George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section. It will
quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in
this rapid-fire world of ours. Of course, as in military
a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed
by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction. Charge that to
"the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or
campaign must maintain to be effective. But the mission will
be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick",
by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.
That's all I promise.
to return to the current Rapid Response list
SUNDAY through WEDNESDAY,
25 through 28, 2007
ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
Bishops Wary of Vaccine Mandate for Preteens
Urge Governor to Leave Decision in Parents' Hands
AUSTIN, Texas, FEB. 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Bishops are asking Governor
Rick Perry to
reconsider an executive order mandating a vaccine against sexually
infections for girls as young as 11.
On Feb. 5, the governor signed an order making it mandatory for all
sixth grade to receive the HPV vaccination statewide by 2008.
The Texas Catholic bishops' conference issued a statement Wednesday,
governor "to rescind his executive order and allow the public debate to
on this important healthcare issue."
The vaccine, Gardasil, protects against several strains of the human
virus. There are numerous strains of HPV, the most common sexually
infection in the world, resulting in genital warts in some cases
HPV can also lead to cervical cancer, which strikes about 10,000 women
the United States, and kills 3,700, according to the American Cancer
The statement made by the Texas bishops discussed parental concerns
daughters' innocence, the possibility of encouraging promiscuity, and
girls a false sense of security regarding sexually transmitted disease.
[I]t is not a magic bullet and is only one avenue for disease
The prelates stress that "the Church recognizes that the most effective
way to avoid
contracting the virus is for men and women to abstain from sexual
marriage and to remain faithful within marriage."
The bishops also mention the unknown physical effects this vaccine may
The studies have only followed vaccinated women for five years, all on
girls 16 and
older, they explain. Little testing has been done on the vaccine's
The bishops urged caution until more studies have been done.
Additionally, the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) has issued
about exemption from general vaccination but included specific
information about the
The NCBC statement said "that while there is no moral objection to
against HPV in and of itself, the choice to have a child immunized
against HPV must
ultimately rest with the parents."
"The NCBC strongly opposes the mandating of vaccinations for non-highly
but communicable diseases because they do not pose the same public
health threat as
do the highly contagious diseases," the statement says.
The bioethics center is particularly opposed when the mandate is "a
admission to public or private schools since the diseases transmitted
by behavior do
not pose the same public health risks as contagious diseases as defined
As a former ROTC member and a veteran of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, I
must ask WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE ARMY? It
abuses and debilitates the National Guard and the Army Reserves in the
last several years in Iraq. Its leaders are evidently opposed to
a fair Draft, a life experience that served our youth very well for
decades at a critical time in their lives. It addresses its
increasing difficulty in meeting enlistment and re-enlistment quotas by
watering down qualifications for membership. We read recently
that it avoids developing and maintaining ROTC programs
in large Eastern cities, some of the most promising locations, despite
the fact that most of its officer corps comes from the ROTC. We
also learn that the Army has not been adequately prepared to
deal properly with our wounded from Iraq and has been late and/or
recalcitrant with their disability rights. And some of its most
senior generals acted in the last few years like Charlie McCarthys to
then-Secretary Rumsfeld's Edgar Bergen, waiting until they retired to
speak out...with or without the benefit of book royalties. To
whom do our military owe their ultimate Duty and Honor...to a slavish
adherence to a chain of command - or to their fellow soldiers and to
the American people? Is this what we can expect from our
highly-vaunted "professional army"? Or, as we have seen with our
"professional" politicians, is this what happens when we lose the
services of citizen - soldiers and public servants? Once our
efforts in the Middle East and in Afghanistan have stabilized, our
leaders in Washington should implement a complete and independent
investigation into those and all related efforts and decisions.
This has been a new and severe kind of challenge. But the last
few years have not been our finest hour.
If we are to have any kind of "victory" in the Middle
East, we will have to know a
great deal more about that region, about its inhabitants and about
Islam than our
leaders appeared to know in the months and years leading up to the
invasion of Iraq. Notwithstanding America's right to pre-emptive
had to be their great failing. GS
The myth of Muslim support for terror
By Kenneth Ballen, Fri Feb 23, 3:00
WASHINGTON - Those who think that Muslim
countries and pro-terrorist attitudes go hand-in-hand might be shocked
by new polling research: Americans are more approving of terrorist
attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for
The survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland's
prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only
46 percent of Americans think that "bombing and other attacks
intentionally aimed at civilians" are "never justified," while 24
percent believe these attacks are "often or sometimes justified."
Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling
results from the world's most-populous Muslim countries - Indonesia,
Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the
organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia
agreed that terrorist attacks are "never justified"; in Pakistan, that
figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent.
Do these findings mean that Americans are
closet terrorist sympathizers?
Hardly. Yet, far too often, Americans and
other Westerners seem willing to draw that conclusion about Muslims.
Public opinion surveys in the United States and Europe show that nearly
half of Westerners associate Islam with violence and Muslims with
terrorists. Given the many radicals who commit violence in the name of
Islam around the world, that's an understandable polling result.
But these stereotypes, affirmed by
simplistic media coverage and many radicals themselves, are not
supported by the facts - and they are detrimental to the war on terror.
When the West wrongly attributes radical views to all of the world's
1.5 billion Muslims, it perpetuates a myth that has the very real
effect of marginalizing critical allies in the war on terror.
Indeed, the far-too-frequent stereotyping
of Muslims serves only to reinforce the radical appeal of the small
minority of Muslims who peddle hatred of the West and others as
authentic religious practice.
<>Terror Free Tomorrow's 20-plus
surveys of Muslim countries in the past two years reveal another
surprise: Even among the minority who indicated support for terrorist
attacks and Osama bin Laden, most overwhelmingly approved of specific
American actions in their own countries. For example, 71 percent of bin
Laden supporters in Indonesia and 79 percent in Pakistan said they
thought more favorably of the United States as a result of American
humanitarian assistance in their countries - not exactly the profile of
hard-core terrorist sympathizers. For most people, their professed
support of terrorism/bin Laden can be more accurately characterized as
a kind of "protest vote" against current US foreign policies, not as a
deeply held religious conviction or even an inherently anti- American
or anti-Western view.
<>In truth, the common enemy is violence and terrorism, not
more than Christians or Jews. Whether recruits to violent causes join
gangs in Los Angeles or terrorist cells in Lahore, the enemy is the
violence they exalt.
