“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Guest Post - Gunboat Diplomacy and Iran

In light of the deployment of naval forces near Iranian waters, I did a little research about gunboat diplomacy, referring to The Effectiveness of Gunboat Diplomacy by Robert Mandel. Here are a few insights:

Gunboat diplomacy - defined by Mandel as 'the demonstration, threat, or use of limited naval force for political objectives' - can be considered a relevant branch of deterrent and coercive diplomacy. This particular form of diplomacy incorporates elements of both deterrence – preservation of the status quo – and coercive diplomacy – demonstration of the capability and resolution to inflict 'unacceptable punishment' should there be no alteration of the status quo – and thus is flexible enough to be considered for application in the event of an impending or escalating crisis. The ease with which naval forces can be mobilised for military action allows for constant revision and attunement of the intentions and demonstration of resolve of the assailant.

As gunboat diplomacy embraces elements from both deterrent and coercive diplomacy, naturally it would also be saddled with the limitations of both approaches. Mandel seeks to question two aspects that would affect the effectiveness of gunboat diplomacy: restraint and credibility. Self-restraint (a crucial element of deterrence) is imperative in a sense that the assailant should adopt limited force to achieve limited objectives to prevent excessive coercion, which might backfire and harden the resistance of the victim, thereby escalating the crisis. Credibility is equally important since without convincing the victim that actual, potentially devastating force could be applied by the assailant (a crucial prerequisite for coercive diplomacy), non-compliance would be a likely result. Mandel then proceeds to test several hypotheses to examine the 'relative utility' of gunboat diplomacy as opposed to other variants of diplomacy.

Mandel's tests reveal that gunboat diplomacy is more effective when definitive force is employed, characterised by an informed resolution backed with commensurate naval force to exploit 'speed and surprise to create a momentary and local superiority', thereby creating a fait accompli that puts the victim on the defensive, burdening it with the decision to resort to violence. Also, deterrent gunboat diplomacy is more effective than its compellent counterpart. The former seeks to reinforce rather than alter the victim's behaviour (which would entail certain risks of hardening resistance and national galvanisation of the victimised populace to further dissuade their leaders from complying); also, compellent diplomacy demands a positive response rather than 'simple abstinence' – there may be difficulty in conveying intentions of limited means and objectives when the victim may interpret otherwise and thus perceive a show-of-force as an act of provocation.

Mandel also reveals that assailants who have recently engaged in military conflict in the victim's region are more likely to succeed in achieving its objectives, since past involvement clearly displays the willingness to intervene militarily as the precedent has already been set. Without prior engagement, the assailant might suffer from a lack of credibility as 'perpetual inertia and rigidity' of the victim prevent it from perceiving outside threats as potent enough to endanger state interests. Military preparedness – demonstrated by military expenditure – contributes to credibility by displaying the resolve and propensity to employ actual force if necessary. Mandel thus notes that assailants with higher military preparedness and spending than their victims are more likely to achieve their objectives via gunboat diplomacy. Political stability and domestic support also factor into Mandel's considerations: the more politically divided and unstable the assailant , the lesser the likelihood of success.

However, one shocking result from Mandel's tests is that even when the assailant has a considerable power advantage over its victim, or if the assailant is a superpower, there is inconclusive evidence that gunboat diplomacy will consistently produce desired results.

Mandel's article puts forth a convincing argument that gunboat diplomacy remains relevant to this day, but must be tailored according to the sensitivities and unique circumstances of the crisis. Contemporary conflicts are not always land-locked, and given the proliferation of naval technology, gunboat diplomacy may continue to serve as a flexible option that can be attuned to the shifting nature of the crisis. However, Mandel does not address the question of legitimacy: it has become increasingly difficult to gain legitimacy for gunboat diplomacy due to lack of unity of action in the international community (mostly due to vested entrenched interests that may be compromised by a shift in the status quo), not to mention that the ease of deployment of naval forces induces assailants to act unilaterally.

This study illuminates several aspects of gunboat diplomacy that prove to be highly relevant in the Iranian nuclear crisis: the USA has employed compellent diplomacy to force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, but refuses to negotiate with it - without diplomatic relations, the act of deploying aircraft carriers near Iran only serves to convey provocation, hardening Iranian resistance and galvanising the nation behind its leaders. The invasion of Iraq has set a precedent, but increasing political partisanship and divisiveness at home, coupled with the failure to communicate limitations of means and objectives, has diluted any advantages the USA has over Iran. It is useful to remind ourselves that deterrent and coercive diplomacy only work when we assume the rationality of actors – a belligerent leader such as Ahmadinejad who believes in perpetuating nuclear apocalypse so that salvation will arrive can hardly be considered 'rational'.

Defining the parameters of the conflict is a fundamental concern for both the US and Iran: obviously, it is in neither of our interests for the Middle East to combust in flames - the fires of Kurdish secessionism, civil war in Lebanon and Iraq and the ensuing instability of the region (in terms of economic investment in its oil sector) will engulf and consume Iran whole.

Though I absolutely detest the suggestion that negotiations with Iran are actually of any worth, coercive diplomacy has to be backed by communication of our limited objectives and means. Let it be known that foisting democracy on Iran is not our objective, that we are not interested in perpetuating the collapse of the Iranian regime through unlimited military power.

But also let it be known that we will make good on our promises to cripple an already dismembered Iranian economy through decisive strikes on its oil and gas pipelines, that we will stand by as spectators when our dear "friends", the Saudis unleash large quantities of oil to drive oil prices down, that we will continue to persist in dissuading investors, banks and nations from ever spending a single rial - oh wait, they don't accept that anymore - dollar on Iran. The Russians and Chinese have begun to pull out, and the Indians aren't terribly enthusiastic. In short, to show that we can hurt you and we know how to. First to feel the pain will be those sneaky operatives of yours in Iraq, and trust me, Patraeus is no Abizaid.

Mandel helpfully suggests that when the assailant allows the victim a way out of the crisis that avoids humiliating the latter, the stand-off tends to de-escalate in intensity. By offering to provide economic aid and technological expertise in upgrading and maintaining oil and gas infrastructure on a strictly review-and-readjust protocol, securing Russian help in building nuclear processing plants (the Russians know better than to export capabilities that will allow Iran to refine weapons-grade uranium) and basically averting the implosion of Iran's regime - we can then demand for the steady dismantlement of the nuclear programme, cessation of funding to insurgents and militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.

And of course, there's always the handy naval option should Iran misbehave. The burden of initiating violence or reconciliation - if they so choose - is now placed on their shoulders.

As trish insisted, "victory" has lost its meaning in this conflict:

I believe victory has long since ceased to be an issue. I'm surprised anyone bothers to use the word. I certainly don't know how victory as a clear, delimiting objective can even be applied to on-going operations. I'm not sure anyone else knows that either.

The parameters of the conflict have broadened across boundaries far more intangible than any pre-1945 wars could have been contained within. There probably isn't any sort of chance one could adopt an all-encompassing strategy that - in the rarest of confluence of circumstances and variables - would actually constitute a clear "victory". I recently attended a lecture whereby the speaker asked for opinions as to when the Cold War ended.

