Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
Murray Polner (1-29-05):
[Murray Polner, who served in the military, wrote No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran and appears frequently in electronic and print magazines. He is HNN.org's trade book review editor.]
I started wearing a "Don't Bomb Iran" pin in my lapel when the number of American dead in the Iraq War passed the 1400 mark with some 10,000 others wounded, plus tens of thousands of uncounted Iraqi civilians.
As W.H. Auden memorably and painfully asked in his "Epitaph for an Unknown Soldier":
"To save your world you asked this man to die; Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?"
With casualty lists and grieving families growing daily, you have to wonder why the same hawks who dreamed up the war and are therefore responsible for the resulting carnage and misery, continue to maintain their influence in the White House and Pentagon and are now actively promoting yet another war, this time against Iran, a country larger, more populated, and with a far more sophisticated military than Saddam ever had.
Their conventional reason is that Iran either has nuclear weapons or is planning to manufacture them - a rationale that conceals an imperial agenda cloaked in a false crusade for freedom and democracy.
The truth is, as with Iraq and its non-existent WMDs and non-connection ties to 9/ll, no evidence is offered save that of anonymous Iranian exiles, " a walk-in source not previously known to U.S. Intelligence," reported the Washington Post. Sound familiar?
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which regularly monitors
Iranian facilities, has thus far not discovered any Iranian nuclear weapons. And even if they eventually do, it's hard to believe that Tehran would dare risk nuclear retaliation other than as a last and desperate line of defense.
What we do know is that Iran has the ability to produce enriched uranium which can be used for weaponry or civilian use but which was temporarily suspended by Tehran last 0ctober thanks to persuasive British, French and German negotiators. The Europeans, with reluctant U.S. support, are now trying to get Iran to freeze permanently any nuclear bomb plans in return for firm guarantees of more trade and security.
So why the sudden obsession with Iran, when the hawks' current misadventure in Iraq-or so predicted the astute Hebrew University military historian Martin Van Creveld-- "will almost certainly end as the previous one [Vietnam] did. Namely, with the last U.S. troops fleeing the country whole hanging on to their helicopters' skids."
The answer is oil and power.
Last January 2004 the 0il and Gas Journal reported that Iran held about 10% of the world's total following new discoveries of oil. Most of its oil fields are situated in huge onshore fields in the southwestern Khuzestan region close to Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Even so, it would be naive to believe that the American interest in Iran is solely about its oil.
Michael Klare of Hampshire College, a specialist on resource conflict, told Ritt Goldstein, an American political journalist in Sweden, that "It's all about power" and "the oil of the Persian Gulf is the most important geopolitical focus of power in the world," which he defined as the ability to "have the veto power over the allocation of Persian Gulf oil." John Pike of Global Security, a Washington-area think-tank concurred: "It's only incidentally about control of oil, it's about control of everything power." It's no mystery, then, that U.S. military forces have encircled the Persian Gulf, and are stationed throughout Central Asia and parts of the Caucasus.
The problem for American war planners is that they are trapped. Any air or land attack will meet fierce Iranian resistance (and renewed and even larger massive antiwar demonstrations in this country asking, no demanding, that no more GIs die in fulfillment of Bush and Cheney's shallow and vacuous policies), stoked by an ancient sense of nationalism, not to mention President Bush's designation of them as part of the "Axis of Evil." There are also historical memories of the U.S.-British role in ousting the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and replacing him with the authoritarian Shah.
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, who teaches Political Science at Tehran University and whose book After Khomeini, was published in the U.S. by Westview Press, claims Iranian advocates of building nuclear weapons are a "minority' and in general, "there is an elite consensus" opposed to them.
Still, he warns that any attack on Iran will not be easy. The Iranian military, he wrote in the Asia Times, have taken the lessons of the 2003 Iraq War to heart along with Iran's savage eight-year with Iraq in the eighties (when the U.S. supported Saddam). "Suicide attack" centers, he claims, have recruited more than 25,000 volunteers. There will be missile counterattacks wherever US forces are stationed including against any countries allying themselves with the invaders. Iran also relies heavily on fairly accurate long-range missiles such as Shahab-3 and Fateh-110, which can "hit targets in Tel Aviv," as Kemal Kharrazi, Iran's foreign minister, has warned.
Then why not let Israel attack, as it did at 0sirak in Iraq in 1981, when it blasted Saddam's nuclear reactor? But the situation is far more complex now because the Iranians have widely scattered their missile sites, including to heavily populated areas. They also now claim they have the ability to retaliate.
If George Bush chooses to go to war again, reluctant and uninspired draftees may be called on to replace the Iraq War's depleted and exhausted ranks, swelling the casualty lists once again, something which barely registers with cloistered Washington-based hawks itching to dominate the Persian Gulf region. It will surely produce a series of revolts on campuses as well as in suburbia and even in elite neoconservative homes that are not eager to send their own young to war.
Americans, who accepted the false WMD arguments for invading Iraq, would do well to heed the words of Gary Sick, who served as the Iran specialist on Jimmy Carter's National Security Council, when he told the Middle East Report's editor: "If you like Iraq, you're going to love Iran."
Posted on: Saturday, January 29, 2005 - 12:32
[Nick Turse is a doctoral candidate at the Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He writes for the Village Voice and regularly for Tomdispatch on the military-corporate complex.]
If you're reading this on the Internet, the FBI may be spying on you at this very moment.
Under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the Department of Justice has been collecting e-mail and IP (a computer's unique numeric identifier) addresses, without a warrant, using trap-and-trace surveillance devices ("pen-traps"). Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Justice's principle investigative arm, may be monitoring the web-surfacing habits of Internet users -- also without a search warrant -- that is, spying on you with no probable cause whatsoever.
In the wake of September 11, 2001, with the announcement of a potentially never-ending"war on terror" and in the name of"national security," the Bush administration embarked on a global campaign that left in its wake two war-ravaged states (with up to one hundred thousand civilian dead in just one of them); an offshore "archipelago of injustice" replete with"ghost jails" and a seemingly endless series of cases of torture, abuse, and the cold-blooded murder of prisoners. That was abroad. In the U.S.A., too, things have changed as America became"the Homeland" and an already powerful and bloated national security state developed a civilian corollary fed by fear-mongering, partisan politics, and an insatiable desire for governmental power, turf, and budget.
A host of disturbing and mutually-reinforcing patterns have emerged in the resulting new Homeland Security State -- among them: a virtually unopposed increase in the intrusion of military, intelligence, and"security" agencies into the civilian sector of American society; federal abridgment of basic rights; denials of civil liberties on flimsy or previously illegal premises; warrant-less sneak-and-peak searches; the wholesale undermining of privacy safeguards (including government access to library circulation records, bank records, and records of internet activity); the greater empowerment of secret intelligence courts (like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court) that threaten civil liberties; and heavy-handed federal and local law enforcement tactics designed to chill, squelch, or silence dissent.
While it's true that most Americans have yet to feel the brunt of such policies, select groups, including Muslims, Arab immigrants, Arab-Americans, and anti-war protesters, have served as test subjects for a potential Homeland Security juggernaut that, if not stopped, will only expand.
The Military Brings It All Back Home
Over the past few years we've become familiar with General John Abizaid's Central Command (CENTCOM) whose"areas of responsibility" (AORs) stretch from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia, including, of course, the Iraq war zone. Like CENTCOM, the U.S. has other commands that blanket the rest of the world, including the Pacific Command (PACCOM, established in 1947) and the European Command (EURCOM, established in 1952). In 2002, however, the Pentagon broke new command ground by deciding, after a fashion, to bring war to the Homeland. It established the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) whose AOR is"America's homefront."
NORTHCOM is much more forthright about what it supposedly doesn't do than what it actually does. Its website repeatedly, in many forms, notes that NORTHCOM is not a police auxiliary and that the Reconstruction-era Posse Comitatus Act prevents the military from meddling much in domestic affairs. Despite this, NORTHCOM readily, if somewhat vaguely, admits to "a cooperative relationship with federal agencies" and"information-sharing" among organizations. NORTHCOM's commander General Ralph"Ed" Eberhart, who, the Wall Street Journal notes, is the"first general since the Civil War with operational authority exclusively over military forces within the U.S," was even more blunt when he told PBS's Newshour"[W]e are not going to be out there spying on people[, but] we get information from people who do."
Even putting NORTHCOM aside, the military has recently been creeping into civilian life in all sorts of ways. Back in 2003, for instance, Torch Concepts, an Army sub-contractor, was given JetBlue's entire 5.1 million passenger database, without the knowledge or consent of those on the list, for data-mining -- a blatant breach of civilian privacy that the Army nonetheless judged not to violate the federal Privacy Act. Then, in 2004, Army intelligence agents were caught illegally investigating civilians at a conference on Islam at the University of Texas law school in Austin.
And just recently, on the very same day the Washington Post reported that"the Pentagon… [has] created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad," the New York Times reported that, as part of the"extraordinary army of 13,000 troops, police officers and federal agents marshaled to secure the [Presidential] inauguration," the Pentagon had deployed"super-secret commandos… with state-of-the-art weaponry" in the nation's capitol. This was done under government directives that undercut the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. According to the Times, the black-ops cadre, based out at the ultra-secretive Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is operating under"a secret counterterrorism program code-named Power Geyser," a program just recently brought to light in Code Names, a new book by a former intelligence analyst for the Army, William M. Arkin, who says that the"special-mission units [are being used] in extra-legal missions…in the United States" on the authority of the Department of Defense's Joint Staff and with the support of the DoD's Special Operations Command and NORTHCOM.
