What Should We Make of Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad’s “Letter to the Noble Americans”





Mr. Furnish, Ph.D (Islamic History), is Assistant Professor, History, Georgia Perimeter College, Dunwoody, GA 30338. Mr. Furnish is the author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden (Praeger, 2005). Click here for his website: mahdiwatch.org.

On November 29, 2006 the dubiously-elected President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad, had published in his name an epistle to the people of the United States.  Herewith is an analysis of, and commentary upon, this letter1 (with relevant quotations of Ahmadinezhad’s reproduced): 

Right after opening with the bismillah, invoking Allah the Merciful and Compassionate, Ahmadinezhad prays that God will “bestow upon humanity the perfect human being promised…and make us among his followers.”  This perfect human being is none other than the Awaited Mahdi, usually called the Twelfth Imam in Iranian Shi`ism.  The Mahdi is “the rightly-guided one” who will, according to both Sunni and Shi`i traditions, come before the end of time to create a just global caliphate.  (The major difference is that for Shi`is he has already been here, and will return from hiding; for Sunnis he has yet to emerge into history: a comeback v. a coming out, if you will.)  Ahmadinezhad uttered the same prayer twice, back in his September, 2006 address before the U.N. General Assembly. 

Iran’s president then quickly moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, where he firmly stays for most of the rest of his letter.  Much of it reads as if penned by Howard Dean — well, if the religious convictions were extracted, that is. Of course “the pretext of [the] existence of weapons of mass destruction…[was] just a lie and deception” for the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq.   No doubt Ahmadinezhad has a “Bush Lied, People Died” sticker on his mahdimobile.  He even plays the Cindy Sheehan card: “mothers and relatives” of U.S. soldiers there “have, on numerous occasions, displayed their discontent….” 

Iran’s president does not explain how he knows that “American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq;” perhaps the Hidden Imam is supplying him with this information, gathered mystically or telepathically.  Seemingly having been briefed on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld,  Ahmadinezhad fulminates that “the US Administration is kidnapping its presumed opponents from across the globe and arbitrarily holding them without trial…in horrendous prisons….”  The prime examples of American “illegal and immoral behavior” are of course “the sad stories of Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib prisons.”  The Iranian president’s main source of information on the American domestic scene would seem to be moveon.org (or perhaps network news), for according to him not only are “private phones tapped [and] suspects arbitrarily arrested,” but Americans are also “sometimes beaten in the streets, or even shot to death.”  Ahmadinezhad seems unable to differentiate plain old American street violence, or football victory celebration, from political repression.  And regarding shootings, maybe he was referring to water cannons, in which case Representative John Lewis (D-GA) would no doubt agree (although no one’s seen one here in Atlanta for decades, even during fires). 

However, lest the DNC and the new Democrat majority in Congress get too uppity,  Ahmadinezhad has a warning for them, too: “if the approach remains the same, it would not be unexpected that the American people would similarly reject the new electoral winners….”  Hear that, Independents?  The President of Iran feels your pain.  McCain/Mahmoud 2008? 

Another of Ahmadinezhad’s favorite themes is condemning Israel and shedding crocodile tears for the Palestinians.2 Iran’s president cannot even bring himself to refer to Israel by name: rather, he terms it the “Zionist regime” (which, admittedly, is less hyperbolic than the Arabic al-`adu, “the enemy,” the usual term applied to Israel in the Arab media).  This “regime” — which, one might note, is a product of true democracy and not merely the democratic patina overlaying a theocratic dictatorship which produced Ahmadinezhad — “has driven millions of the inhabitants of Palestine out of their homes,” “many of [whom] have died in the Diaspora and refugees camps.”  Ahmadinezhad conveniently ignores the fact that front-line Arab states have for decades kept Palestinians in those very camps, opting to exploit them against “the Jews” rather than help them assimilate into their own societies. 

Of course “the Zionists” perpetrate “persistent aggressions” — presumably like the Hizbullah-created war of this past summer?  Granted, one can question Israel’s airstrikes on Beirut and other non-Hizbullah areas, but there is no doubt who started that war, and it was not Israel.  Ahmadinezhad wonders why there is this “blind support for the Zionists,” and “what have the Zionists done for the American people that the US administration considers itself obliged to blindly support these infamous aggressors?”  Well, he then answers his own question with the standard Iranian anti-Jewish conspiracy theory: “because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors.”

And of course there’s Iraq. Not only is the U.S. responsible for the death, maiming and displacement of “hundreds of thousands of Iraqis,” but it has done “nothing…to rebuild the ruins, to restore the infrastructure or to alleviate poverty.”  Nothing?  Of course, that probably passes for fact in a country where the state-run media produces TV specials which claim that Pepsi stands for “Place Every Penny to Save Israel.”  But Ahmadinezhad certainly knows how to play the American media; in fact,  Usama bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri could take lessons from him on  doing so.  There were probably multiple cases of whiplash from vigorous head-nodding at the New York Times, National Public Radio and CNN when editors read “would it not be more beneficial to bring the U.S. officers and soldiers home and to spend the astronomical US military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people? As you know very well, many victims of Katrina continue to suffer….”  Nagin/Mahmoud 2008? 

There is one theme in this letter that sounds a more hopeful note for American-Iranian relations, even under this theocratic regime: several times Ahmadinezhad refers to the American people as “God-fearing,” and once as “followers of Divine religion.”  This flies totally in the face of Sunni jihadist ideology, a la Bin Ladin, which maintains that Americans are nothing more than “infidels” and “Crusaders.”  If, as many suspect, Ahmadinezhad takes his marching orders from the ayatollahs (primarily Khamanei), this may indicate a more accommodationist strain toward the American Christian imperium in institutional Iranian Shi`ism than in hardline Sunnism.  Or it may simply indicate another aspect of the attempt by the Iranian leadership to further drive a wedge between a significant chunk of the American electorate and the current administration.  For that reason, President Bush should probably keep Teheran at arm’s length for the time being.

But how long can the U.S. afford to refuse diplomatic relations with one of the key nations in the Middle East?  The hostage crisis is long past, Khomeini is long dead and we do have ambassadors in capitals of countries every bit as unsavory as Iran (Beijing comes to mind).  If, as Ahmadinezhad claims, both the American and Iranian people “embrace…compassion, empathy, respect for the rights of human beings, securing justice and equity and defending the innocent and weak,” then having a Farsi-speaking ambassador in Teheran to question the persecution of, say, Baha’is would, if nothing else, point out the hypocrisy of such self-righteous epistles as this.

1 The full text is available, in translation, at http://edition.cnn.com

2 Some intellectually-honest Middle East historian needs to do an analysis of why revolutionary Iran is so enamored of the Palestinian issue, considering that Iran is not Arab, not Sunni, and does not border Israel.  Is it just a matter of ideological fervor? A means of ratcheting up Teheran’s bid for leadership of the Islamic world?  An attempt to curry favor with Sunnis? Or is it more deeply rooted in eschatological beliefs, such as the tradition that al-Dajjal, “the Deceiver” or Antichrist of Islam, will be Jewish?


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omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

It is a totally unsupported LIE and a vicious fabrication by dishonest propagandists such as Professor Eckstein and the rest of the herd to claim and/or concur that Palestinian acts of violence against their enemies "TARGETED CHILDREN"; despite the sad incident in Gaza which seemingly did.
Children has no doubt suffered with the other victims of the attacks but were NOT targetted as such.

IF anything the Israeli Air Force, the cream of the cream of the aggressive and usurping nation/state of Israel , DID deliberately target children in its air attack on Bahr Al Baqr school in upper Egypt where some 90 childen were killed (Israeli efficiency?) and Israeli soldiers and settlers have frequently been known to target children ; the most outstanding example being Mohamed AlDurra shot at in cold bood under the watchful eyes of a chance TV camera.

However what makes this part of the thread more interesting than most is that a deliberate LIE by Professor Eckstein about targetting children by being heavily debated, scrutinized and discussed has first gained the semblance then the status of a truth with people duscussing it as if it were...which it is not if we recall that the key expression which aroused so much interest is TARGETTED CHILDREN.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

May be!
Still it is hard and sad to think that people with such characters and output are UNIVERSITY professors.
What ever happened to the mannered men of knowledge?
The bright side ,though, is that Freshman students are protesting and seemingly rejecting them.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedmam
Your defense statement argues:
"M gut reaction is that he(Prof Furnish) was interested in the line of argument use rather than whether the argument was based on facts."

reveals a lot about you and your gut reaction; possibly more than you have intended, though it accurately depicts your and yours mode of thinking and public sddress.

It boils down to:" the line of argument" is more important than the facts on which it is based!!ie a good line of argument can be initiated and sustained through LIES and FABRICATIONS; which is, unmistakably, the historical Zionist/Jewish address re Palestine .

Of that WE never had any doubts; it is good, however, for you to spell it it so openly for the unknowing to know.
Bravo...hopefully more of the same candour in the future


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Berkowitz
I presume your post # 102746 was addressed to me so I reply. If I am mistaken please ignore it.
Honestly I am at a loss about your rambling, not said in disrespect, post.
My specific point was that A LIE ( that Palestinians target children)because of the interst it aroused came to be dealt with as a truth and was discussed as such.

The Likes of Professor Eckstein, and the prof himself, seems to be a masters at disinformation by diverting attention from an unfavourable point to another without ever dealing with that that displeased them in the first place; as if or as definetly coached by a master guide.
Obviously such tactics work with the unknowing and the innocent seeker of truth and facts, being their prime targets,and not with their adversaries who know better.
You touch on many worthy points; I will single out the question of "terrorism" .

I believe an act is as much of a "terrorist " act as the number of victims it leads to and the "leathality" of the weapons/systems used.
As such Deir Yassin, Qanaa 1&2, Bahr El Bakar, the demolition of populated Residential buildings in Nablus and Gaza or residential refugee camps as in Jenin etc (all the acts of the Israeli army) and the demolition ofAl Ameria air shelter in Baghdad ,the Falluga and Haditha massacres etc ( the acts of the USA army) are much more acts of terrorism than anything ever done by the Palestinians because of the number of victims they led to and the lethality of the weapons used by the three parties!
That should hold true and indisputable IF we all believe that all human beings ARE of EQUAL worth irrespective of colour, creed , nationality etc.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007


Having failed to come up with anything of substance to say about Ahmedi Nejjads’ address to the American public; a heart felt, frank, sincere and nondiplomatic address, Professor Furnish resorts to a plethora of, failed humour, disinformation, feigned or (not surprisingly) real ignorance of pertinent facts and of outright lies and fabrications in an insinuation full post which ends with the most childishly banal of conclusions:

"then having a Farsi-speaking ambassador in Teheran to question the persecution of, say, Baha’is would, if nothing else, point out the hypocrisy of such self-righteous epistles as this. “
***Apart from the unprofessorial attempt at ridiculing the religious beliefs of others (Cf. Furnish on the Mahdi proposition) he resorts to a cheap, but definitely failed, attempt at humour as in his:

“ No doubt Ahmadinezhad has a “Bush Lied, People Died” sticker on his mahdimobile.”; note the “mahdimobile.

***Professor Furnish seems to believe that he is addressing, on this forum, a bunch of idiotic ignoramuses by his childish attempt to impinge on Nejjad’s credibility when he seriously wonders how Nejjad “knew that….”in his statement:

“ Iran’s president does not explain how he knows that “American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq;” perhaps the Hidden Imam is supplying him with this information, gathered mystically or telepathically.

Is there NOT a freshman student at Furnish’s University to tell him that Iran has a pervasive and efficient “intelligence” network at work in Iraq and that that needs no “explanation”.
(Note equally the inane attempt at the ridicule of Nejjad’s religious beliefs in the sentence:

” perhaps the Hidden Imam is supplying him with this information, gathered mystically or telepathically”

***Furnih’s presumed knowledge , and/or confirmed ignorance of the region, is betrayed with such unfounded assertions as his claim' petty as it is :

“he terms it the “Zionist regime” (which, admittedly, is less hyperbolic than the Arabic al-`adu, “the enemy,” the usual term applied to Israel in the Arab media).”
A False and incorrect statement :Israel is referred to in progressive anti imperialist Arab media as “Al Kiyan al Sahyni=the Zionist entity” and rarely as” al-`adu, “the enemy,” , though this is NOT to say that it is NOT the enemy but to belie Furnish’s pretensions of an intimate insider’s knowledge of the Arab scene.


***Though a Professor and supposedly beholden to the dissemination of truth Professor Furnish does not balk at misinforming his readers through a conscious and deliberate attempt at WITHHOLDING the truth.
His sentence below:

” Ahmadinezhad conveniently ignores the fact that front-line Arab states have for decades kept Palestinians in those very camps, opting to exploit them against “the Jews” rather than help them assimilate into their own societies. “

Clearly insinuates that the Palestinian Refugees problem persists because of ” front-line Arab states have for decades kept Palestinians in those very camps, opting to exploit them against “the Jews” rather than help them assimilate into their own societies. “

BUT SUBJECTIVELY Professor Furnish
fails to note the overriding fact that the problem of Palestinian Refugees persists because of ISRAEL’s denial of their RIGHT of RETURN to their native land and their, the refugees', adamant rejection of any settlement OUTSIDE of their own homeland; which is what Nejjad was referring to in the first place.
A very unprofessorial deliberate withholding of facts in a manner meant to disinform the general reader.

*** To bolster his subjective, antiobjective, stand Professor Furnish does NOT hesitate to curtail facts and misuse the English language with the conscious deliberate objective to deceive his readers when he states:

“ Granted, one can question Israel’s airstrikes on Beirut and other non-Hizbullah areas, but there is no doubt who started that war, and it was not Israel.”

Here we note:
1-Contary to Furnish’s assertion the “war “ (the word used here is “war” which denotes the use of tanks, airplanes etc and not “hostilities” which imply limited military action) was undeniably started by Israel in response to a limited military operation by Hizbullah which involved Israeli causalities and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. (NOT an uncommon practice by BOTH sides since 1982)


2-He uses the term “non Hizbullah areas” instead of the all too well known and exact , but damning, term “civillian residential areas” thus NOT only attempting to deceive and misinform his reader but equally sanctioning, approving and supporting the bombing of civilian residential areas with Hizbullah supporters.


One thing is, however, eminently clear in Professor Furnish’s post : the relative overriding enthusiasm with which he responds to Nejjad’s speech when it touches on Israel versus the USA and the little concern he shows for the American made human tragedy that is now unfolding for the American public and which has already engulfed the Iraqi people.

Professor Furnish contempt for the feelings of bereaved American families is , though, NOT absent with this memorable line of his:

” He even plays the Cindy Sheehan card: “mothers and relatives” of U.S. soldiers there “have, on numerous occasions, displayed their discontent….”

So why did Professor Furnish pen this banal, unobjective and truly sub professorial post ??One is bound to wonder.
Judging by its vacuity and banality he has one overriding fear: that the American public would read, hear and listen to what Nejjad had to say about Iraq, Iran and Israel and the American tragedy resulting from its wanton conquest of Iraq!








omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

It takes a certain culture of inborn aggressiveness and racism to condemn a whole people for the acts of one or several men.
It takes an inborn, home cultivated and nourished, culture to LIE brazenly as when the un...Professor claims that I have accused the "Jews", the actual word used was "Israeli" not Jews, of committing this crime and when the exact term I used was "the prime suspects" or "prime suspicion" or words to that effect that constitute a “suspicion” and not an “accusation”.

Is it that he does not know the difference between the two terms? He certainly does know the difference but his obsession with lying prevails.

This unworthy Professor is amply endowed with both the racist and the fabrication culture and is a typical specimen of the shameless racist liar!


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Friedman
Once more I find myself in agreement with part of what you have to say:
"My point is that the reason they ( Palestinian Refugees)continue to suffer at this point is their unwillingness to resettle - which is a political, ....(the rest of the sentence being cheap PR is excised for clarity)".

Yes the problem of Palestinian refugees IS a political, and not a humanitarian, issue in the sense that it is UP to THEM to decide on their fate, not to Israel's nor to the USA's!
It is equally a political issue in that the refuggees forced and voluntary dislocation , during war time activities, resulted from the Zionist conquest of Palestine and its attempted colonization by aliens selected and gathered according to pure, unmitigated racial/racist criterion (Jewish blood!).
And YES it is “their unwillingness to resettle” anywhere EXCEPT in their HOMELAND that keeps the issue alive, vibrant and decisive

The overwhelming majority of Palestinian Refugees DO rejects, and adamantly opposes, any policy or move meant to settle them OUT OF THEIR OWN HOMELAND Palestine.
They believe in and adamantly adhere to their inalienable RIGHT of RETURN to their homeland and to repossess their legally acquired properties.

In the simplest and most basic of terms that, Mr. Friedman, is called "patriotism" by all except the racially blinded/the racist usurper who supplanted them in their native land and took over their legitimate properties.

By the way Mr.Friedman ;“patriotism” is defined as:
”national pride; pride in or devotion to the country somebody was born in or is a citizen of”.
Kindly note the devotion element and remember that Palestinian Refugees are human beings with a right to decide where they like to settle and NOT chattel for others to decide on their fate
However if you, Mr. Friedman, choose to call that anything else than "patriotism" that would be more of a reflection on your, and yours, contortioned minds, perverted psyches and relative morality than an honest search for the exact meaning of words.
.
!


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Professor!!!
I have promised my self not to indulge in personal abuse reciprocation, mud slinging?, even with people like you who seem to invite it and often fully deserve it.
You make it hard for me to keep my promise.
However the only thing that I have to tell you in this respect re CHOICE is that the Palestinian people including of course Palestinian refugees have consciously made their CHOICE:NEVER to give up on their rights in their homeland Palestine with all that that entails.
I propose you invite Professor Furnish to come and watch some TV shows with you which might inspire either or both of you with something of substance to say and write about for a well earned change by the readers of this forum.


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Professor Furnish
You loose me!
What is "a horse's patoot" ;kindly share your bottomless wealth of knowledge with the less erudite which include me when it comes to such gems as the "horse's patoot"!


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

"If Omar is correct, then any Palestinian "protests" are for purely propagandistic purposes and do not reflect any serious humanistic concern about loss of innocent life."

Prof...do I have to tell you that "protests" are one way of enlightening the unknowing and/or to rally support from the freedom and justice upholding .
Well; It seems I do have to tell you the A, B and Cs of modern life.

The Palestinian Refugees issue is NOT a humanitarian issue in the sense of an alms seeking issue but certainly IS for all that believe in human rights and the inalienable Right , by and for any human being, to REturn to his homeland if forcedly dislocated by an aggressive , racist usurper or for any and everybody who voluntary choses to distance himself from a war zone while armies are fighting.
That would be D,E and F!

You would be teaching zeology or microchemistry Prof, not history ,if you need guidance to these elementary facts!


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

For your info "madrassa" means school ; few schools,if any, would dwell on patoot and similar.
As to my nature and identity I have never tried to conceal or misrepresent or pretend other than what they are.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge with me!


omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

For all that we know these innocent children could have been murdered by any of the many that plan and crave for a Fatah/Hamas all out war or by criminal Palestinian elements (Yes we have some; do you have any?)or by an accidental exchange of fire between the hot heads of both.
However going by the cardinal test of Politics:who stands to benefit most from this ugly episode ?
The answer that imposes itself is: Israel stands to benefit most from this murder: PR etc as with the ...Professor and, hopefully for Israel, an all out Palestinian civil war between Hamas and Fateh!

So untill irrevocable proof is obtained about who and why this abominable act was committed I believe that, rationally and historically, the prime suspicion is that it is an Israeli deed executed directly through its Arab dressed Jewish agents of Shin Beth (Al mustareibbin)or indirectly through hired Palestinian agents/lackeys.

I propose that Professor Eckstein holds back his joy and glee untill more is known about this accident!
Next we might be confronted with the fact that Professor Eckstein is elected Chairman of the Ethics committee of AIPAC, or of its local chapter at the University of Maryland!
That will not surprise me!


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Now a "professor" is arguing with a freshman student. An HNN first.

Is there a factual basis for saying that Ahmadinejad’s letter "reads as if penned by Howard Dean"?

Is there any evidence that Ahmadinejad has the slightest knowledge of Howard Dean?

Or that any of Dean's policy ideas have anything to do with Ahmadinejad?

Or that anything Ahmadinejad is doing has anything to do with two-bit characterizations of "left" vs "right" in sub-intelligent discussions of American politics?