Obviously, most of the audience would have agreed with the speaker that 1989 was the marker of the end of hostilities; yet I ventured a guess: that it hasn't truly ended, but metamorphosised into a low-intensity conflict between the US and Russia. Personally, I believe that this tension between the powers has been a mainstay, and will continue to be so.

But my suggestion drew snarky responses. What was "victory" in terms of the Cold War defined as? Not the utter annihilation of all ex-Soviet satellites, or the purging of KGB (now unofficially the FSB) agents throughout the world, or the decapitation of the Soviet Union's leadership. "Victory" was defined as a set of limited objectives in which both powers managed to avert a thermonuclear holocaust, prevent escalation of the stand-off into a bloody World War fought on multiple proxy fronts that could have led to economic debilitation on both sides (though obviously the Soviet Union first before us) and needlessly cost innocent lives in the long term.

The speaker responded, though, with a question: "So you're saying that the War is psychological?" To a considerable extent, yes. I am very much convinced that this battle for "hearts and minds" - not just among Arabs, but those treasonous bastards that rufus has pointed out (that is, if they can still be convinced) - is first and foremost a psychological one. Already, our enemies have taken to narratives and netwar, fighting the propaganda front much more effectively than us, turning public opinion against the CinC.

"Victory" is never so clear-cut, and we have to be prepared to hunker down for the long haul. westhawk echoes this sentiment: the Iraqis have to realize that the U.S.-Iranian confrontation is equally permanent. Whether the U.S. is allied with Iraq or not, and whether U.S. military forces are in Iraq or not, the U.S. is in a permanent, grinding struggle with Iran for domination of the Persian Gulf region. Iraq’s Shi’ite and Kurdish leaders have to get used to that reality and make their calculations accordingly.

Islamic terrorism (or Islamism, if you so prefer) will always be a viable threat: I believe it is in our mutual interest to do all we can to mitigate the potency of this threat so as to render it low-intensity. That will be as "victorious" as we will be able to feel. Psychologically, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that "complete victory" is easily attained through force and force alone - too high standards work as a double-edged sword: defeatocrats will always point out the failure to meet these expectations as a justification to accept defeat.

Chavez to Rule by decree, seeks Iranian missiles, expands ties with Iran and more...

Liberation, France
With Anti-U.S. Iran,
Chavez Plays with Fire

"By using anti-Americanism to get closer to Ahmadinejad, the Venezuelan leader risks bringing the tensions that exist in the Middle East to South America."

*By Valladão Alfredo

Translated By Kate Brumback

January 29, 2007

France - Liberation - Original Article (French)
The tour of Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just completed is not insignificant. It shows a desire to build bridges between two political radicalisms on the basis of anti-Americanism: the Shiite fundamentalism of the Iranian President and the Bolivarian populism of the Venezuelan head of state. The two flatter themselves by claiming to represent the most radical wing of OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries].

But the most immediate consequence of Ahmadinejad's tour of the New World is undoubtedly something else: it is likely to plunge South America into the Middle East conflict and all the complications that this entails. This is in a region that has always been removed from the planet's greatest wars and areas of tension. Admittedly, South America has known its share of local conflicts, especially in the 19th century: the War of the Triple Alliance, where Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay confronted Paraguay; the War of the Pacific, between Peru, Bolivia and Chile; or Chaco's War, which pitted Bolivia against Paraguay during the 1930s. Still, though this region has always seen lots of social violence, wars between nation states are sufficiently rare that peace is the norm.

Certain South American countries - most notably Brazil - as part of a task force participated marginally in the two biggest wars of the 20th century. But the continent's first great imbibing of an outside geopolitical conflict took place during the Cold War, with Cuba's alignment with the Soviet bloc. For two decades, South America was hostage to the confrontation between Soviet communism and Western liberal democracy. Each had its local partisans and the West didn't hesitate to support a disastrous military dictatorship in Chile, as the best example of how to resist its adversaries. The fall of the Berlin wall, however, seriously reduced the space within which the ideological extremism of the left and the justifications for violence put forth by the right could be expressed. Until the rise to power of Colonel Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the region, tired from the vicarious horrors of the Cold War, seemed to have chosen peace, democracy and moderation.

But the new Bolivarian messiah exhibits little in the way of democratic values. What he is doing is dragging the region into the worst geopolitical swamp on the planet: the Middle East. To embrace the Iran of the ayatollahs and promote a bringing together of other countries in the area with the regime of Ahmadinejad - who is at the height of his nuclear confrontation with Washington and Europe - can only create tension with the entire Democratic world. But the greatest danger remains a risk of provoking the same tensions between and within South American nations.

The government of Ahmadinejad, which regularly declares that Israel should be wiped off the map and questions the existence of the Holocaust, is using certain Lebanese and Palestinian extremist groups (Hezbullah and Hamas) as instruments of its foreign policy. But nearly all South American countries have large Jewish populations and populations with Syrian-Lebanese origins (Maronites, Sunnis, Shiites) that have always lived in harmony. Consequently, by importing Iranian influence and the problems of the Middle East, Chavez is simply introducing the seeds of discord between these communities and, in the long term, undoubtedly, violence. The more Ahmadinejad is glorified in South America, the more Jewish communities or Christian or Sunni-Lebanese communities or Palestinian communities opposed to Hamas - will feel rejected and threatened. That is to say, the importation of the bloody Middle East conflict to the south of the Americas will not be without consequence on the equilibrium and domestic security of several states in the region.

Admittedly, we are not completely there yet, even if there are suspicions of Hezbullah financial support networks in the Tri-Border region between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. But the refusal of Argentine president Nestor Kirchner to attend the inauguration of Ecuador's new president, Rafael Correa, so as not to have to meet his Iranian counterpart, is significant. The Argentine effectively accuses Tehran of being behind the 1994 attacks against Jewish institutions in Buenos Aires. Furthermore, within Venezuela itself, the Jewish community has already begun to denounce the coming together of Caracas and Tehran.

To creating this kind of internal tension is already quite serious, especially if this generates additional problems with the rest of the democratic world. In the event of an escalation of tension with Tehran, the European Union and United States will not fail to register concern with the position taken by South America with regard to Iranian provocations and ambitions, particularly the Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela). The Arab states, none of which look kindly on Iran's rising power, some of whom have important commercial ties with South American countries, will end up demanding that Latin Americans take a position with regard to the Ahmadinejad regime.

Consequently, stepping into the bloody Middle East imbroglio in the name of fighting interference from the "empire," as Hugo Chavez is doing, is not the most sensible option, either for promoting Latin American interests in the world or for guaranteeing peace within the region's countries and in the region in general. This is even more the case since, in matters of interfering in the domestic affairs of their neighbors, the "revolutionaries" of Iran and Venezuela can learn few lessons from others.

* Alfredo Valladão is director of the Mercosur chair at the Institut d'études politiques in Paris.

Christopher Hitchens, on Steyn, on the Islamic menace.

