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: LewRockwell.com (11-1-07)
Back in the 1980s the major American Jewish welfare organization adopted as its fundraising slogan "We are One." The implication was that American Jews were a united bloc. But we are not "one" and never have been. Ideologically, we are everything from anarchists to Zionists, working people to the gilded rich. Noam Chomsky is as Jewish as Irving Kristol, and Norman Finkelstein as Jewish as Alan Dershowitz. We are neither angels nor saints. And we are certainly not monolithic, despite perennial efforts to paint anyone critical of various aspects of Israeli policies as "self-hating" Jews.
The truth is that the overwhelming number of America’s estimated 6 million Jews is opposed to the Cheney-Bush-neocon regime as their voting patterns have shown time and again. In 2000 and 2004 the overwhelming majority of us voted for Gore and Kerry. In the 2006 congressional elections 80% of the Jewish vote went Democratic. And repeated surveys of Jewish college students show them to be overwhelmingly liberal to moderate. Tikkun Olam or "saving the world" remains our true heritage and legacy.
In a new book I recently edited with Stefan Merken (Peace, Justice, & Jews: Reclaiming Our Tradition),we differed with those Jewish organizations that are silent – about Israel and the Palestinians, about Iraq, about Iran. The overwhelming majority of American Jews has supported a negotiated "land for peace" settlement between Israel and Palestinians and has no interest in pursuing this or any Administration’s fantasies of perpetual war.
Indeed, one of the shrewdest American Jewish commentators, M. J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum, has rightly written: "There is nothing pro-Israel about supporting policies that promise only that Israeli mothers will continue to dread their sons’ 18th birthdays for another generation."
American Jewish peace voices do not genuflect before the Israel Lobby. See, for example, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom – the Jewish Peace Alliance for Justice and Peace – which is said to have more than 15,000 members, the Jewish Voice for Peace, and Meretz USA an affiliate of Israel’s Meretz bloc; Americans for Peace Now, which reportedly has 25,000 members, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Jewish Peace Fellowship, and the Shalom Center. Prolific writers abound too: Rabbis Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center, Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine and Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Congress when it was still liberal and now President of the U.S./ Middle East Project, Michael Massing at the New York Review of Books, Tony Karon, Philip Weiss, Norman Birnbaum, and many more who will never be silent.
Unlike Israel, where free speech and public debate thus far remains sacred, a number of so-called major American Jewish organizations (many of whom have few if any paid members) have sought mightily to stifle critics. The publication of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s book (The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy), flaws and insights all, has been treated as the second coming of pogromists and saber-wielding Cossacks.
Tony Judt, the distinguished New York University historian and critic, was prevented from speaking at the Polish Consulate in New York City because of ADL’s pressure. Judt, who is Jewish, was scheduled to speak about "The Israel Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy." A protest, with more than one hundred signatories, many of them Jewish, soon appeared (The Case of Tony Judt: An Open Letter to the ADL, New York Review of Books, November 16, 2006), denouncing the "climate of intimidation." This suppression of alternative views, this scotching of debate, this silencing of differing views, is nothing less than a sign of frightened men and women creating a new blacklist.
Jimmy Carter, who accomplished more for Middle Eastern peace than any other president, was bitterly denounced earlier this year for daring to use the word "Apartheid" in describing Israel’s domination of Palestinians, a word often heard and read in Israeli newspapers. (See his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid).) Israel may or may not practice South African-style "apartheid" – as some leftists insist – but when he spoke at Brandeis University after the true believers had publicly excoriated him, most of the students at the meeting (which was aired on C-Span) stood and applauded. (The squelching of debate isn’t limited to the U.S. Danny Rubinstein, a veteran Israeli journalist for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz was invited and then disinvited by the British Zionist Federation because he, like other Israelis, had dared to use the forbidden word). Two Catholic colleges also caved in to pressure. St. Thomas College in Minneapolis (barring Bishop Tutu, it was forced to back down in the face of protests) and De Paul University in Chicago, which denied tenure to critic Norman Finkelstein after the faculty had overwhelmingly supported him.
Jewish neoconservatives on the other hand (and there are lots of non-Jewish neocons as well) get a free ride. Yet they do not speak as Jews and they certainly don’t represent the rest of us. But because so many of them are Jewish, the rest of us are often held responsible for their epic blunders. Indeed, some of the guilt-by-association allegations against all Jews are nothing less than classic anti-Semitism.
Neocons are in reality very well paid home front warriors and publicists for the new American Empire. Callow ideologues, they played a crucial role in getting the U.S. into Iraq and are now desperate to take on Iran but from afar (please don’t count on they or their close family members ever ending up in combat units in Iran). Some are probably motivated by right-wing Israeli sympathies; most, however, are drawn to rigid Manichean geopolitical doctrines of preemptive war. Now they are clinging as "national security" advisors to the bellicose Rudolph Giuliani, once again hoping for another "cakewalk" against Iran.
The truth, though, is that the primary responsibility for the massive bloodletting in the Middle East rests with the President, Vice-President, Donald Rumsfeld, their Congressional sycophants, a mass media that serves as a willing transmission belt, and the mighty oil, munitions and yes, Israel Lobby, which also includes Christian fundamentalists and Christian Zionists, desperate to welcome Armageddon.
Let me be very clear. NoAmerican Jewish peace voice or group questions the right of Israel to exist as an independent sovereign state. Nor, I hope, should any non-Jewish critic though Israel is no more immune to criticism than any other country. And not to be overlooked is that within Israel many courageous and principled Jewish critics of any number of Israeli policies are active, among them the feminist center for peace and justice Batshaolm; the leftist peace bloc opposed to the occupation of the West Bank Gush-Shalom; the anti-militarist New Profile; Meretz; Peacewatch; the Israeli dailyHaaretz,B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Yesh Gvul, an organization supporting Israeli soldiers refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories, Shalom Achschav/Peace Now, which favors Palestinian self-determination, the Israel-Palestine Center for Research & Information, a joint organization working for a "two-state, two-people" resolution and many more.
The same thing is happening among more and more American Jews right now.
Posted on: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 21:45
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (10-31-07)
About 100,000 Turkish troops, backed by aircraft and tanks, are poised to enter Iraq for counterterrorism purposes. But once there, they might just stay permanently, occupying the Mosul area, leading to dangerous regional consequences.
To understand this danger requires a refresher in Turkish irredentist ambitions harking back to the 1920s. The Ottoman Empire emerged from World War I on the losing side, a predicament codified in 1920 by the Treaty of Sèvres imposed on it by the victorious Allies. The treaty placed some Ottoman territory under international control and much of the rest under separate Armenian, French, Greek, Italian, and Kurdish control, leaving Turkish rule to continue only in a northwest Anatolian statelet.
With Kemal Atatürk's military victories of 1919-22 and the reassertion of Turkish power, however, Sèvres was never applied. Instead, the Treaty of Lausanne, signed in 1923, established all of Turkey's present borders but for the one with British-occupied Iraq. For Iraq, Lausanne stipulated a provisional boundary (the"Brussels line") to be replaced within nine months by a"friendly arrangement to be concluded between Turkey and Great Britain." Failing an agreement, the League of Nations would decide the border.
In fact, Ankara and London did not reach a"friendly arrangement" and the League of Nations ended up assigning Mosul province, with its 600,000 inhabitants, to Iraq. The Atatürk government reluctantly signed a treaty in 1926 based on the Brussels line.
For nearly six decades, Mosul's disposition seemed settled. But it re-emerged as an issue during the Iraq-Iran War of 1980-88, when Saddam Hussein lost full control over northern Iraq. Four times after 1983, he permitted Turkish troops the right of"hot pursuit" onto Iraq territory to hunt down a mutual enemy, the Kurdish Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerana Kurdistan, or PKK). These incursions inspired some elements in Turkey to revive the old claims to Mosul.
The Kuwait War of 1991 led to a further collapse in Iraqi authority north of the 36th parallel, prompting Turkish forces to engage in hot pursuit across the border 29 times, feeding Ankara's Mosul ambitions. These aspirations culminated in 1995, when approximately 35,000 Turkish troops entered northern Iraq in"Operation Steel," leading Turkey's President Süleyman Demirel explicitly to re-open the 1926 file:"The border is wrong," he said."The Mosul Province was within the Ottoman Empire's territory. Had that place been a part of Turkey, none of the problems we are confronted with at the present time would have existed." Demirel even accused the Western powers of resurrecting the long-defunct Treaty of Sèvres.
Demirel's comments roused immediately, strong, and negative reactions, and he backtracked, saying that"Turkey does not plan to use force to either solve the [border] problem or gain territory." But, as I wrote at the time,"nothing was actually resolved and the Mosul issue could flare up into a crisis, especially if the Iraqi government continues to weaken."
Which brings us to the current situation. Much has changed since 1995, with Saddam Hussein deposed, the PKK leader in a Turkish jail, Islamists ruling in Ankara, and northern Iraq a flawed haven of tranquility. But the PKK again roils Turkish-Iraqi relations, Turkish forces routinely cross into Iraq, and the Mosul question looms anew.
Bashar al-Assad (r.) supports Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's threats against northern Iraq.
The issue reached new heights of tension in recent weeks, despite an Ankara-Baghdad agreement requiring that Iraqi troops crack down on the PKK and unconfirmed reports of a U.S. Special Forces covert operation against the PKK. With Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's support, Erdoğan has waved away American concerns about a Turkish invasion, the Turkish parliament voted 507-19 to authorize air strikes and ground invasions of Iraq, and Chief of Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt made bellicose threats.
The Turks have entirely valid counterterrorist reasons to strike the PKK in Iraq, but Ankara's shadowy irredentism since the 1990s suggests that it harbors aspirations to regain some Ottoman real estate. In other words, yet another unsettled Middle Eastern border threatens instability.
Posted on: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 20:00
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (10-30-07)
Lately, even Democratic candidates for president have been weighing in on why the U.S. must maintain a long-term, powerful military presence in Iraq. Hillary Clinton, for example, used phrases like protecting our "vital national security interests" and preventing Iraq from becoming a "petri dish for insurgents," in a major policy statement. Barack Obama, in his most important speech on the subject, talked of "maintaining our influence" and allowing "our troops to strike directly at al Qaeda." These arguments, like the constantly migrating justifications for invading Iraq, serially articulated by the Bush administration, manage to be vaguely plausible (with an emphasis on the "vaguely") and also strangely inconsistent (with an emphasis on the "inconsistent").
That these justifications for invading, or remaining, are unsatisfying is hardly surprising, given the reluctance of American politicians to mention the approximately $10-$30 trillion of oil lurking just beneath the surface of the Iraq "debate" -- and not much further beneath the surface of Iraqi soil. Obama, for example, did not mention oil at all in his speech, while Clinton mentioned it twice in passing. President Bush and his top officials and spokespeople have been just as reticent on the subject.
Why then did the U.S. invade Iraq? Why is occupying Iraq so "vital" to those "national security interests" of ours? None of this makes sense if you don't have the patience to drill a little beneath the surface – and into the past; if you don't take into account that, as former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz once put it, Iraq "floats on a sea of oil"; and if you don't consider the decades-long U.S. campaign to control, in some fashion, Middle East energy reservoirs. If not, then you can't understand the incredible tenaciousness with which George W. Bush and his top officials have pursued their Iraqi dreams or why -- now that those dreams are clearly so many nightmares -- even the Democrats can't give up the ghost.
The Rise of OPEC
The United States viewed Middle Eastern oil as a precious prize long before the Iraq war. During World War II, that interest had already sprung to life: When British officials declared Middle Eastern oil "a vital prize for any power interested in world influence or domination," American officials agreed, calling it "a stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."
This led to a scramble for access during which the United States established itself as the preeminent power of the future. Crucially, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt successfully negotiated an "oil for protection" agreement with King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. That was 1945. From then on, the U.S. found itself actively (if often secretly) engaged in the region. American agents were deeply involved in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government in 1953 (to reverse the nationalization of Iran's oil fields), as well as in the fateful establishment of a Baathist Party dictatorship in Iraq in the early 1960s (to prevent the ascendancy of leftists who, it was feared, would align the country with the Soviet Union, putting the country's oil in hock to the Soviet bloc).
U.S. influence in the Middle East began to wane in the 1970s, when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was first formed to coordinate the production and pricing of oil on a worldwide basis. OPEC's power was consolidated as various countries created their own oil companies, nationalized their oil holdings, and wrested decision-making away from the "Seven Sisters," the Western oil giants -- among them Shell, Texaco, and Standard Oil of New Jersey -- that had previously dominated exploration, extraction, and sales of black gold.
With all the key oil exporters on board, OPEC began deciding just how much oil would be extracted and sold onto international markets. Once the group established that all members would follow collective decisions -- because even a single major dissenter might fatally undermine the ability to turn the energy "spigot" on or off -- it could use the threat of production restrictions, or the promise of expansion, to bargain with its most powerful trading partners. In effect, a new power bloc had emerged on the international scene that could -- in some circumstances -- exact tangible concessions even from the United States and the Soviet Union, the two superpowers of the time.
Though the United States was largely self-sufficient in oil when OPEC was first formed, the American economy was still dependent on trading partners, particularly Japan and Europe, which themselves were dependent on Middle Eastern oil. The oil crises of the early 1970s, including the sometimes endless gas lines in the U.S., demonstrated OPEC's potential.
It was in this context that the American alliance with the Saudi royal family first became so crucial. With the largest petroleum reserves on the planet and the largest production capacity among OPEC members, Saudi Arabia was usually able to shape the cartel's policies to conform to its wishes. In response to this simple but essential fact, successive American presidents strengthened the Rooseveltian alliance, deepening economic and military relationships between the two countries. The Saudis, in turn, could normally be depended upon to use their leverage within OPEC to fit the group's actions into the broader aims of U.S. policy. In other words, Washington gained favorable OPEC policies mainly by arming, and propping up a Saudi regime that was chronically fragile.
Backed by a tiny elite that used immense oil revenues to service its own narrow interests, the Saudi royals subjected their impoverished population to an oppressively authoritarian regime. Not surprisingly, then, the "alliance" required increasing infusions of American military aid as well political support in situations that were often uncomfortable, sometimes untenable, for Washington. On its part, in an era of growing nationalism, the Saudis found overt pro-American policies difficult to sustain, given the pressures and proclivities of its OPEC partners and its own population.
The Neocons Seize the Unipolar Moment
The key year in the Middle East would be 1979, when Iranians, who had lost their government to an American and British inspired coup in 1953, poured into the streets. The American-backed Shah's brutal regime fell to a popular revolution; American diplomats were taken hostage by Iranian student demonstrators; and Ayatollah Khomeini and the mullahs took power. The Iranian revolution added a combustible new element to an already complex and unstable equation. It was, in a sense, the match lit near the pipeline. A regime hostile to Washington, and not particularly amenable to Saudi pressure, had now become an active member of OPEC, aspiring to use the organization to challenge American economic hegemony.
It was at this moment, not surprisingly, that the militarization of American Middle Eastern policy came out of the shadows. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter -- before his Habitat for Humanity days -- enunciated what would become known as the "Carter Doctrine": that Persian Gulf oil was "vital" to American national interests and that the U.S. would use "any means necessary, including military force" to sustain access to it. To assure that "access," he announced the creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, a new military command structure that would be able to deliver personnel from all the armed services, together with state-of-the-art military equipment, to any location in the Middle East at top speed.
Nurtured and expanded by succeeding presidents, this evolved into the United States Central Command (Centcom), which ended up in charge of all U.S. military activity in the Middle East and surrounding regions. It would prove the military foundation for the Gulf War of 1990, which rolled back Saddam Hussein's occupation of Kuwait, and therefore prevented him from gaining control of that country's oil reserves. Though it was not emphasized at the time, that first Gulf War was a crystalline application of the Carter Doctrine -- that "any means necessary, including military force," should be used to guarantee American access to Middle Eastern oil. That war, in turn, convinced a shaky Saudi royal family -- that saw Iraqi troops reach its border – to accept an ongoing American military presence within the country, a development meant to facilitate future applications of the Carter Doctrine, but which would have devastating unintended consequences.
