“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, February 28, 2007

Ms Rice yesterday - Iran and Syria would be invited to a "neighbours meeting" to discuss efforts to stabilise Iraq.

The US aircraft carriers were placed in the Gulf, yet generals of varying amount of star power, started discussing more modest goals for US objectives in the Iraq War. The surge began. Iranian weapons were previewed as proof of Iranian involvement. We speculated. Patriotisms were questioned.

Bloggers blogged and blogged.

That was then. This is now, and I might add, now is not that far away from then.

Yesterday, Secretary Rice said,
"I am pleased to announce that we are also supporting the Iraqis in a new diplomatic offensive: to build greater support, both within the region and beyond, for peace and prosperity in Iraq," she said. "We hope these governments seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region."

This was from the Voice of America and posted and commented on at the EB:
Bush Administration Says No Plans to Attack Iran
By Michael Bowman
18 February 200
The Bush administration is reiterating that it has no plans to go to war with Iran, despite concerns over Iranian weapons filtering into neighboring Iraq as well as the country's continued nuclear program in defiance of the United Nations. From Washington, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

There have been many discussions on here and other sites that Iran and Syria are key to stability in Iraq. There was a difference of opinion about either a military option or a diplomatic one. Reading between the lines, it appears that the enthusiasm for a military option by this Administration is waning.

Now it is tea time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

China Market Crash. What does it mean?

Probably not much. It looks to be a time to pick up a favorite stock or two on a buying opportunity.

To put China in perspective, the Chinese stock market capitalization was about US$800 billion. For comparison The United States has a total stock market capitalization of $20 Trillion. The US market cap grows on average 8% a year. That implies $130 Trillion by 2030.

The EB - News At Noon

The NYTimes is reporting that the Taliban are claiming that Cheney was their target.

In another story, they're reporting that Cheney was in Pakistan playing bad cop to George Bush's good cop. The message Cheney delivered didn't go down well and the Pakis got hot:
the Pakistani government lashed out Monday with a series of statements insisting that “Pakistan does not accept dictation from any side or any source.”
Or maybe, they had to do a show for domestic consumption. In any case, they Pakis let off steam and cooled down quickly as Cheney was flying to Afghanistan where bad weather forced him down in Bagram. His itinerary was closely guarded, so there is some doubt about the Taliban's claims to have deliberately targeted him.

Finally, from the NYTimes comes this interesting bit of news:
The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft of a law on Monday that would set guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the immense oil industry. The endorsement reflected a major agreement among the country’s ethnic and sectarian political blocs on one of Iraq’s most divisive issues.

The draft law approved by the cabinet allows the central government to distribute oil revenues to the provinces or regions based on population, which could lessen the economic concerns of the rebellious Sunni Arabs, who fear being cut out of Iraq’s vast potential oil wealth by the dominant Shiites and Kurds. Most of Iraq’s crude oil reserves lie in the Shiite south and Kurdish north.

The law also grants regional oil companies or governments the power to sign contracts with foreign companies for exploration and development of fields, opening the door for investment by foreign companies in a country whose oil reserves rank among the world’s three largest.

Iraqi officials say dozens of major foreign companies, including ones based in the United States, Russia and China, have expressed strong interest in developing fields or have done some work with the Iraqi industry. The national oil law would allow regions to enter into production-sharing agreements with foreign companies, which some Iraqis say could lead to foreigners reaping too much of the country’s oil wealth.

VP Cheney Unannounced in Afghanistan, maybe.

Afghan base hit as Cheney visits BBC

A suicide bomber has killed at least three people and hurt several more near Afghanistan's main US base during US Vice-President Dick Cheney's stay.
Mr Cheney, on an unannounced visit to the region, was staying at the Bagram base, 60km (40 miles) from Kabul.

The US military said the bomber was also killed in the blast, which earlier reports said killed 18 people.

The Taleban said they carried out the attack and that the attacker was trying to get to Mr Cheney.

A US spokesman described it as a "direct attack" on the base, which was put on red alert for a while. Mr Cheney was said to be safely inside the compound at the time.

One US and one South Korean soldier were among the dead.

Base operations commander Lt Col James Bonner said the bomber could not have got inside the base.

"Our security measures were in place and the killer never had access to the base," he said, quoted by AFP news agency.

"When he realised he would not be able to get onto the base he attacked the local population."

Talks delayed

Mr Cheney had breakfast with troops at the base and left about 90 minutes after the blast.

Mr Cheney met President Karzai after the blast
He is now holding talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

A meeting between the two men scheduled for Monday had been delayed because of heavy snow.

Shortly before the Bagram blast, there was another suicide bomb in the southern town of Kandahar, killing at least one person.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kabul says Bagram is one of the most heavily guarded sites in Afghanistan and such incidents there are extremely rare.

The surrounding territory is heavily mined and people, including children, have frequently been injured by such devices.

Officials said the explosion occurred between the outside security gate and an inner gate guarded by US troops, some distance from living quarters at the base.

A trader in a market outside the base described the explosion as "huge", saying it shook market stalls.

Tough message

Mr Cheney's visit to the region comes amid increasing concern about insurgent activity in several areas of Afghanistan.

Pakistan has thousands of troops near the border
There are fears of a spring offensive by the Taleban and its allies as the snows clear.

There are 27,000 US troops in Afghanistan, the highest number since the invasion of 2001, to combat any offensive.

Mr Cheney arrived in Afghanistan on Monday after holding talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during a brief stop in Islamabad.

He urged Pakistan to do more to combat the Taleban near the Afghan border, but also praised its role in the "war on terror".

His visit comes as the US seeks to send a tough message to Pakistan that aid to the country will be cut unless efforts to catch militants are stepped up.

Afghanistan and Pakistan share a 1,400 mile (2,250km) border, and many Taleban fighters operate from bases on the Pakistani side.

Monday, February 26, 2007

EB Primetime Tonight - Reporting Religion

The crowd looked on in adulation as "An Inconvenient Truth" was awarded an Oscar last night.

The entertainment industry loves the former Vice-President and current Environmental Evangelical. He was accorded "Rock Star Status" at the Grammy Awards and if his reception at the Academy Awards was any indication, he will soon have a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It is said that after the 2000 election, the "broken man" went off into the wilderness for forty days and forty nights where he found spiritual direction and renewal. Now he is back with a message of hope, action and renewal. From center stage of the Kodak Theatre, Mr. Gore shared his message with the gathered multitude:
"My fellow Americans," Gore said. "People all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue, it's a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started with the possible exception of the will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it."
It's not a political issue, it's a moral issue. So says the Chief Priest of the New Church of Environmental Redemption. Climate skeptics are sinners, huh? Well then, before the Green Blue Laws are passed, let's sin a little...

De-escalating the Iraq Mission.

