Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
SOURCE: TomDispatch (10-18-12)
Dilip Hiro, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of 33 books, the most recent being Apocalyptic Realm: Jihadists in South Asia (Yale University Press, New Haven and London). To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Hiro discusses the embattled Pakistan-U.S. relationship, click here or download it to your iPod here.
The United States and Pakistan are by now a classic example of a dysfunctional nuclear family (with an emphasis on “nuclear”). While the two governments and their peoples become more suspicious and resentful of each other with every passing month, Washington and Islamabad are still locked in an awkward post-9/11 embrace that, at this juncture, neither can afford to let go of.
Washington is keeping Pakistan, with its collapsing economy and bloated military, afloat but also cripplingly dependent on its handouts and U.S.-sanctioned International Monetary Fund loans. Meanwhile, CIA drones unilaterally strike its tribal borderlands. Islamabad returns the favor. It holds Washington hostage over its Afghan War from which the Pentagon won’t be able to exit in an orderly fashion without its help. By blocking U.S. and NATO supply routes into Afghanistan (after a U.S. cross-border air strike had killed 24 Pakistani soldiers) from November 2011 until last July, Islamabad managed to ratchet up the cost of the war while underscoring its indispensability to the Obama administration.
At the heart of this acerbic relationship, however, is Pakistan’s arsenal of 110 nuclear bombs which, if the country were to disintegrate, could fall into the hands of Islamist militants, possibly from inside its own security establishment. As Barack Obama confided to his aides, this remains his worst foreign-policy nightmare, despite the decision of the U.S. Army to train a commando unit to retrieve Pakistan’s nukes, should extremists seize some of them or materials to produce a “dirty bomb” themselves.
Two Publics, Differing Opinions
Pakistan’s military high command fears the Pentagon’s contingency plans to seize its nukes. Following the clandestine strike by U.S. SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May 2011, it loaded elements of its nuclear arsenal onto trucks, which rumbled around the country to frustrate any possible American attempt to grab its most prized possessions. When Senator John Kerry arrived in Islamabad to calm frayed nerves following Bin Laden’s assassination, high Pakistani officials insisted on a written U.S. promise not to raid their nuclear arsenal. He snubbed the demand.
Since then mutual distrust between the two nominal allies -- a relationship encapsulated by some in the term “AmPak” -- has only intensified. Last month, for instance, Pakistan became the sole Muslim country to officially call on the Obama administration to ban the anti-Islamic 14-minute video clip Innocence of Muslims, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, religious fraud, and pedophile.
While offering a bounty of $100,000 for the killing of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-American Christian producer of the movie, Pakistan’s Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour called on al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban to be “partners in this noble deed.” Prime Minister Raja Ashraf distanced his government from Bilour’s incitement to murder, a criminal offense under Pakistani law, but did not dismiss him from the cabinet. The U.S. State Department strongly condemned Bilour’s move.
Pakistan also stood out as the only Muslim state whose government declared a public holiday, “Love the Prophet Muhammad Day,” to encourage its people to demonstrate against the offending movie. The U.S. Embassy’s strategy of disarming criticism with TV and newspaper ads showing President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning “the content and the message” of the film failed to discourage protesters. In fact, the demonstrations in major Pakistani cities turned so violent that 23 protesters were killed, the highest figure worldwide.
Taking advantage of the government’s stance, proscribed jihadist organizations made a defiant show of their continued existence. In Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the country’s largest province, activists from the banned Lashkar-e Taiba (Army of the Pure), whose leader Hafiz Saeed is the target of a $10 million bounty by Washington, led protesters toward the American consulate where perimeter defenses had been breached earlier in the week. In Islamabad, activists from the Sipah-e-Sahaba (Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions), an outlawed Sunni faction, clashed with the police for hours in the course of a march to the heavily guarded diplomatic enclave.
These outlawed organizations continue to operate with impunity in an environment that has grown rabidly anti-American. A June 2012 survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center (PRC) found that 74% of Pakistanis consider the United States an enemy. By contrast, only 12% believe that U.S. aid helps solve problems in their country in a situation in which 89% describe their nation’s economic situation as “bad.”
The American public’s view of Pakistan is equally bleak. February polls by Gallup and Fox News indicated that 81% of Americans had an unfavorable view of that country; just 15% held a contrary view, the lowest figure of the post-9/11 period (with only the remaining “axis of evil” states of Iran and North Korea faring worse).