City Journal hosts a Christopher Hitchens review of the the Mark Steyn book, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. You can read the entire review here. There are at least ten possible posts buried in this review, but one of them is the Hitchens recommendations of a tune-up or as he says, sharpening of the Steyn thesis. Number 8., is particularly noteworthy. I have the Steyn book and am saving it for my next international flight. Here is Hitchens on Steyn:

1. An end to one-way multiculturalism and to the cultural masochism that goes with it. The Koran does not mandate the wearing of veils or genital mutilation, and until recently only those who apostasized from Islam faced the threat of punishment by death. Now, though, all manner of antisocial practices find themselves validated in the name of religion, and mullahs have begun to issue threats even against non-Muslims for criticism of Islam. This creeping Islamism must cease at once, and those responsible must feel the full weight of the law. Meanwhile, we should insist on reciprocity at all times. We should not allow a single Saudi dollar to pay for propaganda within the U.S., for example, until Saudi Arabia also permits Jewish and Christian and secular practices. No Wahhabi-printed Korans anywhere in our prison system. No Salafist imams in our armed forces.

2. A strong, open alliance with India on all fronts, from the military to the political and economic, backed by an extensive cultural exchange program, to demonstrate solidarity with the other great multiethnic democracy under attack from Muslim fascism. A hugely enlarged quota for qualified Indian immigrants and a reduction in quotas from Pakistan and other nations where fundamentalism dominates.

3. A similarly forward approach to Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, and the other countries of Western Africa that are under attack by jihadists and are also the location of vast potential oil reserves, whose proper development could help emancipate the local populations from poverty and ourselves from dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

4. A declaration at the UN of our solidarity with the right of the Kurdish people of Iraq and elsewhere to self-determination as well as a further declaration by Congress that in no circumstance will Muslim forces who have fought on our side, from the Kurds to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, find themselves friendless, unarmed, or abandoned. Partition in Iraq would be defeat under another name (and as with past partitions, would lead to yet further partitions and micro-wars over these very subdivisions). But if it has to come, we cannot even consider abandoning the one part of the country that did seize the opportunity of modernization, development, and democracy.

5. Energetic support for all the opposition forces in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora. A public offer from the United States, disseminated widely in the Persian language, of help for a reformed Iran on all matters, including peaceful nuclear energy, and of assistance in protecting Iran from the catastrophic earthquake that seismologists predict in its immediate future. Millions of lives might be lost in a few moments, and we would also have to worry about the fate of secret underground nuclear facilities. When a quake leveled the Iranian city of Bam three years ago, the performance of American rescue teams was so impressive that their popularity embarrassed the regime. Iran’s neighbors would need to pay attention, too: a crisis in Iran’s nuclear underground facilities—an Iranian Chernobyl—would not be an internal affair. These concerns might help shift the currently ossified terms of the argument and put us again on the side of an internal reform movement within Iran and its large and talented diaspora.

6. Unconditional solidarity, backed with force and the relevant UN resolutions, with an independent and multi-confessional Lebanon.

7. A commitment to buy Afghanistan’s opium crop and to keep the profits out of the hands of the warlords and Talibanists, until such time as the country’s agriculture— especially its once-famous vines—has been replanted and restored. We can use the product in the interim for the manufacture of much-needed analgesics for our own market and apply the profits to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

8. We should, of course, be scrupulous on principle about stirring up interethnic tensions. But we should remind those states that are less scrupulous—Iran, Pakistan, and Syria swiftly come to mind—that we know that they, too, have restless minorities and that they should not make trouble in Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Iraq without bearing this in mind. Some years ago, the Pakistani government announced that it would break the international embargo on the unrecognized and illegal Turkish separatist state in Cyprus and would appoint an ambassador to it, out of “Islamic solidarity.” Cyprus is a small democracy with no armed forces to speak of, but its then–foreign minister told me the following story. He sought a meeting with the Pakistani authorities and told them privately that if they recognized the breakaway Turkish colony, his government would immediately supply funds and arms to one of the secessionist movements—such as the Baluchis—within Pakistan itself. Pakistan never appointed an ambassador to Turkish Cyprus.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Would an Iraqi Tito help? Would it prevent a much worse scenario?

The dream of an Iraq democracy is over. It is never going to happen. That is my opinion and is obviously open to discussion and other points of view. Regardless, it will have no affect on what will ultimately happen in Iraq.

There is no scenario that will see a smooth change of governments in a democratic fashion.

At best, Iraq will end in a Yugoslavia-lite or it will go directly into a fragmentation mode with ethnic cleansing and come apart in a bloody brutal fashion. Could an Iraq Tito help? Should we encourage that or make it happen?

There clearly are even worse options. The Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank, based in Washington , contemplates a worse situation.

US must abandon Iraqi cities or face nightmare scenario, say experts

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Published: 30 January 2007
The Independent

The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.

This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.

US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.

The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.

It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month.

Everywhere looms the shadow of Iran. In a "war game" testing US options, the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution found that, as the descent into civil war gathered pace, confrontation between the US and Iran intensified, and Washington's leverage on Tehran diminished. Civil war in Iraq would turn Iran into "the unambiguous adversary" of the US.

Indeed, everything indicates that that is already happening. The study appeared on the same day as the Iranian ambassador in Iraq told The New York Times that Tehran intended to expand its influence in Iraq. US commanders now claim that thousands of Iranian advisers are arming and training Shia militias.

Nonetheless, the Brookings report urges the creation of a regional group to help contain a civil war. That would see exactly the contacts with Iran and Syria that the Bush administration steadfastly refuses. An alternative in the report would be "red lines" which, if crossed by Tehran, could lead to a military attack by the US on Iran.

Hubble, Mankind's seeing eye and witness.

It is hard to exaggerate the scientific, cultural and historic significance of the Hubble Space Telescope. It is one of the finest human achievements of all time. It is nothing less than children of the Universe being able to see the world from which they came, the Universe itself verifying it is there. In a time where events are measured in nanoseconds, Hubble assures us the expanding Universe has another thirty billion years to go.

The staff of life, water and carbon, have been detected on planets as far away as the imagination of the men that invented, launched and support Hubble. The exotics of "dark energy", exploding stars, super novas and the collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 are daily fare served up by the Hubble.

Hubble defines cool and vision, in every sense of the word, yet it is threatened by lesser men blinded by information and data.

On Saturday, The Advanced Camera for Surveys, or ACS, an instrument installed by space shuttle astronauts in 2002, failed. The ACS had greatly expanded the telescope's visual reach into the universe and has taken the sharpest pictures of the birth of galaxies. The birth of these galaxies is measured in billions of years in the past.

The ACS's power supply failed, shutting the instrument off. At the same time, the observatory entered a protective mode, automatically turning off the other instruments, too. NASA engineers turned Hubble on Sunday, but the space agency says two of the three functions of the ACS instrument may never be restored. As a result, it has lost its unique ability to take extremely deep views of the universe to detect the most distant and oldest objects. It can no longer help us understand who we are and what we are part of, nor can it peer into the inner reaches of other galaxies, neighboring stars, planets or planets being formed.

Space shuttle astronauts are scheduled to upgrade Hubble for the fifth and last time around May or June of next year. They will install other new instruments and renew its batteries and the gyroscopes that stabilize it in orbit. The mission is expected to extend Hubble's life. We should expect and demand no less.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Who is the Muslim Brotherhood? Why it matters.

