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
April 30, 2007
ORANGE COUNTY ( CALIFORNIA ) NEWSPAPER
This is a very good letter to the editor. This woman made some
points. For some reason, people have difficulty structuring their
arguments when arguing against supporting the currently proposed
immigration revisions. This lady made the argument pretty
NOT printed in the Orange County Paper...................
Newspapers simply won't publish letters to the editor which they either
deem politically incorrect (read below) or which does not agree with
the philosophy they're pushing on the public. This woman wrote a great
letter to the editor that should have been published; but, with your
help it will get published via cyberspace!
From: "David LaBonte"
My wife, Rosemary, wrote a wonderful letter to the editor of the OC
Register which, of course, was not printed. So, I decided to "print" it
myself by sending it out on the Internet.
Pass it along if you feel so inclined.
Dave LaBonte (signed)
Written in response to a series of
letters to the editor in the Orange County Register:
So many letter writers have based their arguments on how this land is
made up of immigrants. Ernie Lujan for one, suggests we should tear
down the Statue of Liberty because the people now in question aren't
being treated the same as those who passed through Ellis Island and
other ports of entry.
Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out to people like
Mr. Lujan why today's American is not willing to accept this new kind
of immigrant any longer. Back in 1900 when there was a rush from all
areas of Europe to come to the United States, people had to get off a
ship and stand in a long line in New York and be documented. Some would
even get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground. They made a
pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country in good and bad
times. They made learning English a primary rule in their new American
households and some even changed their names to blend in with their new
They had waved good bye to their birth place to give their children a
new life and did everything in their power to help their children
assimilate into one culture.
Nothing was handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws
to protect them. All they had were the skills and craftsmanship they
had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity. Most of
their children came of age when World War II broke out. My father
fought along side men whose parents had come straight over from Germany
, Italy , France and Japan . None of these 1st generation Americans
ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from.
They were Americans fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan
. They were defending the United States of America as one people. When
we liberated France , no one in those villages were looking for the
French-American or the German American or the Irish American. The
people of France saw only Americans. And we carried one flag that
represented one country. Not one of those immigrant sons would have
thought about picking up another country's flag and waving it to
represent who they were. It would have been a disgrace to their parents
who had sacrificed so much to be here. These immigrants truly knew what
it meant to be an American. They stirred the melting pot into one red,
white and blue bowl.
And here we are in 2006 with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same
rights and privileges. Only they want to achieve it by playing with a
different set of rules, one that includes the entitlement card and a
guarantee of being faithful to their mother country. I'm sorry, that's
not what being an American is all about. I believe that the immigrants
who landed on Ellis Island in the early 1900's deserve better than that
for all the toil, hard work and sacrifice in raising future generations
to create a land that has become a beacon for those legally searching
for a better life. I think they would be appalled that they are being
used as an example by those waving foreign country flags.
And for that suggestion about taking down the Statue of Liberty , it
happens to mean a lot to the citizens who are voting on the immigration
bill. I wouldn't start talking about dismantling the United States just
(signed) Rosemary LaBonte
April 28 and 29, 2007
- The offering on the History channel last evening was one of the
best productions in some time. It chronicled General Sherman's
March to the Sea...and beyond in the latter stages of the Civil
War. Reportedly, a term was coined for this approach to conflict:
"Total War". The term may have been new, but the
approach had existed for many centuries beforehand. The
latter stages of WW ll qualify especially the firebombing of
Dresden and the Soviet attack on Berlin. The term sounds
perjorative. But what were these people trying to do? They
were trying to end, finally, a long and vicious war. Now come the
increasingly frequent and deadly suicide attacks on Iraqi civilians,
with scores of deaths and casualties, and including that "WMD" -
Chlorine gas. It may be time, if we can reliably identify the
enemy, to reciprocate this total war on them...and discuss the finer
points of the Geneva Conventions later. We must start posting
some successes, for we are losing the support - however grudgingly
given - of several important surrounding States, particularly
- More on the Iraq War. I have maintained
from the beginning that we were right to assert "pre-emptive
self-defense" by invading Iraq based upon the then - known facts.
Then came reports of other "facts" by Seymour Hirsh and by Joe Wilson,
reports in which "spin" could not be ruled out. Now comes
a book by two Italian journalists reporting that the Italian government
at least massaged if not created some of the "facts" on which this
administration reportedly relied (see Collusion, by Bonini
and D'Avanzo, Melville House Publishing, 2007). I have not yet
read it, but I heard Mr. Bonini discussing it on NPR recently.
More on the contents later. But if this report, and the book by
George Tenet, and the on-going investigations in Congress support a prima
facie case for collusion and deception (and not just
bungling) on the part of the White House, this would warrant Articles
of Impeachment against President Bush. I believe nothing but
bungling for now. But, in my universe actions have
- David Brooks has an article in the NYTimes Sunday, April 29 that
should be a must-read for Republicans nationally.
Depending on their response, this is at least a carefully
crafted diagnosis on which treatment can be based...or it can be used
soon as a port-mortem report.
- While attending the 50th anniversary reunion of my graduation
from medical school this weekend, I listened to a lecture purporting to
predict the future of health care in this
country. Much was made of the logrithmic growth of knowledge in
Science, the increasing use of robots, "the remote practice of
Medicine" - including surgery without the surgeon in the operating
room.... All of this seemed to undergird the speaker's at least
tacit approval of one payor, universal health care to solve all our
health care problems. Only once or twice was the "patient"
mentioned, ahd only as an aside. Well, those of us who have had
the privilege of working intimately with "patients" for many years know
that they require and demand a relationship with their care-giver
in order to have confidence and at least a modicum of success with
their problems. Thus, the future of health care, in my opinion,
will be a multi-tiered system based on greater patient insight and on
patient ability to afford...now that the patient is finally being
brought back belatedly into the decision-making process by payment
mechanisms like health savings acounts. This does not preclude
some gigantic and expensive false starts. But this is how it
will end up.
April 27, 2007
- The Presidential Campaign.
No one is making the obvious comment, which I offered a few weeks ago
in this section...that this is the "anti-" campaign. Some
Democrats see Obama as the "anti-Hillary". Some Republicans
see Giuliani as the "anti-McCain". Neither liberal Democrats nor
conservative Republicans are happy with their obvious
front-runner. Each group will eventually decide that what they
really want to do is WIN. What a concept!
- Alec Baldwin and the mother of his child are
giving the nation a clear view of how "the best interests of the
child" - the long-established ultimate criterion for Courts in
custody cases, and the supposed goal of the parents themselves - are
being ignored on a daily basis in this country. It's all ME, ME,
- Whether in civilian or in military bureaucracies, there
has always been a distinct bias against actually making
decisions. Add to that the more recent bias in favor of cover-ups
and against "snitching" (otherwise known as "whistle-blowing"), and we
have a dangerous witches' brew infecting the life and operation of this
society. "Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
- The mark of any society is how well it cares for the weak among
its members. Our Military society and its
supporting structures are showing signs not only of severe strain but
also of a meanness of spirit in this area, as related to our fighting
men and women coming back wounded from the war. In addition to
reflecting the above warts of bureaucracies in general, it stands quiet
before the degradation of its military medical facilities (see Walter
Reed Hospital); and it tries, after accepting these volunteers into
service, to declare the results of their war wounds to be "prior
existing conditions", thereby precluding their access to veterans' and
other disability benefits. Of course, we can sometimes learn
about this from the writings of Generals after their comfortable
retirement! Our military leaders often praise their totally
volunteer army and its professionalism. There is no
professionalism in the above actions. Again, does anybody
April 26, 2007
- More on the issue of Abortion since the recent
decision of the USSC can be found throughout the media. The truth
is that not too much has changed at the Federal level, although States
are more free now to take their separate courses on the subject...an
approach that, absent Roe v Wade, would have avoided the
distortion of American politics and civility that followed that
travesty. But the article that gives the best insight into the
schizophrenia of Americans regarding this subject is by David Brooks, a
good man who still cannot get 2 plus 2 to equal 4 on this
subject. See "Postures Are In Public Forum, But Facts Are In
The Womb" (in The Day Wednesday, April 25, 2007, Commentary, pA7):
- What a joke: "The Most-Praised Generation Goes To
Work", by Jeffrey Zaslow (WSJ Friday, April 20, 2007,
pW1). The generation that is the fruit of artificially implanted
"self-image" should at least now be learning life's lessons, including
the one that holds that "self-image" must be earned, not
imparted. But no, their employers are continuing this farce in
the work-place. All the more reason for a FAIR DRAFT!.