Maybe it takes a "patoot" to not know one.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Because the poster is a subprofessional.
Professionals have PhDs in real history, do not write juvenile smear jobs masquerading as articles, and do not engage in petty debates with critics on HNN.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

One key reason why Iranian leaders are "so enamored of the Palestinian issue" is surely that it offers a convenient distraction from the failure of those leaders to provide their people with what they (the people) want: jobs, education, opportunities for a higher standard of living, etc.

The nuclear program in Iran has similar motives behind it.

Cheney's Iraq fiasco was also similarly ratified by Rove and Bush because it offered a viable distraction from the failures of that inept administration to do anything meaningful domestically except to destroy the fiscal stability of the fderal budget.

The towering difference of course is that the Iranian rulers have successfully chosen issues (Palestine and nuclear capability) where the hypocrisy of America and the West glares blindingly, and where they can make their absurdities look normal by comparison. Bush-Cheney, in contrast chose a distraction which -courtesy of their gross incompetence- threw America into a quagmire that is resulting theirs becoming widely regarded as the worst presidency in American historian (notwithstanding the juvenile smears of alternative policies presented in the hatchet job discussed here).


N. Friedman - 12/16/2006

Howard,

1. I do not lie. I do, on occasion, make mistakes. I have not misrepresented your positions, at least not on purpose. You either misstated your views or I misread them.

2. On the other hand, whether or not on purpose, you have, a number of times, misstated my positions. Maybe that was due to your misreading my statements or my miswording them. I shall not accuse you of lying.

2. You admitted my argument in its entirety, namely, that the size of Israel's program is unknown. There are only estimates. They may be grossly wrong. That was my point from the beginning. You do not need to have anything other than common sense to know that from fragmentary evidence, you cannot know the whole. I learned that in Philosophy 101 thirty years ago. It is the blind man feeling the elephant scenario. So, you cannot know the size of Israel's program from the public data. Duh.

3. You write: "You admit you can't participate in that discussion, but you want to insist no one else can know."

As I said, my argument was based on logic, which it was. You cannot know the size of Israel's arsenal or even if it is just a big bluff from the sort of evidence you could find in the public arena.

4. You wanted to discuss national destruction, something that has a meaning in your field. Have you ever read Wittgenstein? If you had, you would realize that a word can mean something quite different in different fields of endeavor. In other words, I was not using the phrase the way you used it. I was using the word as historians and general writers use it. And, you might note that this website is about history, not military language.

5. You ignored my entire argument, focusing on the field you claim knowledge in. ON THE OTHER HAND, when I spoke about things I know something about - e.g. Islamic theology and history -, you claim me wrong. You claimed that the view I cited - the view taken by Ibn Khaldun (i.e. the greatest historian of Islam, who himself was a believing Muslim and who had good reason to know), Bernard Lewis (i.e. the greatest scholar of Islam from our generation), Ignaz Goldhizer (i.e. the greatest scholar of Islam from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries), MJ Akbar (an excellent writer) - is wrong. You think their analysis of what Muslims believe is only about one of many views, rather than the mainstream view. In a word, you do not know what you are talking about.

6. Now, you do nothing but state that you would not stand with Israel. You can do better than that. You say that there is no treaty. That is a lame argument. You say that Israel ought have no special place in the West and in the Muslim regions. The fact is, however, that it has one for a host of reasons and there are consequences to that fact. So, your argument is irrelevant and meaningless. So, the real question would be the impact on such fact on the US and Europe were Israel to be destroyed. I noted that the Muslim bet - as articulated by Ahmadinejad - is that it would deal a devastating blow to the West.

7. Your credentials are interesting. They do not make you an expert about Islamic theology or history.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/16/2006

Well, let's see..."your knowledge of me". Just as some random things...

C3I (command, control,communications & intelligence) from National Communications System (e.g., MEECN) to Y2K Information Center, with current work in disaster medical servies. Designed emergency WMD laboratories for Gett Communications emergency operations proposals; it does help to have education in biochemistry. Critical infrastructure architect, most recently in service provider security for Cisco, and presenting service provider security at Summer 2006 NANOG. OSINT is a recent and recurring consulting area. Before I was a Recovering Republican, on YRNF Foreign and Military Policy committee with major emphasis on technology. Technology forecasting for Office of Naval Research. My books published by John Wiley & Sons discuss national critical infrastructure vulnerability and mitigation -- while the specific is communications, one must be aware of site hardening, EMP, and other WMD effects to write plausibly about one system.

I have offered to discuss an engineering basis of my assertions. You wave your hands, and claim neither of us are experts -- but you don't demonstrate enough subject matter knowledge to tell who is an expert. You admit you can't participate in that discussion, but you want to insist no one else can know. Ever notice why an open tub of live crabs has no escapes? Every time a crab starts to climb out, the other crabs pull it back so he isn't better than them. Insisting, from a starting point of admitted ignorance, that no one has expertise is rather crabby.

You appear to be carefully misreading or massively misunderstanding, when you take what I wrote about missiles and throw-weight, in the specific context YOU BROUGHT UP of national destruction, and started talking about terrorist delivery of nuclear weapons. Apparently, since you can't even discuss my area of argument -- and there are counterarguments to be made -- you can change the subject to someting Nobody Can Know. I wasn't talking about truck-delivered terrorist nuclear weapons, but systems that could plausibly get warheads through Israeli defenses.

You said "Now, you have made an assertion that the evidence is sufficient to know the details of Israel's program." That is a lie, or, at best, bad rephrasing. I said, and gave basic justification, that most estimates give Israel a capability in the low hundreds of nuclear weapons. Given the MUF traced there and Dimona capabilities, that sets a bound. We do not know what they can do in miniaturization and yield enhancement. We do know they have the Jericho, Harpoon, and Turbo Popeye delivery systems, with fairly hard data -- two of these are used by the US military.


N. Friedman - 12/16/2006

Howard,

You write: "Trade and international peacekeeping operations, as a start."

Some European countries have big economies; some have smaller economies than Israel. As for peacekeeping operations, some help and some do not. Some claim to help but do rather little. So, why should we benefit those countries in the EU which do less than Israel does to help the US and has less to offer, to boot?

Also, as I noted, Israel's contribution in the sciences and engineering is rather at the top, as you know full well.

You write: "I don't see how the actions of France and Russia can be judged without reference, in 2003, to the Bush policies."

I do not recall bringing Russia into the conversation. I never expected Russia to help the US.

As for France, its longstanding policy is to undermine US power. For whatever reason, the Bushites were ill informed as they still saw France's options more or less trapped into assisting the US, as it more or less was doing during the cold war. That was a serious blunder. But, France, of course, did not need to cast its lot with the Arab League and Russia. Its survival was not at stake. So, that was a deliberate attempt to harm the US.

In 2003, France followed long standing French policy to undermine US power. In that a lot of Americans have died - in part due to the efforts of France to divide the West in France's effort to counter the US -, that places France rather low in my book. In fact, I hear about our boys being killed when, had France cooperated, fewer Americans might be dead. So, France is not worth the time of day, so far as I am concerned.

Obviously, you do need to consider the circumstance in which France asserted its policy. But, opposing US power is French policy and was before and after 2003. Opposing the US has been French policy since the time of DeGaul but most particularly since the time of the first Arab oil embargo when France convinced its EEC neighbors of the idea of creating a counterweight to the US by using the excuse of that boycott to create a serious political entente with the Arab League countries rather than stand up to the boycott as Kissinger proposed and the US successfully did. France's policy regarding the EU is to create a transnational power, along with the Arab League states, to oppose American power.

So, when France acted in 2003, it was acting rather predictably, namely, to preserve its major foreign policy objective that involves, among other things, siding with Arabs against the US. Yet, you think France deserves protection from the US that Israel does not. Amazing.

Regarding the China Falcon matter, it is a comparatively minor matter. By contrast, France helped to get us into the problems that have arisen in Iraq and, indirectly by creating disunity in the West, France is nearly as responsible for what has occurred as Bush is.

You write: "I'm sorry, I can't tell if you are referring to Iran, Libya, or Iraq. It's also quite possible for a militarily insignificant program to elude detection."

My contention is that a state can, if it is large enough, always evade detection. If history is shows anything, determined people can do things that are seemingly not possible. And, hiding military secrets is high on the list of things that countries are determined to do.

Now, I know that there are special problems with respect to nuclear technology. But, that does not mean that a determined party will be unable to elude detection.

Now, the country I had in mind is Iran, which had a program in place for decades which, evidently, was entirely unknown. I am not aware of the program being all that small. And, at this point, we simply do not know the extent of the program. The public data supports your view, from what I have read, that Iran has a quite a way to go. Whether that is the end of the matter is not remotely so clear. And, we do not know whether Iran is obtaining covert support from others, such as Russia - which ought know better - or from the black market or from any of a host of other possible sources.

There was an excellent article in Foreign Policy regarding building a bomb by terrorist groups - within the USA, at that. Your view that a program that achieves nuclear weapons could not go undetected is contradicted by that article. It is now posted off of that website at http://www.mail-archive.com/osint@yahoogroups.com/msg29761.html .

The authors appear to be rather expert on the topic. Referring to terrorist groups, the authors write: Most observers, however, agree that a small group could construct a lethal nuclear weapon since they are conceptually simple devices.

I should add that Iran is not alone in this. Iraq, in the period before Gulf War I, had a far more substantial program than the West was evidently aware.

What you confuse, I think, is a program like the US has and a program designed to place a country in the nuclear club. The latter is doable without detection. And, for a country like Iran, which is not akin to the US, such a program may serve its purposes rather well.

You write: "You say engineering analysis is inappropriate. Sorry, without other substantive information, that's all I have."

No, I am saying something a bit different. I am saying that you are making assertions from evidence which has multiple logical and reasonable explanations. Hence, you cannot reach the assured conclusions you reach.


You write: "Are you suggesting a US Administration should unilaterally, without a treaty, retaliate for nuclear attacks against Israel?"

The long standing policy of the US is to protect Israel. Such has been stated repeatedly by multiple administrations. Not only does that policy have long standing presidential support but also overwhelming support from Congress; in fact, perhaps greater support in Congress than on behalf of any other country except the UK - and certainly far more than for France or Germany or Spain or Portugal or Greece or Belgium. And, such policy is consistent with the popularity of Israel in the US, which is third most popular on Earth, after the UK and Canada.

When Israel was attacked in 1973, the US, without, at the time, any real treaty or even close military association with Israel, assisted Israel substantially, resupplying the country. Was that an impeachable offense?

To be blunt, the premise of your question is false.

Now, if the West is to survive - and I am repeating myself but you do not seem to understand my argument since you seem lost in nonsensical legalisms -, it is necessary not to allow a genocide of Westerners, most especially of Jews. You can talk treaties to you are blue in the face. The fact is that a nuclear attack on Israel would deal a devastating blow to Western civilization from which it might never recover - in which case, the Jihadists will not need a real army to conquer Europe. The Islamists, to be sure, have bet much of the house on that proposition. And, considering the blow, which Europe clearly has not recovered from, that Nazi barbarism last dealt all of European civilization, that is not a bad bet at all.

Since, the last paragraph is my actual argument, you might do well to address the point rather than twist the conversation into one about what a person can know from a smattering of guesses made about bits and pieces of engineering evidence.

You write: "If it did, I would work as hard as possible for its impeachment."

Fortunately, you do not have that sort of influence in the US.

You write: "I will not accept a unique protective role for the US to take toward Israel."

Why not? If Israel, like France's survival, is important to the West, why should the US not be protective toward Israel? Your view strikes me as being naive.

You write: "There are engineering aspects to evaluating WMD programs, and I see no evidence that you know enough about them to have an informed opinion. You have repeatedly said neither of us are experts, but you have no information on my background. I'm willing to defend open source analysis in public...but that implies that the prosecutor understand the subject."

I do not claim to have an informed engineering opinion on the matter. But, I can read and I know the empirical limitations of reaching firm conclusions from evidence that is capable of more than one reasonable explanation. And, I know, having spent time reading actual history books, that countries manage to hide just about anything, if it is important enough. And, at the same time, countries can sometimes be doing something quite innocent yet have all the telltale signs of doing something very sinister.

Now, you have made an assertion that the evidence is sufficient to know the details of Israel's program. That is something which you, not I, need to prove. I, frankly, know you cannot prove it with the public data. Why? Because the data is susceptible to multiple interpretations. Hence, the most you can possibly do is make reasonable speculation which, to note, other speculators can assert different conclusions. When it is clear that your explanation is the only reasonable explanation, then you can assert a firm opinion. Until then, your speculation is no better than anyone else's.

As for my knowledge of you, I, in fact, did check you out when you first began asserting "intelligence" positions. You would be wise to note that I - or anyone else who spends quite a bit of time on the Internet - am rather knowledgeable about hunting things down.


Arnold Shcherban - 12/16/2006

What "devastating attack" "we" applied
to the USSR? Are you MAD?


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/15/2006

You wrote,"You then assert points I never stated or suggested. I suggested no binary anything. What I said is that Israel is part of our civilization, which it surely is and as part of our civilization is important to our survival - and not as a bulwark against the barbaric Muslims, although it is that to some minor extent."
In the earlier post, you asked a question of whether a country should be left to fend for itself against barbarians. The way you put it is binary: with the massive amount of military aid received by Israel (and Egypt), Israel, which also has significant domestic weapons industry, is hardly left to fend for itself. Given the nature of what it was requesting, I do hope its urgent request for M26 MLRS rockets, during Lebanese operations, was rejected.

You ask, "In what way are they more important?"

Trade and international peacekeeping operations, as a start.

"What is Europe doing for the US? Is it not acting to undermine the US? Is that not what France was doing in the UN in 2003? And, frankly, that has nothing to do with the poor politics of the Bushites - poor as it was and is -. "

I don't see how the actions of France and Russia can be judged without reference, in 2003, to the Bush policies.

As I read your statements, any national interest that does not agree with the primacy of the US is wrong. Israel seems content, as long as US interests do not interfere with those of Israel. Just as one example, I hardly consider the attempted sale of Phalcon AWACS to China in the US interest -- it was stopped after US protests, but never should have gotten that far given the US technology licensing agreements signed by Israeli firms.

"Here is a question for you? How is it that the program managed to avoid detection for decades if we can make estimates the way you claim?" I'm sorry, I can't tell if you are referring to Iran, Libya, or Iraq. It's also quite possible for a militarily insignificant program to elude detection.

"Given the military relationship between the countries, it seems to me that the US has a rather close relationship with Israel, closer than with a lot of the countries you deem to be more important." The military relationship was significant during the Cold War, as a source of technical intelligence. I see nothing in the relationship with Israel that the US requires, although some things are convenient. The Israeli military needs the US; the reverse is not true.

Your question, in context, seems to beg the question of putting Israel under the US nuclear umbrella, rather than any real flavor of "fend for itself."

You say engineering analysis is inappropriate. Sorry, without other substantive information, that's all I have. Are you suggesting a US Administration should unilaterally, without a treaty, retaliate for nuclear attacks against Israel? If it did, I would work as hard as possible for its impeachment. I will not accept a unique protective role for the US to take toward Israel.

"Forgive me if I am critical of your manner of analysis." You aren't offering analysis. You are offering a desired policy and then dismissing any argument that does not support it. I am not willing to engage in the sort of cross-examination "well is there any possibility you are wrong."

There are engineering aspects to evaluating WMD programs, and I see no evidence that you know enough about them to have an informed opinion. You have repeatedly said neither of us are experts, but you have no information on my background. I'm willing to defend open source analysis in public...but that implies that the prosecutor understand the subject.


N. Friedman - 12/15/2006

CORRECTION:

Delete the sentence that reads: "I am reminded by a WWII friend of mine that the experts were rather sure about the state of Germany's military, at the time the country was re-arming secretly."

Substitute:

I am reminded by a WWII historian/friend of mine that the experts were rather sure about the state of Germany's military, at the time the country was re-arming secretly.


N. Friedman - 12/15/2006

Howard,

You write: "Most serious estimates of the size of the Israeli nuclear stockpile start from the base of diverted fissionable materials, plus the observable characteristics of the Dimona reactors."

Again, none of that proves the size of Israel's arsenal.

You next claim "Unless you are willing to engage in an open source intelligence discussion about nuclear capabilities, your dismissal is a strawman."

Again, my only point is that the size of Israel's arsenal is unknown. And your statements to the contrary do not change that. Perhaps Israel was diverting material for other purposes. I have no idea and I do not think it of much importance, which was my actual point.

You next throw out the ultimate straw man to claim I am playing games. You claim "You say you don't want to discuss the role of NATO, but then go on, with inaccuracies, to describe its role as limited to the Warsaw Pact. Looked at the Balkans since the fall of the USSR?"

I said that such is the reason for NATO. I suggest you examine that fact as it is a fact.

If we were to discuss NATO in connection with the Balkans, the most apt point was its failure to act - which was an important factor in the initial spread of Jihadism to Europe. But, be that as it may, your point suggests that we should stand with the UK - and the various European nations - as if our future belonged with that dying civilization. I think we should stand with all who are part of our civilization, since it is under attack.

You then assert points I never stated or suggested. I suggested no binary anything. What I said is that Israel is part of our civilization, which it surely is and as part of our civilization is important to our survival - and not as a bulwark against the barbaric Muslims, although it is that to some minor extent.

In this regard, I agree with physicist Steven Weinberg who thinks Israel's survival is critical to the survival of the West - as an integral part of it. Most particularly, if Israel falls and is perceived - which it surely would be - to have been allowed to fall by the West, the survival of the West would, as it was after WWII, be tested in a way not tested since WWII. I suspect that it would fail the test this time.

One need merely read the role that Israel, in existence, plays in European thought and politics to realize that Israel's destruction would be a catastrophe of unparalleled (and worse than the Shoah) significance in European history - and not just for Jews, for which it would mean their end as a people.

You write: "I see European and Asian allies as far more important, and will not support making Israel a special case over them."

In what way are they more important? What is Europe doing for the US? Is it not acting to undermine the US? Is that not what France was doing in the UN in 2003? And, frankly, that has nothing to do with the poor politics of the Bushites - poor as it was and is -. France's publicly stated goal is to undermine the US (i.e. anti-hyperpowerism) and to establish an alliance of European and Arab states to counter the US. And, it largely has succeeded in that, by means of the EU and its moronic, self-destructive Euro-Arab Dialogue. How you conclude that Europe, which mostly wants its own destiny apart from the US, is a real friend while Israel, which clearly wants good relations with us, should fend for itself is, to me, cynicism beyond all imagination. And, frankly, cynical policies tend to fail in the end.

And, if, say, Greece (or, even more so, Spain) is important to us, is it more important than Israel? Which country produces more scientific achievements, Israel or Greece (or Spain)? Is there really any serious doubt?

I, however, do not believe we should be that choosy. We can be friends with the Europeans, with the East Asians and with Israel. I do not see how you would be making a "special" case for Israel. Given the military relationship between the countries, it seems to me that the US has a rather close relationship with Israel, closer than with a lot of the countries you deem to be more important.

You write: "Complete? No. Sufficient to make serious estimates? Yes. Again, a reasonable estimate begins with applying known principles of weapons engineering to both the nuclear development program and to delivery systems with a credible capability."

Here is a question for you? How is it that the program managed to avoid detection for decades if we can make estimates the way you claim? Your position, to be frank, strikes me as the application of engineering where it cannot be applied, namely, to know what people are clandestinely doing. I am reminded by a WWII friend of mine that the experts were rather sure about the state of Germany's military, at the time the country was re-arming secretly.

You write: "For all the fear, neither Iraq nor Libya had a significant nuclear delivery capability. Your point is what? "

The point is that, apart from what we learned from AQ Khan, we knew nothing about the doings of Libya.

You write: "You appear to be hand-waving about what is known and not known. "

That is exactly correct. I do not think we have sufficient information to know what you claim to know. I do not think you can make a judgment, one way or the other, from the sort of indirect information you discuss. The conclusions you reach from the known information is premised on the false certainty, the very mistake made by the Bushites - only in reverse. Or, in simple terms, this really is not entirely an engineering problem.

Forgive me if I am critical of your manner of analysis. But, to me, it is ahistorical and wrong. Countries have always managed to hide large scale programs when they want to. To me, what the Khan group revealed - and I assume that it was one of many such groups - is that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable and that the world needs to stand together, not divide on the basis of nonsense distinctions such as a NATO - a thing of the past -.