“We are not trying to dominate (Iraq), nor do we intend to stay here for ever. We also know that we will never be able to reduce violence completely – but we are committed to try and turn around the situation for the better before we leave.” -Major-General William B. Caldwell, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects and spokesman for the multi-national coalition force in Iraq

Attack on Iran? No way, says US General
By Anand Sagar (Assistant Editor)

26 February 2007

DUBAI — Contrary to growing regional and international concerns, the US has “no intention of getting into any conflict” in Iran, according to a high-ranking US general serving in Iraq.

However, Major-General William B. Caldwell, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects and spokesman for the multi-national coalition force in Iraq, said here yesterday there was evidence to suggest cross-border smuggling of “weapons and ammunition” from Iran into Iraq to arm Shia militia groups there. General Caldwell was in Dubai yesterday to meet senior editors and journalists and also visited Khaleej Times.

Commenting on the ground realities in Iraq, he added, one “major shift” in the scenario is, for the first time “we have the full political commitment most needed to secure and stabilise the internal situation in Iraq.”

Under the new Iraqi-led Operation “Fard Al Qanoon” (Enforcement of Law and Order), effectively supported by the coalition forces, Baghdad has been divided into 10 districts to better combat continuing sectarian violence and restore some semblance of normalcy.

Moreover, General Caldwell added, as far as this new security plan is concerned, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has given a “carte blanche” in pursuit of this joint objective and “no area and no person is now off limits.”

In response to a question by this reporter regarding the viability of a military solution as opposed to a political one in this context, he said, “Of course, the political process is the key. And the Iraqi government also needs to demonstrate that it has no sectarian bias.”

Following a series of new initiatives, he said, “We are most hopeful we can change the dynamics in Baghdad.”

Questioned about whether how soon the US troops might begin a gradual reduction or withdrawal, as has already been announced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he said: “We too desire to begin withdrawing our forces. But we will not do it and we will not leave, until we feel the Iraqi government has the capability to ensure the country’s safety and security.”

General Caldwell said categorically: “We are not trying to dominate (the country), nor do we intend to stay here for ever. We also know that we will never be able to reduce violence completely – but we are committed to try and turn around the situation for the better before we leave.”

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Whit's Rant -Time to Wean The Ugly Baby

I am not one that believes George W. Bush and Dick Cheney manipulated intelligence about WMD in order to lead America into an unjust war against Saddam Hussein and I believe that politicians who make that claim are, for the most part, malicious Bush hating liars who would gladly ignore history and facts in their rabid pursuit of political power.

I also believe that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein and I do not regret the invasion and the war to remove the most oppressive tyrant in the world. Those that claim he was otherwise are either stupid, ignorant or malicious Bush and America hating liars. I realize that these are harsh words but I'll add the old cliche, "If the shoe fits, wear it."

I am not going to detail and recount what has been said countless times about the breakdown of the sanctions, the corruption of the UN, and Saddam's defiance and subterfuge after the first gulf war when he was thrown out of Kuwait but stupidly allowed to remain in power. But I will once again remind the reader of those facts of history which, after 9/11 led to the decision to remove the tyrant and lie as they might, the liars cannot alter those facts.

So, with the lies to this day continually ringing in my ears I offer this man's opinion that America, like the Brits in Basra, has done about all the good that it can do in Iraq. I am willing to give the "surge" six more months and then it will be time to wean the ugly baby that we have birthed in that God forsaken part of the world. In the meantime, no more money for reconstruction. Let the Iraqis finance that with their oil money. In six months, we should leave Iraq. If, after six months, the Sunnis and Shias still insist on their bloodbath, and I have no reason to believe they won't, so be it, we tried. Let the Arabs and Persians clean up their own dysfunctional mess, we've got our own problems.

Express yo self. An elephant in the parlour.

Speaking honestly is a declining commodity in most countries. It has rapidly declined in the US and has been doing so for some time. There is a lot of group think and thought discipline out there. Speaking openly in the US can cost you your job and position and will win you a label. Do so and you will be reduced to a category.

I try and practice that on this blog. Most of you do as well. We welcome your views and I challenge those that disagree with me or other posters to do so with vigor. If you cannot do it here, you will not be able to do it anywhere.

From the remaining free thinkers in The Netherlands:

radio Netherlands
by Perro de Jong

It was carnival weekend. We'd been singing along to the old Dutch tune, "There's a Horse in the Hall," and our conga-line had ground to a sweaty halt. I'd been dancing behind a woman in a burqa, and I thought I might just be in with a chance. When suddenly, from under the veil, what do I hear but the basso profundo of my old mate Dion?

"It's yourself," says I. "Shame on you for giving me such a fright!" "Sorry," says Dion. "I was going to come dressed as the Prophet Muhammad - you know, turban, virgins, bombs - but they wouldn't let me in. Goes to show how little freedom we have in this country. It's like Geert always says: bloody left-wing church spoiling it for everyone."

Ah yes, controversial politician Geert Wilders. Whose far-right Freedom Party my old friend had joined, and who'd won nine seats in the Dutch elections last November. "Geert is right, you know," Dion went on. "If we're not careful we're going to have a Tsuslanimani. I mean,, Tunasamullah..."

"You mean an Islam Tsunami," says I, trying to be helpful. "Ha!" says he. "So you agree! I always had you down as one of those left-wing types! Bloody left-wing church, spoiling it for everyone. You know, I was going to come dressed as the prophet..."

"Yeah, yeah," says I, "so how's old Geert doing these days? Still in hiding? I hear in Pakistan they want to hang him, and in Saudi Arabia they're demanding an official apology. What was it he said again? That Muslims have to tear up half the Qur'an or else they should leave the Netherlands."

From underneath the burqa came a throaty, drunken laugh. "Wasn't that sheer genius? Like asking Americans to tear up their flag, you know they start seeing red the moment you suggest it. Gets those Muslims right where he wants them."

"And where would that be?" says I. "Well, you remember Theo van Gogh and the film, Submission? You remember Ayaan Hirsi Ali? The Danish Cartoon row? That all took months before it exploded, but our Geert...the interview was only last week and already they want to kill him. Brilliant, eh?"

While I took a moment to let this profound statement sink in, Dion went on. "You know, there's an elephant in the parlour and it's called Islam. I read that somewhere on a website." "And what exactly is that supposed to mean?" says I. "Dunno" says he. "But an elephant is big and noisy and it leaves an enormous mess." "Just like Geert Wilders," says I.

Dion had begun to leer at me from behind the veil. "Say, are you one of those, what do you call them, dummies?" he said in a belligerent voice. "I believe the word you're looking for is 'dhimmi'" says I, "a non-Muslim who seeks the protection of Islam because he's afraid and agrees to live as a rightless slave."

"Whatever. Anyway, there's no place for dummies in a modern, civilized country like the Netherlands. Geert said that himself, and that if Muhammad were alive today, we should tar and feather him. Tar and feathers...that'll teach him to mess with a modern, civilized country." "Why don't we hack off his hands while we're at it," I suggested. "Or hang him upside down from the nearest tree? Erect a few burning crosses perhaps?"