Our surveys show that not only do Muslims
reject terrorism as much if not more than Americans, but even those who
are sympathetic to radical ideology can be won over by positive
American actions that promote goodwill and offer real hope.
America's goal, in partnership with
Muslim public opinion, should be to defeat terrorists by isolating them
from their own societies. The most effective policies to achieve that
goal are the ones that build on our common humanity. And we can start
by recognizing that Muslims throughout the world want peace as much as
* Kenneth Ballen is founder and president
of Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization
dedicated to finding effective policies that win popular support away
from global terrorists.
- Iran and Iraq. Members of the liberal
press just can't help themselves. After Richard Engel of NBC, who
has been imbedded in Iraq for the last two years, reported this morning
on the Today Show of the clear evidence of Iranian involvment in the
war in Iraq, Meredeth Viera had to call the findings "murky".
Only to a murky mind.
- Several reports caught my eye this week in The Day. Our
"educators" in Connecticut are dissatisfied with Governor
Rell's having proposed busting the State budget and increasing
taxes on behalf of that poorly performing monopoly.
They want more. Have they no shame? Nope.
And for an editorial today entitled "Bush
Administration On Trial", the writer evidently did not
read a letter to the editor by Juan O'Callahan of Stonington, appearing
on the facing page, which spells out much of the then-known and
accepted facts underlying the decision to invade Iraq. There are
no new facts, except by virtue of hind-sight, to prove that there was
an intentional deception on the part of this administration. Any
such proof should immediately lead to impeachment of the
President. Barring such proof, the rest is pure politics.
WEDNESDAY, February 18 through 21, 2007
- The best news I've seen in a while. See the
well-documented article in the WSJ by Sharon Begley within the last few
days entitled "THE UP-SIDE OF AGING". I
read it twice; enjoyed it both times.
- On Sunday in The Day (www.theday.com),
retired General Odom authored a piece on Iraq entitled
"Victory Is Not An Option. Among other things, General
Odom states: "There never has been a right way to invade or to
transform Iraq". The article reflects a military mind, with
narrow definitions of victory and defeat and with little confidence in
the ability of people to change. He certainly short-changes the
demonstrated desires of the Iraqi people.
- Iran and Syria. Why not "speak softly"
with them while carrying "a big stick"? I also never subscribed
to our refusal for decades to talk with Fidel Castro.
What is the down-side?
- Public Education in this country continues to be
a black hole into which we throw our treasure...and especially our
kids. What a shame for organized teachers and their toadies in
the Democratic Party. Let me make it simple: CHOICE;
COMPETITION; VOUCHERS; PAY FOR PERFORMANCE.
- Despite the massive bungling in Iraq, thanks mainly to Donald
Rumsfeld and some sycophantic generals, President Bush could form a
lasting legacy for himself just with success in health care
reform and in immigration. He has proposed the right
plans, as distinguished from those of the idiots in
Congress. He should spend much political capital to get the job
done. The outcome in Iraq is not in our hands. The
solutions to these problems are within our grasp.
Here is another invaluable message from Professor
Bernard Lewis on Islam. To ignore
his views and advice will be a disaster for world peace. And yet,
that is exactly what the Western world and the liberals in this country
are doing. Shades of Neville Chamberlain in the late
Jonathan Rosenblum: Bernard Lewis on How the Islamist World Sees Its
Battle with the West
Bernard Lewis on How the Islamist World Sees It's Battle with the West
by Jonathan Rosenblum
February 8, 2007
Last week, I was privileged to attend a lecture by Bernard Lewis at
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The audience greeted the
nonagenarian scholar with a degree of reverence and adulation that
probably no other academic in the world commands. Many stood at the
end of his presentation, and I fully expected to hear cries of "Bravo!
Bravo!" Younger members of the audience will one day tell their
children how they heard Lewis, still in full command of his subject,
in much the way that aging baby-boomers regale their offspring with
memories of Grateful Dead concerts.
Lewis was part of a double feature that began with the screening of
Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, a powerful
documentary that has been widely shown on American TV, but for some
inexplicable reason has yet to appear on Israel TV. One of the film's
great merits is the prominence given to the testimony of Arabs and
Muslims. Nonie Darwish, daughter of the Egyptian military commander of
Gaza in the '50s, killed in battle with Israeli forces; Walid Shoehat
(an alias), a former PLO member and Israeli security prisoner,
Brigitte Gabriel, a black Lebanese Christian, raised to hate Jews, and
The Jerusalem Post's own Khaled Abu Toameh, whose courage and
reporting it would be impossible to praise too highly, all appear
Equally powerful is the late Alfons Heck, a commander in the Hitler
Youth, who compares the indoctrination of Muslim youth to that of Nazi
Germany, and wonders at the world's inability to see the parallel.
Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official biographer, recounts how
Churchill saw himself as a failure for his inability to make his
countrymen see the looming danger posed by Hitler.
Gilbert clearly feels the same sense of frustration today at the
Western world's refusal "to connect the dots" and see radical Islam as
a global problem. Recognizing radical Islam as a single problem,
Gilbert archly observed, would obligate the West to do something - and
that it has no more interest in doing than Chamberlain had in
confronting Hitler. (Incidentally, the film contains clips of the
smugly smiling Chamberlain on his return from Munich, as he proclaims
"peace in our time" to a roaring throng.)
The pairing of Obsession and Bernard Lewis proved a happy one. No one
is better positioned to comment on the deformations that have seized
the Muslim world than he. He has been studying the Muslim world for 70
years, and writes with great affection and respect for the historical
achievements of Muslim civilization and religion. At the same time, he
has become the leading student of what went wrong with the Muslim
world and led to the radical Islam, seeking world dominion, so
horrifyingly portrayed in Obsession.
Lewis noted, for instance, that classical anti-Semitism, in the sense
of attributing cosmic evil to Jews, has no historical antecedents in
the Muslim world. The Ottoman sultans were adamant in rejecting the
blood libel. European anti-Semitism is a late import into Islam,
fostered by the close association of the Nazis with the Mufti of
Jerusalem and Ba'athist groups in Iraq and Syria.
ONE OF the most important points made by Lewis concerned the
historiography of the Islamists. Most in the West view the fall of the
Soviet Union as a consequence of the Reagan administration's decision
to confront it and engage it in an arms race that proved ruinous to
the Soviet economy, but that is not how the Islamists see things. In
their view, the Soviet Union was destroyed by mujahideen in
Afghanistan, who drove the mighty Soviet army from the country. And
that view, says Lewis, is not entirely implausible.