28 January 2007
What will Happen if the Muslim Brotherhood Takes Control of Palestine?
Dr. Mamoun Fandy, Asharq al-Awsat (translated by MEMRI) Judeoscope

Scholar and Columnist Dr. Mamoun Fandy: ’If the Muslim Brotherhood, i.e., Hamas Wins in Palestine - They Will Set the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the Top of Egypt’s Political Pyramid’

In an article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled "What will Happen if the Muslim Brotherhood Takes Control of Palestine?", Egyptian-born scholar and columnist Dr. Mamoun Fandy [1] writes about the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt and Syria. [2] According to Dr. Fandy, the rise to power of Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, will strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The following are excerpts from the article:

"Palestine, as a Symbol, Remained the Monopoly of Arab Nationalism - Until Hamas Came to Power"

"Israel occupied and is still occupying the land of Palestine. Nevertheless, Palestine, in the symbolic sense, remained the monopoly of Arab nationalism - until the Hamas movement came to power. After the rise of Hamas - which, it must not be forgotten, is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood organization - the terms of the discussion on the [Palestinian] problem changed from pan-Arab nationalist terms to religious terms, in the Muslim Brotherhood version [of the religion].

"The struggle today has become a struggle over who will capture Palestine as a symbol - the Muslim Brotherhood, as represented by Hamas, or the nationalists, as represented by Fatah. The struggle for the liberation of Palestine as a territory has dropped to second place: [It has become less important than] the struggle to liberate the symbolic Palestine from the [control of the] pan-Arab nationalists and transfer it - this holy of holies of Arab politics - to the Muslim Brotherhood.

"What, in effect, is the significance of the Muslim Brotherhood’s conquest of Palestine as a symbol?

"For 50 years, the Arab people gathered behind the nationalist [pan-Arab] slogan ’No voice is louder than the voice of war’ - [which refers to] the use of external [issues, such as the struggle against external enemies] - for defending the domestic [that is, for the defense of the regime at home]. In addition, [during] these 50 years, the Arab governments were extorted by some Palestinian leaders, who exported the Palestinian tragedy to [those government] in order to incite their peoples."

"Giving a Religious Character to the Palestinian Problem Will Transform It from a Resolvable Territorial Struggle to a Religious Struggle That Cannot Be Resolved"

"At that time, the incitement was nationalist [in character], while today - after the Muslim Brotherhood has conquered a significant part of the symbolic Palestine - the incitement has become Islamist, and the domestic has become commingled with the external. This is because the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideological discourse is not based on the separation of the domestic and the external; this is because their ideology transcends the borders of [particular Arab] states. Hasn’t the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt said that he had no objection to having [even] a Malaysian Muslim rule Egypt, as long as it was not ruled by a Coptic Egyptian? Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood conquest of the symbolic Palestine means giving the [Palestinian] problem a religious character - and herein lies the danger.

"First of all, giving the Palestinian problem a religious character will lead to a Malaysian Muslim having more rights in Palestine than a Christian Palestinian. Likewise, it will transform [the Palestinian problem] from a resolvable territorial struggle into a religious struggle that cannot be resolved... With regard to the regional level, I would like to explain why giving the Palestinian problem a religious character is dangerous for two important countries in the Arab world, [namely] Egypt and Syria."

"Whoever Reads the Egyptian Press Today Cannot But Notice that Egypt is Living in the Muslim Brotherhood Era"

"The success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine means turmoil in Egypt. Egypt is today witnessing a fierce battle pitched between the ruling National [Democratic] Party and the banned Muslim Brotherhood party, and it appears that the battle is going to the Muslim Brotherhood. In light of the storm of responses to Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni’s statements about the hijab, [3] it became clear that [the number of] Muslim Brotherhood [supporters] inside the National Party might be greater than [the number of] members in the banned [Muslim Brotherhood] organization [itself], and that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated into all Egypt’s state apparatuses.

"The Egyptian press is perhaps the best reflection of this infiltration: The front and back pages of Egypt’s government papers belong to the ruling party, while the 20 inside pages of every paper belong to the Muslim Brotherhood - and they do what they want with them, [via] their correspondents, theoreticians, and propagandists. Whoever reads the Egyptian press today cannot but notice that Egypt is living in the Muslim Brotherhood era."

"The Muslim Brotherhood Has Taken Over Egypt’s Domestic Arena"

"As was clarified to me by a member of the National Party, ’There is [only] one party in Egypt, and that is the Muslim Brotherhood.’ For more than 30 years, the Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining control over Egypt’s domestic arena, its streets, its institutions, and its press, and nothing stands between it and [full] control, except for foreign issues, the first of which is the Palestinian problem. If the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine [i.e. Hamas] wins, they will set the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the top of Egypt’s political pyramid; when [Hamas leader, Palestinian Prime Minister] Isma’il Haniya comes to Egypt, he will go to the Cairo branch of the Muslim Brotherhood offices, instead of meeting with the senior officials of the Egyptian state. Likewise, we will hear Haniya defending from Gaza the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, bestowing upon them the legitimacy of the Palestinian problem - which in the Arab mentality is above all criticism."

"Syria is a Candidate for Takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood"

"Syria particularly is a candidate for takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. The legitimacy of the ruling secular Ba’th party in Damascus is supported by two Islamist crutches: Shi’ite and Sunni. The first is embodied by Hizbullah. (In a way unprecedented in the history of Syria during the era of Assad Sr. and Assad Jr., Syrians today wave the picture of Hassan Nasrallah along with that of their president.) The second crutch is the Hamas movement, represented by [movement] leader Khaled Mash’al, who resides in Damascus.

"If the Palestinian problem is given a religious character, in accordance with the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideas, Assad will lose both of these crutches. He may fall, and Syria will fall with him, into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, who went through blood-soaked periods during the era of Assad Sr., and who doubtlessly aspire [to capture power] in Damascus. Perhaps today the Syrian regime is gaining tactical advantages by means of Khaled Mash’al, but these [same advantages] may, in the short or medium term, [end up being] a reason for its collapse."

"Al-Jazeera is the Channel of the Muslim Brotherhood"

"The Muslim Brotherhood has at its disposal trans-border media, from newspapers to satellite channels, which have taken over the minds of millions - not only in Egypt and Syria, but throughout the entire Arab world. These are media that are tried and [ideologically] guided, that level accusations of heresy and treason against those who disagree with them...

"’[Al-Jazeera] is the channel of the Muslim Brotherhood," said Muhammad Dahlan, a sworn Fatah man, as he described Al-Jazeera TV, which is today incontestably the biggest Arab news channel. If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over the symbolic Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood channel [formerly Al-Jazeera] will serve as a propaganda outlet for the new religious symbolism of the Palestinian problem.

"Al-Jazeera wastes no time, and it is already propagandizing for [Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader] Mahdi ’Akef and the [Muslim Brotherhood] organization, at the expense of the Egyptian state; for [Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadr Al-Din] Al-Baynouni and his party, at the expense of the Syrian state; and for the Muslim Brotherhood in Algeria at the expense of the Algerian state. If you watch a debate program presented on [Al-Jazeera] by a [certain] non-Muslim host, you will be amazed at the supreme effort he makes to defend the Muslim Brotherhood, and you’ll think that by the time the program is over, he will be reciting the Muslim oath of allegiance. [4]

"The Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the symbolic Palestine will not liberate the land of Palestine - not before the Muslim Brotherhood subjugates the entire Arab world to its rule. The Muslim Brotherhood prefers to eliminate the nearby enemy [the existing Arab states] in order to prepare the means for facing the distant enemy [Israel]..."