Clashing Views on the War on Terror
Most Americans consider Pakistan an especially unreliable ally in Washington’s war on terror. That it provided safe haven to bin Laden for 10 years before his violent death in 2011 reinforced this perception. Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman Zawahiri, is widely believed to be hiding in Pakistan. So, too, are Mullah Muhammad Omar and other leaders of the Afghan Taliban.
It beggars belief that this array of Washington’s enemies can continue to function inside the country without the knowledge of its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) which reputedly has nearly 100,000 employees and informers. Even if serving ISI officers are not in cahoots with the Afghan Taliban, many retired ISI officers clearly are.
The rationale for this, top Pakistani officials say privately, is that the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani Network are not attacking targets in Pakistan and so pose no threat to the state. In practice, these political-military entities are being sustained by Islamabad as future surrogates in a post-American Afghanistan. Their task is to ensure a pro-Islamabad government in Kabul, immune to offers of large-scale economic aid from India, the regional superpower. In short, it all boils down to Washington and Islamabad pursuing clashing aims in war-ravaged Afghanistan and in Pakistan as well.
The Pakistani government’s multifaceted stance toward Washington has wide public support. Popular hostility toward the U.S. stems from several interrelated factors. Above all, most Pakistanis view the war on terror from a radically differently perspective than Americans. Since its primary targets have been the predominantly Muslim countries of Afghanistan and Iraq, they equate it with an American crusade against Islam.
While U.S. pundits and politicians invariably cite the $24 billion in assistance and military aid Washington has given Islamabad in the post-9/11 period, Pakistanis stress the heavy price they have paid for participating in the Washington-led war. “No country and no people have suffered more in the epic struggle against terrorism than Pakistan,” said President Asif Ali Zardari at the United Nations General Assembly last month.
His government argues that, as a result of joining the war on terror, Pakistan has suffered a loss of $68 billion over the past decade. A widely disseminated statistic at home, it includes estimated losses due to a decline in foreign investments and adverse effects on trade, tourism, and businesses. Islamabad attributes all this to the insecurity caused by the terrorist acts of local jihadists in response to its participation in Washington’s war. Then there are the roughly 4,000 Pakistani military fatalities suffered during post-9/11 operations against terror groups and other homegrown militants -- significantly higher than all allied troops killed in Afghanistan. Some 35,000 civilians have also died or suffered injuries in the process.
Drones Fuel Popular Rage
During a September address to the Asia Society in New York, Foreign Minister Hinna Rabbani Khar was asked for an explanation of the rampant anti-American sentiment in her country. She replied with a single word: “drones.” At any given time, CIA drones, buzzing like wasps and armed with Hellfire missiles, circle round the clock over an area in Pakistan’s tribal zone, their high-resolution cameras recording movements below. This fills people on the ground with unending terror, being unable to guess when and where the missiles will be fired.
A June Pew Research Center survey shows that 97% of Pakistanis familiar with the drone attacks held a negative view of them. “Those who are familiar with the drone campaign also overwhelmingly (94%) believe the attacks kill too many innocent people,” states its report. “Nearly three-quarters (74%) say they are not necessary to defend Pakistan from extremist organizations.” (In stark contrast, a February Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 83% of Americans -- and 73% of liberal Democrats -- support Obama’s drone onslaught.)
A recent anti-drone “march” by a nine-mile long motorcade from Islamabad to the border of the South Waziristan tribal agency was led by Imran Khan, head of the Movement for Justice political party. Joined by protesters from the U.S. and Britain, it was a dramatic reminder of the depth of popular feeling against the drones. By refraining from forcibly entering South Waziristan in defiance of an official ban, Khan stayed within the law. And by so doing, he enhanced his already impressive 70% approval rating and improved the chances of his party -- committed to ending Islamabad’s participation in Washington’s war on terror -- to achieve a breakthrough in the upcoming parliamentary election.
Unlike in Yemen, where the government has authorized the Obama administration to stage drone attacks, Pakistani leaders, who implicitly accepted such strikes before the Pentagon’s gross violation of their country’s sovereignty in the bin Laden killing, no longer do so. “The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistan territory is illegal,” said Foreign Minister Khar. Her government, she explained, needed to rally popular backing for its campaign to quash armed militant groups, and the drones make that impossible. “As the drones fly over the territory of Pakistan, it becomes an American war and the whole logic of this being our fight, in our own interest, is immediately put aside and again it is a war imposed on us.”