"Just you wait," said Dion. "Nobody likes mockers like you. Take that fellow Ewout Jansen, the comedian. Some guy at a mosque in Amsterdam said he should be killed if he continued to make fun of Islam. Then some other guy from the same mosque denied it, and now he doesn't even know if he's to be killed or not! Yet everyone can make jokes about Geert Wilders' hairdo whenever they feel like it. It's just not fair."

" know what they say about types like Wilders," says I. "Hair today, gone tomorrow." We both laughed until we cried. For a brief moment, everything was silent. Then the conga-line started up again. "There's an Elephant in the Parlour," I'm sure I could hear them sing...

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Radio Netherlands.( No irony intended)

Virginian Politicians Send Their Regrets for Slavery.

Children when they cannot get their own way, feeling sorry for themselves, pouting and petulant will strike at their parents by tearfully saying, "I am sorry I was ever born." It is a meaningless self-indulgent gesture. One child hears it, sees it on television, catalogs it and saves it for later. Parents do not take it seriously. They are adults and know better. That is not the case with Virginia politicians.

Everyone of the New Dominion types have at one time or another uttered some form of an expression admonishing one not to be judgmental. You could bet the plantation on it. It is standard form and faire from the most vacuous generation, a usually un-judgmental bunch. Not this time. The Virginians bravely stepped forward to be judgmental just this once.

The New Diminutives, from The Old Dominion, have apologized for slavery and threw in the beastly treatment of Indians for good measure. They could have apologized to the pig they ate for breakfast and could have fore sworn to only do grits from now on, but they did not.

It is an idiotic meaningless impossibility for one generation to make an apology for generations before them. It is a misreading and misunderstanding of human history and if you go back one generation you must go back two, three, four and on to the beginning and then on before that. You have to keep going back in time to find the human font of folly and lay the blame. Logic requires it and it is a fools mission.

Have no fear that your state will not get in on it. They will. It will end up in the Republican and Democratic platforms or at a minimum a non-binding sense of the Senate sort of thing. Mule teams will follow behind leading a parade for reparations.

Never mind all that. Must not let facts get in the way of things.

At the end of the day, it will still be the end of the day and there will always be a tomorrow to regret yesterday. Have a nice day.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Convergence and Synergy in Government (Building the Q!)

My cell phone is an antiquated hunk of junk. It has no capabilities other than sending and receiving messages (haphazardly at that, too). I have to carry a separate PDA to access WIFI on the fly, an iPod to listen to music, a decent laptop if I want to play World of Warcraft during down time, and a digital camera to snap an occasional picture.
I plan to buy a Motorola Q shortly (when my service plan allows me a free upgrade on phones) that combines telephone, text messaging/email, digital camera, WIFI, MP3 player, and data storage device (with the addition of an SD card) into one sleek device.

Many of the past task forces and working groups the government sent out into the world to execute American Foreign Policy were much the same as that clunky phone of mine: stovepiped, possessing a singular, limited purpose and function, and operating independently (and sometime at odds) of other government organizations, much like the jumble of electronic devices tangled together in my backpack.

Today, fortunately, there is more convergence in assembled government task forces, and numerous effective inter-agency working groups; more work is needed if the United States is going to effectively pursue and achieve its foreign policy goals in the 21st century, however.

There are many cases illustrating government synergy across the spectrum of function and capability. The American response to the Asian tsunami, and the drug interdiction and security cooperation efforts in Latin America are two recent examples that immediately come to mind. However, there are equal numbers foreign policy endeavors that have had problems arise at least in part due to disjointed military and civilian agency efforts. For instance, a frequently stated critique of "Phase IV" stability operations in Iraq is that in addition to the lack of a cohesive campaign plan for the reconstruction phase, there was poor fusion of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the military on the ground, who comprised the bulk of American capability and situational awareness (as it still does now). Perhaps a campaign plan that called for and established an Iraq joint interagency working group (military-led, comprised of State Department, Intelligence, USAID, et al) long before the invasion took place, that had unity of command as well as unity of effort, and was poised to surge capabilities and execute a sound stability operations strategy after Baghdad fell, things would be different on the ground today. . .

Hypotheticals only advance an argument so far, and the situation in Iraq today is what it is.
Elsewhere, however, there is proof of this concept already emerging out of operational necessity. USSOUTHCOM established Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South "to combat illicit trafficking through domestic and international cooperation as the premier joint, interagency and international task force"; all the uniformed military services participate in JIATF activities, as well as agencies such as the FBI, DIA, DEA, and the like. The geographical combatant commands also include a state department political advisor (POLAD) on the general's staff as well. The military and other agencies have begun to fuse their education systems, and undertake more personnel exchanges as well. Recent classes at the Army's Fort Leavenworth have included personnel from agencies such as the DIA, for example.

Hopefully, greater capabilities and effectiveness will arise from these auspicious beginnings. Savvy congressional staffs might research and draft legislation to further the process that is by situational exigency occurring in the field (similar to the highly successful Goldwater Nichols act, which rapidly reorganized the Department of Defense). An approach that establishes funding, develops sound doctrine, and a framework for organizing, educating, and employing governmental elements is long overdue.

American foreign policy challenges in the coming decades are more often than not going to require action in complex situations. The United States will continue to find itself involved in developing countries, where requirements of advancing regional cooperation, economic development, and deterring or neutralizing threats intersect, and thus require a multifaceted response; there will be more Djibouti deployments than DESERT STORMS in the coming years. Governmental agencies will be required to work side by side in organizations comprised of various law and humanitarian bureaus, and perhaps controlled by uniformed military personnel. On the ground, infantry company commanders will find themselves working together with FBI and USAID personnel more often than with direct support artillery batteries.

The days of the government endeavors resembling the singular-functioning cell phone are over; bring out the Q!

2,158 Americans Murdered Per Year - By Illegal Aliens

Tiger fights the good fight over at Observanda: 2,158 Americans Murdered Per Year - By Illegal Aliens:
Illegal aliens are killing more Americans than the Iraq war, says a new report from Family Security Matters that estimates some 2,158 murders are committed every year by illegal aliens in the U.S. The group says that number is more than 15 percent of all the murders reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. and about three times the representation of illegal aliens in the general population.
He also has news about the North American Union and NAFTA:
What Your Government Says Didn't Exist Already Set To Begin

One hundred Mexican trucking companies will have unlimited access to U.S. roads to haul international cargo as part of a year-long pilot program, the Department of Transportation announced today
In return, 100 U.S. trucking companies will be allowed to operate in Mexico but at a later date.
Calling for congressional hearings, Teamsters General President Jimmy Hoffa compared the announcement to the "Dubai Ports debacle," charging President Bush is "playing a game of Russian roulette on America's highways."