The peaceful disintegration of the Soviet Union at almost the same moment seemed to signal that Washington now had uncontested global military supremacy, triggering a debate within American policy circles about how to utilize and preserve what Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer first called the "unipolar moment." Future members of the administration of Bush the younger were especially fierce advocates for making aggressive use of this military superiority to enhance U.S. power everywhere, but especially in the Middle East. They eventually formed a policy advocacy group, The Project for a New American Century, to develop, and lobby for, their views. The group, whose membership included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and dozens of other key individuals who would hold important positions in the executive branch after George W. Bush took office, wrote an open letter to President Clinton in 1998 urging him to turn his "administration's attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power." They cited both the Iraqi dictator's military belligerence and his control over "a significant portion of the world's supply of oil."
Two years later, the group issued a ringing policy statement that would be the guiding text for the new administration. Entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses, it advocated what would become known as a Rumsfeldian-style transformation of the Pentagon. U.S. military preeminence was to be utilized to "secure and expand'' American influence globally and possibly, in the cases of North Korea and Iraq, used "to remove these regimes from power and conduct post-combat stability operations." (The document even commented on the problem of defusing American domestic resistance to such an aggressive stance, noting ominously that public approval could not be obtained without "some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor.")
Saddam's Iraq and Oil on the Brain
The second Bush administration ascended to the presidency just as American influence in the Middle East looked to be on the decline. Despite victory in the first Gulf War and the fall of the Soviet Union, American influence over OPEC and oil policies seemed under threat. That sucking sound everyone suddenly heard was a tremendous increase in the global demand for oil. With fears rising that, in the very near future, such demand could put a strain on OPEC's resources, member states began negotiating ever more vigorously for a range of concessions and expanded political power in exchange for expanded energy production. By this time, of course, the United States had joined the ranks of the energy deficient and dependent, as imported oil surged past the 50% mark.
In the meantime, key ally Saudi Arabia was further weakened by the rise of al-Qaeda, which took as its main goal the overthrow of the royal family, and its key target -- think of those unintended consequences -- the American troops triumphantly stationed at permanent bases in the country after Gulf War I. They seemed to confirm the accusations of Osama bin Laden and other Saudi dissidents that the royal family had indeed become little but a tool of American imperialism. This, in turn, made the Saudi royals increasingly reluctant hosts for those troops and ever more hesitant supporters of pro-American policies within OPEC.
The situation was complicated further by what was obvious to any observer: The potential future leverage that both Iraq and Iran might wield in OPEC. With the second and third largest oil reserves on the planet -- Iran also had the second largest reserves of natural gas -- their influence seemed bound to rise. Iraq's, in particular, would be amplified substantially as soon as Saddam Hussein's regime was freed from severe limitations imposed by post-war UN sanctions, which prevented it from either developing new oil fields or upgrading its deteriorating energy infrastructure. Though the leaders of the two countries were enemies, having fought a bitter war in the 1980s, they could agree, at least, on energy policies aimed at thwarting American desires or demands -- a position only strengthened in 1998 when the citizens of Venezuela, the most important OPEC member outside the Middle East, elected the decidedly anti-American Hugo Chavez as president. In other words, in January 2001, the new administration in Washington could look forward to negotiating oil policy not only with a reluctant Saudi royal family, but also a coterie of hostile powers in a strengthened OPEC.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the new administration, bent on unipolarity anyway and dreaming of a global Pax Americana, wasted no time implementing the aggressive policies advocated in the PNAC manifesto. According to then Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill in his memoir The Price of Loyalty, Iraq was much on the mind of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the first meeting of the National Security Council on January 30, 2001, seven months before the 9/11 attacks. At that meeting, Rumsfeld argued that the Clinton administration's Middle Eastern focus on Israel-Palestine should be unceremoniously dumped. "[W]hat we really want to think about," he reportedly said, "is going after Saddam." Regime change in Iraq, he argued, would allow the U.S. to enhance the situation of the pro-American Kurds, redirect Iraq toward a market economy, and guarantee a favorable oil policy.
The adjudication of Rumsfeld's recommendation was shuffled off to the mysterious National Energy Policy Development Group that Vice President Cheney convened as soon as Bush took occupancy of the Oval Office. This task force quickly decided that enhanced American influence over the production and sale of Middle East oil should be "a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy," relegating both the development of alternative energy sources and domestic energy conservation measures to secondary, or even tertiary, status. A central goal of the administration's Middle East focus would be to convince, or coerce, states in that region "to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment"; that is, to replace government control of the oil spigot -- the linchpin of OPEC power -- with decision-making by multinational oil companies headquartered in the West and responsive to U.S. policy needs. If such a program could be extended even to a substantial minority of Middle Eastern oil fields, it would prevent coordinated decision-making and constrain, if not break, the power of OPEC. This was a theoretically enticing way to staunch the loss of American power in the region and truly turn the Bush years into a new unipolar moment in the Middle East.
Having determined its goals, the Task Force began laying out a more detailed strategy. According to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, the most significant innovation was to be a close collaboration between Cheney's energy crew and the National Security Council (NSC). The NSC evidently agreed "to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the 'melding' of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: 'the review of operational policies towards rogue states,' such as Iraq, and 'actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.'"
Though all these deliberations were secret, enough of what was going on has emerged in these last years to demonstrate that the "melding" process was successful. By March of 2001, according to O'Neill, who was a member of both the NSC and the task force:
"Actual plans.... were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it -- complete with disposition of oil fields, peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals -- carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war."
O'Neill also reported that, by the time of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the plan for conquering Iraq had been developed and that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld indeed urged just such an attack at the first National Security Council meeting convened to discuss how the U.S. should react to the disaster. After several days of discussion, an attack on Iraq was postponed until after al-Qaeda had been wiped out and the Taliban driven from power in Afghanistan. It took only until January 2002 -- three months of largely successful fighting in Afghanistan -- before the "administration focus was returning to Iraq." It wasn't until November 2002, though, that O'Neill heard the President himself endorse the invasion plans, which took place the following March 20th.
The Logic of Regime Change
With this background, it's easier to understand the recent brief, but highly significant, flurry of controversy over a single sentence in The Age of Turbulence, the bestselling, over-500-page memoir by longtime Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. He wrote simply, as if this were utterly self-evident: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." As the first major government official to make such a statement, he was asked repeatedly to explain his thinking, particularly since his comment was immediately repudiated by various government officials, including White House spokesman Tony Fratto, who labeled it "Georgetown cocktail party analysis."
His subsequent comments elaborated on a brief explanation in the memoir: "It should be obvious that as long as the United States is beholden to potentially unfriendly sources of oil and gas, we are vulnerable to economic crises over which we have little control." Since former ally Saddam Hussein was, by then, unremittingly unfriendly, Greenspan felt that (as he told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward) "taking Saddam out was essential" in order to make "certain that the existing system [of oil markets] continues to work." In an interview at Democracy Now! he elaborated on this point, explaining that his support for ousting Hussein had "nothing to do with the weapons of mass destruction," but rather with the economic "threat he could create to the rest of the world" through his control over key oil reserves in the Persian Gulf region.
Greenspan's argument echoes the logic expressed by the Project for a New American Century and other advocates of aggressive military solutions to the threat of OPEC power. He was concerned that Saddam Hussein, once an ally, but by then a sworn enemy of U.S. interests in the Middle East, would control key oil flows. That, in turn, might allow him to exercise economic, and so political, leverage over the United States and its allies.
The former Fed chief then elaborated further, arguing that the threat of Saddam could be eliminated "by one means or another" -- either by "getting him out of office or getting him out of the control position he was in." Replacing Saddam with a friendly, pro-American government seemed, of course, like such a no-brainer. Why have a guy like that in a "control position" over oil, after all? (And think of the possibility of taking those embarrassing troops out of Saudi Arabia and stationing them at large permanent bases in nearby, well-situated, oil-rich Iraq.) Better by far, as the Cheney Energy Task put it, "to open up areas of [Iraq's] energy sectors to foreign investment." Like the Task Force members, Greenspan believed that removing oil -- not just from Saddam's control, but from the control of any Iraqi government -- would permanently remove the threat that it or a broken OPEC could continue to wield economic leverage over the United States.
Revealingly enough, Greenspan saw the invasion of Iraq as a generically conservative action -- a return, if anything, to the status quo ante that would preserve unencumbered American access to sufficient Middle Eastern oil. With whole new energy-devouring economies coming on line in Asia, continued American access seemed to require stripping key Middle Eastern nations of the economic and political power that scarcity had already begun to confer. In other words, Greenspan's conservative urge implied exactly the revolutionary changes in the political and economic equation that the Bush administration would begin to test out so disastrously in Iraq in March 2003. It's also worth remembering that Iraq was only considered a first pit stop, an easy mark for invasion and occupation. PNAC-nurtured eyes were already turning to Iran by then as indicated by the classic prewar neocon quip, "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran."
And beyond this set of radical changes in the Middle East lay another set for the rest of the world. In the twenty-first century, expanding energy demand will, sooner or later (probably sooner), outdistance production. The goal of unfettered American access to sufficient Middle Eastern oil would, if achieved and sustained, deprive other countries of sufficient oil, or require them to satisfy U.S. demands in order to access it. In other words, Greenspan's conservative effort to preserve American access implied a dramatic increase in American leverage over all countries that depended on oil for their economic welfare; that is, a radical transformation of the global balance of power.
Notice that these ambitions, and the actions taken to implement them, rested on a vision of an imperial America that should, could, and would play a uniquely dominant, problem-solving role in world affairs. All other countries would, of course, continue to be "vulnerable to economic crises" over which they would have "little control." Only the United States had the essential right to threaten, or simply apply, overwhelming military power to the "problem" of energy; only it had the right to subdue any country that attempted to create -- or exploit -- an energy crisis, or that simply had the potential and animus to do so.
None of this was lost on the unipolar-minded officials who made the decision to invade Iraq -- and were more ready than any previous administration to spell out, shock-and-awe style, a new stronger version of the Carter Doctrine for the planet. According to Treasury Secretary O'Neill, Rumsfeld offered a vision of the grandiosity of these goals at the first Bush administration National Security Council meeting:
"Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that's aligned with U.S. interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond."
An even more grandiose vision was offered to the New York Times by presidential speech writer David Frum a few days later:
"An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States, would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans."
As worldwide demand for hydrocarbons soared, the United States was left with three policy choices: It could try to combine alternative energy sources with rigorous conservation to reduce or eliminate a significant portion of energy imports; it could accept the leverage conferred on OPEC by the energy crunch and attempt to negotiate for an adequate share of what might soon enough become an inadequate supply; or it could use its military power in an effort to coerce Middle East suppliers into satisfying American requirements at the expense of everyone else. Beginning with Jimmy Carter, five U.S. presidents chose the coercive strategy, with George W. Bush finally deciding that violent, preemptive regime change was needed to make it work. The other options remain unexplored.
[Note: This commentary -- and most of the useful work on the role of oil in Middle East and world politics -- rests on the remarkable evidential and analytic foundation provided by Michael Klare's indispensable book, Blood and Oil,The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum. Readers who seek a full understanding of these issues should start with that text.]
Posted on: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 19:24
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (10-28-07)
As I was heading out into a dark, drippingly wet, appropriately dispiriting New York City day, on my way to the "Fall Out Against the War" march -- one of 11 regional antiwar demonstrations held this Saturday -- I was thinking: then and now, Vietnam and Iraq. Since the Bush administration had Vietnam on the brain while planning to take down Saddam Hussein's regime for the home team, it's hardly surprising that, from the moment its invasion was launched in March 2003, the Vietnam analogy has been on the American brain -- and, even domestically, there's something to be said for it.
As John Mueller, an expert on public opinion and American wars, pointed out back in November 2005, Americans turned against the Iraq War in a pattern recognizable from the Vietnam era (as well as the Korean one) -- initial, broad post-invasion support that eroded irreversibly as American casualties rose. "The only thing remarkable about the current war in Iraq," Mueller wrote, "is how precipitously American public support has dropped off. Casualty for casualty, support has declined far more quickly than it did during either the Korean War or the Vietnam War." He added, quite correctly, as it turned out: "And if history is any indication, there is little the Bush administration can do to reverse this decline."
Where the Vietnam analogy distinctly breaks down, however, is in the streets. In the Vietnam era, the demonstrations started small and built slowly over the years toward the massive -- in Washington, in cities around the country, and then on campuses nationwide. In those years, as anger, anxiety, and outrage mounted, militancy rose, and yet the range of antiwar demonstrators grew to include groups as diverse as "businessmen against the war" and large numbers of ever more vociferous Vietnam vets, often just back from the war itself. Almost exactly the opposite pattern -- the vets aside -- has occurred with Iraq. The prewar demonstrations were monstrous, instantaneously gigantic, at home and abroad. Millions of people grasped just where we were going in late 2002 and early 2003, and grasped as well that the Bush dream of an American-occupied Iraq would lead to disaster and death galore. The New York Times, usually notoriously unimpressed with demonstrations, referred to the massed demonstrators then as the second "superpower" on a previously one superpower planet. And it did look, as the Times headline went, as if there were "a new power in the streets."
But here was the strange thing, as the "lone superpower" faltered, as the Bush administration and the Pentagon came to look ever less super, ever less victorious, ever less powerful, so did that other superpower. Discouragement of a special sort seemed to set in -- initially perhaps that the invasion had not been stopped and that, in Washington, no one in a tone-deaf administration even seemed to be listening. Still, through the first years of the war, on occasion, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators could be gathered in one spot to march massively, even cheerfully; these were crowds filled with "first timers" (who were proud to tell you so); and, increasingly, with the families of soldiers stationed in Iraq (or Afghanistan), or of soldiers who had died there, and even, sometimes, with some of the soldiers themselves, as well as contingents of vets from the Vietnam era, now older, greyer, but still vociferously antiwar.
However, over the years, unlike in the Vietnam era, the demonstrations shrank, and somehow the anxiety, the anger -- though it remained suspended somewhere in the American ether -- stopped manifesting itself so publicly, even as the war went on and on. Or put another way, perhaps the anger went deeper and turned inward, like a scouring agent. Perhaps it went all the way into what was left of an American belief system, into despair about the unresponsiveness of the government -- with paralyzing effect. As another potentially more disastrous war with Iran edges into sight, the response has been limited largely to what might be called the professional demonstrators. The surge of hope, of visual creativity, of spontaneous interaction, of the urge to turn out, that arose in those prewar demonstrations now seemed so long gone, replaced by a far more powerful sense that nothing anyone could do mattered in the least.
When it comes to the Vietnam analogy domestically, the question that still hangs in the air is whether, as in the latter years of the Vietnam era, the soldiers, in Iraq (and Afghanistan) as well as here at home, will take matters into their own hands; whether, as with Vietnam, in the end Iraq (and Iran) will be left to the vets of this war and their families and friends -- or to no one at all.
The Consensus Gap
Here's the strange thing: As we all know, the Washington Consensus -- Democrats as well as Republicans, in Congress as in the Oval Office -– has been settling ever deeper into the Iraqi imperial project. As a town, official Washington, it seems, has come to terms with a post-surge occupation strategy that will give new meaning to what, in the days after the 2003 invasion, quickly came to be known as the Q-word (for the Vietnam-era "quagmire"). The President has made it all too clear that he will fight his war in Iraq to the last second of his administration -- and, if he has anything to say about it (as indeed he might), well beyond. In their "classified campaign strategy for the country," our ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, and the President's surge commander, Gen. David Petraeus, are reportedly already planning their war-fighting and occupation policy through the summer of 2009, and so into the next presidency. The three leading Democratic candidates for president, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, have refused to guarantee that American troops will even be totally out of Iraq by 2013, the end of a first term in office -- as essentially has every Republican candidate except Ron Paul, the libertarian congressman from Texas. In fact, in Washington, the ongoing war is now such a given that it's hardly being discussed at the moment (as the one in Afghanistan has never been). The focus has instead shifted to the next possible administration monstrosity -- a possible air assault on Iran that would essentially guarantee a global recession or depression.