Judeoscope is a collaborative space open to all whatever their ethnicity or religion. To submit news, articles and announcements, write us at Judeoscope gives preference to papers written in English and French but will consider texts in Spanish, German, and Hebrew.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hilary on stage. The last act of the Boomers?

A long wave running, rose from the post war mid-nineteen-forties and crashed through every aspect of the American culture.

It is a time far enough away, that it is now necessary to explain which war, but a post-war generation of a mostly rural country one hundred and fifty million now is cresting to a population of three hundred million.

It has been a generation of change, much of its own making and much by chance. The Boomer generation last agreed on "what, who and why", when the oldest of them were still in high school.

They have gone from graduation to retirement, deeply split and divided by acrimony, politics, religion and culture.

Hilary Clinton is the iconic Boomer, representing all that defines unites and divides them, and nothing unites them more than the spotlight, center stage, large big and brash.

The Boomers in a climax of blues, could never quite get it right. They may not still. That may be the job of another generation.

It may be smart politics for a Barack Obama to remind a divided nation that the Boomers did not get it together and that job now belongs to those next on deck.

That may be enough of a thought to sober a lot of old stoners.

Boomers get worry lines

By Ellen Goodman, Washington Post
Published January 27, 2007

BOSTON - Somehow I do not think that Barack Obama gets up in the morning, brushes his teeth, looks in the mirror and says, "Wow! A fresh face!" It doesn't happen at 45. At 45, you count the crow's feet and measure the circles under your eyes.

While you are inspecting your not-so-fresh face, you remember that when Mozart was your age he'd been dead 10 years. Albert Einstein published the big theory of relativity at 36. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence at 33.

I say this to add a dose of reality to the chatter about the man slated to announce his candidacy for president on Feb. 10. Obama is indeed this year's designated "fresh face." But on the flip side, those who are not questioning whether the Illinois senator is too black to be president are asking whether he is too green.

That's not green as in tree-hugging. That's green as in inexperienced and/or young. Even his little daughter once asked, "Are you going to try to be president? Shouldn't you be the vice president first?"

The last time age was a presidential issue, you may recall, was when Ronald Reagan was running against Walter Mondale. The 73-year-old Reagan quipped, "I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience." Obama has his own retort ready for anyone who asks about his political resume: "Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have an awful lot of experience."

But I find it bewildering to hear so many Americans worrying that a man who is middle-aged, by any demographic measure, might be too young. The question - "how green is Obama?" - may say less about the senator's youth than the country's age.

In 1960, the average age of Americans was 29. Today it's 36 and climbing. In 1960, the life expectancy was 69. Now it's 77. More to the point, the baby-boomer generation that is forever setting the agenda has begun turning 60.

Most of the green-talk is indeed from boomers. Is it possible that the same generation that famously didn't trust anybody over 30 when they were 20 doesn't trust anybody under 50 now that they are turning 60?

One of the charms of the boomers is how they are managing to age without getting old. My favorite factoid comes from a Yankelovich study showing that boomers define "old age" as starting three years after the average American is dead.

But the side effect of feeling forever young is that boomers may regard their juniors as perennially too young. It's seen in the generational lament about the adult children who can't get launched. It's also seen in the boomers' defense of their primary place in the pecking order.

Remember, the average age of the Senate is 62. That's when you round out 89-year-old Robert Byrd and 42-year-old John Sununu. If the Senate is clogged with incumbents, consider the Ivy League. The Harvard faculty has more tenured professors over 60 than under 50.

Obama was technically born at the tail end of the boom, but places himself politically outside the "psychodrama of the baby-boom generation" which he describes as "a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago." The "new generation" of network anchors leading the green-talk - Brian, 47; Katie, 50; and Charles, 63 - are all older.

Well, it's a shock when the people you went to high school with start ruling the world. It's another rite of passage to acknowledge juniors as your superiors. But boomers are now turning 60 with a life expectancy of 82. It's an early sign of memory loss to forget that at 45 you were wise or foolish, or both - but you weren't young.

That master of the last word, Oscar Wilde, said, "Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." He figured that out at 39.

An Escalation in Middle East Intrigue - wu wei

This was posted by Wu Wei on the previous thread:

If this article is true, it would be the most important step in the War on Terror since going into Iraq.

The article is a week old and from a supposedly "nonpartisan" magazine. It focuses on Bush's new Iran policy, but part of that is something even more important. The article claims that all the players, including Israel, the Saudis and the US(?), have taken sides in the Sunni / Shiite conflict. So if this is true, and the alliance is as solid as the article claims, we may have moved into a World War III like situation where various nations are lining up against each other.

There is good and bad news.

The bad news is that some in the Administration are saying that our raids have not yet find the evidence against Iran which we expected.

Contrary to some initial reports that American troops had found damning maps and documents on the detained Iranians, some U.S. government sources indicate that the Hakim raid did not produce definitive proof of Iranian involvement in supplying Iraqi militants. "They are trying to walk this back," one U.S. official said. "There are no smoking guns about Iran in Iraq," said another knowledgeable U.S. source. "That's the problem. Sort of like the WMD."

The good news is they confirm that Bush IS getting tougher on Iran.

U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified, say that the Iran policy has expanded from focusing chiefly on Iran's nuclear ambitions to challenging Tehran's suspected misbehavior across the Middle East. Indeed, one source said succinctly that the new policy is geared to "confront Iran in every way but direct armed conflict, using all means short of war." ...

Under the new policy, the United States will aggressively seek to expose and confront Iranian networks thought to be supplying radical proxies in Iraq, U.S. sources involved with the policy said. In addition, the U.S. is doubling its naval power in the Persian Gulf, considering covert ways to counter Hezbollah in Lebanon, and sending Patriot missiles to jittery allies in the Gulf. Bush administration officials are "projecting a lot of confrontation with Iran," says one American source privy to the administration's Iran policy debate who asked not to be further identified. "But they don't mean to signal war. They don't mean war. It's war by other means.

Controversial, but good news IMO, is them saying "confront Iran in every way but direct armed conflict, using all means short of war... It's war by other means" Maybe Bush has finally realized there are other ways to fight besides invasion & occupation, the same ways our enemies like Iran use.

The other good news, and one of the "other means", is that the Saudis supposedly are so scared of the Iranians that they have switched sides. In fact the article even talks about the emerging Washington-Saudi-Sunni-Israeli alliance with Jordan and Egypt also included. Some evidence:

Clawson cited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's very positive public reference about the Saudi role in helping to promote peace. "It was extraordinarily unusual for an Israeli prime minister to refer to three helpful countries" -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. "That was no accident. It was carefully worked out language." The Israeli media recently reported speculation about a rare meeting between Israeli and Saudi officials.