Underlying the deployment of a drone, helicopter, or jet fighter to hit a target in a foreign country is an updated version of the Vietnam-era doctrine of “hot pursuit,” which ignores the basic concept of national sovereignty. Pakistani leaders fear that if they do not protest Washington’s continued use of drones for “targeted killings” of Pakistan-based individuals selected in the White House, their arch-rival India will follow suit. It will hit the camps in Pakistan allegedly training terrorists to destabilize Indian Kashmir. That is one of the ongoing nightmares of Pakistan’s senior generals.
The Nuclear Conundrum
Since India would be the prime target of any nuclear-armed extremists, the Indian government dreads the prospect of Pakistan’s nukes falling into such hands far more than President Obama. The alarm of both Delhi and Washington is well justified, particularly because Pakistan’s arsenal is growing faster than any on Earth -- and the latest versions of nukes it’s producing are smaller and so easier to hijack.
Over the past five years, Pakistani extremists have staged a series of attacks on sensitive military installations, including nuclear facilities. In November 2007, for example, they attacked Sargodha airbase where nuclear-capable F-16 jet aircraft are stationed. The following month a suicide bomber targeted a Pakistani Air Force base believed to hold nuclear weapons at Kamra, 37 miles northwest of Islamabad. In August 2008, a group of suicide bombers blew up the gates to a weapons complex at the Wah cantonment containing a nuclear warhead assembly plant, leaving 63 people dead. A further assault on Kamra took place in October 2009 and yet another last August, this time by eight suicide bombers belonging to the Pakistani Taliban.
Given Pakistan’s dependence on a continuing supply of U.S.-made advanced weaponry -- essential to withstand any onslaught by India in a conventional war -- its government has had to continually reassure Washington that the security of its nuclear arsenal is foolproof. Its leaders have repeatedly assured their American counterparts that the hemispheres containing nuclear fuel and the triggers for activating the weapons are stored separately under tight guard. This has failed to allay the anxieties of successive American presidents. What disconcerts the U.S. is that, despite contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to underwrite programs to help Pakistan secure its nuclear arms, it does not know where many of these parts are stored.
This is not going to change. The military planners in Islamabad correctly surmise that Delhi and Washington would like to turn Pakistan into a non-nuclear power. At present, they see their nuclear arsenal as the only effective deterrent they have against an Indian aggression which, in their view, they experienced in 1965. “We developed all these nukes to use against India,” said an unnamed senior Pakistani military officer recently quoted in the London-based Sunday Times Magazine. “Now they turn out to be very useful in dealing with the U.S.”
In short, Pakistan’s military high command has come to view its nuclear arsenal as an effective deterrent not only against its traditional adversary, India, but also its nominal ally in Washington. If such thinking solidifies as the country’s military doctrine in the years following the Pentagon’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, then Pakistan may finally find itself removed from Washington’s list of non-NATO allies, ending the dysfunctional nuclear family of international politics. What that would mean in global terms is anyone’s guess.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (10-17-12)
John Gray is the author of False Dawn: the Delusions of Global Capitalism, and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and The Death of Utopia.
SOURCE: Bloomberg View (10-17-12)
Ezra Klein is a columnist and blogger at The Washington Post and a policy analyst for MSNBC.
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (10-16-12)
Heather Hurlburt is executive director of the National Security Network in Washington, DC.
SOURCE: WSJ (10-15-12)
Mr. Gordon is the author of An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power (HarperCollins, 2004).
SOURCE: National Interest (10-15-12)
Paul R Pillar is a former senior CIA counterterrorist officer and now professor at Georgetown University.
SOURCE: American Conservative (10-15-12)
Martin Sieff is Chief Global Analyst for The Globalist and the author of the upcoming Cycles of Change: The Patterns of U.S. Politics from Thomas Jefferson to Barack Obama.
Russia and China today both enjoy the same grand-strategic advantage against the United States that the United States enjoyed through the 44 years of the Cold War.
The Soviet Union was then the superpower of the left, as the left had been globally understood since the French Revolution. It was the state committed to the promotion of revolutionary change across the world.
The United States, by contrast, was the superpower of the right. It was committed to the maintenance of stability and continuity in government systems around the world.
The United States won the Cold War. The craving for stability, peace, and continuity among governments and populations alike proved infinitely stronger than the fleeting flashes of revolutionary fervor. The Soviet Union eventually became physically exhausted and globally isolated by its ideological commitment to revolutionary change.