- When will the Bush administration stop acting like a
wholly owned subsidiary of Big, Greedy Business?
The average American stills thinks that organizations like the FDA and
OSHA should be looking out for them. (See the OSHA article on page 1 of
the NYTimes Wednesday, April 250.
- The recent events at Virginla Tech put the spotlight on how this
country deals with mental illness: poorly, at
best. For a good summary of how our legislators "flew over the
cuckoo's nest" about 35 years...and are still in flight, see "Bedlam
Revisited", by Jonathan Kellerman (WSJ Monday, April 23, 2007,
Opinion, pA17. Must democratic government always produce the
least and lowest common demoninator after a raucus race to the
bottom? Or is it just our lousy leadership. Lee Iacoca
makes a case for the latter explanation in his new book: "Where
Have All The Leaders Gone", profiled in USA Today
Monday, April 23, 2007, pB1.
- Do the Democrats...or we...want "A Third Clinton Term"?
See the WSJ editorial, Monday, April 23, pA16.
- "DNA To Clear 200th Person" (USA Today,
Monday, April 23, 2007, pA1). Great news about a process and an
application which I place close to the discovery of antibiotics in
importance. This should be applied as broadly and as quickly as
possible to reverse many more travesties of justice. And, while
we're at it, let's review those cases for any clear evidence of
prosecutorial misconduct. In such cases, the prosecutor should
take the victim's place for the same length of time served by the
victim. A nice symmetry there.
- "Should we guide religion, or should religion guide us?"
This is the question posed by Michael Medved in his article entitled "'Goldilocks'
Faith Serves Lukewarm Mush" (USA Today
Monday, April 23, 2007, The Forum, p11A). Not too hot, not too
cool, just right. He discusses Judaism and Episcopalian
Christianity. We could also add "cafeteria Catholics" to the
mix. Do we really want to go through life without the "true
north" of our compass? Or do we want to crush the compass
entirely, as is occurring in increasingly secular and athiestic
Europe? The far left in this country would definitely have it
that way. But so far the vast majority of American are having
none of that. Or, as the athiest pronounced as his last
words on his death bed: "Thank God that I am dying as an
The following is offered in the interests of
"fair and balanced" reporting. It does lend support to my
contention, expressed several months ago in this section, that this
matter must be decided by the Iraqi people...Shia, Sunni and Kurd...by
political and/or military means, while our forces work to prevent
intervention by any of several elements opposed to a reconciled and
democratic Iraq with a Shia majority: Iran, Turkey, Syria, Saudi
Arabia, even Russia and China and maybe even "allies" like
France. I recommended substantial expansion of our forces and
withdrawal to the borders of Iraq to seal those borders. Whether
the current strategy will work still remains to be seen - but must be
given a chance. In addition to humanitarian and democratic
concerns, our self-interest demands it.
I just wanted to let you know what is happening where I am
in Iraq. I
don't want to say this is in response to Harry Reid, but his comments
the other day are not in line with what we're seeing.
We are winning over here in Al Anbar province. I don't know
Baghdad, but Ramadi was considered THE hotspot in Al Anbar, the worse
province, and it has been very quiet. The city is calm, the kids are
playing in the streets, the local shops are open, the power is on at
night, and daily commerce is the norm rather than the exception. There
have been no complex attacks since March. That is HUGE progress. This
quiet time is allowing the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police to establish
themselves in the eyes of the people. The Iraqi people also want IA's
and IP's in their areas. The Sunni Sheiks are behind us and giving us
full support. This means that lmost all Sunni's in Al Anbar are now
committed to supporting the US and Iraqi forces. It also means that
almost all insurgents left out here are AQ. FYI, the surge is just
beginning. Gen Petraeus' strategy is just getting started and we're
seeing huge gains here.
However, you don't see Harry Reid talking about this. When
I saw what
he said, it really pissed me off. That guy does not know what is going
on over here because he hasn't bothered to come and find out. The truth
on the ground in Al Anbar is not politically convenient for him, so he
completely ignored it.
This war can be won. We just need the time to get the IA
operating on their own. Gen Petraeus is treating the war like a
counter-insurgency rather and a stability operation. For non-military
personnel, there is a HUGE difference between the two. What we've been
doing in Iraq since Petraus took over is completely different than what
we were doing under Gen Casey. However, you don't hear the press or the
democrats say that. Most of them are too committed to saying we've lost
to further their own political agendas that they cannot acknowledge
we're doing something totally different and it is working.
Capt William M Brewster
Firepower Control Team Leader
April 23 and 24,
Time to catch up on subjects temporarily side-lined
by more pressing news.
- This one pertains directly to the Virginia Tech tragedy and to
the subsequent rash of "copycat" alarms nationwide: BULLYING.
Please see my offering dated September
29-October 1, 2003, as well as a number of other references to this
pernicious practice by persons of small mind and great cowardice.
See also the related sections under the category "Public Education
Politics" on this web site. Our Search Engine is useful
- Personal rights vs personal and societal responsibility.
Time to restore the balance, destroyed by over thirty years of
- Race and ethnicity. These are subjects for
discussion within particular racial and ethnic groups, not among
them. Free and open discussion among Americans continues to
be greatly hampered, not only by the Imus-type approach of gross
incivility, but also by that antidote to racial comments...political
correctness...that produces fear in many people of being called a
racist if they "say the wrong thing" - a potentially great injury to
careers and reputations. We will never eliminate the difference
between the "haves and the have-nots". But "...all men are
created equal"; and we are guaranteed "...life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness". We don't stay equal. Some of us don't
achieve the same level of happiness. If we integrate and not
segregate, however, we all can begin at the same starting line.
- And then we have the "Law of Unintended Consequences".
Now we learn that a high use of ethanol in our
engine fuels will reduce CO2, but will also substantially increase the
concentration of ozone, the most important component
of air pollution smog and quite dangerous to human health. As
stated many times in the past in this section, we should
embrace nuclear power for its great advantages and its minimal
disadvantages. The only impediments to doing this are
the massive organic fuel interests, and the earlier penchant of nuclear
energy advocates to lie to the public.
- The Republicans are working hard to lose the 2008
elections. Their demand for fundamentalist purity in all
matters (among which only Anti-Abortion is non-negotiable); their
unrealistic and unfair position on Immigration reform; their unwavering
support for Big Business, whatever its selfish demands, and whatever
the cost in political capital; their own attack on
free-market forces by opposing Federal negotiations with drug
companies regarding Medicare drug prices. Could it be that the
Republican leadership has been infiltrated and compromised by
Democratic operatives? That's the only explanation I can come up
- Castro's Cuba was one thing. America was
not hurt by our ill-advised 45 year posture against that small island
nation. But Venezuela is another matter
altogether. We risk the serious loss of access to needed oil, as
well as the subversion of much of the Southern Hemisphere. And
what principle are we dealing with here? Preservation of the
oligarchic political structure and the centuries-long subjugation of
the vast majority of the populations of those nations - guaranteed by
total opposition to land reform and implemented by death squads?
Here I fault also the Catholic Church, which from the Papacy of John
Paul ll onward prohibited any organizational pursuit of "Liberation
Theology" that could be an effective counter-balance to the few rich,
powerful and ruthless. A great and continuing
disappointment. And what do the Democrats have to say about
this? Or has this country itself been
overthrown by an oligarchy of our own: "The Incumbent Party"?
See the article of the same name by Jim Cooper, WSJ Friday, April 13,
2007, Opinion, pA13). The elections of 2008 should be very
important for this country's future. But will it be more of the
"same ol', same ol"?
SUNDAY, April 21
The following article is the best expose' of how
America got to this point in Iraq, how our leaders did not know or
benefit from the lessons of history, and why we must persevere:
primarily for self-interest, and also to make amends to the people of
Iraq for screwing up the effort so badly. (Another chronicle is
found in the offerings in this section spanning the last four years on
a nearly daily basis). As always, "Past Is Prologue". GS
Adventures in State-Building
Bremer’s Iraq and Cromer’s Egypt
The American Interest May/June 2007
Colin Powell offered the same observation on Iraq to Bush the father
and Bush the son, first in 1990 and again in 2002: “If you break it,
you own it.” Powell’s so-called Pottery Barn rule, however, had its
Humpty Dumpty corollary, as in “All the King’s horses, and all the
King’s Men, couldn’t put Humpty together again!” This corollary
suggests a deep pessimism about what “ownership” implies—namely, the
inability of American presidents to assemble the necessary political
and material resources, including time, to remake what they break.