Dick Cheney's Christmas flight to Saudi Arabia sounds like part of this. The Saudis are already taking action, according to the article, in fact the Saudis are said to be the one secretly supporting Fatah in the civil war in Palestine!

Among the steps the Saudis now appear ready to take, according to Clawson, is to significantly fund Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has faced an upsurge in intra-Palestinian violence incited by Hamas, which is supported by Syria and Iran.
Here is more about the alliance
The first is the emergence of a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab governments, plus Israel, all of which are alarmed at Iran's flexing of power in the region and, in particular, at Tehran-backed Hezbollah's efforts to bring down the government in Lebanon. In addition, this loose coalition fears Iran's possible role in supporting militant proxy groups that threaten to destabilize other countries, specifically Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Shiite groups in the Gulf States, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

"Did I say something wrong Ollie?" Kerry at Davos.

Kerry says US ‘a sort of international pariah’

DAVOS: Massachusetts Senator John Kerry slammed the foreign policy of the Bush administration on Saturday, saying it has caused the United States to become “a sort of international pariah.”

The statement came as the Democrat lawmaker responded to a question about whether the US government had failed to adequately engage Iran’s government before the election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. Kerry said the Bush administration has failed to adequately address a number of foreign policy issues, speaking during a World Economic Forum panel discussion that also included Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad’s more moderate predecessor as Iranian president. “When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don’t advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy,” Kerry said. “So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East _ in the world, really. I’ve never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today.”

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Protests on the Washington Mall Sponsored By...

United for Peace and Justice is the chief sponsor and organizer of the Washington protests.

United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) is an anti-war coalition consisting of more than 1,300 local and national groups joined together "to protest the immoral and disastrous Iraq War and oppose our [American] government's policy of permanent warfare and empire-building." The coalition's Unity Statement denounces "the 'pre-emptive' wars of aggression waged by the Bush administration" in its "drive to expand U.S. control over other nations and strip us of our rights at home under the cover of fighting terrorism and spreading democracy."

In an effort to diminish the potential calamities that might result from what UFPJ characterizes as America's aggressive pursuit of world domination, the coalition has launched a Nuclear Disarmament Campaign. "The world," it says, "is destined to find itself in a state of perpetual war so long as the United States maintains its bloated nuclear arsenal. Nuclear disarmament must become a core issue on the global peace movement's agenda."

UFPJ was officially created on October 25, 2002 in the Washington, DC offices of People For the American Way. Its initial membership consisted of approximately 70 organizations. Prior to UFPJ's founding, the anti-war movement had earned a reputation as a hodgepodge of radical elements. All the large-scale peace demonstrations to that point had been held under the auspices of International ANSWER, an organization aligned with the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party; Global Exchange, headed by the longtime pro-Castro communist Medea Benjamin; and Not In Our Name, a project organized by Ramsey Clark and fellow leaders of the Revolutionary Communist Party. United For Peace and Justice was created explicitly to put a milder face on the anti-war movement, although from its inception UFPJ shared with the aforementioned groups a passionate hatred for the United States and for capitalism.

The Co-Chair and principal leader of UFPJ is Leslie Cagan, an original founder of the Committees of Correspondence (a remnant organization created by the American Communist Party upon going out of business) and a strong supporter of Fidel Castro since the 1960s; Cagan proudly aligns her politics with those of Communist Cuba.

Unrelenting Criticism and Self-Doubt

Here's a good read from the Wall Street Journal; something to think about.
Talking Ourselves Into Defeat - Profligate self-doubt can exact a price.

From Henniger, some of the reasons:

Bush schadenfreude. Partisan pleasure in George Bush's pain dates to the anguish of the contested 2000 election loss. The Democrats have run against something called "Bush" for so long that this sentiment is now bound up in any act or policy remotely attached to the president. Iraq's troubles, or Iran or North Korea, are merely an artifact of crushing this one guy.

The Iraq Study Group. The ISG report wasn't defeatist, but it enabled the vocabulary of defeat. Its warning of a "slide toward chaos" was re-defined as the current Iraqi status quo. They called their bipartisan solution "phased withdrawal," but it was a euphemism for defeat. Momentum was already building in this direction, and the ISG propelled it.

The leadership vacuum. The administration never rallied the nation behind the war in a concrete way. A young Marine officer recently returned from combat in Iraq told me this week he is taken aback at how disassociated the American people seem from Iraq, no matter how constantly it's in the news. He says it's as if the problem is not so much what is actually happening in Iraq but that the war is "annoying" to Americans, as if to say: Can't it just go away or not be on the front page all the time? Rallying a nation at war is a president's job.

The opposition vacuum. One reason the negative mood in politics is so disconcerting is that the opposition's alternative vision is nonexistent. On joining the opposition recently, GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced, "I can't tell you what the path to success is." Joe Biden says the "primary" Iraq strategy should be to force its leaders to make the political compromises necessary to "end the violence."

Unrelenting criticism and self-doubt. It's killing us.

The Guardian interview of a Shia death squad leader

'If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story

In the second of two remarkable dispatches from behind Baghdad's front lines, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad meets the commander of a Shia death squad

Saturday January 27, 2007
The Guardian

Fadhel is a slim, well-muscled 26-year-old Mahdi Army commander with a thin goatee beard and smoothed down hair that looks like a flat cap. One day last month he described how he and his men seized a group of three Sunni men suspected of killing his fellow Shia. "I followed the group for weeks and then one of them crossed the bridge to Karrada [a Shia district]. We first informed a nearby Iraqi army checkpoint that we were arresting terrorists then we attacked them and put them in the boots of the cars. We only have six to seven minutes when we grab someone - we have to act quickly, if he resists we shoot him."
In this case, he said, the men were taken to Sadr City, the Shia slum to the north-east of Baghdad, where they were interrogated by a "committee" which ordered their execution. "We ask the families of the terrorists for ransom money," said Fadhel. "And after they pay the ransom we kill them anyway."

Kidnapping in Baghdad these days is as much about economics as retribution or sectarian hatred. Another Shia man close to the Mahdi Army told me: "They kidnap 10 Sunnis, they get ransom on five, and kill them all, in each big kidnap operation they make at least $50 000, it's the best business in Baghdad."

One day as we chatted in a small squatters' community to the east of Baghdad, Fadhel showed me his badge - a square laminated card that identified him as a "Amer Faseel" or "platoon commander" in charge of a unit of around 35 fighters. He is particularly valuable to the Shia militia because he grew up in a predominantly Sunni area south of Baghdad and still has an ID card registered in the Sunni town of Yossufiya. "I can speak in their accent, so I can come and go to Sunni areas without anyone knowing that I am a Shia."

It was these qualifications plus his military experience - he was a corporal in the Iraqi military police - that earned Fadhel the role of commanding a "strike unit". His main job is kidnapping Sunnis allegedly involved in attacking Shia areas. It is men like Fadhel, responsible for the scores of bodies dumped on Baghdad's streets daily, whom the US troops pouring into Baghdad will have to bring under control if they are to have any hope of quelling the city's civil war.

