we did get Khadafy to flip and support us. And we have the terrorists on the run."
When Kerry criticizes any aspect of the war effort, like the shortage of body armor . . .
. . . The president should really let him have it. "It was not me, but you who voted against adequate intelligence funding, to abolish the CIA, to cut defense budgets and, ultimately, against the $87 billion for our efforts in Iraq. Those were your votes, not mine."
If the presidents works on his moves, he'll be back in the race.
Reply #117 on:
October 08, 2004, 03:56:35 PM »
Sizing Up Iraq
Things are coming to a head in the Middle East.
Victor Davis Hanson
From the various insurgencies of the Peloponnesian War to the British victory over Communist guerrillas in Malaya, there remain constants across 2,500 years of time and space that presage victory or defeat. Drawing wisdom from that past, there are at least four critical issues that must always be addressed if we are to create a stable Iraq under the auspices of a broad-based consensual government. So far the occupation has been plagued by mistakes, false assumptions, and incompetence - and yet we find ourselves still with a good chance of success.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
First, is the United States winning its engagements on the ground? The answer is an overwhelming yes - whether we look, most recently, at Samarra or at the thrashing of the Mahdists in Najaf. The combination of armor incursions, constant sniper attack, and GPS bombing in each case has led to decisive tactical defeat of the insurgents. Our only setback - the unfortunate pullback from Fallujah ? was entirely attributable to our wrongheaded constraint, as if we somehow felt that releasing the terrorists from our death grip would either placate the opposition, empower the Iraqi government, or win accolades from the international community. (See here, here, here, and here.)
In fact, our retreat achieved the opposite effect. Thus the withdrawal from Fallujah will be taught for decades as a textbook case of what not to do when suppressing insurgents. Nevertheless, we have reestablished the fact that we can crush all the opposition on the ground, our willingness to restart real hostilities dependent only on how much flak from our critics in the Middle East and Europe we are willing to take.
Let us hope that our planners have learned that whatever ephemeral public relations or humanitarianism they achieved by sparing the terrorists in Fallujah was vastly outweighed by the death and destruction they wrought and the greater number of lives that must now be sacrificed to defeat the emboldened killers for good. The foreign killers in Fallujah are just the sort of folk who trained in Afghanistan, would like to repeat 9/11, and are psychopathic killers of innocent reformers. Instead of worrying about how they got to Fallujah, we should see it as to our advantage that they are now conveniently collected in one central place and can be dealt with en masse. Because the 4th Infantry Division never came down from Turkey during the war into the Sunni Triangle, hundreds of Baathist killers who should have been crushed were not, and instead they melted away. It is now time to finish the job.
Second, are the terrorists - through their suicide bombing, car explosions, hostage-takings, and beheadings - winning widespread Iraqi support? Here I do not mean the anti-American braggadocio we see on spec when a CNN reporter sticks a microphone into the face of someone whose house has just been demolished. Rather, is there a large minority of Iraqis - perhaps four to five million? who are actively helping the terrorists and Islamicists? Again, so far the answer seems to be no; to the degree that civilians provide help and shelter to a Zarqawi and his thugs, it is predicated on self-interest: His men are ruthless and in the neighborhood, while the Americans are forgiving and distant. There is as yet no mass movement analogous to the Vietcong - one with a clear-cut and popular agenda to seize power and either restore Saddam or institute sharia. Indeed, the Iraqi democratic military has suffered as many battle casualties in its struggle against the terrorists as have the Americans.
Third, does fighting the terrorists lead to a political resolution that offers manifest advantages to the majority of Iraqis, and is it recognized as such? The answer is yes, with scheduled elections in January that could develop along the lines of those in Afghanistan. The increasing role of the Iraqi defense forces, the growing prominence of Mr. Allawi, and the preparations for voting in less than four months can all offer a political endgame that will soon lead to some sort of greater freedom and prosperity. That we have been inept in publicizing our achievements is regrettable; but still, most Iraqis grasp that American success leads to water, power, and jobs, and that Zarqawi's victory ensures heads rolling on the ground or spiked on fence posts.
Unlike the case of South Vietnam, the provisional democratic government is not flanked by a hostile nuclear China or Soviet Union, nor is it attacked by an organized conventional military fueled by the romance of a secular and global leftist utopianism. Not even French students march on behalf of Zarqawi's beheaders. So there is an opportunity for a political dynamic to emerge that terrifies al Qaeda: an oil-rich democratic Iraqi state, near a similarly consensual Turkey and Afghanistan, with nuclear India, Russia, and Pakistan - all hostile to Islamic fascists - nearby.
Indeed, the long-term strategic outlook for al Qaeda is far worse than its occasional macabre killings on the ground might suggest: Its victims are often Muslims, from all over the world, and are entirely innocent. So far the terrorists have not galvanized the Arab Street as much as dealt a crushing public-relations blow to Islam itself, succeeding in just a few years to make the young Arab Muslim male the most suspicious and scrutinized fellow on the planet. Indeed, in three years bin Laden and Zarqawi have done for the stereotyping of Arabs what Hitler did for Germans in 15 - and it will take decades to undo the damage to the reputations of millions in the Middle East not yet born.
Fourth, is there a mechanism for the United States to ease out of Iraq? More so than we think. In fact, the first step was eliminating Saddam Hussein. His departure meant that we did not need to keep tens of thousands of troops in the Gulf to box in a rogue Iraq. Thus, after the January elections, our goal should be redeployment rather than entirely new troop commitments: The 10,000 not needed in Saudi Arabia can be transferred to garrison duty to protect the Iraqi democracy, while we also draw down in the Gulf States and likewise shift those assets to bases in Iraq. In a larger sense, if 40,000 Americans who would be doing little in Germany are instead keeping the peace in Iraq, the overall cost to the American taxpayer is about the same.
A NEW POST-IRAQ MIDEAST POLICY
Our eventual aim should be perhaps around 50,000 American troops in the region - or not that many more present than when Saddam was in power. Even if the worst-case scenario were to transpire in January - an elected Islamist government ordering us to leave - we would still have plenty of alternatives. Beside not having to come through with the promised $87 billion in relief, we can also make it clear that an Islamist Iraq is subject to the same conditions as the mullocracy in Iran ? veritable ostracism from the world community, prohibition from acquiring nuclear weapons, and internal problems from imposing sharia on a restless youth.
And the next time the United States uses force in the Middle East, we shall not do nation-building but rather serious GPS-ing at 20,000 feet in punitive Roman fashion. Indeed, despite the glum punditry, the sacrifice of blood and treasure to bring freedom to the Iraqis has been a landmark event by virtue of the very attempt. For decades, a corrupt Arab League - now unconcerned that Arab Muslims have murdered 50,000 black Africans but never losing a chance to damn Israelis for killing 30 Palestinian militants - whined that neocolonialism, Cold War realpolitik, oil, and imperialism precluded Western support for democratic reform.
Well now, Arab League, here you have your long-sought-after dream: The United States spent its own blood to take out a fascist, committed billions in aid to jump start democracy, and lobbied the world to forgive Iraqi debt - only to find either silence from the region's dictators or their active help for the beheaders and car bombers seeking to inaugurate an 8th-century fascist caliphate. The point? The Iraqi people and the Arab Middle East will soon have to go on record either accepting or rejecting the chance for democracy. If they choose theocracy, anarchy, or autocracy, well, the United States can say at least it tried to offer them a way out of their self-induced misery - but the region turned out to prefer the Dark Ages after all and must be left alone to suffer the consequences of that decision.
If an aggregate $50 billion in aid to Egypt; billions more to the Palestinians and Jordanians; the removal of the bloodthirsty Saddam Hussein and the Taliban; $87 billion invested in Iraq and an attempt to relieve its international debt; saving the Kuwaitis; protecting the Saudis; stopping the genocide of Muslims in the Balkans; and keeping the Persian Gulf safe gets us sky-high cartel oil prices and poll data showing that 95 percent of the Middle East does not like America, it is time to try something else.
I could start with the modest suggestion of a gradual cutting off all aid to Egypt, halting most immigration to the United States from the Middle East (in the manner we once did with Communist Eastern Europe), and announcing a carrot-and-stick non-interventionist Bush Doctrine II. All future Middle East military and economic aid would be predicated on the recipient's having a democratic government, while evidence of either terrorist bases or weapons of mass destruction would earn sustained U.S. bombing. Finally, we need a serious energy policy beside the pie-in-the-sky "hydrogen car" or "wind and solar" panacea. If the windmills won't spin for the beach houses off the coast of Nantucket, then they won't spin for us in Fresno either.
We can start by a compromise to drill for oil in the United States while clamping down on gas-guzzling cars. Nuclear power, more hydroelectric damns, oil shale, and mass transit may require subsidies, but billions of U.S. petrodollars are already subsidizing a corrupt Middle East, transmogrifying the type of violence we see routinely in Africa or Asia into something that can literally end the world as we know it.
THE KERRY NON-ALTERNATIVE
Meanwhile, Senator Kerry offers neither a plan to stay nor one to leave Iraq, only something "secret." He thinks a country that defeated Japan, Italy, and Germany at the same time as a warm-up to keeping at bay a nuclear Soviet Union and China must fail if takes on Afghanistan and Iraq at onceHis trial balloons so far ? beg the Germans and French to come in and give the Iranians clean uranium ? have met with polite chuckles. We already know the effect that such warmed-over Carterism will have in Iraq: failure with the added wage of humiliation.
In fact, Kerry's only chance for honest intellectual criticism of the Bush administration might have come from the right: stern remonstrations over our tolerance of looting, inability to train Iraqis in real numbers, laxity in shutting off the borders, failure to control arms depots, tolerance for terrorist enclaves in Fallujah, and sloth in releasing aid money to grass-roots organizations. Yet by putting a tired Richard Holbrook or a whining Jamie Rubin on television, Kerry suggests that far from chastising Bush for doing too little, he believes that the president has already done too much.
The administration's gaffes all share a common theme of restraining our military power in fear of either Middle Eastern or European censure. But once one climbs into a cesspool like Iraq, one must either clean it up or go home, and that means suffering the 48-hour hysteria of the global media about collateral damage in exchange for killing the terrorists and freeing the country. Only that way can we impress the fencesitting Iraqis that we employ an iron fist in service to their own security and prosperity, and thus we - not the beheaders and kidnappers - are their only partners for peace.
Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.
Islamic Rebel Schism in the Phillipines?
Reply #118 on:
October 11, 2004, 05:30:19 PM »
A Reuters story claiming a schism between radical and moderate Islamic rebels.
Philippine rebels strained by radical Islam
10 Oct 2004 03:16:53 GMT
By Stuart Grudgings
CAMP DARAPANAN, Philippines, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Several slouching Muslim rebels spring to attention as visitors approach the makeshift meeting room in a corner of their camp.
Inside, Al Haj Murad's bookish appearance and gentle voice belie his status as the head of the Philippines' largest Muslim militant group and one of the country's most powerful men.
"We are solid," he says during an interview with Reuters, expressing certainty that he has the full support of his at least 12,000 fighters.
Shows of unity are more important than ever for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it returns to peace talks with the government after a three-year break and tries to shake off allegations that its camps are a training ground for militants.
But deepening divisions within the MILF between moderates and Middle-East influenced radicals could turn out to be one of the biggest obstacles to ending the 30-year-old conflict.
The risk is that the MILF may splinter if its leadership signs a peace deal that falls short of the long-cherished goal of independence for Muslim-majority areas, leaving southern Mindanao island stuck in conflict and poverty.
"I think the MILF is having a lot of trouble in their own ranks," said Zachary Abuza, a professor at Boston's Simmons College and an expert on the Mindanao conflict.
"There's growing radicalism within the MILF that's scaring the older generation. At the same time the general population -- their constituency -- is getting really war-weary."
Division in the MILF helps explain why it has found it so difficult to address international concerns about its links with militant groups such as Southeast Asia's Jemaah Islamiah.
Analysts say individual commanders may have kept links with the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah, blamed for a string of attacks in Southeast Asia, including the 2002 bombings of nightclubs on Indonesia's Bali island, without the leadership's permission.
Despite expressing confidence in his group's unity, Murad voiced concern that the older generation may not be able to control a younger, more radical breed of MILF fighter for much longer.
"What we are afraid of is that the younger generation will replace the older generation of leaders and because they are more involved in the war, the possibility of them turning radical is very, very high," he told Reuters on Saturday.
Murad, 54, is deeply respected within the MILF, but is seen as more moderate than his predecessor, charismatic preacher Salamat Hashim who died of a heart attack last year.
The MILF may be paying the price for its entanglement with foreign militants, which stretches back to the Afghan war of the 1980s, and for bringing up a generation that only knows war.
Mursalin Ibrahim Jafar, a 42-year-old rebel guarding Murad, joined the MILF when he was 16 and has known nothing else.
Asked what he wanted to do after a peace deal was signed, he said: "I still want to be a mujahideen, a fighter."
One incident in August may provide insight into the MILF power struggle.
When the leader of the Philippines' infamous Pentagon kidnap gang was reported killed in a rocket attack by military helicopter gunships in a MILF-held area, it seemed like another step on the road to peace.
The common view was that the MILF had lived up to its pledge to help the military track down criminals and foreign militants taking refuge in its areas. The United States lists the Pentagon as a terrorist group.
But there is another version of events. Pentagon chief Alonto Tahir was a blood relation and close ally of Samir Hashim, the brother of Salamat Hashim and thought to be one of the main MILF opponents of a peace deal.
By leading the military to Tahir's lair, Murad may have been sending a powerful warning to Samir and other MILF radicals.
"This was less about Murad trying to reach out to the GRP (Philippine government), it was more sending a signal to Samir," said Abuza. "This was all about internal MILF dynamics."
Reply #119 on:
October 13, 2004, 01:39:26 PM »
IRAQ - FALLUJAH CAMPAIGN TAKES TOLL ON ZARQAWI (OCT 13/NYT)
NEW YORK TIMES -- The U.S. bombing campaign in Fallujah has killed about half of the foreign terrorist leadership in that Iraqi city in the last month, the New York Times reports.
Airstrikes in Fallujah have reportedly killed at least six senior members of the network led by Al-Qaida lieutenant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Military officials did not disclose how they have tracked casualties among Zarqawi's followers in Fallujah, but indicated they are relying on intercepted communications and information from informants.
"His network is hurting," said a senior Defense Depart. official.
"Everything I've seen suggests we're having a measurable impact on him. It's disrupting his operation, though he's still able to use Fallujah as a sanctuary, and that's a problem."
IRAQ - LOCAL INSURGENTS TURN AGAINST FOREIGN FIGHTERS (OCT 13/WP)
WASHINGTON POST -- Residents in Fallujah said local Iraqi insurgents are starting to turn against the foreign fighters who have been allies against the U.S. military and Iraqi interim government, the Washington Post reports.
Local insurgents are negotiating with the government in order to avoid a U.S.-led offensive in the city, but foreign fighters continue to press the attack.
At least five foreign fighters were killed in recent weeks after their dispute with Iraqis turned violent.
Local insurgent leaders say they want the foreign fighters to leave, particularly Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has strong ties to Al-Qaida.
"He is mentally deranged, has distorted the image of the resistance and defamed it. I believe his end is near," said Abu Abdalla Dulaimy, leader of an Iraqi insurgent group called the First Army of Mohammad.
Two Long Reads
Reply #120 on:
October 17, 2004, 09:06:44 AM »
These two thoughtful articles came to my attention via a mailing group of which I am a member. I include the comments of one of the members at the end.
Radical Islam appeals to the rootless
It often is assumed that the spread of Islamic radicalism is a consequence of conflicts within the Middle East and their natural spillover effect on the global Muslim population, specifically on Muslims living in western societies. "Re-Islamisation", the radicalisation of westernised Muslim populations, is seen as the reaction of Muslim societies to western political and cultural encroachments.
But why, then, do so many young, "born again" second-generation Muslims in the western world embrace various brands of neo-fundamentalist or salafi Islam? Why are so many converts joining them? Curiously, why does the radical fringe of the west's Muslim population opt for peripheral and exotic jihad - from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Kashmir and Chechnya - instead of heading to Iraq? Evidence suggests that few, if any, among the children of Europe's Muslim immigrants return to wage jihad in the land of their ancestors - Algeria or Morocco, for example - while foreigners fighting alongside Iraqi Sunni insurgents tend to be Saudi, Syrian or Jordanian neighbours, not volunteers coming from the west.
In fact the spread of new forms of Islamic fundamentalism or salafism as is not a translation of original Muslim cultures and traditions but a recasting of new identities under religious terms.
The neo-fundamentalist view reduces Islam to a literalist and normative reading of the Koran. It rejects cultural dimensions of religion and replaces them with a code of Islamic conduct to suit any situation, from Afghan deserts to US school campuses. Consequently its first target is not so much the west as what it sees as distorted Islam, sullied from early days by traditional Muslim cultures and arts, literature and philosophy. The prime target of the Taliban, for example, was traditional Afghan culture, not the west. Salafism, therefore, is a tool for uprooting traditional cultures, not for enhancing them. It acknowledges without nostalgia the loss of original culture and sees a positive opportunity to build a universal religious identity, unlinked from any specific culture including western society, which is perceived as corrupt and decadent.
Re-Islamisation means that Muslim identity, self-evident as long as it belonged to an inherited cultural legacy, must explicitly express itself in a non-Muslim or western context. The construction of a "deculturalised" Islam gives rise to a religious identity not linked to any specific culture and therefore able to fit with every culture or, more exactly, transcend the very notion of culture. Globalisation has blurred the connection between a religion, an original culture and a territory. In this respect, globalisation provides an opportunity to dissociate Islam from specific cultures and develop a universal model that can work beyond cultural confines.
Neo-fundamentalism reveals that it is just as much a product as an agent of cultural loss. Islam, as preached by the Taliban, the Saudi Wahhabis and Osama bin Laden's radicals, is hostile to traditional culture, even those of Muslim origin. Whether Muhammad's tomb, the Bamiyan statues of the Buddha, or the World Trade Center, destruction of such symbols expresses the same rejection of civilisation or culture. The surge of "fundamentalism" in the west (whether Islamic or even Christian) does not express a clash of civilisations, because it has already deprived cultures and civilisations of their content and meaning.
This sort of fundamentalism does not target actual communities but individuals in doubt of their faith and identity. It appeals to an uprooted, disaffected youth in search of an identity beyond the lost cultures of their parents and beyond the thwarted expecta tions of a better life in the west. They dream of a universal and virtual Islamic community that could give religious meaning to the globalisation process. Converts, whether school drop-outs, racial minorities or rebels without a cause, may find in this imaginary ummah - or universal community of Muslim believers - a chance to build a new and positive identity.
Neo-fundamentalists are succeeding in adding Islamic content to the global market. When they indulge in consumerism they promote halal McDonald's or Mecca-Cola (a registered brand-name) rather than the refined delicacies of Ottoman or Moroccan cuisine. When they go for jihad they do not identify with the nationalist struggles of the Middle East, where activists, whether secular (such as the Ba'athists) or religious (such as Hamas) fight first for a territory and a nation state. The ummah that the fundamentalists are fighting for is not based on a territory: it is a dream that finds on the internet its virtual existence. Websites and chatrooms compensate for the lack of real social roots.
This neo-fundamentalism is not necessarily violent or politically radical. But when it does turn violent, it targets the usual suspects of the old western extreme left: imperialism, capitalism and "dominant ideology". Al-Qaeda in the west has Islamised a space that was filled by anti-imperialism and other such movements. The radical European extreme left, if it still exists, is no longer active in university campuses, depressed housing estates and degraded inner cities. Islamist preachers have replaced far-left militants and social workers. Many young people in these campuses and neighbourhoods find in radical Islam a way to recast and rationalise their sense of alienation. But they are experiencing isolation from real society, as did the radical Marxist left in the 1970s in Europe. Such radicalisation is a transitional and generational phenomenon, increasingly decoupled from the world of mainstream western Muslims, who find their own way to deal with globalisation.
The writer, professor at Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, is author of the forthcoming Globalised Islam: the Search for a New Ummah (C. Hurst & Co./Columbia University Press); he will speak tomorrow at Chatham House, London
The Arab Mind Revisited
by Norvell B. De Atkine
Editors' preface: In the spring of 2004, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal drove headlines in the United States and the Middle East. Journalist Seymour Hersh wrote a report in The New Yorker, entitled "The Gray Zone," describing the abuse of prisoners as the outcome of a deliberate policy. Hersh also made reference to a book, The Arab Mind, by the cultural anthropologist Raphael Patai (1910-96):
The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. One book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind, a study of Arab culture and psychology, first published in 1973, by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at, among other universities, Columbia and Princeton, and who died in 1996. The book includes a twenty-five-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression.? The Patai book, an academic told me, was "the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior." In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged?"one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation."
This mention of Patai's book (on the sole authority of "an academic [who] told me") sent journalists scurrying to read it?and denounce it. Brian Whitaker, writing in The Guardian, called it a "classic case of orientalism which, by focusing on what Edward Said called the ?otherness' of Arab culture, sets up barriers that can then be exploited for political purposes." He quoted an academic as saying, "The best use for this volume, if any, is for a doorstop." Ann Marlowe, in Salon.com, called it "a smear job masquerading under the merest veneer of civility." Louis Werner, in Al-Ahram Weekly and elsewhere, embellished Hersh's account with a made-up detail: The Arab Mind, he wrote, "was apparently used as a field manual by U.S. Army Intelligence in Abu Ghraib prison." (Hersh made no such claim.) Only Lee Smith, writing in Slate.com, suggested that critics had misread Patai, whom he described as "a keen and sympathetic observer of Arab society," a "popularizer of difficult ideas, and also a serious scholar."
No one took the trouble to crosscheck Hersh's academic source on the supposed influence of Patai's book as the "frequently cited ? ?bible of the neocons.'" A more accurate description of The Arab Mind would be a prohibited book. Edward Said had denounced Patai twenty-five years earlier, in Orientalism; in academe, The Arab Mind long ago entered the list of disapproved texts. It was easy to point an accusing finger at the book (again). Patai himself was also a convenient target. A Hungarian-born Jew and lifelong Zionist, he lived in British-mandated Palestine from 1933 to 1947, and in 1936, earned the first doctorate ever awarded by the Hebrew University. He edited Theodor Herzl's complete diaries and served as the first president of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. For many antiwar conspiracy theorists, the idea of someone like Patai as intellectual father of the Abu Ghraib scandal proved irresistible.
The only concrete evidence for the book's use in any branch of government appeared in the foreword to the most recent reprint (2002) of The Arab Mind, by Col. (res.) Norvell B. De Atkine, an instructor in Middle East studies at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School. De Atkine wrote that he assigned the book to military personnel in his own courses because students found its cultural insights useful in explaining behavior they encountered on assignment.
While critics skimmed Patai's book for generalizing quotes, they skirted the book's premise, as restated by De Atkine: culture matters and cultures differ. The realization by Americans that culture counts explains the commercial success of several cultural handbooks, addressing the very issues that concerned Patai. And while there is no reason to believe that The Arab Mind had the specific influence Hersh attributed to it, the resulting publicity has sent its sales soaring, further extending the life of the book. The following is De Atkine's foreword to The Arab Mind, reprinted here in full.
It is a particular pleasure to write a foreword to this much-needed reprint of Raphael Patai's classic analysis of Arab culture and society. In view of the events of 2001?including another bloody year of heightened conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and the horrendous terrorist assault on the United States on September 11?there is a critical need to bring this seminal study of the modal Arab personality to the attention of policymakers, scholars, and the general public.
In the wake of the September 11 attack, there was a torrent of commentary on "why" such an assault took place, and on the motivation and mindset of the terrorists. Much of this commentary was either ill-informed or agenda-driven. A number of U.S. Middle East scholars attributed the attack to a simple matter of imbalance in the American approach to the perennial Arab-Israeli conflict. This facile explanation did nothing to improve the credibility of the community of Middle East scholars in the United States, already much diminished by their misreading of the Arab world and their reaction to the U.S. response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
To begin a process of understanding the seemingly irrational hatred that motivated the World Trade Center attackers, one must understand the social and cultural environment in which they lived and the modal personality traits that make them susceptible to engaging in terrorist actions. This book does a great deal to further that understanding. In fact, it is essential reading. At the institution where I teach military officers, The Arab Mind forms the basis of my cultural instruction, complemented by my own experiences of some twenty-five years living in, studying, or teaching about the Middle East.
Raphael Patai prefaces his 1973 edition of The Arab Mind with the sentence, "When it comes to the Arabs, I must admit to an incurable romanticism." So it is with me. I first became interested in the Arab world in an elective course at the United States Military Academy many years ago, and my military career thereafter was divided between assignments with regular army artillery units and tours in the Middle East. It was during my preparatory study at the American University of Beirut that I was introduced to the writings of Raphael Patai. In a sociology class we used his book, Golden River to Golden Road: Society, Culture and Change in the Middle East. Since that time, I have read a number of his books and admired his careful scholarship, lucid writing style, and empathetic approach to his subject matter.
Over the past twelve years, I have also briefed hundreds of military teams being deployed to the Middle East. When returning from the Middle East, my students, as well as the members of these teams, invariably comment on the paramount usefulness of the cultural instruction in their assignments. In doing so they validate the analysis and descriptions offered by Raphael Patai.
The officers returning from the Arab world describe the cultural barriers they encounter as by far the most difficult to navigate, far beyond those of political perceptions. Thinking back on it, I recall many occasions on which I was perplexed by actions or behavior on the part of my Arab hosts?actions and behavior that would have been perfectly understandable had I read The Arab Mind. I have hence emphasized to my students that there must be a combination of observation and study to begin a process of understanding another culture. Simply observing a culture through the prism of our own beliefs and cultural worldview leads to many misconceptions. More often than not, this results in a form of cultural shock that can be totally debilitating to a foreigner working with Arabs. Less common, but equally non-productive, is the soldier who becomes caught up in a culture he views as idyllic and "goes native." Inevitably there will come a time (usually during a political crisis) when the cultural chasm will force unpleasant reality to resurface.
Mines and Warts
In writing about a culture, one must tread a sensibility minefield, and none is more treacherous than that of the Middle East. In pursuit of intellectual honesty and a true-to-life depiction of a people, some less-than-appealing traits will surface. All cultures and peoples have their warts. One trait I have observed in Arab society?which has become more pronounced over the years?is an extreme sensitivity to any critical depiction of Arab culture, no matter how gently the adverse factors are presented. In his postscript to the 1983 edition of The Arab Mind, Patai mentions a spate of self-critical assessments of Arab society by Arab intellectuals in the wake of the "new Arab" said to have emerged after the 1973 war; but this tendency to self-criticize proved to be illusory. While we in the United States constantly criticize our society and leadership, similar introspection is rarely seen in the Arab world today. When criticism is voiced, it is usually in terms of a condemnation of Arab acceptance of some aspect of Western culture. Criticism also often emanates from outside the Arab region and, despite the so-called globalization of communication, only the elite have access to it. This is particularly true when political systems or ideology are discussed.
In no small way, this tendency has led to the current state of affairs in the Arab world. For this reason, as well as the fact that Patai was not an Arab, some scholars are dismissive of The Arab Mind, terming it stereotyped in its portrayal of Arab personality traits. In part, this stems from the postmodernist philosophy of a recent generation of scholars who have been inculcated with the currently fashionable idea of cultural and moral relativism. Much of the American political science writing on the Middle East today is jargon- and agenda-laden, bordering on the indecipherable. A fixation on race, class, and gender has had a destructive effect on Middle East scholarship. It is a real task to find suitable recent texts that are scholarly and sound in content, but also readable.
In fact, some of the best and most useful writing on the Arab world has been by outsiders, mostly Europeans, especially the French and British. Many of the best and most illuminating works were written decades ago. The idea that outsiders cannot assess another culture is patently foolish. The best study done on American society?to take one famous example?was written some 160 years ago by the French visitor, Alexis de Tocqueville, and it still holds mostly true today.
The empathy and warmth of Raphael Patai toward the Arab people are evident throughout this book. There is neither animus nor rancor nor condescension. Arabs are portrayed as people who, like all people, have virtues and vices. Patai's description of his relationship with the Jerusalem sheikh, Ahmad Fakhr al-Khatib, is indicative of the esteem in which he held his Arab friends. It is a lamentable fact that friendships such as this one would be almost impossible to conceive of at the present time.
Along with his empathy for and understanding of Arab culture, Patai has a powerfully keen faculty for observation. In a passage in his autobiographical Journeyman in Jerusalem, he describes in minute detail an Arab date juice vendor and the way he dispenses his juice. It is this ability to observe and appreciate detail that enables Patai to grasp the significance of the gestures, nuances of speech, and behavior patterns of Arabs. To most Americans, the subtlety of Arab culture is bewildering and incomprehensible. Yet, if one is to work productively in the region, one must have an understanding of these cultural traits.
It might legitimately be asked how well Patai's analysis bears up in today's world. After all, it has been about thirty years since the majority of The Arab Mind was written. The short answer is that it has not aged at all. The analysis is just as prescient and on-the-mark now as on the day it was written. One could even make the argument that, in fact, many of the traits described have become more pronounced. For instance, Islamist demagogues have skillfully used the lure of the Arabic language, so carefully explained by Patai as a powerful motivator, to galvanize the streets in this era of the Islamic revival, in a way even the great orator Abdul Nasser could not achieve.
Patai devoted a large portion of this book to the Arabic language, its powerful appeal, as well as its inhibiting effects. The proneness to exaggeration he describes was amply displayed in the Gulf war by the exhortations of Saddam Hussein to the Arabs in the "mother of all battles." This penchant for rhetoric and use of hyperbole were a feature of the Arab press during the war. The ferocity of the Arab depiction of Iraqi prowess had American experts convinced that there would be thousands of American casualties. Even when the war was turning into a humiliating rout, the "Arab street" was loath to accept this reality as fact.
More recently, the same pattern has been seen in the Arab adoption of Osama bin Laden as a new Saladin who, with insulting and derogatory language in his description of American martial qualities, conveyed a sense of invincibility and power that has subsequently been shown to be largely imaginary. Saddam Hussein used similar bluster prior to the 1990 Gulf war. Patai traces this custom, which continues to the present era, back to pre-Islamic days. It is also an apt example of the Arab tendency to substitute words for action and a desired outcome for a less palatable reality, or to indulge in wishful thinking?all of which are reflected in the numerous historical examples Patai provides. This tendency, combined with Arabs' predilection to idealize their own history, always in reference to some mythic or heroic era, has present-day implications. Thus the American incursion into the Gulf in 1990 became the seventh crusade and was frequently referred to as another Western and Christian attempt to occupy the Holy Land of Islam?a belief galvanizing the current crop of Middle Eastern terrorists. Meanwhile, Israel is frequently referred to as a "crusader state."
Patai's discussion of the duality of Arab society, and of the proclivity for intra-Arab conflict, continues to be revalidated in each decade. The Arab-against-Arab division in the 1990 Gulf war is but one example of a continuing Arab condition. Juxtaposed against the ideal of Arab unity is the present reality of twenty-two divided states, each with the self-interest of its ruling family or elite group paramount in policy decisions. In the 1960s, it was the "progressive states" versus the "reactionary states," which pitted Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, and Libya against Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco. Today it is secular forces versus the Islamists, a conflict to one degree or another being played out in every Arab state.
Even when facing a common enemy?usually Israel in this era, but also Iran or Turkey?mutual distrust and intra-Arab hostility prevail. In the Iraqi-Iranian war, for example, Arab support was generally limited to financial help?with provisions for repayment, as the angry Saddam Hussein learned after the war. In , when Turkey threatened Syria with armed conflict if the leader of the nationalistic Kurdish movement in Turkey continued to be supported by Syria, it was very clear that Syria would find itself standing alone. Thus the Asad regime was forced to make a humiliating submission to Turkish demands. Perhaps the most telling validation of Patai's insight into the conflictual nature of Arab society relates to the Palestinians. While their conflict with Israel has been a bloody one over the years, it cannot approach the level of death and destruction incurred in Palestinian wars against Lebanese, Syrians, and Jordanians. Despite this great violence, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict retains its place as the primary galvanizing issue for the "Arab street."