Courtesy of the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, we've known for some time of the creation of"a secret unit that was given advance approval to kill or capture and interrogate ‘high-value' suspects…" in the name of the War on Terror. Some of us may have even known that since 1989, in the name of the War on Drugs, there has been a multi-service command, (comprised of approximately 160 soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and Department of Defense operatives) known as Joint Task Force Six (JTF-6), providing"support to federal, regional, state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the continental United States." Now, we know as well that there are an unknown number of commando squads operating in the U.S -- in the name of the war at home. Just how many and exactly what they may up to we cannot know for sure since spokespersons for the relevant Army commands refuse to offer comment and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman will only say that "At any given time, there are a number of classified programs across the government" and that Power Geyser"may or may not exist."
The emergence of an American Homeland Security State has allowed the Army to fundamentally alter its historic role, transforming what was once illegal and then exceptional -- deploying Federal troops in support of (or acting as) civilian law enforcement agencies -- into standard operating procedure. But the Army is not alone in its homefront meddling. While the Army was thwarted in its attempt to strong-arm University of Texas officials into releasing a videotape of their conference on Islam, the Navy used arm twisting to greater effect on a domestic government agency. The Wall Street Journal reports that, in 2003, the Office of Naval Intelligence badgered the U.S. Customs Service to hand over its database on maritime trade. At first, the Custom's Service resisted the Navy's efforts, but in the post-9/11 atmosphere, like other agencies on the civil side of the ledger, it soon caved to military pressure. In an ingenuous message sent to the Wall Street Journal, the commissioner of the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Robert C. Bonner, excused handing over the civilian database by stating that he had received"Navy assurances that the information won't be abused."
While the Army, Navy, and NORTHCOM naturally profess to having no nefarious intent in their recent civil-side forays, history suggests wariness on the subject. After all, the pre-Homeland-Security military already had a long history of illegal activity and illegal domestic spying (much of which came to light in the late 1960s and early 1970s) -- and never suffered social stigma, let alone effectual legal or institutional consequences for its repeated transgressions.
NORTHCOM now proudly claims that it has "a cooperative relationship with federal agencies working to prevent terrorism." So you might wonder: Just which other"federal agencies" does NORTHCOM -- which shouldn't be sharing information about American civilians with anyone -- share information with? The problem is, the range of choices in the world of American intelligence alone is staggering. If you've read (or read about) the 9/11 Commission Report, you may have seen the now almost iconic figure of 15 military and civilian intelligence agencies bandied about. That in itself may seem a startling total for the nation's intelligence operations, but, in addition to the CIA, DIA, NSA, FBI and others in the"big 15" of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), there exist a whole host of shadowy, half-known, and little understood, if well-acronymed, intelligence/military/security-related offices, agencies, advisory organizations, and committees such as the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO), the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and the President's Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB); the Department of Defense's own domestic cop corps, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA); and the Intelligence's Community's internal watchdog, the Defense Security Service (DSS).
Think of these various arms of intelligence and the military as the essential cast of characters in our bureaucratically proliferating Homeland Security State where everybody, it seems, is eager to get in on the act. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the operations center of the Department of Homeland Security. In its horse-shoe shaped war-room, the"FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, and 33 other federal agencies each has its own workstation. And so do the police departments of New York, Los Angeles, Washington and six other major cities." In the operations center, large signs on walls and doors command:"Our Mission: To Share Information"; and, to facilitate this, in its offices local police officers sit just"a step or two away from the CIA and FBI operatives who are downloading the latest intelligence coming into those agencies." With all previous lines between domestic and foreign, local and federal spying, policing, and governmental oversight now blurring, this (according to outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge) is"the new model of federalism" in action.
From the military to local governments, from ostensibly civilian federal agencies to obscure counter-intelligence organizations, they're all on the make, creating interagency alliances, setting up new programs, expanding their powers, gearing up operations and/or creating"Big Brother" technologies to more effectively monitor civilians, chill dissent, and bring the war back home. Right now, nothing is closer to the heart of Homeland Security State officials (and to their budgetary plans) than that old standby of dictatorships and oppressive regimes worldwide, surveillance -- by and of the Homeland population. In fact, almost every day, new examples of ever-hopeful surveillance programs pop up. Of course, as yet, we only have clues to the well-classified larger Homeland surveillance picture, but even what we do know of the growing public face of surveillance in America should cause some eyes to roll. Here's a brief overview of just a few of the less publicized, but mostly public, attempts to ramp up the eye-power of the Homeland Security State.
A little known member of the alphabet soup of federal agencies is the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (more familiarly known by the unpronounceable acronym NCIX) -- an organization whose main goal is"to improve the performance of the counterintelligence (CI) community in identifying, assessing, prioritizing and countering intelligence threats to the United States." To accomplish this task, NCIX now offers that ultimate necessity for Homeland security, downloadable" counterintelligence and security awareness posters." One features the text of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution ("…Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…") and the likeness of Thomas Jefferson, but with a new addendum which reads:"American freedom includes a responsibility to protect U.S. security -- leaking sensitive information erodes this freedom."
Another NCIX poster might come straight out of the old Soviet East Germany: "America's Security is Your Responsibility. Observe and Report." While NCIX is an obscure agency, its decision to improve on the 1st Amendment and a fundamental American freedom is indicative of where our Homeland Security State is heading; and the admonition to"Observe and Report" catches its spirit exactly.
Every Wo/Man a G-Man
Prior to the Republican National Convention in New York City, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent agents across the country in what was widely seen as a blatant attempt to harass, intimidate, and frighten potential protesters. The FBI however countered by professing that "we have always followed the rules, sensitive to Americans' constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, always drawing the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal activity."
By the fall of 2004, however, FBI spokespeople had moved on from such anodyne reassurances and, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, the bureau was launching its"October Plan." According to a CBS news report, this program consisted of"aggressive -- even obvious -- surveillance techniques to be used on… people suspected of being terrorist sympathizers, but who have not committed a crime" while"[o]ther ‘persons of interest,' including their family members, m[ight] also be brought in for questioning…"
While harassing citizens at home, the FBI, which can't set up a successful internal computer system of its own (despite squandering at least $170 million on the project), began dabbling in overseas e-censorship, by confiscating servers in the United Kingdom from Indymedia, the activist media network website "with apparently no explanation." As Ward Harkavy reported in the Village Voice,"The network of activists has not been accused of breaking any laws. But all of the material actually on some of its key servers and hard disks was seized." More recently, the creator of an open-source tool designed to help internet security experts scan networks, services, and applications says he's been"pressured" by the FBI for copies of the web server log that hosts his website.
In addition to intimidation tactics and tech-centric activities, the FBI has apparently been using Joint Terrorism Task Forces (teams of state and local law enforcement officers, FBI and other federal agents) as well as local police to conduct "political surveillance" of environmental activists as well as anti-war and religious-based protest groups. The bureau is also eager to farm out such work to ordinary Americans and has been calling on the public to do some old-fashioned peeping through the blinds, just in case the neighbors are up to " certain kinds of activities [that] indicate terrorist plans that are in the works."
Into the Wild Blue Yonder
Strange as it may seem, the Air Force has also gotten into the local surveillance act as well with an "Eagle Eyes" anti-terrorism initiative which"enlists" average citizens in the"war on terror." The Eagle Eyes' website tells viewers:"You and your family are encouraged to learn the categories of suspicious behavior" and it exhorts the public to drop a dime to"a network of local, 24-hour phone numbers… whenever a suspicious activity is observed." Just what, then, constitutes"suspicious activity"? Well, among activities worth alerting the flying eagles to, there's the use of cameras (either still or video), note taking of any sort, making annotations on maps, or using binoculars (birdwatchers beware!). And what other patterns of behavior does the Air Force think should send you running to the phone? A surefire indicator of terrorists afoot: "Suspicious persons out of place…. People who don't seem to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment, or anywhere else." Just ponder that one for a moment -- and, if you ever get lost, be afraid, very afraid…
While the Air Force does grudgingly admit that"this category is hard to define," it offers a classic you-know-it-when-you-see-it definition for calling your local eagle:"The point is that people know what looks right and what doesn't look right in their neighborhoods, office spaces, commutes [sic], etc, and if a person just doesn't seem like he or she belongs…" An… ahem… urban looking youth in a suburban white community? Call it in! A crusty punk near Wall Street? Drop a dime! A woman near the White House wearing an anti-war t-shirt. Well, that's an out-of-category no-brainer!
And, in fact, much of this has already begun to come true. After all,"suspicious persons out of place" now do get arrested in the new Homeland Security State for such offenses as wearing anti-Bush t-shirts, carryinganti-Bush signs or just heckling the president. Today, even displaying an anti-Bush sticker is, in the words of the Secret Service, apparently "borderline terrorism." Holding a sign that reads, "This war is Bushit," warrants a citation from the cops and, as an eleven year old boy found out, the sheriff might come calling on you if you utter"anti-American" statements -- while parents may be questioned by law enforcement officials to ascertain if they're teaching "anti-American values" at home.
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Friday, January 28, 2005 - 23:12
Frontpage Interviews guest today is Dr. Thomas Barnett, senior strategic researcher and professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He served as assistant for strategic futures in the Defense Department's Office of Force Transformation (Oct. 2001-June 2003). He is the author of the new book The Pentagons New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century.
FP: Dr. Barnett, welcome to Frontpage Interview, it is a pleasure to have you here.
