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.
SOURCE: NY Sun (8-22-06)
The debate over profiling airline passengers revived after the thwarted Islamist plot to bomb 10 airplanes in London on Aug. 10. The sad fact is, through inertia, denial, cowardice, and political correctness, Western airport security services — with the notable exception of Israel's — search primarily for the implements of terrorism, while largely ignoring passengers.
Although there has been some progress since the attacks of September 11, 2001, most involves the scrutiny of all travelers' actions. For example, in 2003, the Transportation Security Administration, charged with protecting American airplanes, launched a passenger profiling system known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, now operating in twelve U.S. airports.
Adopting techniques used by the U.S. Customs Service and by Israeli airport security, SPOT is"the antidote to racial profiling," TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis, said. It discerns, she said,"extremely high levels of stress, fear and deception" through"behavioral pattern recognition." SPOT agents observe passengers moving about the airport, with TSA agents looking for such physical symptoms as sweating, rigid posture, and clenched fists. A screener then engages"selectees" in conversation and asks unexpected questions, looking at body language for signs of unnatural responses. Most selectees are immediately released, but about one-fifth are interviewed by the police.
After the London plot, the British authorities instituted a crash-course in SPOT, learning directly from their American counterparts.
Building on this approach, an Israeli machine, called Cogito, uses algorithms, artificial-intelligence software, and polygraph principles to discern passengers with"hostile intent." In trial runs with control groups, the machine incorrectly fingered 8% of innocent travelers as potential threats and let 15% of the role-acting terrorists slip through.
While methods that target the whole population have general value — SPOT did discover passengers with forged visas, fake IDs, stolen airline tickets, and various forms of contraband — its utility for counterterrorism is dubious. Terrorists trained to answer questions convincingly, avoid sweating, and control stress should easily be able to evade the system.
The airport disruptions following the thwarted London plot prompted much discussion about the need to focus on the source of Islamist terrorism and to profile Muslims. In the words of a Wall Street Journal editorial,"a return to any kind of normalcy in travel is going to require that airport security do a better job of separating high-risk passengers from unlikely threats."
This argument is gaining momentum. A recent poll found that 55% of Britons support passenger profiling that takes into account"background or appearance," with only 29% against. Lord Stevens, the former chief of Scotland Yard, has endorsed focusing on young Muslim men. The Guardian reports that"some EU countries, particularly France and the Netherlands, want to … introduce explicit checks on Muslim travelers."
One politician in Wisconsin and two in New York State came out in favor of similar profiling. A Fox News anchor, Bill O'Reilly, has suggested that Muslim passengers ages 16 to 45"all should be spoken with." Mike Gallagher, one of the most popular American radio talk-show hosts, has said he wants"a Muslim-only [passenger] line" at airports. In a column for the Evening Bulletin, Robert Sandler proposed putting"Muslims on one plane and put the rest of us on a different one."
The British Department for Transport reportedly is seeking to introduce passenger profiling that includes taking religious background into account. News from British airports indicates that this has already begun – sometimes even by fellow passengers.
Three conclusions emerge from this discussion. First, because Islamist terrorists are all Muslims, there does need to be a focus on Muslims. Second, such notions as"Muslim-only lines" at airports are infeasible; rather, intelligence must drive efforts to root out Muslims with an Islamist agenda.
Third, the chances of Muslim-focused profiling being widely implemented remain negligible. As the same Wall Street Journal editorial notes,"the fact that we may have come within a whisker of losing 3,000 lives over the Atlantic still isn't preventing political correctness from getting in the way of smarter security."
Noting the limited impact that losing 3,000 lives had in 2001 and building on my"education by murder" hypothesis — that people wake up to the problem of radical Islam only when blood is flowing in the streets — I predict that effective profiling will only come into effect when many more Western lives, say 100,000, have been lost.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 15:28
SOURCE: Juan Cole's Informed Comment (Blog) (8-22-06)
Bush said again on Monday that he would keep US troops in Iraq until 2009 and argued that for the US to withdraw would send a bad message to reformers in the region. He said he is concerned about that talk of civil war in Iraq and seemed to admit that he isn't very happy most of the time about the way things are going, but added that he doesn't expect to be joyous in wartime. He admitted again that Saddam Hussein did not"order" 9/11, but went on to again link Baathist Iraq to the threat of terrorism against the US, an unproven charge.
I am not a psychiatrist and don't play one on t.v., so treat what follows as political satire please, and nothing more.
But what strikes me about Bush's Monday appearance is how consistent it is with what I understand of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. Let's look at it this way:
'1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).'
Bush is not content to be the most powerful man in the world. He thinks he is on a mission from God, and has decided that he is going to"reform" the Middle East, and turn Middle Easterners into something else. He is the Great Transformer of these other peoples' lives. The reason he has to stay in Iraq until the end of his presidency (it is all about him) is that he cannot admit that he did not succeed in being the great Transformer of the Middle East, that in fact he screwed up the Middle East royally. Because such an admission of any slightest mistake, much less a major series of failures, would fatally threaten his sense of grandiosity. Thus, he can't pull troops out of Iraq not because of practical military considerations, but because it would send the wrong signal to regional"reformers," i.e. Bush's mini-me's, the people fulfilling his sense of grandiosity.
Nobody else is in the picture here, just Bush. He doesn't ask any sacrifice from the US public for the war, as Bill Maher and others have noted. The heroics are his alone. The rest of us should go shopping (so as not to interfere with his self-image as Atlas of the Middle East.)
' 2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. '
Bush suffers from T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") syndrome. Lawrence, despite polite denials, clearly thought that he led the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I and wrote:
' All men dream: but not equally, Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did. I meant to make a new nation, to restore a lost influence, to give twenty millions of Semites the foundations on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts. So high an aim called out the inherent nobility of their minds, and made them play a generous part in events: but when we won, it was charged against me that the British petrol royalties in Mesopotamia were become dubious, and French Colonial policy ruined in the Levant. '
Bush, like Lawrence before him, imagines that he is inspiring a people to accomplish things they couldn't do without him. (That is why he can't admit that the Lebanese have been having elections for decades, and has to pretend it all started with him.) And all he gets for his inspired Transformation of others' lives is carping about the expected oil contracts in Iraq not being there. There is even prickliness from the French. Lawrence might have sympathized.
3. Believes he is"special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions) 4. Requires excessive admiration 5. Has a sense of entitlement.
He is the Decider. He doesn't need Security Council resolutions to start wars. He doesn't need warrants for wire taps. He is entitled. He is the War President (never mind that he chose to go to war in Iraq and so made himself into the war president, and that the war presidency would be over with by now if he were any good at it.)
' 6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends. 7. Lacks empathy'
Bush only"worries" that eventually there may be a civil war in Iraq. He doesn't admit that he made a whole country of 25 million people into guinea pigs, and that as a result 3,000 are dying a month in civil war violence of the most brutal kind. '
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him 9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes. '
Saying that he can understand that having over 2600 of our troops come home in body bags and over 8,000 come home seriously wounded, with limbs gone or brain or spinal damage, is a cause of"anxiety" to the American"psyche" is patronizing. He knows better about why this has to be. The inferior people are a little upset, but that is because they don't understand that he is the Transformer. What they're upset about is just the side effect of the Transformation. They don't believe. They can't see the Transformation before their eyes. They are inferior.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 13:44
SOURCE: Juan Cole's Informed Comment (Blog) (8-22-06)
But although I mind this pollution of the air waves with somethi ng that is not, whatever it is, news, the main thing I mind is the racism.
The case of Abeer al-Janabi, the little fourteen-year old Iraqi girl who was allegedly raped and killed after being stalked by a US serviceman would never be given the wall to wall coverage treatment.
That is frankly because the victim was not a blonde, blue-eyed American, but a black-eyed, brunette Iraqi. Both victims were pretty little girls. Both were killed by sick predators. But whereas endless speculation about the Ramsey case, to the exclusion of important real news stories, is thought incumbent in cabalnewsland, Abeer al-Janabi's death is not treated obsessively in the same way. In the hyperlinked story above, CNN even calls the little girl a "woman" at first mention, because the US military indictment did so. Only later in the article is it revealed that she was a little girl. The very pedoph iliac nature of the crime is more or less overed up in the case of al-Janabi, even as looped video of Ramsay as too grown up is endlessly inflicted on us.
The message US cable news is sending by this privileging of some such stories over others of a similar nature is that some lives are worth more than others, and some people are "us" whereas other people are "Other" and therefore lesser. Indeed, it is precisely this subtle message sent by American media that authorized so much taking of innocent Iraqi life in the first place. British officers have repeatedly complained that too many of those serving in the US military in Iraq view Iraqis as subhuman (one used the term Untermeschen). Where did they get that idea?
Posted on: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 13:31
[ Mr. Polner, an occasional contributor to The Jewish Week, was editor of Present Tense magazine. Among his books are Rabbi: The American Experience and as co-editor, The Challenge of Shalom: The Jewish Tradition of Peace & Justice. Published originally in The Jewish Week [N.Y.] He is an HNN book editor.]
When Israel attacked Lebanon, organized American Jewry, far from the bombs, missiles, and broken bodies, rose almost as one to defend and justify the invasion of Lebanese cities, towns, and infastructure. It was like a replay of 1982, when virtually the entire American Jewish establishment backed an invasion of Lebanon in a war which claimed an estimated 15,000 Lebanese lives (for which Israel has never apologized) but which some 400,000 Israelis marched to protest.
