Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our Reptilian Brains

Not many posts since the election, what with the Christmas-New Year empty time following the exhaustion of the last two years that everyone must feel...But there is still the matter of this war we must fight. Historic perspective is rare in the American body politic, and when one side lays down to rest (as the R's did this last cycle), it gets, well, just cartoonish...Let's take a look again shall we? We lost 3000 + in 9/11 and just now, 5 1/2 years into a global war have we matched that number of casualties in Iraq, against one day's losses. We have not been attacked in almost 6 years. We have the lowest casualty rate of any conflict in the history of humankind...And this against the alternative of sitting back, waiting to be "suitcase nuked" by one of the millions of fanatical killers in the Islamic ghetto, waiting for the next sign of weakness...T (this article from an earlier date, but current in it's prescience)

After our victory in Afghanistan, the president's approval ratings soared, only to descend during the acrimony leading up to the March invasion of Iraq. But after the three-week war, somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of these same Americans purportedly returned to their earlier support of the president's initiatives.

That hard-earned endorsement slipped again, however, as the Iraqi insurrectionists picked off Americans in late 2003 and 2004. In response, the media turned almost all its attention to power failures, looting, Fallujah, al Sadr, Abu Ghraib, and general criticism from the U.N. and Europe. Almost everything good that was happening in Iraq — and there was much to celebrate — was ignored, as if free-thinking newspapers, real political parties, public audit and control of oil, and the opening of thousands of co-ed schools were everyday news in the Middle East. Here at home, oil-price spikes overshadowed the amazing turn-around in the American economy.

The president, of course, is responsible for these wild swings in his popularity — to a point. It was Mr. Bush's tough but necessary decision to invade Iraq, and Americans rightly went along with it on both practical and moral grounds. The majority stuck with him as long as the U.S. seemed to be winning at minimal cost. This latter point cannot be underestimated. A majority of Americans, like a majority of mankind, does not embrace a strong particular ideology that keeps them levelheaded and always resolute through either bad or good news. Most simply wish to win, and to be identified with a winner — they are as giddy with success as they are dejected with disappointment, as quick to blame others for setbacks as they are to claim credit for progress.

But that primordial concept seems to our sophisticated elites too simplistic — although there is a wealth of historical examples to substantiate this depressing trait of mankind. Why was a defiant Pericles lionized in 431 and censured and fined by 430? Most likely because Spartans were in Attica and an unexpected plague was killing 80,000 Athenians. Few cared that he had nothing to do with a mysterious disease, they cared only that thousands had died on his watch. Ask Churchill's ghost why he was called on in 1939, thrown out as war ended, and brought back again as new dangers loomed.

What made Lincoln popular by October when he had been so pilloried in August? Uncle Billy Sherman had taken Atlanta and suddenly the public saw that the Confederacy was hollow rather than defiant and impenetrable. Had Sherman backed off weeks earlier, Lincoln would have been through — even though he was not much responsible for the degree of nerve and bravery shown by the Army of the West and their mercurial general.

Why was Truman ridiculed as unhinged for removing a MacArthur, who wanted to strike back by crossing into China, and then later praised for such sober presidential judgment? Perhaps it was because Matthew Ridgeway had restored equilibrium in Korea and regained much of the territory that was lost under MacArthur's tenure. Accordingly, a once emotional and fiery uproar — replete with MacArthur's ticker-tape parade — evolved into an academic debate about civilian control of the military.

If one goes back to the fifth week of Bill Clinton's 79-day bombing campaign against Serbia — no U.N. approval, no congressional sanction, NATO partners backing out — one reads of castigation from the American Right about bombing a Christian Orthodox country in Europe, from neoconservatives about not committing ground troops, and from the Left about going to war at all. But with Milosevic in the dock and the mass murder stopped, we now are told that the Clinton administration's efforts to stop the bloodbath in the Balkans proved to be about the only success of his scandal-ridden administration. Why? He persevered and won — and we can imagine what would have happened had he caved in at week six and called it another Mogadishu.