Barnett: Thanks for the opportunity.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Barnett: I was disturbed by the continuing tendency at the Pentagon to describe the world at large as "chaotic" and "uncertain," as well as their tendency to view globalization as a uniformly negative impact on global security. I don't see the world this way, and I wanted to share that vision. The vision appeals to general readers because of its optimism and its ability to explain the world in a fairly straightforward fashion, helping them understand security within a larger historical context, as well as contextualizing the Global War on Terrorism within the process of globalization's progressive unfolding. It's not that hard to think about the future systematically. The military actually does a decent job of it (better than most). It just prefers to highlight only the negative and to consistently view war within the context of war alone and rarely within the context of everything else. Once you get a grip on the everything else, war and peace become a lot more understandable and people's anxiety about the future can be dramatically reduced. Again, that's why the general reader likes the book. As for the military, it's a very controversial book to some, and a real strategy planning guide to others--especially regional military commands.
FP: Tell us a bit why you think globalization is, as you say, this countrys gift to history and why it is crucial for U.S. and world security.
Barnett: The current form of globalization is really built on the American model, unlike the first modern version that we saw from 1870 to roughly 1939, which was based on European colonialism. Our model comes out of the twin crucibles of the Second Industrial Revolution and the U.S. Civil War, and was a stealthily rising model in the shadow of European colonialism until the two world wars destroyed that model and ours became ascendant.
If you look around the world today, you see our system of transactions and interdependency becoming the norm for a good two-thirds of humanity, or what I call the Functioning Core of globalization. The trick is to extend that model of interactions to the rest of the world, or to make globalization truly global. Why does that matter? Virtually all the mass violence in the system today is found within those regions least connected, in a broadband fashion, to the global economy and the rule sets that define stability inside the Functioning Core. If you want to end war as we know it, as well as this Global War on Terrorism, then you connect the disconnected. Bush calls it "liberty" and "freedom," but I call it "connectivity." We are, though, basically talking the same game.
FP: Ok, well then, in the context of what you think about globalization, you think what the U.S. is doing in Iraq is a good idea, right?.
Barnett: Transnational terrorism, in the form of the Salafi Jihadist movement, is fundamentally a function of globalization. As the global economy penetrates the traditional societies of the Muslim world, the violent rejection of the integration is expressed by those Salafis, like bin Laden and al-Zarqawi, who detest that process so much they are willing to kill and die to keep it out, dreaming instead of an Islamic super-state that would transport people back to the golden religious age they prefer, a hint of which we saw in Taliban-dominated Afghanistan.
In short, their strategy is to drive the West out of the Middle East so they can hijack the Middle East out of globalization's creeping embrace. We counter that strategy best over the long haul by seeking to connect the region to the outside world and allowing that connectivity to generate local demand from below for better and more representative government.
Most of this process is driven by private economic transactions, with foreign direct investment being the key flow. But that connectivity won't come if the global business community thinks the region is a security sink hole, full of danger and no one to stand watch over regional stability. When the U.S.-led coalition toppled Saddam, we set off a Big Bang of tumult and political change in the region, which is apparent all over the dial but likewise will take years to unfold.
So long as the big security issues remain in the region, the Middle East will remain narrowly connected to the global economy (through energy only), but once those security problems are eliminated, then I expect broadband economic connectivity will ensue.
Other than Saddam, two key issues remain in the region: Israel-Palestine and Iran. Both are altered significantly by Saddam's toppling and our assumption of a key security role in the region--far more than anything we pursued previously. The trick now is to co-opt Iran and with it focus the bulk of our security effort on Israel and Palestine. Iraq will be reformed for now around the Kurds and the Shiites, with the Sunnis coming back on line as the insurgency becomes progressively isolated there, also with help from Iran. That's why Iran is the key now to stability, and why it's time "Nixon goes to Tehran."
But the underlying point remains: the U.S. cannot pull out of the Middle East militarily until the Middle East joins the world economically and politically--beyond just oil and terrorism. If you want to win a Global War on Terrorism, there is no choice but to transform the region that is source for virtually all transnational terrorism--the Middle East. Saddam was the right place to start, and it was a great war.
The occupation, however, shows how far we need to go in improving that capacity, because there will be other bad regimes worth toppling in coming years, so we have to be able to master the peace, not just the war. To that end, we need a military that's preeminent in both realms. We have the first one down (war), now it's time to get the second one ready (peace).
FP: So you think the U.S. will annex much of Canada and Latin America this century?
Barnett: No, I don't, and I think it's awfully strange you use that word "annex," because I certainly never do and didn't in the book. Do you think the EU has "annexed" Eastern Europe? Or do you accept the notion that states can come together in larger unions under peaceful conditions? What I said in the book was that "The United States will admit new members to its union in coming decades, and these will come first from the Western Hemisphere, but over time from outside as well" (p. 382).
Apparently you read that and could think of only one way it could occur, which I find very interesting. If one out of every three voters in the U.S. by 2050 is Hispanic, do you think it's possible that the United States would be open to having Latin American states join our union? Can you imagine a post-Castro Cuban population being desirous of that opportunity? Or a Haitian? Is the United States a country worth joining? Or do you think the only possible means for something like this happening is through military conquest?
I think your question speaks more to your limited imagination than some alleged bias of mine toward military solutions being the only possible pathway for future integration. In fact, I put the prediction in the book for precisely that purpose: to push the reader beyond such previously narrowing perspectives. I mean, if the United States starts at 13 members and now has 50, why would anyone assume it would remain fixed at that number forever while the EU is adding states to its multinational union in bunches? The United States is the world's oldest and most successful multinational economic and political union in the world. Americans tend to forget that, as well as most of our history.
FP: Mr. Barnett, it was just the way I asked the question, especially since I am thinking of what critics would ask and I am also thinking of our previous questions and answers. I cant think of too many people more pro-American than myself and, as a Canadian, I think it would be great if Canada joined the States. And yes, I absolutely do think that peaceful states can join together without any kind of annexation. And I think the world would be a much better place if all nations became Americanized. (To say the least, I was not very popular in academia because of these views). So I am with you all the way here. I apologize that perhaps I could have been clearer in my disposition behind the question.
In any case, Mr. Barnett, your answer crystallized exactly what I wanted to be crystallized in this discussion. Thank you.
Last question: tomorrow President Bush asks you to become an adviser and, supposing you agree, in the first meeting he asks you what steps he should take next in the terror war in general and in the Iraq war in particular. What do you tell him?
Barnett: I would tell him he needs to make sure the Secretary of Defense pushes the Army to become the postconflict stabilization and reconstruction force it needs to be so that when we engage in regime toppling in this war, so we don't end up with the same sort of snafued occupation that we got in Iraq. I would also tell him that setting up an office within State to take on postwar occupations simply won't work. So long as it is a tug of war between Defense and State, Defense will always be looking to pull out ASAP and State will always be looking to avoid the wars in the first place. We need a department between War (Defense) and Peace (State), one that is focused on getting countries from the Gap (as I describe those less connected regions) to the Core. State is built primarily to deal with functioning states, or the Core, while Defense is reorienting after 9/11 to wage wars in the Gap.
But the real function of U.S. grand strategy in coming years won't just be keeping the Core solid and keep the Gap from growing, it will be about getting countries from the Gap into the Core. A department that focused on that is where we would optimize our ground forces for small crisis response, postconflict stabilization and reconstruction, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and a host of other operations "other than war" that the Defense Department is loathe to perform, much less budget and train for, so we need to create a bureaucratic center of gravity for such efforts, which would naturally pull in foreign aid and the aid programs that are now scattered among 6 different agencies. We need to get strategic on this, and stop treating it as something we do in between wars. We will never shrink the Gap with war, because wars prevent bad futures but do not create good ones. Bush has enough strength now to start this process, although he is unlikely to finish it.
On foreign policy, I would tell him what I said recently in Esquire: make detente with Iran and accept it's getting the bomb. We need Iran as a security partner in the Middle East. We also need to lock-in China now in a strategic security partnership, while prices are low--so to speak. That will entail us giving up our defense guarantee to Taiwan, which could easily, in a fit of peak, pull us and China into a war if we're not careful.
Finally, in his second term the regime worth toppling sits in Pyongyang. Over Kim's grave, we should build an East Asian NATO and shut down the possibility of great power war there forever.
This is what I would tell him.
FP: Mr. Barnett, thank you for joining us today. We hope to see you again soon.
Barnett: Thanks. I always enjoy email interviews like this.
Posted on: Friday, January 28, 2005 - 22:41
Michael Kessler, in Sightings, the newsletter of the Martin Marty Center
at the University of Chicago Divinity School (1-27-05):
[Michael Kessler is assistant dean for strategic planning and faculty development and teaches religion and political theory in the College at Georgetown University.]
At the 2001 Presidential Inauguration, Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell's benediction concluded on a controversial note: "We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that's above all other names, Jesus, the Christ. Let all who agree say, 'Amen.'" Caldwell explained prior to delivering the 2005 Inaugural benediction, "I expect to speak God's word over the world ... and pronounce God's blessing on the people." And God's word, for Caldwell, is Jesus. But this year, in newfound deference to America's melting pot of faiths, Caldwell modified his closing: "Respecting persons of all faiths, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."
Franklin Graham, who also appealed to Jesus in his 2001 invocation, was less conciliatory: "There are factions of society today that hate God .... In America, where our currency declares 'In God We Trust,' it still surprises me that when a Christian minister does what he is ordained to do -- read and quote from the Bible, share the truth of the Gospel, pray in the Name of Jesus -- some people view those acts as borderline subversive!" (The Name).
Indeed, a minister ordained to lead prayers and preach the word ought to do just that. And after all, Christian or not, everyone understands that the key event of the inauguration is the Chief Justice's administration of the oath to defend the Constitution. So what is the harm in a president's spiritual advisors giving it up for Jesus in a public, political event?