Meanwhile, the American people -- having formed their own Iraq Study Group as early as 2005 -- have moved in another direction entirely. On this, the opinion polls have been, and remain (as Mueller suggested they would), unanimous. When Americans are asked how the President is handling the war in Iraq, disapproval figures run 67% to 26% in the most recent CBS News poll; 68% to 30% in the ABC News/Washington Post poll; and, according to CNN's pollsters, opposition to the war itself runs at a 65% to 34% clip. As for "staying" some course in Iraq to 2013 or beyond, that CBS News poll, typically, has 45% of Americans wanting all troops out in "less than a year" and 72% in "one to two years" -- in other words, not by the end of, but the beginning of, the next presidential term in office. (The ABC News/Washington Post poll indicates, among other things, that, by 55% to 40%, Americans feel the Democrats in Congress have not gone "far enough in opposing the war in Iraq"; and that they want Congress to rein in the administration's soaring, off-the-books war financing requests.)
In other words, the Washington elite are settling ever deeper, ever less responsively, into the Big Muddy, while the American Consensus has come down quite decisively elsewhere. For all intents and purposes, it seems that most Americans are acting as if some policy page had already been turned, as if Iraq was so been-there, done-that. Perhaps many are also assuming that the present administration is beyond unreachable and that any successor will be certain to fix the problem; or, alternately, that nothing the public can do in relation to the Washington Consensus, including voting, matters one whit; or some helpless, hopeless combination of the two and who knows what else.
As I sat in that rumbling subway car on my way to the march in lower Manhattan, I kept wondering who, between the Iraq-forever-and-a-day crowd and the been-there/done-that folks might think it worth the bother to turn out at an antiwar rally on such a lousy day. And it was then that a brief encounter from the summer came to mind.
I'm now 63 years old and increasingly feel as if my 1950s childhood came out of another universe. Sometime in August, I ran into a "kid" -- maybe in his early thirties -- employed by a consulting firm to do what once would have been the work of a federal government employee. He gamely tried to explain the sinews of his privatized world to me. As he spoke, I began to wonder whether he was interested in working in the federal government, not just as a consultant to it. To ask the question, I began explaining how I had grown up dreaming about being part of the government -- the State Department, actually. It seemed to me then like an honorable, if not downright glorious, destiny to represent your country to others. It was a feeling that left me deep into the 1960s when I had, in fact, already been accepted into the United States Information Agency (from which I would have, a good deal less gloriously, propagandized for my country). It was only then that anger over the Vietnam War swept me elsewhere.
I told the young consultant that, when young, I had dreamed of doing my "civic duty" and his eyes promptly widened in visible disbelief. He rolled that phrase around for a moment, then said (all dialogue recreated from my faulty memory): "Civic duty? No one in my world thinks about it that way any more." He paused and added, hesitantly, "But I might actually like to be in the bureaucracy for a while."
That was my moment to widen my eyes. What I once thought of as "the government" had, in the space of mere decades, become "the bureaucracy," even to someone who would consider joining it -- and, the worst of it was, I knew he was right. This was one genuine accomplishment of a quarter-century-plus of the Republican "revolution" (and the Clinton interregnum). All those presidential candidates, running as small-government outsiders ready to bring Washington big spenders to heel, had, on coming to power, only fed that government mercilessly, throwing untold numbers of tax dollars at the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex, ensuring that they would become ever more bloated, powerful, and labyrinthine, ever more focused on their own well-being, and ever less civic; ensuring that the government as a whole would be ever more "bureaucratic," ever less "ept," and -- always -- ever more oppressive, with ever more police-state-like powers.
All that had been strangled in the process -- made smaller, if you will -- was the federal government's ability to deliver actual services to the population that paid for it. All that was made smaller in the world beyond Washington was whatever residual faith existed that this was "your" government, that it actually represented you in any way. As the state's bureaucratic, military, and policing powers bloated, so, too, did the electoral process -- and lost as well was the belief that your vote could determine anything much at all.
Looking back, this was, in a sense, what 9/11 really meant in America. The one thing that a government, which had long reinforced its own powers, should have been able to deliver was intelligence and protection. So it wasn't, I suspect, just those towers that crumbled on that day. What also crumbled was a residual faith in "we, the people." This was actually what the Bush administration played on when it urged Americans not to mobilize for its Global War on Terror, but simply to go about their business, to -- as the President famously put it 16 days after 9/11 -- "get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed." In a sense, Bush and his top officials were just doing what came naturally -- further sidelining the American people so they could fight their private wars in peace (so to speak).
The "bureaucracy" had strangled the very idea of the "civic." Who would even think about entering such a world today as a "civic duty," rather than as a career move; or imagine Washington as "our" government; or that anyone inside the famed Beltway, or near the K-Street hive of lobbyists, or in Congress or the Oval Office would give a damn about you? This is why, at a deeper level, the Washington Consensus today has next to nothing to do with the American one.
When people look back on the Vietnam era, few comment on how connected the size and vigor of demonstrations were to a conception of government in Washington as responsible to the American people. Even the youthful radicals of the time, in their outrage, still generally believed that Washington was not living up to some ideal they had absorbed in their younger years. Whatever they were denouncing, the founders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in their Port Huron Statement, for instance, spoke without irony or discomfort of "[f]reedom and equality for each individual, government of, by, and for the people -- these American values we found good, principles by which we could live as men."
Though they may not have known it, they were still believers, after a fashion. By and large, the demonstrators of that moment not only believed that Washington should listen, but when, for instance, they chanted angrily, "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?", that President Lyndon Baines Johnson would be listening. (And, in fact, he was. He called it "that horrible song.") Which young people today would believe that in their gut? Who would believe such a thing of "the bureaucracy"?
Don't forget, demonstrating is another kind of civic duty -- but perhaps a waning one. I was struck this weekend that, even among people I know, many of whom had demonstrated in the Vietnam era and had turned out again in the early years of this war, next to none were on the streets this Saturday. Most were simply going about their business with other, better things to do.
The fact is: Attending a march like Saturday's is still, for me, something like an ingrained civic habit, like.... gulp.... voting, which I can't imagine not doing -- even when it has little meaning to me -- or keeping informed by reading a newspaper daily in print (something that, it seems, just about no one under 25 does any more). These are the habits of a lifetime and they don't disappear quickly. But when they're gone, or if they don't make it to the next generation intact, it's hard, if not impossible, to get them back.
If you need another point of comparison, consider TV comic Stephen Colbert's joke (or is it?) race for the presidency in his home state of South Carolina (or the fact that, in a Rasmussen Report telephone poll, he garnered 13% support in the Republican field just days after announcing his run). Again, I'm old enough to remember the last time something like this happened. Sometime in the late 1950s -- the details escape me -- a few fans of the cartoon strip Pogo decided to launch a "Pogo for President" campaign in election season. (Mind you, that strip, about a talking opossum and his pals in Okefenokee Swamp, was a classic with a critical, political edge. Who could forget the moment when Howland Owl and the turtle, Churchy LaFemme, decided to enter the nuclear age by creating uranium from a combination of a Yew tree and a geranium.) In the strip, Pogo did indeed run for president and its creator, Walt Kelly, used that hook to promote perfectly real voter-registration campaigns. But -- as I remember it -- he was horrified by the real-life campaign for his character and insisted that it be stopped. You didn't, after all, make a mockery of American democracy that way. It just wasn't funny.
No longer. Now, the "character" is launched onto the field of electoral play by the creator himself, who also happens to be promoting a book in need of publicity; and Colbert's ploy is hailed as a kind of transcendent reality, not simply a mockery of it, even on that most mainstream of Sunday yak shows, Tim Russert's Meet the Press. Of course, the joke -- and it's a grim one indeed -- is on what's left of American democracy, which, as Colbert obviously means to prove, is the real mockery of our moment.
Perhaps we all have to hope that, when he's done with the election, he'll turn his attention to demonstrations in a world increasingly uncongenial to "civic duty" of any sort. It seems that we've entered a time in which even demonstrating can be outsourced, privatized, left to the pros, or simply dismissed (like so much else) as hopeless, a waste of time. So I was heading toward this demonstration, wondering not why more people wouldn't be there, but why anyone would be.
Penned in on the Streets
And here's how it felt:
"From the moment I looked across the aisle in the subway and saw the woman with the upside-down, hand-painted sign -- an anguished face, blood, and 'no war' on it -- and she noted my sign, also resting against my knees but modestly turned away from view, and gave me the thumbs up sign, I knew things would be okay. As my wife, a friend, and I exited the subway at the 50th Street station on the west side of New York, I noted three college-age women bent over a subway bench magic-marking in messages on their blank sign boards, a signal that we were heading for some special do-it-yourself event."
Oops! Sorry, that was my description of the first moments of a massive antiwar march -- half a million or more people took part -- in New York City on February 15, 2003, just over a month before the invasion of Iraq was launched.
On my subway car Saturday, there were no obvious demonstrators carrying signs; no eager faces or hands ready to give a thumbs-up sign; no one who even looked like he or she was heading for a demonstration. (Of course, I had no handmade sign and didn't look that way either.)
A signature aspect of this era's antiwar demonstrations, from the first prewar giants on, has been the spontaneous, personal signage, often a literal sea of waving individual expressions of indignation, sardonic humor, hope, despair, absurdity, you name it.
On Saturday, most of the signs were printed and clearly organizationally inspired; not all, however, as the shots by Tam Turse, the young photojournalist who accompanied me, eloquently indicate.
As for the police, well, here's how it felt with them:
"They still had us more or less confined to the sidewalk and a bit of the street on one side of the avenue, and cars were still crawling by. But already demonstrators were moving the orange police cones quickly set up for this unexpected crowd on an unexpectedly occupied avenue ever farther out into the traffic. Soon, to relieve pressure, the police opened a side street and with a great cheer our section of the rolling non-march burst through up to Second [Avenue] where we found ourselves in an even greater mass of humanity, heading north on our own avenue without a single car, truck, or bus."
Uh-oh, my mistake again! That, too, was the February 15, 2003 demo. This time, I came out of the subway at 23rd Street and was promptly accosted by a confused young German woman, postcards clutched in one hand. She pointed at two blue mailboxes on the corner and asked, in charmingly accented English, how you put the cards in. "Oh," I said, "let me show you." And I promptly pulled on each mailbox handle, only to find them locked. The police had undoubtedly done this as an anti-terror measure. The woman was relieved, she told me, that she wasn't "mad." No, I assured her, it was the world that was mad, not her.
The rest of the march was, in essence, a police event, the demonstrators penned in by moveable metal barricades, "guarded" often by more police personnel than on-lookers. From the moment we began to march in the rain, the police presence was overwhelming, starting with a well-marked NYPD "Sky Watch" tower, a mobile tower that can be raised anywhere in which police observers can spy on you from behind a Darth Vader-style darkened window. In fact, we marchers were penned in by the police as we headed south for Foley Square, cut off, for instance, from the large cross street at 14th by a row of dismounted police using their motorcycles as a barricade. Police vehicles and police on foot moved slowly in front of the demonstration as well as behind it. Police even marched in the demonstration (though not as demonstrators). Essentially, it was, as all rallies and demonstrations now seem to be in our growing Homeland Security state-let, a police march.
Led by a sizeable contingent of soldiers, vets, and military families, there were perhaps 10,000 marchers -- a rare occasion when my own rough estimate fit the normal police undercount -- on a dreary, rainy day, which is no small thing. Each of them left his or her life for a few hours to take a walk (or, in the case of one elderly lady, to be wheeled, encased in plastic, or for two "grannies for peace" to be peddled in a volunteer pedicab) in mild discomfort, to chant, to call out, even in a few creative cases, to display feelings on individual placards or constructions or in group tableaux. Each of them, for his or her own reason, was civic, even global. Add up all the people who did this in 11 cities nationwide, and the numbers aren't unimpressive. But with unending war, as well as perpetual death and destruction on the Bush administration menu, with the horizon darkened by the possibility of a strike against Iran, and a population which has turned its back on most of the above, it was, nonetheless, clearly underwhelming.
Meanwhile, in Iraq on Saturday, according to news reports, it was just an ordinary day, the usual harvest of decomposing corpses, deadly roadside blasts, assassinations, kidnappings, U.S. raids, and, bizarrely, the breakfast poisoning of 100 Iraqi soldiers. One American death was announced on Saturday. We don't yet know who the soldier was, only that he died "when he sustained small arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din [Province]." He could, of course, have come from New York City, but the odds are that he came from a small town somewhere in the American hinterlands, from perhaps Latta, South Carolina or Lone Pine, California.
He might, or might not, have ever visited Disney World. He might have joined the overstretched U.S. armed forces for the increasingly massive bonuses the military is now offering to bind the poor and futureless close in a war that has been rejected by the American people; or perhaps he simply signed on with some of that residual sense of civic duty that's fast fleeing the land; or, possibly, both of the above. Perhaps, if he hadn't died, he would, like 12 former captains who recently wrote "The Real Iraq We Knew" for the Washington Post op-ed page and called our "best option… to leave Iraq immediately," have returned to speak out against the war. Who knows. Already, for 3,839 Americans in Iraq and 451 Americans in Afghanistan, we will never have a way of knowing.
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Posted on: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 19:16
SOURCE: Website of the American Enterprise Institute (10-30-07)
America's military policy is in disarray, but not for the reason most people think. For the first time since around 1950, there is no coherent theoretical framework for thinking about how to shape our armed forces for current and future threats. This fact presents both a danger and an opportunity. The danger is that we will either fail to develop one and therefore drift aimlessly at a troubled time, or that we will reach back to some of the tattered remnants of the theories that guided military policy until 2007. But we now have the opportunity for a serious discussion about the shape of the world today and its likely shape tomorrow.
From 1950 to 1991, American military policy was fundamentally shaped by the nature of a specific enemy--the Soviet Union. As Soviet thought and action--both of which we watched closely, if never completely accurately--changed, our military policy changed. When Nikita Khrushchev made it clear that he was going to encourage revolutionary movements around the Third World, John F. Kennedy created the Special Forces to train indigenous armies to resist them. As the Soviets moved toward nuclear parity, the Air Force and the RAND Corporation developed a sophisticated (which is not the same as reasonable) nuclear strategy in response. In some cases, the action/reaction was remarkably swift. Army doctrine was revolutionized completely in 1976 based on a careful reading of Soviet doctrine of the time. But the Soviets changed their doctrine (or, at least, our understanding of their doctrine changed), and by 1982, the Army had revolutionized its doctrine once again. A lot of other things went into shaping American military policy and the armed forces, of course, but military leaders during the Cold War were never at a loss for how to start thinking about the problem: look at the enemy, figure out what he can or might do, and figure out how to respond to it.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to confusion and frustration among American military theorists. There was much hand-wringing about the challenges of designing a military policy, national security strategy, and force structure without having any clear enemy. A solid effort to do so was conducted by then-secretary of defense Dick Cheney and his under secretary of defense for policy, Paul Wolfowitz. They produced the Regional Defense Strategy, which attempted to continue to develop military policy on the basis of concrete geopolitical realities, but this effort died with the waning of the first Bush administration.
The Information Revolution
The strategy was replaced with a theoretical frame-work antithetical to the Cold War paradigm. Instead of focusing on concrete geostrategic realities, the paradigms that shaped the American military between 1991 and 2007 were based on theories. The Army's leadership rapidly seized on the information revolution as the basis of its thinking about future war, quoting abstract works like Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave and Alvin and Heidi Toffler's War and Anti-War. The result was an initiative first called "digitization," then "Force XXI," and finally, by the end of the decade, the "objective force," which was part of a three-phased transformation program (moving from the "legacy force" through the "interim force" to the "objective force").