The truth is that for all our education, nuance, and professed idealism, too many of us think and act with our limbic systems, which are hard-wired to appreciate perceived success and feel comfortable with consensus. Like most in the animal kingdom, man wishes to identify with good fortune and abhors apparent failure, and thus seeks conveniently to find distance from it. After Abu Graib and the insurrections in Fallujah and Najef, the loudmouth critic Michael Moore is praised as a gifted filmmaker at the Cannes Film Festival even as prominent conservatives and ex-generals, now in their newfound genius, trash the war and claim they were brainwashed, naïve, or not listened to.

Our leaders should remember this volatility. In the long run, of course, the present strategy is sound and in a decade will be judged as such by historians. How could it not be sound to remove a mass murderer who posed a threat to the region and our country and then sponsor a consensual government in his place?

But what about the short-term for Americans, who are captives of the 24-hour news cycle? Their support depends on us not merely winning — as the recent routing of Mr. Sadr attests — but winning in such a dramatic fashion that even a global media ideologically opposed to the undertaking is forced to report American success, and report it with genuine zeal.

How does this acceptance of human nature as it is rather than as we wish it to be translate into the proper daily conduct of the war? Not in the way that most think. The communis opinio goes something like this: too few troops, too little planning, and dilatory democratic reform led us into the present 'quagmire' — as if our present problems were strategic rather than tactical flaws or a condescending misreading of the Arab Street.

In contrast, I think the military campaign was inspired, the proper number of troops was subject for legitimate debate, and the plans to reconstruct Iraq were more or less sound. After little more than a year, we see greater likelihood of success than failure in this most audacious enterprise. But where we have failed is in managing the pulse of the war and the perception of our advance, success, and victory.

Here our greatest weakness has been the half-measure: the need to consult all the ill-informed in the Middle East rather than a few of sound judgment; the good intention not carried out; the threat to thwart evil reduced to lecture and then whine rather than audacious action. We worry too much about the one-day response to our use of force and not the 100-hour gradual appreciation that we are winning. Shooting looters to restore order and save the Iraqi infrastructure would have saved lives and enraged the world for a day. But pictures of subsequent strolls in parks and Iraqis stringing telephone wire and pouring cement would have impressed it far more.

Storming Fallujah would have begotten Jenin-like hysteria, condemnations from mullahs and imams, and cries from John Kerry — for a day or two — but begrudging respect inside Iraq that thousands of insurrectionists (among them hated Baathists) were dead or scattered, and it was safer now to be against Saddam's remnants than with them. The world is not talking publicly as it did a few weeks ago about the injustice of the murderous Sheik Hassin's departure to paradise, but rather murmuring in private that it saved lives and was long overdue.

It is tricky, risky, and downright dangerous to kill or capture Mahdists inside the Holy City of Najef — and our presence will incite demonstrations throughout the Islamic world. But if Mr. Sadr flees Sadr City, flees Karbalah — flees everywhere we attack to find him — his hordes will melt, and those who loudly castigated us for overreaction will quietly praise our sobriety and resolve. In fact, they are already beginning to. Brave and extremely able American soldiers are systematically dismantling his militias even as the world screams about Abu Ghraib. Again, the key is to win and give all credit to the Iraqis.

Such a recognition of human calculation does not constitute approval for realpolitik or the logic of mere force; rather it is an appreciation that morality should be defined as action rather than empty words or good intentions. In each case, protecting the innocent from looters, ridding Iraq of Baathist killers, and stopping fanatics from hijacking Shiite hopes for democratic prominence was the right thing to do — but impossible without the use of guns and steel. While most people simply wish to associate with victory, we need not pander to that base emotion, only appreciate it and indeed co-opt it for a better purpose.

The only thing worse than the amoral use of force is the failure to act when it is the only right and moral thing to do. In short, I think our sole serious mistake in this war is that we have forgotten the lessons of history, the essence of human nature, and what constitutes real morality. Small armies, whether those of Caesar, Alexander, or Hernan Cortés can defeat enormous enemies and hold vast amounts of territory — but only if they are used audaciously and establish the immediate reputation that they are lethal and dangerous to confront. Deterrence, not numbers, creates tranquility and the two are not always synonymous.