Today, however, the roles of the two great powers have been reversed...
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (10-14-12)
Rupert Cornwell writes for The Independent.
One way and another, surveyors have left their mark on American history. George Washington started his career as one. Then came Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, two from Britain who in the 1760s used their skills to settle a boundary dispute between the then colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Whether or not the word "Dixie" derives from Jeremiah's surname is unclear. (According to another theory, it originates with the "Dix" on the back of $10 bills in New Orleans.) But the physical line he helped to demarcate, and its later unofficial extension west along the Ohio river, came to symbolise the great divide between the North and the South, between the slave and non-slave states that fought the American Civil War.
Even now, along today's Maryland/Pennsylvania line, you can still see some of the old mile markers of the Mason-Dixon line, great 500lb slabs of limestone shipped from England. But no longer does this 233-mile border symbolise America's ancestral cultural divide. That line is sliding gently but inexorably southwards, testament to a shift in US society that could play a critical role in this year's election.
In fact, the unofficial western extension still holds good; the mighty Ohio remains a North/South frontier. If Washington DC fell to the Confederate armies, Abraham Lincoln reputedly said, he would set up a new capital in Ohio, which then was the third most populous state in the Union. But head south across the river from Cincinnati and you're in another world – or, more exactly, Kentucky. The first town you hit is Florence, or as the sign on the water tower that dominates the skyline has it, "Florence, Y'all"...
SOURCE: TomDispatch (10-14-12)
Jeremiah Goulka writes about American politics and culture, focusing on security, race, and the Republican Party. A TomDispatch regular, his work has been published in the American Prospect, Salon, and elsewhere. He was formerly an analyst at the RAND Corporation, a recovery worker in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. He lives in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website jeremiahgoulka.com.
Democrats are frustrated: Why can’t Republican voters see that Republicans pass voter ID laws to suppress voting, not fraud?
Democrats know who tends to lack ID. They know that the threat of in-person voter fraud is wildly exaggerated. Besides, Republican officials could hardly have been clearer about the real purpose behind these laws and courts keep striking them down as unconstitutional. Still, Republican support remains sky high, with only one third of Republicans recognizing that they are primarily intended to boost the GOP's prospects.
How can Republican voters go on believing that the latest wave of voter ID laws is about fraud and that it’s the opposition to the laws that’s being partisan?
To help frustrated non-Republicans, I offer up my own experience as a case study. I was a Republican for most of my life, and during those years I had no doubt that such laws were indeed truly about fraud. Please join me on a tour of my old outlook on voter ID laws and what caused it to change.
Fraud on the Brain
I grew up in a wealthy Republican suburb of Chicago, where we worried about election fraud all the time. Showing our IDs at the polls seemed like a minor act of political rebellion against the legendary Democratic political machine that ran the city and county. “Vote early and often!” was the catchphrase we used for how that machine worked. Those were its instructions to its minions, we semi-jokingly believed, and it called up an image of mass in-person voter fraud.
We hated the “Democrat” machine, seeing it as inherently corrupt, and its power, we had no doubt, derived from fraud. When it wasn’t bribing voters or destroying ballots, it was manipulating election laws -- creating, for instance, a signature-collecting requirement so onerous that only a massive organization like itself could easily gather enough John Hancocks to put its candidates on the ballot.
Republicans with long memories still wonder if Richard Nixon lost Illinois -- and the 1960 election -- thanks to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s ability to make dead Republicans vote for John F. Kennedy. For us, any new report of voter fraud, wrapped in rumor and historical memory, just hammered home what we already knew: it was rampant in our county thanks to the machine.
And it wasn’t just Chicago. We assumed that all cities were run by similarly corrupt Democratic organizations. As for stories of rural corruption and vote tampering? You can guess which party we blamed. Corruption, election fraud, and Democrats: they went hand-in-hand-in-hand.
Sure, we were aware of the occasional accusation of corruption against one or another Republican official. Normally, we assumed that such accusations were politically motivated. If they turned out to be true, then you were obviously talking about a “bad apple.”
I must admit that I did occasionally wonder whether there were any Republican machines out there, and the more I heard about the dominating one in neighboring DuPage County, the less I wanted to know. (Ditto Florida in 2000.) Still, I knew -- I knew -- that the Dems would use any crooked tool in the box to steal elections. Therefore America needed cleaner elections, and cleaner elections meant voter ID laws.