As we bear witness to the Iraq endgame, it is tempting to conclude that
a new American aversion to any policy of “breaking” states—more
conventionally known as regime change—could be a healthy thing. “No
More Iraqs” might join “No More Vietnams” in the pantheon of difficult
or impossible obligations the United States must avoid at all costs.
Such abstinence, however, grants almost automatic sanctuary to
threatening regimes and, in an era of spreading nuclear technology,
abandons failed states to their fate. Moreover, difficult, even very
difficult, obligations are not the same as impossible ones. Against the
prevailing pessimism stand the sterling examples of Germany and Japan,
as well as the “pretty good” examples of the Philippines and South
Korea. Today, we and they are justifiably satisfied with their
American-directed or influenced reconstruction.
The suddenly vast academic literature on state-building (often misnamed
nation-building) is not always enlightening in dealing with this
challenge. Against the occasional touch of humility, one finds more
often voluminous checklists that remind me of an automotive repair
magazine that once offered a four-step process for replacing a worn-out
engine: step one, open the hood; step two, remove the old engine; step
three, replace it with a new one; step four, close the hood.
Nation-building advice these days too often offers the same: step one,
enter the afflicted country, by force or invitation; step two, replace
by coercion or persuasion the worn-out government; step three, install
a new democratic, free market replacement; step four, leave the country!
This kind of advice will not do for either mechanics or statesmen, so
we might turn instead to those who have actually tried to remake
states. But whose experience and advice should we seek? General Lucius
Clay (and General Douglas MacArthur) offer pointers, but they worked on
developed, not developing, countries. The usual analogy—Britain’s Iraq
experience in the 1920s—misleads because London was inventing a state
where none had previously existed. Perhaps more can be learned from two
Middle Eastern opposites: Ambassador L. Paul Bremer’s year-long attempt
to reorder 21st-century Iraq and Lord Cromer’s far more protracted
attempt to reorder 19th-century Egypt. And while the contrasts seem to
defy comparison—Bremer’s uneasy 12-month effort to remake what his
country had broken on the quick and cheap; Cromer’s 24-year imperial
proconsulate to endow a broken Muslim state with modernity—surprising
similarities emerge, particularly at their respective beginnings. Set
alongside each other, they tell us much about the do’s and don’ts of
On May 9, 2003, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, known to associates as
“Jerry”, lunched with President George W. Bush at the White House, just
before a National Security Council meeting on his new mission to Iraq.
An athletic man with a youthful appearance and quick grin, Bremer
shared with Bush an enthusiasm for running, which excused their modest
meal of pears and greens. He told the President that Iraq was “a
marathon, not a sprint.”1 Bush agreed, but as Bremer soon discovered,
that was not the policy.
Who was Jerry Bremer and how did he come to this job? Born in Hartford,
Connecticut, his blue-blooded education included Phillips Academy, Yale
and Harvard (MBA), rounded out by a Certificate of Political Studies
from Sciences Po in Paris. Bremer made a Foreign Service career,
eventually becoming Ambassador to the Netherlands and
Ambassador-at-Large for Counterterrorism. He had been in bureaucratic
harm’s way at the Secretarial level, serving as Deputy Executive
Secretary to Henry Kissinger and Executive Secretary to both Alexander
M. Haig, Jr., and George Shultz. The job required tracking the
Secretary’s schedule, recording and conveying decisions, ordering tasks
and reporting results. To do this, Bremer used the “Secretary’s Book”,
a volume listing daily meetings, replete with the necessary papers for
the day and a presage of activities to come.
I came to know Jerry when I ran afoul of the “Book” during my service
as Special Assistant and speechwriter to Haig. Bremer let me know that
he expected a draft speech a full fortnight ahead of the occasion, a
serious violation of my work ethic, which counts premature effort a
cardinal vice. I had Haig’s confidence in the product, so Jerry and I
soon reached a friendly modus vivendi: three days ahead of time, no
Bremer boasted a wall full of awards for his service. He had other
attractive qualities, including a strong sense of duty, family and
faith. Moreover, Bremer had sounded the public alarm on terrorism long
before 9/11. On the awful day itself, his offices in the New York firm
of Marsh & McLennan had been destroyed in the collapse of the south
tower, killing several hundred of his colleagues. Finally, Bremer
worked well with Republicans and was one himself, although not of the
neoconservative persuasion. Bremer’s skills were therefore preeminently
those of the Washington insider, and his selection as Special
Presidential Envoy to Iraq by an Administration already shaken by
internal quarrel suggested that some adult supervision was now at hand.
Unfortunately, Bremer knew damned little about Iraq. He had never
served in the Middle East, spoke no Arabic, and his repertoire of
political analogies was entirely European. Bremer therefore quickly
tapped his network of “formers”, some of whom knew the region well,
notably the late Ambassador Hume Horan. These men in their sixties,
like Bremer, proved astonishingly resilient as they plunged themselves
into 18- to 20-hour workdays amid considerable physical danger and away
from their families.
Another thing Bremer did not know was counterinsurgency. Here too he
had expert friends. One who declined to join the team was Ambassador
James Dobbins, a veteran of the Bosnia and Kosovo projects. Shortly
before Bremer met Bush, Dobbins handed him a RAND research report on
counterinsurgency. The study found that all recorded successful
strategies employed troop-to-population ratios that dictated
400,000–500,000 troops for a country the size of Iraq. Those who tried
to make do with less not only failed; they failed with higher
casualties. Bremer handed the RAND report to Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld and told Bush about it.
Contrary to the critics, there was a strategy for Iraq. As Secretary
Rumsfeld explained in a February 14, 2003 speech called “Beyond Nation
Building”, the United States could do more with less, thanks to the new
technology of war and a revised notion of how to reconstruct states. If
the technological revolution demanded the “transformation” of U.S.
forces from their Cold War model to lighter, quicker and more lethal
ones, then “nation-building” American style required a “light
footprint.” Rumsfeld compared Bosnia and Kosovo, where U.S. and NATO
forces had created a “culture of dependency”, to Afghanistan, where the
United States had quickly transferred responsibility to an Afghan
government. The result was a nearly functioning democracy without a
large residual American presence. The new “light footprint” approach
also intended to resolve a strategic conundrum: The post-9/11 era found
the United States burdened by the commitments of the 1990s and new ones
as well, yet with a military force half the size. George W. Bush had
ten army divisions, his father 19. Rumsfeld was bent on proving that
ten would be enough.
The President and his closest counselors calculated that Iraq was even
more fertile ground to execute the “light footprint” plan than
Afghanistan. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq’s bureaucracies appeared to
function, its infrastructure seemed to work, and its oil reserves
promised resources for any necessary reconstruction. There was an
educated middle class thirsty for democracy, if only Saddam could be
removed (all the Iraqi political exiles said so). Hence, a quick “shock
and awe” operation that cut off the Saddamite head with minimal damage
to the rest of the Iraqi body would facilitate a safe political
transplant. Rumsfeld had therefore bullied the Pentagon’s original war
plan, requiring 500,000 troops, down to a number that fit
transformation and the “light footprint.” Cobra II would be a
four-division coup d’étât, leaving the state intact. It
would be liberation, not occupation.
It was a brilliant concept that did not survive contact with reality.
Off went the head in the Coalition’s march to Baghdad, but down also
came the body. The head, moreover, did not exactly die, for Saddam and
his two deranged sons escaped. As for the body, looting destroyed the
infrastructure, violence marred the streets, and Iraq’s functional
ministries vanished. The new head, moreover, was a hydra of competing
exiles bereft of consensus, ignorant of government and lacking popular
support. The light footprint threatened to morph into the Frankenstein
American officials, thinking of Germany and Japan, had vastly
overestimated the underlying solidity of the Iraqi state. In the
transition from General Jay Garner and ORHA to Jerry Bremer and the CPA
there seemed to be at least an inkling of this. Still, most Bush
Administration principals back in Washington believed that the original
strategy might still work if only it had more time, more money and a
strong local hand. That hand was to be Jerry Bremer’s, and he used it.