A thousand Marines shooting the first 500 gunmen they saw, broadcast on al Jazeera, would be worth the deterrence of another armored division. Taking Fallujah and killing Baathist killers while putting victorious Iraqi coalitionists on television would have been the equivalent of calling up another 40,000 reservists.

The U.N., the EU, the Arab League, and the host of domestic critics, triangulating pundits, and democratic politicos will never properly appreciate our necessary audit and censure of prison abuses. Nor will they praise the restraint shown in Fallujah. Nor will they try to place the combat losses of Americans in historical perspective — of the near impossibility of subduing a country of 26 million people at such a cost. Nor will they do the hard moral calculus of appreciating $87 billion and hundreds of American lives — at a moment of all-time high petroleum prices and during an acrimonious election year — spent to end fascism and inaugurate democracy, at least not when they can scream "No blood for oil" for psychic satisfaction on the cheap. But they most certainly will go silent when al Sadr relents or is in chains, calm returns to Baghdad, and al Qaedists flee from or are killed in Iraq.

For now, forget the potential paradoxes of the transition (in Korea, after all, U.S. troops remain autonomous). Ignore cries for more troops (as if 40,000 — or 100,000 — Americans could stop a North Korean invasion). Pay no attention to what the New York Times predicts will befall us (as if it were right about Afghanistan or the three-week war).

Instead, stay true to our values — but also realize that we are judged by those who think reptilian and will thus join us for the pragmatically wrong, rather than the morally right, reasons. Or as the sometimes vulgar and crass Al Davis put it far better, "Just win baby."
Click here for full article

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dr. Strangelove, Redux

We're talking reasonable, completely acceptable casualties, 200,000,000 dead, tops! And they won't any longer be able to sap and impurify our natural and pure bodily fluids...T

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Holy Wisdom? Why the Pope should call for the return of the Hagia Sophia

Finally...I've been waiting for someone to make this seemingly self-evident point for 30 years now!...T

Many in the West are congratulating Pope Benedict XVI’s recent trip to Turkey, where in the Blue Mosque he prayed facing Mecca and made other gestures meant to salve the wounds raised by his references to Islam’s history of violence. Personally, I found the whole scene a depressing exhibit of the West’s terminal failure of nerve, one particularly distressing given this Pope’s documented understanding that what we call the “war on terror” is in fact the latest episode in the centuries-long struggle with a militant Islam.

In the Pope’s visit and the media response to it, we once again witnessed the one-way street of “religious tolerance” and “respect.” In other words, the West is supposed to respect and tolerate Muslims and Islam, all the while that no such respect is afforded to Christians and Jews. The West is supposed to feel guilty and obsess over its putative crimes against Islam, all the while that the longer chronicle of Islamic assault against the West is forgotten. Hence the ridiculous ignorance of those who think the Crusades were “holy wars” akin to jihadic aggression. Somehow it’s forgotten that the Holy Land was Greco-Roman and Hebraic and Christian for centuries before the armies of Allah destroyed that cultural continuity and imposed a new culture and religion at the point of a sword.

This double standard was particularly obvious given the backdrop of the Pope’s visit –– the city of Istanbul. Once known as Constantinople, this was one of the great cities of Classical and Christian culture, home to one of Christendom’s most magnificent churches, Hagia Sophia, the church of the Holy Wisdom. On May 29, 1453, Constantinople ceased to exist, falling to the armies of the Sultan Mehmet II: “By noon,” John Julius Norwich writes, “the streets were running red with blood. Houses were ransacked, women and children raped or impaled, churches razed, icons wrenched from their golden frames, books ripped from their silver bindings. . . . In the church of St. Saviour in Chora the mosaics and frescoes were miraculously spared, but the Empire’s holiest icon, the Virgin Hodegetria, said to have been painted by St. Luke himself, was hacked into four pieces and destroyed. The most hideous scenes of all, however, were enacted in the church of the Holy Wisdom. Matins were already in progress when the berserk conquerors were heard approaching. Immediately the great bronze doors were closed; but the Turks soon smashed their way in. The poorer and more unattractive of the congregation were massacred on the spot; the remainder were lashed together and led off to the Turkish camps, for their captors to do with as they liked. As for the officiating priests, they continued with the Mass as long as they could before being killed at the high altar.”