The current manifestation of this concept is the Army's principal modernization program called the Future Combat System (FCS). FCS incorporates and relies upon the principles of the information revolution with an additional emphasis on reducing the weight of Army vehicles in order to make them more rapidly deployable. That requirement resulted from Army analyses of some of the challenges the institution faced in the conflicts of the 1990s. Military planners could not expect to produce tanks light enough to deploy rapidly with armor protection anything like what the M1 Abrams has. The dilemma was resolved through the information revolution: superior information would allow the Army (and the other services) to use precision munitions to destroy any potential threat to our vehicles before they came in range, thereby rendering heavy armor unnecessary. With the geostrategic realities of the Soviet Union gone, the logic of the information revolution reliably produced answers to difficult questions that arose in the process of designing forces and weapons.
The air power services were even more enthusiastic about the information revolution, which had enabled them, according to air power devotees, to defeat the Iraqi military in 1991 and the Serbian military in 1995 and 1999 almost entirely from the air, using precision munitions. They argued that air power could do even more if it received the necessary share of a shrinking defense budget, and they had some success.
Air power theory also generated a number of intellectual frameworks, ranging from the "five rings" or "centers of gravity" theory developed and used during the air campaign of the first gulf war (and again, in a variant form, in Bosnia), through the "halt phase" strategy that emphasized air power's ability to stop enemy aggression without the presence of American ground forces, and finally to "network-centric warfare" (NCW) from around 1999 to 2007.
NCW was a variant of the information revolution theory that underlay the Army's various paradigms. Where the Army writings quoted the Tofflers, NCW advocates quoted Wal-Mart and the writings of computer scientists about network theory. The principles were at once simple and complex. Businesses like Wal-Mart had used information technology to generate incredible efficiencies in their operations, and similar approaches would generate similar results in war, it was argued. Much more sophisticated arguments pointed to phenomena in the development of computer technology itself--that the power of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes, that the speed of moving information is the critical pacing factor in the responsiveness of organizations, that the flatter the hierarchy of an organization--made possible through information technology--the more agile it would be, and so on.
The concrete manifestation of these theories was investment in precision munitions, the communica-tions and analytical tools needed to provide them with targets, and the platforms (such as the F-22) needed to launch them. NCW theory also provided all the answers to key questions about how to design and build military forces: build everything around the network.
Although the Army never really formally embraced NCW, its own "transformation" programs were based on almost identical principles and merged easily with the NCW paradigm when it became policy in 2001. Shortly before September 11, 2001, then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld had accepted and ordered the implementation of NCW theory as the basis of American military policy, and established the Office of Force Transformation, headed by an initial author of the NCW concept, to coordinate the transformation efforts of all the services. For months, it seemed that the air power enthusiasts had even carried the day enough to persuade Rumsfeld to cut the ground forces to pay for additional air power resources, but September 11 ended that effort.
Rumsfeld's departure at the end of 2006 effectively laid NCW to rest as the theoretical basis of American military policy. By then it had become common wisdom that the emphasis on precision air power and a small ground footprint that is the hallmark of NCW theory had led America to disaster in Iraq. The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after initial operations seemed to discredit the validity of NCW concepts, including such critical concepts as "information supremacy" and precision strikes against centers of gravity as the keys to success. Whatever else is true, there can be no simple return to the information revolution theories that had defined American military policy since the end of the Cold War. As originally conceived and partially implemented, those paradigms are dead, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made no effort to revive them.
But Gates has made no serious effort to replace these force transformation theories. The defense budget is still shaped by the programs that defined and were defined by information revolution theories--ranging from the Army's FCS to the Air Force's F-22 and the host of ancillary weapons and systems designed to support and work together with them. It is by no means inherently bad that these systems are continuing to tick along even after the collapse of the theories that spawned and supported most of them. (The F-22 actually began development in 1986.) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have repeatedly demonstrated the value of many of these systems, although often in uses other than the ones for which they were designed. And it would, of course, be disastrous to shut down current programs before we have developed new ones....
Posted on: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 19:02
SOURCE: Counterpunch (10-27-07)
From January 1857 to September 2007, the New York Times published eighty-six items that mention 'Wahhabism'--a 'puritanical' ( salafi) Islamic creed named after its 18th century Arabian founder, Abd al-Wahhab. Six appeared before the attacks of September 2001, while eighty have appeared since. Although the frequency of references has tapered of late, giving way to more generic terms like 'Islamo-fascism,' Wahhabism continues to be stridently linked to Al-Qaeda; the Taliban Movement; the madrasas of Pakistan; the Sunni resistance in Iraq; the war in Chechnya; unrest in Dagestan; anti-government activism in Uzbekistan; multifarious attempted and successful bombings in Europe and elsewhere; the need for change in US foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia; the security threat posed by mosques in the US; and, review of the US armed forces' chaplaincy policy.
The same links are often echoed in other dailies as well as such current affairs magazines as Newsweek, and are by no means restricted to the US media, as attested by contributors to Canada's Globe and Mail, Britain's London Times, France's Le Monde diplomatique and Russia's Pravda. Many works of non-fiction also follow suit, including Charles Allen's God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad , Thomas Hammes' The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, and Stephen Schwartz's, The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Saud from Tradition to Terror. Nor are late works of fiction exempted, as illustrated by Richard A. Clark's novel of international political intrigue, The Scorpion's Gate (2005). Given that Clark was associated with the US State Department, Pentagon and White House for three decades, not to mention the 'lapdog' stance assumed by mainstream media outlets since '9/11,' the US government is clearly on, if not behind the reins of this bandwagon--a point amply illustrated by the alarmed tone of a recently published hearing by the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, titled 'Terrorism: Growing Wahhabi Influence in the US' (2004), as well as the '9/11 Commission Report' (2004), by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the US, which concludes that Al-Qaeda belongs to the 'stream' of Islam commonly termed Wahhabism.
Although I will not suggest that this rhetoric is hegemonic, there can be no doubt that the idea of a 'Wahhabi Conspiracy' against the 'West' has, since 9/11, become lodged in the colloquial psyche of many in the US and beyond. The collective argument, however, can be reduced to three pieces of 'evidence':
1) Usama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 highjackers were Saudi Arabians;
2) Saudi Arabia funds Wahhabi madrasas (schools), masjids (mosques) and imams (preachers) from South East Asia to Europe and North America, creating an ideologically and operationally coherent 'network' in which Al-Qaeda plays a leadership role; and,
3) Wahhabism is not only 'puritanical,' it is 'militantly anti-Western.' In short, Wahhabism is identified as the theology behind 'Islamo-fascism.'
Yet, there are a number of glaring omissions in this perspective, beginning with the fact that the Wahhabi clerics of Saudi Arabia--the sole state sponsor of Wahhabism--routinely issue decrees condemning jihad against the European and North American states, while Usama bin Laden has vociferously castigated renowned clerics (including Wahhabis) as 'slaves of apostate regimes' like Saudi Arabia.
As well, although Saudi Arabian funds have been used to establish various religious institutions across the globe, not only are they in the minority from state to state, but the most militant madrasas, etc., are not Saudi funded or Wahhabi in intellectual orientation. For example, in Pakistan (noted by the above governmental, media and pseudo-academic sources as a breeding ground for militant Wahhabism), an International Crisis Group study conducted in 2002, found that ninety percent of the madrasas catering to one and half million students, were proponents of South Asian 'Deobandi' or 'Barelvi' thought, while the remaining ten percent could be shared between 'Jama'at-i Islami' (Maududian), 'Shi'a' and Wahhabi organizations. The handful of madrasas promoting militancy (including the Taliban Movement) are not Wahhabi, but Deobandi, and their initial funding came from the US during the Afghan-Soviet war (1979-1989), extending to textbooks produced by USAID and Ronald Reagan's reference to their students as 'the moral equivalent of the founding fathers [of America].' Even a recent USAID report (2003) acknowledges that the link between madrasas and violence is 'rare,' and the same perspective has been forwarded to the US Congress in at least two Congress Research Services reports updated in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
The most damning indictment of the non-scholarly perspective, however, is the fact that Al-Qaeda's leadership is well known in scholarly circles to have been largely inspired by the ideology of Sayyid Qutb ( d.1966), a late leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, while within the 'Salafi' fold, the Brotherhood, Wahhabism, Qutbism, Deobandism and Maududism, differ on issues as fundamental as the defensive or offensive nature of jihad, the legitimacy of 'suicide bombings' and civilian targets, the status of women, the legitimacy of electoral politics, nationalism, Pan-Islamism, Shi'ism and Sufism in Muslim society.
Demarcating the gaping chasm between scholarly and governmental/media/pseudo-academic perspectives should not be read as apologia for Wahhabism, let alone the Saudi Arabian regime that promotes it. As outlined by the eminent historian, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, many decades ago, Wahhabism rejects the "introvert warmth and other-worldly piety" of Islam's "mystical way," the rationalism of "philosophy" and "theology" and the sectarianism of the "Shi'a." In fact, Wahhabism rejects the very "interpretation of Islamwhich had become dominant" by the 18th century. As for the Saudi Arabian regime, there is little need for scholarly citations to contend that it is despotic, employing the Wahhabi creed to legitimate kingship and allow no forms of dissent within its borders....
Posted on: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 18:50
SOURCE: WaPo (10-28-07)
That candidate is Rudolph W. Giuliani.
As any New Yorker can tell you, the last word anyone in the 1990s would have attached to the brash, furniture- breaking mayor was "liberal" -- and the second-to-last was "moderate." With his take-many-prisoners approach to crime and his unerring pro-police instincts, the prosecutor-turned-proconsul made his mark on the city not by embracing its social liberalism but by trying to crush it.
Somehow, though, Giuliani is being introduced to the rest of America as a liberal. And the people pinning the L-word on him aren't just far-right spokesmen such as James Dobson or Richard Viguerie, to whom even the Bush administration looks squishily centrist. No, it's supposedly objective journalists who've been using the label. ABC News reporter Jake Tapper recently spoke offhandedly about the mayor's "liberal views on social issues." Echoed NPR's Mara Liasson: "Giuliani has liberal views on a number of social issues, including abortion." On washingtonpost.com, political blogger Chris Cillizza referred to the mayor's "liberal positions on social issues," even though Giuliani supports only limited abortion rights and gay rights.
To a New Yorker, the idea of Rudy as a liberal or even a moderate is unreal, topsy-turvy -- like describing George McGovern as a hawk or Pat Buchanan as a Zionist. The case for Giuliani's moderation rests mainly on three overblown issues -- guns, gay rights and abortion -- and even in those cases, his deviation from conservative orthodoxy is far milder than is usually suggested....
Posted on: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 - 22:29
SOURCE: WSJ (10-29-07)
... Since the 1960s ... the central policy goal of environmentalism has been to restore nature, seemingly posing a direct conflict with the goal to curb or eliminate fire. In environmental thinking, it is humans who are unnatural. Within wilderness areas, the cathedrals of environmentalism, Congress in 1964 officially declared a federal policy to keep them "untrammeled by man."
In Southern California, however, fire has never fit well within this strict religious demarcation of man and nature. It might be harmless to let forest fires burn in remote wilderness areas, but even there the fires do not observe the boundaries drawn on maps. The National Park Service let the Yellowstone fires burn in 1988, but the fires then rapidly spread outside the park, eventually covering more than one million acres....
The idea of nature has long been a central element in Western religion. In the theology of John Calvin, there were two ways of knowing about God -- reading the Bible and observing the Book of Nature. Nature was seen as a mirror of the mind of God; the Creation was God's artwork by which He instructed human beings. As Calvin wrote in "Institutes of the Christian Religion," "the knowledge of God [is] sown in their minds out of the wonderful workmanship of nature."
In the 18th century, Jonathan Edwards -- the foremost Calvinist theologian of the time in America -- believed that the "created world was the very language of God." When Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and other New England transcendentalists looked to nature for religious inspiration, they were drawing on this Massachusetts Calvinist heritage. John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club in 1892, was a disciple of Emerson who moved west to learn about God in the mountains of California -- places he saw as "holy as Sinai."
In the late 20th century, environmentalists would discard the Christian vocabulary but otherwise still experience the same awe and reverence in the presence of nature. Combined with a rejection of high consumption and other ascetic ideals, environmentalism would proclaim to be a new "Calvinism minus God."
When Calvin, Edwards and Emerson preached, they could believe that they were actually encountering the Creation that had been little altered since God made it, then believed to have occurred 6,000 years ago. Darwin and modern geology, however, have changed all that.
In Southern California, it is a Disneyland fantasy to believe that any part of the natural world is little altered from even a few hundred years ago, or that any areas could be restored to a truly wild condition. America's leading environmental historian, William Cronon, declares that Orange County is a new "form of nature: nature as virtual reality." Recognizing the deep tensions in environmental thinking, Mr. Cronon now recommends that he and his fellow environmentalists abandon the "unexamined, sometimes contradictory, assumptions at the core of our own beliefs" relating to the moral value of wilderness and other areas previously characterized as natural....
Posted on: Monday, October 29, 2007 - 20:54
SOURCE: NYT (10-28-07)
MUCH as George W. Bush’s presidency was ineluctably shaped by Sept. 11, 2001, so the outbreak of the French Revolution was symbolized by the events of one fateful day, July 14, 1789. And though 18th-century France may seem impossibly distant to contemporary Americans, future historians examining Mr. Bush’s presidency within the longer sweep of political and intellectual history may find the French Revolution useful in understanding his curious brand of 21st- century conservatism.
Soon after the storming of the Bastille, pro-Revolutionary elements came together to form an association that would become known as the Jacobin Club, an umbrella group of politicians, journalists and citizens dedicated to advancing the principles of the Revolution.
The Jacobins shared a defining ideological feature. They divided the world between pro- and anti-Revolutionaries — the defenders of liberty versus its enemies. The French Revolution, as they understood it, was the great event that would determine whether liberty was to prevail on the planet or whether the world would fall back into tyranny and despotism.
The stakes could not be higher, and on these matters there could be no nuance or hesitation. One was either for the Revolution or for tyranny.
By 1792, France was confronting the hostility of neighboring countries, debating how to react. The Jacobins were divided. On one side stood the journalist and political leader Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville, who argued for war.
Brissot understood the war as preventive — “une guerre offensive,” he called it — to defeat the despotic powers of Europe before they could organize their counter-Revolutionary strike. It would not be a war of conquest, as Brissot saw it, but a war “between liberty and tyranny.”
Pro-war Jacobins believed theirs was a mission not for a single nation or even for a single continent. It was, in Brissot’s words, “a crusade for universal liberty.”...
Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”
A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.
Posted on: Sunday, October 28, 2007 - 19:17
SOURCE: Le Monde Diplomatique & Japan Focus (10-9-07)
The leaders of South and North Korea have met. The meeting had been formally delayed since the summer because of serious flooding in the North – but in fact both sides had to wait six years for this opportunity.
The two Korean heads of state met for the first time in June 2000 in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), was supposed to reciprocate by visiting Seoul, but he never did. Now he has succeeded in having a South Korean president visit his capital again.
Roh Moo Hyun, president of the Republic of Korea (ROK), agreed because he and his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, ended decades of tit-for-tat protocol in which both sides sought advantage with endless threats and posturing, and began the so-called “sunshine policy”. South Korea, as the 10th-ranking industrial power in the world, has a clear advantage over the North; letting Kim Jong Il think he is in charge is a small price to pay for trying to open up the North. There is political advantage in the summit; Roh, whose popularity is low, can’t win in elections in December and wants to boost the chances of his successor.
The DPRK has long fancied itself capable of manipulating the ROK’s politics, and perhaps it has some influence for there is a change in Southern opinion about the North that is part of the policy of reconciliation since 1998. Southerners, used to propaganda depicting the communists as evil sadists, now see them as long-lost cousins ruled by errant (and perhaps nutty) uncles. The summit capped that extraordinary achievement. Roh has also promoted the idea of the Korean peninsula as the hub of a vibrant northeast Asian economy and wants “the era of the Northern economy” as his legacy.