Michael Newdow, California activist for separation of god from government, felt harmed by the prayer, but his lawsuit to remove the prayer from the inauguration was predictably dismissed at each level of the Federal Courts. He argued that being exposed to a religious observance at a public event constituted an injury to his public freedom. In its motion to dismiss the charges, the President's Inaugural Committee submitted that "in Newdow's previous attempt [to stop the prayers], the Ninth Circuit held that 'Newdow lacks standing to bring action because he does not allege a sufficiently concrete and specific injury.'" It seems the Court applied "sticks-and-stones" jurisprudence here; it is action, and not mere words, that causes harm. Many Christian commentators took this approach: Newdow and any others "offended" by the grace of Christ proclaimed could simply tune out. It is a free country, after all.
Supporters of the prayer note that it is steeped in American tradition, which is true. Others assert that having a Christian minister deliver an invocation and benediction reflects the Judeo-Christian heritage of the American nation. Those who make this claim will say that the inaugural prayer is a non-sectarian reflection of our link to a moral and religious past that permeates our laws.
President Bush expressed a similar sentiment in his speech: "In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character .... That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever."
If this were true, of course, the prayer could have been offered in Allah's name, or delivered by a Rabbi or cleric of any religion that expresses the fundamental principles of "good will" proclaimed by Bush. These various religions, Bush seems to suggest, are all really saying the same thing: respect the ideals of liberty, justice, and equality embedded in the Constitution. Anyone who hears "In Jesus' name" should merely remind himself that the Sermon on the Mount offers a set of moral ideals roughly consistent with the Mosaic Code or the Koran, or even John Locke for that matter.
But this construal poses a double bind for those religious persons who want to proclaim their version of Jesus from the rooftops -- or the presidentially appointed pulpit. Those who invoke the name of Jesus would likely resist equating 'their' Jesus to a set of common moral principles, for if one makes the case for the inclusion of "Jesus" along these lines, the name becomes a mere "passive symbol" with a "secular purpose" (as Chief Justice Warren Burger put it in reference to the placement of creches on public land).
Thus, if believers like Caldwell take 'their' Jesus seriously -- more seriously than political power -- perhaps they should consider keeping Jesus out of political events.
Posted on: Thursday, January 27, 2005 - 15:34
Jonathan Spence, a professor of modern Chinese history at Yale, is the author, most recently, of "Treason by the Book."
WHY has the Chinese government been so intent on showing that the former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang was a man of no significance, a man whose life should not be celebrated and whose death should pass unsung? The answer that comes most readily to the historian's mind is that Mr. Zhao played a role that has often made Chinese governments deeply uneasy: that of a bold and visionary reformer who insistently calls for change and openness in a tightly controlled political environment. Saluted for a time as one of the leaders of the country, Mr. Zhao sought to use his power and visibility to grant a hearing to the voices of those excluded from the inner circles where decisions were normally made. And when he persisted in this course in the face of opposition from senior leaders in his party, he had to be discarded.
Many others have played similar roles in China's long history, from as early as the seventh century B.C. Ancient texts suggest a tendency for historians to personalize the idea of reform, to let one or a few individuals give a human face to inchoate and broad-based pleas for change and innovation. Often, those seeking reforms were punished by their own colleagues, so that the concept of reform led to the construction in China of an elaborate and emotionally powerful martyrology.
China's recent history is studded with such cases that also serve as markers for major political shifts. Near the end of the Qing dynasty, China's last in the long imperial cycle that had endured for over two millenniums, there was a dramatic example. The year was 1898, and the country was smarting from its recent defeat by Japan, and the loss of Taiwan as one of the spoils of war. China's political structure seemed frozen in time, unable to adjust to a new world's market and military forces.
Persuaded of the need for change, the emperor himself tried to open up the system by inviting a group of independent-minded scholars to the court, where they swiftly introduced plans to develop the economy and tax system, transform education, foster industry, increase the productivity of agriculture, develop the press, and begin discussion of constitutional government and the possibilities of popular participation in decision-making. Before the year was out, the conservative opponents rallied, the emperor was placed under a form of palace arrest, and six of the most outspoken reformers were arrested and summarily executed. Those who had fled in time made it to Japan and a life of exile. The reform movement of 1898 became associated with the names of these six martyrs, though indeed they had spoken for a much larger constituency.
In the years after the dynasty's fall in 1912, other individuals made parallel gestures or mounted similar challenges to central establishments, knowing how high the risks might be. One of the new breed of politicians who had risen to prominence in China's first republican elections, held in late 1912, used his newfound influence to challenge the centralizing and militaristic tendencies of China's interim president; he was gunned down in the Shanghai railway station en route to taking up a leadership position in the new Parliament....
In contrast to many earlier reformers, Mr. Zhao was allowed to live out the 15 years of life that remained to him in house arrest in Beijing. But the main issues he had raised about political openness were not addressed. Instead, it was the market-energizing plans, which he had formulated in earlier years in Guangdong and Sichuan provinces, that were enshrined as basic policies for China's boom economy of the late 20th century. It did seem like petty spite for China's government to refuse Mr. Zhao a formal funeral and to deny him the credit that was his due.
But, if the past is any guide, there will be a kind of corrective justice, as China's leaders seem already to be realizing by modifying their tough stance on the exact funeral arrangements. Indeed, the last thing that China's leaders probably want is for Mr. Zhao to join the long list of reforming martyrs who have made their mark before him.
Posted on: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - 15:24
Until the 18th century, there was basically only one kind of Judaism, that which is now called Orthodox. It meant living by the religion's 613 laws, and doing so suffused Jews' lives with their faith. Then, starting with the thinker Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) and moving briskly during the Haskala, or"enlightenment," from the late 18th century, Jews developed a wide variety of alternate interpretations of their religion, most of which diminished the role of faith in their lives and led to a concomitant reduction in Jewish affiliation.
These alternatives and other developments, in particular the Holocaust, caused the ranks of the Orthodox to be reduced to a small minority. Their percentage of the total world Jewish population reached a nadir in the post-World War II era, when it declined to about 5%.
The subsequent 60 years, however, witnessed a resurgence of the Orthodox element. This was, again, due to many factors, especially a tendency among the non-Orthodox to marry non-Jews and have fewer children. Recent figures on America published by the National Jewish Population Survey also point in this direction. The Orthodox proportion of American synagogue members, for example, went from 11% in 1971 to 16% in 1990 to 21% in 2000-01. (In absolute numbers, it bears noting, the American Jewish population went steadily down during these decades.)
Should this trend continue, it is conceivable that the ratio will return to roughly where it was two centuries ago, with the Orthodox again constituting the great majority of Jews. Were that to happen, the non-Orthodox phenomenon could seem in retrospect merely an episode, an interesting, eventful, consequential, and yet doomed search for alternatives, suggesting that living by the law may be essential for maintaining a Jewish identity over the long term.
These demographic thoughts come to mind upon reading a recent article in the Jerusalem Post,"U.S. Haredi Leader Urges Activism," by Uriel Heilman, in which he reports on a"landmark address" in late November 2004 by the executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Shmuel Bloom. Agudath, an Orthodox organization with a stated mission to"mobilize Torah-loyal Jews for the perpetuation of authentic Judaism," has a membership ranging from clean-shaven men to black-hatted ones (the haredi), from Jews educated in secular universities to full-time, Yiddish speaking students of the Talmud.
Rabbi Bloom told an Agudath audience that Jewish demographic trends imply that American Orthodox Jews can no longer, as in the past, bury themselves in their parochial interests and expect non-Orthodox Jewish institutions to shoulder the major burden of communal responsibilities. Rather, the Orthodox must now join in, or even take over from their non-Orthodox coreligionists such tasks as fighting anti-Semitism, sending funds to Israel, and lobbying the American government."The things we rely on secular Jews for," he asked,"who's going to do that if the secular community whittles down? We have to broaden our agenda to include things that up until now we've relied upon secular Jews to do."
He exaggerates, in that some Orthodox Jews in America have been prominently involved in both national (think of Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut) and communal affairs (Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America comes to mind). But he is accurate insofar as Orthodox institutions have generally stayed out of the American fray except to pursue their narrow agenda.
Others in Agudath agree with the need for the Orthodox to broaden their ambitions. The organization's executive vice president for government and public affairs, David Zwiebel, notes that,"With our growing numbers and the maturing of the community and the greater self-confidence that comes with that maturity and those numbers, there's no question that we need to at least recognize that there may be certain responsibilities that now have to shift to our shoulders."
Mr. Heilman understands this intent to assume a greater role in national and Jewish life as"a sign both of the success of the American haredi community in sustaining its numbers and its failure to translate that success into greater influence in the community at large."
It also could portend a much deeper shift in Jewish life in America and beyond, being a leading indicator of Orthodoxy's political coming of age and perhaps even its eventual replacement of non-Orthodox Judaism.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - 21:41
Edward Luttwak, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington
As long as we realise we are doing no bloody good by being there . . . withdrawal should take place as soon as there is diplomatic alignment. How soon you finish washing after dinner depends on when you start. How soon you can do it depends on how soon you start working to create the conditions to do it. It needs negotiation (with neighbouring countries) to begin with.
Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan
It is in the (election) platform of the United Iraqi Alliance that they will press for a timetable for withdrawal. This idea seems to be growing in popularity among the (Shia) and even the secularists in Iraq. It appears to be a likely demand from the parliament after the election.
There are dangers in setting a timetable. One is that since the US dissolved the Iraqi military the coalition troops are the only ones keeping any kind of order in a lot of the country.
The other danger that I've argued as a historian is that setting a date for
withdrawal in itself sometimes contributes to instability - for example, the
Indian partition and 1948 in Palestine. When the foreign power announces that
it's going it becomes a lame duck.
Posted on: Monday, January 24, 2005 - 19:20
Susan Jacoby, in the NYT (1-19-05):
[Susan Jacoby, director of the Center for Inquiry-Metro New York, is the author of "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism."]