Howard C Berkowitz - 12/15/2006

[I refer to your numbers]

1. Most serious estimates of the size of the Israeli nuclear stockpile start from the base of diverted fissionable materials, plus the observable characteristics of the Dimona reactors.

Unless you are willing to engage in an open source intelligence discussion about nuclear capabilities, your dismissal is a strawman. To borrow from Chief Engineer Scott, "Keptin, you canna ignores the rules of physics". There are abundant resources, starting with Glasstone, and using such things as Sublette, to discuss nuclear weapons engineering. If you don't want to go into that detail, especially when you announce I'm not an expert and I can't know, you are handwaving. Or did you want to discuss the phase transitions of plutonium and the resultant compressions and effect on the pit alpha?

You say you don't want to discuss the role of NATO, but then go on, with inaccuracies, to describe its role as limited to the Warsaw Pact. Looked at the Balkans since the fall of the USSR?

You then ask what seems a loaded question: "I am not willing to leave a country dedicated to our civilization to fend for itself with the
barbarians of the Arab Muslim lands. Are you?"

Assuming you refer to Israel, I don't see it is dedicated to what I see as my civilization. It has some common interests, but I don't consider it as important to the US as Britain or Japan. With the amount of military aid it receives, it hardly is left to fend for itself. But, if you want a dramatic answer and insist on a binary answer, especially when you suggest putting a US nuclear umbrella over it, IN THE CONTEXT OF YOUR BINARY QUESTION, I am perfectly willing to let it fend for itself, just as I am willing to let any nation without a credible mutual defense treaty to fend for itself. If there is a supreme US interest involved, that's another matter, but I don't see Israel as the principal bulkwark against Muslim barbarism. No, distancing the US isn't saying Israel has no right to exist.

5. Referring to various treaties, "So, that is no reason to leave Israel out". I see no reason to put Israel in. Again, I see European and Asian allies as far more important, and will not support making Israel a special case over them.

This is not opposing Israel's right to exist. This is, however, rejecting the idea of unique status for Israel.

6. "One might ask how we know the true status of Iran's program. Do we know the tip of the iceberg or do we have complete information?"

Complete? No. Sufficient to make serious estimates? Yes. Again, a
reasonable estimate begins with applying known principles of weapons engineering to both the nuclear development program and to delivery systems with a credible capability.

"Is it the sort of really accurate information we had about Iraq? Is it the sort of information that we had about Libya until just recently?"

For all the fear, neither Iraq nor Libya had a significant nuclear delivery capability. Your point is what? The Administration brought up all sorts of scary things about Iraq's WMD capability, which have not materialized.

You appear to be hand-waving about what is known and not known. The yield and CEP necessary to take out a silo is known; it's an equation rather than a single number. One cannot conceal long-range missile tests, and there is reasonable data on the Fajr-3 and Shahab-3. We can, of course, be more frightened of Iran given it helped the North Koreans with the Taepodong-2. How far did that get before exploding? The programs of Iran and North Korea cooperate a good deal and inferences can be drawn there.

7. If we are talking about the 2nd gulf war, we do not disagree about the intelligence of the policymakers. That doesn't mean that there isn't intelligence they don't want to hear, or that there are reasonable technical ways to approximate capability from open sources.




N. Friedman - 12/15/2006

Howard,

1. As to the size of Israel's arsenal... The Israelis have never said the scope of any nuclear weapons program the country has. The high estimates, so far as I know, come from people and organizations which have very strong political animus toward Israel and thus have no real credibility, in my humble view. Israel may have a relatively small arsenal, it may have a large one or most of what it has may, like it evidently was the case with Saddam Hussein, be a bluff. I have no idea and unless you have real inside knowledge on the topic, you do not know either since the information is not exactly public knowledge.

2. I do not wish to enter into a debate about the remaining, if any, benefit of NATO to the US. I instead note that it is not the only basis for the US protecting its interests nor is it a very serious reason to protect European countries. And, the commitment to Europe is, the last I read, to protect it from the Warsaw Pact - which, last I heard, now exists only in history books.

So, using NATO as an excuse to protect the UK is a rather lame argument since, in fact, the UK can protect itself. As the world now stands - with no threat from the Warsaw Pact - and with much of Europe interested in distancing itself from the US, the Europeans stand in the same relationship to the US as Israel - except that Israel actually cooperates with the US unlike, for example, France and Germany -, namely, as countries supposedly committed to the advancement of liberal civilization.

I am not willing to leave a country dedicated to our civilization to fend for itself with the barbarians of the Arab Muslim lands. Are you?

3. As for the EU, the EU is a disaster for Europe and to the extent that it seduces the US into its thinking, ultimately a disaster for the US. It is, to be perfectly blunt, a force that prevents Europeans and Americans from cooperating about the issues raised by Islamism because the EU's aim is to create a counter-force to the US by combining forces with Arab countries. On this point, one might examine the details of the Euro-Arab Dialogue, Mediterranean Partnership and Barcelona Process (and see e.g. some Arab perspectives on this development in "An Alternative Bridging Project - Re-Thinking the Mediterranean," By Omar Barghouti and Adrian Grima, CounterPunch, September 9 / 11, 2005, at http://www.counterpunch.org/barghouti09092005.html . In simple terms, the EU aims to fulfill deGaul's vision of restoring France's empire in the Arab regions under the auspices of the EU. That is not America's interest and, frankly, the EU has so undermined itself via the noted informal treaties that it fails to recognize Islamism as the threat to Europe it really is.

[Note: I might add that the EU is among the leading propagators of Antisemitic rhetoric in Europe (and, on this point, see the book Eurabia, by Bat Ye'or, in which such rhetoric and its purpose is rather well cataloged).]

4. You mention the NPT. The US just decided, with reference to India, to make the NPT a dead letter. So, again, your argument is a straw man.

5. You write: "I find it very hard to imagine the legality or wisdom of extending nuclear protections to countries outside any of the relevant treaties."

Well, the assumption is that the US ought not have a relevant treaty with Israel. One might wonder why not? The NPT is a dead letter, as ought to be apparent in view of the recent action by Congress, not to mention the fact that the US and European countries raise no objection to Israel's program - whatever the program really is. And, as I noted, NATO is an institution in search of a mission. So, that is no reason to leave Israel out.

6. You write: "Let me accept that for the sake of argument. Perhaps it's the engineer in me, but this strikes me as posturing given Iran is nowhere near a capability to deliver a significant attack on Israel. I don't want to digress too much, but it amazes me that the Israeli MRBM/IRBM force does not seem to be especially well-hardened. Putting a fair number of those missiles in robust silos immensely strengthens the deterrent -- taking out silos is a very difficult problem that could add years to Iran's development."

One might ask how we know the true status of Iran's program. Do we know the tip of the iceberg or do we have complete information? Is it the sort of really accurate information we had about Iraq? Is it the sort of information that we had about Libya until just recently?

And what about the fact that basically nothing was known about Iran's program for two decades until only just now to have discovered that the country had some sort of program? Maybe the program itself is a bluff or maybe not. Maybe there is a more significant program that is even better hidden. I have no idea.

The point is that you and I are not in a position to know, in reality - and, on this, the experts surely do not really know, as spies tend not to be the font of wisdom they imagine themselves to be -, what is going on other than the fact that the country's leaders advocate a worldwide Jihad to destroy the West, using Israel to effectively destroy the West's willingness to fight.

7. You write: "Forgive me if I don't understand what this has to do with the letter to the American people. Are you suggesting--this really is a question--that the above means that there should be no communication between the US and Iran, other than condemnatory speeches?"

Look back and you will note that I thought that you had misread one of my points so I decided to explain myself more thoroughly.

Now, the point is not directly mentioned in Ahmadinejad's letter to the American people. However, it is pertinent.

In answer to your question, we can talk with Iran or not. It is a not very significant because Iran wants what the US will not give. So, it is a low concern put forth by people who understand Western politics and project their understanding onto others. And, amazingly, it comes from the very geniuses who dragged us into the first Gulf war, which set the stage for what has occurred since. In simple terms, it is the blind leading the blind. But, as I said, I have nothing against talking - and I really do mean that.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/15/2006

Let me thank you for this post; I think it does a very nice job of refocusing the discussion to the original topic. Nuclear policy is relevant and ideally would be a new post--perhaps I should check into what is required to create new articles--and I'll try to focus on Iran.

Just as a point of clarification, are we in general agreement, even if Olmert didn't formally acknowledge, that Israel is a nuclear power, with a reasonable estimate of low hundreds of warheads, and delivery systems? As to the latter, the Jericho M/IRBM is principal although probably not second-strike. There may be some tens of submarine-launched missiles that are second-strike.

"I had in mind the US umbrella. If you had read a previous comment I posted, you would understand my point about Israel being a splinter to Iran."

Yes, I would agree with that observation -- Israel is a rallying point for Muslim opinion, but clearly not a neighbor of Iran.

"Let me explain the matter a bit more carefully. As explained by Ahmadinejad in his infamous world without Zionism speech, Israel's destruction has, he says, would have tremendous symbolic importance for rekindling the Jihad against Europe to recapture the lands lost to the Europeans during the last 300 or so years."

While I am rather dubious that Iran is within decades of presenting a nuclear threat to Europe, and at least ten years to Israel, if there is a threat to Europe, NATO or EU forces clearly are involved. Were there an attack on a member of NATO, invocation of the Charter indeed could justify US, UK, or (if they decide they are "in" this week), French nuclear retaliation.

Israel is not a part of NATO or the EU. There are reasonable arguments that declared nuclear powers, under the NPT, might offer an umbrella to non-nuclear NPT states. Again, Israel is not a signatory.

I find it very hard to imagine the legality or wisdom of extending nuclear protections to countries outside any of the relevant treaties.

"Hence, while Israel is merely, in his view, a splinter in the Muslim lands, its destruction would begin the reversal of losses suffered by the Muslims beginning with the losses by the Ottomans at Vienna."

Let me accept that for the sake of argument. Perhaps it's the engineer in me, but this strikes me as posturing given Iran is nowhere near a capability to deliver a significant attack on Israel. I don't want to digress too much, but it amazes me that the Israeli MRBM/IRBM force does not seem to be especially well-hardened. Putting a fair number of those missiles in robust silos immensely strengthens the deterrent -- taking out silos is a very difficult problem that could add years to Iran's development.

"I might note: the formula espoused by Ahmadinejad has been repeated - and, in fact, Ahmadinejad has himself only repeated what innumerable others in the Islamist movement, whether Sunni or Shi'a, have said. "

Forgive me if I don't understand what this has to do with the letter to the American people. Are you suggesting--this really is a question--that the above means that there should be no communication between the US and Iran, other than condemnatory speeches?


N. Friedman - 12/15/2006

Howard,

The announcement was not official. Olmert, in answering a question for, I believe, Der Spiegel, made an answer which strongly suggested that Israel, like some other countries, has the bomb. The Israeli press has been all over his case for admitting that the country has the bomb.

I had in mind the US umbrella. If you had read a previous comment I posted, you would understand my point about Israel being a splinter to Iran. Let me explain the matter a bit more carefully. As explained by Ahmadinejad in his infamous world without Zionism speech, Israel's destruction has, he says, would have tremendous symbolic importance for rekindling the Jihad against Europe to recapture the lands lost to the Europeans during the last 300 or so years. Hence, while Israel is merely, in his view, a splinter in the Muslim lands, its destruction would begin the reversal of losses suffered by the Muslims beginning with the losses by the Ottomans at Vienna.

I might note: the formula espoused by Ahmadinejad has been repeated - and, in fact, Ahmadinejad has himself only repeated what innumerable others in the Islamist movement, whether Sunni or Shi'a, have said. They view the matter largely the way Bernard Lewis represents has been the case over the course of many centuries, namely, as part of the great rivalry between Islam and infidel Christians, with, at present, the Muslim side clearly on the defensive - a fact which Islamists seek to (and believe they) can reverse in order to place back on track the imperative to spread Islam to the black and the red.

So, while Israel is a splinter to the likes of Ahmadinejad, if he actually believes what he says, Israel's destruction is central to the strategy of reclaiming lands lost to the Europeans - in Europe!


art eckstein - 12/15/2006

I keep telling you these moderates are BEGGING westerners to stand up against the religious extremists, Howard. No, of course, you're not going to convince a savage like Khatami or Khamenei--although it would be an intereting experiment for them actually to be talked back to, something they probably rarely experience. The point ideologically is to show the minority (and in Iran it may not be a minority) they are oppressing that people in the West CARE about human rights issues.

And, as I said, at the LEAST it would show to these barbarians that there are issues in the West that the West will stand up to them about--at least to the point of being impolite.

The Cold War was won ideologically, not just through Realpolitik. With the Muslims it's a much more difficult task, since much of the western culture that was attractive to Eastern Europe, and thus undermined the totalitarianism there, is for Muslims repulsive. But I think Friedman and I are telling you very strongly that we have to try an ideological offensive.

I think that Lady Astor's question would have had an impact if she'd done it in PUBLIC. Dean Lloyd had a similar opportunity to confront a Stalin in public, but suddenly he was no longer a gay rights advocate but Mr. Multiculural, taking tea with the judicial murderer of 4,000 gays. You are advocating that sort of silence. That's not putting words in your mouth: you are advocating that sort of silence. I find that disheartening, and what is more important here is that my liberal Muslim friends (and my gay friends) find it disheartening as well.

Just what sort of Realpolitik goals do you think Dean Lloyd accomplished by his silence on this subject, by the way? He sent information to the dark age men, that's for sure--information of cowardice.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/15/2006

Public confrontation with a Khameini, I agree, gives no more information than a cathedral dean confronting him about his murders impresses him. Do you remember Lady Astor confronting Stalin with "and when are you going to stop killing people?" If talking to him gets private and informative discussion going, fine. If not, yes, I do believe in realpolitik, and I don't believe Western moral arguments made, make any difference to to Muslim extremists. Destabilization and playing to minority dissent, as well as long-term cultural communication, may have a role.

"instead of Mr. Lloyd's jello position of "I have no values I care deeply enough even to confront you with, you-- the judicial murderer of 4,000 gays. That sends information as well: the information that the West is filled with cowards. Do we want to send that sort of information to these savages, Howard?"

Don't put words in my mouth; I don't agree that such a comment will affect such a "savage" in the slightest. It's rather like trying to teach a pig to sing: it doesn't get music and annoys the pig. In this case, confrontation may make one feel self-righteous, but doesn't accomplish anything I see. Specifically, when is the last time verbal rhetoric intimidated a religious extremist?

As to your moderate Muslims, how much are they influencing their society? I seem to remember some are in the West. The comparison with Eastern Europe, where there was an awareness and desire for democratic institutions, does not hold.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/15/2006

I had not seen the announcement.

When you refer, third, to nuclear umbrella, are you referring to Israel's own, or to a US one? If the latter, are you saying the US should put a nuclear umbrella over India and Pakistan?

Sorry, NATO countries are in a different case, with France in a special case for NATO.

So, if Israel is a splinter to Iran, why are you so intent on a nuclear umbrella -- could it be that you might begin to accept that Iran, if it started today, is easily a decade from having any serious nuclear force?


A. M. Eckstein - 12/15/2006

Glad we're on the same page, Mr. Friedman! I always feel good when you are in agreement with me.

best,

Art Eckstein


A. M. Eckstein - 12/15/2006

Mannered men of knowledge such as yourself, Omar? Who blamed the Jews (oh, all right, Israelis) for the killing of those three Palestinian boys on NO evidence OR rational argument--when their father, a Fateh intelligence officer, said it was Hamas?

Just how do you think THAT looks to rational person, let alone a mannered man of knowledge?

Sort of fits with all the other times you've been grotesquely wrong, doesn't it?

By the way, the demented cleric al-Hilali is still Grand Mufti of Australia--despite your claims a month ago that he would resign over his "women as exposed meat" sermon.






N. Friedman - 12/15/2006

Professor,

As always (except, of course, when you disagree and are thus, obviously, wrong - SMILE), we agree. You are exactly on point.

Howard appears to advocate a policy of realpolitik. I do not see how that works in the struggle that has engulfed the Muslim regions and is aimed largely at us.





N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Howard,

I am not an expert on WMD's so I do not know the official meanings. I do know that a devastating attack, in common usage, is an attack that allows no counterattack, as did the US attacks on Japan at the end of WWII. It is an attack that leads to unconditional surrender and an end to the Muslim dream - and I am not saying the dream of all Muslims, so catch that important distinction - to bring Islam to the entire world.


N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Howard,

Presumably, since the issue of Israel's having nuclear weapons is, just now, in the news since the Israeli PM seems to say, for the first time, that Israel has such weapons, that your comment is outdated.

Second, the reality of the matter is likely - assuming that Israel has nuclear weapons - that such policy is made taking into consideration US concerns.

Third, the goal is to keep the peace. To the extent that Israel is seen as vulnerable to Arabs and other Muslims, the greater the probability of war. That is a rather normal equation on Earth. So, to the extent that Israel is wrapped in a nuclear umbrella, the peace is preserved.

I do not make the Arab Israeli conflict central to all conflicts. I do, however, note how it is used by others, most especially by Arabs and Muslims including, most especially just now, Iran. And, in Iran's strategy, Israel quite clearly plays a large part. Such is, as I noted, likely a deception since Iran's interests lie, in the long run, in Europe while Israel remains just a splinter of a problem to Iran.


art eckstein - 12/14/2006

It's not information that's the issue--the only information you get from Khatami is dark-age propaganda whose content you already know.

Reagan's tough words inspired the resisters in East Europe (ask Havel); I've given you two examples of moderate/liberal Muslims (one famous, one my colleague) who URGE the West to be highly critical, in order to give them some inspiration, some support, some argument against the dark-age men. For some reason, Howard, you don't see this aspect of ideological warfare as important. Other aspects of the struggle may be more important. Nevertheless, the ideological offensive, for the reasons I have stated, was a secondary but important factor in the fall of Communism. Those who know best--moderate/liberal Muslims--BEG us to do what you don't think is important. I think that's not a plausible position for you.

In addition, as I never tire of saying (I'm afraid), at the LEAST we would be saying to savages such as Khatami that OUR values MATTER very much to US. The Khatamis, Ahmedinejads and Osamas of this world do not believe that. If you're intent on exchanging information with these pigs, let's exchange THAT information, instead of Mr. Lloyd's jello position of "I have no values I care deeply enough even to confront you with, you-- the judicial murderer of 4,000 gays. That sends information as well: the information that the West is filled with cowards. Do we want to send that sort of information to these savages, Howard?


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

I see the informational value of talking to the judicial murderer as greater than using him as a conduit back to Iranian dissenters. There are other means of communication to those populations.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

Please describe what you would consider a "devastating attack." That has fairly specific meaning in the literature of nuclear strategy.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

"You write: "Let me preface this by saying Israel is a recognized country. I do not, however, consider it an exceptional country, justified in maintaining its own nuclear deterrent but then expecting a nuclear umbrella from other powers."

"I guess, using your logic, the US should not use its nuclear umbrella to protect Britain."

Sorry, you misrepresent my logic. For Britain, there are several rationales, starting with the NATO treaty. Britain and the US coordinate their NATO-related nuclear strike plans, along with other NATO countries that have nuclear weapons under joint US-2nd country control.

If Israel wants to develop multilateral mutual defense treaties, that's another matter. I cannot begin to imagine bringing Israel under a nuclear umbrella when, to say nothing of the NPT, it won't even admit to nuclear weapons.



You write: "Let me know when you find one that suggests any Muslim power has the logistics for a physical invasion of Europe."

You said, "There will not have to be an invasion in the end. ...If Europeans do not stand up for their values, they are doomed. If they do stand up for themselves, that changes things entirely."

And in either case, that doesn't come into a nuclear umbrella situation for Israel, does it? Again, let me reiterate that I object to two things: casting the Israel-Palestine conflict as the source of all terror, but also dealing with every conflict between the West and militant Islam using an Israel-centric starting point.


N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Howard,

You write: "Let me preface this by saying Israel is a recognized country. I do not, however, consider it an exceptional country, justified in maintaining its own nuclear deterrent but then expecting a nuclear umbrella from other powers."

I guess, using your logic, the US should not use its nuclear umbrella to protect Britain. That would come as a big surprise to those making decision in the US over the course of the last 50 years.