With this latest invasion, the American mass media has much to be embarrassed about too, just as they failed to be a wee bit skeptical in the months leading up to Iraq, when they duly reprinted as fact the stream of lies pouring out of Washington and its acolytes. The print and electronic media have accepted – at least for now--the Israeli government’s party line that the capture of two Israeli soldiers constituted an attack on the entire state, and later, that an angry and ferocious Hezbollah (and in time, Hamas) had to be destroyed militarily. Sadly ignored, by people who should have known better, was any reference to the 58-year-old history of the tit-for-tat conflict with conquered Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Defenders of the ahistorical school of why wars start buried this history. Meanwhile, as always in this seemingly intractable dispute, both sides and their supporters insist that only they are correct.
Abba Eban’s classic putdown, “The Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity” was absolutely on the mark. But one can just as easily substitute Israeli for Palestinian intransigence, the most recent failures being Taba, the refusal to talk about Saudi Arabia’s proposed compromise as a basis for negotiation, and transforming Abu Mazen into an ineffectual has-been rather than the serious politician and mediator he might still become. Now Amir Oren, writing in Ha’aretz on July 28, reported that General Giora Eyland, who directed the Israeli National Security Council, had offered for consideration a wide-ranging plan to cope with Israeli-Lebanon tensions. A variety of nations and Lebanese political parties and people, Oren wrote, said they were on board providing Israel approved. They never answered.
Perhaps one reason is that Israel has become more and more Washington’s proxy in its increasingly perilous argument with Iran. Note that when the 48-hour bombing suspension was announced after the Qana disaster, it was Condaleeza Rice’s aide who made the announcement, not Israel. In truth, as hard as it is for most Jews to accept, in so volatile a region there are few innocents. Hezbollah, no slouch at violence, could very well replicate the slaughter at Qana against any Israeli town or city.
This war will never bring Israel security despite the massive military and economic support it receives from Washington’s living room warriors, who will never be moved by Lebanon’s plight or its prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s haunting words: “Is the value of human life less in Lebanon than that of citizens elsewhere? Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?”
This war is not part of the “global war on terror” as our sophomoric and bellicose neocons would have you believe. This war is rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. War will never make Israel reasonably secure until a fair settlement is reached with the Palestinians. Ignore the PLO, you get Hamas. Pass them by and you get Hezbollah. Keep up this war against Hezbollah and Hamas, which cannot be won on the battlefield, and one day you may have to face even more radical Islamic jihadists.
Capt. (Res.) Amir Paster, an infantry officer and Tel Aviv student, has just been sentenced to 28 days in prison for refusing to participate in the war. At his trial, he said he could not take part in the war because it did not reflect the values with which he was raised. And 5-10,000 Israelis recently demonstrated against the war. In time there will be more Israeli refusers and protestors. It is they who will redeem their nation’s honor, not those who cheer on Israeli warriors from distant havens.
Moreover, never to be overlooked is that oil, not Israel, remains the great prize in the unpredictable and dangerous Middle East and Central Asia, with its shifting alliances, and where many US, Iranian and Russian forces are already stationed. The ominous symbols of 1914 and 1939 are occasionally mentioned on blogs, while right-wingers mindlessly speak of the coming of World War III. Casualties of course are never mentioned.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 10:47
Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim excrescences that issue in terrorism are coming to be called "Islamofascism" among those who want to see the "War on Terror" be part of "World War III" (or IV). Roger Scruton, author of A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism, heads his August 17 Wall Street Journal column "Islamofascism," and subheads it: "Beware a religion without irony." He does not tell us to beware of Christianity and Judaism. They are evidently "with" irony.
Ironically, he cites the rarest ironist, Soren Kierkegaard, as having argued that Christianity is "informed by a spirit of irony." Scruton defines the term boldly: "Irony means accepting 'the other,' as someone other than you." Such an ironic posture is the basis of "every real negotiation, every offer of peace, every acceptance of the other." Is this "accepting 'the other'" a mark of Christian history? I'm a friendly enough "insider" student of Christian history for a half century, and have not found such acceptance of the other to be characteristic of the Christian tradition.
From the first "Christian" decade, the Jew was the unaccepted "other," as were the Romans. When the formerly persecuted Christians took over the Empire, they immediately began persecuting the pagan as "the other." For 1,400 years Christians in power hunted the heretic as "the other." Were Crusaders and Inquisitors acceptant negotiators? Western and Eastern Christians and then Catholics and Protestants did not accept "the other."
Islam has rarely been "a religion with irony." To his credit, Scruton acknowledges Ottoman Turks for their few moments of openness and, laudably, does not "give up hope for a tolerant Islam." But his contrast includes some more deceptive advertising. Note how he inserts the adjective "secular" here: "Christians and Jews are heirs to a long tradition of secular government, which began under the Roman Empire and was renewed at the Enlightenment: Human societies should be governed by human laws, and these laws must take precedence over religious edicts. The primary duty of citizens is to obey the state; ... all religions must bow down to the sovereign authority if they are to exist within its jurisdiction." Okay. But when did Christians teach or practice that, unless theirs was the established religion within a polity? I will grant the point that a civil society like our own "subordinates" religion, and we'd not be a republic did we not do so.
Once more: "Beware a religion without irony." Ironically, it is not precisely the Christian religion that Scruton credits with being ironic; no, it is the "secular" tradition. Christians are "heirs to a long tradition of secular government." Scruton does not say that Christianity and Judaism produced the tradition of secular government; Christians ordinarily resisted the Roman Empire and the Enlightenment, though they creatively exploited the latter, as in the case of the United States. That many Muslims and many passages in the Qur'an have created gross problems in the civil order throughout history is plain. That is a subject for another day, another column.
Ironically, many Christians today who want to "take America back" and Christianize the public order are simply critical of the gifts of "secular government" and the Enlightenment. Beware also such a "religion without irony."
Posted on: Monday, August 21, 2006 - 18:26
SOURCE: Dissent (Summer 2006) (8-21-06)
he terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the debate over the American war in Iraq, revived talk of totalitarianism among liberals and leftists thinking about radical Islamists and Middle East dictatorships. With varying degrees of enthusiasm, respected former dissidents such as Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik and distinguished intellectuals in Europe and America such as Paul Berman, André Glucksmann, Richard Herzinger, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ignatieff, as well as Nobel Peace Prize recipient José Ramos-Horta justified, if not military intervention, then an aggressive and principled policy toward Saddam Hussein’s regime—largely on liberal-humanitarian grounds, invoking the imperative of resisting totalitarianism. Though he explicitly opposed the unilateral use of military force, Joschka Fischer, then Germany’s foreign minister, spoke of a “third totalitarianism”—after Nazism and communism—“as the major challenge facing the international community in the twenty-first century.” In December 2004, in “An Argument for a New Liberalism, a Fighting Faith,” Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic, complained that “three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not been fundamentally reshaped by the experience.” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called terrorism the “new totalitarianism,” the world’s greatest threat to democracy. The return of this term is instructive, because its history is not at all as luminescent as its advocates would have us believe.
With some justice, commentators such as Berman and George Packer argued that the overthrow of “secular totalitarianism” and the establishment of an Iraqi democracy might halt the spread of Islamist totalitarianism and possibly lead to a democratization of the Middle East; it would certainly rid Iraqis and the world of a murderous tyrant. The genocidal eruptions of the late 1970s and early 1980s (especially in Cambodia) had turned former ’68ers into liberal humanitarians opposed to totalitarianism in all its forms. The anti-Soviet dissidents in Eastern Europe further inspired this shift. Then, after the fall of communism, the horrors of Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda made some of those leftists and liberals committed humanitarian interventionists. Many of the same people who called for a new post–cold war human rights foreign policy turned to the term “totalitarian,” after 2001, to describe not only al-Qaeda and the threat of political Islam but also Saddam’s Baathist regime. Even if the Bush administration was unable or unwilling to acknowledge it, we were, as Berman put it, “in a war of ideas.”
But is the term useful? Is it an exact description or merely an epithet directed against all enemies of liberalism and democracy? Unlike most terms in our political vocabulary, totalitarianism was coined in the twentieth century to describe a specifically modern phenomenon. Is it compelling shorthand, as some of its first theorists insisted, used to argue that modern tyranny is unique because it is more invasive, more reliant on the total assent of the “masses” and on terror than old-fashioned despotism? Is it a “project,” as Hannah Arendt famously argued, an experiment in “fabricating” humanity according to the laws of biology or history? Is it an ideal type (in the Weberian sense) to which no real-world dictatorship actually conforms? Or can the term only be defended negatively—it represents the ultimate rejection of pluralism, legality, democracy, and Judeo-Christian morality?...
Antitotalitarianism, as I have argued, can both illuminate and obscure. By asserting that totalitarianism encompasses Baathist dictatorship, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda, crucial distinctions are lost. At the same time we are led to believe that, as in the Second World War and the cold war, resolution and military power alone can bring about a democratic outcome. False analogies carry serious consequences.
Pierre Hassner once observed that the great virtue of the idea of totalitarianism is to remind us that literature or philosophy periodically “demonstrates that something escapes the conceptualizations and the empirical research of the applied sciences.” At its most lucid, it shifts our attention to a new political reality and reveals the strength of liberalism’s repugnance for compromise with tyranny. Yet, antitotalitarianism, for all its highmindedness, almost always means making a compact with unwelcome allies. Just as the antifascists had to embrace communists during the 1920s and 1930s, just as anticommunist liberals found themselves helpless in drawing boundaries against McCarthyism or against Vietnam hawks, today’s antitotalitarians face a similar dilemma: how to stand their ground against those on the left who wantonly minimize or deny the danger of terrorism and Islamist fundamentalism without at the same time falling into line with the failed neoconservatives whose vision of pax Americana has come to a very bad end.