Friday, February 23, 2007

A World without America

In a previous post 2164th mentioned an article at the Telegraph UK about this video.

The video was produced by From
This is the fourth of's weekly adverts. At a time of rampant anti-Americanism this ad - produced with - aims to remind the world of the great economic, technological and political benefits that the US has brought to the world.
And from is a proud believer in the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. This new blog will focus on political developments in the USA and offer an alternative account of those developments to that provided by, for example, the BBC (the Corporation itself recently acknowledging its tendency to anti-Americanism at its own 'bias seminar').

Whoever they are, I say thank you. We'll take all the help we can get. It's about time someone attempted to restore sanity to a world gone mad with rabid anti-Americanism.

ppab said...Padilla and Transitional Justice

From an earlier thread came a comment which I immediately deleted because I thought the topic deserved a post and thread of its own:
ppab said...
Thu Feb 22, 05:38:00 PM EST

Read the article and you'll see this at the end:
During cross-examination, prosecutor John Shipley pointed to a test administered by Hegarty in which Padilla scored "zero" on the portions indicating post-traumatic stress disorder. Those segments involved questions about flashbacks, nightmares, depression and other symptoms.

"Nothing in this test supports your diagnosis at all, isn't that correct?" Shipley asked.

"No," Hegarty replied, noting that the test answers were only one component of her decision.
That Hegarty is Angela Hegarty, of Human rights fame and NGO intrigue, presumably:

She's into stuff like, you know, Transitional Justice.

Its an interesting read as this stuff seems one part activism one part litigation.

Also, consider the strategies:
#Trials and Prosecution: The first and usually the most preferred choice. It is a criminal justice or judicial approach, either undertaken domestically, internationally or what has become known in recent years as the hybrid. From its historical trace to the ‘Nuremberg Trials’ recent examples have included the Sierra Leone’s Special Court, the International Tribunal for Rwanda and Yugoslavia and in the last few years the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), assuming a universal jurisdiction;

#Truth Commission: A non-judicial or quasi judicial approach, it has become very common and popular in recent transitional societies. It investigates the past to determine the full extent and nature of past abuses through truth-telling process; forge reconciliation; develop reparations packages; memorialize and remember victims; and make proposals for the reform of abusive state institutions in order to prevent future violations. They include both national (Argentina in 1983, Chile 1990, South Africa in 1995, Ghana in 2002) and international (El Salvador in 1992, Guatamala in 1997, East Timor in 2001, Sierra Leone in 2002.);

# Lustration and/or Vetting: This include purging the public services and especially the security sector, a process of excluding corrupt, abusive and incompetent officials from working in the public sector. This strategy has been common in Eastern Europe, such as former Czechoslovakia. Vetting is a process of examination and evaluation to eliminate corrupt and abusive officials through due process. This process furthers accountability, democratization and credibility of institutions; and

# Institutional Reform: Reform of abusive public institutions such as the police, military and security intelligence establishments, the Judiciary, prisons, amendments of obnoxious and abusive laws as well as constitutions.

I don't know anything about Ms. Hegarty beyond what ppab has noted for us and of course, one can hardly fault the tranzie Lawyers for trying anything to keep their client out of court. That is after all, what they are paid to do. It is disheartening though, to hear them spread their propaganda and outright lies throughout the world compliments of our "friends" at the BBC World Service and the Guardian UK. For the left, it is essential that Jose Padilla not stand trial. As long as he can be painted as a broken hollow shell, Padilla is a powerful tool for the left as this article from the Guardian UK illustrates. In Padilla, the propagandists have a real life victim of the "systematic and routine torture" employed by the evil Bush Administration. A public trial where Padilla is shown as not so broken, hollow and docile is not in their best interest.

The US is becoming an "Army of One."

Why are the British drawing down in Southern Iraq? Secretary Rice is saying it is, "Pip-pip, Mission accomplished." I am not sure what the Danes are saying. The real reasons the British are withdrawing are various, but at a minimum they must include:
  • The British Army is too small and too stretched to meet the needs of both Afghanistan and at the same time be effective in Basra.
  • The Iranian influence over the heavily Shiite South is all but complete. No available amount of British troops will make a difference.
  • The Brits have determined the political support for continued action in Iraq is non-existent in Britain and rapidly declining in the US.
  • Britain wants no part of any scheme to attack Iran, which if done, they believe it will create a greater calamity than anything this Administration has done so far.
  • Britain has come to the conclusion that regardless of efforts of the UK, political events in Iraq are beyond her influence.
In an attempt to save face for the Administration, Cheney and Rice are eviscerating whatever remaining credibility they have left.

Rice calls Iraq coalition 'intact'
By Sharon Behn
February 22, 2007

The Bush administration maintained yesterday that its Iraq coalition was still in good shape despite announcements by Britain and two other countries that they would withdraw all or some of their troops by the end of the year.

"The coalition remains intact," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a visit to Berlin. "It is the plan that -- as it is possible to transfer responsibilities to the Iraqis -- coalition forces would no longer be needed."

Miss Rice spoke just hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced in Parliament that Britain would cut 1,600 troops from its 7,100-strong force in southern Iraq in the coming months.

He said several hundred more could come home by late summer if conditions permit. There were 40,000 British troops in Iraq when the war began, and roughly 9,000 in place two years ago.
Denmark said it planned to withdraw its 460 troops from southern Iraq by August. A Lithuanian Defense Ministry spokeswoman said her country was "seriously considering" withdrawing its 53 troops from the same area in August.

The United States put the best face on the announcements, declaring the withdrawals were evidence of the improved security situation in southern Iraq.
But analysts on both sides of the Atlantic disagreed.
Need more, continue here

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Guest Post - Harrison Looks at History

From over at the Possum Bistro, Harrison has looked at history to provide context for the inscrutable actions of today's Democrats and he has concluded that:

Alternate reality is a form of escapism.

Here we are today, attempting to grapple with the brutal realities of the Long War in the Middle East as our valiant troops in Iraq continue to pursue their missions and tasks in a still-hostile environment where locals are cautiously wary and the next insurgent ambush is down the road, next to innocuous palm fronds. Those among the populace who believe with all our heart and resolve that guaranteeing the safety of our soldiers is the closest thing we can do to showing our support for them without grabbing body armour, weapons and boots to fight by their side - and thus push for increased funding in order to provide them with sufficient armour, ammunition, logistics, gear, and above all, the material assistance that conveys the General Will of the people behind their Army - a united front against our Enemies.

That is the most powerful message to our troops - the levee en masse - an antediluvian concept, perhaps, that originated with the birth of the French Revolution and the man on horseback, Napoleon Bonaparte. Politicians might derive from a galvanisation of popular consensus vindication of their policies, or perhaps a general endearment of the people towards the style and charisma of that character.