Perhaps the section of this book most relevant to today's political and social environment is the chapter on the psychology of Westernization. After centuries of certitude that their civilization was superior?a belief evolving from the very poor impression the European crusaders made on the Arabs and fully justified by the reality?the Arab self-image was rudely shattered by the easy French conquest of Egypt in 1798. A declining Middle East had been far surpassed by a revitalized Europe. The initial shock among the Arab elite was followed by a period of limited emulation, at least in the form of Western political and social values.
As the Western political hold on the Arabs receded, Western cultural influence increased, which in many ways was even more irritating to the Arab elite?particularly in terms of the technology invasion that at every level was a daily reminder of the inability of the Middle East to compete. Patai's assessment of the Arab view of technology has been amply supported over the last decades. Clearly enthusiastic users of technology, particularly in war weaponry, the Arabs nevertheless remain a lagging producer of technology. Partially, as Patai demonstrates, this is a reaction to the "jinn" (devil) of Western culture as it appears to the Arab of the twenty-first century. While recognizing the superiority of Western technology, the traditional Arab sees Western culture as destructive to his way of life; hence the ever-present battle between modernity and modernism: Can a society modernize without the secular lifestyle that appears to accompany the process? Adherents of the Islamist ideology, espousing a politicized, radical Islam, see no contradiction between a seventh-century theocracy and twenty-first century technology and would answer yes; however, history does not support such a view in the Middle Eastern context. As a Muslim coworker put it, "We want your TV sets but not your programs, your VCRs but not your movies." This will be the battleground of every Arab nation for the coming generation.
In his section on the "sinister West," Patai gets to the heart of the burning hatred that seems to drive brutal acts of terrorism against Americans. Despite its lack of a colonial past in the Middle East, America, as the most powerful representative of the "West," has inherited primary enemy status, in place of the French and British. Patai points out the Arabs' tendency to blame others for the problems evident in their political systems, quality of life, and economic power. The Arab media and Arab intellectuals, invoking the staple mantras against colonialism, Zionism, and imperialism, provide convenient outside culprits for every corrupt or dysfunctional system or event in the Arab world. Moreover, this is often magnified and supported by a number of the newer generation of Western scholars inculcated with Marxist teaching who, unwittingly perhaps, help Arab intellectuals to avoid ever having to come to grips with the very real domestic issues that must be confronted. The Arab world combines a rejection of Western values with a penchant for carrying around historical baggage of doubtful utility. At the same time, there is a simplistic, if understandable, yearning for return to a more glorious and pristine past that would enable the Arabs once again to confront the West on equal terms. This particular belief has found many Arab adherents in the past decade.
Patai also delves into the extremely sensitive issue of the nature of Islam in a particularly prescient manner. He views the fatalistic element inherit in Islam as an important factor in providing great strength to Muslims in times of stress or tragedy; in normal or better times, however, it acts as an impediment. Given their pervasive belief that God provides and disposes of all human activity, Muslims tend to reject the Western concept of man creating his own environment as an intrusion on God's realm. This includes any attempt to change God's plan for the fate of the individual. Certainly one can point to numerous exceptions. But, having worked for long periods with Arab military units, I can attest to their often cavalier attitude toward safety precautions, perhaps reflecting a Qur'anic saying, heard in various forms, that "death will overtake you even if you be inside a fortress." Just observing how few Arabs use seat belts in their automobiles can be a revelation. This manifestation of Arab fatalism is often misconstrued as a lesser value put on human life.
In the all-important area of Muslim relations with other religions, Patai sums up the differences between Christianity and Islam as being functional, not doctrinal. The proponents of fundamentalist Islam do not fear Christianity. They fear that Westernization will "bring about a reduction of the function of Islam to the modest level on which Christianity plays its role in the Western world." The quarrel is not so much with Christianity?which most Muslims see as a weak religion of diminishing importance?as with the secularism that has replaced it. Frequently in the Arab world one hears references to the [singer] "Madonna" culture and its manifestations of drugs and sexual promiscuity. Today, while Western military power has become much less of a threat, the inroads made by Western cultural values have become more of one.
My special area of interest has been the impact of culture on military structure, strategy, and operations, and in this regard the assessments of Patai, although not aimed at this area, are particularly informative. As he wrote, "despite the adoption of Western weaponry, military methods, and war aims, both the leaders and the people have kept alive old Arab traditions." The observations and studies of military specialists continue to support his conclusion. The Arab military establishment's ineffectiveness in the past century has never been a matter of lack of courage or intelligence. Rather, it has been a consequence of a pervasive cultural and political environment that stifles the development of initiative, independent thinking, and innovation. This has been commented on by a number of Middle East specialists, both Arab and non-Arab, but none explains it as well as Patai, who suggests that Arabs conform not to an individualistic, inner-directed standard but rather to a standard established and maintained rigidly within Arab society. As I noticed among the officers with whom I worked, there was a real reluctance to "get out front." The distrust of the military's loyalty to the regime reinforces a military system in which a young, charismatic officer with innovative ideas will be identified as a future threat to be carefully monitored by the ubiquitous security agencies.
Patai also carefully illuminates the many virtues of Arab society. The hospitality, generosity, and depth of personal friendships common in the Arab world are rarely encountered in our more frenetic society. The Arab sense of honor and of obligation to the family?especially to the family's old and young members?can be contrasted to the frequently dysfunctional family life found in our own country. Within Arab culture, old people are seen as a foundation for family cohesion, and children are welcomed as gifts from God rather than as burdens. Daughters?who traditionally are valued less than sons?remain the responsibility of their families, carrying their honor even after marriage (and it is this sense of family cohesion and honor that, in its negative aspect, results in the restrictions and controls placed on women). The idea that the state should bear responsibility for the welfare of their family would be considered insulting to most Arabs.
Finally, in his 1983 edition, Patai takes an optimistic view of the future of the Arab world but adds a caveat to his prediction with the comment that this could happen "only if the Arabs can rid themselves of their obsession with and hatred of Zionism, Israel, and American imperialism." In the eighteen years since those words were written, none of these obsessions has been put to rest. In fact, they have increased. The imported 1960s and 1970s Western ideologies of Marxism and socialism have given way to Islamism, a synthesis of Western-style totalitarianism and superficial Islamic teachings, which has resurrected historical mythology and revitalized an amorphous but palpable hatred of the Western "jinns." Nevertheless, many astute observers of the Arab world see the so-called "Islamic revival" with its attendant pathologies as cresting and beginning to recede.
Ultimately, the Arabs, who are an immensely determined and adaptable people, will produce leadership capable of freeing them from ideological and political bondage, and this will allow them to achieve their rightful place in the world.
Col. Norvell B. De Atkine (ret.) served eight years in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt (in addition to extensive combat service in Vietnam). A West Pointer, he holds a graduate degree in Arab studies from the American University of Beirut. He teaches at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The opinions expressed here are strictly his own. Reprinted from The Arab Mind (Hatherleigh Press, 2002), by permission, all rights reserved.
 Seymour Hersh, "The Gray Zone," The New Yorker, May 24, 2004.
 The Guardian (London), May 24, 2004. This, despite the fact that Whitaker himself, a year earlier, had quoted an authoritative Arab source on "the Arab mind." As coalition forces encircled Baghdad, he wrote a piece on the "sense of humiliation" among Arabs and brought a quote from a Kuwaiti spokesman that could have come straight from Patai's book: "In the Arab world, there is a classical, traditional enemy. This traditional enemy has always been the west or the Americans. This is one vision that always existed in the Arab mind." The Guardian, Apr. 9, 2003.
 Ann Marlowe, "Sex, Violence, and ?The Arab Mind,'" Salon.com, at
 Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo), July 1-7, 2004.
 Lee Smith, "Inside the Arab Mind," Slate.com, at
 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon, 1978), pp. 308-9.
 Most notably, Margaret K. Nydell, Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Westerners (Yarmouth, Me.: Intercultural Press, 1996), reviewed in Middle East Quarterly, June 1997, p. 90.
 Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962, and subsequent editions.
 Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992.
 Norvell De Atkine, "Why Arabs Lose Wars," Middle East Quarterly, Dec. 1999, pp. 17-27
Thanks, guys, for your comments. I have Friedman's book on order from Amazon, but I think I made the mistake of asking for the free delivery (along with some more books) - that takes longer.
<<<<you explains in understandable format how this is a civil war within the Muslim world, with OBL's intention to drag the US and the West into it.
..this one I figured out long ago. Have been saying since late 2001, I believe, that we are being dragged in into someone else's religious conflict. The entire issue becomes as clear as day when you read Qutb. He finds that the majority of Muslims are as bad as the infidels, and just as they, those Muslims are livnig in a state of "Jahiliya", which is a particularly bad, soulless kind of an ignorance.
Their most important task is to "enlighten" those unobservant Muslims. We - the West - are more or less simply means to that end, and the conflict with us is needed to help create tensions, and to help radicalize the Muslim masses. Later, once the extremists are no longer the extremists, but already the "mainstream" - after they political capture power and become the rulers - then they can simply kill or imprison those Muslims who do not agree with them.
....Sooner or later the "moderate" Muslims will understand that we are fighting a war - in effect - for them. They better understand this soon, because if they do not take over the struggle, the extremists will eventually succeed.
Reply #121 on:
October 19, 2004, 11:51:30 AM »
Saddam's Specialty Was Terror Weapons
October 19, 2004; Page A19
John Kerry may or may not have been quoted correctly (he says not) in an Oct. 10 New York Times Magazine article in which he envisioned reducing terrorism to a mere "nuisance" level. But if author Matt Bai got it anywhere near right, as seems likely, the comment implies that the senator still doesn't understand why the U.S. is at war. Or maybe he did understand but has forgotten.
"Nuisances," like muggings and prostitution, can be managed by cops. Foreign countries harboring and sponsoring terrorists have to be subdued with armies to root out the terrorists before they can strike. Even the most limited effort, say, a lone fanatic uncorking a poison-gas canister in a crowded railway terminal or sports arena, could hardly be described as a "nuisance."
Most Americans clearly understood after 9/11 the need to go after terrorists where they live before they can get to that train station or arena. President George W. Bush set about to do just that in 2001 with the full support of Congress. Sen. Kerry fully approved before reverting to the pacifist mindset that has guided his career.
It is of course fair in this election year to challenge how well the president has conducted the war on terror. More accurately it is a war against Islamic jihadists, or "holy warriors," so indoctrinated with hatred of "infidels" that some will give up their own lives in murderous attacks.
For one man's opinion, try former Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet, who said in New Orleans last week that the U.S. is winning the fight against al Qaeda. Three-quarters of its leaders are dead or detained and more than 3,000 terrorists have been "taken off the street," euphemistically speaking. The Afghan people were able to hold a presidential election Oct. 9 with little interference from either al Qaeda or the Taliban, who controlled most of the country three years ago. Clearly, both are now too weak to disrupt the movement toward democracy.
In Iraq, coalition and Iraqi troops are closing in on the foreign fighters in Fallujah who are believed to be led by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al Qaeda big shot. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is trying to persuade the city fathers of Fallujah to surrender the city, give up the murderous Zarqawi and avoid further damage and bloodshed. Zarqawi is not a newcomer to Iraq. He was sheltered by Saddam Hussein, which disproves the now-frequent claim that Saddam had no ties to terrorism.
Which brings us to the issue now central to the U.S. political debate: whether the allied invasion of Iraq was justified. Mr. Kerry has now flip-flopped back to calling Iraq "the wrong war," etc. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has given the senator and other nouveau antiwarriors a debating point. They have quickly seized on the conclusion that there are no WMDs in Iraq from the 1,000-page postmortem completed last month for the CIA by Charles Duelfer.
That non-news in the Duelfer report got most of the press coverage, but a member of the study team wondered on these pages last week if anybody had bothered to read anything else the report had to say. Richard Spertzel, a former U.N. biological weapons specialist, had just returned from Iraq. He wrote: "While no facilities were found producing chemical or biological agents on a large scale, many clandestine laboratories operating under the Iraqi Intelligence Services were found to be engaged in small-scale production of chemical nerve agents, sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, ricin, aflatoxin, and other unspecified biological agents."
He noted the report's disclosure of plans to produce and weaponize nitrogen mustard in rifle grenades and to bottle sarin and sulfur mustard in perfume sprayers and medicine bottles for shipment to the U.S. and Europe: "Are we to believe this plan existed because they liked us? Or did they wish to do us harm? The major threat posed by Iraq, in my opinion, was the support it gave to terrorists in general, and its own terrorist activity."
In other words, while Saddam was playing hide-and-seek with the U.N. over whether he had WMDs, his stealthy little spooks were focusing their efforts on weapons specifically designed for use by terrorists. Could it thus be said that Saddam was himself plotting foreign terrorism? Or at least that his secret service had something going along those lines while he was busy corrupting the U.N. oil-for-food program and bribing French and Russian politicians to gain the protection and influence of two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council?
Surely it must have occurred to the Saddam gang that lethal poisons were a perfect tool for terrorism. After the 9/11 attack a few letters filled with anthrax powder routed the U.S. Senate and spread consternation elsewhere. No one knows to this day -- at least no one is saying -- who sent the letters. But we do now know from the Duelfer report that Saddam's men had for years been experimenting with poisons, and we knew he had used poison gas against Iranians and the Iraqi Kurds. Russia, a longtime supplier of Saddam's military needs, goes back even further in the field of military chemistry. It is widely believed to have supplied the "yellow rain" aflatoxins dumped from aircraft on rebel Laotian tribesmen some 20 years ago. Where would a terrorist go looking for weaponized anthrax if he wanted to try it out? Maybe Russia or Iraq?
And please don't forget that the terrorists who pulled off the 9/11 attacks had earlier taken a great interest in the art of flying crop-duster airplanes. What could that have been all about? Were they contemplating making a "nuisance" of themselves by gassing the population of Miami?
In short, the invasion of Iraq shut off a potential threat to America. Poisons were far more likely to be used than nuclear weapons because they can be secretly deployed. So wiping out a source in Iraq was a large achievement. Senator Mark Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat, last week shut down his Washington office until after the election, citing a terrorism briefing he had received. Would he be any less concerned if Saddam Hussein were still in power?
Reply #122 on:
October 28, 2004, 02:37:09 PM »
THE MYTH OF THE 'MISSING EXPLOSIVES': A SHAMELESS LIE
BY RALPH PETERS
October 28, 2004 -- SHOULD the United Na tions decide who be comes our president? Sen. John Kerry wouldn't mind. He's shamelessly promoting the lies that the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency is telling about Iraq.
A devious IAEA report suggests that 400 tons of explosives were spirited away by our enemies under the noses of our Keystone-Cops troops after the fall of Baghdad. The document just happened to be released in the closing days of our presidential election. Purely a coincidence, of course. Brought to you by those selfless U.N. bureaucrats who failed in Iraq and are now failing in Iran.
Since Kerry's willing to blame our troops for a scandal invented by America-haters, let's look at the story the military way, by the numbers.
One: The IAEA claims its inspectors visited the ammo dump at Al-Qaqaa on March 9, 2003, and found the agency's seals intact on bunkers containing sensitive munitions. Unverifiable, but let's assume that much is true.
Two: Faced with an impending invasion, Saddam's forces did what any military would do. They began dispersing ammunition stocks from every storage site that might be a Coalition bombing target. If the Iraqis valued it, they tried to move it. Before the war.
Three: Members of our 3rd Infantry Division ? the heroes who led the march to Baghdad ? reached the site in question in early April. Despite the pressures of combat, they combed the dump. Nothing was found. Al-Qaqaa was a vast junkyard.
Four: Our 101st Airborne Division assumed responsibility for the sector as the 3ID closed on Baghdad. None of the Screaming Eagles found any IAEA markers ? even one would have been a red flag to be reported immediately.
Five: At the end of May, military teams searching for key Iraqi weapons scoured Al-Qaqaa. They found plenty of odds and ends ? the detritus of war ? but no IAEA seals. And no major stockpiles.
Six: Now, just before Election Day, the IAEA, a discredited organization embarrassed by the Bush administration's decision to call it on the carpet, suddenly realizes that 400 tons of phantom explosives went missing from the dump.
Seven: Even if repeated inspections by U.S. troops had somehow missed this deadly elephant on the front porch, and even if the otherwise-incompetent Iraqis had been so skilled and organized they were able to sneak into Al-Qaqaa and load up 400 tons of Saddam's love-powder, it would have taken a Teamsters' convention to get the job done.
Eight: If the Iraqis had used military transport vehicles of five-ton capacity, it would have required 80 trucks for one big lift, or, say, 20 trucks each making four trips. They would have needed special trolleys, forklifts, handling experts and skilled drivers (explosives aren't groceries). This operation could not have happened either during or after the war, while the Al-Qaqaa area was flooded with U.S. troops.
Nine: We owned the skies. And when you own the skies, you own the roads. We were watching for any sign of organized movement. A gaggle of non-Coalition vehicles driving in and out of an ammo dump would have attracted the attention of our surveillance systems immediately.
Ten: And you don't just drive high explosives cross-country, unless you want to hear a very loud bang. Besides, the Iraqis would have needed to hide those 400 tons of explosives somewhere else. Unless the uploaded trucks are still driving around Iraq.
Eleven: Even if the IAEA told the truth and the Iraqis were stealth-logistics geniuses who emptied the site's ammo bunkers under our noses, the entire issue misses a greater point: 400 tons of explosives amounted to a miniscule fraction of the stocks Saddam had built up. Coalition demolition experts spent months destroying more than 400,000 tons of Iraqi war-making materiel.
Our soldiers eliminated more than a thousand tons of packaged death for every ton the United Nations claims they missed. Does that sound like incompetence? Why hasn't our success been mentioned? Can't our troops get credit for anything?
Twelve: The bottom line is that, if the explosives were ever there, the Iraqis moved them before our troops arrived. There is no other plausible scenario.
Sen. Kerry knows this is a bogus issue. And he doesn't care. He's willing to accuse our troops of negligence and incompetence to further his political career. Of course, he did that once before.
Lt. Col (ret) Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace."
Reply #123 on:
October 29, 2004, 12:07:37 AM »
A very long, very literate, and very thoughtful piece-- Crafty Dog
Towards the close of the twentieth century a metaphor entered circulation that compared the United States to Lemuel Gulliver at the start of his visit to Lilliput. Gulliver in Swift?s satire was, you recall, an English sea doctor who, having sunk exhausted on a foreign beach after his ship was wrecked, woke up to discover miniscule Lilliputians had tied him down with slender threads and tiny pegs. In this telling, the international community?that comfortable euphemism for the U.N., the WTO, the ICC, other U.N. agencies, and the massed ranks of NGOs?sought to constrain America?s freedom of action in a web of international laws, regulations, and treaties, such as the Kyoto accords.
It is a passably accurate account of the international status quo a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. That status quo looks somewhat different five years later. But the history of the intervening period is the story of how the United States and the international community continued to grapple with each other in the process of seeking to contain or defeat Islamist terrorism. It is the story of ?Gulliver?s Travails.?
Gulliver among the Tranzis
The first episode is the globalizing decade that ran from the final collapse of the Soviet Union to September 11th. This was a period in which trade walls were reduced, barriers to capital movements liberalized, and the factors of production loosened up to move around the world more freely than at any time since 1914. These economic changes brought political ones in their train. Governments had to introduce such reforms as market transparency and the rule of law in order to attract and keep the foreign investment they needed for sustained prosperity.
All this is well known. But two other global developments passed unnoticed under the radar of conventional politics.
The first was the spread of Islamist terrorism. In retrospect it is astounding that we failed to react more strongly to the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the bombings of the American embassies in East Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole. Maybe Americans were insulated from a sensible anxiety by their victory in the Cold War, their status as the sole remaining superpower, and the sedative effects of the long Reagan-Clinton prosperity. Whatever the reason, Islamist terrorism grew throughout the 1990s partly because it was ignored.
The second global development was the quiet revolution of transnationalism. Its exact lineaments are open to debate, but I would suggest that it consists of five overlapping developments:
First, the growing power and authority of international, transnational, and supranational organizations such as the U.N. and its various agencies, the European Union, and the World Trade Organization.
Second, the transformation of international law from the arbitration of disputes between sovereign states into laws that have a direct impact on individual citizens and private bodies through treaties and conventions that override domestic legislation.
Third, the dramatic increase in the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs in the jargon) and their increasing influence on international politics both as pressure groups and as providers of services to governments and international agencies.
Fourth, the spread of economic, environmental, and social regulation from the national to the international level through laws, treaties, and ?standards? by, among other bodies, U.N. conferences on such topics as women?s rights and racism.
Finally, the emergence of common values, a common outlook, and even a class consciousness among the diplomats, lawyers, and bureaucrats in international organizations, NGOs, multinational corporations, and those academic centers that serve them.
Kenneth Minogue calls this structure of governance ?Acronymia? after the UNOs and NGOs that constitute it. He credits the present author with giving the name ?Olympians,? after the gods of Antiquity, to those who administer it. Ancient gods used to ?kill us for their sport,? but modern Olympians are content to regulate and preach at us. John Fonte has defined the common ideology they preach as ?transnational progressivism?: national sovereignty and the nation-state are disappearing in favor of a new structure of international organizations and rules that goes by the slippery name of ?global governance.? In domestic politics, it argues that liberal democracy?built upon majority rule, individual rights, and a common culture?is being replaced by ?post-democracy? that emphasizes group rights, multiculturalism, and politics as endless negotiations between ethnic groups. But the theory hardly distinguishes international from domestic politics and policy. The philosopher J?rgen Habermas coined the term ?global domestic policy? that erases a distinction hitherto important outside Germany.
As a term for those holding this ideology, ?transnational progressives? is too big a mouthful. Olympians is, well, too Olympian. A London lawyer, David Carr, of the libertarian blog Samizdata, compressed the former into ?the Tranzis,? now in common circulation.
The Tranzis had (and have) a very complicated relationship with Gulliver. Because of America?s overwhelming power, they hoped that the United States could be conscripted to serve the purposes of ?the international community? (i.e. themselves) in a series of humanitarian interventions. But they recognized dimly that the United States, as a constitutional liberal democracy, would never fit comfortably into the post-democratic structures of global governance they were constructing. Thus Jeremy Rabkin points out in Sovereignty that America stands out from almost all other advanced states in this regard:
Every state in the European Union now acknowledges that its constitution can be overturned by mere bureaucratic directives from the European Commission in Brussels; there is nothing like a fixed constitution to constrain the Commission itself. The arrangement is unthinkable in America but taken for granted in Europe.
Because the United States has a strong constitutional tradition, it regularly attaches a rider to treaties and U.N. conventions that forbids the overriding of the U.S. Constitution. These riders come under occasional attack from international lawyers and activist NGOs that would like, for instance, to override the First Amendment in order to outlaw ?hate speech.? These pressures are growing and, as Judge Robert Bork points out in his recent book Coercing Virtue, American judges have begun to cite foreign precedents in their legal reasoning.
Even so, the United States will always be an awkward irritant in post-democratic structures?just as the British, with their similar liberal tradition, are the awkward squad inside the E.U. And if the United States is going to be an irritant, then its superpower status would make it a very serious irritant indeed. Tranzis were busily wrapping it around with as many legal and regulatory threads as possible when Al Qaeda struck at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?and Gulliver woke up.
It is often said that September 11 changed the United States dramatically?as no other country understands. There is some truth in this. A direct attack on American soil served to unite, if briefly, the four American traditions in foreign policy identified by Walter Russell Mead in his Special Providence?moralistic Jeffersonians, commercial Hamiltonians, evangelical humanitarian Wilsonians, and vengeful Jacksonians?in favor of a strong response. Wilsonians saw the attack as a chance to bring democracy to similar breeds without the law; Hamiltonians judged that a short war would be a prudent disincentive to future attacks; Jacksonians wanted to punish Osama, Saddam, and anyone else who had trodden on the United States, and Jeffersonians (who overlap heavily with Tranzis) sought a strong response blessed by the international community.
Such unity could not last. After Afghanistan, Jeffersonians reverted to type and became more pacific. But even now many of them are significantly more hawkish than European social democrats with whom they usually find common ground. Britain?s participation in Iraq is a reminder that Mead?s four traditions have substantial roots in the four British ?folkways? that the historian David Hackett Fischer identifies as the principal currents in American culture. Blair, who comes from the Borders, should be a Jacksonian but is actually a muscular Wilsonian?in Britain a Gladstonian.
In addition to shocking America into a strong response, September 11 was also the confirmation of a foreign policy analysis and set of proposals that had been laid out well in advance of the attack?but that seemed too robust in the previous intellectual climate. For instance, in her 1996 reprise of Churchill?s Fulton Speech, Lady Thatcher argued that the combination of rogue states and weapons of mass destruction was sufficiently threatening to justify the military overthrow of regimes like Saddam Hussein?s. But since this was unlikely to happen in the prevailing climate of opinion, she argued, then we should adopt the second-best solution of missile defense. September 11 changed that intellectual climate. The set of foreign policy concepts that justified ousting Saddam was retrieved from the files. Gulliver was suddenly unbound.
What was the new strategy that the Bush administration adopted? It begins with Lady Thatcher?s analysis that there were two linked dangers: the spread of WMDs and the existence of rogue states like Saddam?s Iraq or Gadaffi?s Libya. September 11th added two more threats: Islamist terrorists who seemed impervious to the rational logic of deterrence and ?failing states? like Afghanistan, where terrorist groups could operate with little or no state supervision. It was plausible in this new world to imagine a terrorist group, answerable to no one but itself, either being given or seizing WMDs and using them against the West. That was too dangerous a threat to be dealt with by waiting for the terrorists to attack and then pursuing them through the courts.
The Bush administration accordingly built a new strategy on four concepts. The first was preemption. If the United States could not wait for New York harbor to be destroyed by a nuclear bomb in a container ship, then it had to attack the attacker and disable his weapon before he could act. This right of preemption has recently been discussed as if it were a novelty just invented by some Doctor Strangelove in the Pentagon. In fact it has been recognized in international law since the 1837 when, ironically enough, the British in Canada launched a preemptive strike against an American privateer that they rightly suspected was about to supply arms to Canadian rebels. Terrorists armed with WMDs or states with terrorist links acquiring WMDs are much more terrible threats and thus far stronger justification for preemptive action. The United States asserted its right to take preemptive action to avert them.
But would the international community agree? No matter: if necessary, the United States would defend its national security without the authorization of the U.N. It would generally seek such authorization but it would not be deterred from acting in its compelling interests by a vote in the Security Council that might turn on less significant political considerations.
If the United States were prepared to go ahead with military action not approved by the U.N., however, would any other nation go along with it? America?s traditional allies would be (and were) divided. So the United States dusted down a third concept that had been kicking around NATO for several years to deal with such crises?namely, ?coalitions of the willing.? Such a coalition is a group of states that agree on three things: the nature of a threat; the solution to it; and the need of all to contribute real resources to carry it out. Its great merit is its practicality: every state that joins such a coalition is a useful ally. The United States found such allies first for Afghanistan and later for Iraq.
Extirpating terrorist groups was, however, only half of the solution. The Bush doctrine also incorporated the highly ambitious, even hubristic, aim of fostering the circumstances in which young Arabs and Muslims would not become terrorists in the first place. Terrorism, it was argued, was the response of young and often well-educated people to the failure, injustice, and oppression of the authoritarian societies of the Middle East. To prevent these societies from sowing dragons? teeth indefinitely, we would need to bring liberty and justice to them. President Bush therefore embarked on a fourth concept?a serious long-term strategy of encouraging Arab and Muslim democracy and, in the short term, of using a liberated Iraq as the laboratory of such democratic reform.
These four concepts were bold in themselves, boldly stated, and boldly implemented. Both traditional conservatives and ?realists,? among others, became nervous. They saw the first three policies as likely to cause division in the Atlantic alliance and the fourth as an ambitious social engineering project that was unlikely to succeed. But Gulliver had shaken off these hesitations and uncertainties and, deaf to their warnings, went forging ahead. Others were discomfited by this display of muscular unilateralism. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, of course?but the Tranzis too.
For the Tranzis, September 11 had transformed the world in a very displeasing way. International organizations and NGOs were less important than before because they were not very helpful in fighting terrorists. Sovereign nation-states regained prestige because they had armies and intelligence services. At least three of the four concepts of foreign policy embraced by the Bush administration were in conflict with the international rules and codes of behavior laid down by the Tranzis in their courts, agencies, treaties, and NGO conferences. And the fourth?promoting democracy?was an intrusion on their turf.
These conflicts were relatively subdued over Afghanistan since the U.S. intervention was readily justifiable as self-defense under the U.N. Charter. But they burst forth violently when it became clear that President Bush intended to invade Iraq.
A minority of NATO governments opposed the intervention. Some genuinely felt it was an error that would damage America and the West. Many Europeans, especially in Germany, thought that concepts such as preemption were primitive ideas that a mature rule-driven Europe had left behind in its moral evolution. And French policy saw Iraq as an opportunity to rally Europeans against the U.S. ?hyper-power.? But these hostile reactions were countered by support for the United States from Britain, Italy, Poland, Spain, and other European states?and there was no possibility of building a common European opposition to the United States. The U.N. Secretary General and his bureaucracy opposed intervention on the grounds that military action lacking U.N. approval was, ipso facto, illegitimate. This argument is a legal novelty, according to Robert Bork, but it was treated as authoritative and binding by most commentators. It was the opposition of NGOs that was the most extreme, however, presumably because it was less trammeled by diplomatic considerations. It was leveled, moreover, against the Afghan intervention as well as that in Iraq. Their argument consisted mainly of predictions that there would be major starvation and environmental and refugee crises as a result of the U.S. interventions. In fact, all these situations actually improved in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that weakened them still further.
The influence of the Tranzis after September 11 was almost negligible. And by April 2003, Gulliver was in Baghdad placing an American flag over the toppling statue of Saddam Hussein. Gulliver was not merely unbound; he seemed unstoppable.
Even those who were supporters of the Iraqi liberation?as I was and remain?have to acknowledge that the war fell far short of our expectations. Large stockpiles of WMDs have not been found. Armed terrorist resistance has been stronger and more widespread than we anticipated. Popular feeling has turned against the American forces supporting the Coalition and the new Iraqi government?as a result of Abu Ghraib, and necessary military actions against the insurgents.
At the same time the intervention has had undeniably valuable benefits. The Iraqi people are free for the first time in almost fifty years. There is a free press, freedom of association, a multiplicity of political parties, and all the apparatus of a liberal democracy. Political prisoners have been freed from torture and captivity?an achievement that has received far less media coverage than the failure to find WMDs. And now an internationally recognized Iraqi government?not yet an elected one, but still the most representative government in the Arab world?has been established. If elections follow next January then the most important American promises will have been kept.
Of course, a final judgment on Iraq will not be possible for some years. If, in a decade, there is a flourishing democracy in Baghdad, then we will judge the U.S. intervention to be an unqualified success. We would even think it a worthwhile effort if, as Mark Steyn has speculated, the Iraqis end up with a moderate authoritarian regime that allows free speech, free markets and some kind of parliament?and that generally votes with Tunisia and Morocco at international forums. If Iraq has descended into a Lebanon-like chaos or a Taliban-like autocracy? either of which would provide a base for international terrorism directed against the United States?then the Iraqi intervention would have proved an actual setback in the war on terror. And that, alas, cannot be ruled out.
Gulliver in Iraq is Gulliver Agonistes, baffled that Iraq has not gone better, resentful that his good intentions are questioned, determined to keep the essence of his new strategy but willing to amend it in the light of experience, still very powerful but perhaps somewhat less blindly optimistic. He has to reassess four matters in particular in the light of his painful experiences?preemption, unilateralism, legitimacy, and democracy.
Preemption is as necessary as it ever was?which, given the linked threats of rogue or failed states, terrorism, and WMD proliferation, is very necessary indeed. Unfortunately, it is less credible as a policy option. Because Iraq has proved to be more troublesome than predicted, any future proposal for preemptive intervention will need to meet a far higher threshold of threat. The admitted intelligence failure over Iraqi WMDs has made it harder by discrediting an essential pillar of preemption. If we are likely to be wrong about the existence of such weapons, it is that much harder to make a convincing case for an intervention to disable them.