Bremer’s effort to revive the body and ready the head transplant can be
divided conveniently into two acts: in the first, May to October 2003,
Bremer’s encounter with Iraqi reality disabused him of his Washington
instructions, leading to the collapse of his political support in the
Defense Department; the second act, beginning with a key series of
meetings in Washington, witnessed an heroic effort to establish a
political structure even amid a growing military crisis and ended on
June 28, 2004.
Act I: Breaking the State
As Bremer flew into a chaotic Baghdad on May 12, 2003, he determined
immediately upon a dramatic show of authority. The day after his
arrival he suggested at a staff meeting that looters should be shot.
This remark, leaked to the press, provoked hysterical publicity. The
generals disavowed him and Bremer could not overrule them because his
“unity of command” covered only civilians. Bremer rebounded from this
unhappy start in Baghdad through two decrees aimed at convincing Iraqis
that Saddam, and Saddamism, were over: The first outlawed the Ba‘ath
Party and the second dissolved the army and other security
Unlike the “shoot the looters” idea, both of these proposals had
originated in Washington, specifically in Rumsfeld’s staff. They were
not only the administrative vehicle for breaking the Saddam state, but
also for assuring the Shi‘a and Kurdish communities that Saddamism
would never return. Although never intended to break the Iraqi state
itself, they finished what was left of it.
The May 16, 2003 decree outlawing the Ba‘ath Party was hardly
objectionable. In Saddam’s clan-party-state, however, the impact
depended on how far down the line the decree was enforced, because
nearly everyone dependent on the Iraqi state had been forced into party
membership. The process was turned over to the controversial exile
Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon’s favorite Iraqi son, who ran the line down
as far as he could, the better to make all those who wanted work
dependent on him. The “de-Ba‘ath” decree therefore effectively crippled
attempts to revive the pre-war Iraqi bureaucracy. As the Iraqi middle
class consisted largely of government employees, the very group the
Americans expected to have the greatest stake in the new Iraq found
itself financially bereft and fearful of the future.
The second decree, on May 23, 2003, dissolved Saddam’s numerous
security organizations and the Iraqi army. No one contested that Iraq’s
huge, over-officered and under-trained force had to be reformed, but
U.S. generals (and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith,
who briefed Bush himself on this point before the war) had counted on
the Iraqi military to supply the “missing link”: the forces necessary
to stabilize the country and guard its borders in the absence of
sufficient Coalition troops. Senior Iraqi officers who might pass the
Ba‘ath purity test had already been contacted and were in extended
conversation with ranking American commanders.
Feith, Bremer and his security expert, the veteran analyst Walter
Slocombe, however, decided on abolition instead. Their reasoning was
simple: The pre-war plan had been overtaken by events. There was no
Iraqi army; it had “self-demobilized.” Abolishing what no longer
existed anyway also had symbolic value to the Shi‘a and the Kurds. This
act, however, outraged all the former soldiers and took U.S. generals
by surprise. The blunder here was to assume that an Iraqi army gone on
collective home leave could not be recalled and reconstituted into
divisions that could pass the professional and political purity tests.
(For his part, Bremer later boasted that three-quarters of the officers
and all the NCOs of the new Iraqi army were veterans from the old one,
proving, if inadvertently, that the Iraqi army had in fact not
permanently “self-demobilized.”) Now, between Rumsfeld and Bremer, U.S.
commanders could not expect either American or Iraqi reinforcements
anytime soon. Moreover, a large pool of the disaffected had been
created. So between his “shoot looters” proposal and his army-banning
decree, Bremer and the military were already operating at dangerous
The German analogy—de-Nazification and dissolution of the Wehrmacht
after World War II—clearly preoccupied Bremer and his superiors. They
seemed to forget, however, that unlike Iraq, Germany benefited from a
meticulously planned American postwar administration, good local
intelligence and a very large occupation army ruling a thoroughly
defeated nation. The Bush Administration, in effect, was operating only
half of the analogy, and the effort quickly foundered on reality.
Over the summer, Bremer concluded that there was no body on which to
graft a new political head. Instead, a new state would have to be
erected and, simultaneously, a new political order created. He saw also
that such a feat of social and constitutional engineering would be
increasingly constrained by time, money and military resources, for the
simple reason that the “light footprint” strategy sought to avoid such
an effort, and hence no part of the U.S. government was committed to it.
Despite early progress, such as the establishment of an advisory Iraq
Governing Council for the disappointed exiles, the injection of
literally tons of dollars and new dinars into the Iraqi economy, and
the promise of much more from the October 2003 Madrid Donors Conference
and the U.S. Congress, Bremer became increasingly aware that his
instructions were impossible in the absence of basic security. He and
his CPA colleagues worked a furious pace largely sequestered in the
Green Zone, Saddam’s former palace complex. Outside the Green Zone,
Baghdad and a few major cities, the CPA hardly existed. Volunteers soon
despaired that it was too dangerous to move around. Some of his CPA
charges, pressed on him by the White House personnel office, were not
expert enough at anything to justify their assignments. Meanwhile, the
Pentagon’s micromanagement, known as the “8,000 mile screwdriver”,
Worst of all, Bremer sensed the growing insurgency. On August 19, 2003,
a suicide bomber attacked the UN Mission, headed by the experienced
diplomat Sergio de Mello, killing him and ending the UN presence.
Insurgents then systematically targeted recently repaired
infrastructure, hobbling electricity and oil production. The CIA failed
to find weapons of mass destruction, and failed at much else besides in
“reading” postwar Iraq. Yet despite all this, Rumsfeld and the local
commanders were adamant on troop reductions. When Bremer detected the
incipient danger of a second insurgency—a Shi‘a one led by the young
demagogic cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr—the American military refused to
suppress him, even though the Shi‘a parties supported Bremer’s request.
Meanwhile, the quarrelsome Governing Council proved of little value.
Act II: Exit Strategy
By late October 2003, Bremer had come to oppose the very plan he had
been sent to execute. He wanted much more time, at least two years to
build self-sustaining Iraqi political institutions, and many more
troops to conduct counterinsurgency. But these ideas ran contrary to
those of his superiors, notably Rumsfeld, who advocated a quick
assignment of sovereignty to the Governing Council (the Wolfowitz-Feith
scheme) coupled with an accelerated turnover of security
responsibilities to newly recruited Iraqi forces. During late October
meetings in Washington, Bremer found that he was no longer the
Pentagon’s man. Andrew Card, the President’s Chief of Staff, suggested
he was being “set up” for blame if Rumsfeld should have to go through a
full rotation of forces in spring 2004, mobilizing Reserve units in an
election year. So Bremer played his best card to Card, telling him he
would like to leave his post in May 2004. The marathon man had become a
sprinter after all.
After an indecisive NSC meeting on October 29, Bush joined Bremer in
another exercise séance, where Bremer quoted a CIA estimate that
“the enemy believes American leadership is more focused on an exit
strategy than prosecuting the war.” Bush assured him that the United
States was still prepared for a marathon, but he did not try to
dissuade Bremer from leaving. Clearly, the jig was up, and Bremer
returned to Baghdad, a man in a big hurry. He was therefore not
surprised when Vice President Cheney told him that the Pentagon was
hell-bent on an exit, and not surprised either when Bush decided in
mid-November to press for early sovereignty, a March 1, 2004 target
date for a constitution, and elections to be held soon thereafter. As
Bremer immediately recognized, this schedule was either impossible or,
if pushed hard anyway, a formula for a communal train wreck. The de
facto Shi‘a leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, demanded elections
before writing a constitution in order to ensure Shi‘a majority power,
but both the Kurds and the Sunnis demanded constitutionally grounded
minority protection before an election.
At this dark hour, Bremer was buoyed temporarily when Bush managed a
surprise trip to Baghdad for Thanksgiving and, on December 14, 2003,
American soldiers captured Saddam. This marked the high point of
Bremer’s personal prestige, but he knew that personal prestige was not
enough. Besides, Bremer had a first rule for Iraq that kept his
enthusiasm in check: “If you get what appears to be good news, it
usually means you’re not fully informed.”