Shortly after the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," the usually astute historian Frederick Lewis Allen concluded that fundamentalism had been permanently discredited by the prosecution in Dayton, Tenn., of John T. Scopes, who had taught his biology students about Darwin's theory of evolution. "Legislators might go on passing anti-evolution laws," Allen wrote, "and in the hinterlands the pious might still keep their religion locked in a science-proof compartment of their minds; but civilized opinion everywhere had regarded the Dayton trial with amazement and amusement, and the slow drift away from fundamentalist certainty continued."
This was a serious historical misjudgment, as most recently demonstrated by the renewed determination of anti-evolution crusaders - buoyed by conservative gains in state and local elections - to force public school science classes to give equal time to religiously based speculation about the origins of life. These challenges to evolution range from old-time biblical literalism, insisting that the universe and man were created in seven days, to the newer "intelligent design," which maintains that if evolution occurred at all it could never be explained by Darwinian natural selection and could only have been directed at every stage by an omniscient creator.
Kansas, where evolution opponents regained control of the state board of education in November, is likely to be the first battleground. Proposals to modify the state's recommended science curriculum with alternatives to Darwinian evolution will be an issue at statewide public hearings scheduled in February. In Georgia last week, a federal judge ordered a suburban Atlanta school board to remove stickers labeling evolution "a theory, not a fact" from high school biology textbooks, but an appeal seems likely. Other states where the teaching of evolution is on the 2005 legislative or judicial calendar include Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
Many liberals mistakenly believe that these controversies are largely a product of the post-1980 politicization of the Christian right. In fact, the elected anti-evolutionists on local and state school boards today are the heirs of eight decades of fundamentalist campaigning against Darwinism through back-door pressure on textbook publishers and school officials. Even efforts to cloak creationism with the words "science" and "scientific" - as in "creation science" - is an old tactic, reminiscent of the Soviet Union's boasting about "scientific communism."
More sophisticated proponents of intelligent design, those who are religiously conservative but not insistent on literal adherence to the biblical creation story, use anti-Darwinist arguments from a tiny minority of scientists to bolster their case for a creator. Last month, a group of parents in Dover, Penn., filed the first lawsuit to address the issue, challenging the local school board's contention that "intelligent design" is a scientific rather than a religious theory and, therefore, does not violate the separation of church and state.
At the beginning of the 20th century, however, America was well on its way to an accommodation between science and mainstream religion, now a fait accompli in the rest of the developed world, that pleases neither atheists nor theocrats manqués but works for almost everyone else. A growing number of Americans accepted both evolution and religion but considered it the responsibility of the church, not public schools, to sort out the role of God. This view was expressed in 1904 by Maynard M. Metcalf, a zoologist and a liberal Christian, who praised the move to exclude religious speculation from the teaching of life sciences.
The Scopes trial changed all that. Instead of being the nail in the coffin
of creationism as many believe, the trial undermined the emerging accommodation
between religion and science by intensifying the fundamentalists' conviction
that acceptance of evolution would inevitably weaken any type of faith. ...
Posted on: Thursday, January 20, 2005 - 13:59
Posted on: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - 00:11
If Michael Schwerner had never come to Baltimore in 1963, would he have died in Mississippi in 1964?
In the summer of 1963, Schwerner was among the hundreds of demonstrators who sought to desegregate the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park.
"It was the first demonstration he ever participated in," said Taylor Branch, who has written two books in a trilogy he's doing on the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and was finishing the third even as I interviewed him.
In August 1964, Schwerner's body was found in an earthen dam along with those of James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. A sheriff's deputy in Neshoba County, Miss., delivered the trio into the not-so-tender mercies of Ku Klux Klansmen on June 21, 1964. All three were shot dead.
The names of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman surfaced again last week, when Edgar Ray Killen, an alleged KKK member, was charged in the murders. I was reminded of Schwerner's participation in the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park demonstrations by William Bradford Huie's book Three Lives for Mississippi, an account of the crime and of Schwerner's being targeted by the KKK long before the night of June 21, 1964.
Somehow my copy of Three Lives For Mississippi has vanished (I've reordered it online) so I went to Branch - as fine a nonfiction writer and civil rights historian as there is - to fill me in on the details about Schwerner, who just might be the most unheralded of all civil rights heroes.
Branch said that Schwerner and his wife, Rita, both participated in the Gwynn Oak demonstrations.
"They kind of got swept up in the movement once they came down here to Gwynn Oak," Branch said. The couple also attended the March on Washington in August 1963. After that, Michael Schwerner asked officials of the Congress of Racial Equality - then one of the more radical civil rights organizations - if he could work for the movement in the South.
Schwerner arrived in Meridian, Miss., in January 1964. It was there that he first met Chaney, a native Mississippian. Both men were part of COFO - the Council of Federated Organizations, comprising members of various civil rights organizations operating in Mississippi - and Neshoba County was part of their territory.
For six months, Schwerner and Chaney tried to persuade local black churches to open their doors for Freedom Schools, which were started by civil rights movement members to teach literacy and citizenship to poor blacks in the South. Schwerner was in Ohio, training a group of Northern students who had volunteered to be part of the effort when, on June 16, a black Neshoba County church whose pastor had agreed to open a Freedom School was burned to the ground and its members beaten. Goodman was among the students Schwerner trained.
Schwerner completed the training on June 20 and headed back to Mississippi with Goodman. Once there, Chaney joined them as the trio went to Neshoba County on June 21 to investigate the bombing and the beatings. A sheriff's deputy arrested the three. Some sources have said an informant tipped off the Neshoba County sheriff's office about the arrival of Schwerner and his two cohorts.
After paying a $25 fine for speeding, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were released. A sheriff's deputy stopped them again and handed them over to their murderers who, for months, had made it clear Schwerner was on their hit list.
"They [Klan members] called him `The Goatee,'" Branch said. Huie said local Klansmen had another name for Schwerner, one that included an ethnic slur:"the Jew-boy with the beard."
Branch said he's not sure whether Schwerner's murder was the part of a Klan conspiracy, one that Chaney and the star-crossed Goodman - who had only been in Mississippi one day - fell into. There is no indication, Branch said, that there was an attempt on Schwerner's life before June 21, 1964. But Branch said he has heard that Schwerner was a Klan target.
"There's some evidence of that," Branch said."It is true he was the main target. They definitely were after him. He was more the target than the other two."
A target, and a man of uncommon courage. Surely Schwerner must have known he was on a Klan hit list, which poses an interesting question for all Americans, especially those alive in the early 1960s, most of whom regarded civil rights activists the way we do that crazy uncle who thinks he's Napoleon.
How many of us would have returned to Mississippi in June of 1964 knowing the danger that awaited?
Posted on: Friday, January 14, 2005 - 15:31
Nearly 30 years ago I embarked on my college career by choosing a major in history, taking an experimental freshman course in the biographies of 20th century world political leaders.
Women were not ignored: We studied Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Madame Chiang Kai-shek. If nothing else I learned that, at least outside the United States, women could hold and exercise vast political power. But there was little about these leaders being women that mattered, at least in the way that we approached them. I struggled in the course, finding it hard to connect with the subjects, and seriously questioned my choice of major.
For our final assignment we were to choose a biography of a political leader and write a report. I scanned the shelves at the library, and amid all the volumes focusing on men, one book jumped out: a study of U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York. Perusing the book, I felt an odd connection to her, certainly more so than to Meir, Gandhi or Chiang. Here was a leader with far more immediate relevance to me than any other we'd studied.
I devoured the book over the weekend, paying little heed to the professor's warning that all biographies had to be preapproved. My enthusiasm for studying Chisholm only grew. This was a woman leader who was quite aware of the ways in which being female, and black, mattered.
I bounded into the professor's office first thing Monday, ready to get the imprimatur needed to continue the assignment. Certainly, he had to approve. After all, Chisholm was the first African American to seek a presidential bid from a major party. But he quickly let the air out of my tires. Chisholm, he sonorously intoned, simply was not important enough.
I suppose that the best way to describe what happened next is that I got even. I did what the professor commanded me to do: chose another book. I grabbed a psycho-biography of Richard Nixon, written before Watergate. The unconventionality of that study, especially when viewed in the hindsight of the scandal, I was sure, would make the professor squirm, yet he could hardly declare the subject of little importance.
Long-term, I resolved that I was going to show that professor I could be a historian too. I soon became drawn to African American history -- the most exciting development in the profession at the time. Later, as I pursued a graduate degree in legal history, I gravitated toward the now-hot field of women's history.
Meanwhile, I never forgot Shirley Chisholm, who died Saturday. She may not have been important to a middle-aged, white male professor but to me she embodied the battle."Men are men," as Chisholm once said. But we women, we'll be there in the end. Sometimes not being important is just important enough.
Note: Donna C. Schuele is a research scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women and teaches history and political science at UCLA and USC.
Posted on: Friday, January 14, 2005 - 14:16
The war on terror has not been the subject of a single American feature film nor, so far as I know, is there one in the works. But television is proving a bit braver and things should get interesting on Sunday, Jan. 9, when Fox begins a new season of its action show, called 24.
Why the absence of movies on the current war? Jack Valenti, then-head of the Motion Picture Association of America, once replied with questions of his own:
Who would you have as the enemy if you made a picture about terrorism? You'd probably have Muslims, would you not? If you did, I think there would be backlash from the decent, hard-working, law-abiding Muslim community in this country.
That's what some call a pre-emptive cringe. Others call it dhimmitude.