Osama bin Laden wrote at the time that Muslims had defeated the more
dangerous of their two main enemies, and that defeating the effeminate
Americans would prove easier. The appetite of the Islamists in Teheran
to expand the area under their control has been similarly whetted by
ongoing Western fecklessness.
"Iran is a mortal threat," says Lewis. And he does not believe
Ahmadinejad will be deterred from using nuclear weapons by the fear of
retaliation. Mutual assured destruction does not work - indeed it may
even be an incentive - to those who view a nuclear conflagration as
hastening the advent of the hidden 12th imam. If they martyr their own
people in the process, Lewis commented, they have only done them a
favor by providing them a quick pass to the great brothel in the sky.
THE DAY after the Lewis lecture, I had lunch with a senior American
official in the country for the Herzliya Conference, and mentioned
Lewis's point about jihadist historiography. The need to avoid
providing further credence to that narrative, he replied, is precisely
why the United States cannot allow Iran to go nuclear or be perceived
as fleeing Iraq. Either event would only confirm the narrative of
Islam's advance and Western weakness. Iranian possession of the Bomb
would cause to skyrocket the status of a state with an explicitly
expansionist agenda under the banner of Islam. Every anti-Western
terror group in the world would seek protection under Iran's nuclear
To stress the point, the official emphasized one of Obsession's main
points - appeasement of expansionist powers only leads to a far more
destructive confrontation later on - and referred me to a nearly
20-year-old Commentary article on the Munich agreements. Had France
and England adopted a tough stance at Munich, Hitler's generals were
prepared to unseat him. Instead, Czechoslovakia was stripped of its
main defense line in the treacherous Sudeten mountains. It was, in
Hitler's words, "served up to me," and a clear path to Eastern Europe
provided for the Germans. Czechoslovakia's wealth and well-developed
military industries thereafter played a major role in powering the
Nazi war machine.
Unfortunately, the West still remains divided between America and a
Europe unwilling to acknowledge the threat at its doorsteps, and in
many cases within its gates. That same divide exists within America
itself. As Jeff Jacoby points out, every Republican presidential
hopeful lists the battle against the jihadists/global jihad/radical
Islam/totalitarian Islam at the top of their priorities for the years
to come. That battle barely rates a mention on the Web sites of any of
the eight declared Democratic candidates.
The future depends on who wins the debate in the West no less than it
did at Munich.
FRIDAY, February 16, 2007
- The Presidential
Campaign is out of hand. It starts too early. It
attracts persons who express interest in running only to get a by-line
for their scrapbook. And for those serious candidates, here are
the hurdles: an estimated $100,000,000. needed just to "explore"; the
hopefuls spend nearly 90% of their time, by their own estimation, on
fund-raising; and the Party nominations may be over after only 3 States
have had primaries, even as early as March, 2008. Is this the way
to select "the most powerful person in the world"?
- Iran, and what the President knows about its involvement
in Iraq. Having succeeded only in elevating
inuendo to the level of "fact" regarding the reasons given for invading
Iraq, liberal Democrats are now given to barely veiled accusations
that Mr. Bush must be lying about Iran "too". Definition of a "liberal:
the first one to leave the room when the fighting starts".
It has always been thus.
- Of course, President Bush is not the only one being
bashed. What about "Doctors Who Fail
Patients", a NYTimes editorial published on Tuesday, Feb. 13,
2007, regarding "whether health professionals may refuse to provide
treatments to which they object on moral grounds". Before you
read that hogwash, read the article on which it is allegedly based ("Religion,
Conscience, and Controversial Clinical Practices", by Farr A.
Curtin, M.D., et al, New England Journal of Medicine, Feb. 8, 2007,
p593). Factual, informative and thoughtful.
- And that is another reason why you must cross-read from
several sources if you want to be informed. The
following editorials and articles published in the N.Y.Post
within the last month were certainly not picked up by the liberal
press: 1) "Talk is Cheap - But Diplomacy Won't Fix Iraq",
and "How Our Soldiers See The War" (Jan. 25, 2007, p25).
2) "Destroyed - Not:Lurid AP Report On Iraq Outrage Doesn't Check
Out" (Jan. 21, 2007, p23); 3) "A Battle of Wills",
by Senator Joseph Lieberman (Feb 7, 2007).
THURSDAY, February 15, 2007
While Congress fiddles with its "non-binding" and totally political
resolution, Senator Lieberman burns with a defense of freedom -
including pre-emptive self-defense - which should warm us all. GS
ITEM 14: “The
Power of Freedom”: A Speech by Sen. Joe Lieberman to the Munich
Conference on Security Policy
“The Power of Freedom”
A Speech by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
To the Munich Conference on Security Policy
February 11, 2007
As the discussions at this important conference have made clear, we
gather at a time of grave and deepening dangers to our community of
nations. Since meeting here a year ago, there have been disappointing
developments in the war we are in with radical Islam. The insurgency in
Afghanistan has strengthened. The situation in Iraq has grown worse.
Iran continues to develop its nuclear program. Despite hopes of a thaw
in the political order across the greater Middle East, the forces of
extremism are surging in Lebanon and Palestine.
In the face of these setbacks, the clarion calls for the
democratization of the Middle East heard just a short while ago have
grown softer. Where once we spoke confidently about more political and
economic liberty as the best response to the violence of radical Islam,
now we hear far less of that.
Others go further still. They look at the violence in Iraq and say not
only has democracy failed to be the solution; it is a cause of the
They look at the election of Hamas in the Palestinian Territories and
conclude that the people of the Middle East are not ready for the
democracy so much of the world enjoys.
This morning I want to explain why I believe these arguments, and the
approach they counsel, are mistaken, why they misunderstand the nature
of the terrorist threat we face, and the larger war of ideas we must
fight and win.
Today, a vast number of nations in the world find themselves part of a
global struggle with Islamist extremism. It stretches from the
mountains of Afghanistan to the deserts of Iraq, from the cities of
Western Europe to the jungles of Southeast Asia. Although this enemy
has headquarters in Waziristan and Teheran, it is neither a monolithic
movement nor a single organization that can be isolated and destroyed
by military force alone. Terrorism is its chosen method, but not its
What we are fighting is an ideology-the totalitarian ideology of
radical Islam, as brutal and hostile to personal freedom as the fascism
and communism we fought and defeated in the last century.
To prevail against an ideology requires more than battlefield
victories; it demands we fight, and win, a larger, longer, harder war
of ideas and values, competing with Islamist extremism for the hearts
and minds of Muslim men and women across the greater Middle East and
throughout the world, including here in Europe.