Squeezed between a quick-step schedule demanded by Washington and a
recalcitrant Iraqi political reality, Bremer did his best to persuade
the local parties that their maximum objectives could not be obtained:
There could be no Sunni dictatorship, no independent Kurdistan, no
Shi‘a Islamic Republic. He thought the parties could be brought to
agreement if a written constitution more or less matched this natural
balance. After several false starts, on March 8, 2004, the three major
Iraqi communities finally initialed a deal. The winning formula turned
out to be a custodial government to prepare a constitution, its bona
fides based on a “pre-constitution” called the “Transitional Authority
Law” that guaranteed Kurdish and Sunni rights. Sovereignty would be
turned over on June 30, 2004, with elections scheduled for early 2005.
This political triumph, however, was promptly threatened by two
rebellions. On March 31, 2004, four American security contractors were
murdered, and their bodies mutilated, in Fallujah, a town already
infamous as a haven for Sunni insurgents, including Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi’s suicide bombers. Almost simultaneously, Sadr’s Shi‘a gang
revolted. These eruptions ended the Pentagon’s plans for a quick exit,
and, in Bremer’s initial view, offered a last best chance for the
United States to assert a decisive military authority that would ease
the task of the new Iraqi government in formation.
At the moment of truth, however, Bremer (and Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN
envoy helping the constitutional negotiations) feared that crushing
al-Sadr and Fallujah would collapse the Governing Council. The Shi‘a
and Sunni parties simply could not be seen making deals with the CPA
while large-scale American military action played out amid suffering
civilian populations. What to do? On Good Friday, an emergency NSC
meeting ended with Bush deciding that the June 30 sovereignty
transition date had to be met, hence the use of U.S. military force
would be restrained. On the ground, the American counterattack became a
slow squeeze of al-Sadr and an inconclusive siege of Fallujah.
Washington had flinched. Compounding Bremer’s plight at the height of
the military crises, photos of the Abu Ghraib prison abuses were
published on April 28.
Bremer redoubled his efforts. On May 31, the new interim government,
under the premiership of the secular Shi‘a Iyad Allawi, had finally
taken shape, complete with the Transitional Authority Law. This paved
the way for the UN Security Council to recognize it on June 8 and to
guarantee legal authority for the Coalition Multinational Force to
continue its supporting role until Iraq’s new government held elections
under a new constitution no later than January 31, 2005. Bremer had not
saved American policy in Iraq, but he believed he bought it more time.
If Washington continued to will the end without willing the means,
however, there was little more he could do about it.
Despite congratulatory leave-taking, Bremer departed from Iraq on a
sour note. In December 2004, his van had been attacked; he had escaped
assassination primarily because a traffic jam delayed the suicide
bombers. His security guards argued that the June 30 turnover date was
a big bullseye. So abruptly on the morning of June 28, Bremer conducted
a hastily assembled turnover to a surprised Iraqi Chief Justice in Iyad
Allawi’s office. At the airport, he pretended to leave on one aircraft
then jetted out on another.
Bremer’s Iraq exit: June 28, 2004 [credit: AFP/Getty Images]
Upon his return to Washington, Jerry Bremer received the Medal of
Freedom from President Bush and numerous accolades from Congress. He
told reporters he was going to fish for a while, and write a book. The
book, My Year in Iraq, achieved mixed acclaim and good sales, but in
2006 the war was going badly because, as Bremer had feared, the
Administration had never brought to bear sufficient power and
determination. Conditions within Iraq continued to deteriorate.
For that reason, if not for others, antiwar Democrats gained control of
Congress in November 2006. On February 6, 2007, Rep. Henry Waxman
(D-CA), the new Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform
Committee, summoned Bremer, clad in his familiar pin stripes but
without the hiking boots he wore in Baghdad, to a Capitol Hill hearing.
To the amusement of all those who knew the desperate Baghdad summer of
2003, Waxman fixated on denouncing Bremer’s distribution of Iraqi cash
to an impoverished population without—horror of horrors—proper
accounting. The tragic aftermath of Saddam’s fall had become
Waxman’s political pantomime aside, Bremer knew the real issues. He
foresaw that “constitutionalism” in itself would not end the violence.
What was not done in spring 2004 would have to be done later. In 2005,
U.S. forces destroyed Fallujah. Al-Sadr, however, was allowed into the
election process, becoming a key supporter of Prime Minister Ibrahim
Jaaferi and then Nouri al-Maliki, both of whom provided political
protection for his increasingly murderous militia. Long before,
however, Bremer had lost any illusions about the Iraqis themselves, or,
more specifically, their would-be political leaders. He respected Iraqi
culture and Muslim mores—what he knew of them. He learned some Arabic
and practiced a professional diplomat’s tact. Nevertheless, Bremer grew
weary of what he called “Persian” negotiating methods (roughly
equivalent to “moving the goalposts”), and he found few leaders able to
rise above tribe and sect. He also got a full, bitter taste of what
British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the Arab “grievance culture”,
whereby all misfortunes were attributed to Americans, Britons or the
Zionists, amplified in the Shi‘a case to cover a thousand years of
Sunni misdeeds. His parting words to the Iraqis—“You have your country
now. . . . Take good care of it”—expressed a hope. Hope was many
things, but a policy it was not. And remaking an Iraqi state recently
broken was simply not Rumsfeld’s policy. President Bush, meanwhile,
still nourished the ambitions of a marathon man with the resources of a
I turned with relief from the tale of a botched U.S. venture in Iraq to
Lord Cromer’s masterful command in Egypt. Here was a story, so I
thought, not of the unwilling and the unprepared but of a highly
prepared proconsul, willingly supported. That proved true eventually,
but it was not so at first. Indeed, Cromer’s first year bore an uncanny
resemblance to Bremer’s.2
When Evelyn Baring, later Lord Cromer, arrived in Cairo on September
11, 1883, he had already distinguished himself as a soldier and
administrator. Born in 1841 to a prosperous banking family, Baring had
a Churchillian upbringing: neglectful parents, poor schooling and, on
his own part, rebellious behavior. He was then sent to the British
army, the Victorian destination for the well-born but dimwitted. There,
like Churchill, Baring acquired discipline, and when his mind awakened
he worked hard to educate himself, learning among other things the
Latin and Greek he had earlier avoided.
An artilleryman, Baring soon excelled as observer and analyst. He
witnessed part of General Grant’s Wilderness Campaign near the end of
the Civil War, losing a cap to a Confederate sharpshooter. Thereafter,
he entered the new Staff College, joined the Intelligence Branch and
became an expert on the French and German armies. Baring predicted not
only that France would lose the Franco-Prussian War but even the
location of the decisive battle. In 1872, his cousin Lord Northbrook
took him to India following the assassination of the previous Viceroy.
There, Baring learned administration, security and intelligence,
including the cultivation of the lively local press. He also manifested
a gift for public finance.
Baring emerged fully formed from his Indian experience. Low taxes,
local knowledge and aiding the peasants were keys to success. A paragon
of integrity, Baring exuded a distant dignity that reflected his
reserved personality. His intolerance of fools made him formidable—an
impression reinforced by his six-foot stature. Baring also exhibited
the usual prejudices, disliking Catholics (though he married one) and
Jews (the Baring Brothers’ rivals were the Rothschilds). More
significantly, Baring thought Islam a real obstacle to progress. A
Whig-Liberal he joined Gladstone in denouncing Disraeli’s pro-Ottoman
policy. Nonetheless, he accepted Lord Salisbury’s offer to join the
Anglo-French mission to Egypt in 1877, technically as an employee of
the Khedive Ismail, to repair that country’s woeful finances. The
Khedive so disliked Baring’s report that he fired him, but Ismail was
forced to abdicate under international pressure. The report’s findings
were applied, and Baring returned to India.
“The Most Incapable Ministry”
In 1882, Colonel Ahmad Urabi of the Egyptian army revolted against the
Powers and the Khedive on the grounds that the 1877 financial
agreements deprived Egypt of its independence. European lives and,
ultimately, control of the Suez Canal were at stake, and Prime Minister
Gladstone dispatched a British army to crush the revolt. This done,
Britain faced mounting international opposition and the cost of a large
garrison. Gladstone did not want to “own” Egypt and he needed a Liberal
who knew the country to evacuate the 20,000 plus British forces within
a year. And thus it was that Evelyn Baring became Consul General in
Cairo, with instructions to establish a Khedival government that would
satisfy international creditors and Britain’s interests, in effect
remaking Egypt even as the British army departed.