But no other institution of the state benefits - or suffers - more from popular consensus than the military: it is a direct, unambiguous form of expression of the faith of the people in their fellow countrymen. In dire times like this, when back-stabbing defeatists in Congress have hijacked the legislature to sabotage the executive and play partisanship to the tune of "This Is The Song That Never Ends", the meme of popular consensus against the war that somehow justifies cutting funding has provided a form of expression that is creating deleterious impact on the morale of our troops.

The spectre of Vietnam has always hovered over the minds of those who were part of the anti-war movement back then. I confess that I do not particularly know a great deal about that time-period and its atmosphere of politics and intellectual discourse, but wretchard and a few seasoned posters at The Belmont Club have enlightened me about the paradigm of thought which has continued to be perpetuated and foisted upon young minds:

[...] one wonders at how useful it is to keep seeing the world through the prism of the Vietnam War. Clearly for many of the Democrats in Congress who have just supported a nonbinding resolution aimed at "bringing the boys home", 2007 is 1967. One wonders whether for certain people every year will be always be 1967. However that may be, as much time has elapsed from 1967 till today as between the time Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album was released and the end of the Silent Movie era. Rep. Sam Johnson. (R-Texas) responded to Murtha's "slow bleed" strategy with an argument taken from the same era but with this difference: Johnson understood the price of having his fate, as a young man, decided by old men living in their past. Now, astounded to find himself in Congress, Johnson wonders whether it isn't the job of the old to let the men in the field shape their world.

I suggest you take a look at the last five comments on that brilliant thread - tony, cutler and dan share intriguing insights:

Yeah, the music was obviously that good, and yeah, outdoor concerts were really a hell of a lot of fun - but we didn't all burn our draft cards. The oldheads in my neighborhood got drafted, went to Nam, and when they came home, we treated them like scary heroes. Lots of times they moved back home with their parents (they were still kids after all), and they hung out with the rest of us, coached our summer league teams, and eventually got jobs and blended into our society. Lots of them grew to look like hippies and screamed anti-war songs at the concerts with the rest of us.

See, in the Sixties, Vietnam really went very wrong. Did you ever hear the stories of Johnson and his boys in the War Room, standing around maps of Southeast Asia, and actually picking out missions and targets? Yep, it was that bad. Where do you think Murtha gets his ideas?

cutler provided a link to a James Webb article written back in 1997 that still resonates in the contemporary context (betrays how persistent this paradigm really is, in the space of 10 years); with regard to the meme that most veterans fit the above-mentioned stereotype, Webb quips:

Contrary to persistent mythology, two-thirds of those who served during Vietnam were volunteers rather than draftees, and 77 percent of those who died were volunteers. Of those who died, 86 percent were Caucasian, 12.5 percent were African-American, and 1.2 percent were from other races. The common claim that it was minorities and the poor who were left to do the dirty work of military service in Vietnam is false. The main imbalance in the war was simply that the privileged avoided their obligations, and have persisted since that time in demeaning the experience in order to protect themselves from the judgment of history.

Webb scribes a compelling, albeit disheartening, account of how the Democrats then sought every means necessary to cut funding to the South Vietnamese and Cambodians; back then, one would be thoroughly appalled at how vociferously and self-righteously these Democrats were willing to abandon our allies who had fought as valiantly as our very own troops on the ground, all for the sake of raw political expediency - fear of being encumbered by the psychological trauma of leading a nation to its slow demise, fear of being labelled as the party which "lost" the war.

Thus I find it ironic that the very political baggage that the Democrats hoped to avoid has doggedly tagged the left's paradigm of thought, both psychologically and emotionally. I do not think that most of the Vietnam veterans were concerned with "Communism" per se when they supported and fought in the War there; neither were they thinking in terms of gaining an advantage over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Ideology plays a role in the greater scope of history, but on the battlefield, your enemy is just another person you have to kill if you want to survive. Humans are less privy to the bigger picture, as Hegel once remarked.

For those who had evaded the war and come of age believing our country was somehow evil, even as they romanticized the intentions of the Communists, these few weeks brought denials of their own responsibility in the debacle, armchair criticisms of the South Vietnamese military, or open celebrations.

Another piece of evidence which supports my positing that Democrats missed the entire ideological contextualisation of the period: note that South Vietnam was a democracy then. If the Democrats were truly concerned about the ideological war, would they have so blatantly undermined every effort to aid the South Vietnamese and ultimately send them into the deathly embrace of the authoritarian North Vietnamese communists?

As always, Democrats have sought to indulge in alternate realities, and with the help of the MSM have gone to great lengths to convince the nation to place their faith and beliefs in the fantastical. They failed to realise that Vietnam could have represented a greater loss in the context of the Cold War, but the Domino Effect stopped at the coast. They continue to fail to realise that Iraq will engender disastrous consequences if it is lost, because it is the confluence of all the fault lines of the Middle East, and the Domino Effect will resonate throughout the region.

They were willing to buy into the whole fallacy that our nation could be evil. That our troops were sacrificing themselves at the altar of ideology. The truth is that they were blind to the war writ large in the context of the Cold War, and the left exploited this to mean that the Vietnam War was meaningless and therefore should be abandoned even though our troops meant well to prevent our South Vietnamese allies from eventual slaughter. Such was the courageous and well-intentioned spirit of the struggle, yet the Democrats desecrated and humiliated their contributions. That was how the Democrats managed to divorce ideology from reality then, and they are at it again.

We are in an ideological war against the foreign enemies of Islamofascism and Transnational Progressivism - both formidable enough to have bought off the left at home and manipulated their psychological penchant for perceiving everything through that anti-ideological Vietnam paradigm: that they could "romanticise" the intentions of the Communists as they are doing now with Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Abandonment of history and the larger perspective - convenient amnesia - is a tactic of the Left that serves to counter any efforts to learn lessons from the past - and that lets our enemies - who happen to be authoritarian and can thus outlast several administrations - get away with atrocities without fear of accountability.

Our enemies' persistence in pursuing their ideological aims requires resolve on our part to stand up against, not a cut-and-run approach that serves to embolden them further to make claims on our sovereignty and influence at home and abroad.

During the Vietnam era, the Defeatocrats were willing to abandon the South Vietnamese. Come 2007, the same delusional cowards are suggesting we abandon our own countrymen. Just shows you how much they've progressed in terms of intellectual discourse, ethics and patriotism.

It is "Honor" Time Again In Washington.

Nixon famously declared the 1973 agreement in Viet Nam to be "peace with honor". America was disengaging, yet South Vietnam was going to fight its own war.

Vice-President Dick Cheney, yesterday, asserted that Mr Blair's announcement was proof that "in parts of Iraq... things are going well". As for US troops, they would complete their mission "with honor". So it seems that we have entered the honor phase.

Honor is a big word. It is loaded. We have Honor Guards, Legions of Honor, Roles of Honor and The Congressional Medal of Honor.