But the real basis for the summit lies in the entirely unexpected warming of relations between President George W Bush and Kim Jong Il, manifest in the 13 February agreement on denuclearisation, the origins of which remain murky. Pyongyang celebrated United States Independence Day last year by firing seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong 2 and several medium-range rockets, and followed that up in October with its first nuclear test. This led to UN sanctions supported for the first time by the DPRK’s old allies, Russia and China (1).
Bush does not “reward bad behaviour”. He had always rejected direct talks with North Korea and had included the North in his “axis of evil”. Vice-President Dick Cheney said in 2004: “We don’t negotiate with evil, we defeat it.” Yet the February agreement was hammered out in secret direct talks between Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and Foreign Minister Kim Gye-gwan in Beijing and Berlin, and was then presented to the multilateral Six Party Talks (the two Koreas, China, the US, Japan and Russia) on North Korea’s nuclear programme set up two years ago.
Back to the future
The “back to the future” quality of this agreement can be appreciated in the list of achievements: mothballing and dismantling the North’s plutonium reactors, relaxing sanctions and embargoes Washington has had against the North for decades, taking it off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, readmitting UN nuclear inspectors, getting a peace agreement to end the Korean war, and moving toward normalisation of relations.
All of these were accomplished or being negotiated when Bush came into office. But the Clinton administration had also worked out a plan to buy out, indirectly, the North’s medium and long-range missiles; it was ready to be signed in 2000 but Bush let it fall by the wayside and today the North retains all its formidable missile capability. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was amazed in her memoirs that Bush let this deal slide into oblivion, since Pyongyang has no other reliable delivery capability for nuclear weapons. Hardly any influential Americans seem to remember these negotiations, although they were major news at the time.
Also inexplicable is how Bush, or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, short-circuited the squabbling inside their administration over how to handle evildoers. On 19 September 2005 the US and the DPRK came to an agreement at the fourth session of the Six Party Talks on principles that paved the way toward denuclearisation (including a US pledge not to attack or invade the North). Yet three days later the Treasury Department, operating under the disputed USA Patriot Act, sanctioned North Korea for its allegedly illegal dealings with the Banco Delta Asia in Macao, cutting it off from the international financial system. It is now clear that the evidence was skimpy and that the sanctions were specifically designed to destroy the September pledges (2).
The only illegal activity that the Treasury Department uncovered dated to 1994 and the amounts were tiny, $250m in counterfeit notes that DPRK operatives allegedly deposited in Banco Delta. (Insiders said it was really the North’s entirely legal gold bullion transactions with this obscure bank that were at issue.) Years passed with almost no critical reporting on the matter, and then administration insiders finally admitted that all this was not about law enforcement: dissident officials had gone after North Korea to head off an accommodation between Washington and Pyongyang (3). The Banco Delta problem quietly disappeared when the US agreed to return all the DPRK’s seized deposits with no questions asked and no penalty.
A prominent expert, Leon V Sigal, has argued that it takes a while for new administrations, Republican or Democratic, to realise that they have to deal with North Korea, and that with the February agreement, Bush “put the United States firmly back on the road to reconciliation with North Korea”. The key US negotiator, Hill, was similarly optimistic; in August he said that he expects a full declaration of all nuclear weapons and programmes from the North by the end of this year, and full dismantlement of all facilities in 2008. He hinted that Rice might visit Pyongyang soon, and Washington gossip hints at a summit between Bush and Kim Jong Il. If so, it is all to the good. But no administration ever took longer to arrive at such a conclusion.
A failed policy
Until the February agreement, Bush had presided over the most asinine Korea policy in history. He sent James Kelly to Pyongyang in October 2002 to accuse the North Koreans of harbouring a second nuclear programme utilising highly-enriched uranium (HEU). Immediately after, Bush broke the precious 1994 Framework Agreement, which had kept the North’s Yongbyon plutonium complex frozen for eight years (4). The North reacted by leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty, taking back the plutonium complex complete with 8,000 fuel rods that had been neutered in concrete casks, manufacturing an unknown number of nuclear weapons – and facing no penalties other than a slap on the wrist.
Washington’s inaction in 2002-03 was partly caused by internal conflict over what to do about the DPRK’s provocative steps. Like the current crisis over Iran’s HEU facilities, some officials (especially those in Cheney’s entourage) urged a bombing campaign. Others argued that this would start another Korean war. Bush was focused on making war against Iraq, not the DPRK. So nothing was done except to complain to Seoul that the Bush administration didn’t understand its sunshine policy, thus creating problems with both Koreas.
The 1994 agreement said nothing about HEU but most experts thought the North had indeed cheated by dealing with Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. This wasn’t news: the Clinton administration had told the Bush transition team about it in 2000 and suggested that it should be no obstacle to keeping Yongbyun frozen and finishing the missile deal, because HEU is a hard technology to master and would require many years of experimentation before a bomb could be built (5). No one is surprised if North Korea cheats. But the 1994 agreement and the missile deal were based on painstaking verification measures that assured no plutonium bombs and no missile delivery vehicles.
The Bush administration sat on the intelligence information that Clinton provided for nearly two years, and then sent Kelly to Pyongyang to confront the North Koreans with it. Yet if American negotiators learned anything in the 1990s, it is that you do not confront the North Koreans. Kelly, who returned to Washington empty-handed. Kelly’s timing was also absurdly provocative: he delivered his message on the heels of Bush’s preemptive strike doctrine, announced in September 2002 and targeted at the “axis of evil.” A few months later came the preventive war against Iraq. Pyongyang reasoned that the US would not have invaded if Saddam had nukes, concluding: "This is not going to happen to us." The Koreans soon found myriad ways of talking about their “nuclear deterrent.” Meanwhile George W. Bush did nothing about the HEU technology imports that he alleged to be a bomb program (why would they need both HEU and plutonium bombs?), or about the staggering ineptitude that fractured the 1994 Framework Agreement—no real penalties, and no plan for ending either program, or about the nukes that the North manufactured after getting their facilities back.
We now know that U.S. intelligence on the North’s HEU was no better on than it was on Saddam Hussein’s WMDs, but it took five years to find that out. In the immediate aftermath of the February 13th agreement Joseph DeTrani, a longtime intelligence official, informed a Senate committee that intelligence agencies now pegged reports of the North’s HEU weapons program at only “the mid-confidence level,” jargon for information that can be interpreted in various ways, or isn’t fully corroborated. Like Iraq, Pyongyang had also purchased thousands of aluminum tubes: but it turned out that these tubes weren’t strong enough to use in the high-speed rotors necessary for centrifuges. Evidence of these modest purchases had been transformed by Washington analysts into “a significant production capability” in 2002; since that time, however, the U.S. had turned up no evidence of the “large-scale procurements” that would be necessary for an HEU bomb program. Other officials said the degree of the North’s progress toward an HEU program was unknown; they did import some centrifuges from Pakistan—a mere twenty of them, as it turned out, when thousands are needed for production purposes—but no one knew what had happened since: so now the intelligence consensus had turned into “the HEU riddle".
The bomb that the DPRK detonated last year was made of plutonium, not HEU – it is Bush’s bomb, not Clinton’s. Still, it isn’t easy to say why North Korea chose to test a weapon. It has been 15 years since the North achieved the goal of making the world think that it had atomic weapons. In 1992 the CIA estimated that Pyongyang probably had one or two bombs, and it stuck to that estimate for a decade. The ambiguity about whether they did or didn’t have the bomb strengthened the North’s hand: as with Israel, probable possession of nukes, but no test and no announcement, creates a credible deterrent without putting overwhelming political pressure on other states in the region to follow suit.
Why did North Korea end that ambiguity for no obvious gain? It may be that the test was directed more against China, which shut off petroleum exports to the North last September in response to the July missile tests. In that case Pyongyang would have tested to show that it could not be intimidated, and only afterwards agreed to return to the Six Party talks.
Nor is it easy to say why Bush decided to make a deal with the North. Clearly the congressional elections last year ended Bush’s hopes of a long-term Republican ascendancy, and turned him into the lamest of lame ducks. His core of support has evaporated at home and abroad: most of the neo-conservatives (Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton) are gone, as are Tony Blair and Abe Shinzo.
Yet these explanations are not entirely convincing. In 2003-04 the North Koreans seemed genuinely afraid that the US would attack them. But the US military was soon stretched so thin around the world that the Pentagon could barely spare a handful of combat brigades for the Korean theatre (extant war plans call for half a million US troops there before a victory can be assured). Pyongyang’s strategy was to become a declared nuclear power, suffer through sanctions for the next two years, and then hope to deal with the next US president.
Something happened in Washington, as Christopher Hill got a free hand to deal with Pyongyang. The most likely explanation is that the White House decided that Iran was the greater threat: if a deal could be struck with North Korea, that would put pressure on Tehran to negotiate away its nuclear programme. If Bush decided to use force against Iran, North Korea would have to be neutralised or forgotten.
These last years, relations between Washington and Seoul have deteriorated drastically. By commission and omission, Bush trampled on the norms of the historic US relationship with Seoul while creating a dangerous situation with Pyongyang. Perhaps the “back to the future” somersault will begin to repair this damage; when the Bush administration returned to Bill Clinton’s strategy of engaging the North, South Korean public opinion against the US began to soften.
In South Korea anti-Americanism was never anything like the Middle East’s broad rejection of US power, culture, and values. But since 2001 the US image has deteriorated, especially among the young. Koreans, like many others around the world, were angry about Bush. From being overwhelmingly in favour of the US before Bush, public opinion is now divided: according to the polls 43% do not favour the US, and among Koreans in their 20s only 22% have any kind of favourable opinion (6).
Consternation in the South
This is the result of Washington’s policies toward the North, and fears for South Korea’s sunshine policy and reconciliation with the North (from which Washington under Bush disassociated itself). The acute danger, which South Korean leaders immediately grasped, was that the Bush doctrine – under which the US may pre-emptively attack regimes it does not like – meant that Seoul would be dragged into a war it didn’t want. Soon after the doctrine became public, a close adviser to Roh told Bush administration officials that if the US attacked the North over South Korean objections, it would destroy the alliance with the South. Leaders in Seoul repeatedly sought assurances from Washington that the North would not be attacked without close consultations or over Seoul’s veto. The Roh administration has not won these assurances. Since the North can destroy Seoul in a matter of hours with 10,000 guns buried in the mountains north of the capital, one can imagine the extreme consternation that the Bush doctrine caused in Seoul.
Things are so bad that it now requires a major effort to restore trust and confidence. What the US could do to start afresh would be finally to normalise relations with the North (as it pledged to do in 1994 and again in 2005); guarantee Seoul that it will have a veto over the use of military force against Pyongyang; assure Seoul that the US will not use its forces in Korea in a conflict over Taiwan; and reduce the anachronistic US troop presence in Korea. These steps are not impossible to imagine: the ROK, China and Russia have all urged the US to normalise relations with North Korea, and China gains ever-increasing weight on the peninsula by maintaining good relations with both the North and the South. It is entirely reasonable that the elected leaders of South Korea should have a greater say in whether to go to war on the peninsula than American leaders (except in a far-fetched scenario in which North Korea directly attacked the US), and it is also entirely logical for Seoul to want to remain on the sidelines of any conflict over Taiwan. It is in the American interest to find a better way to deploy its troops in Korea, now in their seventh decade. And perhaps by having an embassy in Pyongyang, Americans would finally gain some leverage over an antagonist that has effectively defied the US for more than sixty years.
The past six years have seen an astonishing spectacle in which an American president zig-zagged from gratuitous insults thrown at the North Korean head of state, to charges of new nuclear programs and money-laundering based on flimsy evidence, installing the North as part of an axis of evil and allowing advisors to make open threats of war against it while doing little if anything as the North kicked out UN inspectors, manufactured nuclear weapons, tested both A-bombs and missiles, showing it would not bend to Washington, Beijing or Moscow. Then suddenly both sides climbed down from their polarized positions and embraced Bill Clinton’s decade-old give-and-take diplomacy.
North Korea has won and got what it wanted, and what it had suggested in the 1990s: to trade its nuclear programme for aid and normalised ties with the US, a proposition denied and derided in official Washington.
The successful diplomacy of the late 1990s was led by Kim Dae Jung, who finally convinced Clinton that Pyongyang would give up its nuclear programme and its missiles in return for a new relationship. The US could have its cake and eat it too, Kim Dae Jung thought, because Pyongyang would not object to the continued stationing of US troops in the South if relations were normalised. He judged that Kim Jong Il was almost as worried about the strength of China and Japan (simultaneously strong for the first time in modern history) as he was about the US, and could be coaxed into new security arrangements within the international system that the US had built in northeast Asia since 1945. Washington could lose an enemy and gain a neutral North Korea – if not a friend or an ally – as a counterbalance against China and a revived Russia, and as a check on Japan’s future course.
It is likely that Pyongyang hopes to play the US off against China, much as it did Moscow and Beijing during the cold war. There is no way to know if this new thinking has had an impact on Bush, but it is a logical US strategy for the region in the 21st-century.
Bizarre events may well place Bush and “evildoer” Kim Jong Il side by side as peacemakers. If so, all well and good, and better late than never.
 Russia and China only voted Chapter VII sanctions after making sure that they carried no implication of being backed by military force.
 John McGlynn, “Financial Sanctions and North Korea: In Search of the Evidence of Currency Counterfeiting and Money Laundering”, Japan Focus, 10 July 2007, www.japanfocus.org/products/ details/2463
 See “How US Turned North Korean Funds into a Bargaining Chip”, The New York Times, 11 April 2007.
 Bush and his advisers claimed that the North cheated on this agreement, when in fact the eight-year freeze was never broken. UN inspectors were on the ground every day, and all the facilities were sealed and under constant surveillance.
 See Selig Harrison, “Did North Korea Cheat?”, Foreign Affairs, New York, February 2006.
 Meredith Woo-Cumings in David I Steinberg, dir, Korean Attitudes Toward the United States, M E Sharpe, 2005; Pew Global Attitudes Project.
This is an expanded version of an article that appeared in Le Monde Diplomatique, October, 2007 and at Japan Focus on October 9, 2007.
Posted on: Friday, October 26, 2007 - 17:12
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (10-25-07)
Earlier this month, news of the military's use of Human Terrain Teams -- U.S. combat units operating in Afghanistan and Iraq that contain anthropologists and other social scientists who have traded in their academic robes for body armor -- hit the front-page of the New York Times. While the incorporation of academic experts into combat units has raised ire in some scholarly circles, their use as" cultural advisers" to aid the war effort has been greeted by the military as"a crucial new weapon in counterinsurgency operations" and in the media as an example of increased cultural sensitivity as well as evidence of a new Pentagon willingness to think outside the box.
But the university is only one of a number of areas where an overstretched military, involved in two losing wars, is in a desperate search for new ideas. And humanizing allies and enemies alike has only been one part of the process. Dehumanizing them has been the other. At a recent conference on urban warfare in Washington, D.C., James Lasswell, a retired Marine Corps colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, opened an interesting window into this side of things. He noted that, as part of an instruction course named"Combat Hunter," the Marines have brought in"big-game hunters" to school their snipers in the better use of"optics." According to a September 2007 article by Grace Jean in NationalDefense Magazine,"[T]he lab conducted a war game with Marines, African game hunters and inner city police officers to search for ways to improve training." The program included a 15-minute CD titled"Every Marine a Hunter."
Earlier this year, according to an article by Kimberly Johnson of the Marine Corps Times, Col. Clarke Lethin, chief of staff of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) -- a unit based in Camp Pendleton, California that took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and will be returning there soon -- indicated that its commanders"believe that if we create a mentality in our Marines that they are hunters and they take on some of those skills, then we'll be able to increase our combat effectiveness." The article included this curious add-on:"The Corps hopes to tap into skills certain Marines may already have learned growing up in rural hunting areas and in urban areas, such as inner cities, said Col. Clarke Lethin, I MEF's chief of staff." Outraged by the statement, one Sgt. Ramsey K. Gregory wrote a letter to the publication asking,"Just what was meant by that comment about the inner city? I hope to God that he's not saying that people from the inner cities are experts in killing each other and that we all just walk around carrying guns."