Egypt had been broken and remade once before, when Napoleon’s invasion
in 1799 led to the overthrow of the Mameluk dynasty by the soldier
Muhammad Ali. He refashioned Egypt on French lines and, indeed, until
his ambitions were thwarted by a British-led international coalition,
the country was considered an astonishing success. But Egypt was now
living well beyond its means. After a short time in the country, Baring
concluded that the Khedive was a tyrant, the accounts impenetrable, the
Egyptian army too large and the people incapable of self-government. By
July 1884, he was back in London, arguing against evacuation and for
reform, new institutions and eventually the independence of Egypt (and
Sudan, then controlled by Egypt) from the Ottoman Empire.
This argument was overtaken by dramatic events in the Sudan. Back in
November 1883, an Egyptian expeditionary force, officered by Colonel
William Hicks of the British army, had been massacred by the forces of
the Mahdi, a Sudanese rebel who intended to purify Sudan en route to
renewing the Caliphate, in his opinion laid low by infidels and
traitors. The evacuation of Egyptians and Europeans from Sudan was
added to Cromer’s mission, but the Egyptian government resigned rather
than carry out the order, to be replaced by the efficient but unpopular
Nubar Pasha, a Coptic Christian. In a strange little dance, Baring and
Nubar played off each other, explaining to their respective masters
that it was unsafe for the British to leave until Sudan was settled,
and that the British should suppress the Mahdi. Instead, Gladstone
ordered the celebrated General Charles “Chinese” Gordon to evacuate the
Sudan. Baring thought Gordon a violent drunk; still, he approved the
choice, so long as Gordon was under his command. In a prophetic second
thought, however, Baring wrote: “A man who habitually consults with the
Prophet Isaiah when he is in difficulty, is not apt to obey the orders
Gordon entered the Sudan by announcing that he had come to leave, a
signal that instantly eliminated any cooperation he might have gotten
from the Mahdi’s opposition. He was soon besieged in Khartoum.
Gladstone dallied and Gordon perished, his rescuers arriving two days
too late on January 30, 1885. Reeling from the disaster, which was soon
amplified by the publication of Gordon’s private journals, Gladstone
reversed course, suggesting that Britain might have to stay in Egypt
for five years. This, however, wrecked Baring’s carefully contrived
international financial conference in July 1885, which fell prey to the
suspicions of the French and others that England intended to annex
Egypt. Small wonder that he confided to his diary that Gladstone had
run “the most incapable ministry—as regards foreign affairs—that I
believe ever ruled England.” Cromer’s first year and a half had been
Baring thought he was finished, but then Gladstone’s government fell,
rose, then finally fell again to Lord Salisbury’s Tories in July 1886.
That November, Baring wrote a colleague, “If a civilised Power takes a
semi-barbarous country it must make up its mind quickly whether to go
or to stay.” By July 1887, the Sudan, the Canal, the other powers, the
debt and the Khedive had made up Salisbury’s mind. He decided to stay.
Baring and Salisbury got along famously. The arch-Liberal and
arch-Tory, however, did have one major difference: In Baring’s words,
Salisbury believed that “the political regeneration of Mohammedism was
possible”, but “I don’t agree.” The Tory statesman hoped the Ottoman
Empire could be regenerated; the Liberal proconsul wanted it reformed
beyond recognition or dismembered. This reflected a deeper division
over Empire: Could rule over others be justified by self-interest
alone, or must the ruled also benefit? Baring answered by skillfully
pitching the Canal and India to the imperial-minded Tories, and a
civilizing mission to the Liberals, thereby satisfying both Queen and
The Long Haul
By the summer of 1887, at age 46, the proconsul was set for his life’s
work. Lytton Strachey wrote of Baring in The Eminent Victorians (1918)
that “his views were long, and his patience even longer.” Creating what
we would call today a “virtual state”, Baring retained the
façade of Egypt’s government, complete with Khedive and
ministries, while running them from behind and inside through
handpicked British experts. Nubar Pasha characterized the relationship:
“The British are easy to deceive. But when you think you have deceived
them, you get a tremendous kick in the backside.” When Nubar challenged
Baring over the appointment of the Police Inspector General after the
British appointee died in 1888, claiming it was time for an Egyptian,
Nubar himself felt Baring’s foot against his backside: He was forcibly
retired from public office by the Khedive. A more pliable Riaz Pasha
fell in 1891 when he contested Baring on judicial reform. A yet more
pliable Mustafa Fahim occupied the post for most of the next 16 years.
Baring also made sure to dominate the administration, the intelligence
services and the military. He started small with 366 Britons and a
garrison reduced to 5,000 troops, but the number of Britons in the
Egyptian civil service grew steadily and the troops could be readily
reinforced by British units rotating to India through the Canal. So did
the subventions to journalists and the press.
Last and not least came the reforms themselves. After assuring fiscal
stability through debt retirement and other economic stringencies,
Baring eliminated the corvée (forced labor) and flogging for
taxes. He built canals and dams, notably the original Aswan Dam, which
greatly increased cotton production. Baring was not much interested in
education beyond technical training, but he insisted throughout on an
honest public service and judiciary. He also insisted on his own hard
work. Baring spent most of his time in the office, venturing
infrequently up the Nile on tour and into Cairo—already a big city of
several hundred thousand residents, including thirty to forty thousand
Europeans. When he did travel the short distance between his office and
the Khedive’s palace, his carriage was attended by fifty cavalry. To
the dismay of British units posted in Egypt, Baring often insisted on
marches in full regalia through different parts of Cairo, the better to
impress the residents.
After some years of slow but steady improvement in Egypt, Baring was
ennobled in March 1892 as the first Lord Cromer, taking the name from
the family home in the midlands. This gratification, however, soon
dissipated. Khedive Taufig had died suddenly in January 1892 at age
forty and his son Abbas II, 17 years of age, European educated and
ambitious, became the new ruler. Then in July, a Liberal government
replaced Salisbury. Thus, when Abbas challenged Cromer frontally by
dismissing his favorite Prime Minister on January 14, 1893, he could
not be sure of his backing. So Cromer decided to impose his way on both
London and Cairo. He wrote to Lord Rosebery, the new Foreign Secretary,
of his fear of a plot backed by the French and the Ottomans through
Abbas to dislodge England. Why not simply seize Egypt’s government and
be done with the meddlers?
The Liberals were taken aback. Rosebery explained to Queen Victoria
that Cromer’s recent gout might have affected his judgment. When Cromer
demanded military reinforcements, however, the Liberals, like the
Tories, remembered the Gordon disaster. The Black Watch Regiment, bound
for India, was diverted. Cromer then chose, unwisely, to humiliate
Abbas by forcing the dismissal of both the Prime Minister and the newly
selected commander of the Egyptian army. In the wake of this affair,
pro-British Egyptian politicians were discredited, Nubar Pasha
declaring, “There is no longer an Egyptian government!” The Khedive
became a permanent enemy.
In 1896, Lord Salisbury once more led the British government. On the
rebound from the mess with the Khedive, Cromer wanted to recover the
Sudan, a highly popular idea among the Egyptians. The Mahdi was dead of
natural causes, but his Khalifal successor was raiding the border.
Cromer needed a general, an army, and someone else’s money to build the
railroad needed to transport a modern force into Sudan. Lord Kitchener
was the general, England would provide the army, and Cromer would
command it all or he would resign. Salisbury agreed.
Then came the money. London would not finance a war in the Sudan and
the building of a dam at Aswan simultaneously, so Cromer persuaded Sir
Ernest Cassel (Jewish but not a Rothschild) to fund it, giving him an
option to buy remaining public (once Khedival) lands in lieu of a
British government guarantee. Kitchener then headed south slowly with a
mixed force of 25,800, one-third of them British, building the railroad
as he went. Salisbury urged haste as the French were engaged further
south in what would become the Fashoda Incident. On September 2, 1898,
the battle of Omdurman sealed the Khalif’s defeat. Cromer thought less
well of Kitchener, however, after the general allowed the desecration
of the Mahdi’s tomb and the dismemberment of his body in revenge for
Gordon. This raised a storm of protest in London, angered the Queen,
and greatly encouraged Cromer’s enemies, largely Liberal
anti-imperialists who were busily publicizing his “misrule” of Egypt.
Another group of critics was outraged when he announced that Sudan’s
way of life would continue: slavery yes; Christian missionaries no!
Amid these storms, Cromer suffered the worst blow of his life. His
beloved wife, Ethel, suffering from Bright’s disease, died on October
16, 1898. They had been married 22 years, in love for 35. He was now
bereft of the emotional light of his life.