Doesn’t Everyone Have an ID?
Every once in a while I’d hear the complaint -- usually from a Democrat -- that such laws were “racist.” Racist? How could they be when they were so commonsensical? The complainers, I figured, were talking nonsense, just another instance of the tiresome PC brigade slapping the race card on the table for partisan advantage. If only they would scrap their tedious, tendentious identity and victim politics and come join the rest of us in the business of America.
All this held until one night in 2006. At the time, my roommate worked at a local bank branch, and that evening when we got into a conversation, he mentioned to me that the bank required two forms of identification to open an account. Of course, who wouldn’t? But then he told me this crazy thing: customers would show up with only one ID or none at all -- and it wasn’t like they had left them at home.
“Really?” I said, blown away by the thought of it.
And here was the kicker: every single one of them was black and poor. As I’ve written elsewhere, this was one of the moments that opened my eyes to a broader reality which, in the end, caused me to quit the Republican Party.
I had no idea. I had naturally assumed -- to the extent that I even gave it a thought -- that every adult had to have at least one ID. Like most everyone in my world, I’ve had two or three at any given time since the day I turned 16 and begged my parents to take me to the DMV.
Until then, I couldn’t imagine how voter ID laws might be about anything but fraud. That no longer held up for the simple reason that, in the minds of Republican operators and voters alike, there is a pretty simple equation: Black + Poor = Democrat. And if that was the case, and the poor and black were more likely to lack IDs, then how could those laws not be aimed at them?
Whenever I tell people this story, most Republicans and some Democrats are shocked. Like me, they had no idea that there are significant numbers of adults out there who don’t have IDs.
Of course, had I bothered to look, the information about this was hiding in plain sight. According to the respected Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, 7% of the general voting public doesn’t have an adequate photo ID, but those figures rise precipitously when you hit certain groups: 15% of voting age citizens making less than $35,000 a year, 18% of Americans over 65, and a full quarter of African Americans.
A recent study by other researchers focusing on the swing-state of Pennsylvania found that one in seven voters there lack an ID -- one in three in Philadelphia -- with minorities far more likely than whites to fall into this category. In fact, every study around notes this disparate demographic trend, even the low-number outlier study preferred by Hans van Spakovsky, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s voter “integrity” activist: its authors still found that “registered voters without photo IDs tended to be female, African-American, and Democrat.”
The “R” Bomb
The more I thought about it, the more I understood why Democrats claim that these laws are racist. By definition, a law that intentionally imposes more burdens on minorities than on whites is racist, even if that imposition is indirect. Seeing these laws as distant relatives of literacy tests and poll taxes no longer seemed so outrageous to me.
After I became a Democrat, I tried explaining this to some of the Republicans in my life, but I quickly saw that I had crossed an invisible tripwire. You see, if you ever want to get a Republican to stop listening to you, just say the “R” word: racism. In my Republican days, any time a Democrat started talking about how some Republican policy or act was racist, I rolled my eyes and thought Reagan-esquely, there they go again…
We loathed identity politics, which we viewed as invidious -- as well as harmful to minorities. And the “race card” was so simplistic, so partisan, so boring. Besides, what about all that reverse discrimination? Now that was racist.
We also hated any accusation that made it sound like we were personally racist. It’s a big insult to call someone a racist or a bigot, and we loathed it when Democrats associated the rest of us Republicans with the bigots in the party. At least in my world, we rejected racism, which we defined (in what I now see as a conveniently narrow way) as intentional and mean-spirited acts or attitudes -- like the laws passed by segregationist Democrats.
This will undoubtedly amaze non-Republicans, but given all of the above, Republican voters continue to hear the many remarkably blunt statements by those leading the Republican drive to pass voter ID laws not as racist but at the very worst Democratist. That includes comments like that of Pennsylvania House majority leader Mike Turzai who spoke of “voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done.” Or state Representative Alan Clemmons, the principal sponsor of South Carolina’s voter ID law, who handed out bags of peanuts with this note attached: “Stop Obama’s nutty agenda and support voter ID.”
Besides, some would point out that these laws also affect other people like the elderly (who often vote Republican) or out-of-state college students (often white) -- and the latter would make sense as a target, because in the words of New Hampshire House leader Bill O’Brien, that’s the age when you tend to “foolishly... do what kids do”: “vote as a liberal.” And yes, this might technically violate the general principle that clean elections should include everyone, but partisans won’t mind the results.