In any case, the most recent big-budget movie to deal with terrorism was 2002's Sum of All Fears ("27,000 Nuclear Weapons. One Is Missing"), based on a Tom Clancy novel of the same name. The novel had Arab terrorists setting off a nuclear device at football's Super Bowl but the movie, under pressure from Islamist organizations, features neo-Nazi terrorists. ("I hope you will be reassured," Director Phil Alden Robinson wrote in early 2001 to the Council on American-Islamic Relations,"that I have no intention of promoting negative images of Muslims or Arabs, and I wish you the best in your continuing efforts to combat discrimination.")
In an review of recent movies, Jonathan V. Last finds that,"If anything, the PC pressure has been upped since the war on terror began." The first break in the silence came in mid-2004, when The Grid, a TNT mini-series, took on radical Islam. Last termed it"the bravest, most-daring piece of entertainment in years," precisely because Tracey Alexander and Brian Eastman, its executive producers, did not whitewash all forms of Islam.
An excerpt from The Grid's second episode, concerning a Lebanese national named Fuqara, arrested as he tries to flee the United States after trying to murder an FBI agent, gives its flavor. Fuqara is interrogated by Agent Canary while his attorney tries to stop the proceedings:
Agent Canary: Mr. Fuqara, who ordered you to commit the assassination?
Fuqara: (Mutters in Arabic.)
Fuqara's Attorney (to Agent Canary): Can we have a moment outside? (The two exit the room.) Don't you dare threaten him with a rend writ.
Agent Canary: He has information about planned attacks here that could threaten thousands of American lives.
Fuqara's Attorney: And that gives you the right to summarily dismiss Mr. Fuqara's rights? Hey, why stop there? Deport all the Muslims in America to win your war!
Agent Canary: I might suggest some rights stop at mass murder.
Fuqara's Attorney: They don't. And until there is an amendment to the constitution to that effect, I will protect Mr. Fuqara's rights.
A second break will come in a few days, when the Fox Channel's 24 shows four episodes depicting a Muslim family as coming to the United States solely to implement attacks against Americans. To do so, they masquerade as just folk. Here is how Jim Finkle of Broadcasting & Cable describes them:"One of the villains is a Walkman-toting, bubble-gum-chewing teenager who fights with his conservative Dad about dating an American girl and talking on the phone."
But this is a disguise.
The young man also helps his parents mastermind a plot to kill large numbers of Americans that begins with an attack on a train. Over the breakfast table, the father tells his son:"What we will accomplish today will change the world. We are fortunate that that our family has been chosen to do this.""Yes, father," his son replies.
The terrorists manage to take the secretary of defense as a hostage; and the movie climaxes with the secretary shown on a gruesome Internet video like those coming out of Iraq, then tried for"war crimes against humanity."
Predictably, 24 has the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country's lead Islamist outfit, in a tizzy. CAIR spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmed complains that"They are taking everyday American Muslim families and making them suspects. They're making it seem like families are co-conspirators in this terrorist plot."
Melanie McFarland, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's television critic, has no patience for such whining:"this is 24, OK? Anyone who watches it knows the show borrows aspects of real nightmares to drive its plots, paying little attention to political correctness."
But there is another reason to stick with the plot as it is. Nearly every terrorist suspect in the West is said to be a regular guy or a wonderful gal, as I have previously shown. The adjectives applied to Sajid Mohammed Badat, a Briton, are typical:"a walking angel,""the bright star of our mosque,""a friendly, warm, fun-loving character,""a friendly, sociable, normal young lad, who had lots of friends and did not hold extreme views in any way." Despite those raves, he has been indicted for helping shoe-bomber Richard C Reid attempt to blow up an airliner and will face trial on conspiracy charges (he was found with parts for more shoe bombs like those Reid used).
Just last week, the Seattle Timesreported on a Saudi now being deported from the United States:
To his co-workers at the University of Washington School of Nursing, Majid al-Massari was a happy guy who bounced down the halls and seemed like a"big teddy bear." What his friends didn't know about the burly, bearded 34-year-old computer-security specialist was that he had helped set up a Web site for a group linked to al-Qaida, quoted Osama bin Laden in his own Internet postings, lashed out against American policies on his father's London-based radio show and had landed in the sights of U.S. terrorism investigators.
This sort of surprise happens with such consistency that I am tempted to generalize: On arrest, every single Islamist in the West is initially hailed as a delightful person, and never as a hate-filled brooding loner.
So, hooray for Fox for portraying reality; and may it not cave to the Islamists.
Posted on: Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 18:08
[Edwin Black is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust, The Transfer Agreement, and War Against the Weak. His latest book is Banking on Baghdad: Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict.]
FP: Welcome to Frontpage Interview Mr. Black, it is a pleasure to have you here.
Black: Thank you.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Black: Iraq is the compelling story of our day, but just part of a much broader story of the west vs. the Middle East and indeed the clash between world terrorism and western civilization. For me, it was not enough to go back to the rise of Saddam Hussein, or even the formation of Iraq after WWI, as other authors have done. I went back to the centuries-long reign of the Ottomans, and then further back to the Islamic Conquest and further until the beginning of recorded time in the so-called and misnamed Cradle of Civilization. I discovered that Iraqs history has been one of unending victimization of the people, and their revictimization of the perceived victimizers in a ceaseless cascade of violence, oppression and desolation.
FP: You show Iraq's long history of exploitation by Western powers and powerful competing corporations. Tell us a bit of how this complicates the contemporary U.S. effort to build democracy in Iraq.
Black: The people of Iraq do not want democracy. They have a 7,000-year head start on the West. If the people of Iraq wanted democracy, they dont need a permission slip from New York or London. The people of Iraq are fundamentally an intolerant people that oppress half their communitywomen. Yes, since Iraq was invented in 1920, the Western nations have attempted to create a pluralistic and democratic nation where one has never existed to have some ruler sign on the dotted line to legitimize their oil concessions and to create an atmosphere of democracy to promote the unimpeded flow of oil. I assure you, when the people of this region hear the word democracy they hear a code word for you people want to take our oil.
FP: What can the United States start doing to increase its own legitimacy and win the war of ideas in the Middle East?
Black: Nothing. It is not our policy in Iraq the people resent, it is our very presence. It does not matter how many bridges we rebuild or schoolhouses we repaint. It is us and our presencethe infidelsthat they revile. Even the Shiites who fervently push for elections say it is a way to rid themselves of the foreign occupier. In the larger Middle East, we can never be seen as legitimateor at least not during the years to come. True, we may prevail in our efforts at winning peace in the Arab-Israel conflictmaybe maybebut not because we are seen as legitimate, but rather because we were able to somehow force a square peg into a round hole. The reality is: we will never succeed in the Middle East until we get off of oil.
FP: Despite the history of war, profit and conflict, Bushs liberation of Iraq was still legitimate and necessarycorrect? Not only did it dislodge one of the most vicious and barbaric regimes in history and liberate 25 million people, but it made the crucial step to winning the terror war: starting the process of democratization in the Middle East. Do you agree?
Black: I am so happy Saddam has been dethroned and retrieved from his rat hole. I wish we could go down the list of the worlds oppressors and relieve them all of their rule. That said, if Bush had gone in on Monday to liberate Iraq from Saddam, and then left on Thursday, things might have genuinely turned out differently. But we have just stayed. You are correct, Saddam was a heinous monster in the tradition of Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler. But he was a regional monster in a region filled with such monsters. Moreover, his regime was only one of a long-line of oppressive, monstrous regimes in Iraq that long predate the Ba'athists. The UN is filled with such tyrannical regimes. But Iraq came to the top of the list because of our strategic interest. That strategic interest is oil.
FP: So building democracy is a waste of time in Iraq? In the end it will fail anyway? You say the Iraqi people dont want democracy. What do they want then?
Black: They want us gone. They want the infidels out of their midst. They want to create their own national expressions based upon their own tribal, religious and social values, traditions and legacies.
FP: You may be right, there are so many depressing and impossible realities here. But surely we cant just sit back and not try to instill some kind of democratization in that region. And surely there are many Iraqis who want nothing to do with dictatorship and want freedom. Despite the obstacles, we have to try to bring democracy to Iraq and the rest of the region. It is a key strategy in our war with radical Islamism. History teaches that the way to fight our totalitarian enemies best is to try to spread liberty and democracy as much as we can. No? If not, what alternatives are there?
Black: We will never succeed in Iraq. No one has ever succeeded in Iraq. Not all people on earth are destined for Starbucks and the American societal makeover. Certainly, in the past century there has always been a forward thinking and politically enlightened segment of Iraqi society. Right now, today, the magnificent Iraqis who are trying to democratize the government are braver than brave. Those who work with the coalition and the Americans are targets as much as our own marines, but those government leaders of Iraq wear no armor and do not live in the Green Zone. I keep finding new depths of outrage over the violence and inhumanity there. Think of the brazen assault in Baghdad on an election commissioner and his body guards a few days agothey were just dragged from their cars in open daylight on the busy main Haifa Street by gunmen without masks; they made them kneel and shot them in the head for all to see. In the face of this violent segmentcall it a popular minorityhow can democratization survive? Monsters succeed in Iraq by virtue of their monstrositylook at the history. I think more civilized behavior can come to the Cradle of Civilization, but not in an overnight transformation. Only with baby steps. The people must yearn to be free. Elections dont make democracies. Democracies make elections. Compare the situation in Iraq with that in the Ukraine where the masses gathered in the squares day after day in the snow and the rain to rally for proper elections. Compare the people of Afghanistana very different people, far less urbanized and with a vastly different traditionand their recent epic trek to the polls. We can help. We do help. But we cannot impose democracy from afar. There will never be a military disengagement, only an energy disengagement. When we get off oil, we wont need to be in Iraq and wont spend billions per month to transform their society.