You write: "I haven't noticed enormous American restraint on Israel."

That is nonsense. Israel's issue so far as its actions to defend itself are concerned is that it is caught in International politics - the fight among Europe, the US and the Arab regions - from which it cannot extract itself. To suggest that Israel is not severely restrained by the US is to be naive. Your view entirely ignores all the times that Israel backed down since the Intifadah began. And, it has backed down repeatedly although the US has shown considerable support for Israel - but not unconditional support as alleged and as your comment suggests.

You write: "Let me know when you find one that suggests any Muslim power has the logistics for a physical invasion of Europe."

There will not have to be an invasion in the end. Europeans will - or, if they stand up for European values, they will not - voluntarily do the bidding of Arabs due to the large Muslim population in Europe and the craven desire to obtain lucrative contracts in the Arab regions and to have a secure oil supply and to keep terror out of Europe. If Europeans do not stand up for their values, they are doomed. If they do stand up for themselves, that changes things entirely.


A. M. Eckstein - 12/14/2006

Omar made it very clear he blamed Jews in disguise for the murder of the three Palestinian children. It is slick subterfuge for him to say now that he only talked about "Israelis", and "prime suspicion", as if this was some sort of considered judicial opinion. He was, of course, completely wrong. Not for the first time, or the tenth time.

The men who do the beheadings and create the videos of them may only be relatively few, but they know the videos they circulate will be WELL received by the audience. No Western terrorist group has or would dare to circulate such vile material, because they know it would alienate their (Western) audience, not be attractive to them. Thus one cannot blame merely a few men for these atrocities--they circulate images of these atrocities because they know this will make them POPULAR. That is: they know their audience--it's the broader Muslim culture of death-sprial violence.

The men who targetted those kids and filled their auto with hundreds of shots knew their father wasn't with them; and the men who targetted those kids came from Hamas. It is legitimate to ask what in the culture of Hamas would produce such monsters, Omar.

And here is more from Ali Amad Sa'id ("Adonis"):

"The Christians have separated political rule entirely from religion, and have a humanistic attitude. But in our case, political rule is based essentially on religion."

Interviewer: "But there were great revolutions in the Arab and Islamic world. Take, for example, the ideology of Arab nationalism."

Sa'id: "But the ideology of Arab nationalism, in all its forms, is a religious ideology, in the sense that it has never raised any cardinal question concerning religion. The Arabs have managed to turn democracy or the revolution into a dynastic or monarchic reglime, which is handed down. Most Arab regimes are monarchic regimes, one way or another."

Interv: "Including the republics?"

Said: "Especially the republics. In my opinion, while it is true that colonialism has played a role, and the wars with Israel have played a role, the greatest responsibility is, nevertheless, on us Arabs....There can be no living culture in the world if you cannot criticize its foudnations--the religion. We lack the courage to ask any question about any religious issue. Arab society is based on many types of invisible slavery, and the ideology and political rule conceal them with worthless slogans and political discourse. The underlying structure of Arab societies is a structure of slavery, not of liberty. And words are treated as a crime today. Throughout history, there has never been anything similar to what's happening today in our Arab society--when you say a word, it is like committing a crime."

Again, this is one of the foremost Arab intellectuals in the world--and he is far more pessimistic than I am.


A. M. Eckstein - 12/14/2006

Dear Howard,

If Dean Lloyd had taken Khatami to the woodshed publicly as the savage barbarian Khatami is, that would have gotten back to the Iranian population, many of whom are greatly dissatisfied with clerical rule. It would have encouraged them in their resistance--as Reagan's comments encouraged the people in Eastern Europe.

Conversely, Dean Lloyd the champion of gay rights accepting Khatami the judicial murderer of 4,000 gays as a respectable individual with whom one can have a nice chat (as long as certain topics are not discussed, of course)--that too sent a message to those who oppose Khatami's medieval clericalism, a disheartening one.

But I agree with Mr. Friedman--the main point is at least to stand up vocally for our own ideals when dealing with these men from the dark ages.
I'm just saying that there is an "operational" aspect too.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

Let me preface this by saying Israel is a recognized country. I do not, however, consider it an exceptional country, justified in maintaining its own nuclear deterrent but then expecting a nuclear umbrella from other powers.

"Things do not occur in a vacuum. The use of nuclear weapons anywhere "And, since European states use Israel as a means to counter US influence among Arabs, the US does the same in reverse, using its influence with Israel as a means to limit European influence among Arabs. So, I am not so sure that your analysis is remotely sound."

I haven't noticed enormous American restraint on Israel.

"The conquest of Iberia by Muslims involved the formation of allies within Spain that allowed for a conquest that, were the fight simply all Iberian forces against Muslim forces, could readily have gone the other way. The same is true of the Muslim conquest of what is now called Oman. And, there are numerous other examples."

Let me know when you find one that suggests any Muslim power has the logistics for a physical invasion of Europe.


N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Howard,

Things do not occur in a vacuum. The use of nuclear weapons anywhere impacts the entire world political structure. Recall how the US acted vigorously to head off nuclear war between Pakistan and India. Such was not a quirk of the Bushites but something that any US administration would have done. And, the US would not have stood idly by why such countries reigned down Armageddon upon each other.

Why? Because such an attack would be - and would be perceived to be - a direct assault on the world system in place since the end of WWII and, hence, an assault on the US, which is the final guarantor of that system. And an attack on Israel would also be seen that way by whatever administration is in power because such an attack would be an attack on the system, not just on Israel.

I cannot imagine how you could doubt that to be the case.

Were the US not to respond with overwhelming force, such would mean that the US had given up on the post WWII system and had decided not to be the world's dominant power. And, that would, over the long term, amount to consigning Europe to fend for itself - something the US will not likely do just to make Muslims happy. Such possibility is something that not even the alleged realists could allow without a fight.

There is also the more narrow point that Israel's response would almost certainly be a nuclear response. Moreover, if Israel's land were ruined, the Israelis could be expected to find new land and to use force without a great deal of regard for niceties or world opinion. Israelis would perceive the matter as the world having, once again, failed to stand with Jews.

Which is to say, the US would be dragged into the matter, one way or the other. My bet is that the US would want to be far ahead of the curve by treating the attack as impacting US interests.

As for where Israel fits into US interests, I do not think it obvious that Israel is or is not important. It certainly helps substantially to keep the peace among Jordan, Syria and Egypt - which is certainly very important to the US. Israel also just as obviously does not prevent war among the Gulf states. And, since European states use Israel as a means to counter US influence among Arabs, the US does the same in reverse, using its influence with Israel as a means to limit European influence among Arabs. So, I am not so sure that your analysis is remotely sound.

As for your final comment, history includes defeats that were backed by force but which did not involve all out invasions. In our very recent memory, there was the implosion of the USSR in the face of US arms and ideological attacks - yet no invasion by the US. Such occurrences are not that rare - most especially in Islamic history. The conquest of Iberia by Muslims involved the formation of allies within Spain that allowed for a conquest that, were the fight simply all Iberian forces against Muslim forces, could readily have gone the other way. The same is true of the Muslim conquest of what is now called Oman. And, there are numerous other examples.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

You suggest that there might be a US nuclear response to a nuclear attack on Israel. I'm a bit confused what obligation the US has to respond in this manner to an attack on a third country, which is neither a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty nor a common defense pact such as NATO. Why is it not an Israeli responsibility, as long as it maintains nuclear weapons with the potential of having survivable second-strike weaponry?

I would be utterly opposed to a US response of that type. I do not wish Israel to be destroyed, but I do not consider Israel as important to the national security interests of the United States during the Cold War.

While it would be a terrible situation, I could come up with what I consider much more plausible justification for the US to respond to a North Korean attack on Japan.

"That, in fact, is not always the case. And, the assumption of your comment is that in due course Palestinian Arabs are incapable of acquiring the means to destroy Israel physically. That, frankly, remains to be seen." To respond, I have to understand your definition of "destroying Israel", with points of reference being countervalue (mostly counterpopulation) MAD between the US and fUSSR. For what I consider "destruction", I suggest that there is a great overestimation of the power of a relatively small number of fission or boosted fission weapons, with questionable delivery systems.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

My comments are directed to a broader understanding of insurgency and terror, of which Palestinian and Muslim extremists are just one example. For those who want to ignore other historical data, please skip to the next post.

"It takes an entire culture to produce beheading videos--say, of Danny Pearl, which is used as a recruiting device. Western terrorist groups didn't produce such videos because their audience would have found them morally repulsive. Muslim audiences don't."

These acts seem to be getting recognized only as perceived by a postindustrial western culture. Beheading is relatively kind and gentle compared to impalement, or disembowelment while living, often preceded by gang rape. No, you haven't seen videos of these things, because the targets of the Viet Cong, the Mau Mau, assorted South American groups of the far right and far left, etc., didn't have audiences with television sets.

So, a beheading video is targeted to a specific culture. Do I think significant parts of Muslim culture are in a death spiral? Yes.

Do I see the only response as genocide? No. I see a combination of military and nonmilitary means in Iraq and elsewhere. I also don't see retaliatory bombing of civilian infrastructure as having any historical credibility as a means of compelling behavior -- unless using weapons that leave no population to compel.


N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Howard,

You write: "I do not, for example, see a serious near-term Iranian nuclear threat even if they go all-out. If there is argument about it, I only ask that it be founded in knowledge of what nuclear weapons actually can do, and how they can be delivered."

There are two possibilities regarding Iran - assuming that it is bent on obtaining nuclear weapons -. One. The goal is not necessarily to use them but to have cover for substantially increasing terrorist activity - as in, terror can increase substantially with the West not having any military recourse for fear of triggering a nuclear reply.

Two. If the goal is for Iran to use nuclear weapons, the issue would, from Iran's point of view, be symbolic which would mean that the bomb would almost certainly be used against Israel as part of Islam's war with Europe, as stated rather explicitly by Ahmadinejad. Note his words:

We need to examine the true origins of the issue of Palestine: is it a fight between a group of Muslims and non-Jews? Is it a fight between Judaism and other religions? Is it the fight of one country with another country? Is it the fight of one country with the Arab world? Is it a fight over the land of Palestine? I guess the answer to all these questions is ‘no.’

The establishment of the occupying regime of Qods [Jerusalem]was a major move by the world oppressor [ the United States] against the Islamic world. The situation has changed in this historical struggle. Sometimes the Muslims have won and moved forward and the world oppressor was forced to withdraw.

Unfortunately, the Islamic world has been withdrawing in the past 300 years. I do not want to examine the reasons for this, but only to review the history. The Islamic world lost its last defenses in the past 100 years and the world oppressor established the occupying regime. Therefore the struggle in Palestine today is the major front of the struggle of the Islamic world with the world oppressor and its fate will decide the destiny of the struggles of the past several hundred years.

The Palestinian nation represents the Islamic nation [Umma] against a system of oppression, and thank God, the Palestinian nation adopted Islamic behavior in an Islamic environment in their struggle and so we have witnessed their progress and success.


http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/30/weekinreview/30iran.html?ei=5070&en=8fa0309b0c685999&ex=1166245200&pagewanted=print

I have no reason to doubt that this rather well sums up the issue from the Islamist point of view. And, frankly, it is a shrewd policy as it would likely create a split in the West, with Europe showing clearly its weak hand.

My bet is that the US would consider a nuclear attack on Israel the same as a nuclear attack on the UK. My bet is that Europeans would counsel non-action in reply. The issue would be, then, whether or not the US acts notwithstanding European protests.

So, I think you may be viewing the facts a bit to narrowly.

Now, as for your comments regarding the killing of children being culturally bound, that does not address why such occurs. After all, those who send people to murder children, as a tactic, know full well how such things are understood by those affected. Surely if you know it, they know it. So, that does not alter the intent, which is to say, "We mean to kill all of you."

You may or may not be correct that Palestinian Arabs cannot physically destroy Israel. Of course, the assumption is that one needs to physically destroy a country to destroy it. That, in fact, is not always the case. And, the assumption of your comment is that in due course Palestinian Arabs are incapable of acquiring the means to destroy Israel physically. That, frankly, remains to be seen.


N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Howard,

You write: "Protecting Salman Rushdie and supporting free expression is more important than the above-cited rhetoric."

Rushdie, et al, and free expression are best protected by our standing up for our principles, not allowing 14th Century theocratic types to have a free pass in order to push their theocratic bigotry on us. If theocratic bigots want to come here, they need to play by our rules - meaning, they need to bend their ways. That sends a powerful message.


N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Howard,

Your assumption is that everyone would need to be killed to wipe out Islam. I rather doubt that is the case. Rather, a devastating attack would effectively wipe out Islam by sending the message of not to mess with us. And, a devastating attack would be of a type which Muslims could not answer.

Note: I am not suggesting such a thing but noting, instead, the message that a 14th Century person would think to send to Muslims.

I think that we can apply something more akin to what was applied to the USSR.


N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Omar,

I do not make facts up. I noted my assessment of Professor Furnish's intentions. How you alter that to be a statement of how I argue is beyond me. Your argument is, no offense, ad hominem and, hence, an invalid form of argument.

There is no doubt - as in none whatsoever - that some elements of the far left are aligned with certain Islamists. If you do not think so, you might note the Respect party in the UK and the alliances that ran the anti-Iraq war marches. Hence, this is not speculation but fact.



art eckstein - 12/14/2006

Omar confuses targetted attacks intended at children (such as the Maalot Massacre and the Disco Massacre and the blowing up of busses filled with schoolchildren as well as others), and attacks targeted intentionally at, say, grandparents (the Passover Massacre), with events that occur in war in which civilians are killed by accident (the al-Ameria bombshelter in Bagdad being a terrible but classic example)..

It takes an entire culture to produce an atrocity such as the intentional murder of the 3 boys earlier in the week--which Omar in his anti-semitic fashion first blamed on Jews, with no evidence, and a "logic" of "who benefits" that turned out to be totally false.

It takes an entire culture to produce beheading videos--say, of Danny Pearl, which is used as a recruiting device. Western terrorist groups didn't produce such videos because their audience would have found them morally repulsive. Muslim audiences don't. Now that society of violence, the society that produces Hezbollah doing Nazi salutes, inevitably comes back at them as they devour themselves.

Those who intentionally hide among civilians when they strike at others are the people to blame when civilians get killed in counterstrikes against them. I should be a war-crime to use civilians as human shields. Omar's friends do it all the time: they strike intentionally at civilians, while using civilians as human shields, so that they can blame their victims as "inhumane' when they strike back.

To which I say to Omar again: you have described the genocidal war being waged against Israel as a war of CHOICE by the Palestinians. Other groups, much larger than the Palestinians, who were displaced in the chaos following WWII (including 900,000 Jews) have learned to come to terms with their bitter situation--but Palestinians refuse and want everything from the River to the Sea. I believe Omar speaks the truth here, and there is no one for the Israelis to negotiate with on the Palestinian side. Very well--in a war of CHOICE such the Palestinians choose to wage, they have no right to complain about Jewish "brutality" when--after attacking Jewish women and children while intentionally hiding among their own civilians--they suffer causalties.

I don't say these things joyfully, if only because if Palestinian or Arab or Muslim culture wasn't being turned into a death-cult, then the Israelis would have someone to talk to. Here is what Ali Ahmad Sa'id, perhaps the greatest living poet in Arabic, said on March 11 on Dubai TV:

"If we want to be democratic, we must be so by ourselves. But the preconditions for democracy do not exist in Arab society. Muslim society is filled with secret slaveries {including to traditional understandings of Islam.] It cannot exist until religion is reexamined in a new and accurate way, and unless religion becomes a personal and spiritual experience [not a social and political experience].

"The growth of the cult of the dictator [in Arab lands] has to do with the concept of 'oneness', which is reflected--in practical or political terms--in the concept of the hero, the savior, or the leader. This concept offers an inner sense of security to people who are afraid of freedom. Some human beings are afraid of freedom.

:"Because it is synonymous with anarchy?"

"No--because being free is a great burden. It is by no means easy.:
When you are free, you have to face reality, the world in its entirety. You have to deal with the world's problems, with everything. On the other hand, if we are slaves, we can be content and not have deal with anything. Just as Allah solves all our problems, the dictator will solve all our problems."

"If we look at the Arabs, with all their resources and great capacities, and compare what they have achieved over the past century with what others have achieved in that period, I would have to say that we Arabs are in a phase of [cultural] extinction, in the sense that we have no creative presence in the world."

"Are we on the brink of extinction, or are we already extinct?"

"We have become extinct. We have the masses of people, but apeople becomes extinct when it no longer has a creative capacity, and the capacity to change its world."

"The Muslims today--forgive me for saying this--with their accepted interpretation of the Koran, are the first to destroy Islam, whereas those who criticize the Muslims--the non-believers, the infidels, as they clal them--are the ones who perceive in islam the vitality that could adapt it to life. These infidels serve Islam better than the believers."

This is a more pessimistic analysis than anything I have presented.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

I don't see a message of intellectual criticism as changing the behavior of hard-liners. I see change much more in psychological operations ranging from mass media to encouragement of an educated middle class. Yes, that includes the Muslims that criticize Islam. It is far more questionable if the Dean of the National Cathedral confronting the President of Iran will have more of an impact.

Protecting Salman Rushdie and supporting free expression is more important than the above-cited rhetoric. There is context here, however...I must confess that the Satanic Verses are, purely from a literary standpoint, awful. I trust Madison Avenue and the more creative psychological operators to be more effective.

There's no easy answer to the challenge of religious extremists willing to fight and kill. Does this extend to symbolic challenge such as headscarves? A good friend has chosen to do so, and she's a Greek Orthodox convert. The heavily commercialized US holiday season never ceases to disgust me; I will defend the right to worship but am rather hesitant at demands for "christmas trees" -- especially as a pagan whose Yule symbol was usurped.

Controlled violence may be a useful complement to these programs, but precisely targeted actions, not collective punishment or overthrowing governments without a clear understanding of what to do next.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

I ask you to accept that I am perfectly willing to deal with genocidal or democidal actions, with whatever lethal force is needed if, indeed, lethal force is indicated. It is my strong contention, however, that:
1. Targeting children is emotionally
upsetting to the Western post-industrial culture, but anthropological data shows protecting children is not a universal value. See, for example, the Industrial Revolution, hunter-gatherers such as the Inuit, the WWII Japanese interpretation of bushido (e.g., suicide-murder of children on Saipan), and honor killing in Arab societies.
2. The purpose of terror is to be as revolting as possible to the target population, whether that population is Israeli, Vietnamese, Kenyan, a variety of cases where people of European origin are seen as colonizers, Cambodian or Kosovar.
3. Terror, even against children, is not necessarily genocidal. It was part of genocidal action in the ghettoes of Nazi-occupied Europe, but it was political rather than genocidal in South Vietnam, where Viet Cong armed propaganda teams made examples of village leaders and their families.

First you talk of children, then of grandmothers. You speak of Nazi-like behavior. Both categories have existed before the State of Israel, and up to and including the present elsewhere besides Israel. The behavior isn't uniquely Nazi and isn't uniquely Muslim.

There is a need to deal with terroristic and genocidal activities, but understanding the imperatives of such actors needs a broader perspective than only with respect to Israel. I've had professional need, most recently, to look at detail in Sudan and Darfur. Like it or not, I simply do not approach the problem of killing in the context of Israeli exceptionalism. There is no general solution, but there are case studies that give perspective, such as the relatively recently uncovered case where a Japanese-speaking US Marine talked about 800 parents and soldiers out of suicide on Saipan.

I am not trying to be sharp with you personally, but I find there to be a great culture of fear about WMD, be it Iranian, Iraqi, or Aum Shinyo. Perhaps it is a handicap that I come to discussions here with engineering and tactical knowledge of these weapons. I do not, for example, see a serious near-term Iranian nuclear threat even if they go all-out. If there is argument about it, I only ask that it be founded in knowledge of what nuclear weapons actually can do, and how they can be delivered.

So far, I hear counter-genocide being offered as a final solution to the Palestinian question. May I observe that population bombing doesn't break civilian morale of Israelis, Japanese, or Palestinians?

The Palestinians are not physically capable of destroying Israel. They can make misery. I tend to regard terrorism more as a public health than a traditional military problem: the challenge is limiting the incidence of infection/terrorist creation, limiting virulence and contagion, and mitigating the damage done. The human immunodeficiency virus or Ebola fever aren't going away. For people with good medical coverage in industrialized countries, however, HIV generally has been transformed to a chronic disease rather than a quick killer; IIRC, the median survival after seroconversion is 24 years.