This makes me wonder how bothered I would have been had I known how committed Republican strategists are to winning elections by shrinking the electorate rather than appealing to more of it. I did certainly harbor a quiet suspicion that, to the extent we were the party of the managerial class, we were inherently fated to be a minority party.
The Safety Valve
Another key reason why Republican voters see no problem with these laws is their big safety valve: if you don’t have an ID, well, then, be responsible and go get one!
If, however, Republican voters are generally unaware of the high frequency of minorities, the poor, and the elderly lacking IDs, they are blissfully ignorant of the real costs of getting an ID. Yes, the ID itself is free for the indigent (to comport with the 24th Amendment’s ban on poll taxes), but the documents one needs to get a photo ID aren’t, and the prices haven’t been reduced. Lost your naturalization certificate? That’ll be $345. Don’t have a birth certificate because you’re black and were born in the segregated south? You have to go to court.
Similarly, Republican voters -- and perhaps most others -- tend not to be aware of how hard it can be to get an ID if you live in a state where DMV offices are far away or where they simply aren't open very often. One can only hope that would-be voters have access to a car or adequate public transportation, and a boss who won’t mind if they take several hours off work to go get their ID, particularly if they live in, say, the third of Texas counties that have no ID-issuing offices at all.
I doubt that most Republican voters know that some Republican officials are taking steps to make it even harder to get that ID. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, to take an example, signed a strict voter ID law and then made a move to start closing DMV offices in areas full of Democrats, while increasing office hours in areas full of Republicans -- this in a state in which half of blacks and Hispanics are estimated to lack a driver’s license and a quarter of its DMV offices are open less than one day per month. (Sauk City’s is open a whopping four times a year.) Somehow I doubt that this is primarily about saving money.
What To Do?
One reason why voter ID laws are so politically successful is that they put Democrats in a weak position, forcing them to deny that in-person voter fraud exists or that it’s a big deal. Republican voters and media simply won’t buy that. It doesn’t matter how many times the evidence of the so-called threat has been shown to be trumped up. It’s a bad position to be in.
Providing examples of Republicans committing fraud themselves -- whether in-person or, as in Massachusetts and Florida, with absentee ballots (a category curiously exempted from several of the Republican-inspired voter ID statutes) -- won’t provide a wake-up call either. Most Republican voters will shrug it off by saying, essentially, “everybody’s doing it.”
If we can’t talk about race, and Republican voters insist that these laws really are about fraud, then maybe Democrats should consider a different tack and embrace them to the full -- so long as they are redesigned to do no harm. IDs would have to be truly free and easy to obtain. The poor should not be charged for the required documentation. More DMVs should be opened, particularly in poor neighborhoods and rural areas, and all DMVs should have evening and weekend hours so that no one has to miss work to get an ID.
To be sure that the laws do no harm, how about mobile DMV units that could go straight to any area where people need IDs? Nursing homes, churches, senior centers, you name it. They could even register people to vote at the same time. Now that would be efficient -- and democratic.
No, wait, I’ve got it: How about a mandatory ID card? Every American would receive a photo ID as soon as he or she turns 18. That’s it! A national ID card!
Then voter ID laws would be the perfect thing, because we all want clean elections with high voter turnout, don’t we?
Something tells me, though, that Republicans won’t go for it.
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SOURCE: The World Today (Chatham House) (10-10-12)
John Bolton is former US Ambassador to the United Nations and foreign policy adviser to the Romney campaign.
Barack Obama has always been a comfort to European social democrats, given how similar their philosophies are, domestically and internationally. But in American terms, he is a radical president, and a failed one. A second term would be worse, as vividly evidenced in his famous ‘off microphone’ conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Obama pleaded for ‘space’ before the US election, after which he would have more ‘flexibility’ towards Russia.
This spectacle of an American president negotiating on his own behalf rather than for his country is deeply troubling. Equally troubling is Obama’s failure to understand the vital nexus between an internationally strong America and sustained domestic prosperity. Global stability, a prerequisite for trade, investment, communications and travel, is hardly spontaneous. What stability we have depends on the visibility and strength of America and its alliance partners, especially NATO.