While the colonel's language -- defended by some -- did seem to suggest that inner-city dwellers lived in an urban jungle of gun-toting hunters of other humans, none of the letters, pro or con, considered quite a different part of the Colonel's equation: the implicit comparison of enemies in urban warfare, today largely Iraqis and Afghans, to animals that are hunted and killed as quarry. As Lethin had unabashedly noted,"We identified a need to ensure our Marines were being the hunters… Hunting is more than just the shooting. It's finding your game."
That military men might indulge in this sort of description was perhaps less than surprising, given the degree to which"hunting" the enemy has been on the lips of America's commander-in-chief. George W. Bush has, on many occasions, invoked the image:"We're hunting them down, one at a time" he likes to say of, for instance, al-Qaeda terrorists, or"we're smoking them out," as he said in November 2001.
In fact, the President needed no big-game hunters to coach him on his optics or anything else. He's talked incessantly of hunting humans -- in speeches to American troops, at photo ops with foreign leaders, at family fundraisers, even in the midst of remarks about homeownership.
Nor is there anything new about Americans treating racial and ethnic enemies as the equivalent of animals to be abused or killed. In his memoir of the Vietnam War, Dispatches, acclaimed combat correspondent Michael Herr, for example, recalled a young soldier from the Army's 1st Infantry Division who admitted,"Well, you know what we do to animals…. kill ‘em and hurt ‘em and beat on ‘em…. Shit, we don't treat the Dinks [Vietnamese] no different than that." Another veteran, quoted elsewhere remembered,"As soon as I hit boot camp…. they tried to change your total personality…. Right away they told us not to call them Vietnamese. Call them gooks, dinks…. They were like animals, or something other than human…. They told us they're not to be treated with any type of mercy…" Today, the slurs of the Vietnam era have been replaced by"haji" and"raghead," while the big-game hunters and the language that goes with killing animals have added to the atmosphere of dehumanization.
That program of instruction is, however, just one recent example of an undercurrent within the military's institutional culture that implicitly reduces people to animals. It's not just in the language of everyday anger and dismissal by soldiers in a strange land where danger is everywhere and it's difficult to tell friend from foe. It's lodged right in the institutional language, if you care to notice. Last month, a piece in the Washington Post, for example, drew much media attention when it came to light that U.S. Army snipers from the"painted demons" platoon of the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division allegedly took part in"a classified program of 'baiting' their targets" to lure insurgents within their sniper scopes.
"Basically, we would put an item [like a spool of wire or ammunition] out there and watch it," said Capt. Matthew P. Didier, the leader of the elite sniper platoon in a sworn statement."If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces." While there has been much subsequent discussion about the ethics and legality of such a program, nobody seemed to take note of the hunting language involved. After all, when you"bait" a trap (or a hook), it's to lure an animal (or fish) in for the kill. But"bait" for a human?
While the use of anthropologists and other social scientists has made headlines, the utilization of"big-game hunters" as troop trainers for the"urban jungles" of Iraq has been essentially ignored. Programs stressing cultural sensitivity may be covered, but treating Iraqis scavenging in a weapon-strewn war zone as the equivalent of elephants, water buffalo, or other prized trophies of great white hunters has gone largely unexamined in any meaningful way.
From the commander-in-chief to low-ranking snipers, a language of dehumanization that includes the idea of hunting humans as if they were animals has crept into our world -- unnoticed and unnoted in the mainstream media. Perhaps a few linguistics professors or other social scientists might like to step into the breach and offer their views on the subject -- unless, of course, they've already been mustered into those Human Terrain Teams.
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Copyright 2007 Nick Turse
Posted on: Friday, October 26, 2007 - 16:36
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (10-25-07)
The Bush administration's plans to convene a new round of Israeli-Arab diplomacy on Nov. 26 will, I predict, do substantial damage to American and Israeli interests.
As a rule, successful negotiations require a common aim; in management-labor talks, for example, both sides want to get back to work. When a shared premise is lacking, not only do negotiations usually fail, but they usually do more harm than good. Such is the case in the forthcoming Annapolis, Maryland, talks. One side (Israel) seeks peaceful coexistence while the other (the Arabs) seeks to eliminate its negotiating partner, as evidenced by its violent actions, its voting patterns, replies to polls, political rhetoric, media messages, school textbooks, mosque sermons, wall graffiti, and much else.
Damage will be done should the Israeli government make"painful concessions" and get a cold peace or empty promises in return, as has consistently been the case since 1979. This lop-sided outcome would, once again, boost Arab exhilaration and determination to eliminate the Jewish state.
Mahmoud Abbas, Condoleezza Rice, and Ehud Olmert: Will they be celebrating at Annapolis?
Contrarily, should the Israelis resist a joint U.S.-Palestinian position, I see a possible crisis in U.S.-Israel relations of unprecedented proportions – worse than 1975 or even 1957. That's because, in part, the stakes are so high. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that"the United States sees the establishment of a Palestinian state, a two-state solution, as absolutely essential to the future of not just Palestinians and Israelis but also to the Middle East and, indeed, to American interests." If a Palestinian state is"absolutely essential … to American interests," whoever stands in its way will presumably pay a heavy price. As I have been arguing since November 2004, U.S.-Israel relations are hanging by a thread. Annapolis renders them yet more vulnerable to disruption.
Putting aside these deep and inescapable problems, the talks face two practical challenges: On the Palestinian side,"Fatah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas" (as Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick calls him) is an extremely weak reed."There is no responsible Palestinian leadership that could deliver a newspaper on time in the morning," the Jerusalem Report's Hirsh Goodman notes,"much less a peace agreement that would stand the test of time."
On the Israeli side, Ehud Olmert's prime ministry could crash if his skittish partners abandon the ruling coalition. Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu have warned against dividing Jerusalem and other steps. Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party, reportedly will reject any plan denying freedom of movement to the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni could bolt if a Palestinian"right of return" is not renounced. That a recent poll finds 77 percent of Israelis think their government is"too weak to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians in Israel's name" increases the chance of defections.
These grim prospects raise the question: Why, after nearly seven years of staying aloof from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, has the Bush administration now succumbed to the bug? Some possible factors.
- Iranian threat: Rice sees an opportunity for U.S. diplomacy in a Middle East re-alignment resulting from Iranian aggression, both actual (Hizbullah, Hamas) and future (nuclear weapons).
- Inaction worse: If nothing is done, Kadima's already dismal standing in the polls will continue to fall and Fatah's tenuous hold over the West Bank will erode. The prospect of Likud and Hamas succeeding Olmert and Abbas pleases the Bush administration no more than it does those two men.
- Legacy: Zbigniew Brzezinski has articulated the foreign policy establishment's hopes for Annapolis and its dim view of Rice:"She realizes that her legacy right now is really very poor. If she can pull this off, she will be seen as a real historical figure."
- Civil rights: Rice believes in a bizarre analogy between West Bank Palestinians and southern Blacks.
- Messianism: Both George W. Bush and Rice seem to view themselves as destined to resolve Arab-Israeli hostilities. One interlocutor recounts that"she believes this is the time for the Israeli and Palestinian conflict to end."
Rice's comment echoes both George H.W. Bush's 1991 statement that"the time has come to put an end to Arab-Israeli conflict" and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's 2005 announcement of his intent"to resolve this problem once and for all." But, as Irving Kristol has memorably observed,"Whom the gods would destroy they first tempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict."
Posted on: Friday, October 26, 2007 - 15:54
SOURCE: Guardian (blog) (10-25-07)
First, the doctrine of "preemption", which was devised in response to the 2001 attacks, was inappropriately broadened to include Iraq and other so-called "rogue states" that threatened to develop weapons of mass destruction. To be sure, preemption is fully justified vis-a-vis stateless terrorists wielding such weapons. But it cannot be the core of a general non-proliferation policy, whereby the United States intervenes militarily everywhere to prevent the development of nuclear weapons.
The cost of executing such a policy simply would be too high (several hundred billion dollars and tens of thousands of casualties in Iraq and still counting). This is why the Bush administration has shied away from military confrontations with North Korea and Iran, despite its veneration of Israel's air strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, which set back Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme by several years. After all, the very success of that attack meant that such limited intervention could never be repeated, because would-be proliferators learned to bury, hide, or duplicate their nascent weapons programmes.
The second important miscalculation concerned the likely global reaction to America's exercise of its hegemonic power. Many people within the Bush administration believed that even without approval by the UN security council or Nato, American power would be legitimised by its successful use. This had been the pattern for many US initiatives during the cold war, and in the Balkans during the 1990s; back then, it was known as "leadership" rather than "unilateralism".
But, by the time of the Iraq war, conditions had changed: the US had grown so powerful relative to the rest of the world that the lack of reciprocity became an intense source of irritation even to America's closest allies. The structural anti-Americanism arising from the global distribution of power was evident well before the Iraq war, in the opposition to American-led globalisation during the Clinton years. But it was exacerbated by the Bush administration's "in-your-face" disregard for a variety of international institutions as soon it came into office - a pattern that continued through the onset of the Iraq war.
America's third mistake was to overestimate how effective conventional military power would be in dealing with the weak states and networked transnational organisations that characterise international politics, at least in the broader Middle East. It is worth pondering why a country with more military power than any other in human history, and that spends as much on its military as virtually the rest of the world combined, cannot bring security to a small country of 24 million people after more than three years of occupation. At least part of the problem is that it is dealing with complex social forces that are not organised into centralised hierarchies that can enforce rules, and thus be deterred, coerced, or otherwise manipulated through conventional power.
Israel made a similar mistake in thinking that it could use its enormous margin of conventional military power to destroy Hizbullah in last summer's Lebanon war. Both Israel and the US are nostalgic for a 20th century world of nation-states, which is understandable, since that is the world to which the kind of conventional power they possess is best suited.
But nostalgia has led both states to misinterpret the challenges they now face, whether by linking al-Qaida to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or Hizbullah to Iran and Syria. This linkage does exist in the case of Hizbullah, but the networked actors have their own social roots and are not simply pawns used by regional powers. This is why the exercise of conventional power has become frustrating.
Finally, the Bush administration's use of power has lacked not only a compelling strategy or doctrine, but also simple competence. In Iraq alone, the administration misestimated the threat of WMD, failed to plan adequately for the occupation, and then proved unable to adjust quickly when things went wrong. To this day, it has dropped the ball on very straightforward operational issues in Iraq, such as funding democracy promotion efforts....
Posted on: Thursday, October 25, 2007 - 19:12
SOURCE: WSJ (10-24-07)
I have never met Judge Michael Mukasey, and I have no strong feelings on who should be our next attorney general. But after four decades studying and writing about national security aspects of our Constitution, I believe Congress and the American people must understand that some of the issues raised in Mr. Mukasey's confirmation hearings are far more complex than they may initially appear.
Take, for example, Sen. Pat Leahy's question to Mr. Mukasey about whether the president has the power to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). I know that statute well, having worked in the Senate when it was enacted in 1978, and later serving as the senior White House lawyer under President Reagan charged with overseeing the implementation of FISA and other intelligence laws.
The real issue here is not whether the president is "above the law," but rather which "law" he must see "faithfully executed" when there is a conflict between the Constitution and an inconsistent statute. His highest duty, I submit, is to the Constitution itself.
In 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall declared in Marbury v. Madison: "an act of the legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void." From the earliest days of our history until FISA was enacted, it was understood by all three branches that the Constitution had left the president (to quote Federalist No. 64) "able to manage the business of intelligence as prudence might suggest."
When Congress passed the first wiretap statute in 1968, it expressly declared that nothing in it would limit "the Constitutional power of the President" to collect foreign-intelligence information. Every administration from FDR to (and including) Jimmy Carter engaged in warrantless foreign-intelligence wiretapping in the belief that this was one of the "exceptions" to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. Others include border searches and searches of commercial airline passengers and their luggage (not to mention the requirement, imposed by Congress, that citizens entering a congressional office building to exercise their constitutional right to petition their government for redress of grievances must submit to a warrantless search absent the slightest probable cause)....
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 18:38
SOURCE: Salon (10-24-07)
The Bush administration once imagined that its presence in Afghanistan and Iraq would be anchored by friendly neighbors, Turkey to the west and Pakistan to the east. Last week, as the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan continued to deteriorate, the anchors themselves also came loose....
Along with the failed state in Iraq, which has neglected to use any decrease in violence temporarily provided by the recent U.S. troop escalation to effect political reconciliation, the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan raises the specter of a collapse of both of Bush's major state-building projects. The turmoil in Turkey and Pakistan damages U.S. relations with two allies that are key to shoring up the countries under American occupation.
After Sept. 11, when the Bush administration launched its global "war on terror," the United States enjoyed some clear assets in fighting the al-Qaida terrorist network. In the Middle East, the United States had the support of secular Turkey, a NATO member. The long relationship of the powerful Pakistani military with that of the United States enabled Bush to turn the military dictator Musharraf against the Taliban, which Pakistan had earlier sponsored. Shiite Iran announced that it would provide help to the United States in its war on the hyper-Sunni Taliban regime. Baathist Syria and Iraq, secular Arab nationalist regimes, were potential bulwarks against Sunni radicalism in the Levant.
Like a drunken millionaire gambling away a fortune at a Las Vegas casino, the Bush administration squandered all the assets it began with by invading Iraq and unleashing chaos in the Gulf. The secular Baath Party in Iraq was replaced by Shiite fundamentalists, Sunni Salafi fundamentalists and Kurdish separatists. The pressure the Bush administration put on the Pakistani military government to combat Muslim militants in that country weakened the legitimacy of Musharraf, whom the Pakistani public increasingly viewed as an oppressive American puppet. Iraqi Kurdistan's willingness to give safe haven to the PKK alienated Turkey from both the new Iraqi government and its American patrons. Search-and-destroy missions in Afghanistan have predictably turned increasing numbers of Pushtun villagers against the United States, NATO and Karzai. The thunder of the bomb in Karachi and the Turkish shells in Iraqi Kurdistan may well be the sound of Bush losing his "war on terror."
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 18:21
I just came back from another amazing trip to Berlin. I was there, with my wife Liz, to give a speech on Bronx Music and Migration at a Conference on Berlin and New York sponsored by the House of the Cultures of the World, but also was able to spend three additional days touring the city, talking to conference participants, and reconnecting with friends I had made on my last trip. Thanks to the efforts of conference organizer Susanne Stemmler,and the amazing staff of the House of The Cultures of the World, we were given tours of Berlin neighborhoods, and an explanation of the city's remarkable history that will forever remain etched in my memory. I will give you a brief summary of some of the things we learned about the city because there is much New Yorkers can learn from the Berlin experience
For me, the tone for the entire visit was set by a pre conference bus and walking tour led by an architect and community organizer named Matthias Heyden. Matthias was part of a whole group of artists and revolutionaries who came to Berlin after the fall of the Wall to try to create a new society which retained the egalitarian traditions of socialism while opening up space for free expression in politics and the arts. His tour took us to many of Berlin's best known historic sites, from the Brandenburg Gate, to the Holocaust Memorial and Jewish Museum, the Pergamon Museum , to"Checkpoint Charlie," but he also took us to abandoned apartment buildings, factories, and warehouses in the formerly Eastern Sector of the City which had been occupied by young artists and musicians and turned into galleries, studios, and discos under a remarkable city ordinance that allowed for temporary occupancy of vacant stores and buildings by cultural groups FREE OF CHARGE until those facilities could be rented to commercial users! This was Berlin's response to the wrenching economic dislocations that took place after the fall of Communism. Rather than leveling abandoned factories, stores and apartment buildings, or selling them off to developers at a fraction of their value, which was done in New York after the fiscal crisis of the 70's, Berlin created a formula for grass roots occupancy which has helped turn Berlin into a mecca for young artists from all over the world. In neighborhood after neighborhood, young migrants to Berlin have reclaimed abandoned spaces, created cooperative living arrangements, generated new enterprises and,in more than a few occasions, reached out to disfranchised youth living in immigrant neighborhoods or in depressed sections of former East Berlin. It was inspiring to see how people throughout this remarkable city, which has an extremely high unemployment rate and a nearly bankrupt local government, were using culture as an engine of economic development and a vehicle to organize and unite communities. Music, theatre, dance and the visual arts, all seemed to be thriving. Rather than sinking into depression and despair, Berlin, under prodding from political activists and creative urban planners turned its deficits into assets by attracting young people with cultural capital willing to take advantage of the city's low rents and abandoned commercial spaces.I think New York has a lot to learn from Berlin's approach!