At its best, the return of antitotalitarian rhetoric evinces nostalgia for the moral clarity of what Berman calls the “grandest tradition of the left.” Its return is buoyed by the implicit heritage of the heroic antifascist campaigns, cold-war liberalism, and the anticommunist dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s. It looks back to the “fighting faith” of the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, new enemies bring new complexities and new historical realities, where analogies of past antitotalitarian moments are deceptive. The price of moral clarity in the Iraq debate was political myopia. Still worse, it mapped the Iraqi dictatorship onto a European template that required either the reality or the preparation for total war sustained by the utopia of a democratic future and a long peace. It misidentified the Bush administration as the imperfect carrier of the ideals of 1936 and 1989. Perhaps worst of all, it identified the enemy as the secular religions of the past rather than the religious antisecularism of the present. The rhetoric of fighting totalitarianism may mobilize the liberal imagination, but it can just as easily muddy the political waters, sometimes against the best of liberal intentions. How far it can carry us in analyzing the dangerous politics of our own times is far from obvious.
Posted on: Monday, August 21, 2006 - 15:29
SOURCE: Email from Prof. Polk to friends (8-20-06)
I have just received the following remarks from Ray Close. Ray was for many years the CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, so one of the most senior men in the CIA, with the rank of a four-star general, and a man with many years of experience all over the Middle East. His mother and father (who was a doctor) both taught at the American University of Beirut, where they were friends of mine, so Ray grew up speaking Arabic. I don't always fully agree with his positions, but I certainly respect him, his knowledge and his experience. He is a hard-headed realist. So his worries about the course on which we seem to be embarked are very disturbing.
As you know I have long been alarmed by the likelihood of an American repeat of Iraq in the far more difficult case of Iran. I expected an American, Israeli or joint American-Israeli attack to come before now. As I read the omens, I thought it was likely last March. Seymour Hersh, who has extraordinary sources in the Pentagon, confirms in this week's New Yorker Ray's contention that we are now in a count-down mode on Iran.
What Ray does not go into here are the following:
1) the non-monetary costs of such a move -- casualties in Iran would be far higher than in Iraq. We don't really appreciate yet how high they actually are in Iraq. In addition to the nearly 2,600 dead are over 18,000 wounded of whom about half are permanently crippled; in addition are the psychologically damaged, about 40,000 last year alone and whose who will develop cancer or other secondary effects from, for example, depleted uranium shells. Our relations with other countries would be severely damaged. Particularly China which is deeply dependent on Iranian oil, but also on other countries where all polls, press reports and diplomatic/intelligence analyses indicate that empathy toward (or even understanding of) America have been replaced by fear and even hatred. And, of course, in Iraq where we are relying on the 15 million Shiis, co-religionists of Iran, to enable us to form a sufficiently stable regime to get out with some dignity. An attack on Iran would almost certainly enormously intensify the guerrilla war in Iraq. It would make a solution to the Israel-Lebanon conflict far less likely. And it would spill over into the Gulf where the oil-producing shaikhdoms are privately but absolutely terrified of the consequences for them. It would likely further damage our own social fabric and polarize our politics;
2) the chances of success or failure. We misjudged or failed to judge these in Vietnam and Iraq just as the Russians failed in Afghanistan. In Iran we would face a massive and almost certainly unwinnable guerrilla war;
3) the depth of the commitment: we would have to follow up an attack, as in Iraq, with a major role in post-attack Iran and some form of occupation in a bitterly hostile country would undoubtedly last for many years;
4) the effects on world energy flow by our military action or Iranian retaliation: predictably, it would involving pulling c. 5% of the world's flow of oil (Iran's production) off the world market, possibly disrupting oil production and processing in Saudi Arabia (whose oil is produced in the Eastern Province whose population of 2 million people is religiously allied to Iran) and the Gulf states (which are closely associated with Iran). Oil experts tell me we could anticipate an immediate rise of price to c. $125/barrel and an eventual rise far higher. Some even predicted $300/barrel. It has been estimated that each $5 rise in the per barrel price cuts the US national income by $17 billion. Oil is now close to $80/barrel so a rise of, say $40 a barrel, would cost America c. $680 billion. Any figure beyond that does not bear even imagining;
5) the economic costs to America. On the much smaller case of Iraq, our direct "out of pocket" expenditures for the invasion and occupation, according to the Congressional Research Service, will amount to about $700 billion. Nixon's Commerce Secretary and now chairman of the Blackstone Group Peter Peterson has calculated that the cost of keeping two divisions operational in Iraq is $2 billion a week -- the cost per annum is more than the GNP of New Zealand! In Iran we would need far more troops than in Iraq. To ease the pain of these costs, in FY 2004, we borrowed $540 billion abroad. So far we have not felt the full impact. And these are not the total costs. According to the most complete study (made by Nobel laureate economist Joseph Steiglitz and Linda Blaine) the real costs will be between $1 and $2 trillion. Iran predictably would be some multiple of this;
6) the long-term effects. These would include pernicious and dangerous effects on our own society; a massive disruption of Iranian society and, as I mentioned, an intensification of the Iraq conflict; a further alienation of America's overseas friends and almost undoubtedly a major escalation in incidents of terrorist attacks on American targets at home and abroad. After all, the world's 1 billion + Muslims already believe we are the enemy and, having no formal means of effective military action, they will strike out with the only weapon they have, terrorism;
7) what the alternatives are: in policy as in business, one must always search for and carefully consider alternatives before making decisions. We are being told that there are only two -- give in to Iran, particularly on the nuclear issue, or go to war with Iran. If we stop there, then we will go to war.
However, there is a third alternative which is not being discussed. It has two aspects:
First, the nuclear aspect. We should use our great power and skill to push for regional nuclear arms control. My friend Sy Hersh who has far better contacts than I in the Israeli military tells me that Israel will not accept this. With all respect, I disagree. The Israelis are intelligent. And such a move would be in Israel's own best interests because (a) it has the strongest conventional army in West Asia and one of the strongest in the world. It does not need nuclear arms. (b) as I discussed with the Israeli general staff, and they reluctantly agreed, Israel does not have any feasible targets for nuclear weapons except, possibly, in Iran; and (c) having itself 400-600 nuclear weapons and not having joined the relevant IAEA pacts, it is almost forcing its neighbors to acquire nuclear weapons. Sooner or later, and probably sooner, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, perhaps Uzbekistan and eventually even Iraq, will follow Pakistan (which is now expanding its program), India, China and North Korea. Thus, Israel's nuclear program will create a nuclear danger to it. And to us. Therefore, it is to Israel's interest and ours to put our emphasis on arms control. What Israel and the Bush administration are doing now is a recipe for eventual nuclear war. That would be a world catastrophe. As you know, I speak with some experience on this from my involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The second aspect is resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian (and now Lebanese) conflict. We cannot go back to earlier times although we need to be aware of them to understand both the Israeli and Arab fears and angers; but we must realistically evaluate the current issues. Israel is hated and feared throughout the area. Ultimately, it must find means to accommodate itself to its neighborhood. It is now moving in the opposite direction. What is needed is rather too complex to discuss fully here, but let me assert that a modus vivendi is achievable in a way that could meet enough -- even if certainly not all -- the needs of both Arabs and Israelis. It must begin with ending what even Israelis, including the foremost Israeli strategic thinker, have termed its colonialist, racist policy toward the Palestinians and pull back enough to allow them to have the sine qua non for peace, a nation-state. It cannot occupy territory illegally without inflaming hatred and it cannot murder opponents without retaliation or destroy a neighboring country without creating whole echelons of new enemies, yet it is doing each of these things. Its policy is not only morally reprehensible but, even worse, it is self-defeating. It is now heading in the wrong direction and would be very foolish to "stay the course." I believe that Israelis can be led to see this and, with proper guidance and perhaps incentives, can be led to adopt a wiser policy.
Posted on: Monday, August 21, 2006 - 13:54
SOURCE: Foreign Affairs (October 2006) (8-18-06)
[Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His latest book is "The War of the World." Copyright 2006 by Niall Ferguson.]
... Will the twenty-first century be as bloody as the twentieth? The answer depends partly on whether or not we can understand the causes of the last century's violence. Only if we can will we have a chance of avoiding a repetition of its horrors. If we cannot, there is a real possibility that we will relive the nightmare.
There are many unsatisfactory explanations for why the twentieth century was so destructive. One is the assertion that the availability of more powerful weapons caused bloodier conflicts. But there is no correlation between the sophistication of military technology and the lethality of conflict. Some of the worst violence of the century -- the genocides in Cambodia in the 1970s and central Africa in the 1990s, for instance -- was perpetrated with the crudest of weapons: rifles, axes, machetes, and knives.
Nor can economic crises explain the bloodshed. What may be the most familiar causal chain in modern historiography links the Great Depression to the rise of fascism and the outbreak of World War II. But that simple story leaves too much out. Nazi Germany started the war in Europe only after its economy had recovered. Not all the countries affected by the Great Depression were taken over by fascist regimes, nor did all such regimes start wars of aggression. In fact, no general relationship between economics and conflict is discernible for the century as a whole. Some wars came after periods of growth, others were the causes rather than the consequences of economic catastrophe, and some severe economic crises were not followed by wars.
Many trace responsibility for the butchery to extreme ideologies. The Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm calls the years between 1914 and 1991 "an era of religious wars" but argues that "the most militant and bloodthirsty religions were secular ideologies." At the other end of the political spectrum, the conservative historian Paul Johnson blames the violence on "the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility [and] the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values." But the rise of new ideologies or the decline of old values cannot be regarded as causes of violence in their own right. Extreme belief systems, such as anti-Semitism, have existed for most of modern history, but only at certain times and in certain places have they been widely embraced and translated into violence.
And as tempting as it is to blame tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao for the century's bloodletting, to do so is to repeat the error on which Leo Tolstoy heaped so much scorn in War and Peace. Megalomaniacs may order men to invade Russia, but why do the men obey? Some historians have attempted to answer the novelist's question by indicting the modern nation-state. The nation-state does indeed possess unprecedented capabilities for mobilizing masses of people, but those means could just as easily be harnessed, and have been, to peaceful ends.