Sorry, but when I hear politicians leaning on honor, I get suspicious. I hear the final argument and justification for something that went wrong. I like the word and the concept, but it is also terribly misused.

Honor is a very big deal in the Middle East. Honor killings were quite the rage for awhile there but have since moved from the headlines. It usually involves some form of an assault or murder on someone for something where the attacker has been "dishonored" by the victim.

Maybe Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" jaded me on how easily the word "honor" can be used for a cynical purpose:

Anthony speaking, after the assassination of Caesar, by amongst others, Brutus:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men-
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honorable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause;
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me. (from Julius Caesar 3/2)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Can European diplomacy provide a solution to return Iraq to tranquility?

Like it or not, the writing on the wall indicates much against a military solution for Iraq. The announcement of the English and Danes withdrawal, while not significant in numbers, will only encourage continued and growing US domestic opposition to a military solution to the war.

If a diplomatic solution is attainable it is better to seek it now, before the support level in the US passes an irreversible tipping point.

More importantly, if diplomacy will fail, it is better it fail now. That would at least make it obvious that a military withdrawal cannot be considered. DW looks at a possible European role.

with Iraq | 15.11.2006
German Leader Calls for More Active European Role in Iraq

Can Europe do more to help rebuild Iraq?

German President Horst Köhler has called on European nations to take more action to help stabilize Iraq. But what sort of options can Europe offer to constructively support the country's future?

German President Horst Köhler has called on European nations to take more action to help stabilize Iraq. Experts say any additional efforts will only be successful if countries cooperate with the United States.

Europe needs to strengthen the dialogue with the United States on the future of Iraq, according to German President Horst Köhler.

"The war has led to a disaster, but we can't sit back and say it's a problem for the Americans," Köhler said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau. "That would be dumb, short-sighted and arrogant."

Experts said sending more troops wouldn't help the Iraqi security situation
The failure of US troops in Iraq has proven that Europe can rule out helping with military manpower.

"That is absolutely impossible," said Markus Kaim, European and Atlantic security expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. "The key issue is reinstalling Iraq's statehood, as government authority has no meaning in wide parts of the country."
The entire article here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Different Soldiers for a Different War

Perhaps it is time to form an American fighting force that is decidedly foreign in appearance, culture, and language. Maybe the United States should raise several of them, and soon.

Many people have written about the United Statesreliance on contractors, and have suggested the use of foreign nationals to bolster the military’s ranks due to trouble at the recruiting stations. Normally, the prospect of armed foreigners or mercenaries executing foreign policy draws the ire of pundits, in and out of uniform. The normal counter-argument to any such suggestion is that “a military operation not worth employing American soldiers for are simply not worth doing”.

But what if there are military formations that could be more effective than those organized and employed in the orthodox manners of today? Would a new type of unit be worth creating, training, equipping, and deploying abroad then?

Many of the so-called flashpoints around the globe are in areas where languages and cultures are vastly different than our own. Take the subtleties of the different tribal, ethnic, and religious groups in many Middle Eastern countries, for instance. United States forces often have difficulty developing intelligence in such areas. Also, the heightened differences between the indigenous people and the American Soldiers’ cultures contribute to the force protection/enclave mentality that has arguably impeded the U.S.’s effectiveness; huge bases lead to massive manpower and logistics requirements, which increase the signature of American forces, which lead to more and more barriers between the population and the U.S. forces. Base operations in these cases often become ends in themselves.

But what if, instead of erecting ring after ring of Hesco barriers, the United States employed small units of soldiers who looked like the indigenous people, spoke their language, and shared their culture? Perhaps some of the enormous bases could downsize a bit, and the American presence would not seem so looming. More importantly, an ethnically aligned force such as this could likely swim through the proverbial sea of people there, gather intelligence more effectively, create a smaller footprint, and potentially achieve dramatic effects in the operational environment.

Small units of battalion size (400 Soldiers or less), comprised entirely of personnel of a similar ethnic background (for instance, an ethnic Pashtu Afghani battalion, or an Iraqi battalion), could be established and employed in areas where the United States has long term security commitments; if new, potentially enduring commitments arise in different regions, then additional units could be raised, trained, and employed.

An irregular force such as this could be highly effective at interfacing with the population in a counterinsurgency, gaining trust, and gathering intelligence to identify an insurgent network or cells; such a force would likely be effective working “by, with, and through” the indigenous force security elements to target and destroy the insurgent organization as well.

So you are saying the United States should establish a Foreign Legion, or hire foreign mercenaries then, correct? Well, no, not really. Before anyone considered recruiting foreigners to raise an ethnically homogeneous force or hiring guns (and opening up a massive political argument), the military could look at establishing such units comprised of people from various immigrant communities located right here in America. There are hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners residing in and around Dearborn Michigan, for instance, many of them from places like Iraq; similarly, there are significant populations of Afghanis living in California, and communities from various Latin American countries living in Miami and New York.

The Department of Defense could very well establish targeted recruiting to raise an “Army of Foreigners” within its own borders. The aforementioned examples of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the United States has dedicated, long term security commitments, would be ideal starting points for such a force.

There are many practical issues to be resolved before any such force could be recruited equipped, trained, and fielded. Issues such as doctrine, organization, incentives, funding, among other things, would have to be resolved. However, this is the optimal time to develop innovative solutions for problems the United States is likely to face in the coming years.

Many diverse immigrant communities exist across America and they are often intensely proud of their cultures, languages, and traditions; if the Department of Defense learns how to harness them, it could potentially develop new tools for the many foreign policy challenges this country will face in the 21st century.

Post Script: Google the Lodge Act to see a Cold War attempt to do something of the nature described above (although considerably more ambitious than what this author is proposing).

Iraqi PM advices Mahdi Army leaders to hide in Iran.

This is reported by You have to scratch your head and ask yourself if there is anything that can make this a bigger mess and an exercise in futility?

Iraqi PM advices Mahdi Army leaders to hide in Iran, leaked letter

Muqtada al-Sadir
London ( 20 February 2007: The Iraqi Prime Minister advised the Mahdi Army leaders to hide in Iran, revealed a leaked letter from the office of the prime minister and posted online by the Kurdish website peyamner on Tuesday.

A letter issued by the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, with the coordination of the Iraqi National Security Advisor, Muwaffaq al-Rabii, advices Muqtada al-Sadir to hide the leaders of his militants, the Mahdi Army, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in case they are “arrested or killed by the American forces”. Al-Maliki, in his letter states, “The current situation requires to keep the leaders of the Mahdi Army, who are affiliated to the organisation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, away from the front line.”

The letter, dated 14 January 2007 and signed by Iraqi Prime Minister, is written after a telephone conversation between Muqtada al-Sadir and the Iraqi Prime Minister. The Iraqi National Security Advisor, Muwaffaq al-Rabii appears to be part of the operation. The letter is classified as confidential, private and immediate.