Now for the Conference. The House of World Cultures an organization created by US foundations and government agencies during the Height of the Cold War, created this gathering as part of a three month long New York/Berlin cultural festival. The Conference brought together academics, urban planners, community organizers, artists, and political activists from both cities for presentations comparing the history and cultural life of two cities known for their cultural vitality. My role was to give a paper about the role of immigration and migration in shaping musical creativity in the Bronx, a subject of great interest to Berliners who have seen their city transformed by immigration, and have watched Berlin become one of the world's great musical centers. with hip hop, dancehall and techno all thriving, along with ethnic musical traditions of Africa, Turkey and the Middle East.
My paper began with a discussion of two Bronx neighborhoods, Morrisania and Hunts point, where a mix of African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Puerto Ricans, who migrated there from Harlem during and after World War II, created, a unique culture of live performance music, in which mambo, be bop, rhythm and blues, doo wop and calypso not only thrived individually, but influenced and cross fertilized one another. I talked about the many clubs and theatres along Boston Road Westchester Avenue and Southern Boulevard, the great music programs in the local public schools, and the influence of street corner singers and congueros who created a music soundtrack to the rhythms of daily life. But I also spoke of the role of public housing in cementing the Bronx's multicultural character and creating spaces for cultural creativity. Not only were the first public housing projects in the Bronx thoroughly multiracial, having Blacks, Latinos and Whites, living together in the same developments, but they all had community centers which sponsored talent shows and musical performances. When Bronx neighborhoods suffered arson and abandonment in the late 1960's and 1970's,these centers played a critical role in maintaining and reinventing local musical traditions. Most of the early Bronx hip hop jams, led by pioneering dj's like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambatta, Charley Chase, and Disco King Mario took place in the community centers and public spaces of bronx housing project and subsidized middle income housing developments created under the Mitchell Lama program. The Bronx's legacy of cultural creativity, I argued, was not only a reflection of the immigrants and migrants who came into its neighborhoods it was fostered by enlightened government policies which created affordable housing for the Bronx's working class and middle class residents of the borough.
To reinforce my argument that culture is political, and that cultural creativity is responsive to government initiatives ranging from liberalized immigration laws to the construction of affordable housing, I played a video at the end of my presentation that brought all these themes together. Called"Which Side Are You On," the video was produced by a South Bronx revolutionary hip hop group called"Rebel Diaz", composed two Chilean immigrants , an MC and DJ,, and a Puerto Rican rapper and poet. The video, which begins with a famous Depression Era labor song, shows how hip hop can become a vehicle of expression for the world's struggling people, whether African Americans fighting police violence, immigrants resisting exploitation and deportation, or peoples around the world challenging the power of the US Government , and how hip hop rhymes and beats can convey powerful messages Many of the more than 300 people in the audience, most of whom were Berliners had never seen hip hop linked to politics with such powerful words and images . But some people in the audience drew legitimacy from this video for their own community work. People from three important Berlin organizations, the Street University, Gangway Berlin, and the Kreuzbeg Museum came up to talk to me about possible Bronx/Berlin exchanges and collaborations that would link the youth of both cities. And several community organizers and planners from New York came up to ask me if they could get groups like Rebel Diaz to participate in movements like the campaign to stop the Atlantic Yards construction project in Downtown Brooklyn.
A trip to East Berlin the next day, organized by my friend Susanne Stemmler, further reinforced my determination to linkages between artists and cultural workers in Berlin and the Bronx. Susanne took me and Liz to an abandoned transformer station near her apartment building, where a reknowned Berlin dj and break dancer, Akim Walta, had created what he called a"Hip Hop Stutzpunkt"- a combination music studio, publishing house and community center where young people of Berlin could express their creative impulses and develop income generating businesses. What Walta and his friends had done with this five story building, without any grants or subsidies, was truly remarkable, as was his determination to make sure that young people from Berlin neighborhoods participate in every one of his enterprises. One of his outdoor festivals that Susanne attended attracted hundreds of Berlin teenagers, demonstrating hip hop's power to mobilize disfranchised youth is as great in Berlin as it is in the Bronx
After visiting this remarkable community center, and feeling the love and energy that Berlin youth workers like Olad Aden(Gangway), ,Gio De Sera(Street Univesity) Martin Duespohl ( Kreuzberg Museum) and scholars like Susanne Stemmler put into their work, I was more determined than ever to create some kind of institutional linkage between people who work with youth in Berlin and the Bronx. I have already set up several meetings with Bronx organizations to explore this possibility and will return to Berlin in May to meet with community organizers and cultural workers there who might want to partner with us.
I can't wait to go back! I love Berlin!
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 17:40
My head is spinning after the three days I spent in Berlin. I came to deliver a paper on the Multicultural Roots of Bronx Hip Hop to an international conclave of scholars in Urban Studies, but spent as much time in the immigrant neighborhoods of Berlin as I did at the university and discovered, first hand, how much hip hop has become the chosen vehicle of expression for disaffected and disfranchised youth throughout the world. The experience I had in Kreuzberg- Berlin's largest immigrant neighborhood- had such a powerful effect on me that I decided to bring the spirit of Kreuzberg, and the Bronx neighborhoods my paper was about, into the conference by "performing" my paper with a rapper and an African drummer rather than simply reading it. This exercise in democratizing academic culture may or may not have been successful, but before exploring it in depth, I need to say something about the events which preceded it
My guide and co-conspirator in my Berlin adventure was Susanne Stemmler, a post doctoral scholar at the Center for Metropolitan Stuides in Belin, who is writing a book comparing immigrant hip hop in Berlin, Paris and New York. Susanne spent two months in New York working with the Bronx African American History and helped arrange several important Oral History Interviews, and I was looking forward to meeting Susanne on "her own turf." Susanne met me at the airport and took me to meet the other organizers of the Conference at the Center for Metropolitan Studies at Berlin's Technical University. The CMS offices reminded me of the Bronx African American History Project center on the 6th floor of Dealy Hall. It was populated by a team of young scholars passionate about their work, but not afraid to have fun. I immediately felt at home and plopped down on a coach to take a nap, so I could handle the demanding schedule Susanne had mapped out for me without succumbing to jet lag
When we awoke, Susanne took me on an amazing journey into immigrant Berlin. Our first stop was to a legendary neighborhood called Kreuzberg, which was for the last thirty years has been a gathering point for hippies, radicals, punks, and most recently, Turkish and African immigrants. Susanne said this was the one neighborhood in Berlin that skin heads and neo-Nazis were afraid to venture into and it was a place where dark skinned immigrants could live and socialize without the harsh stares- and sometimes worse- of white Germans who felt threatened by their presence
When we got out of the cab I looked around me in amazement. This was very different than the hip, upscale neighborhood Technical University was located in, which reminded me of the West Village or Park Slope. I felt transported into outer borough immigrant New York. At least half of the people on the streets looked like they came from Turkey or the Middle East, supplemented by a small contingent of people from Africa. Many of the whites, especially the younger ones, seemed to sport tattoos, nose rings and multicolored hair. The streets were crowded, noisy and dirty, and there was graffiti everywhere, some of it in the form of tags and some of it in the form of complicated and innovative art work. The Turkish influence was seen in the shops blaring Turkish music, in chadors of Muslim women walking with their children, in the tough chiseled faces of the young men standing on street corners and in the satellite dishes on the terrace of almost every apartment in public housing which allowed their owners to get programs from Turkey. Throw out your image of a spotlessly clean German city where hausfraus water the streets in front of apartment buildings and stores. Kreuzberg was a funky, dirty, vital urban space that reminded me of Sunset Park in Brooklyn or Corona in Queens, filled with immigrant energy and enterprise with an undercurrent of alienation and rage
Susanne and I walked to a community center called "Nanynritze" in Kreuzberg a six story building whose doors and exterior walls were covered with murals and tags. It was as though the center's directors believed that the youth they were working with felt most comfortable in a chaotic environment. Skilled art work and amateurish scrawling were given equal footing
The center was locked and we prepared to go to our next stop when two young white women with bare midriffs, multiple piercings and tattoos walked up to the door of the center and opened it with a key. Susanne asked what they were doing and they told her they were break dancers practicing for a performance We asked if we could accompany them and walked with them to a practice room on the second floor of the center where they had a CD player. Here, the Bronx music CD's I had brought to accompany my presentation at the conference came in handy. When I put Grand Master Flash's "The Message" on the CD players, a huge smile came on the two dancer’s faces. They knew this and several other songs I had in my collection, including Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks" and Afrika Bambatta's "Planet Rock" and we spent a few minutes laughing, talking and taking pictures before Susanne and I moved on to our next stop.
After a long ride on Berlin's excellent and very complicated rapid transit system, we came out in another neighborhood where we had a meeting set up with Olad Aden, an African American social worker fluent in German who was working with an organization called "Gangway" which sought to find artistic and athletic outlets for Berlin's disfranchised youth, irrespective of race or neighborhood. Olad was going to take us to a community center in his neighborhood where young people were painting a graffiti mural to mark the beginning of a local cultural festival.
Olad, a well built man in his late thirties dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, told us that Berlin had a gang problem in a number of neighborhoods and that the program he worked with tried to bring disaffected youth into organized programs which gave an outlet for their energies. The kids in the neighborhood he worked in were mostly children of Turkish or Arab immigrants, but there were other neighborhoods the program organized which were located in what used to be East Berlin and where the kids involved were mainly skin heads and neo Nazis.
After a brief lunch at a café in a park, where we drew what I though were some unfriendly stares from the all-white patrons, we walked about ten blocks to a community center across the street from a supermarket where two men in their early forties were helping a group of about ten adolescents create a graffiti mural on a wall about 30 feet long and 10 feet high. I asked for a CD player and started playing Bronx Hip Hop and soon we had a crowd around us talking about the cultural festival they were sponsoring and the neighborhoods they lived in. They were very excited about the possibility of any kind of exchange program that could get them to New York and Olad told us that a local organization called “The Checkpoint Charlie Foundation” might be interested in funding such a program. We then left the site and invited Olad, who was a huge hip hop fan, to come to hear my paper on the Bronx origins of Hip Hop which I was giving on Sunday afternoon.
We returned to the Conference very excited and had a great time at the plenary that evening and the morning and afternoon sessions the next day, but were even more excited about the trip we were planning the next evening to a community center in Kreuzberg’s Gorlitzer Park, where we were going to be meeting a Turkish social worker who organized neighborhood youth
The next day, Katja Sussner, one of the main organizers of the Conference and a good friend of Susanne’s drove us to Gorlitzer Park, dropping us off at an entrance about 8 blocks from the Center. As we walked through the park, I felt completely at home. There were Turkish families having picknicking on folding tables, African men gathering in groups of twenty and thirty to talk and play drums, hippies playing hackie sack and throwing frisbees, families with young children and teenage girls in skimpy clothing taking in the sun and walking slowly to make sure they were seen. The park was scruffy, filled with patches of dirt where grass used to be, and trees that needed watering and pruning. Virtually every wall and surface was covered with graffiti- brazen, colorful, almost overwhelming in its sheer command of the visual space. The community center and café, when we finally found them, looked like graffiti monuments, and the shaded spots under their rooves were filled with people. Some of them were immigrants, but some of them were local organizers of protests against the G-8 summit, which was coming to Berlin in two weeks. Susanne and I went up to talk to them and they told us that Gorlitzer Park was the place where protesters could come to get food, get medical attention, or find a place to sleep
We walked into the Kreuzer Community Center in Gorlitzer Park r where we were greeted by the Center’s director, Erbil, a Turkish immigrant Susanne has known for many years, plus other community activists. Because few young people were there at that time, we had a conversation about the Center’s work, conducted in German and English with Susanne translating. The story the Center director told was grim. Many of the young people he works with feel they have no place in German society. They are mocked and discriminated against in the local public schools, discriminated against when they apply for jobs, and feel they have fewer economic options than their parents generation. Angry and demoralized, and without organizational outlets for their discontent there is no Turkish NAACP in Berlin—they have seized upon hip hop culture as their major vehicle for expressing their discontent and telling the world that they are not going to quietly disappear. They feel that Germany is their country, but that most Germans don’t accept them, and their frustration could easily morph into the kind of rage that exploded into the suburbs of Paris
In the middle of our discussion, five young teenagers swaggered into the community center, looking at me and Susanne with very skeptical eyes. The community center director told them who we were and told us that one of the young men was a talented rapper. I told Susanne to tell the kids that I was from the Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, and that I wanted to hear them rap.
Susanne did so and as soon as she did, the oldest of the youngsters, who called himself MC Abbos, began to rhyme. Suddenly, this quiet young man became transformed into a bundle of energy and passion, spinning out rhymes in German with breathtaking speed while his hands and body moved in rhythm. It didn’t matter that that I didn’t know the exact words. He made me feel his pride, his rage, his determination to be heard and his boastful recognition of his own genius. It was one the most powerful expression of hip hop’s power to give voice to the voiceless that I had ever heard, and I was determined to find some way of bringing the spirit of his performance into my presentation
The next portion of the day provided an element of comic relief to what we saw in the Community Center. Susanne and I repaired to the outdoor café across from the Community where we were to meet Noel Garcia Lopez an anthropologist from Barcelona who was my co-panelist at the Conference. Noel is a pioneer in a new field called “sound anthropology” which involves recording and analyzing sounds in urban settings, comparing them over time, and analyzing what these sounds can tell us about the neighborhoods they were recorded in. Noel was meeting us for a “sound walk” through Kreuzberg and came up to us very excited about a scene he had just recorded in Gorlitzer Park involving ten children playing in a public fountain
Unfortunately, when Noel joined us, it started pouring so we had to move to the indoor portion of the café until it stopped raining. There Noel recorded the sounds of the bar, which proved to be much more interesting, when played back, that I could have imagined
When the rain stopped, we headed toward the street under the canopy of the café, where a whole group of Middle Eastern men had gathered. All of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain in my foot. I looked down and saw that I had stepped on a broken bottle, and that it had gone all the way through my shoe. When I extracted the bottle and took off my shoe and sock, I saw my foot was bleeding fairly badly, but one of the people with us, a paramedic, assured me that the wound was small enough so that I wouldn’t need stitches. While Susanne got bandaids and paper napkins from the café, he used pressure to stop the bleeding and was able to bandage me up enough to walk comfortably. Once the first scare was over, we found the entire situation hilarious, especially when I began quoting from the lines of Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message”
“Broken glass everywhere , people pissing on the stairs you know they just don’t care”
I suggested that we tell people that I was “cut” in Kreuzberg and was saved from serious injury only by the intrepid action by my “posse” from the Center for Metropolitan Studies In fact, my friends did go the extra mile to see that this injury was not more serious. When we got back to my hotel, Susanne spent nearly an hour riding around on her bicycle to find an open pharmacy where they sold disinfectant
The next day, Susanne, Noel and I planned to find the most effective way of bringing the spirit of Berlin’s immigrant neighborhoods and streets into our session, which was the final one in the conference. Noel’s suggestion was that we move the panel from a Conference room into a huge adjoining rotunda, where the sounds he had recorded be heard more effectively. My suggestion was that someone play the conga drums during my presentation to duplicate the sounds of Bronx neighborhoods in the period I was discussing. Somehow, Susanne made both of these things happen. She developed plans to shift the panel and recruited a former student of hers name Theophilus, who was a drummer and slam poet, to be part of my presentation.