FP: Ok, definitely you are right that we are facing monsters that are trying to defeat democracy in Iraq with their monstrosity. We are facing tremendous challenges and yes, it is very difficult, to say the least, to implant democracy if the masses are not fervently crying out for it, gathering in mass demonstrations like in Ukraine and so forth
But here is the key now: we are already in Iraq and we have to win in Iraq.
Are you suggesting that we withdraw?
If we withdraw, we lose and the consequences will be much worse and bloodier than those that occurred in Indo-china. After we abandoned Southeast Asia, the Communists ended up perpetrating a bloodbath, exterminating three million people.
If we suddenly cut and run in Iraq, there will most likely be a much more horrible bloodbath. The terrorists will slaughter not only all of our allies, but also all of those who dont want Sharia. The danger is that there could be a domino effect and militant Muslims will be inspired by this sign of infidel weakness and go on a violent spree not only in the Middle East, but all over the world. The key here is that we are not in Iraq now to just save Iraq; we are there because we are in a war with radical Islam. And we have no choice but to win. Do you not agree that withdrawal in this case is the greatest of evils?
Black: We cant cut and run like the Spanish. Thats the problem. We are in it. Our boys and girls are there. If we retreat, it is a huge victory for world terrorism and Jihad. And by the way, neither world terrorism nor the Jihad were in Iraq until we created the power vacuum and opened the door. Under Saddam, no one was allowed to achieve any element of power base or rival his authoritynot the Shiites, not al Qaeda, no one. But now they have rushed in. We are creating the worlds next Chechen-style murder battalions. Moreover, the world will witness an unprecedented bloodbath, one that will exceed anything you saw in Viet Nam. Understand, we are in an unwinnable struggle with an implacable enemy that knows no limit to their historic barbarism. That said, we must understand that while we cannot run, and while we can survive in Iraq, we will never succeed in Iraq. We must declare a war on oil addiction, and launch an international Manhattan Project to move the world to alternatives such hydrogen, solar, wind. We could do it for $5 billion in 5 yearsor a months war expense in Iraq. Then we rob the region of its arch-importance. Then we edge out of Iraq as the Israelis are doing in Gaza, as we did a generation earlier in Viet Nam. That will end the war in Iraq but the legacy of world terrorism, the new Mongol-style onslaught, shall be with us for generations.
FP: Well, there is substantial evidence of Husseins associations with world terrorism before we invaded Iraq. The Iraqi dictator aided, abetted, and provided sanctuary to Abu Nidals terrorists, Abu Abbas, and all kinds of radical Islamic terrorist groups Hizbollah and Hamas among them. His $25,000 rewards to Palestinian suicide bombers families speak volumes. Laurie Mylroie and Steven Hayes have already documented all of these realities with meticulous research and precision. In any case, the U.S. just couldnt take the risk that someone like Saddam, who at one time possessed and used WMDs, could arm the perpetrators of 9/11 with God knows what. We just couldnt take that risk.
Black: Slogans are easy. Lets get the facts in focus. I followed the career of Abu Nidal, the nom de guerre of Sabri al-Bana, an arch Palestinian terrorist. I was among the few who flew to Israel during the famous Abu Nidal Passover scare, when he threatened to blow up any El Al plane in the air. It is true that after his exodus from the West Bank, Abu Nidal set up shop in Iraq and worked extensively with Iraqi intelligence as part of a rejectionist front; that was a generation ago in the 1970s. I already explained that no one with a power basereligious, tribal or politicalcould co-exist with the murderous Saddam. Abu Nidal was financed in large part by Gulf States and was considered a Carlos-style terrorist for hire. Saddam did not like that. By 1983, during the war with Iraq, Saddam expelled Abu Nidal and his shadowy terrorist groupthis very much in a deal with the Americans in exchange for their support of Saddam against Iran. Remember the Stark?
A few years later, the money-hungry Abu Nidal conspired with the Kuwaiti authorities against his former host in Kuwaits conflict with Saddam. He provided intelligence against Iraq to the Kuwaitis to be transmitted to the Americans during the first Gulf War. By the mid-eighties, the renegade Abu Nidal, expelled from a gallery of terrorist-leaning Middle East countries from Syria to Libya stopped his terrorist acts against the West and focused on internecine Arab assassination in Tunis and Beirut, which stopped by the mid-nineties because he ran out of funding, his health deteriorated into crisis mode, and because his once-revolutionary terrorist group was supplanted by a new generation of suicide bombers and killers spanning the Middle East. I do not know of any Abu Nidal attacks against the West in the last fifteen years. In August 2002, Abu Nidal was admitted into Iraq and either immediately murdered by Saddams intelligence operatives, or somehow convinced to commit suicide by shooting his brains out. The Middle East is comprised of nations that have practiced, nurtured and supported international terrorismfrom Egypt and Lebanon to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Did Iraq exceed Saudi Arabia?
As for financing West Bank suicide bombers, yes, Saddam paid insurance benefits of $25,000 to the families. But lets put this in perspective. Kuwait held a national telethon. The Saudi Royal family was involved in such charity. The Middle East is filled with Arab countries that consider this type of paymentgovernmental or privatea holy exercise. Now then, as for the falsity that Saddam was involved with 9-11, this is a recent shibboleth that Rumsfeld disowned once again on television just a few days ago, as was done by Bush and the 9-11 commission last year. The WMDs we feared did not exist, and we grasped at straws in the intelligence to believe they existed because we wanted to believe. You say, We could not take that risk. I say Saddam should have been removed not because he posed a threat to us, which at that moment he did not, but because he was an inhuman monster and tyrant. I go back to the clarion calls of Stephen Wise who declared at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 1933 that there comes a time when persecution is not local, but becomes an international concern.
Are you getting it? I want all the dastardly oppressors and murdering regimes gone. Preemptively. I support the original concept: regime change. With so noble a cause why did we need to fake it with WMD?
FP: Well, we agree on some things. This WMD debate can go on in circles. Suffice it to say that Al-Zarqawi and the terrorists are in Iraq and they are our enemies and they are the ones we need to fight and to kill.
So lets say President Bush called you tomorrow and asked you for your advice on what to do in the terror war in general and in Iraq in particular. What would you say?
Black: Find a Polish person.
FP: Why do you say this?
Black: Every Polish person in America knows that the Russians liberated Poland from the greatest monsters of all time. But then they just stayed and became the most hated people in Eastern Europe. As I say, had we gone into Iraq on a Monday and dethroned Saddam and left by Thursday, it might have worked out differently. But we just stayed. We stayed too long. Now we cant get out.
FP: Mr. Black, with all due respect, you are making analogies between one of the most evil and vicious regimes in world history and the United States. The Soviets did not liberate Poland. A sadistic tyranny does not liberate people; it enslaves them. The Soviets simply replaced the Nazis with the same totalitarian evil. Any Polish person would tell you that they would have loved the Americans to occupy Poland temporarily rather than the Soviets. Because then the fate of Poland would have been the fate of Japan and Western Europe: political freedom and economic prosperity.
Black: I have been studying WWII and the Holocaust for more than 20 years, since my first book in 1984, The Transfer Agreement. In the subsequent two books, IBM and the Holocaust and War Against the Weak, I had the chance to study the day-by-day process of Allied liberation and occupation in 1945juridical and militarized. First, the question of Polish liberation by the Soviets. There is no survivor of Auschwitz, no book, no web site, no memoir, no documentary on the subject that does not declare that the death camp was liberated by the Soviets. Ask any survivor. Ask my parents who escaped from a Treblinka boxcar and shooting place and who lived as forest fighters for two years whether they think the Russians liberated Poland? Just a few days ago, the Polish Foreign Ministry commemorated the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of the KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. Even today, Polish people even refer to the liberation of Poland from the Nazis that systematically plundered and raped the entire nation as a slave race. When you are cracking under a life of brutal slave labor or face the barbed wire of a concentration camp, the one who defeats your oppressor and sets you free is the liberator, whoever he is, whatever his politics are, whatever his later conduct is. The difference between liberation and invasion is defined not by the pages of a dictionary but by the pages of the calendar.
I think the real confusion has arisen in the Administration, confusing our justified occupation of Japan and Germanyperpetrators of a world war that murdered 35 million people and destroyed large parts of the worldcannot be compared with dethroning regional monsters such as Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein. We liberated Kuwait. We did not remain in Kuwait. We liberated Iraq. We stayed in Iraq and used the German occupation as legal and historical precedent.
FP: We stayed in Iraq because we couldnt simply just abandon Iraqis to be re-enslaved by some other monstrous tyranny.
In any case, you say now we cant get out of Iraq. Well, no, we cant immediately get out of a place where World War IV is being fought, between the forces of democratic freedom and Islamist despotism. We cannot just leave. And if we have to, well have to fight till we kill very last terrorist, no matter how many of them there are. The alternative is the equivalent of Khmer Rouges killing fields being perpetrated not only in Iraq, but eventually on our own territory and throughout the entire world.
Black: Correctin principal. I wish it were that easy. The Khmer Rouge were only interested in dominating Cambodia. Can we say the same for Islamic terrorism?
FP: No we cannot, and that is the problem.
Mr. Black, we really appreciate the time and energy you have devoted to visiting Frontpage Magazine. It was a pleasure to discuss all these matters with you and we hope to see you again in the near future.
Black: Thank you for helping me answers questions for myself as well.
Posted on: Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 17:32
John Lewis Gaddis, in Foreign Affairs (Jan.-Feb. 2005):
Second terms in the White House open the way for second thoughts. They provide the least awkward moment at which to replace or reshuffle key advisers. They lessen, although nothing can remove, the influence of domestic political considerations, since re-elected presidents have no next election to worry about. They enhance authority, as allies and adversaries learn--whether with hope or despair--with whom they will have to deal for the next four years. If there is ever a time for an administration to evaluate its own performance, this is it.