The letter states the name of 11 leaders of the Mahdi Army who have links with the Islamic Guards and who are advised by the office of the Prime Minister to leave to Iran. They are: Abas al-Kufi, Amir Muhsin Khwja, salim Hussein, Azhar al-Maliki, al-Shiekh Farhan al-Sayidi (Najaf), Fadhil al-Sarii (the adviser of the Prime Minister), Riyadh al-Nuri (Najaf), Ali al-Firtusi, Hayidar al-Araji, Ahmad al-Darraji and Amir al-Sayidi.

The letter is copied to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, the leadership of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the office of al-Sadir.

Eventually The Word "Marriage" Will Mean Nothing

Many argued that when Texas' anti-sodomy laws were overturned, there was no need to worry about the proverbial "slippery slope." Depending on the outcome, here's a case in a foreign court which the Supreme Court could consider and cite sometime in the not too distant future:
From Duetsche Welle:

German Incest Convict to Take Case to Highest Court

The lawyer representing a Saxon couple found guilty of incest said the siblings will take their case to Germany's Constitutional Court. It's the final step in a long and contentious legal battle.

Attorney Endrik Wilhelm said the siblings, Patrick S. and Susan K., would be filing their historic appeal after a district court in Dresden refused to override a jail sentence Patrick faces. The case, Wilhelm told the daily Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten newspaper, would be to challenge the constitutionality of paragraph 173 of the German Criminal Code, which outlaws sexual relations between close relatives.

The siblings have been in and out of the courts for the past five years. In 2002 Patrick S. was given a suspended sentence of one year in prison for sleeping with his sister. In 2004 he served 10 months in jail for violating the terms of the original conviction, and in 2005 he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years incarceration for incest.

Susan K. never received any jail time since she was always tried as an adolescent. The siblings have four children -- Susan K. has a fifth child from a different father.

The sentence Patrick S. currently faces contains no possibility of parole.

Unusual Family History

Patrick S. and Susan K. are immediate relatives, but they did not grow up as brother and sister. Patrick was adopted and raised by a family in Potsdam, while Susan spent her childhood with their mutual mother in Leipzig.

The two met in May 2000, after Patrick decided to contact his biological family. Their first child was born a year later.

Anti-incest laws have been taken off the books in a number of countries including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Turkey, Japan, Argentina and Brazil.

Now the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe will be asked to decide if Germany should follow those nations' lead or if it can retain its current legislation.

Today, the issue is whether Germany can say that incest is illegal. Soon, the arguments will be made that if incest is no longer illegal, how can society say that a brother and sister (or any combination of individuals) cannot be married.

The traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman is being rewritten with New Jersey being the latest state to implement "Civil Unions". But, how can marriage or civil unions be limited to two "individuals"? Who can tell Patrick S. and Susan K. that their love is not as real or as valid as anyone else's? Who will be so bigoted and heartless?

The die is cast and it's only a matter of time before the word marriage will be made archaic in the West. It will be redefined until it no longer has meaning and eventually governments will no longer recognize "marriage" at all.

Is this political cartoon racist?

This cartoon caught my attention. It was posted in The Guardian. Is this racist?

Poland knows it is time to choose a side. Russia notices.

Poland is moving forward to support the US shield against Russia. Politics does not work in a vacuum. Russia has seen how ex-client states have been permanently turned against them. If Russia looks at the rest of her borders, she notices a great piece of real estate at her belly, Iran. You have to ask yourself, "why would Russia ever want Iran and the US to settle their differences?"

Poland needs U.S. base to cede from Russian influence - PM
16:03 | 20/ 02/ 2007

WARSAW, February 20 (RIA Novosti) -
The deployment of a U.S. anti-missile base in Poland will guarantee that Warsaw will no longer be under Russia's sphere of influence, the Polish prime minister said Tuesday.

The governments of Poland and the Czech Republic reaffirmed Monday their readiness to allow the United States to base elements of its missile shield on their territories.

"We are talking about the status of Poland and about Russia's hopes that Poland will once again come under its [Moscow's] sphere of influence," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said.

The premier said such a situation could involve exercising influence on Poland, exerting direct pressure on it, or creating a situation in which dealing with Moscow becomes Poland's only recourse.

"But following the deployment of a missile defense base here, the chances of such undue influence arising will be greatly reduced for at least several decades," Kaczynsky said.

Washington plans to install a radar system in the Czech Republic and to deploy anti-ballistic missiles in Poland to counter an alleged threat from Iran and North Korea.
entire article here

Dialogue with Iran.

There is ample precedent for American presidents being outlasted by their arch nemeses. Castro wins the prize for outlasting Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and another Bush. That is a record that may stand for all time. Like a vintage Timex, Castro is still ticking. Saddam did not make the cut, but North Korea seems to have dodged the bullet. What of Iran?

Will the second leg of the triangular axis of evil be broken or will GWB go off to the ranch?

Will the Iranians get talkative and engage in meaningful negotiations?

This Kurdish professor speculates:

Who will go first: George Bush or the Islamic Regime of Iran?

2/17/2007 - By Dr Hussein Tahiri

Since George W. Bush branded the Islamic Regime of Iran as part of the “axis of evil” there have been growing speculations that the US administration would attempt to change the Iranian regime, even if by force.

When Saddam Hussein was overthrown it was expected that Iran would be the next in line. However, events in Iraq have not turned out how the US has hoped. Chaos and terrorism that have dominated Iraq handicapped the US efforts to establish a democratic and pluralistic Iraq that would be a role model for the rest of the Middle East.

Iran and Syria who saw success in Iraq as their demise have tried their best to make sure the US is not going to succeed and Iraq would not stabilise. Turkey fearing a legal Kurdish federal state developing and Kirkuk might join Kurdistan, added to the crises by intervening in Kirkuk and inciting the Turkmens. Other regional Arab states, while not wanting the disintegration of Iraq, have been quietly happy about the crises. A democratic and prosperous Iraq would mean their eventual demise. In fact, no regional power or country has an interest in having a stable and democratic Iraq. What the US is facing is not just terrorism but resistance to the US plans in the region.

In this regional power struggle the Islamic Republic of Iran has so far come out victorious. It has prevented the stabilisation of Iraq, putting the US in a very difficult position. It has had a great influence in Lebanon through Hizbullah. It has been able to appease the Arab population by championing the Palestinian cause and threatening to destroy Israel. It has created division between the US and its European allies and resistance to the US’s harsh measures against Iran in the UN Security Council over Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, the Islamic Republic of Iran has successfully challenged the US at every front. In the face of the US, Iran is becoming a regional superpower. Yet, the US is unable to counter Iranian influence.