At lunch, our plans became even more complex. When a Berlin rapper named Johannes showed up who could beat box and free style, I decided to transform my presentation into a three person performance, beginning with a drumming exhibition and a poem from Theophilus, the reading of a shortened version of my papers to a drum accompaniment, and a freestyle exhibition by Johannes at the conclusion of my paper. To make room for the drum portion of the session, Noel decided to cut the written portion of his paper in half
Needless to say, this session, as we had planned it, was not the most conventional expression of German, or indeed American academic culture, but we all felt it was something we needed to do after what we had seen and experienced the last two days.
How did it work? Well, Noel’s presentation set a wonderful tone. No one present probably believed that sounds recorded in urban spaces could particularly interesting or revealing, but the sounds Noel chose opened everyone’s minds, and ears. Then I moved into my presentation by saying that hop hop arose in the Bronx in part because public spaces in the Bronx were filled with percussion and the sound of drums, and then called on Theofilus to give a demonstration. He en presented a poem, with his own drumming as background, called “African Drum” which brought to life the message my paper was presenting, followed with a moving thank you to the Conference organizers for allowing him to express himself in a country where he often felt like an outsider. Then as I began to read my paper, Theophilus accompanied me on the drum, following the rise and fall of my voice, and the paper’s message with great sensitivity and skill. When when my paper was over Johannes leapt on the floor- literally- and began free styling in English, French and German to the accompaniment of Theophilus’s drum. When the session ended three minutes later, the audience looked utterly stunned by what they had witnessed, but a number of people came up to us and said how much they enjoyed what they had seen.
But the session wasn’t over. After Susanne closed the conference by thanking all of us for coming, she turned the meeting over to an Afro-German rapper she had invited who dazzled the audience with a series of three extraordinary raps that had everyone shouting and clapping. The speed of his delivery, the rhythms he created with his words and body movements, and the passion and anger and pride he expressed in the totality of his sounds and movements, gave the scholars in that room a glimpse of hip hop’s power to give young people who feel marginalized, stigmatized and trapped a voice. It was one of those moments where art and scholarship and politics became one
After all, isn’t that what Conferences are for?
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 17:18
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (10-24-07)
Edward Luce of FT argues that Iraq has faded as a campaign issue in the 08 presidential election. He attributes this lower profile for the issue to a drop in US military deaths in Iraq and to the rise of Iran as an issue instead.
I may have been the first to point to the new salience of Iran to the race, in my Salon column last week, so I do not disagree with that assertion.
But I think it is way too early to write Iraq off as an issue. In fact, given the current crisis at the northern border with Turkey, it is a little bit bizarre to suggest that things have all calmed down, either over there or domestically.
First of all, the assertion that US troop deaths have fallen is extremely misleading. In fact, It is only late October and already more US troops were killed in Iraq in 2007 than in all of 2006. Indeed, 2007 will almost certainly hold the record for the year of the most US military deaths since the war began.
According to the Iraq Casualties Site, these are the yearly numbers of death of US military personnel in Iraq:
Year US Deaths
It is true that October is on track to be the least deadly for US troops since March of 2005.
It is, however, not clear why exactly US troop deaths have fallen so much in October. It is possible that they are being given few military missions and spending more time on base.
Indeed, the sort of ground missions that might involve hand to hand fighting and high US casualties may have been replaced by air strikes against suspected insurgent targets. US air strikes on Iraq are up by a factor of four in 2007 over 2006, according to Newsay. The US launched 1,140 bombing missions in 2007 through the end of September, as opposed to 229 in all of 2006. The US has flown as many as 70 such air missions a day this October, more than at any time since the November, 2004, assault on the Sunni Arab city of Fallujah.
Obviously, for an Occupation military to bomb a densely-populated city that it already largely controls is a violation of human rights law. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq has just condemned the US for using this tactic, which inevitably kills children, women and other non-combatants. You can't drop a bomb on an urban apartment building without killing lots of people, not only inside the building but also all around it. The bomb turns bits of the building into deadly projectiles. I am told that the US Air Force takes no responsibility for these aerial strikes when they are called in by army troops on the ground, and makes no assessment as to whether proportional force was deployed or excessive civilian casualties were incurred. So you have a convoy of soldiers in humvees driving through deeply hostile Sadr City, and someone starts sniping at them from a building. Obviously, running into the building is dangerous; it could be booby-trapped, or snipers could have set up there. I wouldn't want to do it. So the tendency would obviously be to take out the snipers by taking out the building they are using. That makes military sense. It doesn't make sense in the international law of occupations.
The US military spokesmen are always going on about precision strikes and reducing civilian casualties. I know they are sincere in thinking they can do that, but they just aren't dealing with a simple reality. They are bombing apartment buildings in densely populated cities!
The US military, then, may be artificially keeping US military deaths down this fall by resorting to many more aerial bombings. These bombings have repeatedly drawn forth powerful condemnations from the elected Iraqi political authorities and are unlikely to be viable much longer.
Evidence that US troops are being extremely careful also comes from the new policy on checkpoints. All vehicles are going to be stopped from now on except those of a high-ranking Iraqi politician such as the prime minister. One reader observed to me in an email of this story, that apparently the US in Iraq has fallen on such hard times that it can't trust anyone below the rank of prime minister.
The use of curfews and bans on vehicle traffic also seems to have expanded. The large northern city of Mosul (pop. 1.5 million) was put under curfew after bombings in late September. Several neighborhoods of Diwaniya are under curfew after clashes between the Mahdi Army and local police.
The entire city of Falluja appears to continue to labor under a ban on the operation of private vehicles (i.e. you cannot drive your car there). This policy has produced 80% unemployment. Basically keeping an entire city under lockdown has allowed the drawdown of US Marines from the city, with only 250 left. But it is crazy to think that this policy can be kept in place forever, and when the cars start circulating again, won't there be trouble?
That US reporters put such a positive spin on stories like the vast increase in aerial bombardment or the lockdown in Falluja just boggles my mind. Have they all drunk the Kool-Aid?
Reuters reports civil war violence for Tuesday. Major incidents:
' SAMARRA - The U.S. military said six Iraqi civilians were among 11 people killed in an air strike by an attack helicopter near Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, after five men were seen planting a roadside bomb. Iraqi police said 16 civilians, including women and children, were killed and 14 wounded.
NEAR BAQUBA - A roadside bomb exploded near a minibus, killing three people, including one woman, and wounding 10, including five women, on the main road near the city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
NEAR FALLUJA - Police found 15 men shot, bound and blindfolded, in a deserted building on Monday in a town near Falluja, 50 km (35 miles) west of Baghdad, police Lieutenant Colonel Jubair al-Dulaimi said.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb wounded two people in the eastern Zayouna district of Baghdad, police said. .
BAGHDAD - U.S. forces killed one insurgent and detained 10 suspected insurgents during military operations on Oct. 20-22 in the areas of Baghdad, Mosul, Thar Thar and Rabiae, the U.S. military said. . .
BAGHDAD - U.S. forces killed one insurgent and wounded five in an air strike on Monday in northern Baghdad on men planting a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said.'
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 17:05
SOURCE: Britannica Blog (10-11-07)
The multitude of proposals regarding what to do about Iran and its nuclear ambitions fall into two main groups. The first group, which grows daily, sees some sort of military option as inevitably necessary. The other group still insists that the United States going to war with Iran would be a major mistake. Its proponents hold out for some more moderate solution involving either negotiations with the mullahs in Tehran or international sanctions, or both.
Unfortunately, this second group is out of touch with events. The truth is: we are already at war with Iran, although until now it has been a one-sided conflict, with Iranians doing the killing and Americans doing the dying. Since 2004 Iran’s proxies in Iraq, including Muqtada Al Sadr’s Madhi militia, have been routinely attacking American soldiers in Baghdad and elsewhere. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ clandestine Quds Force has been supplying both Shia and Sunni insurgents with increasingly sophisticated Improvised Explosive Devices or IED’s that have killed or maimed thousands of American soldiers in Iraq.
In February 2007 forensic evidence directly linked the deaths of at least 170 American soldiers to Iran-manufactured or supplied weapons. That number continues to climb as Iran’s bankroll of terrorist operations in Iraq has grown to $3 million a month. In July this year, Senator Joseph Lieberman told Face the Nation that Iran is operating three training camps near Tehran giving mortar, rocket propelled grenade, and IED instruction to Iraqi recruits sixty at a time, “training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.” Just this week General David Petraeus blasted Iran as one of the main contributors to the reign of death taking place in Iraq and accusing Iran’s own ambassador in Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi (above), of being a Quds Force terrorist.
So there should be no mis-perception of whom is using the “military option” against whom. The Americans killed by Iran’s Quds Force in Iraq, and also in Afghanistan by an Iran-funded Taliban resurgence, need to be added to the list of 240 Marines who died in the Beirut barracks bombs in October 1983, and to the victims of the Kobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996, which killed 17 American air force personnel and wounded 372. Both attacks were planned and executed by Iran and its overseas agents, including Hezbollah.
Nor is it just the United States in the line of fire. Moments after the 1983 Marine barracks bombing, another bomb killed sixty in a similar French compound.
Iranian agents planned and carried out bombings of Jewish centers in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 that killed 29 and 85 people respectively. Even the fiercest opponents of taking military action have to take note of Iran’s arming of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon for attacks against Israel; its encouragement and financial support for Hamas (left) as it wages a civil war against the Palestinian Authority; and Iran’s supplying of Syria with money and missiles in order to dominate Lebanon and thwart democratic forces there–just as Iran is the leading enemy of democratic forces in Iraq.
In short, Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power forms part of a larger pattern of global terrorism and murder, violation of international law, and building Iran’s power by destabilizing its neighbors, even as that nuclear ambition has raised the stakes involved. And it is no longer the Bush administration, or wild-eyed neoconservatives, who raise the alarm. Even one of the fiercest critics of Bush’s Iran policy, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (right), admits that a conventional war on Iran can no longer be ruled out. Last month France’s president Sarkozy told the United Nations that a nuclear-armed Iran is “an unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world.” Sarkozy has gone on record as supporting bombing Iran’s nuclear development sites as a last resort, rather than let the most radical theocratic regime in the Middle East acquire the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
The issue therefore ceases to be whether the United States fights a war with Iran – the Iranians have already started that conflict– but how the United States best brings that conflict to a safe and decisive resolution. No one wants military action that would cause great loss of life or trigger a larger regional conflict–or forces Iran’s key supporters, Russia and China, into the arena. For that reason, some argue that the best solution is to encourage regime change within Iran itself, even though the world has been waiting for Iran’s democratic and pro-Western forces to make their stand against a deeply corrupt and unpopular regime for more than a decade, in vain.
Others like Senator John McCain argue that the time to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites may be now, ignoring the fact that such an attack by itself can only retard, not halt, the regime’s relentless search for regional hegemony and would trigger a public-relations backlash with Iranian officials displaying the inevitable “collateral damage” on CNN, Al Jazeera, and other international media outlets. This option allow leaves the Tehran regime in place and free to plan retaliation through its terror networks across the Middle East and around the world.
Is there a military option against Iran that goes beyond bombing but does not require a Iraq-style invasion and occupation – in other words that avoids another “quagmire” in the Middle East? In fact, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, a realistic war scenario with Iran would involve an extensive air and naval campaign without a single American soldier having to set foot on Iranian soil:
1. The first step would be a United States naval blockade of the Straits of Hormuz backed by anti-missile Aegis class cruisers and destroyers, together with a guarantee of free passage for all non-Iranian oil shipping (thus reassuring the world that energy supplies will continue to flow).
2. At the same time, American Stealth fighters and bombers would target Iran’s air defense and anti-ship missile sites scattered around the Gulf, followed by what military analysts call an “Effects Based Operation,” as Air Force and Navy warplanes took out Iran’s extremely vulnerable military and economic infrastructure, including its electrical grid, transportation links, gasoline refineries, port facilities, as well as suspected nuclear sites.
3. Finally, American Special Ops and airborne forces would seize Iran’s main oil pumping station at Kargh Island and capture or neutralize its offshore oil facilities.
Although the American public never noticed, the United States Navy managed to accomplish much the same thing during the so-called Tanker War in 1987-8, when Iran tried to widen its war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by attacking foreign oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Our navy managed both to destroy the Iranian navy and protect shipping through the Hormuz Straits in order to keep the world economy stable, while Navy Seal teams blew up and neutralized key Iranian oil platforms in the Gulf....
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 15:19
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (10-23-07)
Thousands of Americans will travel to colleges and universities this fall for "parents' weekend." They'll wander leaf-strewn lawns and quadrangles with their sons and daughters, asking earnest questions about courses, sports and friends.
Later, when they retire to the local Hilton, Sheraton or Holiday Inn, they might notice something funny: It looks a lot like their children's dormitory.
Dorms are changing - to resemble hotels. Student centers have gotten makeovers, too. They look like museums or corporate office buildings.
At elite private universities and even at some public ones, students have nicer facilities and services than their parents could have imagined. That raises big questions about what we're teaching this generation, and why.
Consider George Washington University in Washington, where incoming students receive engraved chocolates under their pillows during freshmen orientation. Or Ball State University in Ohio [ed. -- Indiana, actually], which just opened a $36 million residence hall featuring mobile furniture, a digital music lab, and a dining hall that takes online take-out orders.
Plasma TVs? Got 'em. Refrigerators and microwaves? Check. Fitness center? Of course. Weekly housecleaning service? For an extra fee, it's yours.
That's hardly the kind of luxury that Princeton president Woodrow Wilson envisioned a century ago, when he commissioned a new set of residential buildings. Wilson worried that too many students had moved off campus into "eating clubs," which separated them according to interests, tastes and wealth. Better that they live together in monasterylike brick or stone dormitories, sealed off from the world.
"A university was conceived as a place where the community life and spirit were supreme," wrote one Princeton architect in 1909, three years before Wilson entered the White House. "It was a walled city against materialism and all of its works."
After World War I, Harvard erected seven new dormitories along two sides of its famous yard. Featuring elaborate outside details but humble interiors, the dorms created a literal and symbolic divide between students and the surrounding city.
At new women's colleges, meanwhile, educators feared that off-campus boarding houses would lead innocent young women astray. So they took special care to construct solid but simple dormitories that would place all students under college supervision - and on equal economic footing.
"We have a chance to see what the human spirit can do when unhampered either by deprivation or by excess," the dean of Smith College wrote in 1919, praising a new set of dormitories.
The big boom in dorm construction occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, sparked by massive state and federal spending. In 1958, the University of California's nine campuses could house only 2,900 students; by 1970, they had residential space for nearly 20,000. Despite some new architectural styles, most of these dormitories were built in concrete or cinder block - functional, not fancy.
Fast-forward to the latest $22 million dormitory at Tufts University, offering suites with two large singles off a sunlit living room. Each has a dining room with a glass table and a kitchen with a dishwasher. "This is like going from Amerisuites to the Ritz-Carlton," a Tufts senior told the Boston Globe last month.
Get it? The dorm really is a hotel, and it just got way nicer. That's bad news for anyone who cares about the future of the university.
By providing really nice things for our kids, we're teaching them to expect such goodies as their due. And we're forgetting the older collegiate ideal, which prized the life of the mind over the lure of materialism.
Only a segment of students can afford the new luxuries, of course, which only makes matters worse. More colleges now price dorms at different rates, depending on how many bells and whistles are included. So rich kids get the fancier residence halls and poorer students the older ones, which yields exactly the economic divide that Wilson and his generation wanted to avoid.
How did we get here? As government aid has declined, colleges chase the students with the most dollars. The best way to do that is to offer really cool amenities. University presidents may not like catering to the whims of already-privileged 18-year-olds, but competing schools are doing it, so what choice is there?
During the Cold War, that kind of thinking was called "mutually assured destruction." At universities today, the era could be called "mutually assured consumption." And we're all impoverished by it.
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - 13:14