But Obama has spurned prudent security policies, starting with national missile defence, the ostensible subject of his Medvedev conversation. Ronald Reagan, whose national security philosophy was ‘peace through strength’, rejuvenated national missile defence. In 2001, George W. Bush carried the ideas forward, announcing US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty so we could develop missile defence capabilities against rogue states such as North Korea and Iran. But ‘mutual assured destruction’ still holds sway among Democrats, and combined with the ‘reset’ button approach to Russia, Obama set about gutting missile defence. Moscow still opposes US attempts to protect our civillian population, and Obama surrendered to its views, cancelling facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Mitt Romney, by contrast, follows Reagan’s vision, insisting on protecting our civilian population from the devastating impact of nuclear, chemical or biological attacks delivered via ballistic missiles. This is sound defence policy in its own right, but also much more: the missile defence debate vividly illuminates the huge gap between Obama’s search for foreign forbearance, and Romney’s adherence to Reagan’s ‘peace through strength’...
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (10-8-12)
The writer is a former US diplomat. He was directly involved in enforcing UN sanctions against Iraq and in implementing the "Oil-for-Food" program.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained recently why the US refuses to set a deadline for Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program: "We’re convinced that we have more time…to do everything we can to bring Iran to a good-faith negotiation." Inherent in that statement is the assumption that vigorous sanctions belatedly adopted by the US and Europe may yet force Iran to change course.
The UN’s efforts to alter Iraq’s actions have been cited as an example of a successful sanctions regime. Contrary to what some people now believe (or have forgotten), sanctions on Iraq were an abject failure. Let’s review what actually happened when the UN imposed that sanctions regime, and then apply those lessons to today’s situation.
In August 1990, the Security Council imposed a near-total financial and trade embargo on Iraq. Eight months later, following the end of the Gulf War, the Security Council passed an even tougher resolution calling for the removal of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was required to cooperate with UNSCOM (the United Nations Special Commission) on WMD compliance matters.
From 1991 to 2003, the Security Council passed a series of resolutions reinforcing the restrictions on Saddam’s government and implementing the "Oil-for-Food" program. That program allowed Iraq to sell a fixed amount of oil in order to purchase food and humanitarian supplies for its citizens, thus staving off a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
The Iraq sanctions regime was far broader and harsher than anything now being imposed on Iran...
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (10-9-12)
Martin Wolf is a regular columnist for the Financial Times and hosts FT's Economics Forum.
What happens if a large, high-income economy, burdened with high levels of debt and an overvalued, fixed exchange rate, attempts to lower the debt and regain competitiveness? This question is of current relevance, since this is the challenge confronting Italy and Spain. Yet, as a chapter in the International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook demonstrates, a relevant historical experience exists: that of the UK between the two world wars. This proves that the interaction between attempts at "internal devaluations" and the dynamics of debt are potentially lethal. Moreover, the plight of Italy and Spain is, in many ways, worse than the UK’s was. The latter, after all, could go off the gold standard; exit from the eurozone is far harder. Again, the UK had a central bank able and willing to reduce interest rates. The European Central Bank may not be able and willing to do the same for Italy and Spain.
The UK emerged from the first world war with public debt of 140 per cent of gross domestic product and prices more than double the prewar level. The government resolved both to return to the gold standard at the prewar parity, which it did in 1925, and to pay off the public debt, to preserve creditworthiness. Here was a country fit for the Tea Party.
To achieve its objectives, the UK implemented tight fiscal and monetary policies. The primary fiscal surplus (before interest payments) was kept near 7 per cent of GDP throughout the 1920s. This was, in turn, accomplished by the "Geddes Axe", after a commission chaired by Sir Eric Geddes. This recommended slashing government spending in precisely the way today’s believers in "expansionary austerity" recommend. Meanwhile, the Bank of England raised interest rates to 7 per cent in 1920. The aim of this was to support the return to the prewar parity. Coupled with the consequent deflation, the result was extraordinarily high real interest rates. This, then, was how the self-righteous fools in the British establishment greeted the hapless survivors of the hellish war.
So how did this commitment to fiscal famine and monetary necrophilia work?..
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (10-8-12)
John Arquilla is professor and chair of the defense analysis department at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and author, most recently, of Insurgents, Raiders and Bandits.
What if all the reasons commonly given for the onset of the current age of terror are wrong? If violence against the innocent is not the product of religious fanaticism, reaction to corrupt governance, or a manifestation of the sheer hopelessness and rage that come with perpetual poverty, then what are the real causes? If the received wisdom about terrorism can be challenged, then there is an obligation to look more deeply into its origins.