Ancient history, you say, irrelevant to the present? But do not the Muslims repeatedly invoke the historical crimes of the West to justify terrorism? Are not the sins of colonialism and imperialism continually cited, even though France and England’s 150 years in the Middle East and North Africa are dwarfed by Islam’s several centuries in Spain and the Balkans and the cradle of the West, Greece? Is there some statute of limitations on conquest and the transfer of territory that attends it, so that the conquests of Islam are legitimized by time, while those of the West can never be?

Why do we accept this double standard? Why are the continuing persecution of Christians today, despicable anti-Semitic slanders, and the desecration of temples and churches in Muslim lands shrugged away in the West, while trivial cartoons and mere statements of historical fact are met with hysteria, violence, and threats? Why are churches disappearing throughout the lands of Christianity’s birth and growth, while huge mosques are going up in London and Milan? Why are Christians and Jews forbidden entry into Saudi Arabia, while Muslims in Europe demand special privileges and recognition of their faith?

Nowhere is this insane, groveling capitulation of the West more obvious than in its treatment of Israel. By all rights, when Israel recaptured Jerusalem from Jordan –– in a defensive war Israel did not want, a war Israel literally begged Jordan to stay out of –– Israel could have razed the Aqsa mosque and rebuilt the temple on the site it had stood on for centuries before Islam even existed. Instead, the Temple Mount is still controlled by Muslims, who are free to worship in the mosque all the while they allow the children of Allah to throw stones on the Jews who come to worship at the few scraps of the temple wall, all that is left to them of their holiest site. Meanwhile the countries of the West decry the “illegal occupation” of Jerusalem and Judea and Galilee, refuse to put their embassies in the capital of Israel, and continually demand more and more concessions to a people who have made it clear that their conquest of Jerusalem is legitimate, that Israelis, not they, are the interloper in the Jews’ historical homeland, and that violence against innocents is justified to undo a history deemed to violate Allah’s will.

When will we learn that this forbearance is not a testimony to our strength but rather a sign of our cultural sickness? Would that the Pope had stood in Hagia Sophia and asked the Turks to restore this Christian monument to the Orthodox Church, as a sign that Turkey is sincere about entering the modern world and accepting its canons of reciprocal tolerance, not to mention showing the sort of regret for its ancestors’ crimes that the West is continually dunned to show. What do you think the reaction would have been? How many Christians would have died in the ensuing riots by the adherents of the “religion of peace”? And how many Western commentators would have scourged the Pope for his blinkered intolerance and insensitivity?

No, the enemy knows that what we pretend to be “tolerance” and “respect” are merely the camouflage of spiritual exhaustion and fear. We have fewer and fewer men like those who created the West in the teeth of Islamic aggression, men like the Byzantine Greek Lucas Notaras. After the sack of Constantinople, the Sultan demanded Notaras’s beautiful 14-year-old son for the royal harem: “When Notaras still defied the Sultan,” Steven Runciman writes, “orders were given for him and the two boys [his son and son-in-law] to be decapitated on the spot. Notaras merely asked that they should be slain before him, lest the sight of his death should make them waver. When they had both perished, he bared his neck to the executioner.” As Nestor says in the Iliad, “Men like those I have not seen again, nor ever will.”
Click here for full article

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Who would say such things!

In the wake of the "Internal Surrender Group" report composed by self proclaimed "moderates", I thought it an appropriate time to post the the thoughts of an individual who despised spineless "moderates"...and who had a habit of being proven correct, over time. This is from the 19th century, but it could have been written today...T
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."
-Sir Winston Churchill: 1899

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

War Stories: Two versions of what we should do next.

