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MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, August 29 through 31, 2005
Katrina. What can one say at this juncture? A fair amount, if you think about it. Because, beginning with the Great Flood, life was restored starting with a rainbow. Looking for that rainbow, we can build a better future only by analyzing the past.
George A. Sprecace, M.D., J.D.
SATURDAY and SUNDAY, August 27 and 28, 2005
With one prominent exception, the offering on Iraq, all of today's rapid responses will be in staccato fashion, with all sources to be found in today's NYTimes and / or The Day. Work with me now....
America is finally having its great debate over the Iraq war. In that
debate, it's worth listening to a young Iraqi Shiite cleric named Ammar
Hakim. He speaks for the people who arguably have gained the most from
America's troubled mission in Iraq and, to a surprising extent, still believe
Hakim, 34, is the oldest son of Abdul Aziz Hakim, the leader of the Iranian-backed Shiite party known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is probably the most potent political force in the country today. He now lives in Najaf, the Shiite equivalent of the Vatican, where he helps direct the party's social and charitable network. But he and his family lived 23 years in exile in Iran. To put it bluntly, Hakim represents what might be called the "Shiite card" in the Iraqi poker game.
I met Hakim a week ago during his first visit to the United States. He made quite a sight when he arrived for breakfast, dressed in his black turban and flowing clerical robes. Some of the other guests in the dining room of the Watergate Hotel seemed to back away a bit, as if they feared the visiting mullah might explode. I'm told he drew some stares when he toured the Pentagon dressed in the same garb.
Hakim is a remarkably articulate man, with the spark of curiosity in his eyes and a presence that we in the United States would call "star quality." Whoever had the good sense to invite him here -- where he met with officials at the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council -- should get a pay raise.
Hakim had a clear message during his visit, and it's one worth mulling carefully as Americans ponder the new Iraqi constitution and the bitter Shiite-Sunni tensions that have surrounded its drafting. If I could sum up his theme in one sentence, it is that the United States should continue to bet on democracy in Iraq -- which of necessity means relying on Iraq's Shiite majority and the mullahs who speak for it. In essence, he was calling for a strategic alliance between Najaf and Washington.
I told Hakim through an interpreter that many Americans were close to despair about Iraq. We see continuing violence and few signs that Iraq's security forces will be strong enough to maintain order once American troops leave. Here's how Hakim responded: "The truth is, this is a grand plan, and any time you are engaged in a grand plan, you will face difficulties. But we will overcome them. We are now in the final quarter of these difficulties." I'm not sure I agree with him that the troubles are nearly over, but I must say that I was moved by his answer.
Hakim told me he had visited the Lincoln Memorial, and I asked what he had thought as he looked up at the face of the man who kept America together during its own brutally violent civil war. He said the American experience was a lesson for Iraqis "in pooling people of various ethnic backgrounds into one law and order." He added that he hoped future generations of Iraqis would look at their current leaders with the same gratitude that Americans feel when they regard Lincoln.
The young cleric says all the things this administration could want to hear. "President Bush is playing a great role in giving Iraqis a chance to build a democratic process," he insists. The new constitution will create "a stable and balanced Iraq where all sects will be treated justly and equally." Iraqi federalism will allow regional self-government, as in the United States, but "the Shiites are a majority; they have no interest in disintegration."
Well, of course a leading Shiite cleric would say those things, a skeptic might respond. The Shiites have an interest in keeping American troops around as long as possible to fight their battles against the Sunni insurgency. And the fact that the new Iraqi constitution suits the interests of the Shiite mullahs in Najaf doesn't necessarily mean it serves American interests -- or even those of ordinary Iraqis.
But Americans should ponder the argument that Hakim made to U.S. officials. The way to contain Sunni terrorism and stabilize the Arab world is to develop a strategic relationship with Najaf. Powerful Shiite communities exist in all the region's hot spots: Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and above all Iran. An American rapprochement with Iran is essential, he would argue, but the real fulcrum should be Najaf.
Without a measure of Sunni support for this strategy, it's a recipe
for permanent religious warfare in the Middle East. But I suspect that
even Sunni stalwarts in Saudi Arabia and Jordan might find Hakim's argument
for a Shiite-led restabilization intriguing. In a world of bad choices,
this one may be the least bad.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
CRITICS BEGAN USING the "Q" word to describe the war in Iraq two years ago, well before the Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda franchise-leader Abu Mussab al Zarqawi began inflicting serious casualties on U.S. and coalition forces.
Today President George W. Bush's approval ratings are in the tank and calls for an unequivocal pull-out from the Iraqi "quagmire" are starting to be heard on Capitol Hill. But does this mean that the coalition is actually failing?