Others seek the cause of conflict in the internal political arrangements of states. It has become fashionable among political scientists to posit a causal link between democracy and peace, extrapolating from the observation that democracies tend not to go to war with one another. The corollary, of course, is that dictatorships generally are more bellicose. By that logic, the rise of democracy during the twentieth century should have made the world more peaceful. Democratization may well have reduced the incidence of war between states. But waves of democratization in the 1920s, 1960s, and 1980s seem to have multiplied the number of civil wars. Some of those (such as the conflicts in Afghanistan, Burundi, China, Korea, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Russia, Rwanda, and Vietnam) were among the deadliest conflicts of the century. Horrendous numbers of fatalities were also caused by genocidal or "politicidal" campaigns waged against civilian populations, such as those carried out by the Young Turks against the Armenians and the Greeks during World War I, the Soviet government from the 1920s until the 1950s, and the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 -- to say nothing of those perpetrated by the communist tyrannies of Mao in China and Pol Pot in Cambodia. Indeed, such civil strife has been the most common form of conflict during the past 50 years. Of the 24 armed conflicts recorded as "ongoing" by the University of Maryland's Ted Robert Gurr and George Mason University's Monty Marshall in early 2005, nearly all were civil wars.
Conventional explanations for the violence of the twentieth century are inadequate for another important reason. None is able to explain convincingly why lethal conflict happened when and where it did. Ultimately, the interesting question is not, Why was the twentieth century more violent than the eighteenth or the nineteenth? but, Why did extreme violence happen in Poland and Serbia more than in Portugal and Sweden, and why was it more likely to happen between 1939 and 1945 than between 1959 and 1965?...
Posted on: Friday, August 18, 2006 - 18:24
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun (8-18-06)
In short, it's the old blame game, one that over the past century has taken multiple forms.
Once, a tired whine of Islamists was that European colonialists and American oilmen rigged global commerce to "rob" the Middle East of its natural wealth. But they were pretty quiet when the price of crude oil jumped from around an expensive $25 a barrel to an exorbitant $75.
Another old excuse for Islamist anger was the claim the West had favored autocrats - the shah of Iran, the House of Saud, the Kuwaiti royal family - in a cynical desire for cheap gas and to prop up strong anti-communist allies.
Some of that complaint was certainly accurate. But since Sept. 11, America has ensured democracy in Afghanistan, spent billions and more than 2,500 lives fostering freedom in Iraq, pressured Syria to leave Lebanon, and lectured longtime allies in Egypt and the Gulf to reform. For all this, we are now considered crude interventionists, even when our efforts may well pave the way for radical Muslims to gain legitimacy through plebiscites.
Islamists gripe about Western infidels encroaching on Muslim lands. Osama bin Laden attacked because of American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, or so he said. Hamas and Hezbollah resorted to terror to free Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, or so they said.
Yet nothing much has changed since the United States pulled its combat troops out of Saudi Arabia, or after the Israelis departed Gaza and Lebanon, and announced planned withdrawals from parts of the West Bank. Meanwhile, the elected Iraqi government wants American soldiers to stay longer (while the latest polls suggest the American public doesn't).
Then there is moaning that the West treats its Muslim immigrants unfairly, despite evidence to the contrary. After all, Muslims build mosques and madrassas all over Europe and the United States; yet Christians cannot worship in Saudi Arabia or have missionaries in Iran. Western residents or immigrants in most Arab nations would not dare demonstrate on behalf of Israel. But in Michigan last week, largely Arab-American crowds chanted "Hezbollah" - despite that terrorist group's long history of murdering Americans.
Another Islamist grumble is that the West supports only Israel. Again, that's hardly true. The Europeans gave plenty of aid to Palestinian groups whose hostility to Israel is well-established. The United States makes no bones about aiding Israel, but it also has given huge amounts of money to the Palestinians, Egypt ($50 billion so far) and Jordan. And without the United States, Kuwait would be the 19th province of Iraq, the Taliban would rule Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein and his sons would still slaughter Kurds, and there might not be any Muslims left at all in Kosovo or Bosnia.
The one thing, however, that the United States cannot do to please Islamists is change its liberal character and traditions of Western tolerance. And isn't that the real story behind all these perceived grievances and phantom hurts: the intrusive dynamism of freewheeling Western, and particularly American, culture?...
Posted on: Friday, August 18, 2006 - 18:06
SOURCE: Slate (8-16-06)
Since the Iraq war began, public discussion has been thick with Vietnam analogies. Revelations of the war's bogus casus belli recalled the Gulf of Tonkin, and the horrors at Abu Ghraib and Haditha and brought to mind the My Lai massacre. Now, with Ned Lamont having upset Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary, a new parallel is being drawn: between anti-war sentiment then and now. Lamont's win heralds a period like the years 1968 to 1972, when the anti-Vietnam War movement began running candidates for office.
Many liberals today—rightly disturbed by the shrillness of some of Lamont's supporters and the high profile he's given to demagogues like Al Sharpton—fear the Democratic Party could reprise its blunder of 1972. That year it nominated the ultra-dovish South Dakota Sen. George McGovern for president, commencing an era of crippling neo-isolationism and compounding the party's already-debilitating image as indulgent toward extremists on the left.
One failed candidate, however, shouldn't be allowed to stand in for the whole anti-Vietnam War alliance. Even in 1972, McGovern hardly represented the mainstream of anti-war opinion. In fact, when President Nixon crushed him at the polls, a public desire to continue prosecuting the Vietnam War was assuredly not the reason. Most Americans had soured on the war by that point, and Nixon was promising peace as fervently as McGovern. Throughout the fall, polls showed that voters, by a margin of 3-to-2, thought that Nixon, if elected, would end U.S. involvement in Vietnam more rapidly than McGovern.
Voters, in short, didn't reject McGovern for opposing the war. What doomed him was the manner in which he spoke of withdrawal. He wanted to cease all bombing at once and pull troops out within 90 days of taking office. He relentlessly criticized America's (admittedly corrupt) South Vietnam allies. He talked of begging for the release of POWs. His language suggested a retreat from the world stage. "Come Home, America" was his slogan.
But the anti-war spectrum ranged much further than the McGovernite fringe. It contained, of course, its share of radical leftists—"the campus firebrands, the radical clerics, the flowers-in-gun-barrels hippies, the papier-mâché puppeteers" as Hendrik Hertzberg describes them, whose street fights with police, burning of draft cards, and general contempt for social norms drove many Americans into Nixon's arms. Yet it encompassed other groups, too. A large number of conservatives, disillusioned with the lack of progress in the field, wanted to bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age or get out. Many otherwise-apolitical dissenters simply didn't want to be drafted.
Then there were the liberals. Early on, mainstream anti-communist liberals such as John Kenneth Galbraith, Hans Morgenthau, Walter Lippmann, and Montana Sen. Mike Mansfield counseled against intervention in Vietnam. Plenty of rank-and-file liberal citizens agreed with them. But in the early years, as Charles DeBenedetti wrote in An American Ordeal: The Antiwar Movement of the Vietnam Era, "they were too scattered and undemonstrative to rank as a movement." Loyal to the Democratic Party, moreover, many declined to attack their own leaders publicly or vociferously. Liberals thus generally ceded the anti-war stage—and the cameras—to the flamboyant New Left.
As the war widened and deepened, however, liberals' criticisms grew louder. Many channeled their energies into electoral politics rather than the street theater of the New Left. The most talented liberal leaders harnessed the energies of the young and the angry without succumbing to demagogic gestures or anti-imperialist cant. The classic example of this liberal dissent was Allard Lowenstein, the energetic mastermind of the "Dump Johnson" campaign of 1967 and 1968. Rooted in Cold War liberalism, holding no truck with communism, he was more interested in reaching out to the center than spurning it.
Although he considered the war both an error and a lost cause, Lowenstein disdained an immediate pullout in favor of winding down the conflict through phased withdrawals, talks with the North Vietnamese, and a coalition government for the South. He worked to build an inclusive left—with only violent extremists omitted—that would unite Adlai Stevenson torchbearers with Students for a Democratic Society-types disenchanted with the New Left's zealotry. Lowenstein's liberals, Todd Gitlin has written, "flashed the anti-war V long past the time, in 1968 and 1969, when their New Left counterparts had switched to the clenched fist."
Lowenstein asked New York Sen. Robert Kennedy to challenge President Johnson in the Democratic primaries in 1968. But Kennedy declined, and Lowenstein instead recruited Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who at first inspired droves of students and twentysomethings to join his campaign but later turned out to be a petulant, narcissistic, and self-destructive candidate. Yet McCarthy had shown Johnson to be vulnerable, and Kennedy jumped in the race. Though opportunistic, Kennedy's candidacy embodied a more winning anti-war philosophy than McCarthy's. Far from renouncing American influence abroad (as McCarthy was inclined to do), RFK reaffirmed "our right to moral leadership of this planet." His assassination that June dashed hopes for a leader who might have ended the war without jettisoning liberal internationalism tout court.
Yet over the next few years, anti-war sentiment continued to take over the mainstream. Senators and representatives routinely adopted positions once seen as radical. Today, this shift has come to be viewed as a radicalization of the Democratic Party; at the time, it was seen as the normalization of dissent. The three top Democratic candidates running in 1972 denounced the war. Edmund Muskie of Maine pledged "as close to an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam as possible." Hubert Humphrey insisted, "Had I been elected [in 1968], we would now be out of that war." It's not likely that either man, if nominated, would have run a "come home" America campaign like McGovern's. There were many anti-war stances to choose from.