Radical Islam has positioned itself carefully in this ideological
contest. It has effectively exploited a deep reserve of anger,
frustration, and disappointment about the status quo. It has tapped
into local grievances-about economic inequality and corruption, about
political oppression and disenfranchisement-and attempted to globalize
In this sense, the war of ideas is an asymmetric war. The movement of
ideas cannot be tracked like the march of armies, the shipment of
weapons, or the flow of money. They cannot be intercepted by force of
arms, in which we are so much stronger than our enemies. And when ideas
clash, the outcome is both unpredictable and opaque, unfolding on a
battlefield where culture, psychology, history, religion, and education
provide the most critical terrain.
To defeat the ideology of radical Islam demands not just that we fight
for our security, but that we argue for our ideas and values. To
discredit a totalitarian vision committed to the use of violence, we
must offer our own, more powerful vision of freedom, justice, and
These are not Western values. They are universal values. In fact, of
the three largest democratic states in the world today, two are not
Western-namely India and Indonesia.
No single culture or civilization has a monopoly on the principles of
liberal democracy, as their advance over so much of the globe,
including Europe, during the past half century has proven.
They are, however, the ideals that have guided much of American foreign
policy from the inception of our republic, and they are the ideals that
animate our most important and lasting relationships in the world
today. They are at the core of the transatlantic alliance, and they are
at the core of the new partnerships we are building in this new
century. And so, too, they belong at the center of the long, difficult
global struggle ahead against Islamic extremism.
We cannot win this larger war of ideas with totalitarianism, however,
if we lose confidence in our own democratic values.
That is why the backlash against democracy promotion we hear today is
so misguided and self-defeating.
After beginning to open the door to greater political freedoms and
economic opportunities in the Muslim world, the worst thing we could do
now is to slam it shut. Of course, democracy means more than elections.
But it also means, at times, that people we do not like-and who do not
like us-will win an election.
Every nation’s circumstances are different, and every nation’s path to
freedom is unique. But the presumption should always be against those
who argue in favor of the “stability” of dictators and against the
basic rights of mankind.
That was certainly the presumption that formed the foundation of NATO
at the dawn of the Cold War and that has sustained our alliance.
Nearly sixty years after its creation, it is easy to forget just how
audacious an idea the transatlantic alliance was at the time it was
The United States had a long tradition of avoiding entangling
alliances. The countries of Western Europe had a recurring history of
falling into war with one another.
And yet, the founders of our alliance believed they could transcend
these differences and divisions-with an architecture designed not
merely around our shared security interests, but also around our shared
values. Thus it presented something new: a promise not just of
security, but of a better, freer way of life.
Our present war of ideas demands boldness in equal measure. The fact
is, we lack the means to wage a long, ideological struggle in the
Muslim world. Our vulnerability in this regard lies not in the content
of our convictions, but in the constraints of our institutions.
We need new capabilities to win this war of ideas, and that means
Many of these reforms must involve innovative changes in the way our
governments are organized, improving our capacity to reach out and make
real the practical dividends of democracy to millions of Muslims
It also may require bold changes to our international institutions.
NATO itself is in the midst of a transformation, from a regional
defense pact to a global security organization, capable of operating
out of area. As we discussed yesterday, the alliance has assumed new
responsibilities over the past decade-first in Bosnia, then in Kosovo,
and now in Afghanistan. It is entering into new dialogues with nations
in the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific. And it has
welcomed numerous new members-with more soon to follow.
I believe, however, we must be prepared to go even farther.
I want to ask you to consider today if it is now time not just for a
transatlantic organization capable of acting globally, but a more
formal global alliance that binds together democratic
nations-irrespective of where they are located.
NATO is the gold standard for the security of free nations, but
freedom’s cause does not and cannot end at Europe’s or America’s
borders. On the contrary, as our current struggle against radical Islam
is global, our alliance must be global. In the Black Sea region, in the
Middle East, in Central Asia, and beyond, NATO must be prepared not
only to act. I ask that we also begin to consider welcoming new
members, beyond Europe, that are willing to meet the high political and
military standards of our alliance.
On the one hand, this means a willingness to incorporate strong
democratic states like Japan and Australia with which we are already
partnering and that can make major contributions to our capabilities as
But it also means opening the door to membership by fledging
democracies like Georgia and Afghanistan, bringing them under our
collective security umbrella.
By providing a formal guarantee that free nations will stand united, a
global NATO would profoundly reshape the ideological battlefield of the
Much as the founding of NATO in 1949 put to rest doubts about America’s
long-term commitment to the security of Europe, so too would a global
NATO end any uncertainty that exists today about the West’s long-term
commitment to democracy in nations around the world, including,
particularly, in the Muslim world. It would make clear that our
presence in places like Afghanistan is not just a temporary
arrangement, subject to the whims of public opinion and the leaders of
the moment, but part of a deeper, formal alliance bound by common
principles from which we cannot and will not withdraw.
These are the same principles enshrined in the original NATO charter,
which declares the alliance is founded on “democracy, individual
liberty, and rule of law.”
These principles know no borders-and they are under attack today across
many borders. Our enemies are clear about who they are. Radical
Islamists have stated openly, in the words of one jihadist group:
“We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy
and all those who seek to enact it.”
I cannot speak about the global war of ideas without also acknowledging
our struggle in Iraq.
I understand the frustration and anger that the Iraq war has created in
America and toward America throughout the world, but I ask that those
feelings not blind us to the larger truths about the enemy we are
fighting, and about our shared interest in its defeat.
We are fighting in Iraq against the same violent ideology of radical
Islam that NATO is fighting in Afghanistan and against which so many of
our societies are struggling worldwide. The asymmetrical war of ideas I
have discussed is irretrievably bound up in the outcome of the war in
Iraq, as our common enemy keenly appreciates-at times it seems, better
than we do.
As we have seen in Iraq, America is capable of mistakes large and
small, but we are a principled nation, not a pariah nation.
Surely principled in the sense that America remains the indispensable
nation in the fight for freedom throughout the world, precisely because
we are willing to put our powers-economic, diplomatic, and, yes,
military-in pursuit of our principles. But we have not and cannot act
President Putin said yesterday that there is -one single center of
power-in the world today. He is correct.
But that power is not the United States. It is the power of freedom.
Freedom speaks all languages and knows no borders. Walls and prisons
cannot contain it, and totalitarianism cannot defeat it.