The most speedy and conclusive solution to the problem of a weakened case for preemption is one we must all hope to avoid: namely, a massively destructive attack on the U.S. Such a catastrophe would wipe away any emerging ?Iraq Syndrome.? Short of that, however, the United States has to establish the reasonableness of the preemptive approach. Outlining a credible threat and citing accurate legal precedents for preemption go a long way towards doing this. Improving intelligence should logically help too?though not with those who are opposed to intelligence services in the first place. But the United States may also need to soothe the anxieties both of the U.S. public and of those allies who see preemption as a mark of unilateralist arrogance. Earlier this year a blue-ribbon committee of the Council on Foreign Relations, chaired by Henry Kissinger, proposed that the United States should agree preemption is a last resort in return for European acceptance of its legitimacy on that basis. Since preemption is a last resort, that is a compromise well worth exploring. Whatever the diplomatic difficulties, however, the United States has to assert the principle that it is rightly entitled to strike at its enemies before they strike a near-mortal blow to it.
Unilateralism is a very different matter?the United States sustained serious wounds defending a policy it had never adopted. There was never a policy of ?going it alone? without allies. Indeed, most NATO and E.U. member states joined in the Iraq intervention. There was not even a policy of riding roughshod over international organizations such as the U.N.. In the Afghan and Iraq wars, the Bush administration strenuously sought the approval of the U.N. Security Council. One of its main arguments for intervention was that the U.N.?s authority would be undermined if its resolutions were flouted with impunity. And it justified its own eventual use of force as necessary to enforce those resolutions. (Doubtless such arguments cloaked decisions taken on other grounds of power politics. But so do almost all arguments at the U.N.)
All that unilateralism amounted to in reality was the assertion that the United States would defend its vital interests in the last resort by force if it could not win the approval of the U.N. Security Council for doing so. That assertion rests on a combination of national sovereignty and the right of self-defense under the U.N. Charter. It would be endorsed by most U.N. member-states. And its modest logic was established in a BBC radio debate between Richard Perle, the foremost neoconservative strategist, and Baroness Shirley Williams, a moderate social democratic peer. Perle argued that the liberation of Iraq was either right or wrong. If Baroness Williams thought it was wrong, she should oppose it. If she thought it was right, why would she subordinate her opinion to a Chinese, Russian, or French veto in the Security Council? The only riposte to Perle?s question is that a statesman might subordinate one aim to gain a larger one. But that cannot be a reason for subordinating one?s national interest to a Chinese or Russian veto in principle. Of course, for the Tranzis such subordination is the point. They see it as the central principle of global governance and treat the mildest resistance to it as ?unilateralism.?
Indeed, unilateralism had been originally placed in public debate by such critics of the Bush administration. In their lexicon, it was a wonderfully flexible term that transformed any expression of national sovereignty into a wholesale rejection of multilateral cooperation. Even the very limited unilateralism of the Bush doctrine (which repeatedly embraced multilateralism) was held to be sinful?the more so because it was explicit. If it had appeared in a footnote, a codicil, or the obscurity of an academic text rather than as one of the main arguments in an official document, it might have been seen as the qualification to multilateral diplomacy that it was. Instead it seemed to be a brash declaration of U.S. solipsism. And when the United States got into difficulties in Iraq, its enemies (including the Tranzis) could plausibly cite them as the inevitable fall that follows pride.
Here was where the Tranzis began to make a comeback from their slide into irrelevance after September 11. The rest of the world wanted to see the sole remaining superpower subject to some other authority when it intervened elsewhere. As a practical matter the United States was unable to confer legitimacy upon its own actions. But the Tranzis are partly in the business of conferring it on international actions from their various legal, charitable, and political perches in Acronymia. In revamping its Iraq policy, the United States bowed to this reality. Having initially excluded the U.N. from serious involvement in postwar Iraq, the United States brought the organization back in both to negotiate a new political order and to bestow international legitimacy on the new Iraqi government.
That may have been a reasonable accommodation to political necessity. But it raises a question: if the U.N. or other organization dominated by Tranzis either refuses to approve or vetos some vital American action, what should the United States then do?
For such eventualities Francis Fukuyama has proposed a strategy of ?overlapping multilateralism.? Recall that the intervention in Kosovo was undertaken without U.N. approval?indeed condemned as illegitimate by Kofi Annan. Yet it was accepted by the international community, including the Europeans, because it was endorsed by NATO. Other interventions have been similarly blessed by regional security organizations?the recent West African intervention by ECOWAS and the liberation of Grenada by the Organization of East Caribbean States. There are, of course, many other such bodies?and most of them are international bodies ultimately answerable to national governments rather than transnational or supranational bodies accountable largely to themselves. What international opinion asks is that the United States should pay a decent respect to the opinions of mankind. It recognizes that the U.N. is a very imperfect expression of that opinion since its membership contains despots, it treats states of very different sizes equally, and its decisions are sometimes distorted by the necessity of a great-power veto. So there is a willingness among serious nations to accept that other institutions might have the power to confer legitimacy to certain interventions.
Even if overlapping multilateralism is pursued it is likely to prove a very modest change in a largely unaccountable and?as the ?Oil for Food? scandal has demonstrated?very corrupt system. Some distinguished public figures propose an alternative organization that would exert moral authority within the international system by virtue of its democratic composition and liberal credentials. It would not have the full diplomatic role of the U.N., but it might pull the organization in the right direction, setting standards for good international behavior, encouraging states to meet them in order to qualify for membership, and itself conferring legitimacy on actions it deemed justified. In theory, the Community of Democracies, formed in Warsaw during the Clinton administration, might be such a body. In order for this to happen, however, the United States would have to put a great deal of diplomatic weight and energy behind it. There is no guarantee it would succeed?or that if it did, the Community would significantly improve matters.
That brings us to Bush?s project of spreading democracy. It has, of course, been much ridiculed in Europe. This ridicule is ignoble, but some of the criticisms it employs are not themselves unreasonable: Iraq, for instance, is the kind of ethnically and religiously divided society that has historically been difficult terrain for majority-rule government. Bringing democracy to the Arab and Islamic worlds is likely to be a long, difficult, and tortuous task. It is not certain to succeed. If it does, the Islamic democracy that would result will look very different from our Atlantic institutions. But it is in our interest to encourage the development of liberal, moderate, and decent governments in the Middle East that may become fully democratic over time. We would be well-advised to do so from outside?giving advice, technical assistance, and financial aid to sovereign states, and protecting friendly ones in extremis. In the case of Iraq, having taken over the country, we have to help establish a democratic government there?even if it later diverges from full democratic virtue in the interests of staying alive.
As these remarks show, I do not underestimate the difficulties of establishing democracy in the Middle East. But they are trivial compared to the difficulties of establishing post-democracy there. Yet as John Fonte points out, the Community of Democracies already shows signs of being bureaucratically captured by the ?Tranzis? who would seek to do just that. A conference of NGOs at Seoul in 2002, organized by the Community, proposed gender quotas to elect women in proportion to their numbers in the population. Not only are these ideas inconsistent with the bedrock democratic principle that the voters should have an unfettered choice of candidates, but they are also likely to outrage the traditional societies at which Bush?s democracy project is aimed.
If Gulliver is to foster democracy and to pursue the war against Islamist terrorism in the aftermath of the Iraq intervention without being frustrated by the Tranzis at every turn, he must set about dismantling the structure of transnational progressive power and demystifying its ideology. But a large baby seems to be blocking his way.
Gulliver Meets an Infant Brobdingnagian
It would be odd?and contrary to American interests?to focus entirely on spreading democracy in the Middle East and to ignore entirely the democratic deficit that exists across the transnational and supranational agencies of Minogue?s Acronymia. These bodies claim considerable powers over both national governments and the citizens of their countries. They issue directives with the force of law, fine corporations, prosecute individuals, and interrogate retired statesmen. The U.N. system in particular has spawned new treaties and conventions that propagate international norms on women?s rights, sustainable development, environmental standards, and so on?and U.N. monitoring bodies to ensure that national governments meet their supposed treaty obligations. These conferences set international political agendas that conscript governments, even when they have not ratified the treaties, and that make their way into domestic law via the courts citing customary international law. But they have not been elected by anyone. They are not accountable to any electorate. The laws and regulations they promulgate we cannot repeal or even amend. The U.N. conventions are often composed of special interest NGOs. And, almost comically, the monitoring bodies generally include inspectors drawn from the diplomatic services of despotic and authoritarian regimes.
The democratic deficit in these bodies is frequently admitted by the Tranzis running them, but their admission is then treated as a frank and manly acknowledgment that has solved the problem. In fact, they will not reform without firm pressure from outside. They have a class interest in maintaining their power. And they have ideological allies in most European political parties. Only the United States might lead the resistance to this growing nexus of unaccountable power, in part because its classical liberal U.S. Constitution forbids the Tranzi project of global governance and the loss of democratic sovereignty that it entails.
Like Lilliputians dealing with Gulliver, the Tranzis could not independently resist pressure from a determined United States. If, however, a giant inhabitant of Brobdingnag were to come to their assistance, Gulliver would be defeated. Can the Tranzis hope for similar assistance? Most rising powers?China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil?have little sympathy with Tranzi ideology because it threatens the independent national power they are just beginning to enjoy. The exception is a rising power composed of declining ones?the European Union.
The E.U. sees itself, internally and externally, as the model of a new kind of postmodern superpower. In the accounts of its theorists such as Robert Cooper, the Eurocrat author of The Breaking of Nations, the world is divided like Gaul into three parts: premodern states like the failing despotisms of the Middle East; modern nation-states such as the United States that still exhibit the vital signs of democracy and patriotism, and postmodern polities that have moved into a future of overlapping jurisdictions, multiple national identities, and governance by treaty obligation. These features of the postmodern E.U. are not merely consistent with Tranzi ideology. They are Tranzi ideology, conforming to Fonte?s analsyis and exhibiting the aversion to clear lines of democratic accountability that are hallmarks of Tranzi institution-building.
In large measure the E.U. is a Tranzi project?though one still hobbled by scattered resistance from the voters and national governments. It has a missionary desire to export its distinctive postnational ideology to the rest of the world. It is increasingly driven by an ideological hostility to the United States as the classical liberal democratic alternative to its own post-democracy. And in particular it believes itself superior to the United States in dealing with premodern states and Islamist terrorism?preferring diplomacy to the war on terror and deferring to international bodies in principle.
If the United States is to defeat the terrorists in war or the Tranzis in international politics, it will have to take on the E.U. first. It is likely that this clash will occur most substantially over the war on terror. The United States and the leading E.U. powers have been drifting apart over how to conduct that war; it became an acute crisis over Iraq, and European skeptics have felt themselves vindicated, not wholly unreasonably, by the course of events since Baghdad fell. They will therefore want to conduct the war against Islamist terrorism on intelligence rather than military lines. They will be supported by Acronymia. But the United States?under Bush and probably under Kerry?will confirm the general lines of the Bush doctrine. And the clash will worsen.
Mark Steyn has argued in various venues that this process is likely to end in a complete breach. The NATO allies are inevitably drifting away from the United States and into a policy of appeasing Al Qaeda. Given Mr. Steyn?s fine record of prescience since September 11, only a rash man would gainsay him. But there is another possibility rooted in the fact that the first reactions of most people to a violent but distant revolution are generally appeasing?vide the reactions of almost everyone except Burke and Churchill to the French and Nazi revolutions respectively. Only when it becomes clear that the terrorists? aims are limitless and that nobody is safe does opinion turn harsher and more realistic: On both continents today opinion is divided between appeasers and resisters in proportions that reflect the fact that Americans know that they are the targets of Islamist terrorism while Europeans can think otherwise for a time. Madrid was not September 11 because Europeans still lack a common identity. For non-Spaniards it was a foreign affair. But with the murder of more than 300 Russian children in Beslan, the kidnapping of the two French journalists, and the bombing of the Australian embassy in Indonesia?all within a week of each other?it is plain that the Islamist terrorists have declared war on the entire non-Islamic world and apostate regimes in the Islamic world. Nobody is safe. And since such terrorism will continue to strike country after country, the political climate throughout Europe is likely to become harsher and more realistic?and so more receptive to the greater realism of American policy.
The recent poll on transatlantic attitudes conducted for the German Marshall Fund confirms both halves of this argument. It shows that Europeans increasingly reject American leadership and favor the rise of a European superpower?though not if it means spending more on defense. That certainly suggests an unrealistic mind set. But it also suggests that the divisions between the two continents are neither so virulent nor so clear as the debates between elites suggest. Thus, there are broad differences between European countries and America on such questions as the value of the war in Iraq and deference to international institutions. But divisions within Europe and America are important too. Majorities in some European countries, for instance, share the ?American? view that they would bypass the U.N. if their nations? vital interests were at stake. Perhaps the most significant finding may be that Democrats have an almost identical outlook to most Europeans. In other words, the division of opinion runs through every nation and both continents?and it is likely to react similarly to similar events: in this case, further attacks by Al Qaeda.
If that is so, then the value of the American alliance to European opinion will increase, not only because it is likely to share the views of most Americans (to become, so to speak, more Republican and less Tranzi), but also because in serious conflict any sane European wants to be on the American side. The war on Islamist terrorism would provide the solidarity once supplied by the Cold War; ?Europeanism? would decline, and Atlanticism revive. In those circumstances, the United States would be able to take a much more active role in alliance diplomacy. Until recently Washington has relied on Britain, Italy, Poland, and other Atlantic-minded powers to represent its interests in E.U. affairs. But Washington can no longer afford this passivity. That does not mean a Kerry-like anxiety to please the leading European states at the expense of our interests. Quite the contrary. We must intervene for such purposes in order to ensure that the proposed E.U. defense structure does not compromise NATO?s role as the monopoly supplier of European defense. Or to obstruct a common European foreign policy that seems likely to prevent old friends from joining the United States in some future coalition of the willing. Or, more broadly, to encourage the E.U. to develop along Atlanticist lines and away from any role as a ?counterweight? to the United States.
If that is to be accomplished conclusively, however, then the United States must also encourage those powers that share its distrust of postmodern structures?plainly Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, and less plainly the Baltic states and some East European countries?to seek more liberal constitutional arrangements within the E.U. Until now, it has consistently discouraged any such resistance to whatever was described by Brussels as ?integration.? Even a modest version of such reforms in the E.U. would be a major setback for the Tranzis?their Grenada?and have knock-on effects on their other projects such as the International Criminal Court. And, of course, the mere fact that the E.U. and the U.S. were fighting the war on terror on more American terms would tend, as after September 11, to reduce Tranzi power and influence throughout Acronymia?just as the current Iraqi troubles have helped them. Gulliver would give some Yahoo energy to the overrefined Houyhnhnms of Europe?and maybe get some patience and subtlety in return. That in turn would speed the defeat of the Islamists.
If, however, Mr. Steyn is right in his pessimism?and that?s the way to bet?then the United States will face a difficult future as a military superpower continually frustrated in middling matters by the resistance of international bodies. Europe and America will divide into two separate civilizations?the Anglosphere (minus England, plus India) and the Holy Secular Empire?uncomfortably housing a growing Muslim minority. Even in America, liberal democracy will be gradually transformed into a politically correct judicial oligarchy on Tranzi lines. The political atmosphere of both sides of the Atlantic will obstruct and delay the inevitable defeat of Islamist terrorism. And Gulliver, undefeated and undefeatable, will nonetheless apply for entry into the new euthanasia program brought in following a Supreme Court decision that cited judicial opinions from the International Human Rights Court in Harare.
John O?Sullivan is the editor of The National Interest.
Reply #124 on:
November 05, 2004, 11:12:37 AM »
This piece deals with more than WW3, but this seems the thread for it.
The Second Term
November 05, 2004 0503 GMT
By George Friedman
The election is over and the worst did not happen. The United States is not locked in endless litigation, with the legitimacy of the new government
challenged. George W. Bush has been re-elected in a clear victory. Depending on your point of view, this might have been the best imaginable outcome or the second-worst possible outcome. Possibly, for some, it is the worst outcome, with complete governmental meltdown being preferable to four more years of Bush. However, these arguments are now moot. Bush has been re-elected, and that is all there is to that.
This means that for slightly more than four years the United States will be
governed by a president who will never run for political office again. In
general, two-term presidents tend to be less interested in political process
than in their place in history. They tend to become more aggressive in trying to complete their perceived missions, and less cautious in the chances they take. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all encountered serious problems in their second terms, most due to their handling of problems they experienced in their first terms. Nixon had Watergate, while Reagan was handling Central American issues and hostages. Clinton wound up impeached for his handling of matters in his second term.
Going further back in the century, Woodrow Wilson had the League of Nations fiasco in his second term, and Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court. Dwight Eisenhower alone, his place in history assured, did not suffer serious setbacks from misjudgments, unless you want to view Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin and the shooting down of the U-2 over Soviet air space as personal failures.
Second-term presidents tend to look at re-election as vindication of their
first-term policies and as a repudiation of their critics. They see
themselves as having fewer constraints placed on them, and they become less sensitive to political nuances.
Bush is an interesting case because he was not particularly sensitive to
political nuance in his first term. It is difficult to remember a president
in his first term who was less constrained by political considerations or
political consequences. For better or worse, Bush did not govern with one eye on public opinion polls. As we learned in the course of his term, he was not particularly flexible, even when he was running for re-election. We therefore need to imagine a George W. Bush who is not relatively, but completely, indifferent to political nuance.
Add to this that his legacy is far from assured. Bush's presidency will be
measured by one thing: Sept. 11 and his response to it. It is far from clear how history will judge him. There are many parts to the puzzle -- from Iraq, to homeland defense to Pakistan and so on. They are moving parts. For Bush to assure his legacy, he must bring the conflict to a successful conclusion -- not easy for a conflict in which success remains unclear.
We therefore have two forces at work. First, second-term presidents tend to feel much greater freedom of action than first-term presidents -- and tend to take greater risks. Second, Bush enters his second term with greater pressure on his legacy than most presidents have. Bush needs to make something happen, he needs to get the war under control, and he does not have all that much time to do it. If he is to complete his task before the end of his second term, he needs to start acting right now. It is our expectation that he will.
His re-election represents the first step. Globally, there was a perception
that Bush had blundered massively. There has also been a long-standing myth that the United States cannot stand its ground because casualties generate decisive antiwar movements. In spite of the fact that Nixon buried George McGovern in 1972, and followed with the Christmas bombing of Hanoi, global expectations have always been that events in Iraq would generate a massive antiwar movement that would force Bush from office.
This expectation was first shaken by Sen. John Kerry's campaign. For all his criticism, Kerry did not campaign against the war. He campaigned against Bush. This was explained in many circles as merely what Kerry had to say to get elected, and that after election his true colors would emerge. However, to more sensitive ears, the fact that Kerry had to campaign as he did in order to have a hope of election was jarring. The antiwar vote was too small for the theory. With Bush's victory, one of the fundamental assumptions about the United States went out the window. In spite of casualties and grievous errors, not only was there no antiwar candidate (save Ralph Nader), but Bush actually won the election.
This puts in motion two processes in the world. First, there is a major
rethinking of American staying power in the war going on. The assumption of a rapid conclusion of the Iraq campaign due to U.S. withdrawal is gone -- and it is surprising just how many non-Americans believed this to be a likely scenario. The reassessment of the United States is accompanied by the realization that the United States will not only maintain its pressure in Iraq, but on the region and the globe itself.
American pressure is not insubstantial. Virtually every country in the world wants something from the United States, from a trade agreement to support on a local conflict. They can do without an accommodation with the United States for months, but there is frequently serious pain associated with being at odds with the United States for years. Throughout the world, nations that have resisted U.S. actions in the war -- both within and outside of the region -- must now consider whether they can resist for years.
We can expect two things from Bush in general: relentlessness and linkage. Having won the election, Bush is not going to abandon his goal of crushing al Qaeda and pacifying Iraq and, indeed, the region. That is understood. Equally understood is that Bush will reward friends. Bush's test of friendship is simple: support for the United States and, in particular, support for the policies being pursued by his administration in the war. For Bush, active support for the war was a litmus test for good relations with the United States during the first term. The second term will make the first term look gentle.
Countries that made the decision not to support Bush did so with the
assumption that they could absorb the cost for a while. They must now
recalculate to see if they can absorb the cost for four more years -- and
even beyond, if Bush's successor pursues his policies. For many countries, what was a temporary disagreement is about to turn into a strategic misalignment with the United States. Some countries will continue on their path, others will reconsider. There will be a reshuffling of the global deck in the coming months.
The same analysis being made in the world is also being made in Iraq. There are the guerrillas, most of whom are committed to fighting the United States to the death. But the guerrillas are not a massive force, and they depend for their survival and operational capabilities on a supportive population. In Iraq, support comes from the top down. It is the tribal elders, the senior clergy and the village leaders who make the crucial decisions. They are the ones who decide whether there will be popular support or not.
There has been an assumption in Iraq -- as there has in the world -- that as the pressure builds up in Iraq, the United States will move to abandon the war. Bush's re-election clearly indicates that the United States will not be abandoning the war. They are therefore recalculating their positions in the same way that the rest of the world is. Holding out against the Americans and allowing their populations to aid the guerrillas made a great deal of sense if the United States was about to retreat from Iraq. It is quite another matter if the United States is actually going to be increasing pressure.
It is no accident that as Election Day approached, U.S. forces very publicly -- and very slowly -- massed around Al Fallujah. Al Fallujah was the town in which the United States signed its first accord with the guerrillas. As the election approached, the town went out of control. Now the election is over, the town is surrounded and Bush is president. It is a time for recalculation in Al Fallujah as well, as there can be no doubt but that Bush is free to attack and might well do it.
Throughout the Sunni areas of Iraq -- as well as Shiite regions -- elders are considering their positions, caught between the United States and the
guerrillas, in light of the new permanence of the Americans. The United
States will be aggressive, but in an interesting way. It will be using the
threat of American power as a lever to force the Sunni leadership into
reducing support for the guerrillas. Coupled with the carrot of enormous
bribes, the strategy could work. It might not eliminate the guerrilla war,
but could reduce it to a nuisance level.
The basic reality thus creates the strategy. The re-election of Bush creates a new reality at all levels in the international system. His intransigence, coupled with American power, forces players to think about whether they can hold their positions for at least four years, or whether they must adjust their positions in some way. As the players -- from sheikhs to prime ministers -- reconsider their positions, U.S. power increases, trying to pry them loose. It opens the possibility of negotiations and settlements in unexpected places.
It also opens the door to potential disaster. The danger is that Bush will
simultaneously overestimate his power and feel unbearable pressure to act quickly. This has led some previous presidents into massive errors of
judgment. Put differently, the pressures and opportunities of the second term caused them to execute policies that appeared to be solutions but that blew up in their faces. None of them knew they would blow up, but in their circumstances, no one was sufficiently cautious.
It is precisely Bush's lack of caution that now becomes his greatest
bargaining chip. But his greatest strength can also become his greatest
weakness. The struggle between these two poles will mark the first part of
his presidency. We will find out whether the second part will be the success of this strategy or his downfall. The book on George W. Bush will now be written.
(c) 2004 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
the concept "Arab," and its tension with the conce
Reply #125 on:
November 12, 2004, 09:39:59 AM »
'In order to understand Arafat's life, it is essential to
understand the concept "Arab," and to understand its tension with
the concept "Muslim," at least as Arafat lived it out.'
THE GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
The Death of Arafat
November 11, 2004 2359 GMT
By George Friedman
That Yasser Arafat's death marks the end of an era is so obvious
that it hardly bears saying. The nature of the era that is ending
and the nature of the era that is coming, on the other hand, do
bear discussing. That speaks not only to the Arab-Israeli
conflict but to the evolution of the Arab world in general.
In order to understand Arafat's life, it is essential to
understand the concept "Arab," and to understand its tension with
the concept "Muslim," at least as Arafat lived it out. In
general, ethnic Arabs populate North Africa and the area between
the Mediterranean and Iran, and between Yemen and Turkey. This is
the Arab world. It is a world that is generally -- but far from
exclusively -- Muslim, although the Muslim world stretches far
beyond the Arab world.
To understand Arafat's life, it is much more important to
understand the Arab impulse than to understand the Muslim
impulse. Arafat belonged to that generation of Arab who
visualized the emergence of a single Arab nation, encapsulating
all of the religious groups in the Arab world, and one that was
essentially secular in nature. This vision did not originate with
Arafat but with his primary patron, Gamal Abdul Nasser, the
founder of modern Egypt and of the idea of a United Arab
Republic. No sense can be made of Arafat's life without first
Nasser was born into an Egypt that was ruled by a weak and
corrupt monarchy and effectively dominated by Britain. He became
an officer in the Egyptian army and fought competently against
the Israelis in the 1948 war. He emerged from that war committed
to two principles: The first was recovering Egyptian independence
fully; the second was making Egypt a modern, industrial state.
Taking his bearing from Kamal Ataturk, who founded the modern
Turkish state, Nasser saw the military as the most modern
institution in Egypt, and therefore the instrument to achieve
both independence and modernization. This was the foundation of
the Egyptian revolution.
Nasser was personally a practicing Muslim of sorts -- he attended
mosque -- but he did not see himself as leading an Islamic
revolution at all. For example, he placed numerous Coptic
Christians in important government positions. For Arafat, the
overriding principle was not Islam, but Arabism. Nasser dreamed
of uniting the Arabs in a single entity, whose capital would be
Cairo. He believed that until there was a United Arab Republic,
the Arabs would remain the victims of foreign imperialism.
Nasser saw his prime antagonists as the traditional monarchies of
the Arab world. Throughout his rule, Nasser tried to foment
revolutions, led by the military, that would topple these
monarchies. Nasserite or near-Nasserite revolutions toppled
Iraqi, Syrian and Libyan monarchies. Throughout his rule, he
tried to bring down the Jordanian, Saudi and other Persian Gulf
regimes. This was the constant conflict that overlaid the Arab
world from the 1950s until the death of Nasser and the rise of
Geopolitics aligned Nasser's ambitions with the Soviet Union.
Nasser was a socialist but never a Marxist. Nevertheless, as he
confronted the United States and threatened American allies among
the conservative monarchies, he grew both vulnerable to the
United States and badly in need of a geopolitical patron. The
Soviets were also interested in limiting American power and saw
Nasser as a natural ally, particularly because of his
confrontation with the monarchies.
Nasser's view of Israel was that it represented the intrusion of
British imperialism into the Arab world, and that the
conservative monarchies, particularly Jordan, were complicit in
its creation. For Nasser, the destruction of Israel had several
uses. First, it was a unifying point for Arab nationalism.
Second, it provided a tool with which to prod and confront the
monarchies that tended to shy away from confrontation. Third, it
allowed for the further modernization of the Egyptian military --
and therefore of Egypt -- by enticing a flow of technology from
the Soviet Union to Egypt. Nasser both opposed the existence of
Israel and saw its existence as a useful tool in his general
It is important to understand that for Nasser, Israel was not a
Palestinian problem but an Arab problem. In his view, the
particular Arab nationalisms were the problem, not the solution.
Adding another Arab nationalism -- Palestinian -- to the mix was
not in his interest. The Zionist injustice was against the Arab
nation and not against the Palestinians as a particular nation.
Nasser was not alone in this view. The Syrians saw Palestine as a
district of Syria, stolen by the British and French. They saw the
Zionists as oppressors, but against the Syrian nation. The
Jordanians, who held the West Bank, saw the West Bank as part of
the Jordanian nation and, by extension, the rest of Palestine as
a district of Jordan. Until the 1967 war, the Arab world was
publicly and formally united in opposing the existence of Israel,
but much less united on what would replace Israel after it was
destroyed. The least likely candidate was an independent
Prior to 1967, Nasser sponsored the creation of the Palestine
Liberation Organization under the leadership of Ahmed al
Shukairi. It was an entirely ineffective organization that
created a unit that fought under Egyptian command. Since 1967 was
a disaster for Nasser, "fought" is a very loose term. The PLO was
kept under tight control, careful avoiding the question of
nationhood and focusing on the destruction of Israel.
After the 1967 war, the young leader of the PLO's Fatah faction
took control of the organization. Yasser Arafat was a creature of
Nasser, politically and intellectually. He was an Arabist. He was
a modernizer. He was a secularist. He was aligned with the
Soviets. He was anti-American. Arafat faced two disparate
questions in 1967. First, it was clear that the Arabs would not
defeat Israel in a war, probably in his lifetime; what,
therefore, was to be done to destroy Israel? Second, if the only
goal was to destroy the Israelis, and if that was not to happen
anytime soon, then what was to become of the Palestinians? Arafat
posed the question more radically: Granted that Palestinians were
part of the Arab revolution, did they have a separate identity of
their own, as did Egyptians or Libyans? Were they simply Syrians
or Jordanians? Who were they?
Asserting Palestinian nationalism was not easy in 1967, because
of the Arabs themselves. The Syrians did not easily recognize
their independence and sponsored their own Palestinian group,
loyal to Syria. The Jordanians could not recognize the
Palestinians as separate, as their own claim to power even east
of the Jordan would be questionable, let alone their claims to
the West Bank. The Egyptians were uneasy with the rise of another
Simultaneously, the growth of a radical and homeless Palestinian
movement terrified the monarchies. Arafat knew that no war would
defeat the Israelis. His view was that a two-tiered approach was
best. On one level, the PLO would make the claim on behalf of the
Palestinian people, for the right to statehood on the world
stage. On the other hand, the Palestinians would use small-scale
paramilitary operations against soft targets -- terrorism -- to
increase the cost throughout the world of ignoring the
The Soviets were delighted with this strategy, and their national
intelligence services moved to facilitate it by providing
training and logistics. A terror campaign against Israel's
supporters would be a terror campaign against Europe and the
United States. The Soviets were delighted by anything that caused
pain and destabilized the West. The cost to the Soviets of
underwriting Palestinian operations, either directly or through
various Eastern European or Arab intelligence services, was
negligible. Arafat became a revolutionary aligned with the
There were two operational principles. The first was that Arafat
himself should appear as the political wing of the movement, able
to serve as an untainted spokesman for Palestinian rights. The
second was that the groups that carried out the covert operations
should remain complex and murky. Plausible deniability combined
with unpredictability was the key.
Arafat created an independent covert capability that allowed him
to make a radical assertion: that there was an independent
Palestinian people as distinct as any other Arab nation.
Terrorist operations gave Arafat the leverage to assert that
Palestine should take its place in the Arab world in its own
If Palestine was a separate nation, then what was Jordan? The Ha-
shemite kingdom were Bedouins driven out of Arabia. The majority
of the population were not Bedouin, but had their roots in the
west - hence, they were Palestinians. If there was a Palestinian
nation, then why were they being ruled by Bedouins from Arabia?
In September 1970, Arafat made his move. Combining a series of
hijackings of Western airliners with a Palestinian rising in
Jordan, Arafat attempted to seize control of Jordan. He failed,
and thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered by Hashemite and
Pakistani mercenaries. (Coincidentally, the military unit
dispatched to Jordan was led by then-Brigadier Zia-ul-Haq, who
later ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988 as a military dictator.)
Arafat's logic was impeccable. His military capability was less
Arafat created a new group -- Black September -- that was
assigned the task of waging a covert war against the Israelis and
the West. The greatest action, the massacre of Israeli athletes
at the Munich Olympics in 1972, defined the next generation.
Israel launched a counter-operation to destroy Black September,
and the pattern of terrorism and counter-terrorism swirling
around the globe was set. The PLO was embedded in a network of
terrorist groups sponsored by the Soviets that ranged from Japan
to Italy. The Israelis became part of a multinational counter-
attack. Neither side could score a definitive victory.
But Arafat won the major victory. Nations are frequently born of
battle, and the battles that began in 1970 and raged until the
mid-1990s established an indelible principle -- there is now, if
there was not before, a nation called Palestine. This was
critical, because as Nasser died and his heritage was discarded
by Anwar Sadat, the principle of the Arab nation was lost. It was
only through the autonomous concept of Palestinian nationalism
that Arafat and the PLO could survive.