But if Democratic voters erred in selecting McGovern, other doves who entered politics in these years went onto distinguished careers. Lowenstein himself served a term in Congress from 1969 to 1971. The Rev. Robert Drinan of Massachusetts, elected in 1970, and California's Pete Stark and Colorado's Pat Schroeder, elected in 1972, became leading liberal voices. McGovern's campaign manager, Gary Hart, elected to the Senate in 1974, helped fashion the neoliberal vision of a leaner, more efficient government and military that would be an ingredient in liberalism's revival under Bill Clinton.
Philosophically and politically, the Democrats' post-Vietnam retreat from internationalism was a mistake. Sometimes, however, their wariness about adventurism served them well, as when they argued against U.S. military intervention in Central America in the 1980s. More to the point, the baleful effects of their isolationist tendencies should not impugn the soundness of their opposition to the Vietnam War in general—a stand, after all, that was being vindicated across the political spectrum as early as 1972.
Similarly, there exist today many strains of anti-war opinion. Only a minority of critics of the war would endorse then left-wing maximalism now gaining so much attention in the news media. Indeed, a broad consensus now thinks the Iraq war was a mistake—even if no one can agree on what to do about it. The ground has shifted, and the times favor candidates who make a priority of bringing peace. At a similar point in the Vietnam War, no less a politician than Richard Nixon had figured that out.
This piece first ran in Slate and is reprinted with permission of the author. Click here to see a list of his other History Lesson columns in Slate.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - 19:23
SOURCE: WSJ (8-16-06)
The mystery of the Iraq War is to explain how a brilliantly executed invasion turned into a messy counterinsurgency struggle. Part of the explanation, at least, is a lack of troops, a fault for which the Defense Department has been responsible. The current policy has its roots in the desire of Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, to wean the Army away from its decades of indulgence, when it routinely planned to win conflicts by confronting enemies with mass--masses of soldiers, masses of equipment (particularly tanks and armored vehicles) and masses of ground-attack aircraft.
Mr. Rumsfeld disliked the concept of mass because it carried huge financial costs but also because it locked the Army into a style of war-making that sought victory through firepower rather than through speedy maneuver. He had supporters in the civilian side of the Pentagon, notably his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and a man the rank below, Douglas Feith. Both also wanted to slim the Army down.
The result of their efforts to do so led to the expeditionary force sent to Iraq in 2003 being considerably weaker than that which had fought the Gulf War of 1991. The initial outcome, though, was similar: the rapid collapse of Iraqi resistance at only slight cost in American lives, a result that seemed to justify Mr. Rumsfeld's force policies and his belief that "speed kills."
For several months the second Iraq War seemed a triumph. Then the American army of occupation, whose continuing presence was dedicated to the political transformation of the country, began to come under low-grade attack by Iraqi guerrillas. American soldiers began to die, and attempts to create a successor regime, organized on democratic principles, failed to take root. Political instability was accompanied by rising military difficulty, until by 2005 a full-scale insurgency was in swing, with dozens of American soldiers dying every month and the numbers of insurgents growing proportionately.
In "Fiasco," Thomas Ricks traces this familiar history and attempts to explain its reasons, interviewing various military experts and reporting from the fighting in Iraq itself. He has severely critical views of Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Feith, but he does not heap all the blame on their preinvasion policy. He also points to the mistakes made by American leaders of the postwar administration in Iraq, notably Paul Bremer, who became head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in May 2003....
All that can be hoped is that the U.S. Army will prevail in its counterinsurgency and, as Mr. Ricks's gripping accounts of the troops in action suggest, it may still. His description of Marines "attacking into an ambush" leaves one in no doubt that American soldiers know combat secrets that their enemies do not and cannot match. Whether pure military skills will win the war, however, cannot be predicted.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - 19:05
SOURCE: NY Sun (8-16-06)
As staff at some of the world's most prestigious press organizations effectively take Hezbollah's side in its war with Israel, they inadvertently expose a profound transformation in the logic of warfare.
Some examples of their actions:
Reuters: Adnan Hajj, a freelance photographer with more than a decade of experience at Reuters, doctored his pictures to make Israeli attacks on Lebanon look more destructive and Lebanese more vulnerable. His embellishments created thicker and darker plumes of smoke from bombing raids and posed the same woman bewailing the loss of her bombed-out residence in three different locations. Reuters fired Mr. Hajj and withdrew 920 of his pictures from its archive. Further research by bloggers uncovered four types of fraudulent pictures by Reuters, all exaggerating Israeli aggressiveness. The bloggers even documented how a Reuters picture was staged.
The BBC: Editors actively trolled for personal accounts to demonize Israel, posting this request on its news pages:"Do you live in Gaza? Have you been affected by violence in the region? Send us your experiences using the form below. If you are happy to speak to us further please include contact details."
CNN: An anchor on its international program, Rosemary Church, implied that Israeli forces could shoot down Hezbollah's rockets but chose not to do so when she asked an Israeli spokesman,"would Israel not be trying to shoot them out of the sky? They have the capability to do that."
The Washington Post: Similarly, a military affairs reporter, Thomas Ricks, announced on national television that unnamed American military analysts believe that the Israeli government"purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon." Having one's own people injured, he explained, offers"the moral high ground."
All these press and broadcast activities stem from a perception that taking casualties and looking victimized helps one's standing in the war. Mr. Hajj's distortions, for example, were calculated to injure Israel's image, thereby manufacturing internal dissent, diminishing the country's international standing, and generating pressure on the government to stop its attacks on Lebanon.
But this phenomenon of each side parading its pain and loss inverts the historic order, whereby each side wants to intimidate the enemy by appearing ferocious, relentless, and victorious. In World War II, for instance, the U.S. Office of War Information prohibited the publication of films or photographs showing dead American soldiers for the first two years of fighting, and then only slightly relented. Meanwhile, its Bureau of Motion Pictures produced movies like"Our Enemy – The Japanese," showing dead bodies of Japanese and scenes of Japanese deprivation.
Proclaiming one's prowess and denigrating the enemy's has been the norm through millennia of Egyptian wall paintings, Greek vases, Arabic poetry, Chinese drawings, English ballads, and Russian theater. Why have combatants (and their allies in the press) now reversed this age-old and universal pattern, downplaying their own prowess and promoting the enemy's?
Because of the unprecedented power enjoyed by America and its allies. As the historian Paul Kennedy explained in 2002,"in military terms there is only one player on the field that counts." Looking back in time, he finds,"Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power; nothing." And Israel, both as a regional power in its own right and as a close ally of Washington, enjoys a parallel preponderance vis-à-vis Hezbollah.
Such power implies that, when West fights non-West, the outcome on the battlefield is a given. That settled in advance, the fighting is seen more like a police raid than traditional warfare. As in a police raid, modern wars are judged by their legality, the duration of hostilities, the proportionality of force, the severity of casualties, and the extent of economic and environmental damage.
These are all debatable issues, and debated they are, to the point that the Clausewitzian center of gravity has moved from the battlefield to the opeds and talking heads. How war is perceived has as much importance as how it actually is fought.
This new reality implies that Western governments, whether America in Iraq or Israel in Lebanon, needs to see public relations as part of their strategy. Hezbollah has adapted to this new fact of life, but those governments have not.
Aug. 15, 2006 update: In an undated posting, Alex Safian of CAMERA posts this sort-of retraction by Thomas Ricks in a note to the Washington Post ombudsman, referring to his comment quoted above:
Ugh. I wish I hadn’t. I’ll attach a transcript at the end. What I said was accurate: that in an off-the-record conversation with military analysts, a couple had suggested that the Israeli strategy involved leaving Hezbellah 'rocket pockets' in place so as to shape public perceptions and give their forces more freedom of maneuver in Lebanon. Such a strategy might be considered logical and even moral, in that while suffering some short-term casualties, it would provide more protection for more Israelis in the long run.
But I've since heard from some smart, well-informed people that while such a strategy might be logical, that the Israeli public just wouldn't stand for it. And they were pretty dismayed that I has passed on the thought.
My comments were based on a long conversation I had with a senior Israeli official a couple of years ago …
Safian finds an inconsistency and thus a"serious problem" in this note:
on CNN’s Reliable Sources Mr. Ricks described his source as “some U.S. military analysts,” while in the note he describes his source as “a senior Israeli official.” Which raises the question of whether Mr. Ricks had any source at all – besides himself, that is.
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - 18:59
SOURCE: The Australian and frontpagemag.com (8-15-06)
The apparently successful pre-emptive strike by British and Pakistani police against a home-grown terror cell in Britain should raise the concern of every decent patriotic citizen in Britain, Europe and Australia about their long-term security.
For the danger comes from what one would have hoped were the socially integrated children of Muslim immigrants, millions of whom have settled in western Europe and hundreds of thousands in Australia. Instead, a small but potent minority of this second generation has embraced a totalitarian temptation that George W. Bush, following numerous liberal Western analysts, has correctly identified as Islamic fascism.
The word fascism has been the most inflated and misused political term in any Western language. To the 20th century's first generation of communists, it referred to anyone who advocated a forceful response to causes dear to communists or fellow travellers. In its most ridiculous misuse, during the 1930s, German communists, under orders from Moscow, referred to their social democratic rivals as social fascists.
The second generation of communists and the West's New Left of the '60s also inflated and misused the term to describe their resilient domestic opponents on the Left or Right, as well as any developing world dictatorship aligned with the US.
Yet for those with a respect for history and intellectual clarity, the term has a more precise meaning. It refers to a revolutionary political mass movement or regime that aims to achieve national greatness by radically transforming political and social life with totalitarian rule and by a policy of imperial expansion. Fascist ideology is reactionary in that it aspires to re-create a mythical past.