The moderate-term answer to terrorism may well be risk management and mitigation. In the long term, I point to the effect that popular culture and mass media have had on many societies. Samuel Huntington sees a Muslim backlash as a clash of civilizations. While I agree it may be a generational conflict, I see potential changes through culture, with appropriate military protection. Israeli military actions do not seem to be reducing a threat, nor is Iraq the quick fix desired by the Bush Administration. I can deal with more detail, but I'd first like to establish principles.

Have I ever suggested that tact is a necessity? Have I ever suggested that controlled violence is not one of a range of valid techniques? I've have more experience being covered in the blood of trauma victims than in personally using violence, but I have had to use potentially lethal force in self-defense. When I speak of killing an opponent, which I do, I first consider if I could do the killing.

"So, I will ask you back: what do you do when faced with someone who says he intends to kill you? And he's dressed in a Nazi uniform?" Actually, I have been in that situation, with American Nazis. In the particular case, I dominated them psychologically within their own ideology. Had that not worked, I was fully prepared to use whatever force was necessary. Humiliating them in public, however, was more effective psychological warfare.


art eckstein - 12/14/2006

Regarding the issue of why we should speak the truth to the dark ages men, here is what Ali Ahmed Sa''id ("Adonis"), the leading Arab poet, said on Dubai Television on March 11, 2006:

"Those who criticize the Muslims--the non-believers, the infidels, as Muslims call them--are the ones who perceive in Islam the vitality that could adapt it to modern life. These infidels serve Islam better than the believers."

I guess my liberal Muslim colleague isn't alone in her belief here, Howard.

Of course, Ali Ahmed Sa'id, though he was born and lived most of his life in Syria, has lived in exile in Paris for the past 20 years...
I wonder why.


art eckstein - 12/14/2006

Well, Howard, I'm not totally knowledgeable about things, despite Mr. Friedman's very kind words--I didn't know, for instance, about the VC/NVA shocking atrocities.

Nevertheless, I think the Palestinian atrocities are indeed of a different kind, not all terrorists act like this (as I pointed out), and their atrocities point in the direction of Sari Nuseibeh's quote. It is not targetting children to make a political point. It is targetting children because they are Jewish, and as such, are as legitimate a target for death as, say, grandmothers. Any Jew will do for death. It's Nazi-like. Face facts.

Of course, this doesn't stop Palestinians or other Arabs from protesting with tears when, having attacked Israelis, the Israelis strike back. Why--how DARE they!

I think we have to face the genocidal prospect. Ahmedinejad has said it, and he will soon have the bomb (if the Israelis can't figure out how to stop it); Hamas has said it, and--when already a functioning government--publicly supported suicide bombings last February that killed only Israeli civilians. And, well...how would people respond if an Israeli government publicly and officially encouraged its citizens to go out and kill any old Palestinian they happen to see, and praised those who had done so?

Howard, I fear these people can't be talked to. They want only death and their society has become a death-cult. Where else are streets and stadiums named after people who have INTENTIONALLY killed children? Where else are kindergartners sent to Jihad-Camp, or dressed up as suicide bombers? Where else are the scenes of massive civilian atrocities committed by one's own madmen reduplicated in mock-ups and then turned into sites of celebration on UNIVERSITY campuses?

In terms of speaking to them--I would speak honestly to them about what they have become. I see no point in being tactful. THEY certainly are not tactful, but all too blunt, and within their culture obviously only the weak are tactful (read David Pryce-Jones, The Closed Circle), and thus being tactful opens you up to the attacks that the weak inevitably suffer in Arab culture.

But also in speaking honestly to them about what they have become--in refusing, say, to remain politely silent when Omar claims about the three dead little Palestinian boys "the Jews did it!", when the father himself, an intelligence official, blames Hamas--we also stand up for ourselves, our ideals, our understanding of how one finds out truth-- as well as helping the moderates within their society.

Can the Palestinians change towards more moderation? Theoretically, yes. Should we support the "moderates"? Yes, and it would be nice to find some. But I fear that any change in Palestinians will actually be culturally for the worse. Don't forget, this is a world where Omar Ibrahim Baker passes for an intellectual.

So, I will ask you back: what do you do when faced with someone who says he intends to kill you? And he's dressed in a Nazi uniform?

That's not sarcastic, nor am I fishing for any specific answer. It's a statement of the conundrum the Israelis face, and a serious question I'm asking.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/14/2006

It's probably tangential at this point, but I am perfectly willing to substantiate that many other movements have targeted children--including movements that have killed far more than either side under discussion.

For the sake of argument, let me assume you read that message absolutely correctly. Again, I see no point, as far as solving the situation, to making speeches about morality. If an enemy cannot otherwise be stopped, you kill him. MAD held quite a few American and Soviet children hostage. While I don't fully agree with his premises, I would refer to Robert Jay Lifton's _The Genocidal Mentality_, relating MAD with the Holocaust.

Again, I'm operationally oriented. If an action has the potential to change a situation, it is relevant. If it does not, and doesn't even unify one's own side, it is not relevant.

So--let us assume Palestinian Arab tactics are completely genocidal toward Israelis. What do you propose to do about it?


N. Friedman - 12/14/2006

Howard,

I do not know how unique Palestinian Arab behavior of targeting children and other non-combatants is, in a historical sense. That was not really my point although Professor Eckstein's argument noted the relative rarity of what Palestinian Arabs do. He is a rather knowledgeable fellow, as you may know, and quite a well known historian. So, if he notes something as rather rare, it likely is.

My point was the the significance of Palestinian Arab behavior. Palestinian Arabs do aim at kids, as occurred at Ma'alot, etc.. Such was intended to send a message and was not accidental. As Sari Nusseibeh is quoted, in a Dissent Magazine letter (Fall 2002), as saying:

We're telling the Israelis that we're going to kick you out: it's not that we want liberation, freedom, and independence in the West Bank and Gaza, we want to kick you out of your home. And in order to make sure that the Israelis get the message, people go into a disco or restaurant and blow themselves up.

And, blowing up children sends the message in spades. That was my point. Or, in short, we can understand a great deal about Palestinian Arab intentions by their tactics.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

I mean no disrespect when I say that I hear some convergence in our positions. Of course, we need to understand why people do things, if for no other reasons than to predict behavior for defensive purposes.

In the case of groups that unalterably oppose Israel, it may come to a question of their destruction or that of Israel. The feasibility of either is unclear.

I do question why targeting children is at the core of understanding. Valuing children is a relatively recent phenomenon in developed countries. Certainly, the UK, in the Industrial Revolution, approved of child industry and other practices that led to high child morality. Many societies bred large families as social insurance for the parents. For emotional protection, they often didn't bond until the children were old enough to be likely to survive.

Inuit, among other hunter-gatherer societies, are very affectionate to children. If, however, a child and a hunter simultaneously drift off on ice floes, the behavior will differ from a modern American response. With great regret, they will save the hunter, because survival depends on hunters, not children. Their philosophy is that even though they will mourn the child, they can have others in good hunting times.

I'm not sure that HAMAS principally targets children. They take no effort to avoid children, and they will use adolescents as suicide bombers. This strikes me as rather different than, for example, the practice of Viet Cong armed propaganda teams making an example of village leaders that cooperated with the South or the Americans. Rape and slow killing, impalement being popular, of children in front of parents was not uncommon. The parents might then be mortally wounded but in a way in which death was slow and agonizing. Several friends with Special Forces experience still shudder after seeing a village leader whose belly had been cut open, and his intestines, still attached, fed to a pig.

I'm not trying for gratuitous violence. I'm giving historical evidence that the most horrible of actions against children are not unique to Arabs or Palestinians. Not as violent, but just as deadly, was the execution of European royal heirs.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

Generally, a "neutron bomb" -- the preferred term is enhanced radiation weapon -- is a weapon that generates extra radiation for its size; it still produces significant blast and head. It was intended to stop Warsaw Pact tank attacks by killing shielded crews with radiation, but there were some basic flaws in the argument. Modern precision guided weapons, with non-nuclear weapons, actually would be more effective than tactical nuclear weapons.

I'm afraid that this sort of enhanced radiation was for a specialized purpose. Higher-altitude bursts reduce fallout, but are not effective against hardened targets.

If one is talking about destroying the Muslim world, one is talking of very large yields. Even oil fields are dispersed targets that would take multiple warheads.

One would have to define "wiped out completely". Even the most massive US warplans against the fUSSR would take out the majority of their strategic weapons and industry, a significant amount of combat forces, and urban population -- but certainly not the country. I ignore nuclear winter and doomsday machine scenarios here.


N. Friedman - 12/13/2006

Howard,

You write: "Agreed. Do we agree or disagree that statements of moralism, with no other threat, are not deterrents?"

Not exactly. I would say that word deterrents are not sufficient deterrents. But, words can still deter.

You write: "how could you deliver a nuclear strike to take out the Muslim world without hitting Israel, and much of the Mediterranean, with fallout?"

That is not my area of specialty. However, I recall something called the neutron bomb. My recollection is that it has a small range and, while potently radioactive, the affected area is small.

In any event, Iran could be wiped out entirely - which is not to suggest that such should be done -.




art eckstein - 12/13/2006

1. "the weathman bomb was intended for an enlisted man's dance at Ft. Dix, not Columbia University." That disagrees with the opinion of the Chief of Detectives of New York, Albert Seedman. I have no first-hand knowledge. Do you?

Please read Jeremy Varon, Bringing the War Back Home, the latest history of the Weatherman group, and a book that has received extremely positive views in professional journals. You are simply wrong.


2. "The PLO was targetting children when it was a brand new and very large group, right from the beginning: the Maalot Massacre." Are you still contending targetting children is unique to the PLO? Do you need pictures of children impaled by the Viet Cong or other revolutionary movements?"

That others do it does not change the fact that the PLO and Hamas do it, and do it with a specific message of genocide which they have made clear they intend to carry out. That puts them in a qualitatively different situation from other terrorist groups. The men who beheaded Danny Pearl and used the video as a recruiting device presumably know their own (morally degenerate, in my opinion) culture. Now we see Hamas killing Palestinian children--the children of their enemies. We should not be surprised. But we should point it out as a problem which (though they are not alone) is quite specific now to them.

3. One of the ways you empower the moderates is by not treating the extremists as if they are honorable people. It is clear from what this Muslim liberal woman said that if Dean Lloyd had taken on Khatami that would have worked to the advantage of the moderates and liberals within the Muslim community whom we always are saying we want to make stronger. Keeping silent hurt them. That's what was said to me. I think this is an important aspect of the situation.

Talking about oppression of gays in the U.S. is all the more reason to take on oppression elsewhere. No radical right Chistian in the U.S. has used the govt to hang 4,000 gays, yet you say you are more worried about right wing Christians than about Muslims. This is too introverted (U.S.-centered) a view of the world, and of where the threats to our post-Enlightenment culture actually are coming from.

This is an interesting conversation, and you have been patient with my occasional sarcasm. Thanks, Howard.

best,

Art


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

Let me move your last statement to the start of your comments, because it's a point on which we both agree. "I do not think that MAD is applicable because we so much out gun Iran. So, the issue is whether they are deterrable, not MAD."

Agreed. Do we agree or disagree that statements of moralism, with no other threat, are not deterrents?

Quite seriously, and I'm perfectly willing to discuss this at an engineering level, the idea that a major nuclear response would be the end of the Muslim world is technically flawed. It's even flawed if it's restricted to the Middle East. Such a major attack would also have significant consequences for non-Muslim countries in the area -- how could you deliver a nuclear strike to take out the Muslim world without hitting Israel, and much of the Mediterranean, with fallout?

Nuclear attacks, and precision guided conventional attacks where appropriate, will hurt. Ignoring collateral damage, they can take out industry (not forgetting oil) and urban population.


N. Friedman - 12/13/2006

Howard,

You write: "There isn't even a plausible nuclear threat, assuming nuclear weapons are much more destructive than they actually are."

I am not sure it is true that there could be no threat understood by a person with a 14th Century mind. It is true that such a mind would readily admit to martyrdom. However, Islam is not a suicide pact and never was. Such, after all, was the point of a hudna, allowing fighting to end so that Muslims might pick a more advantageous time to fight. So, I am not sure that Muslim theocrats of the 14th Century persuasion would ignore a threat.

As for Mr. Ahmadinejad's views about the hidden imam - i.e. Mahdi -, that is a truly a scary issue, if he is being straight. The Mahdi's appearance signifies the end of the world as known, with cataclysmic violence brought on by in connection therewith. But, even Ahmadinejad may perhaps understand that Islam would lose a true cataclysmic fight, even with the help of the Mahdi and Jesus, and that it would not be a case of Muslims taking significant losses - as Rasfanjani noted in his argument about nuking Israel - but of there being no more Muslim lands. So, it is not entirely clear to me that Ahamadinejad is beyond being deterred. He might be but such requires clarity from the West, not satisfying Iran's demands in order to be diplomatic or to appease that country's grievances, even if some of them may be legitimate.

I do not think that MAD is applicable because we so much out gun Iran. So, the issue is whether they are deterable, not MAD.



Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

Yes, operational relevance is the criterion I use to judge any proposal, even for proposals that may take generations. Let's agree we approach it differently.

In other forums, I have responded to people waving the flag of dhimmitude, or the slogan "death before dhimmitude", with the response that I will respond with deadly force to attempts to put me into a dhimmi role--a role that actually affects me. If the Iranians are really 14th century, I do not see them caring in the slightest what we think of them.

I cannot think of any reason Iran will care what we think of their policy on gay persecution. Let us assume, for the sake of argument and without bringing in any relevant nuclear weapons engineering, that the Iranians are moving rapidly toward weapons deliverable beyond their borders. If that's the threat, it is a greater one than things they do internally that I can't seriously change:
God grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot
change,
courage to change the things
I can,
and the wisdom to know the
difference.

Do your gay or liberal Muslim colleagues have much experience with how to pressure hostile nations? That doesn't especially involve indignation. Until they give me historical, military, or other examples of how their approach changes behavior, no, I don't take them seriously.

"The point is to stand up for our own ideals and values"

To whom? I know mine. I don't see how an Iranian theocrat cares. If the issue is of critical interest to the US electorate, and military sanctions are the only credible approach, that is a Rubicon whose crossing must be considered. Of course, one could always explore destabilization and incentives, rejecting them when irrelevant.


A. M. Eckstein - 12/13/2006

Howard, you are too operational in your approach, for my taste, though you rightly point out that bluntness sometimes works.

My fear is this. The bluntness of Iranian, or any other Muslim government--in fact, their continual sewer of invective against the West-- is at heart an assertion of religious superiority: this is how it is proper to speak to dhimmis from a position of religious superiority, and what we mean by "treating us with respect' means that they, because they are dhimmis, do NOT have the right to criticize us. Dean Lloyd of Washington Cathedral accepted that position of inferiority when he didn't take the golden opportunity--as a fervent supporter of gay rights--to take on Khatami in public, a person whose government had HUNG about 4,000 gays. Criticizing him on a basis of "this is what we believe and this is universal human rights and you are grossly violating them" would have been an assertion of not western superority but of western equality. Not to talk about it? qui tacet, consentit. And not just in hanging 4,000 gays but in everything the Iranian govt does.

People nowadays are so afraid of "offending" Muslim that they buy into a conversational situation of inequality. That inequality is exactly what the most vigorous Muslim spokesmen mean by "treating us with respect." This is what I am protesting.

I ran the Dean Lloyd incident past a gay colleague this afternoon. Like my liberal Muslim (female) colleague, my gay colleague--who was well aware of the incident-- was infuriated with the Dean.

I think you should take their reactions seriously.

The point is not to convince a 14th century mind like Khatami. The point is to stand up for our own ideals and values, and not to say, "well,you EXECUTE all gays, while they have rights here among us; let us agree to disagree."


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

"the weathman bomb was intended for an enlisted man's dance at Ft. Dix, not Columbia University." That disagrees with the opinion of the Chief of Detectives of New York, Albert Seedman. I have no first-hand knowledge. Do you?

"The PLO was targetting children when it was a brand new and very large group, right from the beginning: the Maalot Massacre." Are you still contending targetting children is unique to the PLO? Do you need pictures of children impaled by the Viet Cong or other revolutionary movements? They aren't hard to find in archives.

"You have never responded to my story about my liberal Muslim colleague PLEADING with me to do exactly what you WON'T do. She surely knows what works with her culture better than you do. I suggest you think seriously about this, Howard." I have thought about it, especially with respect to military history. I don't believe moral preaching, to someone of a different morality, will do a damn thing unless backed by credible force. Do you? What exactly are you going to preach to religious extremists, murderous ones, that will make them so upset with themselves so they start singing Kumbaya and take up where Mother Teresa left off?

This has nothing to do with multilateralism or appeasement. It has to do with credibility. If you want slogans, I give you Theodore Roosevelt: "speak softly and carry a big stick." I hear much moralizing noise but see no credible stick. Don't assume I am opposed to force when it has a reasonable chance of working.

"If an honest conversation doesn't lead anywhere, where do you think a conversation steeped in appeasement --which I think is where you are leading ("why talk about oppression of gays?")--on our side is going to lead?"

The first point is you are not proposing a conversation. You appear to be proposing a lecture. I am in no way proposing appeasement; I'll use rational force, but I see no point to preaching to people who won't listen -- unless that preaching carries credible threats.

I do talk about oppression of gays -- in the US, where I also work legislatively. I do not believe that it is within the capabilities of the United States, certainly when the priority, I thought was antiterrorism, correcting every human rights abuse in the world. In other words, oppression of gays in Iran is a much lower priority for me than other actions of Iran. Appeasement is not equivalent to not responding -- appeasement is abetting. Please do not insult my intelligence by telling me silence is abetting what you categorize as 14th century minds.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

Diplomacy is a means of government-to-government communications, a formal means. News releases, government broadcasts, and deniable clandestine operations are other means.

I suggest that if they are truly a 14th century mindset, there is indeed no MAD. There isn't even a plausible nuclear threat, assuming nuclear weapons are much more destructive than they actually are. [Other WMD are not available, although the formal definition of WMD is dated] The reasons they are not plausible to a 14th century mindset is they simply result in martyrdom, possibly martyrdom if it enrolls fighters elsewhere. For some people, dying in the name of your religion isn't a bad thing. You haven't given me a compelling reason Iran should listen because we want them to, or an understanding of what plausible things that constitute a real threat.

What is your answer if they say "go ahead and attack us; we will be avenged?" There is no indication they have the Soviet mixture of quasi-religious ideology with pragmatism.

If you are trying to threaten a 14th century mind, plausibly, then do use 14th century language. Bluntness can be quite useful -- witness the utter bankruptcy of the McNamara "signaling" to North Vietnam, which was so subtle that postwar analysis suggests NVN didn't even recognize it. While I'm not suggesting bombing in this situation, the LINEBACKER II heavy bombing of NVN did get the Lao Dong party back into negotiations. Mind you, the Lao Dong is infinitely more rational than a fair number of theocracies.


A. M. Eckstein - 12/13/2006

Yes, NF: and the problem is that (from what I have read) Howard is wrong, and (from what I have read), you are right!


A. M. Eckstein - 12/13/2006

that should be: when the PLO was a brand new and NOT very large group.


N. Friedman - 12/13/2006

Professor,

You do not understand. Howard is one of those people who like to say that Islam is not a monolith - as if anyone said it is -. He thus denies the view of Ibn Khaldun, Bernard Lewis, Ignaz Goldhizer, MJ Akbar, etc., that Islamic theology generally holds that Islam is the property of mankind such that it is the collective duty of Muslims - and note, I am not saying the individual duty - to spread Muslim rule to the entire world in order to facilitate the day when the entire world will be Muslim. He claims that such is just one many strains of thought, not the dominant view of most educated Muslims over the ages. He does so, however, from a "intelligence" point of view and, now, on behalf of diplomacy.


A. M. Eckstein - 12/13/2006

the weathman bomb was intended for an enlisted man's dance at Ft. Dix, not Columbia University.

The PLO was targetting children when it was a brand new and very large group, right from the beginning: the Maalot Massacre.

This has nothing to do with SIZE. It has to do with genocidal INTENT. Sticking your head in the sand won't end that genocidal intent.