Count me among the minority. I pray, more so now than ever before, that I am wrong...T

Five years after September 11, and three-and-a-half years after toppling Saddam Hussein, the U.S. is almost as angry at itself as it is at the enemy. Two quite antithetical views of the war on terror — and indeed, the entire American role in the Middle East — are now crystallizing.

Ideology and political affiliation are no longer necessarily touchstones to either opinion — not at a time when The Nation and The American Conservative share the same views on Iraq and the role of the United States abroad. Republican senators like Chuck Hagel call for withdrawal, while Democrats like a Joe Liebermann do not.

Republican realists are welcomed by liberal Democrats, who want nothing to do with the neo-Wilsonian neo-conservatives that once would have seemed more characteristic of liberal’s erstwhile idealism. It is not just that public intellectuals, politicians, generals, and journalists have different views, but their views themselves are different in almost every 24-hour news cycle. Even the Bush administration at times seems torn, gravitating between both schools of thought.

While there are dozens of variants to the following two divergent positions, they represent a clear enough picture of the present divide.

The Majority Opinion

The new majority school of thought — often described as the more nuanced and more sophisticated — seems to conclude that the “global war on terror” (if that’s even what it ever really was) is insidiously winding down to a police matter. Billions spent in lives and treasure in Iraq did not make us any safer; the passing of time, the dissipation of passions, and increased vigilance did.

We haven’t had another 9/11. Al Qaeda is probably scattered. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are exhibiting the usual, generic Middle East insanity that is largely beyond our own powers of remedy.

Rogue states in the region will ultimately be dealt with, as in the pre-Bush II past, by a sort of containment — whether through retaliatory and punitive air strikes, foreign aid concessions, shuttle diplomacy, no-fly zones, or embargoes and boycotts.

If there ever were need for strong military action and invasion, that time is clearly past, at least for now. The long-term negative effects would more than outweighed any short-term benefits — as we see from the repercussion of the mess in Iraq and possibly Afghanistan as well.

In this way of thinking, an all-encompassing Islamic fundamentalism that threatens the very survival of the West is at best mostly a fantasy — at worst, a license for the U.S. to intervene globally (often against our interests) with the excuse of “fighting terror.”

Certainly, there exists nothing as melodramatic as “Islamic fascism.” That is a misnomer that needlessly alienates millions of moderate Muslims. And such reckless and inexact nomenclature clumsily ignores both the history and all the key fissures — Shiite/Sunni; Hamas/Hezbollah; theocracy/autocracy/ monarchy; Persian/Arab/Kurd/Turk; etc. — of the complex Islamic world.

Instead, the United States, in pragmatic fashion, needs to address regional problems, particularly with more sophisticated, and less ideological, remedies.

Hamas and its rivals exist largely because of the occupied West Bank: force Israel back to its 1967 borders, and Palestinian grievances — and the violence — largely vanish, as the United States at last is freed from much of the old Pavlovian hatred so endemic in the Arab World. Radical bluster from the West Bank can sometimes sound creepy, but it is largely braggadocio, or perhaps a cry from the heart, and thus will quietly go away once the Palestinians have their own autonomous state with internationally recognized borders that reflect pre-1967 reality.

Hezbollah is not really a global terrorist network, but an offshoot of the trouble in Lebanon. It can be handled in part by granting concessions to Syria (such as an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights), winning promises from Israel to be proportionate in responding to occasional (but mostly ineffectual) border provocations, and seeking more equitable political representation for Lebanese Shiites.

Iran is a danger, but not a fatal one. It can be balanced by Sunni sheikdoms in the Gulf and checked by multilaterally sponsored and enforced sanctions authorized by the United Nations.

As far as America goes, the old method of balancing one autocracy against another, with occasional but quiet and respectful lectures about good behavior and reform, is, however regrettably, often about as much as we can do. Sporadic violence against individual Americans can be dealt with through indictments, international policing, and, in extremis, an occasional air strike.