The originator of the term fascism was Benito Mussolini. Yet the dictatorship he created in Italy was in practice more farce than a revolutionary ideological reality. The only genuinely revolutionary and brutal manifestation of fascism that combined totalitarian rule with global expansion was the German National Socialist regime. It was also permeated by a virulent racism that was profound and genocidal. Nazism was imitated by radical right-wing movements in wartime Croatia (the Ustashi), Hungary (the Arrow Cross) and Romania (the Iron Guard).
Fascism and its nominal antithesis, communism, were, until the late '70s, the only two visible manifestations of totalitarianism. Communism differed from fascism in that it looked towards a social utopia that it claimed had never yet existed. It also proclaimed an affinity for Western enlightenment values, especially social equality and scientific rationality, although in practice it created new systems of social inequality.
Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, the world has been confronted by a new form of totalitarianism. It is a multidimensional phenomenon that originated not only before Bush but even before the state of Israel was created. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in British colonial Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. Its most famous theoretician, Sayyid Qutb, was executed in Egypt in 1966, one year before Israel's success in the Six-Day War made it a hate object of the Western Left.
Radical Islam is different from communism, and from what we had come to know as fascism in Europe, by its ostensibly religious character. But the Islamic revolution in Iran was like European fascism in its totalitarian domestic ambition and its violently aggressive foreign policy. It was also vehemently racist, persecuting Iranian Jews and people of the Baha'i Faith in particular. From its inception the Islamic Republic of Iran has been committed to the destruction of Israel.
The Iranian regime, which represented the Shia strand of Islam, claimed to be the centre of global Islamic revolution, fostering mentoring relationships with Shia parties and religious leaders throughout the Arab world, most notably with Hezbollah (The Party of God) in Lebanon, which Iranian agents created in 1982. Hezbollah's incumbent leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has declared Jews invented the legend of the Nazi atrocities and that Israel is a cancerous body in the region that must be uprooted. Hezbollah has carried out numerous bombings and political assassinations abroad on Iran's behalf. The most spectacular were a suicide bomber's massacre of 241 US marine peacekeepers in Lebanon in 1983, and the bombing of the Israeli embassy and Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, slaughtering more than 100 Argentinian Jews.
Hezbollah also has kidnapped scores of Western journalists in Lebanon during the '80s, torturing and murdering many of them, and has assassinated Iranian opposition politicians in France and elsewhere. As we have seen recently, Hezbollah initiated conflict with Israel, then launched rockets on Israeli civilians.
Hezbollah is believed to have clandestine sleeper cells from among the Shi'ite immigrant communities throughout the Western world, including Australia. The Iranians are more ecumenical than their Sunni terrorist rivals. Iran's clients include not only Hezbollah but also, within the Sunni world, the Palestinian terrorist organisations Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Of course, Iran is not the only locus of Islamic fascism. In 1994, a rival Islamic totalitarian regime from the Sunni branch of Islam, the Taliban, seized power in neighbouring Afghanistan....
By now it should be patently clear that we in the West are at war with a hydra-headed and barbaric enemy that has not a shred of humanity and relishes the bloodletting of tens of thousands of innocents, including other Muslims. It is at least as brutal as the Nazis and communist enemies we have faced in the past. Although radical Islam is not militarily as powerful as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, it has the huge strategic advantage of suicide bombing, which is immune to deterrence.
Should any of its constituent elements -- the Iranian Government or al-Qa'ida -- acquire nuclear weapons, it will likely attempt genocide against Israel and create devastation in the West of an unprecedented kind.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - 18:33
SOURCE: WSJ (8-15-06)
Kim Jong Il's most recent belligerence has engendered a rare moment of unanimity in the U.N. Security Council. But few regional leaders have offered plausible suggestions on how to prepare for, and peacefully precipitate, a post-Kim, unified Korea.
A Korean Marshall Plan might do the trick. Creating a multi-billion dollar stabilization fund could help bring about peaceful regime change, by emboldening the North Korean people. At the very least, the direst consequences of a Kim collapse could be avoided if such a reconstruction plan were ready to be activated immediately after the dictator falls from power.
Such a plan shouldn't presuppose an invasion of the North. Rather, it should be seen as a means of putting nonviolent pressure on Pyongyang. It would show the long-suffering North Korean people that the world stands ready to help rebuild the shattered country if they are willing to rise up and overthrow Kim's dictatorship. To this end, word of the plan needs to be spread among North Korean émigré communities and broadcast widely by the U.S., so that it penetrates into the Stalinist state.
The cost of such a reconstruction exercise would not come cheap. The world would have to commit enough to show the North Korean people the seriousness of its intent -- perhaps $100 billion, or two-and-a-half times North Korea's estimated current annual GDP. But that would be a small price to pay to promote peaceful change. The monies could be supplied by the U.S., Japan and South Korea, the countries arguably most threatened by North Korea's missiles, and with the most to gain from a democratic, unified peninsula.
The fund's usage would be best consigned to South Korea. Koreans -- from the South and, ultimately, the North -- need to control the recovery program because only they can heal the rift on their own peninsula. In its current policy trap, South Korea sees a stalemate with North Korea as the only alternative to a catastrophic Northern implosion that would send millions of refugees spilling across its borders. But empowering South Korea through a multilateral reconstruction plan could give it the confidence needed to push for regime change.
International organizations could also play a large role. To defuse political conflicts over the disbursal of funds, the International Monetary Fund could supervise the distribution of the monies. The U.N. could be brought in as the key technical manager and support provider. The Japanese and South Koreans might be more willing to work under U.N. oversight, given their heavy participation in that organization, and they could well prefer to use existing U.N. agencies (like the United Nations Development Program) rather than trying to create ad hoc agencies for North Korean reconstruction....
One hundred billion dollars is far less expensive than the use of force. With an innovative push for a unified Korea, today's crisis could be the portal for a peaceful and prosperous future for the peninsula and its neighbors.
Posted on: Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - 18:27
SOURCE: Boston Globe (8-13-06)
EVERY DAY BRINGS more grim news of the conflict in Lebanon and Israel, with a mounting death toll from Katyushas and F-16s. But Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, knows that beyond this conflict with Hezbollah is another, still more existential one with the Palestinians, and that this war in Lebanon only postpones-though it makes more urgent-the deal he must one day make.
Olmert also knows better than most that in the background is the climax of a different long struggle, more than 80 years old now, for the soul of Zionism. It is a struggle in which he-much more than Ariel Sharon, his immediate predecessor and the father of the strategy of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank-has an acute personal interest.
Like his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, Olmert was born into the political tradition known as Revisionist Zionism, founded by Vladimir Jabotinsky. A brilliant and intensely controversial figure, Jabotinsky split the Zionist movement in the 1920s, preaching a ``Greater Israel," with a Jewish majority outweighing the Arab population, to be won by force and guarded, in his famous phrase, by an ``Iron Wall." In the words of the former State Department adviser Aaron David Miller, Olmert is ``one of Likud's princes from a prominent Revisionist family." And if Olmert is a prince, Livni is a princess: Both are children of the Irgun, the armed rightists who followed Jabotinsky and fought both British and Arabs. Livni is one of the few prominent Israelis who can still quote from ``Jabo's" works, and her father's gravestone bears a map of that Greater Israel.
Jabotinsky did not live to see the creation of the Jewish state-which was not, in any case, the one he had dreamed of. And indeed the situation today is paradoxical. In his lifetime, Jabotinsky's appeal to his followers was his apparent realism and rejection of compromise, rather than the evasions and denial of other Zionists. As it turned out, Zionism found, like any other political movement, that realism itself means compromise, and that it may be better to accept what you can get rather than hold out for what you want. It will be a supreme irony if the ultimate compromise-and the final abandonment of Jabotinsky's ideal-is made by his direct ideological heirs.
. . .
No Israeli needs to be told about this astonishing man, whose shadow falls across the country to this day-his legacy is found in the names of sports clubs as well as the platforms of political parties-but even among those Americans who count themselves friends of Israel there are many who have scarcely heard of Jabotinsky. Born in Odessa in 1880, he became an ardent Zionist as a young man, and an immensely prolific journalist, historian, and novelist who wrote and spoke compellingly in Russian, Yiddish, German, Italian, Hebrew, French, and English. His translations (including the Sherlock Holmes stories) helped create the modern Hebrew language, and there are still Israelis who abhor his political legacy but admire his literary genius.
Before the Great War he had proclaimed Zionism not merely a political creed but a psychological remedy, to cure the Jews of the ``mutilations of history." In his blunt way, he said that degrading exile had made the Jews into ``Yids"; now they should become Hebrews again. In an article from 1911 entitled ``Against Excessive Apology," he admonished the Jews to stand up straight, to stop cringing and making excuses, and to tell the goyim ``to go to hell."
During that war, Jabo and his comrade Joseph Trumpeldor helped raise a Jewish Legion among the settlers in Palestine to fight with the British and drive out the Turks. While the campaign was underway in the fall of 1917, the London government (having also made inconveniently contradictory promises to the Arabs) issued the Balfour Declaration favoring the creation of a national home for the Jews, and after the war the British took charge of Palestine. Violence broke out almost immediately between Jewish settler and indigenous Arab, with the British ineffectually standing between, and continued until the ignominious British departure in 1948, not to say ever since.
In 1920, Trumpeldor died a hero defending his settlement against Arab attacks; three years later Jabotinsky founded Betar, whose name was a Hebrew acronym paying tribute to Trumpeldor. This militant youth movement was intended to instill discipline and pride, and maybe-so some Betarim hoped-to prepare for ``armed struggle." They marched in uniform, they forswore alcohol, and they kept fit. Their athletic tradition as well as their name survives in the Jerusalem Betar soccer club, which by no accident Olmert supports.
What distinguished Jabotinsky wasn't an enthusiasm for sports, but his forthrightness, or his intellectual honesty. From Theodor Herzl onwards, other Zionists had never been clear in public-or even in their own minds-about their objectives and how they could be accomplished. Herzl said more than a little optimistically that the existing inhabitants of Palestine would welcome the Zionists bringing progress and civilization....