The US administration has tried to create a regional alliance of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab states to counter Iranian domination. However, these countries are extremely careful to make a fine balance between maintaining US support and appeasing their own populations. They are very concerned about Iran’s influence in the region and its nuclear program but, at the same time, they are acutely aware of ani-American sentiments within Arabic and Islamic world and do not want to be seen to be supporting the US against Islamic Iran. Also, as previously mentioned, they are worried that a democratic and stable Iraq would threaten their regimes in future. Thus, while trying to show sympathy with the US concerns they have been engaging with Iran. Just recently Saudi Arabia and Iran held a discussion to find a solution to the Lebanon crisis.

It does not seem that the US has many options in dealing with Iran. The UN Security Council, particularly China and Russia, have been opposing economic sanctions against Iran. Given the current involvement of US military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the vast territory that Iran covers, the US is not in a position to launch a ground attack against Iran to change the regime. Military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and other strategic military cites could inflict some damage but it could give Iran the ammunition and justification to attack US interests in the region and worldwide (including targeting the US military in Iraq and the Gulf) using its military forces and its large network of terrorist groups.

Dialogue with Iran does not seem to work either. The western European countries have been engaging in “critical dialogue” with Iran for over 27 years. In the past few years they have been in intense negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program. However, this has not come to any fruition as the Islamic regime has continued to follow its own agenda with no regard for international laws and conventions. A dialogue would only work when Iran is allowed to have its own way and this would not be acceptable to the US.

George W. Bush is in a very difficult position. Would he drag out the crisis until handing it over to the next US president, or will he attack Iran before his presidency comes to an end? Damned if he does; damned if he does not. With the current developments, it seems that George Bush will go before the Islamic regime in Iran does.

Dr. Hussein Tahiri
, a regular contributor, is a Middle East commentator and an Honorary Research Associate with the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Slavery persists in Saudi Arabia. Slaves from Sudan are ending up in Saudi Arabia.

This is a picture of a freed Sudanese slave. It is one of the many outrages tolerated by Sharia law, the same laws that are beginning to be tolerated in some parts of some western nations. This academic argues that if Sharia is codified into the constitution of Islamic states, a nightmare awaits the unfortunate citizens of that state. Guess what Iraqi law is being based on?

The Future of Shari'a
An interview with Muslim reformer Abdullahi an-Na'im

by Michel Hoebink Radio Netherlands

Islamic shari'a is best off in a secular state. That is what Sudanese Muslim reformer Abdullahi an-Na'im argues in lectures and seminars all over the Muslim world. And the response he gets is surprisingly positive.

Originally a law professor at Khartoum University, he fled his home country Sudan after his mentor, the Sudanese mystic and reformer Mahmoud Taha, was hanged as an apostate in 1985. Today, Professor an-Na'im teaches at Emory University in the USA and is an internationally recognized expert on human rights in cross-cultural perspectives.

His latest project brings him back to the Muslim world: he travels Muslim countries arguing that the future of shari'a is most secure in the framework of a secular state. That begs for an explanation.

RN: What is your project 'The Future of Shari'a' about?

Since the 1950s, the Islamists have hijacked the debate about shari'a in the Muslim world and defined it in their own terms. They made Muslims believe that they have to chose between a secular state and an Islamic state in which shari'a is applied. I dispute this: in my view, shari'a is best off in a secular state.

In the past two years I have toured Muslim countries advocating this view. I travelled to Indonesia, Central Asia, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria. Everywhere I gave lectures and seminars. The reactions of people are surprising. You would perhaps expect them to be angry and even violent, but no: Most people find what I say new and strange, but not objectionable. I believe that most Muslims in fact agree with what I'm saying. The issues of shari'a and an Islamic state, however, are so emotional and intimidating that people are unable to speak out or even to develop their thoughts. My hope is that this project will give Muslims confidence and provide them with the intellectual tools to articulate their objections.

RN: So what exactly do you tell them?

I challenge the way the Islamists define shari'a and secularism. Shari'a, for a start, can never be enacted by the state. Shari'a is a moral code rather than a fixed set of legal rules. It has to be interpreted in order to be applied. When it is enacted by the state, it simply ceases to be shari'a. It becomes the political will of the ruling elite imposing its own religious interpretation on society. An Islamic state is always a state in which one group imposes its interpretation of Islam on others. Take for instance Sunni Muslims in Iran or non-Wahhabi Muslims in Saudi Arabia: They cannot live according to their beliefs because the state holds a different view.

RN: And therefore Shari'a is best off in a secular state...?

Yes. But also here I challenge the Islamist view. Because a secular state is not an anti-religious state, as the Islamists want us to believe. It is not a state that suppresses religion. On the contrary, a secular state is a state that is neutral towards religion. It protects the right of all religious and non-religious groups to manifest themselves in public life and politics, but without one group imposing its views on the others.

RN: Countries like Turkey and Tunisia are considered the champions of secularism in the Muslim world. But it seems they do not fit in with your definition of a secular state...

Abdullahi an-Na'im encourages Muslims to react to his views on the project's website.
He explains his views on the Future of Shari'a in a book that is available on his website in no less than nine languages: Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Bengali, Bahasa, Russian, French and English.
Turkey and Tunisia hold a view of secularism that strives to remove all traces of religion from public life. They are not neutral towards religion but rather seek to control it. That makes them a mirror image of the Islamic state: This time a secular elite is imposing its anti-religious views on the religious majority. In my view, the state should be secular and separate from religion, but not society. It is an illusion to think that society can be secular. Religion and politics can never be separated anywhere, not in Egypt or Turkey, nor in France or the Netherlands. Because believers, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews or Hindus, will always seek to manifest themselves in politics as believers.

RN: In many Muslim countries with democratic structures there are fears that a religious group, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, will first use the democratic system to gain power and then abolish democracy…

That problem is not solved by suppressing religious political parties. If you look at Tunisia, Egypt or Turkey you see that the effort to suppress Islamist parties in fact increases their popularity and makes them more radical and dangerous for the democratic process. It is better to make them part of the official political process. That will domesticate them and turn them more moderate. Their participation in the political process also makes it more likely that their dreams of an Islamic state and the application of shari'a are exposed as false and unrealistic.

RN: In your country, Sudan, Islamists have been in power since 1989. What can we learn from the Sudanese experience with an Islamic state?

The Sudanese experience clearly demonstrates that an Islamic state can never work. To the Sudanese themselves it is now perfectly clear that the Islamic project has utterly failed. Everybody understands that, after all, there was nothing religious about it; it was just a group of people trying to gain power in the name of religion. But the price has been high, in terms of suffering for the Sudanese people. All the instability and violence you see today in Darfur and the South is the result of it. When I was in Nigeria, I told my audience: the situation in your country is very similar to that in Sudan two decades ago. Please learn from our mistake. An Islamic state is a dangerous illusion and Sudan paid the price for it. You do not have to pay this same price! I hope that the rest of the Muslim World can benefit from the lesson of Sudan instead of having to go through the same hell.