In general, internal security measures, such as wiretaps, Guantanamo-like detention centers abroad, and the Patriot Act, were of limited, if any, efficacy in thwarting another 9/11. They now probably pose as great a threat to our freedoms as do the terrorists.

Indeed, September 11 in proper hindsight seems more and more to have been a sort of fluke, a lucky strike by al Qaeda, predicated both on their sanctuary in Afghanistan and our own somnolence. Both have since been largely addressed. So the specter of another attack of a similar magnitude may well have passed. In some ways, our over-reaction to the bogeyman of “Islamic fascism” has made us less safe, by gratuitously creating new enemies where none previously existed.

However unwise, removing Saddam Hussein may have had some initial utility. But now any benefit is overshadowed by a messy civil war, whose violence is only exacerbated by the presence of American troops that have long overstayed both their welcome and their usefulness.

The best solution to Iraq is to begin now a steady, but sure, unilateral withdrawal under the rubric of “redeployment” — with sincere hopes that three years of our blood and treasure should have been enough to jumpstart democracy, and with even more sincere regrets if they have not. In short, Iraq has turned into an unfortunate, but predictable, fiasco, and it is time to cut it loose with as little blowback as possible.

Anti-Americanism in the Middle East and Europe is largely a phenomenon of George Bush’s idiosyncratic manners and his once-loud advocacy of preemption and unilateralism, particularly in March 2003. With his retirement, things will gradually settle down to the general equilibrium of the Bush I and Clinton eras.

There are indeed dangers on the horizon with nuclear proliferation, threats to wipe out Israel, and endemic terrorism. But as soon as the United States and the West are out of Iraq, become a neutral and honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians, and avoid gratuitous slurs against Islam (such as the pope’s unfortunate remarks or the needlessly hurtful Danish cartoons), our reputation will improve and Muslim hostility will subside — and with it any popular support for militants like Osama bin Laden.

The Minority Brief

We really are in a global war. Its dimensions are hard to conceptualize since our enemies, while aided and abetted by sympathetic Middle Eastern dictatorships, claim no national affinity. Indeed, the terrorists deliberately mask the role of their patrons. The latter, given understandable fears of the overwhelming conventional power of the United States military, deny culpability.

In an age of globalization and miniaturized weapons of mass destruction, it is even more difficult to convince Western publics that they may well face peril from state-sponsored terrorists every bit as great as what the Wehrmacht, Imperial Japan, or the Red Army once posed.

While there are regional theaters of conflict predicated on local grievances — as in the multiplicity of fighting during World War II in China, Ethiopia, Poland, Finland, France, North Africa, the Balkans, Russia, the Pacific, etc. — there is nevertheless once more a transnational ideology that seeks to force its worldviews on others.

Like fascism or Communism, Islamism galvanizes millions with its reductionist claims of Western liberal culpability for widely diverse Muslim gripes from Afghanistan to the West Bank. Rather than seeing a plethora of grievances that can be individually addressed, it is more valuable and accurate to understand the problem as a general complaint that in turn manifests itself in different regions and circumstances. While Cypriots or Tibetans don’t blow themselves up over lost land or honor, those energized with Islamist ideology often do. While Hindu, Christian, or Buddhist fundamentalists don’t appreciate popular culture mocking their religion, Islamists are the most likely to assassinate or threaten the novelist or cartoonist as the supposed blasphemer.

Islamic fascism exists, then, as a reactionary creed that sees traditional Islamic culture threatened with Western-inspired global liberalization and modernization. Drawing on the Middle East’s sense of misery and victimization by others, its narrative harkens back to a purer age.

Once upon a time, the truly devout defeated their enemies and lived a morally pure life under a caliphate of like believers. That universal rule of Islam is at last once more attainable — given the general decadence of the postmodern West, the illegitimacy and vulnerability of most Middle Eastern governments, and the simple fact that vast petroleum reserves, coupled with jihadist fervor, can be translated into militarily powerful, high-tech forces that will obtain superiority over the crusading infidel.