But the cause of freedom does not belong to one nation alone. On the
contrary, the greatest triumphs of democracy in the twentieth century
were achieved by the strength of our alliances, including particularly
Today once again our community of democratic nations faces profound
challenges, and we have encountered disappointing setbacks.
But these challenges must call us now to remember who we are and what
we stand for and to summon the will to defend both.
Rather than falling victim to doubt or exhaustion or division, let us
sustain and strengthen our faith in all that binds and animates us-the
values of freedom and tolerance and justice and democracy. Let us move
forward, united and confident in our ultimate victory-the victory of
WEDNESDAY, February 14, 2007
- Happy St. Valentine's Day. According to a
WSJ article published yesterday, "I'm crazy over you"
is not a stretch. Recent brain research seem to support such
a chemical connection. Now they tell us....
- More on Vladimir Putin. Evidently,
"naglost" is "Russian for Chutzpah" according to the Opinion
article in yesterday's WSJ (pA24). Still better than the
equivocation and "plausable deniability" that emanates from other
governments around the world, including our own.
- The WSJ, the real "newspaper of record", has another important
article this week, this one on the math of alternative energy.
Since "the business of America is business", any hope of addressing
both global warming and our national security vs the Middle East will
depend on alternative energy sources making economic sense...books,
documentaries and marches notwothstanding.
- More on Governor Rell. See the editorial
in this week's WSJ. Connecticut seems to have become a one-party
State, more's the pity.
- And referring to that party, Democrats continue
to be enamored of their own rhetoric; or, as I have long described
them: Articulate, Arrogant, Asinine. Witness their
fulminations over their "non-binding resolution" in Washington.
Listen up, folks. If you can prove that President George W. Bush
lied about or fabricated evidence to lead us into war in Iraq, impeach
him. Otherwise, criticize the conduct of the war and its
aftermath, ferret out those who were responsible (read here Mr.
Rumsfeld and some highly placed pusillanimous generals) and deny them
the post-retirement fruits of their mis-management. In the
meantime, a substantial number of "Republicans" in both houses of
Congress should visit their physicians to have their testosterone
SUNDAY through TUESDAY, February
11 through 13, 2007
- It would appear that our fellow NATO members
enjoy sharing our protection, military hardware and contributions...but
are reluctant to participate in efforts at mutual security as in
Afghanistan. They should be eager to test NATO's raison
d'et while there is much less than a great crisis to deal
with. This should hold true especially for the newer members -
from central and eastern Europe - on behalf of whose membership
the U.S. had to expend a lot of political capltal.
- Although the recent extended comments of Vladimir Putin
relating to the U.S. and NATO should be another reason for the
motivation of its members, I welcome the candor. It certainly
does not leave a vacuum in terms of Russia's posture in the
world. Nothing worse than a vacuum, in personal or in
- The state of the State of Connecticut is the
topic of several editorials and articles in today's The Day.
Shaky, I would say. See particularly the articles by Chris Powell
and by D. Dowd Musca (Voices and Views, pE3). Governor Rell, I'm
SATURDAY, February 10, 2007
Now for some "big ticket items".
- Regarding Global Warming, a now accepted fact. But
what to do? A no-brainer, right? Not so fast. We are learning
that, to "grow" ethanol from corn, there may be no savings in energy
use. We read that low sulfur diesel fuel gels in cold weather and
requires expensive additives to avoid engine stalling. But
wait...there's more. Read George Will's very informative article
entitled "Inconvenient Kyoto Truths" in this week's Newsweek
- Regarding Public Education. We read about
the glacial pace of acceptance of vouchers by individual
States, Utah being the most recent. We read Jonathan Alter's
damning review of the on-going obstructionism pursued by the teachers'
unions and their wholly owned subsidiary...the Democrat Party ("Stop
Pandering On Education, Newsweek this week, p55). And we
read Connecticut Governor Jody Rell's brave words in today's The Day ("Making
Connecticut's Education System Second To None",
Commentary, pA7), increasing government spending for public education
and promising accountability. With a veto-proof Democratic
majority in Hartford, we can be sure of more money for the same old
"education", increased taxes , and nothing more. So, prove
- Regarding Health Care Reform. Now even
ordinarily rational people are suddenly using the word "crisis"
and are demanding action. Another political winner in our
never-ending political compaign at all levels. Of course, action
should be demanded. I have been demanding it in various media
since the late 1970's. See my numerous commentaries on this
subject filed on this web site under Managed Care and related
titles. And you could change the publication dates of these
offerings to today and lose nothing in relevance. But don't
take my word for it. Read "The Biggest Secret In Health Care",
by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. (WSJ Wednesday, February 7, 2007, Opinion,
pA14). In brief, "how do you spell relief?" HEALTH SAVINGS
ACCOUNTS AND HEALTH CARE COURTS. Or will we get just another
offer to put a bandaid on cancer? Wanna bet?
- Regarding Islam and the Muslim World. My
comments last year in this section regarding that great Religion
suffering from the absence of its own Reformation between Sunni and
Shia are clearly expanded in the article by Fareed Zakaria, also in
this week's Newsweek ("The Road To Reformation",
p39). Please, don't feel that you have to emulate the Christian
experience with another Thirty Years' War. But just get it
FRIDAY, February 9, 2007
- Walter Cronkite is worried about the media and its role
in our democracy (see Cronkite: "Drive for media Profits
threatening American democracy", by Anick Jesdanun, in The Day, www.theday.com,
State / Union, pA9). The main problem is not the print media,
which - like radio - is indistructible, or the TV media...which will
always be saved by its constant race to the bottom, but rather the
studied imbecility of our younger generations. When will they
grow up? Must it take a world war or a great depression to bring
them to their senses? If so, they are arranging that by their
attitudes to the real issues of life.
- And where have the parents been?
- Then there is the story of Anna Nicole Smith,
who has suffered the same fate in life as did her idol, Marilyn
Monroe. At least Marilyn had Joe
DiMaggio who evidently tried to put a little stability in her
life. Ms. Smith appears to have been surrounded by no one who
wished her well (except perhaps her aged and now-deceased husband);
just gold-diggers, and now grave-diggers and grave-robbers. What
- Congratulations to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital of New
London, Ct. on our designation as one of the Top 100 Best
Acute Care Hospitals nationwide. When my family and I arrived
here in 1963 from New York City, we were pioneers...we knew not a
soul. But we did know that the area and hospital had a great
complement of medical professionals. And it still has, more
harried and worn-down, but still committed to their vocation and to
- I guess it is the high price of safety from tryanny: civilian
control over the military, including during wartime.