In the matter of faith-based zealotry, psychiatrist and former CIA case officer Marc Sageman has profiled hundreds of jihadis affiliated with the al Qaeda movement, finding that religion is a lesser included factor in their recruitment. Indeed, a significant percentage of these militants undertook graduate studies -- such study itself a seeming contradiction of fundamentalism -- many outside the Muslim world. For example, 9/11 attack team leader Mohammed Atta studied architecture in Germany. Al Qaeda's deepest strategic thinker, Abu Mus'ab al-Suri is an engineer. Osama bin Laden had a business education and came from a very wealthy family of industrialists -- again giving the lie to the notion of terrorists as unthinking religious fanatics. As Sageman notes in his Understanding Terror Networks, these sorts of secular backgrounds are commonly found. We have misjudged the jihad.
As to terror arising in reaction to government oppression, the Arab Spring provides much evidence -- as do the many "color revolutions" that have come before -- that social uprisings can take the form of, and succeed with, peaceful demonstrations. And on those occasions when armed revolts have erupted, as in Libya and Syria, they have aimed largely at the tyrants and their militaries, not the innocent. If anything, insurrections in the Muslim world seem less prone to the kind of anti-government terrorism that has surfaced from time to time in Europe with such groups as the Red Brigades in Italy and the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, and in the United States in the form of far-right extremists like Timothy McVeigh.
With regard to the belief that poverty and hopelessness spark terrorism, one can only say that many, many countries see endless years of travail of this sort without ever a terrorist group rising up. Why is it that the vast majority of those who suffer in such settings fail to take up arms and commit terrorist acts?..
SOURCE: Jerusalem Post (10-9-12)
Hayat Alvi, PhD, is an associate professor at the US Naval War College.
October 7 marked the eleventh year of the Afghanistan war, and American casualties reached 2,000, while many more thousands of Afghans have been killed or maimed by conflict-related casualties as well as terrorist suicide attacks. As US and coalition forces prepare for the 2014 pullout, the International Crisis Group just released a report warning that the Afghan government could collapse, precipitating a civil war.
Most likely that is what the Taliban and fellow insurgents are counting on, allowing history to repeat itself once again. If we were to pull one thread from today’s situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, we would see it woven into an ideological fabric that goes back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan era. Very little has changed in the militants’ worldview and strategies since the 1980s. In fact, that very thread is also connected in many respects to the post-Arab Awakening environments in North Africa, where Salafists are asserting themselves in the most unsavory ways.
The Washington Post (October 6) describes the Salafists’ tactics in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt: "As moderate Islamist leaders in all three countries begin to craft post-revolutionary constitutions, the Salafists in their midst are pushing – sometimes at the ballot box, sometimes at the point of a gun – to create societies that more closely mirror their ultraconservative religious beliefs and lifestyles."
What is the relationship between the current Salafist trends and tactics in North Africa and the Taliban in Afghanistan?..
SOURCE: WaPo (10-8-12)
Clinton Yates is a D.C. native, Local News Editor for Express and a columnist for The Root DC. He was born at GWU hospital the week before Ronald Reagan ended up there for the wrong reasons. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
More than 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus showed up on the shores of the Bahamas. For many years, the Italian explorer was credited with “discovering” the New World. It’s understood now that his arrival was more invasion than discovery. The fact that Columbus is celebrated as a hero is widely protested in many places on this day.
And that act of “nouveau-Columbusing” — showing up someplace and acting as if history started the moment you arrived as mentioned here — is directly germane to the discussion of gentrification in the District.
Over the past month, I’ve sat on three panels discussing different aspects of the changing qualities of Washington. And what’s clear to me is that, although the sting of displacement is understandably harsh, too many black Washingtonians are doing their own brand of nouveau-Columbusing when it comes to the history of the city. Too often I heard claims of how newcomers were not respecting the history of neighborhoods they moved into. Or people throwing around words like “yours” and “ours” when referencing certain blocks. Every once in a while someone would approach me with a lengthy description of “The Plan,” the long standing conspiracy theory I’ve heard about since I was a kid that the current gentrification trends are part of a diabolical scheme cooked up by shadow power brokers....
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (10-8-12)
Robert Zoellick, former World Bank president, is senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and distinguished visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. This article is adapted from his Alastair Buchan Memorial Lecture at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
SOURCE: National Interest (10-8-12)
Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
SOURCE: NYT (10-6-12)
SOURCE: NYT (10-6-12)