Fadhel is also called Sayed, a title given to men who descend from the Prophet Muhammad. Over glasses of hot sweet tea, he told me how his family of farmers, originally from the Shia stronghold of Najaf, had resettled in the 70s in the heart of the Sunni area south of Baghdad where he went to school with Sunni and Shia kids.

A year after Baghdad fell, his family had to move again; the area had become a hub for Sunni extremists who started evicting Shia families a year earlier than their comrades in Baghdad. After a neighbouring Shia farmer was killed they packed up and moved to Baghdad: "We had 15 donums of the best land, I was born there and worked there all my life. They told us you Shia are not from here, go away."

Fadhel and his family found themselves in the squatters' compound in east Baghdad. He and his brother joined the Mahdi Army and fought against the Americans in Sadr City and Karbala. Now he lives in a small rented flat in Dora, once a mixed Sunni area but now one of the main battle fronts in this sectarian war. To gather intelligence, he set out to make Sunni friends: "I live with them, pray like them, I even insult the imams and the Mahdi Army."

Fadhel and other Mahdi Army commanders describe an intimate relationship with Iraqi security services, especially the commandos of the Iraqi interior ministry. He says the Mahdi Army often uses these official forces in conducting its own operations against Sunni "terrorists".

"We have specific units that we work with where members of the Mahdi Army are in command. We conduct operations together. We can't ask any army unit to come with us, we just ask the units that are under the control of our men.

"The police are all under our control, we ask them to help or inform them that shooting will take place in a street and it involves the Mahdi Army, and that's it."

In one operation Fadhel took part in last summer, Iraqi interior ministry commandos attacked a Sunni area in Dora called "Arab Jubour". The raid involved 28 pickup trucks, he told me. Of them 16 were ministry of interior, the rest Mahdi Army.

The new Bush plan to secure Baghdad gives a major role to the Iraqi army and police units in securing Baghdad. Few in the city expect that these predominantly Shia forces will seriously challenge their fellow Shia.

As the discussions for the new security plan were continuing, an Iraqi Shia official who belongs to another party told me: "We know that Moqtada [al-Sadr] and his men are responsible for all this mess but what can we do? We can't attack them, we can only talk to them. Its like having a mentally ill relative - you can't just throw him in the street."

Fadhel and other Mahdi army officers also describe a complex relationship with Iraq's Shia neighbour. Iran, which backs a rival Shia faction to the Mahdi Army, secured a PR success when Mr Sadr upon his arrival in Tehran last year announced that the Mahdi Army would defend Iran if attacked by the US. One Mahdi Army commander told me: "The Iranians are helping us not because they like us, but because they hate the US."

The help comes in different forms. "We get weapons from them, mortar shells, RPG rounds, sometimes they give us weapons for free sometimes we have to buy. Depends on who is doing the deal," said the same commander.

Fadhel told me that back in November he escorted a small truck filled with weapons from Kut, on the Iranian border, to Baghdad. "We get the weapons in trucks, we take a letter to the Iraqi army checkpoints and it's all fine."

Like many of their Sunni counterparts, the Mahdi commanders boast that they could wipe out the other sect and gain total control over Baghdad if the US left. "We control most of Baghdad, our main enemy is the Americans," said Fadhel. Then he paused for a second and continued: "Also we can't trust the other Shia factions. Imam Ali says 'God please protect me against my friends and I will take care of my enemies.'"

"How much longer do we have to play Wounded Elephant on the Euphrates?"-Trish

The other night, Trish posed this question. "How much longer do we have to play Wounded Elephant on the Euphrates?" Did the arrogance of the Bush Administration and a misunderstanding of American history doom the venture? Was it ignorance of Iraq and the Middle East and a naive goal? The US people were asked to support a war and I believe they would have, but what kind of war?

The mantra after 911 was the long generational conflict. If the Administration knew that to be true, then they should have known the best way to win a long war was to sequence a linear campaign of demonstrably singular wins. A Roman style destruction of one enemy after another would work just fine. WWII was an example where The US systematically crushed one Japanese held island after another. Enormous losses were tolerated because they were followed with victories. The victories offset early losses and humiliations.

“My way or the highway” pushed potential allies away and events pealed active allies away, one at a time. "Old Europe vs. New Europe" delivered with a gleeful smirk may have been fun, but it established a policy of creating division, reluctance and outright rejection from a growing community opposed to the Bush way and it escalated into outright hatred. Instead of creating forward momentum, which would have brought new allies to the front, the Administration created adversaries. The most glaring example was the dismantling of the Iraqi bureaucracy and the Iraq military.

At one time the Administration estimated that about 400,000 people, mostly military personnel, lost their jobs when Saddam's military apparatus was dissolved in May 2003.

Initial plans for the interim defense force called for bringing about 30,000 Iraqi troops back to active duty. They were drawn from regular army units. This interim defense force was used primarily with coalition joint patrols and border patrols.. In a January 2006 interview between Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor of the Council of Foreign Affairs and L. Paul Bremer we see this surprising exchange:

"In your new book, My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope, you’re quite candid about the differences you had with Secretary of Defense [Donald H.] Rumsfeld and the Pentagon leadership over troop levels in Iraq, which you felt were too low. And in May, 2004, just before you departed for home you sent a personal message to Rumsfeld, again saying the troop levels in Iraq were inadequate. The troop levels since then have been about the same and the insurgency still continues. What is the problem with getting more troops into Iraq?
Well, the disagreement here is a view that I had while I was there that our primary responsibility was for law and order. In particular, in the aftermath of the invasion, we had not cracked down on the looting, which set an example on our apparent unwillingness to enforce law and order. On the other side of it, military people in our government argued that, first of all, they believed they had enough forces to accomplish their mission, and secondly, that adding more forces would, in their view, make the situation worse because you’d have more soldiers on the street and in their Abrams tanks. That’s a respectable view but I just don’t happen to agree with it. So, that was the key argument: Do the American troops actually need more troops—and by the way, I never heard a military man while I was there say he needed more troops. And the president had said and still says if they ask for more he will give it to them. So those are the two sides of it.

Since then, the insurgency has continued at the same or higher levels. Of course, now the sovereign Iraq government is in charge and the quality of the Iraqi troops, I guess, will be the deciding factor.
The declared mission understood by the Administration was "law and order", and not military victory? Why did they think Americans would accept the role of policing Iraq? That does not sound like a war. That does does not ring in my memory as the stated goal, but to the man responsible on the ground, the goal was to establish law and order. How would that have worked in WWII? The metaphor proposed by Trish may be apt.


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  3. 2164th: Did the arrogance of the Bush Administration and a misunderstanding of American history doom the venture?

    That's a two-pronged question, like "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" The first question implied by your question is "Is the venture doomed?"

    If the answer is yes it is doomed, then prolonging the agony is criminal, we're losing at least a soldier a day, and concurrently pointing fingers in a blamestorming session while they die is grotesque.

    If the answer is no it is not doomed, and there's a way to salvage the war, and that plan is being put into action, then blamestorming becomes irrelevant, because the players and strategy become completely different. In that event it does nobody any good to blame Rumsfeld or Bremer or Cheney or Wolfowitz or the 2003 force levels or the 2005 rules of engagement.