And this was Arafat's fatal crisis. He had established the
principle of Palestine, but what he had failed to define was what
that Palestinian nation meant and what it wanted. The latter was
the critical point. Arafat's strategy was to appear the statesman
restraining uncontrollable radicals. He understood that he needed
Western support to get a state, and he used this role superbly.
He appeared moderate and malleable in English, radical and
intractable in Arabic. This was his insoluble dilemma.
Arafat led a nation that had no common understanding of their
goal. There were those who wanted to recover a part of Palestine
and be content. There were those who wanted to recover part of
Palestine and use it as a base of operations to retake the rest.
There were those who would accept no intermediate deal but wanted
to destroy Israel. Arafat's fatal problem was that in the course
of creating the Palestinian nation, he had convinced all three
factions that he stood with them.
Like many politicians, Arafat had made too many deals. He had
successfully persuaded the West that (a) he genuinely wanted a
compromise and (b) that he could restrain terrorism. But he had
also persuaded Palestinians that any deal was merely temporary,
and others that he wouldn't accept any deal. By the time of the
Oslo accords, Arafat was so tied up in knots that he could not
longer speak for the nation he created. More precisely, the
Palestinians were so divided that no one could negotiate on their
behalf, confident in his authority. Arafat kept his position by
sacrificing his power.
By the 1990s, the space left by the demise of pan-Arabism had
been taken by the rise of Islamist religiosity. Hamas,
representing the view that there is a Palestinian nation but that
it should be understood as part of the Islamic world under
Islamic law, had become the most vibrant part of the Palestinian
polity. Nothing was more alien from Arafat's thinking than Hamas.
It ran counter to everything he had learned from Nasser.
However -- and this is Arafat's tragedy -- by the time Hamas
emerged as a power, he had lost the ability to believe in
anything but the concept of the Palestinians and his place as its
leader. As Hamas rose, Arafat became entirely tactical. His goal
was to retain position if not power, and toward that end, he
would do what was needed. A lifetime of tactics had destroyed all
His death in Paris was a farce of family and courtiers. It fitted
the end he had created, because his last years were lived in a
round of clever maneuvers leading nowhere. The Palestinians are
left now without strategy, only tactics. There is no one who can
speak for the Palestinians and be listened to as authoritative.
He created the Palestinian nation and utterly disrupted the
Palestinian state. He left a clear concept on the one hand, a
chaos on the other.
It is interesting to wonder what would have happened if Arafat
had won in Jordan in 1970, while Nasser was still alive. But that
wasn't going to happen, because Arafat's fatal weakness was
visible even then. The concept was clear -- but instead of
meticulously planning a rising, Arafat improvised, playing
politics within the PLO when he should have been managing combat
operations. The chaos and failure that marked Black September
became emblematic of his life.
Arafat succeeded in one thing, and perhaps that is enough -- he
created the Palestinian nation against all enemies, Arab and non-
Arab. The rest was the endless failure of pure improvisation.
(c) 2004 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
C-Bad Dog, Lakan Guro DBMA
Hitchens on Secularism in Time of War
Reply #126 on:
November 12, 2004, 06:47:03 PM »
From the Slate web site. Man, I wish I could write as well as Mr. Hitchens.
Bush's Secularist Triumph
The left apologizes for religious fanatics. The president fights them.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2004, at 7:34 AM PT
Many are the cheap and easy laughs in which one could indulge at the extraordinary, pitiful hysteria of the defeated Democrats. "Kerry won," according to one e-mail I received from Greg Palast, to whom the Florida vote in 2000 is, and always will be, a combination of Gettysburg and Waterloo. According to Nikki Finke of the LA Weekly, the Fox News channel "called" Ohio for Bush for reasons too sinister to enumerate. Gregory Maniatis, whose last communication to me had predicted an annihilating Democratic landslide, kept quiet for only a day or so before forwarding the details on how to emigrate to Canada. Thus do the liberals build their bridge to the 20th century.
Who can care about this pathos? Not I. But I do take strong exception to one strain in the general moaning. It seems that anyone fool enough to favor the re-election of the president is by definition a God-bothering, pulpit-pounding Armageddon-artist, enslaved by ancient texts and prophecies and committed to theocratic rule. I was instructed in last week's New York Times that this was the case, and that the Enlightenment had come to an end, by no less an expert than Garry Wills, who makes at least one of his many livings by being an Augustinian Roman Catholic.
I step lightly over the ancient history of Wills' church (which was the originator of the counter-Enlightenment and then the patron of fascism in Europe) as well as over its more recent and local history (as the patron, protector, and financier of child-rape in the United States, and the sponsor of the cruel "annulment" of Joe Kennedy's and John Kerry's first marriages). As far as I know, all religions and all churches are equally demented in their belief in divine intervention, divine intercession, or even the existence of the divine in the first place.
But all faiths are not always equally demented in the same way, or at the same time. Islam, which was once a civilizing and creative force in many societies, is now undergoing a civil war. One faction in this civil war is explicitly totalitarian and wedded to a cult of death. We have seen it at work on the streets of our own cities, and most recently on the streets of Amsterdam. We know that the obscene butchery of filmmaker Theo van Gogh was only a warning of what is coming in Madrid, London, Rome, and Paris, let alone Baghdad and Basra.
So here is what I want to say on the absolutely crucial matter of secularism. Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine?disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO?described as the victims of "despair." The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as "insurgents" or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).
One probably should not rest too much on the similarity between Bin Laden's last video and the newly available DVD of Fahrenheit 9/11. I would only say that, if Bin Laden had issued a tape that with equal fealty followed the playbook of Karl Rove (and do please by all means cross yourself at the mention of this unholy name), it might have garnered some more attention. The Bearded One moved pedantically through Moore's bill of indictment, checking off the Florida vote-count in 2000, the "Pet Goat" episode on the day of hell, the violent intrusion into hitherto peaceful and Muslim Iraq, and the division between Bush and the much nicer Europeans. (For some reason, unknown to me at any rate, he did not attack the President for allowing the Bin Laden family to fly out of American airspace.)
George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he?and the U.S. armed forces?have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The "antiwar" faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary?that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?
Secularism is not just a smug attitude. It is a possible way of democratic and pluralistic life that only became thinkable after several wars and revolutions had ruthlessly smashed the hold of the clergy on the state. We are now in the middle of another such war and revolution, and the liberals have gone AWOL. I dare say that there will be a few domestic confrontations down the road, over everything from the Pledge of Allegiance to the display of Mosaic tablets in courtrooms and schools. I have spent all my life on the atheist side of this argument, and will brace for more of the same, but I somehow can't hear Robert Ingersoll* or Clarence Darrow being soft and cowardly and evasive if it came to a vicious theocratic challenge that daily threatens us from within and without.
Reply #127 on:
November 15, 2004, 07:49:12 AM »
Geopolitical Diary: Monday, Nov. 15, 2004
November 15, 2004 0714 GMT
The last major stronghold in Al Fallujah appears to have fallen. That does
not mean that the fighting is over, however. Guerrillas remain in the city,
bypassed by the main body of U.S. troops. Operating in small teams, these guerrillas will strike at softer targets, such as supply vehicles and
isolated foot patrols. They will be difficult to find. The rubble provides
excellent cover. They will become visible when they launch attacks, so U.S. forces will now configure themselves so as to be able to rapidly reinforce troops that have come under guerrilla attack. The game of hide-and-seek can be a long and brutal experience. The guerrillas will have to be killed, induced to surrender, or manage to exfiltrate the city.
Nevertheless, the main battle is over, and more quickly than we expected. It was our expectation that the United States would draw out the assault as in An Najaf, in order to avoid major casualties and to permit the battle to serve as the backdrop for the critical negotiations taking place between Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the United States on the one side and the Sunni leadership on the other. But that wasn't the way the United States played it out. The basic outline is in place, but the U.S. goal is clearly more ambitious than we thought.
As the battle in Al Fallujah quieted, U.S. leaders began publicly speaking
of dealing with other guerrilla strongholds in other cities. Rather than
using Al Fallujah as the backdrop for negotiations, the United States has
clearly decided on a much broader canvas. Officials are looking at the
entire Sunni triangle, and all the cities within it, as sequential targets
until the Sunni leadership turns on the guerrillas.
The picture the United States is now painting is of a broad sequential or
even simultaneous campaign directed against city after city until the
guerrilla movement has suffered overwhelming attrition and the Sunni
leadership capitulates to American political demands.
It has undoubtedly been noticed by the Sunnis that the attack on Al Fallujah has brought a very muted response in the United States. The Democratic left is so dispirited by the defeat of John Kerry that it has hardly been noticed, in spite of casualties in Al Fallujah. Equally interesting has been the quiet from Europe. France and Germany clearly don't want to tangle with President George W. Bush at this point. Equally important, the killing of a Dutch filmmaker who had criticized Muslims has had a chilling effect on Europeans in general. The broad public has been shocked and is rethinking its views on Muslims in Europe and, therefore, on the U.S. war effort in Iraq. Events in Amsterdam have caused the Europeans to view Iraq through a different prism.
More than at any point since the Iraq war began, the United States is free
from constraints. Neither U.S. public opinion nor European diplomacy is
shaping U.S. war plans. Based on Vietnam, there has been a belief among many that a guerrilla insurgency cannot be defeated. This thinking is true if by "defeated" you mean completely eradicated. If, however, what you mean is reducing the guerrillas so they no longer threaten the regime or basic stability, guerrilla movements can, in fact, be suppressed -- and have been.
In Vietnam, the communists deployed hundreds of thousands of troops, with secured sanctuaries in neighboring countries and a robust logistical
pipeline -- the Ho Chi Minh Trail -- supporting them. Iraq has thousands of guerrillas, probably less than 10,000. There is no sanctuary, and there is no robust supply line. They survive through the support of the population, and that support depends on the Sunni elders. At the moment the elders decide the price is too high, the insurgency will rapidly degrade.
The United States is trying to show the elders just how high the price will
be. We expected Al Fallujah to last for weeks. It has lasted for days, and
new operations are already being planned. The United States is now in a
position to carry out a ruthless campaign designed not only to root out the guerrillas, but to impose a massive cost on the Sunni communities. The United States is not constrained politically and has the necessary force to carry out this campaign. On the other hand, it cannot afford to take too long in carrying out this campaign.
In short, the United States is trying to back the guerrillas against the
wall by splitting them from the Sunni elders, and to do it much faster than we had expected it to happen. We now have an extremely dynamic situation developing in Iraq, where the most likely course is a re-evaluation by the Sunni elders of their prior position, and potentially, a civil war among the Sunnis as one result. The outcome is far from certain, but the war is certainly now taking a dramatic turn.
Copyrights 2004 - Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reply #128 on:
November 16, 2004, 12:33:12 AM »
Iraq: Turning Toward Mosul
November 15, 2004 2359 GMT
Even as U.S.-Iraqi forces battled insurgents in Al Fallujah, violence broke out elsewhere in Iraq. After a recent rash of insurgent activity and other conflicts in the city of Mosul, the U.S.-Iraqi forces sent a light armor brigade from Al Fallujah to Mosul to help maintain security in the strategically important and ethnically diverse city. If the situation deteriorates, commanders could decide in four to six weeks to send more U.S.-Iraqi troops to Mosul to help quell the insurgency.
As the insurgency in Al Fallujah has dwindled to what officials have called "small pockets" of activity, violence has erupted elsewhere in Iraq -- including in the northern city of Mosul. Since Nov. 12, guerrilla actions reported in Mosul have included an uprising -- which resulted in local police forces fleeing their posts when militants stormed two police stations -- and an attempted strike against a U.S. military convoy with a vehicle-borne explosive device. In response to the recent violence, Kurdish Iraqi national guard troops have been sent to Mosul, and the U.S.-Iraqi force dispatched a U.S. light armor brigade from Al Fallujah to Mosul to help bolster security in the restive city.
The United States will wait to see if the light armor brigade is enough to shore up security in Mosul until the current wave of insurgent activity dies down. If more muscle is needed, U.S. military leaders likely will make a decision in four to six weeks about sending more troops to Mosul for a larger operation -- though a large-scale assault does not appear to be necessary.
Mosul is a special case -- it is strategically important for its proximity to the northern oil fields and refineries and for its nearness to Turkey, and it is one of the most racially mixed cities in Iraq. Baghdad has numerous ethnicities in its population, but in Mosul, the Kurdish, Turkoman and Sunni Arab ethnic groups are almost equally proportioned. Because of this balance, the environment in Mosul is always precarious. Saddam Hussein's "Arabization" campaign in northern Iraq, in which he tried to turn the mix into one that is predominately Sunni Arab, also has had lasting negative effects on ethnic relations in the region.
The ethnic tensions in Mosul touch upon the psychological component of controlling Mosul. The ethnic group controlling Mosul would not only find itself sitting neatly on top of one of Iraq's major oil arteries -- and near a major route into Turkey -- but would also feel it had overcome the other ethnic groups in the city.
The recent violence in Mosul, in fact, might not have just been caused by insurgents, though guerrillas from Al Fallujah have reportedly relocated there. A surge in public anger against the United States and the Interim Iraqi Government -- which the assault against Al Fallujah might have caused -- could have been a flash point for the ethnic groups to act out on existing frustrations, especially against Kurds, who are seen as U.S. allies.
This is nothing new to Iraq. Similar violence erupted in Baghdad and other cities during the first attack against Al Fallujah in April. Ethnic violence is not entirely a Sunni Arab phenomenon; violence erupted in certain sections of Baghdad when U.S. forces swept through An Najaf to try to capture militant Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Emotions seem to run high in Iraq; any large-profile military operation there is likely to precipitate agitation in other volatile areas throughout the country. A large-scale assault against Mosul would do no less. However, an attack against Mosul does not appear to be necessary.
Mosul has become a priority for the United States because controlling the insurgency is difficult enough without a civil war breaking out in a strategically valuable city. Not only does securing Mosul discourage the possibility of a war between the independence-seeking Kurds and the other ethnic groups, it also pre-empts ethnic violence that could destabilize the security situation in Iraq even further.
Given Mosul's relatively small size -- and the unavailability of additional troops who are fighting in other insurgent hot spots throughout the country -- U.S. military commanders will see what the light armor brigade can do before deciding on sending more troops to Mosul. The brigade will either be given a particular area of responsibility within the city or worked into various patrol and security rotations.
For now, the forces will focus on raids into enemy-held sections of town and then increase combat patrols to create the impression of securing the city. Though this will expose the U.S.-Iraqi forces to possible insurgent attacks, it will also give them the ability to hit back (since the brigade is coming from Al Fallujah, it is likely to have a more aggressive demeanor). It also is possible the local military command could take control and assign the troops to a holding pattern, or containment plan, until a larger operation can be planned out for the more troubled parts of the city.
Mosul is likely to be one of several cities U.S.-Iraqi forces will focus on next -- along with Ar Ramadi, which the U.S. military also considers a major target and which is strategically just as important as Mosul. Rather than launching a full-on assault, the U.S. command will see if the light armor brigade -- and the troops already in Mosul -- can hold down the fort. U.S.-Iraqi troops already are spread thin throughout Iraq; later, if needed, additional troops could be sent to Mosul for a larger operation -- but not of the same scale as Al Fallujah.
Reply #129 on:
November 17, 2004, 11:14:31 PM »
One cannot emphasize too much the distinction between Islam-plain Islam-and its fundamentalist version. Islam is the religion of about one billion people and is a rapidly growing faith, particularly in Africa but also elsewhere in the world. The United States, for example, boasts almost a million converts to Islam (plus an even larger number of Muslim immigrants).
Islam's adherents find their faith immensely appealing, for the religion possesses an inner strength that is quite extraordinary. As a leading figure in the Islamic Republic of Iran maintains, "Any Westerner who really understands Islam will envy the lives of Muslims." Far from feeling embarrassed about its being temporally the last of the three major Middle Eastern monotheisms, Muslims believe that their faith improves on the earlier ones. In their telling, Judaism and Christianity are but defective variants of Islam, which is God's final, perfect religion.
Contributing to this internal confidence is the memory of outstanding achievements during Islam's first six or so centuries. Its culture was the most advanced, and Muslims enjoyed the best health, lived the longest, had the highest rates of literacy, sponsored the most advanced scientific and technical research, and deployed usually victorious armies. This pattern of success was evident from the beginning: in A.D. 622 the Prophet Muhammad fled Mecca as a refugee, only to return eight years later as its ruler. As early as the year 715, Muslim conquerors had assembled an empire that extended from Spain in the west to India in the east. To be a Muslim meant to belong to a winning civilization. Muslims, not surprisingly, came to assume a correlation between their faith and their worldly success, to assume that they were the favored of God in both spiritual and mundane matters.
And yet, in modern times battlefield victories and prosperity have been notably lacking. Indeed, as early as the thirteenth century, Islam's atrophy and Christendom's advances were already becoming discernible. But, for some five hundred years longer, Muslims remained largely oblivious to the extraordinary developments taking place to their north. Ibn Khaldun, the famous Muslim intellectual, wrote around the year 1400 about Europe, "I hear that many developments are taking place in the land of the Rum, but God only knows what happens there!"
Such willful ignorance rendered Muslims vulnerable when they could no longer ignore what was happening around them. Perhaps the most dramatic alert came in July 1798, when Napoleon Bonaparte landed in Egypt-the center of the Muslim world-and conquered it with stunning ease. Other assaults followed over the next century and more, and before long most Muslims were living under European rule. As their power and influence waned, a sense of incomprehension spread among Muslims. What had gone wrong? Why had God seemingly abandoned them?
The trauma of modern Islam results from this sharp and unmistakable contrast between medieval successes and more recent tribulations. Put simply, Muslims have had an exceedingly hard time explaining what went wrong. Nor has the passage of time made this task any easier, for the same unhappy circumstances basically still exist. Whatever index one employs, Muslims can be found clustering toward the bottom-whether measured in terms of their military prowess, political stability, economic development, corruption, human rights, health, longevity or literacy. Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia who now languishes in jail, estimates in The Asian Renaissance (1997) that whereas Muslims make up just one-fifth of the world's total population, they constitute more than half of the 1.2 billion people living in abject poverty. There is thus a pervasive sense of debilitation and encroachment in the Islamic world today. As the imam of a mosque in Jerusalem put it not long ago, "Before, we were masters of the world and now we're not even masters of our own mosques."
Searching for explanations for their predicament, Muslims have devised three political responses to modernity-secularism, reformism and Islamism. The first of these holds that Muslims can only advance by emulating the West. Yes, the secularists concede, Islam is a valuable and esteemed legacy, but its public dimensions must be put aside. In particular, the sacred law of Islam (called the Shari'a)-which governs such matters as the judicial system, the manner in which Muslim states go to war, and the nature of social interactions between men and women-should be discarded in its entirety. The leading secular country is Turkey, where Kemal Atat?rk in the period 1923-38 reshaped and modernized an overwhelmingly Muslim society. Overall, though, secularism is a minority position among Muslims, and even in Turkey it is under siege.
Reformism, occupying a murky middle ground, offers a more popular response to modernity. Whereas secularism forthrightly calls for learning from the West, reformism selectively appropriates from it. The reformist says, "Look, Islam is basically compatible with Western ways. It's just that we lost track of our own achievements, which the West exploited. We must now go back to our own ways by adopting those of the West." To reach this conclusion, reformers reread the Islamic scriptures in a Western light. For example, the Koran permits a man to take up to four wives-on the condition that he treat them equitably. Traditionally, and quite logically, Muslims understood this verse as permission for a man to take four wives. But because a man is allowed only one in the West, the reformists performed a sleight of hand and interpreted the verse in a new way: the Koran, they claim, requires that a man must treat his wives equitably, which is clearly something no man can do if there is more than one of them. So, they conclude, Islam prohibits more than a single wife.
Reformists have applied this sort of reasoning across the board. To science, for example, they contend Muslims should have no objections, for science is in fact Muslim. They recall that the word algebra comes from the Arabic, al-jabr. Algebra being the essence of mathematics and mathematics being the essence of science, all of modern science and technology thereby stems from work done by Muslims. So there is no reason to resist Western science; it is rather a matter of reclaiming what the West took (or stole) in the first place. In case after case, and with varying degrees of credibility, reformists appropriate Western ways under the guise of drawing on their own heritage. The aim of the reformists, then, is to imitate the West without acknowledging as much. Though intellectually bankrupt, reformism functions well as a political strategy.
The Ideological Response
The third response to the modern trauma is Islamism, the subject of the remainder of this essay. Islamism has three main features: a devotion to the sacred law, a rejection of Western influences, and the transformation of faith into ideology.
Islamism holds that Muslims lag behind the West because they're not good Muslims. To regain lost glory requires a return to old ways, and that is achieved by living fully in accordance with the Shari'a. Were Muslims to do so, they would once again reside on top of the world, as they did a millennium ago. This, however, is no easy task, for the sacred law contains a vast body of regulations touching every aspect of life, many of them contrary to modern practices. (The Shari'a somewhat resembles Jewish law, but nothing comparable exists in Christianity.) Thus, it forbids usury or any taking of interest, which has deep and obvious implications for economic life. It calls for cutting off the hands of thieves, which runs contrary to all modern sensibilities, as do its mandatory covering of women and the separation of the sexes. Islamism not only calls for the application of these laws, but for a more rigorous application than ever before was the case. Before 1800, the interpreters of the Shari'a softened it somewhat. For instance, they devised a method by which to avoid the ban on interest. The fundamentalists reject such modifications, demanding instead that Muslims apply the Shari'a strictly and in its totality.
In their effort to build a way of life based purely on the Shar'i laws, Islamists strain to reject all aspects of Western influence-customs, philosophy, political institutions and values. Despite these efforts, they still absorb vast amounts from the West in endless ways. For one, they need modern technology, especially its military and medical applications. For another, they themselves tend to be modern individuals, and so are far more imbued with Western ways than they wish to be or will ever acknowledge. Thus, while the Ayatollah Khomeini, who was more traditional than most Islamists, attempted to found a government on the pure principles of Shiite Islam, he ended up with a republic based on a constitution that represents a nation via the decisions of a parliament, which is in turn chosen through popular elections-every one of these a Western concept. Another example of Western influence is that Friday, which in Islam is not a day of rest but a day of congregation, is now the Muslim equivalent of a sabbath. Similarly, the laws of Islam do not apply to everyone living within a geographical territory but only to Muslims; Islamists, however, understand them as territorial in nature (as an Italian priest living in Sudan found out long ago, when he was flogged for possessing alcohol). Islamism thereby stealthily appropriates from the West while denying that it is doing so.
Perhaps the most important of these borrowings is the emulation of Western ideologies. The word "Islamism" is a useful and accurate one, for it indicates that this phenomenon is an "ism" comparable to other ideologies of the twentieth century. In fact, Islamism represents an Islamic-flavored version of the radical utopian ideas of our time, following Marxism-Leninism and fascism. It infuses a vast array of Western political and economic ideas within the religion of Islam. As an Islamist, a Muslim Brother from Egypt, puts it, "We are neither socialist nor capitalist, but Muslims"; a Muslim of old would have said, "We are neither Jews nor Christians, but Muslims."
Islamists see their adherence to Islam primarily as a form of political allegiance; hence, though usually pious Muslims, they need not be. Plenty of Islamists seem in fact to be rather impious. For instance, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York, Ramzi Yousef, had a girlfriend while living in the Philippines and was "gallivanting around Manila's bars, strip-joints and karaoke clubs, flirting with women." From this and other suggestions of loose living, his biographer, Simon Reeve, finds "scant evidence to support any description of Yousef as a religious warrior." The FBI agent in charge of investigating Yousef concluded that, "He hid behind a cloak of Islam."
On a grander level, Ayatollah Khomeini hinted at the irrelevance of faith for Islamists in a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev early in 1989, as the Soviet Union was rapidly failing. The Iranian leader offered his own government as a model: "I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system." Khomeini here seemed to be suggesting that the Soviets should turn to the Islamist ideology-converting to Islam would almost seem to be an afterthought.
Contrary to its reputation, Islamism is not a way back; as a contemporary ideology it offers not a means to return to some old-fashioned way of life but a way of navigating the shoals of modernization. With few exceptions (notably, the Taliban in Afghanistan), Islamists are city dwellers trying to cope with the problems of modern urban life-not people of the countryside. Thus, the challenges facing career women figure prominently in Islamist discussions. What, for example, can a woman who must travel by crowded public transportation do to protect herself from groping? The Islamists have a ready reply: she should cover herself, body and face, and signal through the wearing of Islamic clothes that she is not approachable. More broadly, they offer an inclusive and alternative way of life for modern persons, one that rejects the whole complex of popular culture, consumerism and individualism in favor of a faith-based totalitarianism.
Deviations From Tradition
While Islamism is often seen as a form of traditional Islam, it is something profoundly different. Traditional Islam seeks to teach humans how to live in accord with God's will, whereas Islamism aspires to create a new order. The first is self-confident, the second deeply defensive. The one emphasizes individuals, the latter communities. The former is a personal credo, the latter a political ideology.
The distinction becomes sharpest when one compares the two sets of leaders. Traditionalists go through a static and lengthy course of learning in which they study a huge corpus of information and imbibe the Islamic verities much as their ancestors did centuries earlier. Their faith reflects more than a millennium of debate among scholars, jurists and theologians. Islamist leaders, by contrast, tend to be well educated in the sciences but not in Islam; in their early adulthood, they confront problems for which their modern learning has failed to prepare them, so they turn to Islam. In doing so they ignore nearly the entire corpus of Islamic learning and interpret the Koran as they see fit. As autodidacts, they dismiss the traditions and apply their own (modern) sensibilities to the ancient texts, leading to an oddly Protestant version of Islam.
The modern world frustrates and stymies traditional figures who, educated in old-fashioned subjects, have not studied European languages, spent time in the West, or mastered its secrets. For example, traditionalists rarely know how to exploit the radio, television and the Internet to spread their message. In contrast, Islamist leaders usually speak Western languages, often have lived abroad, and tend to be well versed in technology. The Internet has hundreds of Islamist sites. Fran?ois Burgat and William Dowell note this contrast in their book, The Islamist Movement in North Africa (1993) :
The village elder, who is close to the religious establishment and knows little of Western culture (from which he refuses technology a priori) cannot be confused with the young science student who is more than able to deliver a criticism of Western values, with which he is familiar and from which he is able to appropriate certain dimensions. The traditionalist will reject television, afraid of the devastating modernism that it will bring; the Islamist calls for increasing the number of sets . . . once he has gained control of the broadcasts.
Most important from our perspective, traditionalists fear the West while Islamists are eager to challenge it. The late mufti of Saudi Arabia, 'Abd al-'Aziz Bin-Baz, exemplified the tremulous old guard. In the summer of 1995, he warned Saudi youth not to travel to the West for vacation because "there is a deadly poison in travelling to the land of the infidels and there are schemes by the enemies of Islam to lure Muslims away from their religion, to create doubts about their beliefs, and to spread sedition among them." He urged the young to spend their summers in the "safety" of the summer resorts in their own country.
Islamists are not completely impervious to the fear of these schemes and lures, but they have ambitions to tame the West, something they do not shy from announcing for the whole world to hear. The most crude simply want to kill Westerners. In a remarkable statement, a Tunisian convicted of setting off bombs in France in 1985-86, killing thirteen, told the judge handling his case, "I do not renounce my fight against the West which assassinated the Prophet Muhammad. . . . We Muslims should kill every last one of you [Westerners]." Others plan to expand Islam to Europe and America, using violence if necessary. An Amsterdam-based imam declared on a Turkish television program, "You must kill those who oppose Islam, the order of Islam or Allah, and His Prophet; hang or slaughter them after tying their hands and feet crosswise . . . as prescribed by the Shari'a." An Algerian terrorist group, the GIA, issued a communiqu? in 1995 that showed the Eiffel Tower exploding and bristled with threats:
We are continuing with all our strength our steps of jihad and military attacks, and this time in the heart of France and its largest cities. . . . It's a pledge that [the French] will have no more sleep and no more leisure and Islam will enter France whether they like it or not.
The more moderate Islamists plan to use non-violent means to transform their host countries into Islamic states. For them, conversion is the key. One leading American Muslim thinker, Isma'il R. Al-Faruqi, put this sentiment rather poetically: "Nothing could be greater than this youthful, vigorous and rich continent [of North America] turning away from its past evil and marching forward under the banner of Allahu Akbar [God is great]."
This contrast not only implies that Islamism threatens the West in a way that the traditional faith does not, but it also suggests why traditional Muslims, who are often the first victims of Islamism, express contempt for the ideology. Thus, Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt's Nobel Prize winner for literature, commented after being stabbed in the neck by an Islamist: "I pray to God to make the police victorious over terrorism and to purify Egypt from this evil, in defense of people, freedom, and Islam." Tujan Faysal, a female member of the Jordanian parliament, calls Islamism "one of the greatest dangers facing our society" and compares it to "a cancer" that "has to be surgically removed." ?evik Bir, one of the key figures in dispatching Turkey's Islamist government in 1997, flatly states that in his country, "Muslim fundamentalism remains public enemy number one." If Muslims feel this way, so can non-Muslims; being anti-Islamism in no way implies being anti-Islam.
Islamism in Practice
Like other radical ideologues, Islamists look to the state as the main vehicle for promoting their program. Indeed, given the impractical nature of their scheme, the levers of the state are critical to the realization of their aims. Toward this end, Islamists often lead political opposition parties (Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia) or have gained significant power (Lebanon, Pakistan, Malaysia). Their tactics are often murderous. In Algeria, an Islamist insurgency has led to some 70,000 deaths since 1992.
And when Islamists do take power, as in Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan, the result is invariably a disaster. Economic decline begins immediately. Iran, where for two decades the standard of living has almost relentlessly declined, offers the most striking example of this. Personal rights are disregarded, as spectacularly shown by the re-establishment of chattel slavery in Sudan. Repression of women is an absolute requirement, a practice most dramatically on display in Afghanistan, where they have been excluded from schools and jobs.
An Islamist state is, almost by definition, a rogue state, not playing by any rules except those of expediency and power, a ruthless institution that causes misery at home and abroad. Islamists in power means that conflicts proliferate, society is militarized, arsenals grow, and terrorism becomes an instrument of state. It is no accident that Iran was engaged in the longest conventional war of the twentieth century (1980-88, against Iraq) and that both Sudan and Afghanistan are in the throes of decades-long civil wars, with no end in sight. Islamists repress moderate Muslims and treat non-Muslims as inferior specimens. Its apologists like to see in Islamism a force for democracy, but this ignores the key pattern that, as Martin Kramer points out, "Islamists are more likely to reach less militant positions because of their exclusion from power. . . . Weakness moderates Islamists." Power has the opposite effect.
Islamism has now been on the ascendant for more than a quarter century. Its many successes should not be understood, however, as evidence that it has widespread support. A reasonable estimate might find 10 percent of Muslims following the Islamist approach. Instead, the power that Islamists wield reflects their status as a highly dedicated, capable and well-organized minority. A little bit like cadres of the Communist Party, they make up for numbers with activism and purpose.
Islamists espouse deep antagonism toward non-Muslims in general, and Jews and Christians in particular. They despise the West both because of its huge cultural influence and because it is a traditional opponent-the old rival, Christendom, in a new guise. Some of them have learned to moderate their views so as not to upset Western audiences, but the disguise is thin and should deceive no one.
3 Reads on Russia
Reply #130 on:
December 04, 2004, 02:06:52 PM »
We begin with 2 good examples of why signing up at
is a good idea.
THE GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
Finding Russia's Limit
December 03, 2004 1910 GMT
By George Friedman
Most political crises have little meaning in the countries where they occur, let alone internationally or historically. On rare occasion, a crisis comes along that has profound significance far beyond what appears to be the case.
That is the case with the Ukrainian election. We do not like hyperbole and normally try to understate things, but the crisis over the Ukrainian election, and the manner in which it is resolved, can define the future of Eurasia -- and therefore the world -- for generations. This particular crisis might not be definitive, but the issue it presents about the Ukraine will be.