On the home front, demoralization and a sort of cultural relativism are far more worrisome than the Patriot Act and related measures. By the prior benchmarks of the wartime administrations of Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Nixon, these measures are relatively innocuous — and yet have done much to prevent another attack on the United States.

It was not the Patriot Act that banned operas, condemned cartoons, allowed films to be ostracized, or muzzled teachers, but Western self-censorship and fear. Jihadists brilliantly drew on boilerplate anti-Western arguments from Western elites, and when they recycled tired charges of imperialism, racism, and colonialism they found them surprisingly effective at undermining Western morale.

Furthermore, September 11 was no fluke, but the logical culmination of two disastrous prior American policies: appeasement and cynical realism.

By not responding to a decade of prior attacks in East Africa, New York, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and withdrawing ignominiously from Lebanon to Mogadishu, we gave the fatal impression that a terrorist could strike the United States with near impunity — given our addiction to the good life that we would not endanger at any cost. And by ignoring the abject failures of Middle East autocracies, we inadvertently ensured the second requisite to 9/11: dictatorial regimes that allowed terrorists free rein to scapegoat their own failures onto the infidel West.

The remedy, then, is to respond forcefully to terrorists and their sponsors, while simultaneously appealing to the people of the Islamic world that the United States is no longer cynically realist — but is actively working to promote consensual government throughout the region to address their lack of representation in their own affairs. That is not naiveté, but rather both the right and smart thing to do. Unlike the majority opinion that offers the chimera of stability through short-term expediency, the more costly, difficult, and ambitious minority view addresses conditions that more likely will lead to a lasting peace.

Iraq is far from lost, but in fact, despite the negative coverage, has a viable elected government that slogs on through the worst assaults imaginable. The coalition government includes all voices in the country. And that explains why, at least so far, there really is not a classic civil war in which one faction, with clearly defined goals of governance, tries to assume power, backed by substantial military force and broad public support.

The present strategy of Iraqization is the correct one, both for ethical and practical reasons. If we don’t withdraw precipitously, there is a good chance that Iraqi forces, and government flexibility, will eventually pacify Baghdad and its environs — where almost all the violence in the country is confined. Along with the stabilization of Afghanistan, and positive democratic developments in Lebanon, the Middle East is in flux, but with at least a chance of broad-based reform not seen in a half century.

Withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, while strategically and politically understandable, brought little commensurate peace to Israel. And while negotiations about borders are vital to a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a large number of the latter group believe that Israel itself can be unraveled through a mixture of terrorism, rocketry, and on-again-off-again diplomacy. Their real grievance against Israel is not so much its post-1967 retention of conquered land — there were 20 years of war prior to then — but its Westernized presence and daily example of success in a sea of failure. The pathologies of the Middle East were there prior to Israel, and will probably be enhanced rather than ameliorated by a sense of Israeli appeasement and American-induced concessions.

Finally, we are still one lax day away from another September 11, and will continue to be so until the currency and appeal of radical Islamism are history. Anti-Americanism can be crystallized by George Bush and his policies, but it was a pre-existing pathology that will survive long after he is gone — inasmuch as it is a symptom of a much larger malady: envy by the weaker of the world’s only hyperpower; ubiquity of intrusive globalized and destabilizing American popular culture; and the assurance that America, unlike a Russia or China, is sensitive to its critics and, indeed, often offers them the most sophisticated condemnations of its own values and traditions.

How to Judge?

Again, while there are variances, these are the general antitheses about our present war. The current majority view is slowing gaining ascendancy in policy-making circles. It reflects a general weariness on the part of the American people, who are daily bombarded with stories of anti-Americanism abroad, IED explosions in Iraq, and more mayhem on the West Bank. All that gloom and doom contributes to this feeling that we have already done enough, if not too much, and can, with more or less relative security, return to the status of the pre-September 11 world.