It has been so in every war America has fought, beginning with the
Revolution. We are certainly seeing it unfold before our eyes at
present: the complete permeation of the conduct of this Iraq war with
high-minded and also crass politics. This is of a piece with the
blood of our troops on the battlefield. Not a pretty
picture. But isn't that where, under our U.S. Constitution,
the Commander-In-Chief, the "decider", is supposed to come in? Mr.
President, don't go political on us now.
MONDAY through THURSDAY, February
5 through 8, 2007
The next big thing in the Middle East is not the
"surge", but the belated change in attitude and role of the
Saudis. Although traditionally operating in the background, this
is the "800 pound gorilla" in that region. GS
February 6, 2007
In Public View, Saudis Counter Iran in Region
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 5 — With the prospect of three civil wars
looming over the Middle East — and Iran poised to gain from them all —
Saudi Arabia has abandoned its behind-the-scenes checkbook diplomacy
and taken on a central, aggressive role in reshaping the region’s
On Tuesday, the kingdom is playing host in Mecca to the leaders of
Hamas and Fatah, the two feuding Palestinian factions, in what
both sides say could lead to a national unity government and reduced
bloodshed. Last fall, senior Saudi officials met secretly with Israeli
leaders about how to establish a Palestinian state.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has also increased its public
involvement in Iraq and its support of the Sunni-led government in
Lebanon. The process is shaping up as a counteroffensive to efforts by
Iran to establish itself as the regional superpower, according to
diplomats, analysts and officials here and throughout the region. Some
even say that the recent Saudi commitment to temper the price of oil is
aimed at undermining Iran’s economy, although officials here deny that.
“We realized that we have to wake up,” said a high-ranking Saudi
diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not
authorized to speak to the news media. “Someone rang the bell, ‘Be
careful, something is moving.’ ”
The shift is occurring with encouragement from the Bush administration.
Its goal is to see an American-backed alliance of Sunni Arab states
including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, along with a
Fatah-led Palestine and Israel, opposing Iran, Syria and the radical
groups they support.
Yet Riyadh’s goals may not always be in alignment with those of the
White House, and could complicate American interests.
The Saudi effort has been taken in collaboration with its traditional
Persian Gulf allies and Egypt and Jordan, but it also represents
another significant shift in a region undergoing a profound
reshuffling. The changes are linked to the toppling of Saddam Hussein <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/h/saddam_hussein/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
and the transfer of power from Sunni Muslims to Shiites in Iraq,
analysts said. They also reach back many years to the gradual decline
in influence of Cairo and the collapse of a pan-Arab agenda, analysts
and diplomats said.
“The Saudis felt that the Iranian role in the region has become
influential, especially in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, and that the
Iranian role was undermining their role in the region,” said Muhammad
al-Sakr, head of the foreign affairs committee in the Kuwaiti
Parliament. “Usually the Saudis prefer to maneuver behind the scenes.
Lately they’ve been noticeably active.”
Saudi Arabia has taken public initiatives in the past, including one in
2002, when at an Arab League meeting it proposed a regional peace
agreement with Israel in exchange for Israel’s withdrawing to its 1967
boundaries. But it prefers to work quietly, and has not recently taken
such a sustained public posture.
“This is not leadership by choice; it is leadership by necessity,” said
Gamal Abdel Gawad, an expert at the Ahram Center for Political and
Strategic Studies in Cairo. “There is a leadership vacuum in the
region, and they have to step forward, or Iran will.”
The United States, which is pushing the Saudis to take on this role, is
alarmed at rising Iranian influence in Iraq and Lebanon, and with the
Palestinian government of Hamas.
But the two countries, though sharing broad goals, have different views
of the players in each conflict. For example, while the Bush
administration sees the conflict in Iraq as one between allies and
terrorists, the Saudis tend to see it as Sunnis versus Shiites — and
they favor the Sunnis, while the Americans back the Shiite-led
government. And while Saudi Arabia wants to lure Hamas away from Iran’s
influence and back into the Arab fold, the United States views Hamas as
a terrorist organization.
Nonetheless, both Washington and Riyadh believe that one important way
to block Iran and calm the many fires in the region is to resolve the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict — or at least appear to be trying to.
On the surface, the effort by Saudi Arabia to establish itself as a
counterpoint to Tehran is a contest between the main sects of Islam:
Shiites, led by Iran, and Sunnis, led by Riyadh. Iran, which is Persian
and not Arab, is the only state that is led by Shiite religious
figures. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, and its king draws
legitimacy as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, in Mecca and
The kingdom has been accused of stoking sectarian tensions as a way to
drain popular support from Iran and its proxies, like Hezbollah <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/hezbollah/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
— a charge officials here deny but for which there is some
In an interview on Jan. 27 that appeared in the daily Saudi newspaper
Al Seyassa, King Abdullah was asked about widespread rumors that
Shiites were trying to convert Sunnis. Iranian officials have dismissed
such reports as a disinformation campaign aimed at inciting sectarian
“We are following up this matter and are aware of the Shiite
proselytism and what point it has reached,” the king was quoted as
saying. “This majority will not abandon its beliefs. At the end of the
day it is the decision of the majority of Muslims that counts. Other
creeds do not appear able to infiltrate the Sunni majority or undermine
its historical authority.”
Sectarian overtones aside, the battle is also about political power,
national interests and preserving the status quo. Riyadh and its allies
see a threat to their own power and security in the rise of Iran and
the Shiite revival. They have expressed fear at Iran’s insistence on
pursuing a nuclear program, and anxiety over the rise in popularity of
Hezbollah, the Shiite militia in Lebanon.
The Saudi shift, many here say, dates from last summer, when Israel
failed to crush Hezbollah during 34 days of bombing, shocking officials
here and throughout the region at the strength of Hezbollah, seen as
Iran’s regional proxy army.
In the interview with Al Seyassa, the king advised Iranian leaders “to
know their limits.”
Saudi analysts said another key moment came after the midterm elections
in the United States when the Republicans lost control of Congress.
That was read here as a sign that the United States might soon withdraw
its troops from Iraq, leaving an open field to the Iranians.
“The outcome confirmed our worst fears,” said Awadh al-Badi, director
of the department of research and studies at the King Faisal Center for
Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. “It said that we could no
longer be sure of the Americans.”