The issue in the election is relatively simple. There are two factions in Ukraine, defined to a great extent by geography. One faction, concentrated in the western Ukraine, favors closer ties between Ukraine and the West. This faction goes so far as to support Ukrainian membership in NATO. The other faction, concentrated in eastern Ukraine, favors closer ties with Russia and wants relations with the West to develop in the context of a primary
Russo-Ukrainian relationship. For many in this faction there is a desire to create a closer relationship, even some sort of federation, with Russia and Belarus.
An election was held for a new president that was, in effect, a referendum on the direction that Ukraine should go. The pro-Russian faction won the election, but it was immediately charged that it did so by fraud. The United
States and European countries supported the claim of fraud and demanded some unspecified solution that would allow the pro-Western faction to win. Russia argued that the pro-Russian faction had won fairly and demanded that the West
not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs. It was a fairly typical election, save for the enormous interest that outside powers showed in the outcome.
In order to understand the excitement -- and to go beyond the idea that this is simply about helping democracy grow in Ukraine -- we need to consider the geopolitical implications of each side winning. In order to do this, we need to consider the geopolitical condition of the former Soviet Union. There are these essential questions:
1. Will the disintegration of the Soviet Union be followed by a disintegration of the Russian Federation?
2. To what extent will Russia have secure and defensible borders, and to what extent will it be able to claim a sphere of influence in surrounding countries?
3. To what extent will Western institutions, particularly NATO, incorporate former Soviet republics, and to what extent will Western -- and particularly U.S. -- military power intrude into the former Soviet Union?
A Decade of Western Moves
In the decade since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Western institutions -- especially NATO -- have intruded or shown intentions of intruding deep into the former Soviet empire. Some central European countries already are members of NATO, and others are lining up. Parts of the former
Soviet Union, like the Baltics, also have been included. In a parallel process, the United States has developed strategic military relations with countries in the Caucasus and in the Muslim states to Russia's south. This process has been accelerating since Sept. 11.
From the Russian viewpoint, these intrusions have gone far beyond the understandings Moscow thought Russia had with the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The idea of NATO coming into central Europe would have once seemed farfetched and the idea of it coming into the former Soviet Union preposterous. The Russians have reason to believe they had assurances from both the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations on the limits of Western and U.S. expansion. Whatever these understandings were, they have not been respected.
International relations do not deal in sentimentality, and Russian weakness and the need for economic relations with the West made it impossible for Russia to deter the expansion. On the other side, knowing that Russian weakness was not necessarily permanent, the United States saw an opportunity for redefining Eurasia in such a way that the reemergence of a Russian superpower would become impossible. Essentially, the temptation to expand into power vacuums created by Russian weakness has proven irresistible -- as a simple means of buying insurance against the future.
As deep as the intrusion has been, however, one country has thus far not been seriously on the table -- Ukraine. If Ukraine moves into the Russian sphere of influence, Russia has not in any way reversed its massive decline. However, if Ukraine were to join NATO, Russia would have entered an era in which its decline is not only irreversible, but in which the ability of the Russian Federation to survive becomes highly questionable.
Ukraine stretches from the Carpathian Mountains, at the point where Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania converge, east nearly to the Don River in the Russian heartland, a distance of more than 800 miles along the underbelly of
Belarus and Russia. It constitutes the northern coast of the Black Sea. Moscow is less than 300 miles from the Ukrainian frontier; Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, is less than 200 miles away.
If Ukraine were part of NATO, Russia would become indefensible. This does not mean NATO would have the intention of invading Russia. It would mean that if
NATO's intentions were to change -- and nations must always assume the worst about the intentions of others -- Russia would find itself fighting along nearly the lines of Adolf Hitler's deepest penetration into the country in World War II. And they would find themselves fighting on those lines on the first day of the war. They would lose the ability to defend themselves conventionally.
Looking at the map more closely, there is a solid NATO salient in the west, growing U.S. influence and presence in the Caucasus and a growing U.S. economic presence in Kazakhstan and the Muslim republics in the south. U.S.
troops already are in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Southern Russia to the Caucasus would be accessible to Moscow only through the 300 mile-wide Volgograd corridor. The ability of the Russians to project credible power into the Caucasus dramatically would decline. The Black Sea would be virtually surrounded by U.S. allies and become an American lake. There would be U.S. naval bases in Odessa and the Crimea. Russian ability to influence events in the Caucasus would evaporate.
Under these circumstances, the ability of Russia to resist centrifugal forces inside the federation would simply disintegrate. It would not be a matter of Chechnya alone. Secessionist movements in the Russian Pacific Maritime
Provinces, Karelia and in other regions would surge. Resistance could prove particularly robust in Russia's titular republics such as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, which incidentally not only provide a sizable portion of
Russia's oil output, but also sit astride the only infrastructure that pumps Siberian oil to the rest of Russia and the rest of the world. Moscow -- and
President Vladimir Putin -- would find itself presiding over the second wave of disintegration. Serious force projection even inside Russia would become difficult, leaving Russia with a nuclear option and not much else. If Ukraine were to move decisively to the west and join NATO, we do not think it too extreme to raise the question of whether the Russian Federation could survive.
The Stakes in Ukraine
For the Russians, the outcome of the Ukrainian elections is a matter of fundamental national security. Russia can tolerate an independent Ukraine. It can tolerate a Ukraine with close economic ties to the West, but this election has posed a further possibility -- the idea of NATO expanding into Ukraine. The possibility was stated as a serious option and not rejected by the United States or Europe. Therefore, from the Russian viewpoint, the defeat of the pro-NATO opposition party was a matter of national necessity.
The United States and Europe responded exactly as the Russians feared they would. They demanded the election go to the pro-Western faction. This is not read in Moscow as simply the West's love of a fair election. Rather, it is
seen by the Russians as a concerted effort to take control of Ukraine and put Russia in an untenable position.
The central European viewpoint is that the historical opportunity to cripple Russia must not be lost. Countries that have drawn close to the United States -- such as Poland -- understand what is at stake and, after half a century of Soviet domination, want more than anything to cripple Russia. The United States would prefer to see Russia in one piece, but has no objection to crippling Russia, as it might give the United States a freer hand in central Asia to wage its war.
The problem is that in the Ukraine, the United States has encountered the Russian limit. The United States and Europe have pushed and probed at Russia for more than a decade without hitting a point the Russians simply cannot live with. With the Ukrainian election, the United States has found that point. It is not clear if the United States is aware it has hit this limit. The United States has become used to a passive Russia and the move into Ukraine seems to be simply another phase in a process that began in 1989. It
seems not to have a cost.
The Russians do not always respond in the region on which they are focused. We find remarks by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov warning the United States that its path in Afghanistan is unacceptable to the Russians because
it is too soft on the Taliban -- a statement made while visiting India and asking for renewed strategic relations -- to be a warning to the United States that Russia is capable of causing serious problems for the United States in its war on terrorism, to be an example of this. Russia announcing it was introducing a new class of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) is another example. There will be many more.
Putin cannot possibly give on this and he will not. The issue for Russia is not fair elections but national survival. That means the only way to defuse the Ukrainian crisis is for guarantees on the role of NATO in Ukraine. The
problem is that the West has made previous guarantees to the Russians on other NATO expansions that it did not heed. Credibility is not high.
Putin has begun domestically increasing his power. There is an assumption that he is eager to avoid a confrontation with the West, which is certainly true. He helped U.S. President George W. Bush win re-election by making a
number of supporting comments. He expects to be repaid. If the Bush administration presses hard on Ukraine, we suspect this will be the trigger of a fundamental re-evaluation by Russia of its strategy. Which means Washington needs to either back off or move very fast.
(c) 2004 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
U.S., Russia: Setting Up the South Asian Chessboard?
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Dec. 3 on a visit to India, while Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is making a stopover in Washington to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush. Moscow's moves to counter the possible loss of Ukraine to U.S. influence could affect the situation in southwest Asia and the Indo-Pakistani region. The Cold War chessboard could be resurrected if the United States and Russia seek to engage in a geopolitical game, and the regional actors will have a chance to advance their national interests.
Two significant and related visits occurred Dec 3. Russian
President Vladimir Putin began a visit to India, while Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a weekend stopover in Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush. Musharraf is on his way from South America to Europe.
The two visits are coincidental and would normally be dismissed as such, but these are interesting times: Russia is preparing to respond to what increasingly looks like the alignment of Ukraine with the United States -- something the Kremlin cannot just accept, given Ukraine's geostrategic importance to Russia. One way in which Putin's government will try and counter growing U.S. influence in what used to be Russia's geopolitical sphere of influence is by creating problems for Washington in south and
The Kremlin understands the importance the Bush administration attaches to its military and political objectives with respect to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Moscow will seek to balance U.S. political forays into Ukraine by using its influence on various regional state and non-state actors.
Russia already is involved in the Iranian nuclear program,
helping with the construction of the reactor at Bushehr. Thus far, Moscow has not finalized the deal on the completion of this project because it shares Washington's opinion that Iran should not be able to acquire nuclear weapons. This situation could change, given that Russia is feeling threatened so close to home. It could move Moscow to accelerate efforts to finalize the deal with Iran -- thereby signaling to Washington that it is not without options.
Moving eastward, India is ruled by a Congress-led coalition
government that is not as eager to accommodate the United States as its predecessor, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Instead, the Congress Party traditionally has sought to counter Pakistan's alignment with the United States by forging closer relations with Russia. This is yet another tool at the Russians' disposal -- they can get together with India, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to back Afghanistan's groups aligned against Islamabad, the
Pashtuns and Afghan President Hamid Karzai (and, by extension, the United States). Aiding these groups -- the ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara, Turkmen and others -- against Karzai and the Pashtuns would thwart the United States' plans for Afghanistan.
The time for this could not be better. U.S. Ambassador to
Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has worked since late October to accelerate public efforts to co-opt "moderate" Taliban into the political process to strengthen Karzai's -- and, by default, the Pashtuns' -- position. Khalilzad also has been trying to get Pakistan's assistance in this effort -- something for which Islamabad is perfect. It is, however, sure to raise eyebrows with non-Pashtun Afghans and their regional backers in Tehran, Dushanbe, Tashkent and New Delhi -- a development Moscow can take advantage of.
Putin's visit to India might already have the Pakistanis worried, and it is sure to come up during the Musharraf-Bush meeting, where Islamabad will point to the Russian-Indian partnership and try to push for more military and economic assistance from Washington. The peace negotiations between India and Pakistan also have slowed down somewhat, especially on the question of Kashmir. Moreover, both India and Pakistan have in the past couple of weeks engaged in missile tests.
From the U.S. viewpoint, Moscow's movements in south and
southwest Asia could create problems for both the war against al Qaeda-led jihadists and the war in Iraq. This was something that Putin even directly mentioned upon his arrival in New Delhi. He called on the United States to learn from the lessons of the Iraq war in formulating its foreign policy, and added that the differences among the major international players over the Iraq war had adversely affected the war on terrorism.
In response, the United States also has options to offset Russian maneuvers. Washington has the Iraq card, which it can use to forestall Iran's closeness with the Kremlin. Iran will not align with Russia in a bid to advance its nuclear program at the cost of influence in Iraq. As for Afghanistan, the pace of events can continue, as the United States is not faced with an insurgency nor does it have too many troops on the ground. This leaves the Indo-Pak theater, which Washington needs to use toward
dismantling al Qaeda. Enhanced Russian relations with India can slow progress toward that objective.
Russia, shaken by the setback in Ukraine, is adopting an
aggressive political stance toward the United States. This
position not only has ramifications for the world's two leading military powers, but also for the southwest Asian proxies through which Moscow's response and Washington's counter-response will manifest themselves.
(c) 2004 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Today's Left Angeles Times, page one
Rivalry Brews in Russia's Backyard
Using its energy resources as leverage, Moscow is angling for influence in its former republics in the face of growing U.S. and NATO presence.
By Kim Murphy, Times Staff Writer
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan ? The Cold War may be over, but U.S. and Russian soldiers are expanding outposts in this mountainous former Soviet republic about 3,200 miles east of NATO headquarters in Brussels and nearly 2,000 miles from Moscow.
The U.S. opened its base three years ago as a launching pad for troops and cargo heading into Afghanistan. Two years later, with the Americans showing no signs of leaving, Russia opened its own base. Now, Moscow is quadrupling the number of its troops, while the American garrison is crawling with bulldozers and trucks, as Washington spends $10 million replacing tents with sturdier quarters.
Officially, Russia has welcomed the U.S. presence as a reflection of a new partnership against a common enemy: Islamic extremists. Washington, in turn, has praised Moscow for enhancing cooperative security efforts in this volatile corner of Central Asia.
But the cooperation is limited largely to words. The current U.S. base commander has never met his Russian counterpart, troops are mostly forbidden to venture outside their respective gateposts, and military flights are scrupulously segregated.
The bases here are symbols of a new rivalry between East and West for influence over the lands of Russia's old empire. More than a decade after it ended, the global Cold War standoff has been supplanted by competition for political and economic hegemony along Russia's vast frontier stretching from the Baltic Sea to China.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a weakened Russia initially turned inward and the West moved rapidly into the faded superpower's sphere of influence. But now, armed with $50-a-barrel oil and a determination to protect its interests, a newly confident Kremlin is reasserting centuries-old claims.
The competition extends far beyond Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. also has military bases in neighboring Uzbekistan and has sent military trainers to Georgia, where Russia has two bases. Moscow's Baltic Sea fleet sails from a sliver of Russian territory between two new North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, Poland and Lithuania; NATO planes now patrol the skies over former Soviet republics to Russia's west.
The Caspian Sea basin, with its more than 200 billion barrels of oil, is seen by both Russia and the U.S. as a zone of strategic interest. Russia is using its energy reserves to maintain influence in the small, newly independent countries of the Baltic and Caucasus regions.
And now, the struggle between pro-Moscow and pro-Western forces is playing out in the disputed presidential election in Ukraine, a territory that for centuries has been central to Russia's sense of itself as a great power.
"As a military man, I see that Russia is surrounded. And I can imagine the reaction of the U.S. if our country were all of a sudden to declare the Gulf of Mexico the zone of our vital interests. We're gritting our teeth," said Russian parliament deputy Viktor Alksnis, a former air force colonel.
"On the other hand, they are mistaken if they think Russia collapsed along with the Soviet Union in the 1990s," he said. "For all the 1,000 years of history of our state, Russia has been like a human heart. It squeezes and unsqueezes. And what we have seen recently is that people who should have looked to Russia as a partner in tackling global problems have instead seen a need to drive the Russian bear back into its den."
In 2000, Boris N. Yeltsin handed over the Russian presidency to Vladimir V. Putin, a former KGB agent whose youth and aura of strength gave his demoralized and chaotic country a badly needed shot of confidence.
While Putin consolidated his political power, Russia also gained a windfall from rising global oil prices. Now, backed by its energy wealth, $100 billion in gold and foreign currency reserves (growing lately at a rate of $2 billion a week) and an upgraded arsenal of 7,800 nuclear warheads, Putin has broadly reasserted the power of the Russian state.
He has blocked the sale of Russia's biggest oil companies to Western conglomerates, sharply centralized government authority and driven democratic forces to the political margins.
And in the last year or two, it also has become clearer how Putin aims to position Russia in the world at large. Quietly, Russia is regaining a semblance of its historic empire.
By locking in energy contracts, controlling pipelines and buying up regional utilities, the Kremlin now holds a near-monopoly in much of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. Russian businessmen have bought up factories, steel mills and energy companies. Russian interests that back pro-Moscow candidates now represent a powerful political force in nearly every former Soviet republic.
"Until recently, everyone was concerned that Russia, weakened by its internal crisis, was becoming unpredictable," Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov said this year. "But now a different kind of Russia is feared: a country which has become stronger and more confident after several years of stability and economic growth."
To some in the West, the scenes now playing out in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Baltics hark back to the czarist empire's conflicts with other European powers, including Peter the Great's parade through the Baltics; periodic invasions of Poland; and the "Great Game" with Britain for control of Central Asia.
"Some people say this is the new Cold War. It is not. It is much closer to 19th century or early 20th century behavior, where you basically had these feverish qualities sweeping Moscow, when they were off to do something thoroughly stupid and dangerous in Europe," said Bruce P. Jackson, a former Pentagon official who now heads the Project on Transitional Democracies, which has lobbied for democratic reform in the former Soviet republics.
But Russian officials say they are intent merely on protecting their country.
"Our main task is to ensure national security, first of all. It is the creation of a belt of security around our country, and a gradual expansion of our coordination with other states on key world issues. We have agreed to new forms of cooperation with NATO," Igor S. Ivanov, secretary of the National Security Council, said in an interview.
"But all of this does not mean that we have overcome our differences," the former foreign minister said. The U.S. and its allies must keep in mind that Russia is strong militarily and economically, that it retains a seat on the United Nations Security Council, and that it has worked for global stability, he said.
Besides investing heavily in upgrading their strategic nuclear arsenal, Russian officials have signaled that they will use it if necessary: a message that Moscow will not be cowed by the threat of NATO airstrikes.
Putin has tried to use the U.S. presence in the region for his own purposes. Recognizing that Islamic militancy on Russia's borders presents a great danger, he joined the Bush administration's war on terrorism. In his most crucial policy move, he used his influence in Central Asia to help the United States set up bases to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Putin saw an opportunity to forge an alliance with President Bush that would enable him to paint Russia's war against Muslim separatists in Chechnya as part of a common fight against terrorism. The strategy appears to have paid off, to a large degree, as Washington has muted its criticism over allegations of torture and civilian slaughter by Russian troops.
Analysts say Russia also has used the U.S. presence in Central Asia to counter an interloper it fears even more: China.
China's 1.3 billion people and rapidly growing economy, sitting next to Russia's depopulated Far East, engender "vague horror scenarios" of Chinese expansion, said Dmitry Trenin, deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Putin has made strides toward cooperation with China, concluding an economic and security pact in 2001 and signing a border agreement in November. Yet Putin also hedged his bets by facilitating a "temporary" U.S. presence, analysts say.
"The idea was, if the U.S. comes, it's a strong counterbalance to China. They don't have deep roots in the region, like China does. The U.S. will leave sooner, rather than later," said Ivan Safranchuk, director of the Moscow office of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information.
Russia may have miscalculated.
Officials at NATO, created in 1949 as a bulwark against the Soviet threat, say Russia is proving a reliable partner by participating in joint military exercises, helping halt illegal weapons shipments and sharing intelligence on terrorism and drug trafficking.
"There is discussion on all the most fundamental issues: theater missile defense, defense reform. We're discussing issues even where there's political sensitivity. We had an open discussion on Ukraine just a few days ago, and it was a frank discussion, a very frank discussion," said James Appathurai, NATO spokesman in Brussels. "Of course we do have differences of opinion on some issues."
But many in the West question whether Russia is committed to transparency in government, democratic elections and a free press. "That is, in a sense, where the true test of the long-term strength of the relationship will be," Appathurai said.
In an open letter to the European Union and NATO in September, more than 100 U.S. and European political leaders and academics, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former U.S. envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), warned that Russia was "breaking away from the core democratic values" of the U.S. and Europe.
"President Putin's foreign policy is increasingly marked by a threatening attitude towards Russia's neighbors and Europe's energy security, the return of rhetoric of militarism and empire, and by a refusal to comply with Russia's international treaty obligations," the letter said.
The main lines of new military, economic and political competition in the former Soviet republics, an area the Kremlin calls its "near abroad," form a tight circle around Russia.
Although Russia has reminded the U.S. of its pledge that bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are temporary, the pace of construction belies the idea that the U.S. will be leaving soon.
"It will all depend on what the Kyrgyz government will support," said Col. Bradley R. Pray, commander of the U.S. base in Bishkek. "Basically, we'll have semi-permanent buildings here."
U.S. officials scoff at the notion that Central Asian bases represent anything more than a steppingstone to Afghanistan. "In strategic terms, a base in Kyrgyzstan is a dagger in the heart of nowhere," said a diplomat in the region. "What are we going to use it to attack, if not Afghanistan?"
The Kyrgyz government, which faced a significant incursion by Islamic militants from Uzbekistan in 1999, has welcomed both the Russian and U.S. military. American aid to the country has reached $283 million over the last three years.
Kyrgyzstan's deputy defense minister, Col. Zamir Suerkulov, said the Russian base would provide air support to a multinational force to protect against regional Islamic insurgencies.
But some in the country also feel caught between forces beyond their control.
"When the U.S. base came, many people immediately began to accuse Kyrgyzstan of having betrayed Russia and its allies," said Orozbek Moldaliev, head of the SEDEP Research Center, a political think tank in Bishkek. "Then when the Russian base came in as well, some began to fear that a conflict between the Americans and Russians on the territory of Kyrgyzstan was inevitable."
But, he said, "In truth, it's not just a small profit, it's a huge benefit for us. Kyrgyzstan is milking not only two cows, it is also deriving a profit from China. So for most of us, the Cold War has gone from being 'either-or,' to 'and-and.' "
Earlier this year, thousands of miles to the west, NATO expanded into the three former Soviet Baltic republics ? Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia ? but said it did not intend to open bases there. Russian hard-liners are skeptical.
"NATO keeps talking about 'no intentions, no plans.' But we frankly view NATO as an aggressive organization, which is constantly building up its military capabilities and expanding its sphere of operation towards Russia," said Leonid D. Ivashov, a retired Russian general who formerly oversaw his nation's international military cooperation directorate.
The Caucasus, the Baltics, and Ukraine ? arenas of rivalry between East and West for centuries ? are also regions of economic competition in which Russia is wielding its main weapon: energy.
Governments that don't toe the Kremlin line risk steep price increases or having the tap turned off entirely ? as happened to Belarus this year after a tiff with Russia.
Supplies were abruptly halted to much of Azerbaijan and Lithuania as well. Moscow reportedly was concerned over Azerbaijan's increased military cooperation with the U.S.
Russia's state-owned gas company, Gazprom, has bought into several Lithuanian gas companies. In 2003, the state-controlled electricity monopoly, Unified Energy Systems, bought a controlling stake in the utility in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. The firm already has expanded its stakes in half of Ukraine's local electricity providers and has its eye on the market throughout Eastern Europe.
UES chief Anatoly B. Chubais has said he dreams of a "liberal Russian empire" stretching across the territory of the former Soviet Union.
Russia canceled much of Armenia's $90-million-plus debt last year in exchange for the transfer of assets in several key factories, scientific research institutes and power facilities that produce the majority of the former Soviet republic's electricity.
The Russian steel giant, Severstal, has bought a controlling stake in Estonia's major oil terminal. And in Latvia, Russia abruptly cut off oil shipments to the port of Ventspils last year in what some Latvian officials complained was an attempt to starve the Baltic nation into selling the facility at a bargain-basement price.
Putin made it clear how important the energy lever was to Russia when he announced last year that it regarded the Soviet-era pipelines that carry its petroleum products to market to be its responsibility ? "even those parts of the system that are beyond Russia's borders."
"This is a huge claim, and frankly a colonial claim ? 'Even though the assets are on your soil, they belong to us,' " said Jackson, the former Pentagon official.
The political turmoil in Ukraine is the latest and largest example of the competition for political influence in the former Soviet republics.
In Georgia, the U.S. is supporting President Mikheil Saakashvili's attempts to regain control over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia ? territories that Russia has used to maintain a foothold in the southern Caucasus and destabilize a key new transit route for Caspian Sea oil to the West. Russia has gone so far as to offer citizenship to residents of the two regions.
Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas was removed from office in April, in large part because of his connections to a Russian businessman who contributed $400,000 to his campaign in 2003.
In Ukraine, the Kremlin poured more than $200 million into this fall's presidential election, in part to protect economic ties worth up to $10 billion a year. Putin made two trips to Ukraine before the election to boost the candidacy of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, and huge billboards around Moscow urged Ukrainian expatriates to support Putin's choice. His opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, is a strong advocate of Ukrainian membership in NATO and the European Union.
The reason for the interest is simple. As Vladimir I. Lenin once said, "If we lose Ukraine, we lose our head."
Ukraine, with a population of 48 million, is the second-largest country in Europe and transports 90% of Russian gas to Europe. Many of the decisive battles of European history have been fought on its fields, and a westward-tilting Ukraine could sever Russia's access to its Black Sea Fleet, which is currently under a lease agreement with Kiev.
Moreover, Ukraine is the key to Russia's hope of establishing an economic coalition of former Soviet nations as a front against Europe. Belarus and Kazakhstan are also part of a pact initialed this year.
For both East and West, Ukraine always has been a "pivotal state" in what former U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski describes as the "Grand Chessboard" of geopolitics. That is especially true for Moscow, he said.
"Its very existence as an independent country helps transform Russia," Brzezinski said. "Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire."
The dispute in Ukraine also could have implications for Putin's grip on power. The techniques that have enabled the Kremlin and its allies to determine election outcomes in Chechnya and Belarus are on the brink of failure in Ukraine. Most analysts say that would inevitably encourage Russia's own democracy advocates and threaten Moscow's elite.
The U.S. and its allies are reluctant to talk about Russia as a military adversary. "Nothing we know about Russia, nothing we see and feel in the cooperation that's going on, would suggest we should see Russia as anything but a partner of NATO," an alliance spokesman said.
But military planners, perhaps on both sides, remain prepared for the possibility that one day, a leader more aggressive than Putin will take the reins of a reinvigorated Russia. This is not unimaginable in a country in which polls show that the 1970s, when Leonid I. Brezhnev led the Soviet Union, are regarded as a golden era.
In an address to the Senate Intelligence Committee in February, former CIA Director George J. Tenet listed Russia, along with North Korea and China, as a "pivotal state."
"The Kremlin's increasing assertiveness is partly grounded in a growing confidence in its military capabilities," Tenet said, noting that although the Russian military remained at "a fraction" of its former strength, training rates and defense spending were increasing.
Russia's updated military doctrine makes it clear that the Kremlin, like Washington, is prepared to use preemptive strikes against other nations to protect itself, and also to resort to nuclear force if gravely threatened.
The installation of NATO military infrastructure in the Baltics would prompt Russia to "conduct its policy and military planning based on the principles of self-defense," Defense Minister Ivanov warned in a visit to Washington in April.
Russia's newly beefed-up nuclear weapons also provide the Kremlin with an important political tool.
"Clearly, nuclear weapons are a shield against potential U.S. sanctions, military or otherwise," said Trenin, the Carnegie official who has written a book on the Russian military. "The U.S. will not attack a nuclear power."
Both sides have thought through the logistics, if only theoretically.
In a report prepared by the Rand Corp. for the U.S. Army this year, one scenario explored the possibility of a conflict between Russia and NATO in the Baltics. The report referred to "an assumed decline in Russian-NATO relations in the period after 2007," and weighed how hard it would be for NATO to respond if Russian troops speedily overran the Baltics and dug in to wait for negotiations.
The report, analysts say, measures military capabilities; the chance of Russia invading the Baltics, most agree, is nearly zero.
Russia, for its part, conducted a military exercise in 1999 that envisioned "enemy" forces taking over Kaliningrad, the wedge of Russian territory between Poland and Lithuania that is the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet, and striking nuclear power plants and other targets inside Russia. As part of the exercise, a pair of Tupolev bombers simulated nuclear cruise missile strikes on the U.S. East Coast and Europe.
Nikolai Sokov, senior research associate at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, wrote in a report this year that Russia appeared to be using the possibility of limited nuclear strikes as a deterrent against political and military pressure.
But Russian officials say it is a mistake to confuse Moscow's assertion of legitimate interests with a return of empire-building.
"It is wrong to interpret any of this as Russia's attempts to impose its influence," said Igor S. Ivanov, the National Security Council secretary. "In these countries, all the generations of people, although they are people of different nationalities, lived in one state. They had common culture, common education, they worked together, they developed their economies together. If you please, common thinking was formed. Naturally, these are not some artificial ties, these are real ties that connect us."
At the same time, Russia's reemergence as a player is not to be discounted, they warn.
"Whereas American interests extend thousands of miles, and to many continents, let's accept that Russia has natural interests in the former Soviet states. Let's have a dialogue about this," former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said in an interview.
"I think we have a unique chance to create a new quality of relations with the West. But we don't want to be beggars. We don't want to be treated by the EU or by the United States like we are down; that is something we will not accept," he said. "Russia will not be scared. Russia will not be intimidated."
Coming Monday: Russia is increasingly relying on nuclear weapons to ensure its security.
Reply #131 on:
December 10, 2004, 07:01:37 PM »
Iraq: Familiarity Breeds Political Hope
December 10, 2004 2300 GMT
There are signs that certain Islamist Sunni groups that have acted as mediators between Baghdad and Sunni insurgents will be participating in scheduled Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. Apparently, Sunni principals are worried about being left out of the polls, which points to the possibility that a Sunni presence in both the militant and Baghdad camps could weaken the insurgency from within.
The main moderate Sunni Islamist group in Iraq, the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), which had called for a delay in the Jan. 30 elections, submitted Dec. 9 a list of 275 candidates. Officials from the group told The Associated Press they wanted to reserve the right to vote if the election is not postponed.
Until the recent coalition assault against Al Fallujah, when it pulled out of the government in protest, the IIP was the only Sunni group represented in Iraq's two post-Hussein transitional administrations -- the now defunct Iraqi Governing Council and the current Interim Iraqi Government (IIG). The IIP, along with the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), also has played a mediator role in negotiations between the IIG and Sunni insurgents.
While the IIP and the AMS are the main Sunni organizations through which the two sides have negotiated, Sunni political power rests primarily with tribal leaders, who are maintaining a foot in both camps -- the militants and Baghdad. By participating in the political process, the IIP leadership would get a good taste of politics, which would percolate throughout the complex Sunni network and possibly weaken support for the insurgency. Initial cooperation between the two sides, even on a limited basis regarding relatively insignificant issues, can pave the way for greater level of cooperation on more thorny matters later on.
Thus far, Baghdad has been employing a combination of tactics in getting the Sunnis to end the insurgency and participate in the political process -- military operations concurrent with behind-the-scenes negotiations. The IIP's decision to participate in the elections likely is a result of Baghdad's recent decision to stop trying to appease the Sunnis. This sent the message that the IIG was going full speed ahead with the electoral process with or without the Sunnis.
The Sunni leadership could have perceived they faced a loss in political influence over the short term and that they could be shut out of the political process for years to come (at least until the next elections). Even if they entered at a later date, the political space already would be filled. The IIP and the AMS could be the first of many boycotting Sunni groups to come in from the cold.
Meanwhile, the continuation of the insurgency suggests that a schism could be forming among the Sunni tribal sheikhs who support the militants. Participation in democratic politics tends to have a moderating effect on radical groups. An example of this is the metamorphosis of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl-ur-Rehman (JUI-F), the largest component of the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal, a moderate Islamist alliance in Pakistan that was a major supporter of the Taliban and the Kashmiri militants. Winning control of two Pakistani provinces and becoming the largest opposition bloc in the Parliament, JUI-F has moderated its stance on both the Taliban and Kashmiri militants and is cutting deals with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on more significant matters, such as Musharraf's dual portfolio.
By participating in the elections, the IIP would likely gain some positions within the new government and, as a result, a stake in the emerging political system. This would serve as a lesson to other Sunni leaders and insurgents that there are tangible benefits to be had from a participatory democracy. First, though, Sunnis must have confidence in the system. It is not just a stake that matters but the belief that the system can be a vehicle to achieve political goals. This is exactly what the jihadist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi alluded to months ago in his message to Osama bin Laden: Once this political process is set in motion, al-Zarqawi said, they will have to die fighting in Iraq or pack up and take their fight elsewhere.
There always will be Sunnis who are not willing to compromise. If enough can be brought into the system, however, the democratic process can move forward and the violence can be gradually contained -- a prospect not readily apparent in the current atmosphere.
Let the Afghan Poppies Bloom
Reply #132 on:
December 18, 2004, 01:29:08 PM »
America's counterproductive war on drugs is one of my biggest gripes with the government. Christopher Hitchens writes here about our efforts to export this failed policy, shooting ourselves in the foot in Afghanistan in the process.