Dispensing with the Indespensable
As the century turned, England had been in Egypt for 17 years.
Longevity gave Britain and Cromer increasing authority to change the
complex arrangements of the debt and the international claims. Debt
retirement freed cash reserves for public works in Egypt and the
economy boomed on cotton and foreign investment. Cromer believed
England indispensable to Egypt, and himself indispensable to them both.
But then his health failed. After a bad bout of gout and intestinal
troubles, he decided to take a four-month rather than three-month leave
annually. He felt so poorly that he turned down the new Liberal
government’s offer of Foreign Secretary in December 1905.
Two crises then became his undoing. Cromer got a British battle fleet
to intimidate the Ottomans over the poorly delineated provinces to the
north. (It was called the Taba Incident, and indeed it was about the
same issue that plagued Egyptian-Israeli relations into the 1990s.)
London thought Cromer had grossly overreacted to a German-sponsored
railroad being built near the area. Then came the Dinshawai Incident on
June 13, 1906. A small British army party hunting pigeons got into a
brawl with some villagers, and one British captain died of his
injuries. Cromer resolved on swift justice, using a special mixed court
he had appointed in 1895 to try military cases (Butros Butros-Ghali,
then acting Minister of Justice and ancestor of the future Foreign
Minister and UN Secretary General of the same name, presided.) Four of
the villagers were sentenced to hang and eight to be flogged publicly.
Cromer left Egypt before the trial, but his second wife’s illness en
route delayed his arrival in London until June 30. Meanwhile, Cairo and
London both were agog with protests against the sentences and Cromer’s
regime. The government’s defense in Parliament was discredited by
inaccurate information. In Egypt, the nationalist cause revived.
Between the two events, Cromer was badly undermined, for he relied upon
a consensus in Britain that the occupation was uplifting the native
people, even as it served imperial interests. Taba seemed out of scale
to imperial interests, and Dinshawi suggested that “Cromerism” itself
was arbitrary and cruel. His health broken, Cromer resigned in March
Cromer’s departure after 24 years of swagger and hard work was welcomed
by most Egyptians. All faulted him for failing to restore self-rule; a
few respected his economic and social improvements. Back in England, a
grateful Parliament awarded Cromer £50,000. He was frequently
honored and consulted but did not rest, writing Modern Egypt, two
volumes sometimes indiscreet. Everywhere he repeated his familiar
message: Islam was a spent and wrongheaded force; only Europeans could
train the Muslims to modernity. As for Egypt, he summed up the
alternatives: In the absence of England or some new cohesive civilized
class, Egypt would be “easy prey to either the nationalist demagogue .
. . or that of some religious fanatic.”
Cromer died on January 29, 1917. He is hardly remembered in Britain,
but generations of Egyptians have been taught to revile him as the
archenemy. (Sadat recalled being taught ballads about Dinshawai as a
child in the 1920s.) Despite the 1952 Revolution, however, one can
still see Cromer’s Modern Egypt on display. It is still virtual, with a
parliamentary façade but real rule by the coterie around Mubarak
backstopped by the army and the secret police. And the real choice he
had predicted in 1906 was manifest. Egypt, “his” Egypt, is now in the
hands of the “demagogue nationalists.” The alternative is still the
Bremer and Cromer
Bremer and Cromer are very different people. The American, diplomat and
coordinator, affable and approachable; the Englishman, soldier and
administrator, imperious and distant. They also lived in very different
times. Although each represented the dominant power of their eras,
imperial Britain at its zenith did not have anywhere near the resources
of 21st-century America.
Cromer, however, could call upon a national flexibility that Bremer
lacked. While the Empire had strong opponents in Britain, Victorian
England was prepared to rule over others in the national interest
(Tory) or the civilizing mission (Liberal). The breaking and making of
states, either incorporated into the empire or “protected” with a
façade of self-government, was therefore the way one did
business. Americans, by contrast, oppose “rule over others” in
principle. In practice they have occasionally done it, but deemed it
mostly a sin. The casus belli has also changed. In the 19th century,
default on debts begat an invasion. In the 21st century, it begets an
Bremer and Cromer also differed sharply about the people they governed.
The American respected the locals and their Muslim traditions. The
Englishman denigrated Islam and instead measured local leaders against
Roman, Greek and Protestant Christian ideas. At bottom, Bremer wanted
out and Cromer wanted in.
The countries were different, too. Iraq was a heterogeneous and recent
creation unsure of itself and its past. Egypt was and is a universe
unto itself, proud and eternal. Moreover, British intelligence proved
proficient and competent, America’s the very opposite. Finally, of
course, there was time itself. Bremer had but a year; Cromer nearly a
quarter century. The American was constantly forced to act in haste;
the Englishman could take the long view.
Despite these differences, there are surprising similarities. While
unlike in personality, both Bremer and Cromer were profoundly
patriotic, serving despite great personal risk. Both represented
governments that had decided to break a key Muslim state: in Bush’s
case, because of faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction
and the War on Terror; in Gladstone’s case, because of the Canal and
India. Both governments wanted to do their breaking on the cheap.
Bremer and Cromer were therefore assigned “missions impossible”, their
timetables set by distant politicians interested primarily in swift
military withdrawal. And both faced strong international opposition.
Nor could the Ambassador or the Consul be sure of home support. Bremer
lost his early when he opposed Rumsfeld’s plans and ran afoul of his
generals. Gladstone changed instructions twice, and Salisbury
contradicted Gladstone. And both Bremer and Cromer compounded their own
trouble: Bremer thought to break Saddam’s regime and instead broke the
remnants of the Iraqi state; Cromer supported the Gordon mission but
then could not alter its tragic outcome.
Other similarities may arise, as well. Is Bush’s surge and General
David Petraeus’ remarks about prolonging it well into 2008 a harbinger
of a Salisbury-like reversal to “stay”? If Nubar gave way to Riaz Pasha
and Riaz Pasha then to Mustafa Fahim, does that mean that Ibrahim
Jaaferi’s giving way to Nouri al-Maliki predicts Maliki’s giving way to
a more pliant successor, as well? Are the information operations of the
U.S. Army in Baghdad comparable to Cromer’s suborning of the Egyptian
press? Were Kitchener’s desecration of the Mahdi’s tomb and Cromer’s
own Dinshawai Incident comparable to Abu Ghraib and the murderous
behavior of soldiers like Stephen Green? Can we compare the effects of
Cromer’s parades through Cairo with Bremer’s proconsular posturings in
These are interesting questions, but as the late Robert
Strausz-Hupé liked to say, not half as interesting as the
answers. Meanwhile, these sagas offer us three secrets, mostly hiding
in plain sight, that could instruct American statesmen confronted by
similar challenges tomorrow.
No Will, No Way: Presidents who break states but are unwilling to
provide the plan and resources to remake them, including the
suppression of insurgencies, eventually pay with their own reputations,
not to speak of lives, treasure and national interests. Moreover,
insurgencies—civil wars by definition—are a predictable outcome of
state-breaking and they are best quashed early. This is a labor
intensive exercise that involves the three “Ps” and the three “Cs”:
pursuit of insurgents, protection of vital facilities and promotion of
reconstruction, combined with cooption, corruption and coercion of
No Magic Bullets, Please: British forces in 1882 shared with American
forces in 2003 a huge technological advantage that gave relatively
small units enormous lethality. But the British never thought that was
enough to prevail. So Cromer applied intelligence and all the rest of
what is today called counterinsurgency doctrine. He skillfully co-opted
and corrupted, leaving the smallest number to be coerced, although
plagued by a “banditry” problem with occasional nationalist overtones.
When late in his career Cromer exercised too much coercion, he badly
hurt the British position. There are simply no technological fixes for
wars of occupation when national or tribal energies are engaged. Too
few troops using too much firepower is a sure recipe for failure.
One Man, One Command: Unity of command over civilian and military
resources vested in the man on the spot is vital to success. Cromer
insisted on it and got it. Unity of command also has a “home”
dimension. Cromer’s experience, reputation and arguments appealed to
both parties, giving him resiliency and winning him time. Bremer,
through no fault of his own, possessed neither unity of command nor a
convivial home front.
So does the Humpty Dumpty corollary to the Pottery Barn rule mean that
the “breaking and making” of states exceeds American competence? Can
any foreign power endow a broken state with a political system not of
its own people’s making?