    Only if the war is not doomed to fail, but there is no plan to salvage victory, or there is a victory plan but no motivation or leadership to put it into place, are we at liberty to assign blame. And that blame would rest squarely on the president if he did not present a plan to the American people. He knows all these calculations, and he has crafted a plan. But the majority of the American people believe option A is the case, and that the war is already lost.
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  5. barry, your point is well taken.In 2004 after the election Bush responded to a question from a reporter.

    "Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror."

    The same thing applies to credibility.He probably spent most of it and even a good plan may be held hostage to that sad political fact of life.

    Welcome to the elephant.
  6. You all know that I had my little hissy fit a few weeks, back, so I have to be careful, here; But, I think things are turning around, somewhat.

    It may just be a head-fake that Maliki is doing all the right things all of a sudden, and Moqtada, almost definitely, is engaging in "Hudna," and, obviously, Some of the Iraqi troops still aren't worth killing: however, some pretty smart people with knowledge on the ground are saying the we "just might" pull it off.

    Some of the Iraqi troops do seem to be performing pretty well, and we have kicked some pretty serious ass in some battles, recently, and the rules of engagement do seem to be being improved. Witnesses say that many "Insurgents" are deserting the "cover" of Baghdad and running for the hills. They WILL be easier to identify and kill in the less populated areas.

    Mookie's boys really do seem to be laying low. The Marines do report getting more help from the local Sheiks. Bush is, finally (why he took so long is unfathomable,) starting to stand up to the Iranians.

    I don't know; it seems like Americans just have to put themselves into a "Crisis" in order to function. I'm not saying this is "Valley Forge," and we just crossed the Delaware, but, just, maybe, this isn't a good time to be immobilized by despair, either.

    We should know more in a few weeks. If Maliki maintains his new-found resolve, and the Iraqi Army "Shows Up" we might be in for a better 07' than we had, 06'.

    Here's Hoping.
  7. A few things :

    - This attack wearing US uniforms and english speak terrs really is a worrying indicator. The terrs would have got far more mileage keeping the captured soliders alive and parading them, but in any case it makes day to day operations that much more diffcult as it rachets up the paranoia/security hassle factor across the whole theatre. Well organized, clever, daring, ruthless, disciplined, sophisticated while conceptually simple - reminiscent of some of Shamil Basayev's better coups against Russia in the late 90's. Not good oponents to have. Like Israel against Hezbollah the longer the war drags on the more we train the enemy.

    - Another bad sign : Busting those guys for offing civilians under Colonel Michael Steele orders indicates quite strongly that a Roman solution is not in the offing. One of the most agressive, effective and unorthodox commanders was apparently tending towards Roman style ruthless kill-em-all operations. The leadership can stomach bombing a wedding party and killing a bunch of complete innocents along with a possible couple bad guys (After watching some of the AC-130 gun camera videos you gotta wonder), but going in with rifles and killing less innocents but more probable terrs is apparently not acceptable.

    Kinder, gentler warfare, where the nominally evil are bloodlessly pulverized by pushbutton but bayonetting the probably guilty is considered barbaric.

    No good will come of it all. Flee.
  8. It is possible that the Senate Resolution may give the Iraqis some old time religion. They have to start thinking that if the Americans leave it will fall on them anyway.

    Maliki may have been sobered by the video of Saddam hanging. He has to stay on top to avoid a similar fate. Winning one neighborhood of a time may work. Sort of a virtual Katrina. Send them all to Houston.
  9. Maliki may well be motivated - but is it to maneauver himself for stabbing us in the back? Keep the f***er where you can see his hands.
  10. That was pretty much a one-off, Peacekeeper. They'll have a real hard time doing another one of those.

    Deuce, he (Maliki) found "Jesus" somewhere along the line. It might have woke him up when we showed him evidence that Iran was not only helping the Shi'ites, but was helping the Sunni, and AQ.

    And, you're right, He might have finally realized that he was about to be "on his own," and not ready for the experience.

    Or, maybe it's just "hudna."
  11. Hard to keep track of their hands with those damned robes.
  12. That was pretty much a one-off 

    Oh, I agree, but in the same way that Budyonnovsk was pretty much a one off (later attempts to do it again failed miserably). Like Basayev, vicious inventive guys with nerves of steel, you gotta be afraid what they will come up with next time, and the times after that. They really didn't exist previously - we are inadvertently making them.
  13. My largest misgiving right now is, "can Maliki produce the troops in Baghdad?"
  14. I believe that was an Iranian Quds operation. It was too slick for Iraqis. Kind of like the Samarra Mosque.

    I'll bet it turns out to be a "phyrric" victory. A lot of the people involved may not Work again.
  15. Rufus, OT but you may have missed this on Iranian oil investment fx
  16. Rufus, the fingerprints may be Iranian, but it also brings to mind another Arab opponent we managed to train to a frightening level of competence : Hezzbolah.
  17. I will remind everyone that Fellow peacekeeper also keeps an occasional blog. We need to poke into activity.
  18. Yes, uncle Deuce. The blog will be back in circulation this spring.
  19. Deuce, Iran has been a bit dismayed, recently to find that we have (with their help) managed to pretty much destroy any hope they had of getting Internatiional Bank financing for their oil field development. It's the kind of stuff that doesn't make the evening news, but it's an impressive "Victory," none the less.

    By the way, you might have noticed this line:

    And the US is a leading market for enhanced oil recovery techniques, including carbon dioxide floods and pumps

    Carbon Dioxide? When you refine a bushel of corn you get 1/3 back in Carbon Dioxide, which you can then use to produceMore Oil. Something that the "energy balance" talkers don't seem to ever take into consideration.
  20. Let's face it O' Peaceable One, Bush WAS right about at least ONE thing. It WILL BE a LONG War.

    It will last as long as the OIL lasts.

    But, hardly a day, more.
  21. Well, it's back to bed time, ladies. Have a Good Night (What's left of it, anyway.)

    Oh, throw some bud light in the cooler before you leave, okay?

  22. National Public Radio just reported that while thousands of anti-war protestors are on the National mall in Washington, Nancy Pelosi is "fact-finding" in the Green Zone. Nouri al-Maliki told her that he would like to see 50,000 US troops withdrawn from his country by the end of the year. He thinks it could happen sooner if the US would speed up training and equipping of the Iraqi army.
  23. Rufus: Iran has been a bit dismayed, recently to find that we have (with their help) managed to pretty much destroy any hope they had of getting Internatiional Bank financing for their oil field development.

    Naturally this gives Iran all the cover they need to go full steam ahead on nuclear power. Ahmadinejad can even say he's doing it for the children.

    When you refine a bushel of corn you get 1/3 back in Carbon Dioxide, which you can then use to produce More Oil

    They are playing around with this in Alberta.
    but in that process, the CO2 is produced from an on-site coal plant and is used to squeeze methane out of another part of the local coal seam. Your idea would need a new corn refinery built at each depleted oil field, or an infrastructure of pipes to deliver the CO2 from a remote location. This may be too costly to justify.
  24. Barry, CO2 can, I'm pretty sure be moved by truck, or rail. If I'm not mistaken they are using some of this CO2 in Kansas oil fields, and probably some others. I have to be careful, here, because I really haven't researched this but I'll try to find out something about it.