Let the Afghan Poppies Bloom
How the drug war is undermining the war on terrorism.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Dec. 13, 2004, at 11:47 AM PT
Why should it be that the intervention in Afghanistan has apparently gone so much better than anyone would have predicted, while the intervention in Iraq has proved to be so much more arduous? There are a number of thinkable answers to this question. Afghanistan had already had the experience of theocracy and civil war, to the point where its citizenry was sickened and inured. The Taliban had only been in power for a fairly short time, while the Iraqi Baath Party had had more than three decades in which to debauch the country's treasury and accustom its citizens to fearful obedience. Most of Afghanistan's neighbors generally want the Karzai government to succeed, or at least to see some version of stability, while some of Iraq's neighbors short-sightedly believe that they might benefit from a discrediting of the Allawi government in Baghdad.
To these contrasting hypotheses one might add another variable, this time on the other side of the ledger. Coalition forces in Iraq do not come roaring into towns and villages to tell the local people to stop producing or consuming oil products. Nor do they roam the country blowing up oil-wells or drills. Picture how the situation in Iraq might be different if they did. Now picture something that you do not have to imagine?a determined effort by the liberators of Afghanistan to force the country back into warlordism and anarchy. Every day, soldiers acting in our name are burning or spraying Afghanistan's only viable crop.
Like many stories in the mainstream media, this dramatic piece of news can appear on the front page only if it is printed upside down. Thus we learned from the New York Times of Dec. 11, in a front-page article bylined by Eric Schmitt, that a secret "assessment" by Lt. Gen. David Barno, the senior American officer in the country, has concluded that poppy cultivation is the main threat to the creation of a decent society, and the main avenue by which former Taliban and al-Qaida forces can hope to return from their crushing defeat.
Any attentive reading of the report, however, shows that it is the campaign against poppy cultivation that constitutes the threat. This point was underlined, perhaps coincidentally, by an op-ed essay in the same edition of the Times, written by Afghanistan's tireless and talented finance minister, Ashraf Ghani. "Today," he wrote, "many Afghans believe that it is not drugs, but an ill-conceived war on drugs that threatens their economy and nascent democracy" (my italics). Ghani went on to point out that a third of Afghanistan's GDP depends on the crop and that "destroying that trade without offering our farmers a genuine alternative livelihood has the potential to undo the embryonic economic gains of the past three years." As he further emphasized, these highly undesirable consequences arise from the control of the trade by a "mafia" with links to Islamic nihilism.
Ghani's meticulous analysis promptly broke down with a non-sequitur: a call for more money and force to be spent in combating a "mafia" that, as he has already admitted, commands a decisive part of the rural economy. Nowhere is it even asked what would happen if the trade was legalized and taxed: a measure that would immediately remove it from mafia control and immediately enrich a vast number of Afghan cultivators who currently exist on the margin of survival.
Reporting from Afghanistan a few months ago (Vanity Fair, November 2004) I pointed out a few obvious facts. Twenty and more years ago, the country's main export was grapes and raisins. It was a vineyard culture. But many if not most of those vines have been dried up or cut down, or even uprooted and burned for firewood, in the course of the hideous depredations of the past decades. An Afghan who was optimistic enough to plant a vine today could expect to wait five years before seeing any return for it, whereas a quick planting of poppies will see pods flourishing in six months. What would you do, if your family or your village were on a knife-edge? The American officers I met, tasked with repressing this cultivation, were to a man convinced that they were wasting their time and abusing the welcome they had at first received in the countryside. It doesn't take much intelligence to understand the history of Prohibition, or to know that American consumer demand is strong enough to overcome any attempt to inhibit supply. In any case, we know this already from dire experience in Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico.
There is the further point that opium is good for us. Painkillers and anesthetics have to come from somewhere, and we have an arrangement with Turkey to grow and refine the stuff that we need. Why Turkey, an already over-indulged client state? Isn't it time to give the struggling Afghans a share of the business? We could simultaneously ensure a boost for Afghan agriculture, remove an essential commodity from terrorist and warlord control, and guarantee a steady supply of analgesics that would be free of impurities or additives.
In order to comprehend this point, there is no need to know much about Afghanistan. Do you know anyone who really believes in the "war on drugs" as it is supposedly waged in the United States? It is widely understood to be the main index of pointless and costly and unjust incarceration, a huge source of corruption in police departments, and a cause of crime in its own right as well as a source of tainted and "cut" narcotics. And that is before you even consider absurdities and cruelties like the denial of medical marijuana, or the diversion of personnel and resources from the war against more threatening gangsters. Our entire state policy, at home and abroad, is devoted not to stopping a trade that actually grows every year, but rather to ensuring that all its profitable means of production, distribution, and exchange remain the fiefdom of criminal elements. We consciously deny ourselves access to properly refined and labeled products and to the vast revenue that could accrue to the Treasury instead of to the mobsters here and overseas.
This demented legacy of the Nixon administration will have to be abandoned sooner or later, and I believe that the threatened sacrifice of Afghanistan to the dogma may be the "tipping point." There are numerous policy planners, prison officials, policemen, elected politicians, and scientific specialists, on the intelligent Right as well as the intelligent Left, who have concluded that decriminalization is an urgent necessity. It's hard to think of any other single reform that could make more difference in more areas. The idea offers a way out of the current sterile red state/blue state dichotomy. It ought to be the next big thing.
Reply #133 on:
December 30, 2004, 06:11:58 AM »
Saudi Arabia Bombings: New Direction for Al Qaeda?
At least two major explosions shook the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Dec. 29, the location of the blasts suggesting that the targets were not Westerners but the al Saud regime itself. If this is the case, then al Qaeda jihadists in the kingdom have activated a major shift in their operations -- in keeping with threats announced by Osama bin Laden in his Dec. 16 message.
Two separate bombs exploded near the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI)
building in Riyadh on Dec. 29, and at least one militant reportedly was
killed and two were arrested.
Although the facts are unclear at this point -- gunbattles continue to rage
in the vicinity -- Saudi diplomatic sources have told Stratfor that Islamist
militants launched a coordinated attack against the MOI building. The
attackers, according to these sources, apparently planned to blast the MOI building with two suicide car bombs, aiming to collapse the structure, which is in the form of an upside-down pyramid.
However, the sources said that Saudi government security forces managed to intercept some of the militants before they reached the ministry. During the firefight, the drivers of the car bombs detonated their vehicles as security forces began to surround them.
The sources said that several teams of attackers approached the MOI building armed with small arms, and ambushed the security forces there. Currently, the Saudi sources said, Saudi forces are attempting to encircle the area in the effort to eliminate as many attackers as possible. However, according to the sources, the attackers do not appear to be retreating, but are attempting to break through into the MOI building.
The fact that the blasts occurred near the MOI building -- which is close to
other government buildings, including the Ministry of Defense and Air
Aviation, the Ministry of Communication and Riyadh Palace -- suggests that the attack most likely was intended against the regime and not against a Western target.
If this is the case, then this represents a massive operational shift on the
part of al Qaeda, less than two weeks after al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden threatened to stage attacks against the al Saud regime unless it stepped down.
Other than the attack against the Saudi special forces counterterrorism
agency in April by a group calling itself the Brigades of the Two Holy
Mosques, the al Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula (the jihadist
network's chapter in the kingdom) has refrained from attacking the regime directly.
That the attack took place after hours, at 8:35 p.m. local time, indicates
that the jihadists continue to be cautious about causing Muslim casualties
and that they designed this attack as a warning shot to show that al Qaeda can make good on its threat -- and relatively quickly.
In any case, al Qaeda has shifted gears in Saudi Arabia by going after the al Saud regime directly. This does not mean that the network will not attack Western targets. Instead, it has upped the ante.
(c) 2004 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reply #134 on:
December 31, 2004, 01:21:36 AM »
THE GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
Facing Realities in Iraq
December 30, 2004 1840 GMT
By George Friedman
On May 17, 2004, Stratfor published a piece entitled "Iraq: New Strategies." In a rare moment of advocacy (
we argued that the war in Iraq had evolved to a point where the United States was unlikely to be able to suppress the insurgency.
We argued then that, "The United States must begin by recognizing that it
cannot possibly pacify Iraq with the force available or, for that matter,
with a larger military force. It can continue to patrol, it can continue to
question people, it can continue to take casualties. However, it can never
permanently defeat the guerrilla forces in the Sunni triangle using this
strategy. It certainly cannot displace the power and authority of the Shiite
leadership in the south. Urban warfare and counterinsurgency in the Iraqi
environment cannot be successful."
We did not and do not agree with the view that the invasion of Iraq was a
mistake. It had a clear strategic purpose that it achieved: reshaping the
behavior of surrounding regimes, particularly of the Saudis. This helped
disrupt the al Qaeda network sufficiently that it has been unable to mount
follow-on attacks in the United States and has shifted its attention to the
Islamic world, primarily to the Saudis. None of this would have happened
without the invasion of Iraq.
As frequently happens in warfare, the primary strategic purpose of the war has been forgotten by the Bush administration. Mission creep, the nightmare of all military planners, has taken place. The United States has shifted its focus from coercing neighboring countries into collaborating with the United States against al Qaeda, to building democracy in Iraq. As we put it in May: "The United States must recall its original mission, which was to occupy Iraq in order to prosecute the war against al Qaeda. If that mission is remembered, and the mission creep of reshaping Iraq forgotten, some obvious strategic solutions re-emerge. The first, and most important, is that the United States has no national interest in the nature of Iraqi government or society. Except for not supporting al Qaeda, Iraq's government does not matter."
Most comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam are superficial and some are absurd, but one lesson is entirely relevant to Iraq. In Vietnam, the United States attempted to simultaneously re-engineer Vietnamese society and wage a counterinsurgency campaign. That proved impossible. The United States is attempting to do precisely that again in Iraq. It will fail again for the same reason: The goals are inherently contradictory.
Creating democracy in Iraq requires that democratic institutions be created. That is an abstract, bloodless way of putting it. The reality is that Iraqis must be recruited to serve in these institutions, from the army and police to social services. Obviously, these people become targets for the guerrillas and the level of intimidation is massive. These officials -- caught be tween the power of U.S. forces and the guerrillas -- are hardly in a position to engage in nation building. They are happy to survive, if they choose to remain at their posts.
Even this is not the central problem. In order to build these institutions,
Iraqis will have to be recruited. It is impossible to distinguish between
Iraqis committed to the American project, Iraqis who are opportunists and
Iraqis who are jihadists sent by guerrilla intelligence services to penetrate
the new institutions. Corruption aside, every one of the institutions is full
of jihadist agents, who are there to spy and disrupt.
This has a direct military consequence. The goal of the Untied States in
Vietnam was, and now in Iraq is, to shift the war-fighting burden -- in this
case from U.S. forces to the Iraqis. This can never happen. The Iraqi army, like the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, is filled with guerrilla
operatives. If the United States mounts joint operations with the Iraqis, the guerrillas will know about it during the planning stages. If the United
States fights alone, it will be more effective, but the Iraqi army will never
develop. For the United States, it is a question of heads you win, tails I
The United States cannot win the intelligence war on the ground level. Its
operations to penetrate the guerrillas depend on Iraqis working with the
United States and these operations will be quickly compromised. The
guerrillas on the other hand cannot be rooted out of the Iraqi military and
intelligence organs because they cannot be distinguished from other Iraqis. Some will be captured. Many might be captured. But all of them cannot be captured and therefore no effective allied force can be created in Iraq. This was the center of gravity of the problem in Vietnam, the problem that destroyed Vietnamization. It is the center of gravity of the problem in Iraq.
There were two points where the problem could have been solved. Had the United States acted vigorously in May and June 2003, there is a chance that the guerrilla force would have been so disrupted it could never have been born. U.S. intelligence, however, failed to recognize the guerrilla threat and Donald Rumsfeld in particular was slow to react. By the summer of 2003, the situation was out of hand.
There was a second point where effective action might have been fruitful,
which was in the period after the Ramadan offensive of October-November 2003, when Saddam Hussein was captured, and the beginning of the April 2004 offensives in Al Fallujah and the Muqtada al-Sadr rising. Those four months were wasted in diffused action in several areas, rather than in a concerted effort to turn Sunni elders against the guerrillas.
It is interesting to note that the attempt to break the Sunni guerrillas in a
systematic way did not begin until November 2004, with the attack against Al Fallujah and an attempt to co-opt the Sunni elders. For a while it looked like it might just work. It didn't. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's jihadists had become too strong and too well organized. Whatever inroads were made among the Sunni elders was blocked by al-Zarqawi's ability to carry out reprisals. The Sunnis were locked into place.
The U.S. military is now carrying out an impossible mission. It is trying to
suppress a well-organized guerrilla force using primarily U.S. troops whose intelligence about the enemy is severely limited by language and cultural barriers that cannot be solved by recruiting Iraqis to serve as intelligence aides. The United States either operates blind or compromises its security.
Unless the Iraqi guerrillas are not only throwing all of their strength into
this offensive, but also using up their strength in a non-renewable fashion,
the Jan. 30 elections will not be the end of the guerrilla war. There will be
a lull in guerrilla operations -- guerrillas have to rest, recruit and
resupply like anyone else -- but after a few months, another offensive will
be launched. There is, therefore, no possibility that the Sunni guerrilla
movement will be suppressed unless there is a dramatic change in the
political landscape of the Sunni community.
There is one bit of good fortune that arises out of another of Rumsfeld's
failures. His failure to listen to Gen. Erik Shinseki's warnings about the
size of the force that would be needed in Iraq after the war meant that the U.S. force structure was never expanded appropriately. In most instances, this is a terrible failing. However, in this case, it has an unexpectedly positive consequence. We do not doubt for a moment that Rumsfeld would throw in more forces if he had them. They would not solve the problem in any way and would add additional targets for the guerrillas. But Rumsfeld doesn't have the needed forces, so he can't send them in.
Facing the Facts
The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight
the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that
didn't happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the
guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker
out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is
not likely to suppress the guerrillas. More to the point, it can recognize
1. The United States cannot re-engineer Iraq because the guerrillas will
infiltrate every institution it creates.
2. That the United States by itself lacks the intelligence capabilities to
fight an effective counterinsurgency.
3. That exposing U.S. forces to security responsibilities in this environment generates casualties without bringing the United States closer to the goal.
4. That the strain on the U.S. force is undermining its ability to react to
opportunities and threats in the rest of the region.
And that, therefore, this phase of the Iraq campaign must be halted as soon as possible.
This does not mean strategic defeat -- unless the strategic goal is the
current inflated one of creating a democratic Iraq. Under the original
strategic goal of changing the behavior of other countries in the region, the United States has already obtained strategic success. Indeed, to the extent that the United States is being drained and exhausted in Iraq, the strategic goal is actually being undermined.
We assert two principles:
1. The internal governance -- or non-governance -- of Iraq is neither a
fundamental American national interest nor is it something that can be shaped by the United States even if it were a national interest.
2. The United States does require a major presence in Iraq because of that country's strategic position in the region.
It is altogether possible for the United States to accept the first principle
yet pursue the second. The geography of Iraq -- the distribution of the
population -- is such that the United States can maintain a major presence in Iraq without, for the most part, being based in the populated regions and therefore without being responsible for the security of Iraq -- let alone responsible its form of government.
The withdrawal of U.S. forces west and south of the Euphrates and in an arc north to the Turkish border and into Kurdistan would provide the United States with the same leverage in the region, without the unsustainable cost of the guerrilla war. The Saudis, Syrians and Iranians would still have U.S. forces on their borders, this time not diluted by a hopeless pacification program.
Something like this will have to happen. After the January elections, there
will be a Shiite government in Baghdad. There will be, in all likelihood,
civil war between Sunnis and Shia. The United States cannot stop it and
cannot be trapped in the middle of it. It needs to withdraw.
Certainly, it would have been nice for the United States if it had been able
to dominate Iraq thoroughly. Somewhere between "the U.S. blew it" and "there was never a chance" that possibility is gone. It would have been nice if the United States had never tried to control the situation, because now the U.S. is going to have to accept a defeat, which will destabilize the region psychologically for a while. But what is is, and the facts speak for themselves.
We are not Walter Cronkite, and we are not saying that the war is lost. The war is with the jihadists around the world; Iraq was just one campaign, and the occupation of the Sunnis was just one phase of that campaign. That phase has been lost. The administration has allowed that phase to become the war as a whole in the public mind. That was a very bad move, but the administration is just going to have to bite the bullet and do the hard, painful and embarrassing work of cutting losses and getting on with the war.
If Bush has trouble doing this, he should conjure up Lyndon Johnson's ghost, wandering restlessly in the White House, and imagine how Johnson would have been remembered if he had told Robert McNamara to get lost in 1966.
(c) 2004 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reply #135 on:
December 31, 2004, 12:40:34 PM »
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
The End of the Affair
This was the year when the civilized world's romance with terrorists ended.
Friday, December 31, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST
It is fitting that this was the year Yasser Arafat died. When the history of the war on terror is written, 2004 will be remembered as the moment when the romance of the terrorist finally faded away.
Arafat was the romantic terrorist par excellence, the man who was given the podium of the U.N. General Assembly in 1974, just months after Palestinian gunmen had murdered 26 Israeli schoolchildren in Ma'alot. For the next three decades, an ever-broadening patch of the West came to see Arafat and his associates as militants, not terrorists, worthy of Nobel Prizes and White House overnights and states to call their own.
Arafat's rejection of Israel's partition offer at the 2000 Camp David talks should have finished this romance, but it did not. Nor, really, did the attacks of September 11. For some people, terrorism directed against Israel or the U.S. will always have some justification, because Israel and the U.S. are ipso facto the world's original aggressors.
But what justification can be offered the killer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, whose sin was to have made a short movie about the mistreatment of women in Islamic societies? And where is the romance in slaughtering 500 children in Beslan, or 200 commuters in Madrid? Perhaps the latter atrocity could be explained as payback for Spain's support of the Bush Administration in Iraq. But then what about the kidnapping and execution of Margaret Hassan, the Irish-born Iraqi citizen who devoted her life to humanitarian relief and opposed the prewar sanctions as well as the invasion itself? Islamists, it turns out, issue no exemptions for the bien-pensant when drawing up their target lists.
In 2004, then, the world finally awoke to the fact that the only line worth taking against terrorists is a hard one, and this was reflected in political trends. In the U.S. and Australia, George W. Bush and John Howard decisively won contests framed as referendums on their handling of the war on terror. In Britain, Tony Blair survived every effort by the antiwar lobby to bring him down and looks set to win a third term in 2005. In France, the most popular politician today is Nicolas Sarkozy, who is outspokenly pro-American and pro-Israel. Only Spain proved an exception, and that now looks like the result of clumsy post-attack news management by the former conservative government, which might otherwise have held on to power.
All this has had knock-on effects, particularly in the Arab world. While al-Jazeera continues to propagandize on behalf of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, another line of Arab commentators began this year to ask some previously taboo questions. "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims," Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the manager of the Al-Arabiya news channel, wrote last summer. "Does all this tell us something about ourselves, our societies and our culture?"
Last week, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas kicked off his presidential campaign by saying "the use of weapons is unacceptable because it has a negative impact on our image." It's an instructive choice of words: Mr. Abbas does not reject terrorism because it is immoral, but because it no longer sells the cause abroad. Still, even in Ramallah the message is getting through that terrorism is a self-defeating course of action. The romance, in other words, is gone.
There is another way in which 2004 witnessed the fading of the romance, and this has to do with the myth of terrorist invincibility. In March, Israel killed Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin, a measure immediately condemned as certain to incite Palestinians to new heights of retributive fury. Instead, Israel experienced the first sustained lull in suicide attacks since the intifada began, demonstrating that countries that take tough action against terrorism get results. The same went in Colombia under the leadership of President Alvaro Uribe, who rejected negotiations with the narco-terrorist FARC in favor of a military strategy, bringing terrorist incidents down to about 800 in 2004 from a high of 1,642 in 2002.
Now the lesson is being relearned by the Bush Administration as it fights battles from which it flinched in April for fear of provoking a wider Sunni uprising. In fact, the Administration's most provocative act in 2004 was in not taking action then, creating a perception of American irresolution that emboldened Sunni and Shia insurgents throughout the summer. Notably, when Fallujah was finally retaken in November, the only voice to be heard from the proverbial Arab street was that of Zarqawi himself. "You have let us down in the darkest circumstances," he berated Muslim clerics for their failure to raise an army to his cause. Both their failure and his remonstrance are a good indication that, in Iraq, things are gradually turning America's way.
Elsewhere in the world, the year's news in the war on terror tended to be good. A.Q. Khan's nuclear-proliferation network was rolled up. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is disbanding itself as democracy takes root. There will be more genuinely democratic elections in the Arab world next month than there have been in the past 40 years. Even the U.N. managed to propose (if not yet adopt) a commonsense definition of terrorism. The main worry is Iran, which continues to bankroll Hezbollah and harbor al Qaeda while moving toward a nuclear bomb. Here the Administration's failure to announce, much less conduct, a coherent policy is leading toward crisis.
In "Armageddon," British historian Max Hastings reminds us that the closing months of World War II were by far its bloodiest. Surely in this war there will be more awful surprises, and possibly reverses. But in 2004, it became clear that the civilized world would not soon again succumb to the fatal attractions of terror.
Reply #136 on:
January 02, 2005, 11:31:40 AM »
Sunday, December 26, 2004; Page B01
Achieving Real Victory Could Take Decades
By David Ignatius
Gen. John Abizaid probably commands the most potent military force in history. The troops of his Central Command are arrayed across the jagged crescent of the Middle East, from Egypt to Pakistan, in an overwhelming projection of U.S. power. He travels with his own mini-government: a top State Department officer to manage diplomacy; a senior CIA officer to oversee intelligence; a retinue of generals and admirals to supervise operations and logistics. If there is a modern Imperium Americanum, Abizaid is its field general.
I traveled this month with Abizaid as he visited Iraq and other areas of his command. Over several days, I heard him discuss his strategy for what he calls the "Long War" to contain Islamic extremism in Centcom's turbulent theater of operations. We talked about the current front in Iraq, and the longer-term process of change in the Middle East, which Abizaid views as the ultimate strategic challenge.
"We control the air, the sea and the ground militarily," Abizaid told one audience, and in conventional terms, he's unquestionably right. From its headquarters near the huge new U.S. airbase in Qatar, Centcom's military reach stretches in every direction: To the west, the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet has its base in Bahrain; to the north, the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman and its task force are steaming on patrol in the Persian Gulf; to the east, more than 17,000 troops are working to stabilize postwar Afghanistan; to the south, about 1,000 troops are keeping a lid on the Horn of Africa. And to the northwest lies the bloody battlefield of Iraq, where nearly 150,000 of Abizaid's soldiers are fighting a determined insurgency.
For all of America's military might, the Long War that has begun in the Middle East poses some tough strategic questions. What is the nature of the enemy? If the United States is so powerful, why is it having such difficulty in Iraq? What will victory look like, in Iraq and elsewhere in the Islamic world? And how long will the conflict take?
The costs of war came home for America this past week. On Monday, President Bush conceded that the Iraq insurgents "are having an effect," and that U.S. efforts to train Iraqi security forces have had only "mixed" success. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber savaged a mess hall in Mosul in the deadliest single attack since the war began 21 months ago. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to fend off calls for his resignation because of setbacks in Iraq.
It was a week that focused attention on gut-level issues, reminiscent of the Vietnam War more than 30 years ago: Why are we in Iraq? What kind of conflict is the United States fighting there? How can we win it? Abizaid offers the best answers to these questions I've heard from any official in the U.S. government. In addition to being the military's top commander in the Middle East, he has an intellectual and emotional feel for the region. He's of Arab ancestry -- his forebears came to the United States from Lebanon in the 1870s -- and he learned to speak Arabic during a stint in Jordan 25 years ago. Like many of the best U.S. Army officers for generations, he's a well-read man who analyzes contemporary issues against the background of history.
Abizaid believes that the Long War is only in its early stages. Victory will be hard to measure, he says, because the enemy won't wave a white flag and surrender one day. Success will instead be an incremental process of modernization of the Islamic world, which will gradually find its own accommodation with the global economy and open political systems.
America's enemies in this Long War, he argues, are what he calls "Salafist jihadists." That's his term for the Muslim fundamentalists who use violent tactics to try to re-create what they imagine was the pure and perfect Islamic government of the era of the prophet Muhammad, who is sometimes called the "Salaf." Osama bin Laden is the best known of the Salafist extremists, but Abizaid argues that the movement is much broader and more diffuse than al Qaeda. It's a loose network of like-minded individuals who use 21st century-technology to spread their vision of a 7th-century paradise.
Salafist preachers see themselves as part of a vanguard whose mission is to radicalize other Muslims to overthrow their leaders. Abizaid likens them to Lenin, Trotsky and the other Bolshevik leaders. During a gathering of foreign-policy experts in Washington last October, he posed a haunting question: What would you have done in 1890 if you had known the ruin this Bolshevik vanguard would bring? At another point, he urged the audience to think of today's Islamic world, wracked by waves of violence, as akin to Europe in the revolutionary year of 1848. The Arab world's spasms of anarchy and terror, like those in Europe 150 years ago, are part of a process of social change -- in which an old order is crumbling, and a new one is struggling to be born.
Abizaid's historical analogies are helpful because they stretch our thinking. People tend to see current problems as unique and overwhelming, and that has been especially true for America in the traumatic years since Sept. 11, 2001. But through the long lens of history, contemporary problems come into better focus. The wealthy Saudi jihadist bin Laden begins to seem a bit like 19th-century anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin, who similarly wanted to use revolutionary violence to purge what he viewed as a corrupt order. On this broad canvas of historical change, the time horizon isn't years, but decades.
Abizaid didn't draw for me any specific lessons from this history, but several conclusions seem obvious: If the United States is fighting an ideological vanguard similar to the Bolsheviks -- whose leaders will never surrender or negotiate -- then it will have to capture or kill them. That suggests a dirty, drawn-out conflict in which each side tests the other's will and staying power. It's not the sort of war that democracies are usually good at fighting, but among Abizaid's team of advisers, you hear the same phrase repeated over and over: "A lot of bad guys are going to have to die."
Yet because the battlefield is society itself, the United States cannot think of the struggle in purely military terms. Centcom's 1,000 troops who are digging wells and performing other reconstruction tasks in the Horn of Africa may be a better model for success than the 150,000 soldiers hunkered down in Iraq. And because it is a war of transformation, comparable to Europe's hundred-year process of modernization in the 19th century, the United States must above all be patient.
Abizaid argues that this enemy is especially dangerous because it has fused an atavistic Salafist ideology with the most modern tools of technology. "The enemy has a virtual connectivity we haven't seen before with guerrilla groups," he says. "They use the Internet to pass along techniques, tactics, procedures, advice." He believes the jihadists have been clever in using the global media -- both to spread their message among followers and to intimidate adversaries. Indeed, the media are their best weapon.
The Salafist vanguard seeks victory through what Abizaid calls "weapons of mass effect" -- the 9/11 attacks, the suicide bombings in Baghdad, the gruesome beheadings in Fallujah -- which seek to destabilize the United States and its allies through the media. "We have nothing to fear from this enemy other than its ability to create panic," he argues. "This enemy is like water -- it seeks an unguarded path. They'll go for the place they can use a weapon of mass effect -- and gain a media victory."
Given the importance of the media front, Abizaid is frustrated that Arab journalists haven't provided a more critical picture of life in places where Islamic insurgents have gained control, such as Fallujah. He's convinced that if ordinary Arabs could see the cruelty and repression of these Taliban-style jihadists, they would reject them. Indeed, at several stops during our trip, he urged his listeners to push Arab media to report more about the insurgents' brutal tactics.
"They are the most despicable enemy I've ever seen," he told European and Arab leaders who gathered in Bahrain to talk about Persian Gulf security. "They operate from mosques, they behead people, they have killed far more Muslims than non-Muslims."
Abizaid believes the winning strategy, in Iraq and across the Islamic world, is to isolate the Salafist vanguard from ordinary Muslims who want the better, freer life that prosperity and connectedness can bring. That means breaching the gaps between rich nations and poor ones, and preventing terrorists from establishing bases of operations, in the way bin Laden did in Afghanistan. "The clear military lesson of Afghanistan is that we cannot allow the enemy to establish a safe haven anywhere," he says.
One of Abizaid's top deputies, Vice Adm. David Nichols, summarizes the nature of the Salafist threat. Nichols, who commands the 5th Fleet, asserts that the enemy is mounting "a cultural, not just a physical attack." For enemy leaders, the clash of civilizations is the organizing principle of life, Nichols argues. They tell Muslims that there are only two camps, and that "peaceful coexistence is not possible." The goal of America and its allies, says Nichols, must be to convince the average Muslim that the jihadists are wrong. It's not "us" vs. "them," but a connected world in which everyone will gain by isolating and destroying the extremist fringe.
This strategy of isolating the religious extremists has been embraced by Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi -- to the point of making contact with Baathists who were part of Saddam Hussein's regime and are now on the fringes of the insurgency. It reflects a judgment by Allawi -- one that Abizaid would certainly share -- that the Baathists in the long run will make an accommodation with America and the modern world. The Salafist extremists, in contrast, will never do so.
My travels with Abizaid ended with a stop in Mosul, at the same camp hit by a suicide bomber last week. Mosul is a case study in what America is facing in Iraq, and in the Long War. Over the past year, the city has gone from a model of stability to a new Fallujah, where insurgents have used terror tactics to halt collaboration with U.S. forces. The measure of success here will be the return of normal life. "It won't ever be over completely, where you wake up one morning and the enemy has surrendered," says Abizaid. "But one day you'll wake up and there will be more food, more security, more stability."
That's what victory would look like in Abizaid's Long War, too. In the broad arc of the world where Centcom operates, life would feel modern, connected, free, relaxed, ordinary. It would feel like a hand that is no longer clenched in a fist. It's a fight where the Muslims masses would win, without the United States losing. But this past week, those images of connectedness and success seemed a long, long way off.
Reply #137 on:
January 04, 2005, 12:08:31 AM »
U.S., Iran: Coming to Terms With Iraq and the Future?
There have been a number of statements from Washington, Tehran and Baghdad suggesting that the Bush administration, the clerical regime in Iran and the power brokers in Iraq's Shiite majority community have reached an understanding on the future of Iraq. Despite the Iranian nuclear issue -- which Washington does not deem an immediate threat -- it would appear that dealings on Iraq could pave the way for enhanced U.S.-Iranian bilateral relations.
Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said Jan. 3 that Tehran had not yet decided on a third party to mediate in unspecified negotiations between Iran and the United States. The statement comes the day after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that a future Iraqi government dominated by the Shia and influenced by Iran will not be a threat to the United States or its interests. On the same day in Baghdad, the main Shiite-dominated electoral coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, said that if it came to power in the Jan. 30 elections, it would not be calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces from the country.
These three statements along with other related developments suggest that Washington and Tehran have reached an understanding on how Iraq needs to be stabilized.
The likely deal comes close on the heels of the temporary end of the nuclear standoff involving Iran in November 2004. Iran decided to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog -- at least for the time being -- in order to achieve its goal of gaining influence over Iraq through the installation of a Shiite-dominated Iraqi regime in the Jan. 30 polls.
Conversely, the United States also understands that Iraq's demographics -- particularly its 60-65 percent Shiite majority -- and the continuing insurgency leave little choice but to engage Iran on the issue of Iraq. Another reason Washington has come back to the Iranian/Shiite option is that at its current state of development the clerical regime's nuclear program does not constitute an immediate threat, and it can always contain Iran through the European Union. The United States does not expect Iran to pose a real nuclear threat anytime soon. Washington understands that Tehran currently is using the threat as a means of achieving other goals. Tehran manipulated the nuclear threat to get the United States to the table to talk about Iraq -- a goal that has been accomplished. Iran can return to the nuclear issue at a later date, and the Bush administration seems confident that it will have other ways and means to deal with the nuclear issue at the appropriate time. For now, however, the Bush administration has successfully isolated the two issues in its dealings with Iran, which likely will lead to improved relations between the two sides, especially if the issue of Iraq is resolved to their mutual satisfaction.