You have never responded to my story about my liberal Muslim colleague PLEADING with me to do exactly what you WON'T do. She surely knows what works with her culture better than you do. I suggest you think seriously about this, Howard.

The operational point, as you call it, is to call a spade a spade, and to tell them exactly what we think of them. They have no trouble telling us what THEY think of us! This is ideological re-armament on our part, for which it is necessary to have an honest conversation. If an honest conversation doesn't lead anywhere, where do you think a conversation steeped in appeasement --which I think is where you are leading ("why talk about oppression of gays?")--on our side is going to lead?


N. Friedman - 12/13/2006

Howard,

I think your comment is based on an odd understanding of the Muslim lands. The language coming from those lands - and, most especially out of Iran - is the language of a 14th Century theocracy, not the language of the black sheep in our family.

Which is to say, the issue with Muslim lands such as Iran is not really one of diplomacy. In fact, the diplomatic understanding of that region is, in large measure, the cause of the mess the world now faces. It allowed the rulers of those lands to believe they could have their cakes and eat them too.

The useful something that ought to be communicated to the rulers of Islam - as a person living in the 14th Century would have termed Iranian Islamic rulers - is that this is not the 14th Century, that theocracy is a thing of the past, that we have nothing to gain by accepting as legitimate the attitude of that horrid century and that we do not accept as legitimate their theocratic, divisiveness and bigotry.

In other words, we should deal with them as we did with the USSR, making clear that to deal with us you have to respect our norms as we, not they, are part of the universal culture. I might add: compared to the USSR, Iran has precious little leverage over us. There is no MAD with Iran; rather a WMD exchange means the end of Iran but not us. So, they need to listen to us - which is something that the 14th Century mind can well grasp.

Alternatively, if the ruler of Islam insists that the only terms of dialogue are those of the 14th Century, we could speak to them in the language of that century as they would understand it well. But, such language would be a lot more blunt than what Professor Eckstein or I would suggest.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

"The American terrorist group Weatherman never targetted children; the German Red Army Faction never targetted children; the Italian Red Brigades never targetted children."

All small groups that made no serious attempts at political power. Depends what you consider children; Weatherman-associated bombs did kill people on college campuses. The bomb that blew up prematurely in a New York townhouse was intended for use at Columbia University; it was specifically antipersonnel, with large number of nails. If used in an open area, as its design suggested, it wouldn't discriminate.

"And none of these groups--Weatherman, RAF, RB-- would ever have used beheading-videos as recruitment tools, either."

Many non-Muslim terrorist groups used beheading or other mutilations. True, they didn't have access to video, but that may not have been important since the people they were trying to reach (or intimidate) had no TV sets. Mau-Mau. Viet Cong, who liked impalement. South American death squads and Marxist revolutionaries. Congolese Simba. Greek Cypriots.

Timothy McVeigh killed a number of children.

"They knew this would repel their (civilized) audience, from whom they were trying to gain support, at least to some extent."

Look again at the list above, and tell me how many were playing to a world media audience.

"But our al-Qaeda types, as well as both Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, do use beheading-videos as recruiting tools. Mr. Berkowitz, you must ask yourself what that implies about the culture to which they are appealing."

If it implies something I can use to affect the culture to my advantage, it is something I need ask myself. If implications about the culture do not give me tools for affecting it with less than superior firepower, it does not; I must then ask myself how to aim weapons.

If you want me to ask for reasons of moral disapproval, it does not.

"You cannot universalize the murder of children as some universal terrorist tool. It isn't. It's a specialty of Muslim suicide bombers and Muslim terrorists in general--first used against Israelis (as in the Maalot Massacre of 1974) but now, inevitably, turned upon themselves. "

Actually, I can indeed come up with significant murder of children as done by quite a number of insurgencies, Muslim and not, well before 1974. City bombing demonstrably doesn't work in breaking morale, but none of the WWII bombing campaigns spared children.

"This inevitably raises questions about the culture that produces this tactic, I'm sorry to say."

And the operational value of the answers to the questions is, precisely, what?


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

I absolutely agree that there is a need to understand why terrorists do things they do, whether those things are repulsive or not. Whenever moral posturing gets in the way of gaining information about terrorist behavior, the posturing is counterproductiv.


N. Friedman - 12/13/2006

Sergio,

You should address your comment to Professor Furnish. M gut reaction is that he was interested in the line of argument use rather than whether the argument was based on facts. There is, after all, a difference.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

You said "Are you actually recommending silence in the face of an imam who hangs thousands of gay men because it is useless to protest?"

Hopefully, your question is not rhetorical. My recommendation is not binary. If there is something -- and there may not be -- useful thing that can be communicated to the imam, then I don't want to cut off communication that may do something just to be incensed in a manner that does not change anything.

If there is no common ground -- and I mean political, diplomatic, or indeed human rights, I see no reason to communicate at all. Telling an uncaring imam that I disapprove of what he thinks is moral is an equivalent of trying to teach a pig to sing: it accomplishes nothing and annoys the pig. No, I don't think Iranians are especially impressed by caring about something enough to protest -- they care about people who will take action, or will find ways to engage them.

"Don't be so narrow. Try being a gay man in Iran--or the Palestinian Authority, as the New Republic has revealed--before you speak." My priority is far higher for things in my own country, such as beating down the barriers to civil rights for American gays.

You see, I don't regard the US as the world's policeman. If it is, let's stop fooling with the UN and set up whatever structure works. There are many terrible things in Iran. I consider the US priorities with Iran to be counterterrorism, and things leading to better engagement such that there can be dialogue on internal rights issue. The groundwork for that hasn't been done, and certainly won't happen if the priority is condemning it.

Right now, I feel far more threatened by the religious right in the US than by internal events in Iran. No, I don't see any danger of shari'a in the US.


N. Friedman - 12/13/2006

Howard,

If we do not understand what motivates people, we cannot address the situation. Hence, if we fail to note that the likes of HAMAS and the ideology thereof oppose peace on any terms with Israel, we can only make matters worse, since we shall forever try to fit a round peg into a square hole, which in turn will raise hopes only to have them dashed, which in turn will tend to escalate violence.

Hence, understanding why HAMAS targets children is very important. It is not a side issue. It goes to the very heart of their rejection of any settlement.


art eckstein - 12/13/2006

Mr. Berkowitz, standing up to barbarians and telling them that they are barbarians is standing up for civilization. It is something we must do. It is something Muslim liberals are BEGGING us to do, and are shocked when we don't--as I told you, with the shocked response of my Muslim colleague to the disgraceful silence of Dean Lloyd of Washington Cathedral.

Are you actually recommending silence in the face of an imam who hangs thousands of gay men because it is useless to protest?

I do not accept that position. It may not change Khatami's benighted mind, but "qui tacet, consentit," as the Romans would say, and we cannot remain silent. To protest it IS effective ideologically at least in reminding ourselves of our own ideals of individualism and human rights, and they will respect us more if we stand up for our own ideas and ideals, because it will show that we believe in SOMETHING. That is something they respect, I think. Believing in nothing so strongly that you are willing simply to be impolite--that they do not respect.

You don't see yourself living in a dark age because you don't live in a country ruled by Shariah. Don't be so narrow. Try being a gay man in Iran--or the Palestinian Authority, as the New Republic has revealed--before you speak.


art eckstein - 12/13/2006

The American terrorist group Weatherman never targetted children; the German Red Army Faction never targetted children; the Italian Red Brigades never targetted children.

And none of these groups--Weatherman, RAF, RB-- would ever have used beheading-videos as recruitment tools, either. They knew this would repel their (civilized) audience, from whom they were trying to gain support, at least to some extent. But our al-Qaeda types, as well as both Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, do use beheading-videos as recruiting tools. Mr. Berkowitz, you must ask yourself what that implies about the culture to which they are appealing.

You cannot universalize the murder of children as some universal terrorist tool. It isn't. It's a specialty of Muslim suicide bombers and Muslim terrorists in general--first used against Israelis (as in the Maalot Massacre of 1974) but now, inevitably, turned upon themselves. This inevitably raises questions about the culture that produces this tactic, I'm sorry to say.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

"Regarding Reagan: no, Reagan's words alone did not bring down the USSR, and material factors were more important. But Reagan's words about the evil empire were part of an important IDEOLOGICAL offensive, whose IDEOLOGICAL success could be seen five years later in Havel's Czechoslovakia, Soldiarnosc's Poland, as well as in Hungary, Romania, and even Bulgaria."

Funny...I think of the number of assorted regimes' political officers coming back to ideology first. I think of political officers shooting combat commanders who wanted to have maneuvering room, rather than the "defend every inch" ideological position.

I wonder if Solidarnosc spent much of its time dealing with ideology, rather than more fundamental desires for rights on the one side, and strategy & tactics on the other.

Ideology is useful to a point, but it can be a trap and a bar to action. Even ideologically-rigid nations met success when they inserted pragmatism.

"This is an ideological offensive we must take in the current crisis with the men from the dark ages, starting with ourselves."

Nice slogan. Does it mean anything? I don't find myself in any dark age, thank you; perhaps that's because I worked hard on the Y2K project, where we believed the Y1K problem caused the Dark Ages.

Now, how do you take ideology back from someone that believes in a religious ideology that is beyond Earthly considerations? How do you change ideologies of adherents?

"Hence Clinton: whether his words had a wider impact or not, at kleast he took the opportunity to tell Arafat exactly what he thought of him."

And the cosmic effect of having Clinton's disapproval was exactly what? I don't see that a whole lot of the US radical right changed their views as a result of his disapproval. If his disapproval was so important, why would it have more effect than someone in another culture, with another language, in a different political system?

"Arafat had his intifada, but he had forfeited Clinton's respect, and Clinton told him so. Excellent--though,again, obviously not enough."

It's excellent if it accomplishes something. It's wasted effort if it does not. Again, what evidence do you have that Sensitive Yassir was paralyzed into inaction from the Sayings of Disrespectful Bill? Is it that you WANT disapproval to change behavior, even if there's no evidence that it did?


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/13/2006

You say "Palestinian" genocidal ideology that targets children. What terrorist group has not targeted children, irrespective of ideology?

I say this from the standpoint of trying to focus on dealing with enemy behavior, and understanding general terrorist tactics and strategy, without going off on who-hates-whom tangents that are not part of the solution.


N. Friedman - 12/13/2006

Howard,

Standing up ...

The point here is to make clear that we have principles. Hence, when a bigot shows up from that world of people - believers in the "religion of peace" - who believe that stoning blasphemers to death is moral, our saying that such view amount to bigoted Medievalist nonsense is a start. It says we, not just the Medieval men of Islam, stand for something.

We are not going to affect them all that much - or, at least not when only the rare person stands up for our societal values. But, even one person can help them understand that we actually have principles that we hold high. In that regard, consider Qutb's view that the West would fall due to its pragmatist philosophical view that denies the correspondence truth of things in favor of their usefulness.

Thus far, the Islamists have largely received a free pass so far as their values are concerned. Their bigots say anything, kill people for saying the wrong thing and we cower in fear of them, at least as they see it - or, in your understanding, we act pragmatically in deference to their sensibilities in the hope of persuading them of what they will not be persuaded either way -. But, if they know we stand for something, that tells them that there is a point where we say, as the saying goes, this far and no further. And, that itself serves to deter them.


art eckstein - 12/13/2006

"Baha Baulousheh, a top officer in the Palestinian military intelligence and a Fateh loyalist, BLAMED HAMAS for the deaths of his sons, ages 3, 6, and 9. He had helped crack down on Hamas a decade ago [OMAR: "WHO PROFITS?" you asked, blaming--Well, OF COURSE--the Jews. Well,. NOW you know the motive, don't you!] and was twice before targetted by Hamas assassins...
The three children were killed along with their driver. Doctors said one of the boys was hit by 10 bullets in the head. The car was soaked in blood. A child's backpack, emblazoned with cartoon charactes and the word "Friend", lay on the front seat, covered in blood..."

Ghassan Khatib, former Palestinian labor minister, said that "This incident is really dangerous," and that the only way an escalation between Hamas and Fateh can be stopped now is for the Hamas-run Palestinian government to make arrests in the shooting.

Palestinian genocidal ideology, with children legitimate targets,Omar, has indeed come back to bite you--as I said. It's Hamas--according to the FATHER OF THE DEAD, who is a FATEH INTELLIGENCE OFFICER.

Or maybe you think he's a Jew in disguise. I wouldn't put it past you.


Tim R. Furnish - 12/13/2006

No, I'm sure many on the Left who comment here think so, as well. But I note that few (if none) of them ever prove capable of refuting the factual nature of my articles but rather--as you correctly point out--go right into ad hominem attacks.
As for my barb at Clarke: if you read what he says, it's totally justified.
And easier to type than "na-na-na na-naa."


Lindsey Michael Francesco - 12/13/2006

You have been accused of immaturity, ignorance, lying, ridiculing others' beliefs, and pettiness, and all of these accusations have at least some backing. Your only response is calling one of your critics a "horse's patoot?" You are a professor and I am a freshman, don't you think it's terribly shameful that I'm the one who thinks you're being ridiculously immature?


art eckstein - 12/13/2006

Regarding Reagan: no, Reagan's words alone did not bring down the USSR, and material factors were more important. But Reagan's words about the evil empire were part of an important IDEOLOGICAL offensive, whose IDEOLOGICAL success could be seen five years later in Havel's Czechoslovakia, Soldiarnosc's Poland, as well as in Hungary, Romania, and even Bulgaria.

This is an ideological offensive we must take in the current crisis with the men from the dark ages, starting with ourselves.

Hence Clinton: whether his words had a wider impact or not, at kleast he took the opportunity to tell Arafat exactly what he thought of him. Arafat had his intifada, but he had forfeited Clinton's respect, and Clinton told him so. Excellent--though,again, obviously not enough.


A. M. Eckstein - 12/13/2006

I repeat Mr. Berkowitz, you are the one who used the reproving phrase "PRESUMED universal morality" in describing possible protests against the hanging of gay teenaged boys by Khatami's administration. Do you or don't you think that gays have a universal right not to be hanged? Or is just in the West that they don't have a right not to be hanged, but that primitive dark-age Muslim fanatics have a cultural right (a) to hang gays, and (b) not to be criticized by the West for hanging them?

Look--the Dean of Washington Cathedral, Mr. Lloyd, is a FAMOUS and VERY forceful advocate of gay rights. Faced with a primitive fanatic who HANGS gays--the number is actually in the thousands, you know--he was SILENT, when he had the wonderful opportunity to confront this man with his barbarism.

The silence was not merely counter-productive but contemptible, for all the reasons I have stated. And I will tell you, Mr. Berkowitz, that the person who first brought the Dean's contemptable behavior to my attention was an outraged liberal Muslim. "Why don't they HELP us?", she complained.

Addendum:

Manchester's leading Imam has confirmed that he thinks the execution of sexually active gay men is justified. Mr. Arshad Misbahi, who is based at the Manchester Central Mosque, confirmed his views in a conversation to Dr John Casson, a local psychotherapist.

Dr Casson said: "I asked him if the execution of gay Muslims in Iran and Iraq was an acceptable punishment in Sharia law, or the result of culture, not religion. He told me that in a true Islamic state, such punishments were part of Islam:


A. M. Eckstein - 12/13/2006

Omar's psychosis is revealed.



Howard C Berkowitz - 12/12/2006

"1. You really believe, Mr. Berkowitz, that protesting the HANGING of teenaged homosexuals is merely a position "based on SOME PRESUMABLY UNIVERSAL MORALITY?" Gee--just how multicultural are you?"

Nice slogans. The point is that the "radical Muslims involved don't share your position. Citing morality to them won't make a damn bit of difference.

Most serious definitions of "morality", as opposed to "ethics", assume some external reference. What external reference do you share with these people, who I agree are murderers?

Make clear whom you are addressing with your arguments of morality, and whose behavior you are trying to change. It has nothing to do with multiculturalism. It isn't possible to stop every evil action -- he who defends everywhere defends nowhere.

"2. Reagan confronted Gorbachev and his predecessors several times (remember "the Evil Empire", and won out."

So you are saying morality won, not economics, not societal dynamics? If so, please substantiate.

"Though liberals, horrified, made the same arguments then that you are doing now,

You don't understand the argument I am making. I believe in action, not posturing.

"those who were protesting the totalitarianism (from Havel in Czechoslovakia, to Walesa in Poland, to Natan Scharansky in the USSR) took heart from such statements."

Perhaps. I suspect they took much more heart from their own determination than speeches in other countries.


"3. Clinton, in the end, let Arafat know what Clinton thought of him. I don't know how much impact beyond the famous telephone conversation this had,"

Correct. You don't know.

"but it would be imprudent to assume it had no wider impact."

Actually, I think such an assumption would be quite imprudent, unless, perhaps, Newt Gingrich withered and blew away in the depth of Clintonian scorn. Economic warfare would have had a far more likely effect on Arafat, and economic warfare has had more demonstrable effect, in more situations, than disapproving phone calls.


"4. But the point is not only to affect others, or to give moderate Muslims support by telling the truth about these men from the dark ages, and telling it to their faces."
"It is to stand up for OUR values as they--unfortunately--stand up for theirs. "

With actions, not meaningless speeches and posturing.

"If they are vigorous and we are jello, then we lose the ideological struggle ab initio (and not least, among ourselves)."

Speeches without action, I suspect, qualify as lime jello, whether Muslim or Christian. I understand my ideology just fine, and do not need posturing speeches to clarify it. Analysis of strategies and plans do focus attention.


art eckstein - 12/12/2006

1. You really believe, Mr. Berkowitz, that protesting the HANGING of teenaged homosexuals is merely a position "based on SOME PRESUMABLY UNIVERSAL MORALITY?" Gee--just how multicultural are you?

2. Reagan confronted Gorbachev and his predecessors several times (remember "the Evil Empire", and won out. Though liberals, horrified, made the same arguments then that you are doing now, those who were protesting the totalitarianism (from Havel in Czechoslovakia, to Walesa in Poland, to Natan Scharansky in the USSR) took heart from such statements.

3. Clinton, in the end, let Arafat know what Clinton thought of him. I don't know how much impact beyond the famous telephone conversation this had, but it would be imprudent to assume it had no wider impact.

4. But the point is not only to affect others, or to give moderate Muslims support by telling the truth about these men from the dark ages, and telling it to their faces. It is to stand up for OUR values as they--unfortunately--stand up for theirs. If they are vigorous and we are jello, then we lose the ideological struggle ab initio (and not least, among ourselves).

Art Eckstein


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/12/2006

Please tell me what "standing up" outside a political process, or an advisory role behind the scenes, actually accomplishes. For every Mandela or King that actually ignited a movement, there are dozens, hundreds, that feed a few egos.

It has been my experience that if I want to affect policy, a less confrontational approach on the Hill or in the Executive is far more likely to get results -- but is far less gratifying to a sense of indignation and far less likely to give instant gratification to the indignant.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/12/2006

I have no objection to the point that universities train, and provide research outlets that give visibilities, to people with active consulting, and then operational, roles in foreign policy.

Rice, Kissinger, and others, however, did not gain their influence by public confrontations at the National Cathedral. They did it by working behind the scenes, using personal networks, etc. I remain unconvinced that confrontations based on some presumably universal morality achieve anything other than motivating those that already believe -- whether those are political factions in Iran or the US. In many cases, even the true believers do not do anything effectual as a result.

Could you give me an example where someone subsequently at a cabinet or subcabinet level directly achieved anything by a public confrontation?


Arnold Shcherban - 12/12/2006

Mr Berkowitz,

I'll try to answer some of your questions, provided they are sincere and not the ones you know the answers in advance, making them rhetorical.

But first,let me clarify on my standing in regard to today's and all the previous Iranian regimes, after Mossadeque.
They regimes are and were either religiously fanatical, corrupted, and brutal, or corrupted and brutal.

"why revolutionary Iran is so enamored of the Palestinian issue, considering that Iran is not Arab, not Sunni, and does not border Israel."

First of all, the question is incorrect in the sense that it is TRIVIAL.

With the same validity I can ask, say, why the US not being a Muslim country at all and located much farther from Israel is so enamored with Israeli-Palestinian issue, or why you are even asking this question!