Like all wartime debates, the final arbiter will be the battlefield. If realist diplomacy, an end to the Bush Doctrine, withdrawal from Iraq, renewed pressure on Israel, and a rescinding of security measures can avoid another 9/11, prevent Middle East nuclear proliferation, deflate radical Islam’s appeal, and corral hostile regimes from gaining regional ascendancy, then the majority view may prove correct.

But if, on the other hand…well, you know the answer, and my own views on the matter.
Click here for full article

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sticking to his guns

Interesting take here, and one that I still agree with, and have since the beginning. After all, this isn't the Soviet Union, held together at the point of a gun. These people need each other to survive in between Iran, Syria and Turkey. At some point, a forceful government, not a strongman, just a strong central authority, should prevail, given a chance...T

While George W. Bush's many critics and detractors portray him as facing the same dilemma as Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam, Bush himself seems determined to proceed the way Harry Truman did in Korea -- or, as some might put it, as Winston Churchill did after Dunkirk.

Leading Democrats like Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan have been calling for troop pullouts from Iraq starting in four to six months. The Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, The New York Times tells us, will recommend a "gradual pullback" of troops, direct negotiations with Iran and Syria and pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.

But Bush seems unpersuaded. "There's one thing I'm not going to do," he said at last week's NATO summit in Riga, Latvia. "I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

In this, Bush has the support of others. Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates opposes a quick pullout. So does the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Central Command's Gen. John Abizaid.

Retired generals who have criticized Bush testified that we should send more troops into Iraq. Democrats seem disinclined to use their congressional majorities to cut short our mission in Iraq lest they be blamed for the unpleasant consequences many predict.

So maybe the Vietnam analogy will not apply. And it shouldn't, because it's misleading. The communists' Tet offensive was a smashing defeat for them, not us, as outlined in Peter Braestrup's 1977 book "Big Story." Military historian Lewis Sorley has shown how after Tet, Gen. Creighton Abrams produced a strategy that was proving successful -- until Congress prevented the United States from fulfilling its promises of aid against the North Vietnamese offensive in 1975.

In Iraq, our enemies may not be making all the progress they seek, and changes in our military tactics are likely. Many argue for embedding more U.S. troops in Iraqi Army units. Other recommendations may come from the review commissioned -- evidently out of dissatisfaction with current operations -- by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace.

Bush, like Truman and Churchill, seems determined not to concede defeat. And remember that for Truman on Korea and for Churchill after Dunkirk, no promising military courses were immediately apparent. Truman, after firing Gen. Douglas MacArthur, had forsaken the threat -- a nuclear attack -- that his successor Dwight Eisenhower deployed to get the communists to agree to a truce.

But Truman's perseverance despite his 22 percent job approval -- much lower than Bush's -- was essential in preserving the independence of South Korea, which now has the world's 14th-largest economy. Churchill, facing Hitler alone, could promise only "blood, toil, tears and sweat" until his enemies' mistakes -- Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union, the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor -- gave him the allies that made victory possible.

Churchill's stubbornness prevented a Nazi victory in midsummer 1940.

We should keep in mind, as well, Bush's repeated vow not to allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. That's in tension with the Iraq Study Group's expected recommendation of direct negotiations with Iran: The obvious quid pro quo for Iranian help in stabilizing Iraq would be dropping our opposition to Iran's nuclear program. In fact, the opposite approach may be what's needed.

Historian Arthur Herman in this month's Commentary calls for airstrikes not only on Iran's nuclear facilities but also on its ports and refineries; Iran depends on imports for its gasoline, and without ports and refineries, its economy and military would grind to a halt.

That's a move that might be condemned by the "international community," and it risks antagonizing the people of Iran, many of whom tend to hate the mullahs and admire America. But it also might destabilize the regime and dislodge a president who has threatened the destruction of Israel and America. Who today regrets Israel's strike against Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981?

NBC News has declared that Iraq is in the midst of a "civil war," just as CBS's Walter Cronkite declared Vietnam was lost after Tet. Many in the mainstream media today, as in 1968, see nothing but the prospect of American defeat. George W. Bush seems to have other ideas.
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