At the crux of the Iraqi issue is that neither Washington nor Tehran can
escape from the reality that they need each other to get what they want from Iraq. Washington needs to bring eventual closure to its policy of
regime-change in Iraq and scale back its troop levels. For Iran, Iraq is the
instrument through which it can break out of the Persian Gulf area and become a major regional player in the larger Middle East, especially at a time when there is no potential rival to thwart its ambitions. At the same time, Washington might be using the Shiite Persians to balance Sunni Arabs and keep the Middle East focused on regional squabbles in order to prevent them from unifying against the United States.
Given the last quarter of a century of bad relations, there seems no way: 1) for the two sides to openly conduct business, at least not immediately; 2) for each to be sure that the other will not renege on its commitments; and
3) for them to come to mutually acceptable terms. Now, however, the major points of disagreement seem to have either been set aside to be dealt with at a future date or perhaps resolved amicably.
The nuclear issue is in the first category. Washington appears at ease with
the issue being dealt with through its EU proxy and the logic of events in
Iraq necessitated that it stand down on the nuclear matter in order to pursue its goals vis-a-vis Baghdad. The other major sticking point was the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Washington did not engage in a quid pro quo with Iran -- trading Iraq for
nuclear power. Instead, it recognized that the nuclear issue was a false
crisis at present and decided to deal with the real issue. Tehran stepped
back from the nuclear crisis, even though nuclear weapons remain a strategic interest of the Iranians -- and Washington is by no means oblivious to this.
Through both back channels and public statements, Washington appears to have finally convinced the Iranians that it is not going to try to effect regime change in Tehran. At the same time, the growing Sunni insurgency has made it easier for Iraq's Shia to accommodate U.S. and coalition forces remaining in Iraq after an all-but-certain Shiite ascent to power in Baghdad -- and avoid looking like collaborators.
Only Sunni nationalist guerrillas and transnational jihadists now threaten
the road to the Jan. 30 elections and beyond. This does not mean that all is settled between the Bush administration, Iran's clerical regime and the
Shiite Hawza in Iraq; nor does it mean that at some future point the Shia -- both Arab and Persian -- will not run into problems with Washington or vice-versa. At least the vote in Iraq can be held in some shape or form, and the war against al Qaeda can go on.
(c) 2004 Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reply #138 on:
January 11, 2005, 01:49:11 PM »
Left Angeles Times, today
Ex-Baathists Play Crucial Insurgent Role, U.S. Says
By John Hendren, Times Staff Writer
TIKRIT, Iraq ? U.S. military commanders say a new assessment of the Iraqi insurgency has led them to focus on 34 former Baath Party leaders who they believe are financing and directing attacks against American troops and their allies.
Army Gen. John P. Abizaid and other senior Defense officials interviewed in Iraq said much of the insurgent violence was being carried out by a network of regional cells that loosely coordinate their operations with former officials of Saddam Hussein's ruling party.
Insurgent leaders often operate out of Syria and Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, officials said.
"There is a level of tactical coordination and direction that still comes from the remnants of the Baath Party, and I believe a certain amount of this tactical coordination effort is orchestrated from Syria," said Abizaid, the Central Command chief who is directing the war in Iraq.
Military officials have conceded that they have limited information on the insurgency due to a lack of reliable intelligence reports. In some cases, unconfirmed tips have come from questionable sources. In others, the information is too dated to allow U.S. forces to track suspected insurgent leaders, officials said.
But military leaders said they had been receiving more tips on the insurgency and higher-quality reports in recent weeks.
"We have focused the intelligence system on these 34 guys in the belief that if there is an emerging leadership structure for the former regime element movement that these 34 guys will be holding the reins," said another senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The new information has allowed military strategists to better discern the face of the insurgency, officials said, and has painted a portrait of guerrillas led by former regime officials who are predominantly Sunni Muslim.
U.S. military officials say recent evidence suggested that former members of Hussein's elite fighting units have been involved in attacks on U.S. troops.
"We see that a lot of the attacks that are going on right now show evidence that they were planned and executed by those who had a military background," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, a deputy to Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. "There are some former Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard that are involved in these attacks."
U.S. military officials say the insurgency appears to lack a central leader, although they believe that former Gen. Izzat Ibrahim, one of Hussein's top aides, has directed many attacks against the U.S.-led coalition in the Tikrit area.
"There are former regime element organizational meetings. But there is no sort of grand pooh-bah that sits atop of this thing. There's no Saddam-like figure to whom they have allegiance and who is in overall charge of the insurgency," a senior defense official said.
Citing intelligence reports, senior U.S. military officials said Ibrahim and other former Baath Party members met near the Syrian border in November to plan strategy.
Also present at that meeting, officials said, were Mahdi Nasr Ubeidi, who supervises financial dealings; Mohammed Younis, who has acted as Ibrahim's assistant from a base east of Baghdad; Ahmed Hassan Kaka, an insurgent leader in the northern city of Kirkuk; Ramadan Zaidan Jaburi, Kaka's assistant; Mohammed Rijab Haddushi Nasser, the leader of the group's operations in Tikrit and nearby Baiji; and Yassir Sabawi Ibrihim Hassan, a courier.
The Baathist leaders are believed to be financing the insurgency with billions of dollars that Hussein officials allegedly grabbed from government coffers in the final days before the government fell, officials said.
Abizaid and other military strategists believe that leaders of these groups also determine tactics to be used against coalition and Iraqi forces.
U.S. efforts to find insurgent leaders have been hampered by Syria, officials said.
"We have been very clear to the Syrians about our unhappiness about Baathist cells operating from Syria. They have access to money, and they have access to smuggling routes," Abizaid said.
The Bush administration has been sternly warning Syria to stop the movement of fighters and smugglers across its borders and crack down on militants using its territory. This month, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage visited the Syrian capital, Damascus, to deliver that message as well as other U.S. demands.
Congress has voted to impose sanctions on Syria, but the administration has so far picked the mildest penalty authorized by the law. The president has hinted at a tougher stance, but Armitage told U.S.-run Al Hurra television that Bush had not yet made a decision.
"He's waiting to see the outcome of Syrian behavior over a length of time and then will make a decision on what to do," Armitage said.
Syrian officials based in Washington could not be reached for comment but have said in response to earlier criticism that they have redoubled efforts to police their borders in response to concerns from the interim Iraqi government and the Bush administration.
It remains unclear exactly how closely the Baathist-led groups coordinate with foreign Islamic extremists such as Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has proclaimed himself the leader of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization in Iraq. But the two groups are believed to communicate and work together at least loosely in what officials describe as a temporary marriage of convenience.
"I think there is a level of coordination between Zarqawi and some of the Baathist cells," Abizaid said. "There is a certain amount of coordination at a rudimentary level that goes on within Iraq. And there is certainly an organizational network within the Zarqawi terrorist network that shows an ability to organize terrorist activities across a broad range of targets in Iraq."
Abizaid warned that former regime leaders who ally themselves with extremists will not be offered amnesty even if they surrendered their arms.
Most of the leaders are probably not capable of rehabilitation anyway, a senior military official said. "There are a number of people that are going to have to die," the official said. "Zarqawi is one of them. He's in the box. His name's on the list, and you only come off it one way."
Times staff writer Sonni Efron in Washington contributed to this report.
Reply #139 on:
January 20, 2005, 12:57:32 AM »
Camp Bucca Turns 180 Degrees From Abu Ghraib
Commanders hope the model detention facility will improve the U.S. military's reputation, tarnished by the prison torture scandal in Iraq.
By Ashraf Khalil, Times Staff Writer
CAMP BUCCA, Iraq ? A winter fog rolled in off the Persian Gulf, coiling around searchlights and 12-foot-high fences rimmed with razor wire.
Dozens of listless Iraqi men lingered near the edges of one compound, wearing winter coats over dishdasha gowns and wool socks under plastic flip-flops. One sat wrapped in a plastic garbage bag as another prisoner trimmed his beard with an electric clipper.
It seems an unlikely setting for a hearts-and-minds campaign, but commanders at this fast-growing U.S. military prison camp near the Kuwaiti border describe it as just that. As the U.S. military shifts the bulk of its more than 7,000 Iraqi and foreign prisoners to Camp Bucca, commanders hope this model prison will bury the ghosts of the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.
"We want [the prisoners] to say, 'The Americans treated me all right and they're good-hearted people,' " said Col. Jim Brown, commander of the 18th Military Police Brigade.
The driving force behind these changes is the lingering damage from what has become known among the guards simply as "Abu" ? a catchall term for the abuse and humiliation of detainees in the prison west of Baghdad.
"Our reputation was tarnished ? both as a military and as a nation," said Army Maj. Gen. William H. Brandenburg, the new commander in charge of prisons in Iraq.
During a recent visit to Camp Bucca, he told a collection of guards and commanders, "We've got to stay on the moral high ground and do the right thing all the time, even when nobody's looking."
The lessons of Abu Ghraib resonate in all corners of the 100-acre Bucca compound, which serves as both laboratory and showcase for the Army's new approach to detention facilities.
Master Sgt. Jimmy James, who will become Bucca's warden this month, calls the camp "kind of a new animal that evolved from this war."
The tent cities that housed Abu Ghraib prisoners have largely been replaced by climate-controlled prefab huts ? a change that improves both living conditions and safety, because the inmates can no longer use the tent poles and stakes to fashion weapons. Packaged military rations have given way to hot meals, delivered to the prisoners in large coolers filled with steaming rice, soup and stew. A new hospital is being built in a series of connected double-wide trailers.
Inmates run their own classes on literacy, English and religion and hold soccer games so raucous that the guards sometimes think a riot is in progress. Some prisoners are lobbying to play inter-compound matches on a communal field, but the guards are leery of that one.
Each of the 10 compounds, which hold between 600 and 800 prisoners apiece, elects its own "mayor" who is in charge of maintaining order and acting as a liaison with the guards ? if necessary, informing on impending escape attempts or culprits in a violent crime.
Cigarettes, tea and access to radios are used as incentives for good behavior or revoked as punishment. Visiting family members are treated deferentially and supplied with water and snacks in the hope that they'll leave with a good impression.
The base commander, Col. Tim Houser, speaks of educating prisoners, teaching them social guidelines and making them into productive members of society. Then he grins at how "painfully American" the idea sounds.
The Iraqi Human Rights Ministry maintains an office just outside the prison fence. Ministry representatives spend three days a week on site to mediate concerns between inmates and guards, work with families and serve on the camp's version of a parole board.
Saad Sultan, the ministry's point man for the U.S. prison camps, said he was pleased with the changes made so far but considered Bucca's medical facilities lacking until the new hospital was finished. One of the most common complaints from the prisoners, he said, wasn't abuse or mistreatment. It was that the Pakistani cooks didn't know how to make Iraqi food.
On the other side of the camp, efforts continue to create a pleasant environment for the guards, partially to head off anyone taking out their frustrations on the inmates.
Stressful living conditions at Abu Ghraib were one of the reasons cited for the abuses, along with insufficient oversight, unclear command structure and the still-murky role of intelligence agents in encouraging the softening-up of prisoners.
At Bucca, the soldiers live in comfortable trailers, and a large recreation center offers a library, board games, pingpong, an Internet cafe, karaoke and a first-class gym.
A massive antenna, a remnant of the government radio station that once occupied the site, still dominates the soldiers' side of the prison, which was used as a POW camp for a short time after the war. It was reopened as a prison in the summer of 2003 as the insurgency started in earnest.
For the guards and administrators, many of whom are rotating into Iraq for the first time, the camp has been a pleasant surprise.
"I expected to live in a tent for a year on a cot," said Capt. Diana Stumpf. "I'm afraid to tell my family what it's like because they'll stop feeling sorry for me."
Brandenburg's arrival in Iraq in early December heralded a literal changing of the guard for the U.S. detention system in Iraq. The command team brought in last spring by his predecessor, Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, is mostly rotating out, and detention operations are facing what one officer called "almost an entirely new chain of command."
There's a new superintendent for military police at both Abu Ghraib and Bucca and a new Bucca warden. In the coming months, three-fourths of the guards will be going home.
The new team faces a challenge fraught with all the traditional complexities of a long-term prison environment: violence, religious tension and shifting factional dynamics. They must deal with escape attempts that average two to three per month, often in fog so thick the tower guards can't see the ground and must shift to foot patrols to spot prisoners trying to breach the fence.
In mid-October, just as the new MP unit was arriving on duty, fighting broke out between Sunni and Shiite prisoners.
The dispute centered on differences over observance of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, and may have been fueled by general edginess among fasting prisoners craving caffeine and nicotine.
Commanders decided to separate the Shiites and Sunnis. But when Sultan threatened to pull his human rights team in protest, the separation was confined to the problematic compound.
Now Houser, the base commander, admits that they face a dilemma.
Religious separation doesn't quite mesh with the stated U.S. goal of fostering a unified Iraqi society. But reintegrating the Shiite prisoners into other compounds could cause further trouble.
"We're pretty sensitive to anything ? that could upset the dynamic," Houser said.
Brown, the MP commander and a Santa Monica native, recalls what he terms a "wannabe riot" in one of the compounds in early December. After two prisoners were sentenced to isolation for a failed escape attempt, their compound mates rose up in solidarity.
The compound had not yet had its huts built, and prisoners collapsed their tents to make spears from the poles and shanks from the stakes. They formed a shouting phalanx, using mattresses as shields and encouraging nearby compounds to follow suit.
The guards didn't fire a shot, instead putting on their own show of force, gathering in strength and patrolling the compound's perimeter with guard dogs. Finally, two firetrucks were brought out, and the prisoners dispersed around 3 a.m. before the hoses could be turned on them.
"Firetrucks," Brandenburg said with a laugh, "are a pretty good dampener on a cold night."
Reply #140 on:
January 20, 2005, 07:29:01 PM »
After the Election
By George Friedman
It is now a week from the Iraqi elections. Apart from knowing the precise levels of violence the insurgency will be able to reach before the election, most of the rest of it is clear. The election will be held. In much of the Sunni region, the turnout will be extremely low -- low enough that the election might be suspended there. The Shia will win. The United States could choose to suspend the elections -- and there should be no mistake about who is making the decisions on this -- but the point for that has passed. If the elections were going to be postponed, one would think that Washington would have made that decision weeks ago.
The next decision that will have to be made is whether to certify the election. There is not much choice there either. Washington knows the vote in the Sunni region will be disrupted. To hold the election and then fail to certify it because of the guerrilla war makes no sense. The guerrilla war has been there for a long time now. If you are going to hold the election anyway, not certifying it would be an exercise in futility.
If the vote is certified, a government will be formed. The Shia will dominate that government. They would have dominated any government for simple demographic reasons. With the Sunni vote suppressed, they will dominate the government overwhelmingly. The United States has proposed in the past some artificial formula to guarantee Sunni representation in the government, a substitute for an election, but the Shia have rejected it. Moreover, if the United States allowed the Sunnis to take a full seat at the table in spite of their inability to suppress the insurrection, there would be zero incentive in the future for Sunni elders to take a chance. Undoubtedly, some sort of contrived Sunni presence will be inserted, but this will be a Shiite government.
Thus, at some point in February, a Shiite prime minister, governing through a predominantly Shiite Cabinet, will become the government of Iraq. The Shia have been waiting for this moment for decades. Although divided, the formation of a government that reflects -- or over-reflects -- Shiite power will be a moment of enormous triumph. The evolution of this government is unclear. It could evolve into an Iranian-style theocracy, although the Iraqi religious leaders seem to take a different view of this than the Iranians. It might be ruled by Islamic principles without the overtly theocratic elements. It could even be, for a time, formally pluralist or secular. Whatever it will be, it will be Shia, and it will be under the heavy control of the religious leaders.
The first problem the new government will face will be the Sunni uprising. Sunni guerrillas recently killed two of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's aides. They have been conducting a fairly one-sided assault against the Shia for months. The reasoning behind the attacks appears to have been to intimidate the Shiite leadership prior to its taking power. What they have done instead is infuriate the Shia. The Shia have suffered from suppression by the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein -- Sunni by birth if not by religious principle. They have been the dispossessed. It is now their time.
The Shia understand they cannot simply remain in a defensive mode. They have been passive in the run-up to the election, but after the election their credibility as the government of Iraq will depend on how they deal with the guerrillas. They must either suppress the guerrillas or negotiate a deal with them. Since a deal is hard to imagine at this time, they will have to act to suppress them. If they don't, the government will either be destroyed by the insurgents or Iraq will split into two or three countries, an evolution unacceptable to the Shia or to Iran.
Therefore, the Shia will fight. The Shiite leadership has made it clear it wants the United States to remain in Iraq for the time being. This does not mean it wants a long-term American presence. It means it wants U.S. forces to carry the main battle against the Sunnis on its behalf. In the same way that al-Sistani wanted the Americans to deal with Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr during the An Najaf affair, he wants the Americans to carry the main burden now.
The United States is prepared to carry a burden, but it is not prepared to single-handedly deal with the Sunnis any longer. The Shia have substantial armed militias. It is these forces -- not the failed Iraqi army the United States has tried to invent -- that will be the mainstay of the regime. The Shia don't want this force ground up because it is the guarantor of their security. The United States is not going to protect the regime without these forces engaged.
At this point, something interesting happens. The Shia have a greater vested interest in the viability of this government than even the Americans. The Americans can leave. The Shia aren't going anywhere. For the first time, the United States has a potential ally with capabilities and motivation. Most important, it is an ally that is not blind on the ground. Its intelligence capability is not perfect among the Sunnis, but it is better than what the Americans have.
It is an opportunity for the Americans. It is hard to get excited any longer about opportunities. We have seen so many open up and either prove chimerical or be fumbled by the United States that we temper our enthusiasm in all things. Nevertheless, the Shia will be the government for the first time; they have been waiting for this; they owe the Sunnis a beating and they might, with the United States, have the means to deliver it.
In all of this, the role of Iran is the most complex. The Iranians supported the Shiite community throughout the post-Desert Storm period. During the first phase of the American occupation, the two Shiite communities were close. Since the events of April 2004, the long-term wariness between the two communities has returned. Iran might not be as enthusiastic as it once was to see a Shiite government in Iraq. Alternatively, Iran could use its ongoing influence to manipulate and control that government.
It is no accident, in our view, that Washington is beating the war drums against Iran in the weeks before the Iraqi election. It is not only about nuclear weapons or not even about them. It is warning the Iranians not to intrude into Iraqi affairs. The Iranians might listen, but it's unlikely. Iraq is a fundamental national interest of Iran, and the Iranians will be playing.
Thus, the election brings a new government with new interests and new crises. If the government is seated, and we can't see why it wouldn't be, the next thing to watch is what steps it takes with its militias against the insurgents. Certainly, the guerrillas will be hitting them hard, so passivity is not an option. The Iranians will be manipulating the government and the Americans will be squeezing it. But it is at this point that something might finally, if temporarily, break in favor of the United States. Certainly that is the bet Washington is making.
Reply #141 on:
January 26, 2005, 01:33:22 PM »
By RALPH PETERS
IN just two days, Iraq took two giant steps forward. The forces of freedom in Baghdad announced the earlier bust of the al Qaeda killer behind the wave of suicide bombings. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the No. 1 terrorist in Iraq, told the world what he thinks.
Under pressure, men and women reveal their true character. On the run and frantic, Zarqawi offered a perfect contrast to President Bush's inauguration speech supporting global freedom: Zarqawi announced that democracy is "an evil principle."
There you have the deepest fear of oppressors everywhere. Whether dictators or assassins, they dread the free choice of free people. Terrorists know they can't win elections. Nor will many people vote to impose religious law on themselves.
The only hope the terrorists have is the tyranny of the bomb, the gun and
Even Moqtada al-Sadr, baby-faced bully of the Shi'a slums, realized that few of Iraq's Shi'as would vote for his con- game wrapped in religion. As a result, he's withdrawn his sup port for elections. The Iraqi response?
Even before the elections, democracy did what the guns could not: It downed another demagogue.
Meanwhile, Zarqawi, the deadliest thug in the country, has grown desperate. In the wake of terror's defeat in Fallujah, his key lieutenant got fitted for handcuffs - a triumph revealed only yesterday to avoid compromising the grab's intelligence value.
Zarqawi knew his goon was gone. His wet-the-pants response? Lecturing the enthusiastic voters of Iraq that democracy is evil, then calling the revered Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani "Satan" for supporting the elections.
This is not sound politics. A Sunni Muslim, Zarqawi can only mobilize the
Shi'a voters he fears by attacking their spiritual leader.
But then Zarqawi has made one blunder after another in the face of wide
spread support for Sunday's election. Indeed, while he and the other
terrorists have played checkers, the Shi'a majority has been playing chess.
For example, key Shi'a religious leaders wisely agreed that Iraq's first
free elections should not replicate Iran's mis take of putting mullahs atop
the government. That keeps the mullahs off the blame-line, should
governmental efforts falter, while still allowing reli gious leaders a voice
behind the scenes (an authority that men of God enjoy from Indiana to
India). It calms Western fears of a "second Iran" emerging in Iraq and so
reduces the chance of a confrontation between the Coalition and the mullahs.
This isn't deviousness. It's statesmanship. We may live to be disappointed
in them, but Iraq's Shi'as are confounding all the Western elitists who
insist that the yokels aren't ready for democracy.
Just let people vote. Then the left's prophets of doom who dismiss the deep human desire for freedom can read the results and squirm as they explain their faulty predictions.
What's really happening in Iraq? Contrary to media depictions, suicide
bombings and other attacks are going down, not up. The terrorists are
running short on resources. The bad boys are getting popped - not least
because Iraqis, sick of the violence, turn them in.
And the leading terrorist in Iraq just told the common people what he thinks of them: He should decide their future, not their ballots.
Think that's going to play well with the masses? Does anyone except The New York Times believe that a Jordanian- born, Sunni Muslim terrorist is going to convince Iraq's majority Shi'a Arabs or the Kurds to throw up their hands, stay home on Election Day and hand him power?
Rarely has the contrast been so clear between the forces of freedom and
those of oppression. Last Thursday, America's president offered the world a courageous vision for the future. Over the weekend, the top terrorist in Iraq insisted that the world should return to a cruel and savage past. There you have the basic conflict of the 21st century.
Iraq's election won't produce perfect results. But the issue is no longer
whether the people will vote, but how many millions of voters will risk
their lives to go to the polls.
Those who still warn that Iraq's elections are misguided are on the side of
the terrorists. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi thinks so. And he's right.
Reply #142 on:
January 27, 2005, 04:47:57 PM »
The Three-Power Game
By George Friedman
Now the question becomes Iran. But the Iran question is not the simplistic "next target" issue that has been framed by the media -- or the Bush administration for that matter. The Iran question is far more complex, subtle and defining. It divides into two questions. First, once Iraq holds elections, what will Iran's policy be toward Iraq's new Shiite government? Second, since the Shiite-Sunni split is fundamental to the Islamic world, how will the United States manage and manipulate that divide?
To approach these questions, we need to look at the world through Iran's eyes. Iran has a single, overwhelming national security interest: protecting itself from encroachments by foreign powers. After World War II, the primary threat came from the Soviet Union. Another threat, both ancient and continual, came from Iraq. Under both the shah and the ayatollahs, Iraq constituted what became Iran's major national security threat.
The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s had a devastating effect on Iran. There is hardly an Iranian family that did not suffer a loss in that war. Iraq came out ahead in the war militarily, but had it simply defeated Iran, the result would have been catastrophic. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Iraq has been Iran's nightmare.
This is why the Iranians did not seriously object to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. To the contrary, the Iranians did everything they could to encourage and entangle the Americans in the war -- including providing intelligence that triggered American responses. There was nothing more important for Iran than seeing Saddam Hussein's regime collapse.
For Iran, the best outcome of the war would be a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad. The second best outcome would be chaos in Iraq. Both provide Iran with what it needs: a relatively secure frontier and an opportunity to shape events to the west. The third -- and least acceptable -- outcome would be a neutral Iraq. Neutrality is highly changeable.
It had been Iran's hope that the U.S. invasion would create a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad. The United States certainly dangled this possibility in front of the Iranians. Ahmed Chalabi, the original fair-haired boy of the Pentagon, had a dual role to play. He was the conduit the Iranians used to pump intelligence into Washington that justified and required the invasion. He was also the channel used by the United States to convince the Iranians to keep the lid on the Iraqi Shia. Chalabi told Iran that the United States would give them what they wanted if the Shia remained quiet. Chalabi, like a figure in a Cold War espionage novel, was used and used up by both sides.
The Iranians will get a Shiite government in Baghdad after the election. It is not clear at all that it will be a puppet state. The Iraqi and Iranian Shia have diverging interests and somewhat different views of the kind of regime they want. Nevertheless, whatever the tensions, any Shiite regime is better than a Sunni regime as far as the Iranians are concerned. Even for this there will be a price. The new government will continue to control Shiite regions and probably have the cooperation of the Kurds. It will not control Sunni regions, where the insurgency is in place. There will not be a real Iraqi state unless the Sunni insurgency is defeated. The Shia -- with the Americans -- can potentially defeat the Sunnis, but Iranian cooperation is necessary. At the very least, the Iranians will have to avoid destabilizing the Shiite government by manipulating the Iraqi Shia to get more pro-Iranian officials in place. They will also have to share tactical intelligence on the Sunni insurgency with the Americans.
Alternatively, they can go with their second-best choice: chaos in Iraq. Under that scenario, the Shia in Iraq are pressured not to fight the Sunnis and the Iraqi regime becomes the government of Shiite Iraq and nothing more. At that point, Iraq, in effect, becomes divided into three states -- Shia, Sunni, Kurd.
This is a tempting proposition. The problem the Iranians have is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If Iraq collapses and the Iranians dominate southern Iraq, then the road is open militarily to Kuwait and Saudi oil fields. The Iranians might not want to take advantage of this, but the Arabs cannot hope for the best as a foreign policy.
The Saudis cannot afford chaos in Iraq or for the road from Iran to be wide open. They will increase their dependence on the United States and will be forced to do whatever they can to reduce the rebellion in the Sunni region. A united Iraq under a Shiite-dominated coalition government will secure Iran's western frontiers, but will deny it the opportunity to dominate the region. A divided Iraq will give Iran secure borders, an opportunity for domination and serious responses from Arab states. It will drive the Arabs into the Americans' arms. Things could get dicey fast for the Iranians. The United States is letting them know -- via the convenient conduit of Seymour Hersh and The New Yorker magazine -- that it is ready to push back hard on Iran. U.S. President George W. Bush directly warned the Iranians on Jan. 26 to stay out of the Iraqi elections. The Iranians are signaling back that they are a nuclear power -- which is not true yet.
The Iranians have a fundamental strategic decision to make. They can work with the United States and secure their interests. They can undermine the United States and go for the big prize: domination of the Persian Gulf. The first is low risk, the second incredibly high risk.
Behind this all there is a complex three-power game. There is the United States, in a war with factions of the Sunni. There are the Sunnis themselves, divided and unsure of their direction. There are the Shia, maneuvering to shift the political balance with the Sunni without becoming American puppets. Within each of these communities -- including the American -- there are deep divides, complex contradictions and political tensions. Each side is trying to use these to its advantage.
How this relationship plays out is the real issue. The question of the Sunni insurrection in four provinces of Iraq is not unimportant, but it is not defining. It is simply the arena in which the basic strategic complexity is being played out. But the real game is: Three players, each trying to create an alliance that locks out the third without limiting its own freedom of action, with none of the players really in control of the situation. It reminds us a bit of the U.S.-Soviet-Chinese game in 1968-1970. But even there, although internal factionalism was rife in all three countries, the decision-making process was not that chaotic.
That's why, in the end, it does not boil down to the Shia as much as to Iran. Iran can opt to align with the United States and define the terms under which it will accept a united Iraq under a Shiite-led coalition government, or it can go for it all, undermine the Shiite leadership in Iraq and open the door to the division of Iraq into three parts, with southern Iraq in the Iranian sphere of influence and the road to the western littoral of the Persian Gulf wide open -- except for the United States.
Iran has a low-risk, low-reward choice and a high-risk, high-reward choice. How lucky is Iran feeling?
Reply #143 on:
January 30, 2005, 06:03:07 PM »
January 30, 2005
BY MARK STEYN SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
In Europe, the wise old foreign-policy ''realists'' scoff at today's
elections in Iraq -- Islam and democracy are completely incompatible,
old boy; everybody knows that, except these naive blundering Yanks who
just don't have our experience, frankly.
If that's true, it's a problem not for Iraq this weekend but, given
current demographic trends, for France and Belgium and Holland a year
or two down the line.
But, as it happens, it's not true. The Afghan election worked so well
that, there being insufficient bad news out of it, the doom-mongers in
the Western media pretended it never happened. They'll have a harder
job doing that with Iraq, so instead they'll have to play up every
roadside bomb and every dead poll worker. But it won't alter the basic
reality: that today's election will be imperfect but more than good
enough. OK, that's a bit vague by the standards of my usual
psephological predictions, so how about this? Turnout in the Kurdish
north and Shia south will be higher than in the last American, British
or Canadian elections. Legitimate enough for ya?
But look beyond the numbers. When you consider the behavior of the
Shia and Kurdish parties, they've been remarkably shrewd, restrained
and responsible. They don't want to blow their big rendezvous with
history and rejoin the rest of the Middle East in the fetid swamp of
stable despotism. The naysayers in the Democratic Party and the U.S.
media are so obsessed with Rumsfeld getting this wrong and Condi
getting that wrong and Bush getting everything wrong that they've
failed to notice just how surefooted both the Kurds and Shiites have
been -- which in the end is far more important. The latter, for
example, have adopted a moderate secular pitch entirely different from
their co-religionist mullahs over the border. In fact, as partisan
pols go, they sound a lot less loopy than, say, Barbara Boxer. Even on
the Sunni side of the street, there are signs the smarter fellows
understand their plans to destroy the election have flopped and it's
time to cut themselves into the picture. The IMF noted in November
that the Iraqi economy is already outperforming all its Arab
You might not have gained that impression from watching CNN or reading
the Los Angeles Times. The Western press are all holed up in the same
part of Baghdad, and the insurgents very conveniently set off bombs
visible from their hotel windows in perfect synchronization with the
U.S. TV news cycle. But, if they could look beyond the plumes of
smoke, they'd see that Iraq's going to be better than OK, that it will
be the economic powerhouse of the region, and that the various small
nods toward democracy going on in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and
elsewhere suggest that the Arab world has figured out what the foreign
policy ''realists'' haven't: that the trend is in the Bush direction.
When Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, warned that the
U.S. invasion of Iraq would ''destabilize'' the entire region, he was
right. That's why it was such a great idea.
The ''realpolitik'' types spent so long worshipping at the altar of
stability they were unable to see it was a cult for psychos. The
geopolitical scene is never stable, it's always dynamic. If the
Western world decides in 2005 that it can ''contain'' President Sy
Kottik of Wackistan indefinitely, that doesn't mean the relationship
between the two parties is set in aspic. Wackistan has a higher birth
rate than the West, so after 40 years of ''stability'' there are a lot
more Wackistanis and a lot fewer Frenchmen. And Wackistan has immense
oil reserves, and President Kottik has used the wealth of those oil
reserves to fund radical schools and mosques in hitherto moderate
parts of the Muslim world. And cheap air travel and the Internet and
ATM machines that take every bank card on the planet and the
freelancing of nuclear technology mean that Wackistan's problems are
no longer confined to Wackistan. For a few hundred bucks, they can be
outside the Empire State Building within seven hours. Nothing stands
still. ''Stability'' is a fancy term to dignify laziness and
complacency as sophistication.