The question is not a new one. More than a year ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld revealed that he did not know whether the billions of dollars and hundreds of U.S. lives were being spent well in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," Rumsfeld wrote to top DoD officials in October 2003. "Is our current situation such that the harder we work, the behinder we get?" Nearly two years later, Pentagon officials are still largely in the dark.
Nevertheless, the search is on for a barometer that can determine the day-to-day success or failure in combating extremist movements and eroding the influence of terror.
SPEARHEADED BY THE PENTAGON'S office of Advanced Systems and Concepts, a group of DoD and civilian officials has been struggling to forge a consensus on so-called "measures of effectiveness" in the global war on terrorism. Their work on developing these benchmarks is an offshoot of a larger project sponsored by the Pentagon to explore new tactics for fighting the global war on terrorism.
The "measures of effectiveness" have helped form a framework for evaluating how well alternative tactics to the war on terrorism would work.
"Our tasking was to come up with some good alternative ideas, and the fact that the ability to measure how you were doing was a good idea was one of the initial things that came out of the game," said Gary Anderson, a former Marine colonel and frequent DoD consultant who ran a series of Pentagon-sponsored war games which examined alternative strategies to waging America's war on terrorism. "We decided to see what would be the long-term indications that you were succeeding," he said.
Starting in September 2004, his group, dubbed the Defense Adaptive Red Team, developed a series of alternative strategies for fighting terrorism. The Pentagon-sponsored team concluded that the war on terrorism is essentially a global insurgency, where discontiguous groups that share a radical Islamic ideology are waging a campaign against the ideologies of the United States and its allies. Therefore, Anderson's team argued, U.S. strategy should incorporate many of the same methods used to counter classic insurgencies, including covert military and police actions; political and economic reform; and the winning hearts and minds.
"Kinetic measures of casualties and body counts never has worked and probably never will work because if you don't know how big the terrorist organization was to begin with, you really don't know how much progress you've made," Anderson says.
Anderson's team came up with a series of broader trends that would allow U.S. policy-makers to see how well their strategies are working to defeat terrorism:
* Terrorist attacks that take place on U.S. territory show a continuous decline.
* The number of states in the Arab and Islamic worlds with representative or inclusive governments that oppose terrorism is increasing.
* Roughly 90 percent of Islamic clergy are preaching against terrorism.
* The majority of Arab language media are editorializing against the use of terrorism and giving negative reportage to acts of terrorism.
* Polling index of Arab/Muslim opinion polls are increasingly favorable.
* Groups previously identified as terrorists but have chosen to adopt non-violent means are increasing.
"We wanted something that if the president got up in front of the American people and said . . . here's what we're shooting for--if we can do these things in the next, 5 or 10 years, we think we're doing pretty good," Anderson said.
With the elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iraq; municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, parliamentary elections in Lebanon, and upcoming presidential elections in Egypt a trend toward "representative" governments in a region associated with terrorist movements--a key measurement of success--could be taking hold.
The nonpartisan Freedom House, a Washington-based democratic advocacy and research group, wrote in its latest "Freedom in the World" survey that there has been an overall gain in freedom around the globe since the attacks of September 11, 2001. East-Central Europe, East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have posted the most gains, while key countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates, have had overall setbacks.
The number and effectiveness of terrorist strikes worldwide as a measure
of success is equally mixed. Though there have been no attacks in the United States since 9/11, the U.S. State Department's latest statistics show worldwide terrorist incidents rose from 198 in 2002 to 208 in 2003.
Terrorism caused 725 deaths in 2003, 100 fewer than in the previous year--but wounded 3,546, up nearly 45 percent.
And, as Michael Barone recently noted, surveys in the Muslim world now indicate that America's war on terror is far more effective than the body counts and bomb blasts in Iraq would suggest. The message conveyed by these attacks on U.S. forces and the steady progress toward democracy there could be indicative of what Anderson's group is getting at: Success in the war on terror is as much about killing the bad guys is as it is about coaxing others away from an Islamist path.
Christian Lowe is a staff writer for Army Times Publishing Company and a contributing writer to The Daily
THURSDAY and FRIDAY, August 25 and 26, 2005
Now, prompted by some very good reports in the press, some BIG IDEAS.
MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, August 22 through 24, 2005
Lots of interesting issues this week. Here are some quick comments:
SUNDAY, August 21, 2005
SATURDAY, August 20, 2005
FRIDAY, August 19, 2005
"Say it isn't so". Are we entering a 15 month period of lame-duck government while our fearless leaders posture for the Congressional elections of 2006? There's too much to do for that kind of business-as-usual cop-out.