Posted on: Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - 15:35
SOURCE: frontpagemag.com (8-14-06)
Roadside-bomb attacks are typically cited as evidence that the U.S. and its allies are losing the war in Iraq. But a more in-depth look at the numbers suggests that the opposite may be the case.
Since January of 2006, there have been some 11,242 roadside bomb/improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Iraq, a considerable uptick from the 10,953 for the 12 months of 2005. According to the Brookings Institution, IEDs account for 33 percent of all U.S. deaths. Through June, that means that of the 346 U.S. fatalities, 114 were related to roadside bombs. The Marine Corps reports that accidents after a roadside bomb or IED explodes account for about one-third of all its casualties.
Having just returned from North Carolina's Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and reviewed the training the Marines go through, I can attest that these numbers are being taken very seriously. In response, the Marines have beefed up their driver’s training, building special Iraqi-like courses—lots of sand, with weak shoulders and narrow bridges—in an effort to reduce after-explosion casualties. Among other things, the Marines have slowed down their drivers, noting that at slightly slower speeds one is not substantially more likely to get shot or to detonate a device, but much more likely to keep a damaged vehicle under control.
Looking once more at the numbers, it appears that the adjustments are paying off: 114 deaths from 11,242 roadside bomb attacks means that it takes almost 100 such attacks to kill a single U.S. soldier—a vastly better average for our troops than, say, flying B-17s over Germany in World War II, or flying any aircraft in World War I, where 50 percent of all fliers were killed, half of them in training accidents before they ever fought in combat.
To be sure, IED’s remain our enemy’s most effective mode of attack in Iraq. But this is not so grim as it may sound. Consider the question of how many enemy terrorists are setting off 100 IEDs or, for that matter, merely making them? My guess is that we kill 25 “insurgents” for every 100 attacks, and that at least four or five more incinerate themselves before ever getting the weapon to the roadside. Put another way, it’s costing the enemy 25-30 dead to kill a single American in a roadside attack.
Another measure of how incredibly effective our military is at adapting comes from year-to-year comparisons. From January to June 2005, 409 Americans were killed, while from January to June of 2006 we lost 346. Worth noting is that casualties were reduced despite the fact that the number of attacks in 2006 increased by almost 300. The press harps over such increases, but fails to note it indicates weakness and failure on the part of the enemy. The reason is that it is taking more and more attacks to kill a smaller number of Americans.
There is an even more important lesson to be learned from statistics on IEDs. Enemy training, morale, munitions, and, above all, numbers have been declining. How long does it take to make an IED? Having never made one myself, I’m not sure. But I do know this for certain: It’s taking more and more time with each jihadist we kill or who blows himself up in the learning process. Not only is the numbers game working against the terrorists, but so is time. As more trained terrorists die, the learning curve—a lethal one, in this case—increases further.
In sum, the “insurgency” in Iraq remains a force to be reckoned with. It can shape American public opinion and throw a monkey wrench into Iraqi elections. But it is equally important to bear in mind that it has exacted a spectacularly high cost in jihadist lives and, as their declining ability to produce and deploy IEDs suggests, severely damaged their war strategy. Violence will likely persist in Iraq, but we’ve already absorbed the worst the enemy has to offer.
Posted on: Monday, August 14, 2006 - 22:03
SOURCE: NYT (8-13-06)
The commonplace assumption that a more homogeneous society is a more peaceful society certainly sounds reasonable. Surely monoethnic Japan should have an easier time maintaining domestic order than Indonesia; or Slovenia than Macedonia. After all, in a country with numerous ethnic or religious groups, politicians are easily tempted to organize factions along group lines — which can lead to rising tensions and even civil war or the collapse of the state. In 1938, Benito Mussolini warned, “If Czechoslovakia finds herself today in what might be called a ‘delicate situation,’ it is because she was not just Czechoslovakia, but Czech-Germano-Polono-Magyaro-Rutheno-Rumano-Slovakia.”
Today, as Iraq spirals toward outright warfare between Sunnis and Shiites, it risks joining a lengthening list of countries that have seemingly inevitably been ripped apart by bitter sectarian hatreds: Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sudan and not least Lebanon, which experienced civil wars in 1860 and 1958 and from 1975 to 1990 and may face yet another one.
But what if this whole premise is wrong? Odd as it may seem, there is a growing body of work that suggests that multiethnic countries are actually no more prone to civil war than other countries. In a sweeping 2003 study, the Stanford civil war experts James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin came to a startling finding: “it appears not to be true that a greater degree of ethnic or religious diversity — or indeed any particular cultural demography — by itself makes a country more prone to civil war.”
Fearon and Laitin looked at 127 civil wars from 1945 to 1999, most often in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. They found that regardless of how ethnically mixed a country is, the likelihood of a civil war decreases as countries get richer. The richest states are almost impervious to civil strife, no matter how multiethnic they might be — think for instance of Belgium, where Flemings and Walloons show almost no inclination to fight it out. And while the poorest countries have the most civil wars, Fearon and Laitin discovered that, oddly enough, it is actually the more homogeneous ones among them that are most likely to descend into violence.
Fearon and Laitin explained their findings by noting that while the world is awash with political grudges, ethnic and otherwise, civil wars only begin under particular circumstances that favor rebel insurgencies. The most common situation involves a weak, corrupt or brutal government confronting small bands of rebels protected by mountainous terrain and sheltered by a sympathetic rural population, and possibly bolstered with foreign support or revenues from diamonds or coca. These insurgents may be ethnic chauvinists, but they could equally well be anti-colonialists, Islamists, drug lords, greedy opportunists, communists of various stripes and so on....
Posted on: Monday, August 14, 2006 - 14:42
SOURCE: frontpagemag.com (8-14-06)
In his first response to the major terror airline scare in London, President Bush said on Aug. 10 that “The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.”
His use of the term “Islamic fascists” spurred attention and controversy, especially among Islamists.
At a pro-Hizbullah rally in front of the White House, on Aug. 12, the crowd (in the Washington Post’s description) “grew most agitated when speakers denounced President Bush’s references to Islam.” In particular, the president of the Muslim American Society, Esam Omesh, won a massive roar of approval when he (deliberately?) mischaracterized the president’s statement: “Mr. Bush: Stop calling Islam ‘Islamic fascism.’”
Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called the term “ill-advised” and “counter-productive,” repeating CAIR’s usual conceit that violence in the name of Islam has, in fact, nothing to do with Islam. Even more preposterously, Awad went on to suggest that we “take advantage of these incidents to make sure that we do not start a religious war against Islam and Muslims.”
CAIR’s board chairman, Parvez Ahmed, sent an open letter to President Bush: “You have on many occasions said Islam is a ‘religion of peace.’ Today you equated the religion of peace with the ugliness of fascism.” Actually, Bush did not do that (he equated just one form of “the religion of peace” with fascism), but Ahmed inadvertently pointed to the evolution in the president’s – and the country’s – thinking away from bromides to real thinking.
Edina Lekovic from the Muslim Public Affairs Council repeated the MPAC argument of the need to cultivate Islamists for counterterrorism: “When the people we need most in the fight against terrorism, American Muslims, feel alienated by the president’s characterization of these supposed terrorists, that does more damage than good.” (Supposed terrorists?) Her case, however, has recently been undercut by the example of Mubin Shaikh and the Toronto 17, in which an Islamist informer has been widely shunned by fellow Muslims. Lekovic did, however, make a valid semantic point: “It would have been far more accurate had he linked the situation to a segment of people rather than an entire faith, along the lines of, say, radical Muslim fascists.”
The Muslim Association of Britain announced that it “condemns” Bush’s wording and worries that such comments “gives yet another excuse for the targeting of the Muslim minority by extreme right-wing forces in the West.” This fear is disingenuous, given how few anti-Muslim incidents do take place in the West, compared to the number of Muslim attacks on Westerners.
There are also rumblings of a more aggressive Muslim response. “Some hypermarkets in Riyadh,” reports the Arab News, “had already withdrawn American products from their shelves in response to the US’ anti-Islam campaign.” Will this incident lead to a further separation of civilizations?
(1) This is hardly the first time Bush has used the term Islamic fascist (or Islamofascist); it has become a part of his routine vocabulary since his path-breaking speech on this subject in October 2005, a speech that, oddly, was dismissed by the mainstream media as a retread, while this glancing reference is treated as major news. (Newsweek calls it a “rhetorical bomb.”) Go figure.
(2) What was new on Aug. 10 was his formulation that the United States is “at war with Islamic fascists.” That was more direct and forceful than anything prior.
(3)Islamic fascist and Islamofascist are more used than ever before, as can be confirmed by a search for those words in my weblog entry, “Calling Islamism the Enemy.” Notably, Senator Rick Santorum gave a powerful speech on July 20 in which he 29 times used the term fascist or fascism with reference to Islam. MSNBC and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have both suggested that Santorum’s use of this term accounted for its adaptation by the White House.
(4) Protests from Islamists notwithstanding, Bush has indicated that he plans to continue using this term. His spokesman, Tony Snow, explained in an e-mail interview with the Cox newspaper chain that Bush has gradually shifted from the “war on terrorism” to “war with Islamic fascists.” With this new specificity, Snow continues, Bush “tries to identify the ideology that motivates many organized terrorist groups. He also tries to make it clear that the label does not apply to all or most Muslims, but to the tiny factions,” such as Al-Qaeda.
(5) It appears that Islamist protests have been counterproductive, managing the negative double play of bringing more attention to the term and irritating the White House.