Secondly, there are many categories of countries and regimes as there are many categories of people with different character.
Some countries, temporarily or not, prefer to maintain fine diplomacy, avoiding the tensions and conflicts, others are basically looking for them (on different reasons) in their own region, yet others consider the whole world to be the stage for their influence, and perhaps, domination. The reality was and still is that the largest countries of any world region participate most actively in the regional policies and issues.
Iran, as one of such countries, and despite my disgust towards the current regime there, has chosen to
be actively (though more secretly than openly) involved in the regional (MidEast) policies and, since Israeli-Palestinian conflict
is obviously the major regional issue, the Iranian involvement can hardly be questioned. (Unless the real issue is that you don't like the side Iran is on).

As far as your wondering about the influence of the perceived answer to the first question on the politics (actually the absence of that on the US part, if one doesn't count the animosity to every Iran's move as politics) of the West towards Iran, I would assert that there is little or no connection whatsover between the two. Talking about the US
policy, in particular, it has its main roots in the hegemonistic strategic initiative to interfere, primarily violently, whenever and wherever the US political elite feels a challenge and consider it viable. Again, even this anti-democratic and, essentially criminal, choice of the strategy is easy to understand: the absence of another military superpower.


Sergio Alejandro Méndez - 12/11/2006

Looks like Mr Fournish wants to trow in the same bag the US left and the president of Iran, cause they make similar, if not exactly, the same points against Bush. That is a nice rethoric, but does SOME of his claims turn to be false just cause they are repeated by a theocrat and anti semite leader?

Lets see:

"Iran’s president then quickly moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, where he firmly stays for most of the rest of his letter. Much of it reads as if penned by Howard Dean — well, if the religious convictions were extracted, that is. Of course “the pretext of [the] existence of weapons of mass destruction…[was] just a lie and deception” for the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq. No doubt Ahmadinezhad has a “Bush Lied, People Died” sticker on his mahdimobile. He even plays the Cindy Sheehan card: “mothers and relatives” of U.S. soldiers there “have, on numerous occasions, displayed their discontent…."

Was the claim that Iraq possesed WMD a lie or not? I do think it was a lie. Aside from the fact those weapons never appeared, Bush did NOT had any real evidence of their existence, not to mention to claim, as he and his administration did, to known its precise location. It may be a sticker, but yes, Bush lied, People died" is a very accurate description of reality.

"Seemingly having been briefed on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Ahmadinezhad fulminates that “the US Administration is kidnapping its presumed opponents from across the globe and arbitrarily holding them without trial…in horrendous prisons….” The prime examples of American “illegal and immoral behavior” are of course “the sad stories of Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib prisons.” The Iranian president’s main source of information on the American domestic scene would seem to be moveon.org (or perhaps network news), for according to him not only are “private phones tapped [and] suspects arbitrarily arrested,” but Americans are also “sometimes beaten in the streets, or even shot to death.” Ahmadinezhad seems unable to differentiate plain old American street violence, or football victory celebration, from political repression. And regarding shootings, maybe he was referring to water cannons, in which case Representative John Lewis (D-GA) would no doubt agree (although no one’s seen one here in Atlanta for decades, even during fires)."

This paragraph is hilarious. When Iran´s president speaks about torture in Iraq, Abu Grahib, or in Guantanamo, or the scandal of CIA prisons and ilegal kidnaping of persons using flights across Europe, is he saying something is NOT TRUE? Does actually Mr Furnish thinks that the only media outlet that reported of those scandals is moveon.org? I wonder if Mr Furnish reads and watches any meanstream media..heck, even Fox News has reported on those issues. And I do not think Ahmadinezhad is confusing American domestic violence when he speaks of US goverment recent laws (Patriot Acts) that violate privacy or the recent legalization of torture by US goverment. Yeah, that is all made up by evil moveon.org and alternet.net...




A. M. Eckstein - 12/11/2006

GAZA CITY (AP) -- Palestinian gunmen killed three young sons of a senior Palestinian intelligence officer Monday in an apparent botched assassination attempt that could ignite widespread factional fighting.

The gunmen pumped dozens of bullets into a car carrying the children as it passed through a street crowded with schoolchildren.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the drive-by attack, which left schoolbags and a small plastic bag with a sandwich covered in blood


A. M. Eckstein - 12/11/2006

I, too, think that what goes on in the universities is important, for the reasons you state, NF.

And I'm glad you also agree that it is important to stand up to the men from the Dark Ages. It's not to convince them--they can't be convinced. It's to stand up for our own ideas and ideals.

best,

Art


A. M. Eckstein - 12/11/2006

You only know one side of this story, Omar, only care to know one side of it. It's primitive. But if the war is the Palestinians' CHOICE, then they cannot complain when, attacking Israelis (mostly civilians, including women and children, and intentionally), they get attacked back.


N. Friedman - 12/11/2006

Art,

While speaking truth to the faithful sounds like a worthy endeavor, people of faith rarely listen. So, I would not get your hopes up to that extent.

On the other hand, you are quite correct, I think, to the extent that standing up to these faithful bigots - men of the 14th Century - would tell them that we also have principles that we are willing to stand up for without apology. And that is certainly important.

As for Howard's view that statements by university people have no significance because universities do not make policies, I could not disagree more with Howard. He forgets that, in fact, the university is the source of policy makers (e.g. Henry Kissinger, Condaleeza Rice, Anthony Lake, etc.) and that universities train those who make decisions. So, he is doubly wrong.


Peter Kovachev - 12/11/2006

"Patoot" is a euphemistic slang expression for a posterior, or "ass" in American English, and "arse" in British. The term horse's patoot" was popularized by a character in the M.A.S.H. TV show, one Colonel potter. Alas, the limits of your madrassa education have left you with gaping holes where your facility in American vernacular is concerned, and in this particular case, to the revealing clues on your nature and identity.


art eckstein - 12/11/2006

A confrontation with Khatami would have forced him to realize that others think differently from him and that his actions were grotesque violations of human rights as far as we were concerned. Honesty is the best policy. To be a ferocious advocate of gay rights is to be a ferocious advocate of gay rights, period--here and around the world. To suddenly back off from a deeply held belief because of politeness, or embarrassment, is exactly what most Muslims do not do, and they hold in contempt those who do so.

We can only help Muslim moderates and liberals if we speak truth to power of the Muslims from the dark ages who now form the default mode of Islam, thanks especially to $100 billion spent by the Saudis in the promulgating of their particularly narrow and hate-filled form of the religion. We must speak up for what we believe.
Many Muslims believe we believe in nothing. The Dean of the Washington Cathedral proves them correct.


Tim R. Furnish - 12/11/2006

Right-wing,eh? Oh, gracious me, the gloves are off NOW! If by "right-wing" you mean "can actually read the jihadists in their native languages and take them at their word rather than apologizing for them"--yep, that's me.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/10/2006

Ah--but universities do not conduct foreign policy. I am as strong a supporter of gay rights as American you will find, but I am singularly unimpressed by the Dean of Washington Cathedral not confronting him.

Do you seriously think that the Dean confronting him would have changed his behavior one iota? I don't like posturing in politicians, academics, or clerics.

What on earth does multiculturalism have to do with it? You seem to have an assumption that the Dean operates on some requirement for confrontation.

I'll happily confront, and have done so, when I see that it may accomplish something. Doing it for some sense of "moral outrage" makes me yawn, when the reality is that there is no shared morality among the parties. Didn't seem to interfere with ending the Cold War.


art eckstein - 12/10/2006

I accept much of what you say, Mr. Berkowitz. We must do everything carefully.

But in the university world in which I live, I see mostly appeasement, and denial, and sympathy for "anti-imperialism" even when the "anti-imperialist" is in reality a savage imperialist aiming at the destruction of western states and their replacement by a totalitarian shariah-state.

The classic example is when Khatami, the ex-President of Iran, visited Washington D.C., and the Dean of Washington Cathedral--a man well known for his fervent and angry championing of gay rights in the U.S.--politely failed to ask Khatami about his government's policy of publicly HANGING homosexuals as young as 16. I guess "multiculturalism" finally won out.


art eckstein - 12/10/2006

Omar's sneering reference to "tv shows" emphasizes once more his refusal to accept that a 29-episode tv series on official Hezbollah tv Al-Manar during Ramadan 2003, which focused on JEWS EATING CHRISTIAN BABIES, was EVIDENCE of Hezbollah anti-semitism. That wasn't "evidence" as far as he was concerned.

Similarly, outrageously anti-semitic quotes from named Hezbollah leaders (two associated with al-Manar), from a national- award-winning article in The New Yorker in 2002?
That wasn't evidence of Hezbollah anti-semitism EITHER--no, because Omar simply denied (without the slightest evidence) that these quotes were said. That is typical of his low level of argument.

Sigh.

He reiterates that it is the Palestinians' CHOICE to destroy Israel. He brought this up in the context of the number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, 1948-1956, which was actually LARGER than the number of Palestinain refugees. He thinks this war of CHOICE to regain what was lost is morally better than the choice of the 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands, who decided to settle in Israel and just begin a new life (or the 2,000,000 German refugees from what is now Poland who did the same in western Germany; or the tens of millions of Hindus from what is now Pakistan who did the same in India). Well, his "noble choice" is interesting morality--an insight into the Muslim mind, I fear.

As I said, given that it is purely that the Palestinians' war is, as Omar says, a war of CHOICE, and especially given their preferred weapons of suicide bombers and indiscriminate rocket-fire, which send a message of genocide (ANY Jew will do, including women, children and babies), my point is that the Palestinians then have NO moral basis to outraged protest when the Jews fight back and inflict casualties upon them in return. NONE. ZERO.

If Omar is correct, then any Palestinian "protests" are for purely propagandistic purposes and do not reflect any serious humanistic concern about loss of innocent life. Or perhaps it is only Palestinian life that counts for them. Perhaps for them it is a mortifying sin for people of dhimmi status to shoot at Muslims, even if all the dhimmis are doing is shooting BACK. In any case, let us, then, not be fooled.

At least Omar has been candid in his savagery.






Howard C Berkowitz - 12/10/2006

The original post says "Some intellectually-honest Middle East historian needs to do an analysis of why revolutionary Iran is so enamored of the Palestinian issue, considering that Iran is not Arab, not Sunni, and does not border Israel. Is it just a matter of ideological fervor? A means of ratcheting up Teheran’s bid for leadership of the Islamic world? An attempt to curry favor with Sunnis? Or is it more deeply rooted in eschatological beliefs, such as the tradition that al-Dajjal, “the Deceiver” or Antichrist of Islam, will be Jewish?"

If the motivation for asking these questions is anything other than pure research, I then ask for the probability of knowing the answers actually affecting the ways by which the West deals with Iran. It doesn't seem to be in dispute that the beliefs are held by a significant number of Iranian actors. If one wishes to modify Iranian behavior, the harsh reality would indicate that one either has to eliminate those actors, or engage them -- without necessarily agreeing -- with their belief system.

Without trying to endorse all of Henry Kissinger, I would cite his analysis of negotiating behavior in _Essays on American Foreign Policy_. His bureaucratic-ideological style is characteristic of both secular religions (Marxism-Leninism) as well as theocracies. Once the opponent's style is understood, it can be used to constrain them.

In less intellectually esoteric terms, winning in judo, poker, or American football requires you recognize how your opponent picks attacks and gives you advance warning of tactics, which can actually make a supposed reactive role more powerful.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/10/2006

I suggest the responses are in more than the four categories you suggest. Recognizing how your opponent thinks, not tangential complaints about how immoral he may be when he clearly doesn't think of himself as such, is hardly denying a reality.

It is hardly appeasement to consider even minority positions that may not be as opposed than others, as a guide to seek engagement there. If one is not willing to engage, what alternatives are there besides a technically infeasible uncrossable fence, or extermination? In many cases, there are no simplistic answers; the road is not simple and quick, but requires thoughtful military response to threats that cannot otherwise be mediated, but also strategic efforts to reduce supply of terrorists.


Carl Becker - 12/10/2006

Yes it is. Exploring your personal website was even more fun and was valuable in understanding how the the mind of a right-wing associate professor (working his on tenure?) works.


Tim R. Furnish - 12/10/2006

From one subprofessional to another: ain't this fun?


Carl Becker - 12/10/2006

Your comments (a), (b), (c), and (d) about Furnish’s “serious” article are nothing but circumstantial personal premises. I suppose you have all the evidence on “pleas of appeasement”, “denial of the terrible reality”, as well as the "Islamofacism" of Mr. Baker, which is, of course, your own example of a trivial personal attack. The term Islamofacism is nonsense and can be applied to other religions and means nothing in your context. As far as Islam goes, it’s as dangerous and childish as all the other major fairytale religions.

Although I seldom agree with F Thomas, I agreed with his take on Ahmadinezhad’s letter.


art eckstein - 12/10/2006

Prof. Furnish has a right to be somewhat irritated when the response to his serious article about the nature of the enemy we face consists of (a) pleas for appeasement, (b) efforts at denial of the terrible reality, (c) Islamofascist rants from Omar Baker, and (d) personal attacks from the likes of Peter Clarke.


Carl Becker - 12/10/2006

Furnish trolls this site like the rest of us with his petty sub-professional remarks on his own opinionated articles. What he says about others, he says about himself; the old na-na-na-na-na-na response.


Arnold Shcherban - 12/10/2006

And this response of yours not only affirms your characterization as a petty, subprofessional ideologue, P. K. Clarke provided earlier, but clearly displays the intellectual capacity equal to Dubya's.


Tim R. Furnish - 12/10/2006

Better a subprofessional than a horse's patoot, Clarke.
And trust me: everyone who reads anything you post knows it's petty.


N. Friedman - 12/9/2006

Professor,

I see Omar differently than you do. I see his as a paradigm of how Muslim Arabs think about the West, about the US and about Israel. He is invaluable.

As for reasoning with him, it all depends on what you mean. He is, I think, rather rational. He just entirely rejects our goals and our interests and assumptions, etc., etc.. But, if you take him on his assumptions - which is only fair -, he quite rational and open to reason. And, you can learn from him as his approach to thinking is very, very different but not atypical of people of his professed background.


art eckstein - 12/9/2006

NF, the text is explicitly addressed to Omar, but I did put it in the thread of your continuing conversation with him. I'm sure he will see it.

There was a time, N.F., even just a few weeks ago, when you thought that Omar might be susceptible to logic, reason, and evidence. You may remember that I had long come to doubt it, from my own bitter experience with his imperviousness to logic, reason, and evidence. Given the things he's writing now, I imagine you are more pessimistic as well.

Art


N. Friedman - 12/9/2006

Professor Eckstein,

You should address your comment to Omar. For what it is worth, you make a good point.


N. Friedman - 12/9/2006

Omar,

Your comment about Jews being alien is rather bizarre in view of substantial scientific evidence that those Arabs who, in fact, can trace their history in the region to ancient times are, genetically speaking, the very same group, so far as their genetic stock, as Jews. So, I am not quite sure the term "alien" is correct.

I think you have things a bit wrong in your view of Palestinian Arab politics. I think the issue with Palestinian Arab nationalism is that it cannot make up its mind with it ought be Arab nationalism, Islamic nationalism or Palestinian Arab nationalism. My suggestion to you is that such problem is the reason the dispute cannot be resolved. Or, in simple terms, if the issue really only involved Palestinian nationalism and Palestinian patriotism, rejectionism, such as you espouse, would have no place. Differences could be split with other nationalisms such as Jewish nationalism. However, the connection with the wider Arab and Muslim regions fuels the idea that settlement is not necessary and that if Palestinian Arabs hold out long enough, the enemy can someday be vanquished.

In this regard, note that Jewish nationalists were, from the time that it became clear that a single state meant no rights for Jews (i.e. from the 1930's), were always willing to split the difference and the land.

Well, I do think you are correct that Palestinian Arabs are not interested in any settlement other than their own victory. Consider that such means that more generations will live garbage filled lives to obtain rights they never, before 1948, seriously sought. It is surely a foolish point of view, unless you take the view that the lives of those living do not really count as other than soldiers in a cause.


art eckstein - 12/9/2006

Omar, if this is all purely the Palestinians' CHOICE, then they have ZERO right to complain when they suffer casualties in response to their attacks on Israelis.

Because that is their CHOICE. And if they complain about being struck back in return (especially given their own intentional targetting of civilians, including children--with the message there of intended genocide), those complaints are pure politics and propaganda and hypocrisy, and do not arise out of any true humanitarianism. The Palestinians are waging the kind of implacable war they have CHOSEN, and cannot complain when the other side strikes back.

Yes, thank you for being candid.

Yes, let us be honest.


N. Friedman - 12/9/2006

Omar,

Thank you, Omar, for your candor. I can only note that people are not plants.


N. Friedman - 12/8/2006

Professor,

All told, about 956,000 Jews were forced out of Arab lands and the process continued past 1956.

My only point about refugees to Omar is not that those Arabs who fled and the much smaller number who actually were driven out did not suffer - many surely did. My point is that the reason they continue to suffer at this point is their unwillingness to resettle - which is a political, not a humanitarian issue -. Which is to say, the issue is a phony issue when portrayed as anything other than Machiavellian politics at its worst.

But, I might also add a point made by Bat Ye'or, Arabs have the distinction of being the only people on earth unwilling to settle their own "cousins." Such, of itself, speaks volumes and volumes about the barbaric and loathsome state of modern Arab society.


A. M. Eckstein - 12/8/2006

Dear N:

In terms of refugees, Omar Baker also naturally forgets the 700,000 Jews who were expelled or who left from Muslim lands between 1948 and 1957--about the same as the number of Palestinians who were expelled or who left. Their property was confiscated and they never received a penny for it. NO ONE ever talks about this, and Muslims have of course conveniently forgotten about it. But in terms of an exchange of populations, as happened in India between Muslims and Hindus, its about even-steven.


N. Friedman - 12/8/2006

Omar,

You write: "Nejjads’ address to the American public; a heart felt, frank, sincere and nondiplomatic address"

If you really believe that about any leader of a country, you are naive beyond words.

As for the rest of your comment, Palestinian Arabs claiming to be refugees could end their refugee status anytime they like. Or, are you saying that they cannot do what Sudeten refugees did after WWII? Or, for that matter, Muslim refugees from India? Or, for that matter, Hindu refugees from Pakistan? What you write is naive nonsense that you are too smart to believe. The reason - and the only reason - that Palestinian Arabs maintain their status as refugees is their political agenda.


N. Friedman - 12/8/2006

Professor,

It is also worth noting that there are, at least in Europe and, perhaps, at some universities here, alliances in all but name involving the far, far left and Islamists. And, in the UK, it is not only in name (e.g. the Respect party and those who marched at the Anti-Iraq war marches). I am reminded of Spain before it became Andalusia.

I really do not lump the NY Times in with the rest - at least if we are speaking about overlapping interests. The Times tries to satisfy all sorts of notions including, even on very, very rare occasion, actually seeing the Muslim regions as they are. Of course, that is not very often.

I might add: while I generally like the Times because it is thorough on many thing (Islam and Arabs not being some of those things), it (or any other newspaper) is the last place I would look anyway to learn anything important about Islam, the Muslim regions, Muslim history or Muslims in general.

Newspapers, including the Times, just cannot get their mind to grasp the mindset of people who still act as if it were the Middle Ages and who judge things primarily based on religion. Such is so alien a viewpoint to them that it is basically invisible. Such is very unfortunate but it does not make the Times the same as, for example, CounterPunch.


Tim R. Furnish - 12/8/2006

Indeed. He's actually, like al-Zawahir and UBL, a keen student of American domestic politics--and no doubt there are researchers in Iran who read moveon.org and truthout and the NY Times for nuggets to throw into missives such as this.


N. Friedman - 12/8/2006

Professor,

Ahmadinejad is certainly playing every card at his disposal.


Tim R. Furnish - 12/8/2006

Correction: "could not fail to note."


Tim R. Furnish - 12/8/2006

No, sir, McCarthyism was accusing people falsely of being Communist. I in no wise accuse any Democrat of "working" with the President of Iran. I simply read his missive and could not but fail to note that his criticisms of, and wild charges against, the Bush Administration sound very much like those made by the Democratic Left.
The truth may hurt, but that does not make it any less true.


Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/7/2006

Mr. Furnish:

If you have evidence that the so-called Democratic Left is working with the President of Iran, you should produce it. What you have done in your essay is state an opinion based on your reading of one letter by the Iranian President. That does not qualify as fact. And what you are doing is Mcarthyism.


N. Friedman - 12/7/2006

Howard,

As I said, I take seriously an effort to obtain better information.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/7/2006

You make some good points, echoed to some extent by the 9/11 Commission. For what have been systemic reasons, I believe Tenet shaded some significantly qualified reports when briefing the President.