In January, the kingdom initiated talks with the Iranians to mediate
the growing stalemate in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has faced off with
the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in sometimes violent
confrontations. King Abdullah then held a surprise meeting with leaders
The kingdom has played host to numerous meetings of Sunni and Shiite
leaders as well as of so-called moderate Muslim leaders in recent
months, possibly to emphasize its custodianship of Islam’s holiest
sites. And it has decided that it will be the host of the next meeting
of the Arab League, in Riyadh.
Officials said they hoped at that meeting to smooth relations with
Syria after its president, Bashar al-Assad, insulted the Saudi king and
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in a speech last summer. Officials
believe that Syria had moved closer to Iran because of its isolation,
and that that shift has given Iran a bridge to the Arab world.
“Politically speaking, Syria is not in the fold,” said an Egyptian
diplomat who spoke on the condition he not be identified. “Maybe the
goal is to bring Syria back to the Arab world.”
If so, that, too, could antagonize Washington, which wants to isolate
Saudi Arabia’s more pronounced public posture to counter Iran’s rise
also reflects realities that, while not new, have been underscored by
the crises in the region. In particular, Arab officials and analysts
say, the Arab world is not unified by a common social, political and
economic agenda, and the traditional center of influence in Cairo has
shifted to the oil-rich gulf.
In his recent newspaper interview, King Abdullah made that point,
lamenting the failure of Arab countries to unite, while alluding to
Iran’s efforts to exploit the inability of Arabs to solve their own
“We do not want any other party to manipulate our causes, profiteer
from them, and draw strength from them,” he said. “We do not want any
other country to exploit our causes to bolster its position in its
Michael Slackman reported from Jidda, and Hassan M. Fattah from Riyadh.
Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo, and Helene Cooper from
SATURDAY and SUNDAY, February 3
and 4, 2007
Here's another laundry list of concerns, in no particular
- As always, the liberal media is cherry-picking among the fruits
of the recently released Intelligence Report on the Middle
East. The truth is as follows: 1) if the Kurds
declare their autonomy and their control of oil-rich Kirkuk, the Turks
will invade that part of Iraq; 2) if a true civil war breaks out
between the majority Shia and the minority Sunni factions in Iraq,
Saudi Arabia has already announced that it will enter the war on the
Sunni side, leaving Iran to enter overtly on the Shia side; 3) the Shia
- Sunni wars, extending back to before 700 AD, will spill over into at
least Lebanon and Palestine - Israel; 4) the U.S. will face the spectre
of disengagement from Iraq, as pressed for by the ever risk-averse
Democrats, with the immediate injection of Russia and China backing
Iran; 5) and where does that leave the security of our oil resources,
on which we, the entire Western world and Japan depend? In
World War lll, that's where. That's why the U.S. must maintain
its presence in force in Iraq, not to fight Iraqi civil wars, and not
to be a target of all sides, but to foster a viable Iraq (with or
without a civil war, an Iraqi choice) and to protect our own
self-interest...and that of our wonderful "allies". A note to
Washington: HOW ABOUT A LITTLE TRUTH-TELLING, FOR A CHANGE?
- On a related subject, we must not tolerate the transfer
of Shia - Sunni conflicts to this country.
This developing matter should be treated aggressively, and not in any
politically correct fashion, by our law inforcement agencies.
- Meanwhile, we are treated to a disgusting story about "plumbing"
at one of the dormatories ("colleges") at Yale University.
Another sign of the decline of America, lead by its younger
- The proposed LNG storage facility in the center of Long
Island Sound. The obvious choke point is "the race", a
narrow and busy entry and exit for ships and submarines. When are
the Navy and the Coast Guard going to stand up and scotch this deal
once and for all? Can't we depend upon any Federal department to
do its job objectively and not politically?
- The States and health care costs. Chris
Powell accurately addresses this problem in Connecticut in today's The
Day (Perspective). The issues are the same everywhere: a
nice box, but where's the beef? One way to fund legitimate
coverage for the truly needy (as distinguished from the selfish) is to
reduce employer-paid health care except through Health Savings
Accounts. Unions will fight and strike against this...but they
should lose. By contrast, one sure way to reduce access to health
care is to continue the theft of services of physicians and other
health care providers (now exceeding 30% overall, and in some cases
- In the NY Times today is an Op-Ed article in which the author
contends that the laws of some States prohibiting smoking in
cars carrying young children is "absurd". It's the
article that's absurd.
- Overseas Tax Shelters. When is this
massive source of lost Federal revenue going to be outlawed? You
earn it here...you pay the taxes on it here!
Another failure of our government...and perhaps of our currently
devolved system of government. The Founding Fathers were right in
what they set up for us. But what we now have is a far cry from
that...and much less responsive to the will of the vast majority of
Americans. It may be time for one or more appropriate
Amendments to our U.S. Constitution, in order to restore a nation "of
the people, for the people and by the people".
FRIDAY, February 2, 2007
There are days and weeks, rapidly becoming months and years, when
the "news of the day" is filled with ignorance,
stupidity, cowardice, avarice and self-service...like
the never-ending election season that it has now become. We
could talk about Senator Joe Biden's alleged insensitivity and his even
worse and unnecessary apologies. Or we could talk about the
stupendous failures of "government", local and national, like the
Northrop-Boeing Tanker controversy, or the Coast Guard mis-management
of its newest cutter production, or the rampant sale of valuable
"surplus" military hardware to our enemies, or the oxymoron called
"airport security", or the continuing failures of Federal as well as
local governments in New Orleans post-Katrina, or the corruption and
poor construction results involving American efforts to rebuild Iraq
infrastructure, or the entire Iraq debacle born of good intentions and
bred in abysmal historical insight and inflexible
Or instead, we could call attention to the dignity of
human life at both ends of life's spectrum. For the very
beginning, see George Will's article regarding the coming death-knell
for humans with Down's Syndrome, courtesy of your friendly obstetrician
with his genetic testing and counseling. (Newsweek, Jan. 29,
Note: forwarded message attached. For the end, please consider
the following. GS
>FROM A CRABBY OLD MAN------- A poem on life
> When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near
>Tampa, Florida, it was believed that he had nothing left of any
>Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions,
>found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff
>were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.
> And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is
>now the author of this "anonymous" poem winging across the Internet.
> "Crabby Old Man"
> What do you see nurses? .....What do you see?
> What are you thinking......when you're looking at me?
> A crabby old man, ....not very wise,
> Uncertain of habit .......with faraway eyes?
> Who dribbles his food.......and makes no reply.
> When you say in a loud voice....."I do wish you'd try!"