(6) I applaud the increasing willingness to focus on some form of Islam as the enemy but find the word fascist misleading in this context. Few historic or philosophic connections exist between fascism and radical Islam. Fascism glorifies the state, emphasizes racial “purity,” promotes social Darwinism, denigrates reason, exalts the will, and rejects organized religion – all outlooks anathema to Islamists.
In contrast, Radical Islam has many more ties, both historic and philosophic, to Marxism-Leninism. While studying for his doctorate in Paris, Ali Shariati, the key intellectual behind the turn to Islam in Iran in the 1970s, translated Franz Fanon, Che Guevara, and Jean-Paul Sartre into Persian. More broadly, quoting the Iranian analyst Azar Nafisi, radical Islam “takes its language, goals, and aspirations as much from the crassest forms of Marxism as it does from religion. Its leaders are as influenced by Lenin, Sartre, Stalin, and Fanon as they are by the Prophet.” During the cold war, Islamists preferred the Soviet Union to the United States; today, they have more and deeper connections to the hard left than to the hard right.
(7) Nonetheless, some voices gamely argue for the accuracy of “Islamic fascists.” After himself using the term on television, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff justified it by noting that bin Laden has
talked about restoring the Caliphate, the empire that existed in the southern Mediterranean centuries ago. That is nothing—it‘s deranged, but essentially it is a vision of a totalitarian empire with him leading under some kind of perverted conception of religion. That comes very close to satisfying my definition of fascism. It might not be classic fascism that you had with Mussolini or Hitler, but it is a totalitarian intolerance—imperialism that has a vision that is totally at odds with Western society and our freedoms and rule of law.
The Washington Times also endorsed the term in an editorial titled “It’s Fascism.”
Fascism is a chauvinistic political philosophy that exalts a group over the individual—usually a race or nation, but in this case the adherents of a religion. Fascism also espouses centralized autocratic rule by that group in suppression of others. It usually advocates severe economic and social regimentation and the total or near-total subordination of the individual to the political leadership. This accurately describes the philosophies of Hitler, Mussolini, the leaders of Imperial Japan and other fascistic regimes through history. It also describes Thursday’s terrorists. It very accurately describes the philosophy of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and many other stripes of Islamism around the world.
(8) The use of Islamic fascists should be seen as part of a decades-long search for the right term to name a form of Islam that is recognizably political, extreme, and often violent. I have already confessed in that I am on my fifth term (having previously used neo-orthodox, fundamentalist, and militant, and now using radical and Islamist). While Islamic fascists beats terrorists, let’s hope that a better consensus term soon emerges. My vote is for Islamists.
Posted on: Monday, August 14, 2006 - 11:46
SOURCE: Counterpunch (8-10-06)
The United States had a monopoly of nuclear weaponry for only a few years before other nations challenged it, but from 1949 until roughly the 1990s deterrence theory worked—nations knew that if they used the awesome bomb they were likely to be devastated in the riposte. Nuclear war was not worth its risks. Today, by contrast, weapons of mass destruction or precision and power are within the capacity of dozens of nations either to produce or purchase. Every kind of weapon is now available; deterrence theory is less and less relevant, and the equations of military power relevant to the period after World War Two no longer hold. This process began in Korea after 1950 and the Americans discovered that great space combined with guerrilla warfare was more than a match for them in Vietnam. But there has now been a qualitative leap in technology that makes inherited conventional wisdom utterly obsolete.
Technology is now moving far faster than the diplomatic and political resources or will to control its inevitable consequences—not to mention traditional strategic theories. Hizbollah has far better and more lethal rockets than it had a few years ago, and the U. S. Army has just released a report that light water reactors--which 25 nations, from Armenia to Slovenia as well as Spain, already have and are not covered at all by existing arms control treaties—can be used to obtain weapons-grade plutonium easily and cheaply.
Within a few years, many more countries than the present ten or so will have nuclear bombs and far more destructive and accurate rockets and missiles, not to mention the means to deliver them accurately. Weapons-poor fighters will have far more sophisticated tactics as well as far more lethal equipment, which makes the heavily equipped and armed nations lose the advantages (as in Vietnam and Iraq) of their overwhelming firepower. The battle between a few thousand Hizbullah fighters and a massive, ultra-modern Israeli army proves this. Among many things, the war in Lebanon is a window of the future, and either the Israelis cease their policy of bluster and intimidation, and finally accept the political prerequisites of peace with the Arab world, or they too will eventually be wrecked by cheaper nuclear weapons.
We live with 21st century technology and also with primitive political attitudes, nationalisms of assorted sorts, cults of heroism and irrationality, and the world will destroy itself unless it realistically confronts the new technological equations. Israel must now confront this reality, and if it does not develop the political skills—and serious compromises—this new equation warrants then it will be destroyed even as it devastates its enemies.
This is the message of the conflicts in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon—to use only the examples in today’s papers. Walls are no longer protection for the Israelis—one shoots over them. Their much-vaunted tanks have proven highly vulnerable to new weapons, and these will become more and more common. The U. S. war in Iraq is a military disaster against the guerrillas—a half trillion dollars spent there and in Afghanistan have left America on the verge of defeats in both places, its “shock and awe” strategy has utterly failed save to produce contracts for weapons makers and de facto economic bankruptcy.
Adroitly, the Bush Administration has managed to deeply alienate more of America’s nominal allies than any government in modern times. Its sublime confidence and reliance on the power of its awesome weaponry is a crucial cause of its failure, although we cannot minimize its preemptory hubris and extreme nationalist myopia.
But if the challenges of producing a realistic concept of the world that confronts the mounting dangers and limits of military technology seriously are not resolved soon there is nothing more than wars to look forward to.
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 19:37
SOURCE: Counterpunch (8-5-06)
Col. Michael Steele is a hero to some for his role in the "Black Hawk Down" affair in Somalia back in 1993. Recall that the first President Bush had sent in U.S. troops on a "humanitarian" mission, maintained by his successor Bill Clinton. The duties of the men under Steele's command included capturing militia leaders considered unfriendly to the U.S. and its local favorites. In the course of performing such missions in Mogadishu, Steele's Rangers lost two Black Hawk helicopters and 18 men---while U.S. forces killed about 1000 Somali civilians in a "rescue operation." The 2001 film "Black Hawk Down" depicts the episode from the imperialist point of view, glorifying Steele (played by Jason Isaacs, best known to many as the evil Lucius Malfoy in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire").
Recently acquiring more glory in Iraq, Steele has boasted of his unit's death count. Last November he declared, "We are absolutely giving the enemy the maximum opportunity to die for his country." This piece of petty bravado indicates that the colonel at least recognizes that the Iraqis he faces are indeed men fighting for their country, against an invader. What to do with these patriots, but to kill them?
Recall that four U.S. soldiers have recently been charged with murdering three Iraqi civilians. It happens that they were all under the Col. Steele's command, and Steele has been reprimanded in connection with the incident. More than that, he is under investigation for issuing an order to his men during "Operation Iron Triangle" in Samarra on May 9 to "kill all military age males." His men, as part of their defense, are claiming he did.
The phrase "all military age males" surfaced earlier in official commentary on the rape of Fallujah. Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, who commanded the 5th Marine Battalion in Fallujah in 2004 told the London Guardian that "95% of those" killed by U.S. forces "were military age males that were killed in the fighting That's fine, because they'll get whipped up, come out fighting again and get mowed down ... Their only choices are to submit or die." (Submit to the invaders, kids. Or have your fucking jihadi heads blown off.)
In the Black Hawk Down episode, a certain Spc. John Stebbins helped rescue Ranger comrades from the righteous wrath of the Somalis. He was your all-American hero for a time, but his part got written out of the Hollywood "Black Hawk Down" script. (He'd been convicted of raping his preteen daughter and sentenced to 30 years in Leavenworth Prison.) Reportedly the Pentagon, intimately involved in the propaganda film project, urged that the Stebbins role be omitted. Just too embarrassing. Neither the Pentagon nor Hollywood wants to glorify soldiers who've been exposed as total scumbags.
Even in the current warmongering atmosphere---intensified by the U.S.-endorsed Israeli assault upon Lebanon---it can be difficult to urge public reverence for those linked to the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Not impossible, mind you; the currently comatose Ariel Sharon, found responsible by an Israeli court for the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla, was pronounced "a man of peace" by the current American president. But more difficult in the present quasi-democracy than under a thoroughly fascist regime. So let's hope that the investigations into these murders clarify for millions more the viciousness and rapacity of the whole so-called "War on Terrorism."
"Kill all military age men." Free-fire zone, any 13 year-old boy fair game. Mow the boys down! says the heroic colonel. Let them die for their country. Show them what happens when they hijack planes in the U.S. and kill Americans. There's evil in the Muslim Arab world, and it has attacked us. We (the good) respond with righteous wrath, with shock and awe and moral certitude. We are trying to give freedom to the Iraqi people, in order to stop terrorism. But a lot of them fight us because they hate freedom. In self-defense in certain areas where there are lots of insurgents, we have to kill all military age men.
No doubt this was the argument fed the four soldiers mentioned above, whose case is being heard by a military court in Tikrit. Polls show a staggering majority of the troops actually believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9-11 attacks. That suggests that their commanders have been telling them a lot that is simply wrong.
Steele among other Army officers has announced his intention not to testify at the hearing in Tikrit. So have the four, invoking their right not to incriminate themselves. One of them, a Sgt. Raymond Girouard, has been accused by Private First Class Bradley Mason of threatening him before he testified about the May 9 incident: "If you say anything, I'll kill you."
Here we have, I submit, a Hollywood movie so much richer than "Black Hawk Down." A courtroom film, with lots of legalistic eloquence and lots of battlefield flashbacks. I'd love to hear Jason Isaacs bark, "Kill all military age men!" Maybe that would arouse some moral indignation in the audience at the terrorist quality of the war in Iraq.
August 5 / 6, 2006
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 19:14