MONDAY through THURSDAY, August 15 through 18, 2005
SUNDAY, August 14, 2005
MONDAY through SATURDAY, August 8 through 13, 2005
Sorry about the interruption; family time. But not too much has gotten by me.
SUNDAY, August 7, 2005
SATURDAY, August 6, 2005
FRIDAY, August 5, 2005
Today, we'll stay local...Connecticut and particularly New London.
New London is one of the true garden spots of the world, this from a couple who have seen a good bit of the world and who have lived here, by choice, for over 42 years. Also, given its wealth of natural resources, you can't kill it with a stick...notwithstanding all the efforts - mainly made by locals - to do so year after year. Another analogy: New London has all the problems of New York City, but in soluble form. But what are we to make of the current infestation of problems over and above the usual ones: half of our land mass tax exempt; the social service capital of Eastern Connecticut, thanks to the dumping syndrome practised for decades by our neighboring communities; a political structure born and bred of Democratic incest, with the predictable decline in political IQ. Now the new problems: we can't make a local decision about "education funds"; we can't divide our tax structure between private and commercial; we are becoming overwhelmed with new school construction in a system that has a constantly declining student base and that has not been a good steward of the substantial monies it has received to date, thanks to the local and national teachers' unions and to "education policies" that often don't pass the laugh test; and most recently, the four year fight over an entirely legal application of a Constitutional right...with an ultimate win being consumed by ignorant hysteria: right cause...wrong case. And we can't even get a break from the local newspaper, which should be an educator and a leader - but which continues to pander to the hysteria. See an otherwise fairly good article by Kate Moran which begins with "NLDC Acts To Correct 'Disservice'", where the quoted "disservice" comes from the statement by NLDC CEO David Goebel: "We feel there's been a tremendous disservice done in the way the publicity has been handled." And then the piece ends with a gratuitous, incomplete and misleading statement about "problems that have plagued the redevelopment effort and prevented the promised benefits from materializing...." (The Day Thursday, August 4, 2005, pA1). When will New London get a break? When a large suffering but silent majority starts speaking up...and starts running for office. Not until then.GS
THURSDAY, August 4, 2005
Perhaps, following the lead of President Kennedy, I should have
declared the following motto long ago...but it is still apt:
"ASK NOT WHY I HAVE ALL THESE OPINIONS. RATHER ASK WHY YOU DO NOT."
And now, the news...
Iraq. Things are going from bad to worse on the military - security front, regardless of what progress may be being made on the political front. 7 - 14 - 4. These are the number of American soldiers who have been killed in recent days. As noted many times in this section during the last two years, the Rumsfeld doctrine of "Less is More" has been shown to be an abject failure, with no other proper response than to have his resignation and to reverse course. The stakes are extremely high for possible peace in that region and in the world over the next half-century. As quoted by Thomas Friedman in his most recent article, Jordan's deputy prime minister has said: "But now all the existential threats to the different states are gone. Now the focus has shifted from national liberation to personal liberation, but in all spheres:more equality, less corruption, better incomes, better schools. Governments are talking differently, but up to now people are still skeptical. They have heard so moch talk. The first country or party that really shows results will have a big effect on the whole region because everyone is looking for a new vision." We in America also need new vision. In today's The Day (theday.com), Professor Uwe E. Reinholdt of Princeton University, who has had a Marine - son in the Middle East since 2001, reports the obvious: "In U.S., Price Of Patriotism Is Burden Not Shared Equally" (Commentary A11). He illustrates that it is not shared at all. I have some ideas about that: 1) Reduce American oil importation by 5%, to start, and impose a rational rationing system on our citizens...just to demonstrate - to ourselves and to the world - that we can do it; 2) follow the suggestions offered by Peter Schweizer of The Hoover Institution and reported in USA Today, Monday, Aubust 1, 2005, The Forum, p11A: "Time To Tighten The Noose On Syria"; 3) institute a fair draft to replenish an anemic U.S. military, and fast - not through cynical traps being used by Democrats to undercut the President, but in a bi-partisan effort at true patriotism; 4) Immediately transfer at least 50, 000 American troops from their current stations in Europe to Iraq (and some to Afganistan), to seal the Iraq borders with Iran and with Syria, and to wreak holy hell on all "insurgents" and on their supporters with bullets and under military and not civil or criminal law. The second-in-command of al Qaida today "promises" tens of thousands of more casualties in England (and if possible in America) if we do not immediately remove all our forces from Iraq. The above would be an adequate response, for starters. President Bush, continue to do the right thing...simply because it is the right thing to do.GS
MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, August 1 through 3, 2005