> Who seems not to notice ..the things that you do.
> And forever is losing ..............a sock or shoe?
> Who, resisting or not...........lets you do as you will,
> With bathing and feeding ...... the long day to fill?
> Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
> Then open your eyes, nurse......you're not looking at me.
> I'll tell you who I am ..... as I sit here so still,
> As I do at your bidding,.......as I eat at your will.
> I'm a small child of Ten......with a father and mother,
> Brothers and sisters,..... who love one another
> A young boy of Sixteen ...........with wings on his feet
> Dreaming that soon now. .........a lover he'll meet.
> A groom soon at Twenty ........my heart gives a leap.
> Remembering, the vows........that I promised to keep.
> At Twenty-Five, now.......... I have young of my own.
> Who need me to guide ....... and a secure happy home.
> A man of Thirty ....... my young now grown fast,
> Bound to each other........ with ties that should last.
> At Forty, my young sons ......have grown and are gone,
> But my woman's beside me........to see I don't mourn.
> At Fifty, once more, ......... babies play 'round my knee,
> Again, we know children ........ my loved one and me.
> Dark days are upon me .......... my wife is now dead.
> I look at the future .............I shudder with dread.
> For my young are all rearing .......young of their own.
> And I think of the years..... and the love that I've known.
> I'm now an old man.........and nature is cruel.
> Tis jest to make old age ......look like a fool.
> The body, it crumbles..........grace and vigor, depart.
> There is now a stone........where I once had a heart.
> But inside this old carcass ..... a young guy still dwells,
> And now and again ........my battered heart swells.
> I remember the joys.............. I remember the pain.
> And I'm loving and living.......... ..life over again.
> I think of the years .all too few......gone too fast.
> And accept the stark fact........that nothing can last.
> So open your eyes, people ........open and see..
> Not a crabby old man. Look closer....see........ME!!
> Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might
>brush aside without looking at the young soul within.....we will
>day, be there, too!
THURSDAY, February 1, 2007
THIS IS THE SHAME AND THE DANGER OF IT ALL: CONVERTING AMERICAN EFFORTS
IN IRAQ INTO THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. GS
Grand Delusion: Politicians in Both Parties Act as if They Can Make the
War Go Away Soon. It Won’t.
Politicians in Both Parties Act as if They Can Make the War Go Away
Soon. It Won't.
By Robert Kagan
Sunday, January 28, 2007; Page B07
It's quite a juxtaposition. In Iraq, American soldiers are finally
beginning the hard job of establishing a measure of peace, security and
order in critical sections of Baghdad -- the essential prerequisite for
the lasting political solution everyone claims to want. They've
launched attacks on Sunni insurgent strongholds and begun reining in
Moqtada al-Sadr's militia. And they've embarked on these operations
with the expectation that reinforcements will soon be on the way: the
more than 20,000 troops President Bush has ordered to Iraq and the new
commander he has appointed to fight the insurgency as it has not been
fought since the war began.
Back in Washington, however, Democratic and Republican members of
Congress are looking for a different kind of political solution: the
solution to their problems in presidential primaries and elections
almost two years off. Resolutions disapproving the troop increase have
proliferated on both sides of the aisle. Many of their proponents
frankly, even proudly, admit they are responding to the current public
mood, as if that is what they were put in office to do. Those who think
they were elected sometimes to lead rather than follow seem to be in a
The most popular resolutions simply oppose the troop increase without
offering much useful guidance on what to do instead, other than perhaps
go back to the Baker-Hamilton commission's vague plan for a gradual
withdrawal. Sen. Hillary Clinton wants to cap the number of troops in
Iraq at 137,500. No one explains why this is the right number, why it
shouldn't be 20,000 troops lower or higher. But that's not really the
point, is it?
Other critics claim that these are political cop-outs, which they are.
These supposedly braver critics demand a cutoff of funds for the war
and the start of a withdrawal within months. But they're not honest
either, since they refuse to answer the most obvious and necessary
questions: What do they propose the United States do when, as a result
of withdrawal, Iraq explodes and ethnic cleansing on a truly horrific
scale begins? What do they propose our response should be when the
entire region becomes a war zone, when al-Qaeda and other terrorist
organizations establish bases in Iraq from which to attack neighboring
states as well as the United States? Even the Iraq Study Group
acknowledged that these are likely consequences of precipitate
Those who call for an "end to the war" don't want to talk about the
fact that the war in Iraq and in the region will not end but will only
grow more dangerous. Do they recommend that we then do nothing,
regardless of the consequences? Or are they willing to say publicly,
right now, that they would favor sending U.S. troops back into Iraq to
confront those new dangers? Answering those questions really would be
honest and brave.
Of course, most of the discussion of Iraq isn't about Iraq at all. The
war has become a political abstraction, a means of positioning oneself
To the extent that people think about Iraq, many seem to believe it is
a problem that can be made to go away. Once American forces depart,
Iraq will no longer be our problem. Joseph Biden, one of the smartest
foreign policy hands in the Senate, recently accused President Bush of
sending more troops so that he could pass the Iraq war on to his
successor. Biden must assume that if the president took his advice and
canceled the troop increase, then somehow Iraq would no longer be a
serious crisis when President Biden entered the White House in 2009.
This is a delusion, but it is by no means only a Democratic delusion.
Many conservatives and Republicans, including erstwhile supporters of
the war, have thrown up their hands in anger at the Iraqi people or the
Iraqi government. They, too, seem to believe that if American troops
leave, because Iraqis don't "deserve" our help, then somehow the whole
mess will solve itself or simply fade away. Talk about a fantasy. The
fact is, the United States cannot escape the Iraq crisis, or the Middle
East crisis of which it is a part, and will not be able to escape it
for years. And if Iraq does collapse, it will not be the end of our
problems but the beginning of a new and much bigger set of problems.
I would think that anyone wanting to be president in January 2009 would
be hoping and praying that the troop increase works. The United States
will be dealing with Iraq one way or another in 2009, no matter what
anyone says or does today. The only question is whether it is an Iraq
that is salvageable or an Iraq sinking further into chaos and
destruction and dragging America along with it.
A big part of the answer will come soon in the battle for Baghdad.
Politicians in both parties should realize that success in this mission
is in their interest, as well as the nation's. Here's a wild idea:
Forget the political posturing, be responsible, and provide the moral
and material support our forces need and expect. The next president
will thank you.
Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace and transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall
Fund, writes a monthly column for The Post. His latest book is
"Dangerous Nation," a history of American foreign policy.
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