The systemic problem involves both the legitimate needs, as well as the leverage, of direct Presidential access. On one hand, intelligence directors going back to Donovan, in the WWII OSS, tailored the physical form and content to meet Presidential preferences. There is a legitimate desire to prepare the materials in a form that would be read.

There is a danger, however, that legitimate tailoring of style and format blurs into tailoring content. The mass media would have it that the President's Daily Brief is a highly formalized document, but it's not -- the key document wasn't always called that (President's Intelligence Checklist, or PICKLE, under Kennedy). LBJ was notorious in the intelligence community for liking scandalous content, so he got bedroom rumors as well as substantive content.

It's informative to look at primary intelligence community documents, declassified at the GWU National Security Archive, and contrast them with things provided to the White House. Even then, Rice admits she didn't read the annexes to the National Intelligence Estimates, which are far longer than the PDB. White House documents tend not to carry much in the way of classification markings. Mercifully, there's been a recent simplification in many of the compartments; there's no longer a need to mark each paragraph with cryptic caveats like TS//SI/UMBRA/GAMMA/GUPY/TK/RUFF/HCS/DIAMOND. but the PDB released had none of these markings.

It really isn't clear how the DNI/DCI split is working with respect to the PDB and briefing the President. AFAIK, the CIA Office of Current Intelligence still produces it, but the DNI presents it. Separating the briefer from the document presenter _might_ help the problem of shading.


N. Friedman - 12/7/2006

Howard,

Well, we have the spy agencies which could not quite make up their minds about Saddam. Even if, say, the Bushites out and out lied - if that is what they did -, there was, nonetheless, always substantial evidence pointing to Saddam having and/or seeking to acquire WMD he evidently did not have. So, were the spies correct or not? Was there analysis and, on occasion, skepticism serious or was it merely careerist CYA? Remember Mr. Tenet telling Bush II, its a slam dunk - well, not.

As for suggestions, I am not an expert on improving bureaucracy and I am not going to pretend to knowledge I lack. So, I have no suggestions on that score. Again: feel free to suggest something useful as I agree with you that we would all benefit from improved spying and analysis.

On the other hand, a good part of my life involves negotiating with bureaucrats. From that experience, I know that there are fundamental rules about bureaucracy that tend to dictate against serious thinking, especially when it interferes with bureaucratic interests and career interests - which, from what I can tell, are the main driving forces in bureaucracies. Such makes me very skeptical.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/7/2006

"Good luck in improving the caliber of analysis from bureaucratic spy agencies." That seems dismissive of any attempt to improve intelligence input to civilian policymakers. Do you have any actual suggestions, or may I take this to mean that you simply want to disband the US intelligence community?

"As for the spy centric, bureaucratic analysis of the cold war, it is not a snippet that they built up the capacity beneath the very real USSR threat." Spy centric? I might suggest looking at the budgets or estimated budgets of NSA, NRO, NGIA, and other major organization that do not use spies. The Cold War is simply one point in the history of Western intelligence; one could easily go back to Sir Francis Walsingham as an example of an early intelligence agency.

As far as Saidism, that would seem incompatible with any attempt at analysis, so, in the context of intelligence, it would be moot.

You say you do not see anything coming from intelligence agencies. In point of fact, much of their current activity is not public. It is possible to assess some things from historical records, and I see strong needs to improve Congressional oversight -- which includes Congress feeling a sense of responsibility. Apparently, you feel comfortable in dismissing the process without offering suggestions.


N. Friedman - 12/7/2006

Howard,

I am skeptical about, not opposed to, talking. As for the spy centric, bureaucratic analysis of the cold war, it is not a snippet that they built up the capacity beneath the very real USSR threat.

Good luck in improving the caliber of analysis from bureaucratic spy agencies. So far as the Middle East is concerned, my first recommendation would be to dismiss any scholar who takes Saidism seriously - other than as a threat to serious scholarship.

As for opening alternatives, I do not see so far any serious alternatives coming from spies and their analyzes. I think that is an unlikely thing - although anything is possible - to occur. This is not to deny a value to spies but, instead, to note that bureaucracy tends to undermine critical thinking.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/7/2006

Forgive me if I have misunderstood, but your original post seemed to suggest you were opposed to talking for any reason.

In your reply, you complain about the quality of intelligence for policymakers, and refer to "spies" as the major source of information. Yes, there are problems with intelligence. I'm concerned with historical failures, but not abstractly -- fixing them has to be a national priority.

You write: "I skip over over your judgments about who may or may not be despicable, a moral assessment that is an unaffordable luxury in intelligence collection (as opposed to policymaking)"

I am not engaged or interested in "intelligence" collection.

"I do recall, back when I was a bit younger, that our spy agency assured us about the extraordinary caliber of the USSR's threat to the US. I recall hearing that, in effect, the USSR's abilities were ten feet tall."

What you recount hearing sounds rather like political sound bites interpreting, with an agenda, some rather detailed reports with a great many caveats. Yes, there were failures. A major benefit of historical analysis is learning from mistakes rather than searching for scapegoats and strawmen.

"Am I to take it that you do not find Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments despicable?"

No, not really. Do I agree with many of his positions? No.

"What is wrong with making a judgment about him? This is, after all, a website related to history and historians make all sorts of judgments including moral ones. With that in mind, I really do not see your point at all."

I suppose I have a silly point such as improving intelligence analysis, and being open to information that might give alternatives. Let me know when there is an absolute moral reference available to all.

You write: "And that is biographical intelligence, is it not?"


N. Friedman - 12/7/2006

Professor,

I already have the cite in my list of bookmarks.


Tim R. Furnish - 12/7/2006

No, YOU didn't bring up McCarthyism--it was, I believe, the first poster in this string.
When you get a chance, check out my website: www.mahdiwatch.org


N. Friedman - 12/7/2006

Professor,

Well, you have written a number of extremely good articles for HNN. And, as I noted, your book is, in my view, really a very good book. My post about your comment was only made in comparison, not as an absolute statement.

I do not recall bringing up McCarthyism.

My analysis of the the far left most particularly in academia is that its analysis is akin to the great prophets of the Jewish and Christian traditions which, in this case, is not meant as a compliment; in fact, just the opposite. If something is wrong, it is because we Americans and Westerners sinned - nothing more and nothing less and such is the only "fact" - or interpretation - of any consequence. That group sees all events as a statement about American and Western sin.

In fact, what foreigners think and due is immaterial so getting facts and events straight or understanding Islam as it is matters not one wit to such folk. In fact, seeing the Islamic tradition as the great tradition of tolerance and Jihad as more often a bath than a struggle to conquer others all the better serves the interests of people who care only about our behavior, not about historical analysis or helping people or anything other than their very narrow agenda.




Tim R. Furnish - 12/7/2006

Sorry for the typo: "IF it's true...."


Tim R. Furnish - 12/7/2006

Well, I'm sure I have written "better" ones--but the amazing similarities between Ahmadinezhad's statements, and those of the Democratic Left, were simply too glaring to ignore. As for an earlier poster: I'm not quite sure how that qualifies as "McCarthyism," since anyone who bothers to read the letter will see that it closely parallels--indeed, sometimes virtually reproduces--domestic criticism of Bush from the Left. It's not "McCarthyism" is it's true.


N. Friedman - 12/7/2006

Howard,

I have no objection to talking with anyone. I, however, am doubtful that the conversation will be very fruitful because there is no serious overlap, that is sustainable, in our potential agendas. But, there is certainly nothing wrong with talking and attempting to solve immediate problems. And, if any solutions are available, so much the better.

You write: "I skip over over your judgments about who may or may not be despicable, a moral assessment that is an unaffordable luxury in intelligence collection (as opposed to policymaking)"

I am not engaged or interested in "intelligence" collection.

I do recall, back when I was a bit younger, that our spy agency assured us about the extraordinary caliber of the USSR's threat to the US. I recall hearing that, in effect, the USSR's abilities were ten feet tall. At the same time, I knew (and know) a very large number of people from that part of the world who assured me that the USSR could not even make toasters that worked and that such incompetence was endemic. These people were correct. The spies were wrong. And, that misjudgment by the spies concerned a part of the world where, unlike the Middle East, there really were sufficient resources available to get at the facts.

Am I to take it that you do not find Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments despicable? What is wrong with making a judgment about him? This is, after all, a website related to history and historians make all sorts of judgments including moral ones. With that in mind, I really do not see your point at all.

You write: "And that is biographical intelligence, is it not?"

I would take my comment to be a judgment about his behavior and words, not the result of nonsense analysis from spies.

You write: "So? Historically, conscious attempts at disinformation, which is NOT the same as propaganda, tell something of the opponent's priorities."

Well, the letter tells me that he wants to sound reasonable in order to advance his agenda. Which is pretty much what Professor Furnish notes.

You may be correct that disinformation is the wrong name. Call it what you will.

You write: "Don't take Ahmadinejad with any more credibility than Chalabi, but communicte and see what comes of it. His communication doesn't appear to have preconditions."

Again, I have nothing against talking. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad's government says that there are pre-conditions for talking, namely, that the US announce a plan to wrap up its involvement in Iraq. Now, my gut reaction is that leaving Iraq may be in the US interest and that our departure probably advances the US interest whether or not Iraq is stabilized. So, it may be possible to talk although, as I said, the agendas of the two countries are light years apart.

Why would I give Mr. Chalabi credibility? Why would I ever have given him credibility? I do not see your point. He is no one to me. I understand he attempted to influence the US government to do what, as now seems fairly self-evident, it was planning to do anyway and perhaps for reasons quite different from his.

You might consider that I have been consistent on the point, from before the war, that the idea to attack Iraq made no sense. It still makes no sense. You will see, if you look at my many posts on this website that I have at no time suggested any support for attacking Iraq and have been highly critical of it.

At the same time, I have also been highly critical of those critics who wear rose colored glasses about the Arab and greater Muslim regions. In my view, such people are woefully uniformed. Moreover, many of the critics remind me of the prophets in the Hebrew scriptures, who saw the ups and downs of ancient Israel and Judea only in light of their people's morals - with God punishing Israel and Judea when they sinned.

My view, in any event, is not based, you will note, on reading "intelligence" reports - and I am again reminded of the ten feet tall Russians - but on reading lots and lots of history books about that specific region and about Islamic theology, among other things.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/7/2006

In response to "WWII was rather unique in causing deaths. After all the deaths fighting Japan, I am rather doubtful that talking to Japan would be high on any administration's list of priorities and, somehow, I tend to doubt that the Japanese government would have bought into it. Which is to say, I do not buy the revision theory that settlement was in the air, only to be missed by our government."

Let me clarify I was not primarily talking about revisionism or peace processes, but about information gathering. One of the problems in WWII is that intelligence agencies were not sufficiently mature to:
(1) maintain contact with their
enemy counterparts
(2) keep a watchful eye on
disinformation, as opposed
to what happened to Tukachevsky

Are we clear that what I am saying is that it is not in any nation's interest simply not to talk, even on a deniable basis? I cannot see it as other than political and ideological posturing to refuse communicate, not necessarily at the head of government level, with an avowed enemy. Such communication isn't endorsement or weakness, but human intelligence gathering.

I skip over over your judgments about who may or may not be despicable, a moral assessment that is an unaffordable luxury in intelligence collection (as opposed to policymaking)

"This is, after all, the same Ahmadinezhad who wrote a traditional Islamic pre-invasion letter to the US in which he invited the US to convert to Islam in order to avoid warfare"

And that is biographical intelligence, is it not?

"Ahmadinejad is a friend like Stalin is a friend of the American people, meaning, not at all and Ahmadinejad's words should be taken as an effort at disinformation."

So? Historically, conscious attempts at disinformation, which is NOT the same as propaganda, tell something of the opponent's priorities. Actually, I'd hesitate to call this disinformation, as disinformation is usually outside public channels and targets the command structure. In other words, look for nuances in the propaganda or disinformation. During the Vietnam war, some of our better insights, in analysis with which I assisted, were not any one article in the stilted jargon of Nhan Dan, the party newsletter, but in the changes of party positions over time. Coupled with knowledge of US actions, that was one of the things that revealed McNamara's "signaling" was so subtle that NVN was unaware of it.

"To that extent, Professor Furnish deserves credit for noting who Ahmadinejad is."

And with a dollar or so, that credit will get you a cup of coffee. Don't take Ahmadinejad with any more credibility than Chalabi, but communicte and see what comes of it. His communication doesn't appear to have preconditions.


N. Friedman - 12/7/2006

Howard,

WWII was rather unique in causing deaths. After all the deaths fighting Japan, I am rather doubtful that talking to Japan would be high on any administration's list of priorities and, somehow, I tend to doubt that the Japanese government would have bought into it. Which is to say, I do not buy the revision theory that settlement was in the air, only to be missed by our government.

As for the actual topic of the day, Professor Furnish, who is a first rate scholar of Islamic history who has written an important book, Holiest Wars, has certainly written better articles. So, I am not defending his article here.

On the other hand, Furnish is certainly correct that Mr. Ahmadinezhad is rather despicable and his hypocrisy and lying letter deserve to be criticized. This is, after all, the same Ahmadinezhad who wrote a traditional Islamic pre-invasion letter to the US in which he invited the US to convert to Islam in order to avoid warfare. And, this is the same Ahmadinejad who - according to the Iranian government website translation of his words - seeks to wipe Israel from the map and the same man who denies the Shoah. Ahmadinejad is a friend like Stalin is a friend of the American people, meaning, not at all and Ahmadinejad's words should be taken as an effort at disinformation. To that extent, Professor Furnish deserves credit for noting who Ahmadinejad is.


Howard C Berkowitz - 12/6/2006

After the fall of Saipan in July 1944, the Tojo government of Japan fell, and a peace faction became more prominent, although certainly not dominant. It was July 1945 before some responses to the OWI broadcasts by CAPT Ellis M. Zacharias, USN, that there was some response from this faction. See http://ussslcca25.com/zach11.htm

The "unconditional surrender" policy, a throwaway comment by Franklin Roosevelt, was the sticking point. In the real world, the Japanese surrender did have one condition, the preservation of the Emperor.

Had we been communicating with the enemy, might this have been communicated earlier? Talking with Iran doesn't imply endorsement, any more than the interminable Korean armistice talks implied endorsement of the North Koreans.

Sorry, I too find the original post here more of a polemic than historical analysis.


Glenn Scott Rodden - 12/6/2006

After reading Mr. Furnish's analysis I questions: 1. What does Mr. Furnish think we should take from Ahmadinezhad’s “Letter to the Noble Americans; and 2. is Mr. Furnish is looking for a position on Fox News?

I am not defending Mr. Ahmadinezhad, but I am wondering what Mr. Furnish is objecting to. Mr. Furnish stated: "On November 29, 2006 the dubiously-elected President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad, had published in his name an epistle to the people of the United States."

Should the US be giving lessons in democracy to Iran? Afterall, five decades ago the Eisenhower administration assisted the British in overthrowing an elected government in Iran and replaced it with an authoritarian government.

Mr. Furnish then uses an old cold war tactic of linking foreign leaders to domestic political leaders that he disagrees with. Mr. Furnish writes: "Iran’s president then quickly moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, where he firmly stays for most of the rest of his letter. Much of it reads as if penned by Howard Dean." So there you have it. The President of Iran and the Chairman the Democratic Party think alike. Joe Mcarthy would be proud.

Mr. Furnish also wrote: " HNNHistory News Network Because the Past is the Present, and the Future too.Donations Archives Newsletter Contact About Us FAQs Search HNN: Breaking News

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Center for History and New Media
Log In12-04-06

What Should We Make of Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad’s “Letter to the Noble Americans”
By Timothy R. Furnish
Mr. Furnish, Ph.D (Islamic History), is Assistant Professor, History, Georgia Perimeter College, Dunwoody, GA 30338. Mr. Furnish is the author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads and Osama bin Laden (Praeger, 2005). Click here for his website: mahdiwatch.org.


On November 29, 2006 the dubiously-elected President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad, had published in his name an epistle to the people of the United States. Herewith is an analysis of, and commentary upon, this letter1 (with relevant quotations of Ahmadinezhad’s reproduced):

Right after opening with the bismillah, invoking Allah the Merciful and Compassionate, Ahmadinezhad prays that God will “bestow upon humanity the perfect human being promised…and make us among his followers.” This perfect human being is none other than the Awaited Mahdi, usually called the Twelfth Imam in Iranian Shi`ism. The Mahdi is “the rightly-guided one” who will, according to both Sunni and Shi`i traditions, come before the end of time to create a just global caliphate. (The major difference is that for Shi`is he has already been here, and will return from hiding; for Sunnis he has yet to emerge into history: a comeback v. a coming out, if you will.) Ahmadinezhad uttered the same prayer twice, back in his September, 2006 address before the U.N. General Assembly.

Iran’s president then quickly moves from the sublime to the ridiculous, where he firmly stays for most of the rest of his letter. Much of it reads as if penned by Howard Dean — well, if the religious convictions were extracted, that is. Of course “the pretext of [the] existence of weapons of mass destruction…[was] just a lie and deception” for the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq. No doubt Ahmadinezhad has a “Bush Lied, People Died” sticker on his mahdimobile. He even plays the Cindy Sheehan card: “mothers and relatives” of U.S. soldiers there “have, on numerous occasions, displayed their discontent….”

Iran’s president does not explain how he knows that “American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq;” The president of Iran does not have to consult prophets of hidden imams to find dissent in the ranks of US troops serving in Iraq. I recommend Mr. Furnish read the letters to the editor in the Stars and Stripes.

Furnish also has a problem with any criticism of the Bush administration's detention policy. "Seemingly having been briefed on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Ahmadinezhad fulminates that “the US Administration is kidnapping its presumed opponents from across the globe and arbitrarily holding them without trial…in horrendous prisons….” What part of this statement is inaccurate?

Furnish then moves on to "critique" Ahmadinezhad's views on Israel and Iraq and then again uses the old cold war method of linking the media to foreign leaders when he writes: "But Ahmadinezhad certainly knows how to play the American media; in fact, Usama bin Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri could take lessons from him on doing so. There were probably multiple cases of whiplash from vigorous head-nodding at the New York Times, National Public Radio and CNN when editors read “would it not be more beneficial to bring the U.S. officers and soldiers home and to spend the astronomical US military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people?"

I guess Mr. Furnish thinks that the American people voted the Republican majority out of office in 2006 because they were misled by a media conspiracy that wants to deliver us into the hands of Bin Laden and the evil mullahs that run Iran.

The end of Furnish's essay gets even more confusing. After telling us that the Iranian president is nothing more than a dupe of ayatollahs that really run Iran he then goes on to tell us that perhaps Shiia Islam is perhaps more open to dealing with the US than is Sunni Jihadist Islam. So, perhaps there is hope of better relations between the two countries. But then Furnish backtracks and states that "Or it may simply indicate another aspect of the attempt by the Iranian leadership to further drive a wedge between a significant chunk of the American electorate and the current administration. For that reason, President Bush should probably keep Teheran at arm’s length for the time being."

How exactly has the "Iranian leadership" driven a wedge between Bush and the electorate? The Republican party was swept out of office in November because of its failed policy toward Iraq, not because of anything the Iranian leadership said or did.

Finally, Furnish reverses course again and offers a strange reasonf for re-engaging the Iranian regime. He writes: "If, as Ahmadinezhad claims, both the American and Iranian people “embrace…compassion, empathy, respect for the rights of human beings, securing justice and equity and defending the innocent and weak,” then having a Farsi-speaking ambassador in Teheran to question the persecution of, say, Baha’is would, if nothing else, point out the hypocrisy of such self-righteous epistles as this." Therefore, we do not need an ambassador in Teheran to work on things like ending the war in Iraq or halting the spread of nuclear weapons, we need an ambassador to follow the political agenda of the current president. Great.


N. Friedman - 12/6/2006

Mr. Thomas,

You write: "he knows very well will demonize him at every turn."

Has it not occurred to you that, just perhaps. he deserves to be demonized?


Frederick Thomas - 12/5/2006


The letter was at pains to seek common understanding. Many parallels were struck which highlighted similarities between religions, political systems, etc. The 12th Imam implication was very small.

Like him or not, believe him or not, he was engaging in some pretty good direct diplomacy right around the US media, which he knows very well will demonize him at every turn.

Good propaganda.

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