George W. Bush has much to evaluate: he has presided over the most sweeping redesign of U.S. grand strategy since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The basis for Bush's grand strategy, like Roosevelt's, comes from the shock of surprise attack and will not change. None of F.D.R.'s successors, Democrat or Republican, could escape the lesson he drew from the events of December 7, 1941: that distance alone no longer protected Americans from assaults at the hands of hostile states. Neither Bush nor his successors, whatever their party, can ignore what the events of September 11, 2001, made clear: that deterrence against states affords insufficient protection from attacks by gangs, which can now inflict the kind of damage only states fighting wars used to be able to achieve. In that sense, the course for Bush's second term remains that of his first one: the restoration of security in a suddenly more dangerous world.
Setting a course, however, is only a starting point for strategies: experience always reshapes them as they evolve. Bush has been rethinking his strategy for some time now, despite his reluctance during the campaign to admit mistakes. With a renewed and strengthened electoral mandate, he will find it easier to make midcourse corrections. The best way to predict their extent is to compare what his administration intended with what it has so far accomplished. The differences suggest where changes will--or at least should--take place.
PRE-EMPTION AND PREVENTION
The narrowest gap between Bush's intentions and his accomplishments has to do with preventing another major attack on the United States. Of course, one could occur at any moment, even between the completion of this article and its publication. But the fact that more than three years have passed without such an attack is significant. Few Americans would have thought it likely in the immediate aftermath of September 11. The prevailing view then was that a terrorist offensive was underway, and that the nation would be fortunate to get through the next three months without a similar or more serious blow being struck.
Connecting causes with consequences is always difficult--all the more so when we know so little of Osama bin Laden's intentions or those of his followers. Perhaps al Qaeda planned no further attacks. Perhaps it anticipated that the United States would retaliate by invading Afghanistan and deposing the Taliban. Perhaps it foresaw U.S. military redeployments from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Iraq. Perhaps it expected a worldwide counterterrorist campaign to roll up substantial portions of its network. Perhaps it predicted that the Bush administration would abandon its aversion to nation building and set out to democratize the Middle East. Perhaps bin Laden's strategy allowed for all of this, but that seems unlikely. If it did not, then the first and most fundamental feature of the Bush strategy--taking the offensive against the terrorists and thereby surprising them--has so far accomplished its purposes.
A less obvious point follows concerning pre-emption and prevention, a distinction that arose from hypothetical hot-war planning during the Cold War. "Pre-emption" meant taking military action against a state that was about to launch an attack; international law and practice had long allowed such actions to forestall clear and immediately present dangers. "Prevention" meant starting a war against a state that might, at some future point, pose such risks. In mounting its post-September 11 offensive, the Bush administration conflated these terms, using the word "pre-emption" to justify what turned out to be a "preventive" war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
It did so on the grounds that, in a post-September 11 world, both terrorists and tyrants threatened the security of the United States. Al Qaeda could not have acted without the support and sanctuary the Taliban provided. But the traditional warnings governments had used to justify pre-emption--the massing of armed forces in such a way as to confirm aggressive intent--would not have detected the September 11 attacks before they took place. Decisions made, or at least circumstances tolerated, by a shadowy regime in a remote country halfway around the world produced an act of war that killed more Americans than the one committed six decades earlier by Japan, a state known at the time to pose the clearest and most present of dangers.
Posted on: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 02:35
We read that"Prime Minister" Mahmoud Abbas is running in the elections on Sunday to succeed Yasser Arafat as"president" of"Palestine."
Excuse me, but prime minister, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, means the"head of the executive branch of government in states with a parliamentary system." Despite tens of thousands of references to Mr. Abbas as prime minister, he in not a single way fits this description.
Oh, and there is also the matter of there being no country called Palestine. Arab maps show it in place of Israel. The U.N. recognizes its existence. So too do certain telephone companies – for example, France's Bouygues Telecom and Bell Canada. Nonetheless, no such place exists.
One can dismiss use of these terms as symptoms of the same unrealism that has undermined Palestinian Arab war efforts since 1948. But they also promote the Palestinian cause (a polite way of saying,"the destruction of Israel") in a vital way.
In an era when the battle for public opinion has an importance that rivals the clash of soldiers, the Palestinian Arabs' success in framing the issues has won them critical support among politicians, editorial writers, academics, street demonstrators, and NGO activists. In the aggregate, these many auxiliaries keep the Palestinian effort alive.
Especially in a long-standing dispute with a static situation on the ground, public opinion has great significance. That's because words reflect ideas – and ideas motivate people. Weapons in themselves are inert; today, ideas inspire people to pick up arms or sacrifice their lives. Software drives hardware.
Israel is winning on the basic geographic nomenclature. The state is known in English as Israel, not the Zionist entity. Its capital is called Jerusalem, not Al-Quds. Likewise, Temple Mount and Western Wall enjoy far more currency than Al-Haram ash-Sharif or Al-Buraq. The separation barrier is more often called a security fence (keeping out Palestinian suicide bombers) than a separation wall (bringing to mind divided Berlin).
In other ways, however, the Palestinian Arabs' wording dominates English-language usage, helping them win the war for public opinion.
Collaboratormeans someone who" cooperates treasonably" and brings to mind the French and Norwegian collaborators who betrayed their countries to the Nazis. Yet this term (rather than informant, mole, or agent) universally describes those Palestinian Arabs providing Israel with information.
Refugee status normally applies to someone who,"owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted . . . is outside the country of his nationality," but not to that person's descendants. In the Palestinian case, however, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of refugees also merit refugee status. One demographer estimates that more than 95% of so-called Palestinian Arab refugees never fled from anywhere. Nonetheless, the term continues to be used, implying that millions of Palestinian Arabs have a right to move to Israel.
A settlement is defined as a small community or an establishment in a new region. Although some Jewish towns on the West Bank and in Gaza have tens of thousands of residents and have existed for nearly four decades, settlement, with its overtones of colonialism, is their nearly universal name.
Occupied territories implies that a Palestinian state existed in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza. That was not the case, making these areas legally disputed territories, not occupied ones.
Cycle of violence, a term President George W. Bush has adopted ("the cycle of violence has got to end in order for the peace process … to begin"), implies a moral equivalence between the killing of Israeli civilians and Palestinian Arab terrorists. It confuses the arsonist with the fire department.
The peace camp in Israel – a term that derives from Lenin's usage – refers to those on the left who believe that appeasing mortal enemies is the only way to end Palestinian aggression. Those in favor of other approaches (such a deterrence) by implication constitute the"war camp." In fact, all Israelis are in the"peace camp" in the sense that all want to be rid of the conflict; none of them aspires to kill Palestinian Arabs, occupy Cairo, or destroy Syria.
Arabs may have fallen behind Israel in per capita income and advanced weaponry, but they lead by far on the semantic battlefield. Who, a century back, would have imagined Jews making the better soldiers and Arabs the better publicists?
Posted on: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 02:13
Andrew Greeley, sociologist, novelist, columnist, and priest, asked in the Christmas Eve edition of the Chicago Sun-Times,"Why?" He was referring to the Iraq war in the decades ahead. His language about the adventure was incautious: It's a" cockamamie and criminally immoral war ... planned before the Sept. 11 attack in which Iraq was not involved .... It has nothing to do with the war on terror .... [It is the product of] hallucinations by men and women [who write] long memos -- ... intellectuals with pointy heads."
Greeley would support the troops in"the best way possible: Bring them home, get them out of a war for which the planning was inadequate, the training nonexistent, the goal obscure, and the equipment ... inferior. They are brave men and women ... [but] sitting ducks for fanatics. Those who die are the victims of the big lie .... They are not the war criminals. The 'Vulcans,' as the ... foreign policy team calls itself, are the criminals, and they ought to face indictment .... In fact, the war ... has become a quagmire .... [T]here is no possibility of victory."
Theology from this papist (supporter of Pope John Paul II):"One of the criteria for a just war is that there be a reasonable chance of victory. Where is that reasonable chance? Each extra day of the war makes it more unjust, more criminal. The guilty people are [also] those who in the November election endorsed the war. They are also responsible for the Iraqi deaths .... We celebrate 'peace on Earth to men of good will.' Americans must face the fact that they can no longer claim to be men and women of good will .... [By the way, there is no] serious reason to believe that Sen. John Kerry would have had the courage to end the war."
Being the moderate Swiss half of the Irish-Swiss duo"Born Feb. 5, 1928," I would have used more temperate language, but believe Greeley raises a point we must face in 2005, the first year of the next decade of this war. What does one do if he or she becomes convinced that the"just war" criteria did not and do not"fit" this war? When the majority of the population finally came to call the Vietnam War immoral, I was counseling, among others, Lutheran"selective conscientious objectors," that is, not pure pacifists, but objectors to a particular war.
Martin Luther asked, at treatise length,"Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved." His main answer in short: Yes. But:"'Suppose my lord were wrong in going to war.' I reply: 'If you know for sure that he is wrong, then you should fear God rather than men, Acts 4 [5:29], and you should neither fight nor serve, for you cannot have a good conscience before God.'" Luther did say, give your"lord" the benefit of the doubt;"you ought not to weaken certain obedience for the sake of an uncertain justice." But otherwise,"it is better for God to call you loyal and honorable than for the world to call you loyal and honorable."
Greeley is not putting the onus on the troops, whom he applauds and for whom he has sympathy. He questions the citizens who support the venture. He is not the only questioner, and the hawkish Luther is not the only adviser on the morality of war. Still, in 2010, will we look back and ask whether we would not have done better at least to have given such voices a hearing earlier on?
Posted on: Monday, January 3, 2005 - 12:43