If you want a good example of excessive deference to the established
order, look no further than Iraq. I'm often asked about the scale of
the insurgency and doesn't this prove we armchair warriors vastly
underestimated things, etc. I usually reply that, if you rummage
through the archives, you'll find that I wanted the liberation of Iraq
to occur before the end of August 2002. The bulk of the military were
already in place, sitting in the Kuwaiti desert twiddling their
thumbs. But Bush was prevailed upon to go ''the extra mile'' at the
United Nations mainly for the sake of Tony Blair, and thanks to the
machinations of Chirac, Schroeder and Co., the extra mile wound up
being the scenic route through six months of diplomatic gridlock while
Washington gamely auditioned any casus belli that might win the favor
of the president of Guinea's witch doctor. As we know, all that
happened during that period was that the hitherto fringe ''peace''
movement vastly expanded and annexed most of the Democratic Party.
Given all that went on in America, Britain, France, etc., during the
interminable ''extra mile,'' it would be idiotic to assume that, with
an almighty invasion force squatting on his borders for six months,
Saddam just sat there listening to his Sinatra LPs. He was very busy,
as were the Islamists, and Iran, and Syria.
The result is not only an insurgency far more virulent than it would
have been had Washington followed my advice rather than Tony's and
gone in in August 2002, but also a broader range of enemies that
learned a lot about how ''world'' -- i.e., European -- opinion could
be played off against Washington.
I don't believe Bush would make that mistake again. Which means he
wouldn't have spoken quite so loudly if the big stick weren't already
in place -- if plans weren't well advanced for dealing with Iran and
some of the low-hanging fruit elsewhere in the region. Bush won't
abolish all global tyranny by 2008 -- that might have to wait till
Condi's second term -- but he will abolish some of it, and today's
elections are as important in that struggle as any military victory.
Reply #144 on:
February 20, 2005, 03:41:54 PM »
Middle East: A New Coalition Forms?
By George Friedman
It has been an eventful week in the Middle East, beginning with the massive Valentine's Day explosion that killed a former Lebanese prime minister in Beirut, continuing with the recall of the U.S. ambassador to Syria and feints over Iran's nuclear program, and culminating in the Feb. 16 announcement -- by Iran and Syria -- of a "common front" against the United States.
The renewal of this alliance, which dates back to the 1980s, appears on the surface to be a Coalition of the Trapped. The Syrians are surrounded by three enemies: Israel, Turkey and the United States. The Iranians are in a better position, but they also are fairly isolated militarily as well -- and of course, the U.S. presence in Iraq, squarely in the middle of the region, is a cause for discomfort at best. Forming an alliance, then, is the best move available to each, assuming they don't want to capitulate to the United States.
Syria's main interest, apart from regime survival, is to maintain its enormous influence in Lebanon. This is a financial as well as strategic issue: The Syrians make a load of money doing business in Lebanon, and they don't want to be replaced by foreign businessmen. To our minds, this might have been a significant factor in the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. The universal suspicion is that the Syrians were behind the killing: They feared that al-Hariri, whose wealth made him one of the most powerful men in the nation, was trying to pry Lebanon loose from Syrian control. The thinking is that the Syrians took him out, possibly using the Iranian-controlled Hezbollah. We regard this as fairly sound thinking.
Iran also faces a fundamental challenge -- in this case, to its interests in Iraq. A neutral Iraq is important to Iran. The Iranians hate the Sunnis, but the regime is growing uneasy about the relationship between the Iraqi Shia and the United States. Like Damascus with Lebanon, Tehran has tried to pull Iraq into its orbit -- and like Damascus, it is beginning to wonder whether it will succeed. Quite apart from the issue of nuclear facilities, the Iranians are beginning to feel that the outcome of the Iraq war might leave them in worse shape than they imagined two years ago -- then at least, they faced a distinct and identifiable enemy on their frontier and were viewed as an important counterbalance by the United States.
Syria and Iran therefore are sensing the same force coming at them. As the United States starts getting traction in Iraq, it is moving in various ways to undermine the power of regimes it distrusts. The means here isn't military, it is covert and political. Washington is using its influence to wean Lebanon from Syria. It is doing the same to split the Iraqi and Iranian Shia. As a result, Syria and Iran are seeing their national interests start to evaporate.
Now, perceiving this and doing something about it are two very different things. Al-Hariri's killing could be read as a signal to the Lebanese that Syrian patience has its limits. Iran has not yet made a definitive move in Iraq, but it will have to do something pretty soon or bow out of the game. Both countries are under pressure to preserve core interests in the face of a common threat: the United States.
Militarily, there is little they can do. The Iranians are not only some time away from being nuclear-capable, but they can expect any capabilities to be destroyed by the Americans or the Israelis before they become operational. Iran will not go nuclear without a great deal of luck -- and even then, it will have just enough weapons to get into very deep trouble.
The American weak spot is not nuclear weapons. It is terrorism. The United States is simply not good at coping with sparse, global, covert networks. It has focused its attention on al Qaeda and has gotten somewhere, but it has been a long, hard, uncertain road.
Al Qaeda, a Sunni Wahhabi organization, is not the only competent covert force in the world. The other is Hezbollah -- al Qaeda's Shiite equivalent. Hezbollah rose to prominence in the 1980s as an Iranian-sponsored, Syrian-supported force operating out of Lebanon. It took part in Lebanon's civil war and has been active in campaigns against Israel. Hezbollah has been relatively quiet on a global scale, but it continues to exist and continues to operate in Lebanon.
Al-Hariri's murder and the resurrection of the Syrian-Iranian alliance have meaning only if Damascus and Tehran plan to unleash Hezbollah. At the very least, they are threatening to do so, in the hope of using it as a bargaining chip with the United States. However, if Washington bargains on those grounds, it will get rolled on a range of issues. The United States cannot afford to negotiate on those terms, and Hezbollah is the only card Syria and Iran can play effectively.
In other words, it may well be that another trained, experienced and dedicated organization is now being ramped up -- and it isn't al Qaeda. Hezbollah is a capable and deadly force. It is to be taken very seriously.
Al-Qaeda Score Card
Reply #145 on:
February 21, 2005, 05:12:54 PM »
Keeping Score Against al Qaeda
by James Dunnigan
February 20, 2005
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
How can you tell if al Qaeda is winning, or losing, the war on terror?? How do you even tell who the major players are in al-Qaeda? Like baseball, one?s best bet is to use a scorecard. The scorecard for al-Qaeda (?The Base?) is pretty complex.?
Al-Qaeda was originally built like a large corporation. It has a board of directors of 24, with Osama bin Laden as the CEO (official title is Emir-General). Bin Laden also has 15 people in what could be described as his ?inner circle? of aides. Al-Qaeda also had training camps in six countries in September, 2001 (Afghanistan, Indonesia, Chechnya, Albania, Sudan, and the Philippines), with eight commanders. Al-Qaeda also maintained cells in numerous Arabian and European countries.
Since the? September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and allies have been hunting down the leadership of al-Qaeda. Among the big fish (the ?Board of Directors?), seven are dead and ten are in custody. Four members of the ?inner circle? are also in custody. This is 53 percent of the senior leadership for al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden is still at large, along with Ayman al-Zawahiri (the deputy commander of al-Qaeda) and Abu Mohammed al-Masri (the planner of the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania). However, five out of the eight training camp commanders are dead or in custody.
Other statistics of note: Eighteen al-Qaeda financiers are dead or in custody. Among those still at large, though, are two of bin Laden?s sisters, two of his brothers-in-law, and a Swiss banker by the name of Ahmed Huber. Huber also has extensive connections with neo-Nazis in Europe. The real financial resource for al-Qaeda remains untouched ? the dozen or so Saudis who are called the ?Golden Chain.? All are at large, and all can still provide enough resources for bin Laden to regroup and strike again.
Al-Qaeda?s military committee has also been decimated. One is dead (killed by a CIA Predator firing Hellfire missiles), fourteen, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, have been captured. These include the commanders in Singapore, Java, Southern Europe, and Japan. Several are at large, including the operations chiefs in Kosovo, Tunisia, and Somalia.
Subordinate networks in several countries have been rounded up or decimated. In Jordan, five out of the six major al-Qaeda figures are in custody; in Syria, only five major terrorist figures are still at large ? dozens of al-Qaeda members are currently incarcerated, but three major Hezbollah figures are still on the loose. Syria, however, remains a sponsor of Hezbollah. Egypt has rounded up all of the major al-Qaeda figures, as have Italy, Belgium, Germany. The United Kingdom, Spain, and France have rounded up many al-Qaeda figures as well. Many of the major al-Qaeda figures in Saudi Arabia are dead or apprehended, but a number of figures involved in the Khobar Towers bombing are still at large ? some with connections to Hizbollah. In Turkey, 75 percent of the big fish connected with al-Qaeda are dead or in custody. Most of the support structure for the 9/11attack, including Mukhabarat agent Ahmad Khalil Ibraham al-Ani (who the Czechs insist met hijacker Mohammed Atta in Prague), are in custody.?
But in some places, the network is pretty intact. Many major Taliban figures are still on the loose. So are all three members of al-Qaeda?s WMD Committee, and all of those involved in a Bolivian hijacking plot.
Short version, al-Qaeda is on the run throughout most of the globe. Even Abu Musab Zarqawi, in charge of all al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, is on the run ? as elements of his infrastructure are taken apart. Eight of Zarqawi?s top aides are dead. Twenty others have been captured. Zarqawi was unable to disrupt the elections on January 30, a serious loss for the terrorists. Al-Qaeda is still potent, as the attacks in Madrid proved, but they are clearly reacting to the multi-pronged offensive in the United States. ? Harold C. Hutchison (
Language as a Weapon
Reply #146 on:
March 02, 2005, 01:19:32 PM »
March 02, 2005, 10:01 a.m.
Terror and the English Language
Making use of a chief weapon.
The long, twilight struggle against Islamo-fascism requires Civilization to deploy numerous weapons against this implacable foe. As usual, these will include intelligence, covert operations, and high-tech armaments. But another vital tool is language. How Americans and our allies speak and write about this conflict will influence when and how victory will come.
We now face the most anti-Semitic enemy since Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels blew their brains out in Berlin in 1945.
Militant Islam is the most bloodthirsty ideology since the Khmer Rouge exterminated one-third of Cambodia's people. The big difference, of course, is that Pol Pot had the good manners to keep his killing fields within his own borders, as awful as that was.
Islamo-fascism, in contrast, is a worldwide phenomenon that already has touched this country and many of our allies. And yet Muslim extremists rarely have armies we can see, fighter jets we can knock from the sky, nor an easily identifiable headquarters, such as the Reich's Chancellery of the 1940s or the Kremlin of the Cold War.
While basketball players and their fans battle each other on TV, actresses suffer wardrobe malfunctions, and rap singers scream sweet nothings in our ears, it's very easy to forget that Islamic extremists plot daily to end all of that and more by killing as many of us as possible.
Language can lull Americans to sleep in this new war, or it can keep us on the offense and our enemies off balance.
Here are a few ways language can keep Americans alert to the danger Islamic terrorism poses to this country:
September 11 was an attack, not just a string of coincidental strokes and heart failures that eliminated thousands of victims at once.
Recall some of the words that soon followed the September 11 atrocity. Kinko's stores, for instance, installed placed with the Stars and Stripes emblazoned across the lower 48 states. That graphic included this regrettable caption:
"The Kinko's family extends our condolences and sympathies to all Americans who have been affected by the circumstances in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania."
Circumstances? That word describes an electrical blackout, not terrorist bloodshed.
Similarly, September 11 was tragic, but far more, too. "The September 11 tragedy" misses the point: Tornadoes cause tragedies, but they are not malicious, as America's enemies were that day, and still are.
Victims of terrorism do not "die," nor are they "lost." They are killed, murdered, and slaughtered.
Likewise, many say that people "died" in the Twin Towers and at the Pentagon. No, people "die" in hospitals, often surrounded by their loved ones while doctors and nurses offer them aid and comfort.
The innocent people at the World Trade Center, the Defense Department, and that field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, were killed in a carefully choreographed act of mass murder.
Specify the number of human beings who terrorists destroy.
? "3,000" killed on 9-11 sounds like an amorphous blob. The actual number ? 2,977 ? forces people to regard these individuals as men and women with faces, stories, and loved ones who miss them very much.
? The precise figures are 2,749 killed at the World Trade Center, 184 at the Pentagon, and 44 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
? Likewise, the Bali disco bombings killed 202 people, mainly Australians.
? The Madrid train bombings killed 191 men, women, and children.
Somehow, a total of 191 people killed by al Qaeda's Spanish franchisees seems more ominous and concrete than a smoothly rounded "200."
Terrorists do not simply "threaten" us, nor does homeland security merely shield Americans from "future attacks." These things are true, but it is more persuasive to acknowledge what these people have done and hope to do once more: Wipe us out.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R ., Wis.), said this on the November 28 NBC Nightly News:
"We need to tighten up our drivers license provisions and our immigration laws so that terrorists cannot take advantage of the present system to kill thousands of Americans again."
That is a perfect sound bite. There is no amorphous talk about "the terrorist threat" or "stopping further attacks." Sensenbrenner concisely explained exactly what is at risk, and what needs to be thwarted:
No more killing of Americans, by the thousands, again.
Quote Islamo-fascist leaders to remind people of their true intentions.
President Bush, Heritage Foundation chief Ed Feulner, or I could explain how deadly militant Islam is and how seriously we should consider this toxic philosophy. Far more impressive, however, is to let these extremists do the talking. And yet their words are nowhere as commonly known as they should be:
? As Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri said in their 1998 declaration of war on the United States:
"The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies ? civilian and military ? is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it."
? As the late Iranian dictator, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, stated in 1980:
"Our struggle is not about land or water...It is about bringing, by force if necessary, the whole of mankind onto the right path."
? Khomeini, ever the comedian, said this in 1986: "Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious."
? Asked what he would say to the loved ones of the 202 people killed in the October 2002 Bali nightclub explosions, Abu Bakar Bashir, the al-Qaeda-tied leader of Indonesia's radical Jemaah Islamiyah, replied, "My message to the families is, please convert to Islam as soon as possible."
The phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction" has been pounded into meaninglessness. It has been repeated ad infinitum. Fairly or unfairly, the absence of warehouses full of anthrax and nerve gas in Iraq has made the whole idea of "WMD" sound synonymous with "LIE."
America's enemies do not plot the "mass destruction" of empty office buildings or abandoned parking structures. Conversely, they want to see packed office buildings ablaze as their inhabitants scream for mercy. That's why I use the terms "Weapons of Mass Death" and "Weapons of Mass Murder."
When discussing those who are killed by terrorists, be specific, name them, and tell us about them. Humanize these individuals. They are more than just statistics or stick figures.
I have written 18 articles and produced a website, HUSSEINandTERROR.com, to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein did have ties to terrorism.
(By the way, I call him "Saddam Hussein" or "Hussein." I never call him "Saddam" any more than I call Joseph Stalin "Joseph" or Adolf Hitler "Adolf." "Saddam" also has a cute, one-name ring to it, like Cher, Gallagher, Liberace, or Sting. Saddam Hussein does not deserve such a term of endearment.)
To demonstrate that Saddam Hussein's support of terrorism cost American lives, I remind people about the aid and comfort he provided to terror master Abu Nidal.
Among Abu Nidal's victims in the 1985 bombing of Rome's airport was John Buonocore, a 20-year-old exchange student from Delaware. Palestinian terrorists fatally shot Buonocore in the back as he checked in for his flight. He was heading home after Christmas to celebrate his father's 50th birthday.
In another example, those killed by Palestinian homicide bombers subsidized by Saddam Hussein were not all Israeli, which would have been unacceptable enough. Among the 12 or more Americans killed by those Baathist-funded murderers was Abigail Litle, the 14-year-old daughter of a Baptist minister. She was blown away aboard a bus in Haifa on March 5, 2003.
Her killer's family got a check for $25,000 courtesy of Saddam Hussein as a bonus for their son's "martyrdom."
Is all of this designed to press emotional buttons? You bet it is!
Americans must remain committed ? intellectually and emotionally ? to this struggle. There are many ways to engage the American people.
No one should hesitate to remind Americans that terrorism kills our countrymen ? at home and abroad ? and that those who militant Islam demolishes include promising young people with bright futures, big smiles, and, now, six feet of soil between them and their dreams.
*Who are we fighting? Militants? Martyrs? Insurgents?
Melinda Bowman of Brief Hill, Pennsylvania, wrote this in a November 24 letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal:
"And, by the way, what is all this 'insurgent' nonsense? These people kidnap, behead, dismember and disembowel. They are terrorists." Nicely and accurately put, Ms. Bowman.
Is this a war on terror, per se? A war on terrorism? Or is really a war on Islamo-fascism? It's really the latter, and Americans should say so.
Daniel Pipes of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum believes terror is a tactic, not an enemy.
Calling today's conflict "a 'War on Terror' is like America in 1941, after Pearl Harbor, declaring a 'War on Surprise Attacks.' We really are engaged in a war on radical Islam."
Jim Guirard runs the TrueSpeak Institute in Washington, D.C. He has thought long and hard about terror and the English language.
He recently informed me, to my horror, that more than three years into the war on Islamo-fascism, the State Department and the CIA have not produced a glossary of the Arabic-language words that Middle Eastern Islamo-fascists use, as well as the antonyms for those words. Such a "Thesaurus of Terrorism" would help Civilization turn this war's words upside down.
Why, for instance, do we inadvertently praise our enemies by agreeing that they fight a jihad or "holy war?" Instead, we correctly should describe them as soldiers in a hirabah or "unholy war."
Guirard has many astute and valuable recommendations in this area. U.S. diplomats and national security officials promptly should implement his common-sense proposals.
America and the rest of civilization can and must win this showdown against these sadistic cavemen. We can and will crush them ? through espionage, high-tech force, statecraft, and public diplomacy. And, here at home, we can and will vanquish them through eternal vigilance.
One of our chief weapons should be something readily available to everyone who reads these words: The English language.
? Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia. This article is adapted from a speech delivered at the Heritage Foundation.
Reply #147 on:
March 09, 2005, 12:19:14 AM »
Iran: Coming Clean and Buying Time
March 08, 2005 2359 GMT
Several Iranian officials have acknowledged for the first time that Iran has had a secret nuclear program and has concealed nuclear facilities in the country. Iran is signaling to the United States that, short of an all-out assault against its nuclear sites, there is no way that it can be deterred from enriching uranium. Seemingly confident that Washington will not immediately exercise the military option, Tehran is trying to avoid having to backpedal on its declared right to enrich uranium and to buy time to deal with the situations in Iraq and the Levant.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, on Croatian television March 8, threatened to break off talks with the EU3 if Iran was pressured to give up its right to "master nuclear technology." Khatami's remark comes a day after Ali Akbar Salehi, nuclear affairs adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, acknowledged the existence of an underground nuclear facility that contained centrifuges used for the enrichment of uranium. The facility, at Natanz in central Iran, was constructed below the surface to protect against U.S. or Israeli airstrikes. This admission followed another by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a two-time former president and the current head of the Expediency Council, Iran's highest political arbitration body, that Iran had a secret but peaceful nuclear program prior to 2002. He said the program was necessary because of sanctions against Iran that prevented the Islamic republic from acquiring equipment needed for developing a nuclear program.
These statements, which validate U.S. concerns that Iran has secretly been trying to develop nuclear weapons, are Iran's way of trying to counter international pressure to stop enriching uranium. By coming forth and admitting it has had a clandestine program with underground facilities -- although insisting that it was civilian in nature -- and that it is not ready to accept a permanent freeze on nuclear activities, Iran is signaling that, short of a full-scale attack against its nuclear facilities, there is no way it can be thwarted from enriching uranium. Tehran hopes to reach a settlement whereby it can openly carry out its nuclear activities under the legitimacy of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and additional protocols it has signed since October 2003 (the NPT allows member states to pursue nonmilitary nuclear activities).
On the surface it appears that the statements from Tehran are an admission of guilt, which could strengthen the hand of the Bush administration as it pushes for tougher action against the clerical regime. Given that the ayatollahs, despite their ideological proclivities, are not irrational geopolitical actors, these statements likely were issued for a specific purpose. Negotiations with the EU3 are slowly moving to a point where Iran has to decide whether to accept economic incentives in exchange for a complete cessation of all activities related to uranium enrichment. This quid pro quo is not acceptable to the Iranians, and they have made this clear on several recent occasions.
Iran also can choose to pull out of the talks, though such a move would make it more vulnerable to international action. More important, it also would prevent Iran from gaining the recognition and security guarantees it is seeking from the United States. Iranians have threatened several times to pull out of the talks, moves that have been dismissed as mere posturing. In reality, Tehran wants to remain engaged with the international community -- it just does not want to be handicapped by this desire and forced to accept harsh conditions.
Therefore, the way out for the Iranians is to try and steer the negotiations in such a way that Iran is not boxed in and the opposing side has to choose between two difficult options.
Iran is signaling the West that it can either cut a deal allowing Tehran to openly carry out its nuclear activities after assuring the world of their peaceful purposes or it will have to wage a full-scale war against the regime to deny it the ability to enrich uranium.
This is where Tehran is displaying a great degree of confidence that, considering the situation in the Middle East, the United States and Israel are not in a position to launch an attack against Tehran's nuclear assets. Contributing to this confidence are recent statements by Bush administration officials that the West has just embarked on the diplomatic route to dealing with Iran and that military action -- though not off the table -- is not imminent. The Iranians also are not worried about the probability of U.N. Security Council sanctions; many major states have bilateral economic relations with Iran, which would complicate the passage of any resolution. While this may not be part of the Iranian perception of the situation, surgical strikes against its key facilities to push back its nuclear program a few years is a real possibility.
It remains to be seen whether the Iranians truly have been successful in tying the hands of the West. What is clear, though, is that they have bought time to focus on the new political dynamics of Iraq and the Levant, dynamics that seem to be working against the interests of Tehran. Or at least they think they have.
Foundation of what is Islam - To wage war
Reply #148 on:
March 10, 2005, 05:04:44 PM »
Had posted this address elsewhere. Thought that it sheds some light on the Foundation of what true Islam teaches.
Islam rises and falls on Muhammad. He is the religion's sole prophet, Islam?s solitary example, Allah?s lone conduit. Without Muhammad, Allah, the Qur?an, and Islam would be unknown. Yet the picture the Islamic scriptures paint of this man is not flattering
According to the Qur?an and Hadith, Muhammad was a thief, rapist, and terrorist.
Muhammad, Allah, Mecca, and the formation of Islam are completely unknown to secular history. All we know of them is derived from the Qur?an and Hadith. The earliest and most important collection of Hadith is called the Sira, or Biography. Compiled by Ibn Ishaq, the Sira provides the only written account of this man, his god, place and religion within two centuries of his death. There is no other valid source from which Muhammad can be seen, or Islam can be interpreted, differently.
To write Prophet of Doom, I analyzed the Sira, the Ta?rikh, or History of al-Tabari... The result is bone chilling. The depiction of the prophet by the most revered Muslim sources reveals behavior that is immoral, criminal, and violent.
The five oldest and most trusted Islamic sources don't portray Muhammad as a great and godly man. They confirm that he was a thief, liar, assassin, mass murderer, terrorist, warmonger, and an unrestrained sexual pervert engaged in pedophilia, incest, and rape. He authorized deception, assassinations, torture, slavery, and genocide. He was a pirate, not a prophet.
According to the Hadith and the Qur'an, Muhammad and his henchmen plundered their way to power and prosperity. And by putting the Qur'an in chronological order and correlating it with the context of Muhammad's life, we find that Allah mirrored his prophet's character. Muhammad's god condoned immoral and criminal behavior. Allah boasts about being a terrorist. He claims to have deceived men, to have stolen their property, to have enslaved women and children, to having committed acts of murder, genocide, and sadistic tortures.
Real AUDIO Major James Linzey
the threat from Mexican iIllegal Immigrants
Reply #149 on:
March 15, 2005, 11:58:10 PM »
Hezbollah, The Party of God
March 15, 2005 23 12 GMT
By George Friedman
The "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon has encountered its antithesis, Hezbollah.
Comparisons have been drawn between what is happening in Lebanon and the anti-Communist revolutions in Eastern Europe or in Ukraine. These are poor analogies, however, since none of those revolutions encountered a force that was as hardened, as dedicated and as idealistic as they were -- nor one as well-armed. The closest one can come is the Romanian Revolution with its confrontation between demonstrators and the Securitate, the regime's secret police. The Securitate were fearsome, but in the end, isolated and hopeless. Not so Hezbollah.
Hezbollah originated in the Islamic revolution of Iran in the late 1970s. Until then, militant anti-Western forces in the Middle East were primarily Arabist and socialist. Their dream was not of a revival of Islamic religiosity, but rather the creation of a socialist, pan-Arab regime. Operationally, these Arabist militants were heavily dependent on secular Arab regimes such as Egypt, Syria or Libya, and on the support of Soviet-bloc intelligence services. In fact, apart from Israel, their primary targets were the religious Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The Saudis spent a great deal of money and collaborated closely with the United States to contain and defeat these movements.
Hezbollah, a militant successor of the secular Shiite political movement Amal, represented the international wing of Iran's Islamic Revolution. To some extent -- and this must not be overstated -- it was a creation of Iran's intelligence services. Certainly, Hezbollah members worked in close collaboration with Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and did not stray far from Iran's national goals. In the sense that the Iranian revolution was the institutionalization of Shiite Islam, Hezbollah was both an Iranian and a Shiite organization.
For Iran, Hezbollah was intended to serve four purposes:
1. To challenge the secular Arabist movements by providing a powerful Islamist alternative to Nasserism.
2. To provide Tehran with a tool to challenge American interests in the Middle East and, potentially, globally.
3. To pose a threat to conservative Sunni monarchies: Hezbollah could not be dismissed as a secular force, yet it challenged the legitimacy of Sunni regimes that were complicit with the United States.
4. To provide a challenge to Israel emanating from outside the Nasserite mode of thinking.
These were more than sufficient reasons for the Iranians to have helped create Hezbollah, but there was also a fifth. When Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, it had the implicit support of the United States and the Arabian monarchies. Iran was strategically isolated. Its only potential ally was a dangerous one -- the Soviet Union. Officials in Tehran knew that dependency on the Soviets would, fairly quickly, lead to Soviet domination of Iran; thus, while they flirted with the Soviets, they were not prepared to go too far.
The only other regional power that shared Iran's anti-Iraqi interests was Syria. Though both Syria and Iraq were governed by Baathist parties, the bad blood between Damascus and Baghdad ran deep. The Syrians did not want to see Iran defeated in the war; Damascus feared a triumphant Iraq as much as it feared Israel. Geopolitically, there was a natural affinity between Syria and Iran.
There also was an ideological issue at work in the creation of Hezbollah. Because it viewed itself as the true heir to the old Ottoman province of Syria (which had encompassed Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan), Syria was highly ambivalent about the creation of a Palestinian state. Accepting the idea of such a state would have meant the repudiation of Damascus' dream of reclaiming for Syria what had been stolen from it in the Sykes-Picot Treaty, which divided the Ottoman Empire between France and Britain at the end of World War I, tearing the province of Syria in half.
Because Damascus viewed the Palestine Liberation Organization as an enemy, it sponsored its own Palestinian groups in opposition to Yasser Arafat and his Fatah movement. Syria's own Palestinian movements supported the destruction of Israel, but saw Palestine as part of Syria. Hence, there was a great deal of bloodshed between Fatah and pro-Syrian Palestinian groups. It is essential to recall that when Syria first invaded Lebanon in the mid-1970s, it was to crush Fatah in southern Lebanon and support Christian and Shiite allies against that movement. One of the reasons Israel was so comfortable with the initial intervention was its interests in Lebanon and those of Syria coincided.
For Syria, Lebanon was the key. In the 1970s, it was the most successful, Westernized country in the region, and Beirut -- with its banks -- was a financial center. The reclamation of Lebanon was not only the fulfillment of an ideological dream, but a critical pillar of Syria's economic development. In order to dominate the state, Damascus depended on the complex relationships between the Alawites -- a religious minority in the region -- and other groups: Christian, Druze, Sunni and Shia. Like Sicily, Syria-Lebanon was a kaleidoscope of alliances, double-crosses and accommodations. The Syrians had an advantage in this -- their army -- and a patron, the Soviet Union. But in the clan politics of Lebanon, Syrian dominance was far from preordained.
The alignment between Damascus and Tehran over Iraq, then, along with Syria's own attempt to reabsorb Lebanon, generated a mutual interest in the creation of a force in Lebanon that could work toward Iran's goals while also serving Syrian interests in the unfolding Lebanese civil war. Hezbollah became that interest. It served Iran by challenging Israel and the United States, while also threatening the Arabian monarchies. It served Syrian interests by challenging Palestinian secularists while retaining sterling anti-Israeli credentials. And for both Syria and Iran, Hezbollah became a tool for projecting power through terrorist attacks in the region.
Given that this was the Middle East -- and especially given that it was Lebanon -- ideology quickly mixed with business. Throughout the civil war and thereafter, Hezbollah became enmeshed in the complex business arrangements that were the foundation of the al Assad family's power and wealth, and in which senior Iranian officials and clerics also were involved.
Two areas were of particular importance to them all. The first was Beirut itself, where the real estate boom in the 1990s generated billions for all concerned. The second was the Bekaa Valley, a traditional smuggling route where drugs had been processed and staged for movement, first to Sicily and later to the Balkans, for resale in Europe. There were more billions at stake here.
Like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Hezbollah became the guarantor for Iranian and Syrian -- and its own -- commercial interests in the region. The group's interest in drugs took it to Latin America and to Europe, where its ideology also could be practiced. The 1994 attack against a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for example, was ideological. Hezbollah's presence in Latin America had commercial drivers as well. It all fit neatly.
As the situation in Lebanon stands today, then, the withdrawal of the Syrian army is the least interesting aspect. Two much more interesting problems exist.
First, private Syrian and Iranian economic interests in Lebanon define and control that country's economy. The alliances exist both beneath and above ideology -- and run beyond the region. You will find money that eventually traces back to Russia, Germany, the United States and even Israel deeply entangled with Syrian and Iranian money, as well as local funds, throughout the Lebanese economy. On the drug side, everyone who deals in drugs -- and these are big players indeed -- has a stake in the Bekaa Valley. The Syrian army can leave, but Syria will always be there.
Second, Hezbollah is the guarantor of much of the drug trade and is a player in the more legitimate enterprises as well. The group is a military power, and it has nowhere to go. Hezbollah is also very good at what it does, having practiced its craft for a quarter-century. The Israelis show little appetite for tangling with Hezbollah. The United States might have more of an appetite, but it should be remembered that fighting a well-armed, well-trained, experienced force on its own turf, when it has nowhere to retreat, can be done -- but it will cost.
This is why the Bush administration floated a plan that would allow a disarmed Hezbollah to play a role in Lebanon. Put differently, the Bush administration has told Hezbollah it can keep its commercial interests so long as it ceases to be an independent military force. Hezbollah can't buy that for two reasons: First, everyone has independent militias in Lebanon because no one trusts the central government to protect their rights; and second, the most lucrative segment of Hezbollah's interests involves things that most central governments won't protect.
Ultimately, Hezbollah's fate lies in the hands of Syria and, even more, Iran. Hezbollah is wealthy and strong, but unlike al Qaeda, it is dependent on the will of nation-states. The problem is that Iran in particular views Hezbollah -- even more than its nuclear program -- as a tool for controlling the United States. It is precisely the global nature of Hezbollah that makes it so effective. For Iran, Hezbollah keeps the United States honest and also reminds the Sunnis that they are not the only ones with suicide bombers -- an important point in internal politics.
In other words, the United States has hit the hard place in its follow-on strategy. The withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon doesn't begin to deal with the reality of al Assad family power in the country, nor does it deal with the foundation of Iranian power there. Hezbollah is the center of gravity of the problem. The United States can choose to fight the militants -- and we note aircraft carriers heading to the region -- or it can find a modus vivendi.
It is rare to point to Israel as a moderating principle, but the Israelis tried to fight Hezbollah and did withdraw from Lebanon. If the United States now feels emboldened enough to pick up where the Israelis left off, then, it seems that things are indeed going well in the region and the anti-terrorism war.
A thought now comes to mind: "Easy does it."
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