Bremer tells us that it cannot be done on the quick and cheap. Cromer
tells us that such experiments take a long time and considerable
expense, and may still fail in the absence of a local “center” that can
avoid extremes. The “foreigner’s gift” of a new political system (Fouad
Ajami’s phrase) is therefore likely to be “degifted” (Jerry Seinfeld’s
phrase) when the foreigner leaves.
If our main justification for breaking a state is the export of our
ideals, then the record suggests that we not try it at all. If it be to
safeguard our interests, then we will find a more compelling source of
action. While in the end the British parliamentary gift was degifted,
Britain’s position in Egypt proved vital to its survival in two World
Wars. Ultimately, the American attempt to remake the politics of
Iraq—and the broader Middle East—must pivot on the value of our
interest in keeping that tortured region from an even worse fate than
has already befallen it, and us.
1. Subsequent quotations derive from Bremer, with Malcolm McConnell, My
Year In Iraq (Simon & Schuster, 2006), unless otherwise noted. 2.
This section’s source is Roger Owen, Lord Cromer (Oxford, 2004), unless
FRIDAY, April 20,
- "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those
who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes...Such laws
make things worse for the asaulted and better for the assailants; they
serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man
may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
A quotation from the president of the NRA? No. Rather, a
quote published approvingly by Thomas Jefferson in his "Commonplace
Book" and authored by Cesare Beccaria, the founder of
criminology. See "Gun-Free Zones", by David B. Kopel,
WSJ Wednesday, April 18, 2007, Opinion, pA17. See also "The
Mass-Shooting Puzzle", by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.; and "Cho's
Madness", both in WSJ, same day, pA16. These should be required
reading in the wake of the Virginia Tech. tragedy. Another source
of clear thinking regarding school security can be found through a
non-profit organization called Safe Havens International.
- Meanwhile, not only are college administrators avoiding their
traditional role "in loco parentis"...but the
"parenti" themselves are often clueless. Witness the explosion of
popularity of "My Space" and similar public diaries that expose
children to the armpits of the world before they can descern what they
are smelling. Parents have not only a right but also an
obligation to know what their children below the age of majority are
doing at all times. This includes no locks on their home doors,
and no secret "spaces". And if they complain about "trust", how
about trusting their parents until they can take responsibility for
themselves. At whatever age, one cannot be dependent
and independent at the same time.
THURSDAY, April 19,
- More on school safety. Besides the
wrong-headed frequent reluctance of school leaders to divulge even
serious problems on campus, two other related issues are at the crux of
this national problem. First, persons with mental health problems
are not adequately screened, treated and if necessary
sequestered. Secondly, despite a Federal law requiring screening
and prohibition of persons with a history of mental health problems
from buying firearms, only 17 States rekportedly enforce that law (see "Mental
Health And Guns: Do Background Checks Do Enough?", in The Day
today, pA9). America has always been a nation that acts
frequently only in response to revolution, war, assassination or
tragedy. Is this enough yet?
- Iraq. A quagmire of this
administration's own making, after initially having done the right
thing. But at least give it credit for not cutting, running and
leaving a regional disaster to be fought out by all those Sunni and
Shia nations in an area of great strategic concern to America.
Give the "surge" and especially the recalcitrant Iraqi leaders one
final chance to reach internal reconciliation. But the prognosis
is guarded. See "The Trouble With Islam", by Tawfik
Hamid, WSJ Tuesday, April 3, Opinion, pA15. Meanwhile, whatever
the outcome of this approach over the coming months, we should be
rebuilding our greatly weakened ground forces and support arms -
including with a fair draft as soon as possible. To
fail to do this, because of the coming elections or for any other
reason, would be the height of irresponsibility and would be the
ultimate legacy of this President.
- Abortion. You may somehow have doubts and
reservations about this question relating to the early weeks of
pregnancy, something that I cannot understand on medical, legal or
moral grounds. But you have to be evil to
condone "partial birth abortion" under any
circumstances. The U.S. Supreme Court did the right
thing; but I pray for the conversion of the dissenting four.
MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, April 16 through 18,
- The Virginia Tech. massacre. What an
unfortunately apt segway from my last comments here. There
will be much more information to come in the news. But
there is already enough known for the question to be asked: were
the usual suspects at work here? Did the university
administration, charged with the protection of 26, 000 students on its
city-within-a-city campus, take their responsibility seriously
beforehand? If they had an adequate plan in place, did they
hesitate to implement it in deference to their attorneys and PR people,
as has happened at other colleges? Did they care that they knew -
or should have known - that they had at least one psychotic
or psychpath on their campus...and probably many more? And will
they now trot out that universal nostrum, "gun control" to solve their
problems? If anything, this advances the case for more
self-defense. America was born of violence, was baptized in
violence, and lives more and more in a culture of violence, where a few
harsh words or a personal fight can rapidly escalate to the use of
lethal weapons. How to change that culture? Start with
responsible parenting and a sense of spirituality. Then punish
all those execrable TV shows and movies in the pocketbook.
Also, place the treatment of mental illness on a par with cancer, heart
disease and the other diseases competing for our attention. That
would be a good start.
- Regarding Spirituality and Belief in God, see
a fine article on the subject in U.S.A. Today, Monday April 16, 2006,
The Forum, p11A: "Atheism Isn't The Final Word", by Don
- The Republican Presidential Compaign. The
two most refreshing candidates are Senator John McCain and former
Senator Fred Thompson, although the latter has not yet
announced. See the following articles: "McCain Sticks To His
Guns And Stands By His Convictions", by David Brooks (in
The Day Monday, April 16, 2007, Commentary, pA7); and "Run, Sen.
Thompson, Run", by Cal Thomas (in The Day Tuesday, April 17, 2007,
Commentary, pA7). Will the often self-destructive Republican
king-makers wake up in time?
- More on America. Former Colorado
Governor Lamm has written an excellent piece (click here) on the subject.
SATURDAY and SUNDAY, April 14 and 15,
Is it the Nor'easter we are having at this moment, or is it the
news of the week?
THE UNITED STATES OF DISREPAIR.
- We really have just a one-party system in this
country: see "The Incumbent Party", by Jim Cooper, WSJ Friday,
April 13, 2007, Opinion, pA13.
- "Business ethics" is an oxymoron. The New
York Times today reports that the jackals have long been attacking and
devouring the student loan industry.
- No sense of civility can be found in any of the
mass media, nor on the road nor walking across the street.
- There appears to be little sense of common interest or
of shared sacrifice on behalf of our one nation. Witness
our impatience with even acknowledging - let alone fignting -
a war on terror, and our absolute refusal to entertain a fair
- Religions are trying to self-destruct
(Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist...), while spirituality
is under seige from a rabid secularism...not as bad as in Europe, but
not far behind.
This is not the Armageddon. But I believe that
America is in for a prolonged period of hard times, unless all citizens
start paying attention and start voting.
THURSDAY and FRIDAY, April 12 and 13,
Don Imus. The only reason that
this warrants a comment here is because of the larger story. Imus
should have been fired 30 years ago, and at any time in the intervening
period. His ilk began the race to the bottom in civility,
But what's important is the hypocracy of liberals and their media, the
gall of "leaders of the Black Community"...an oxymoron if there ever
was one...and the on-going stupidity of their followers. No race,
creed or color has ever succeeded in escaping being permanently
marginalized in this melting pot country without integrating into its
society. This never means forsaking their own culture. It
also does not support dwelling on (or wallowing in) differences to the
exclusion of commonality. I can make this point no better than as
appears in the article by Cal Thomas ("Free Speech Amid A
Culture Of Hypocrisy", in The Day (www.theday.com),
Friday, April 13, 2007, Commentary, pA7. To use an old but
appropriate word, Don Imus has always been a JERK. But
what many members of Black Community are allowing to be
done in their name by their "leaders" is a total abrogation of
responsibility to themselves and their children.
WEDNESDAY, April 11,
Having already expressed an opinion on the recent
comments by Japan's Prime Minister Abe, I offer the following facts and
Why the "history issue" shouldn't discredit Japan's new foreign policy.
by Duncan Currie
04/09/2007 12:00:00 AM
THIS PAST JANUARY, speaking to the North Atlantic Council, Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe laid out an admirable vision for Japanese foreign
policy. "We have to elevate democracy in places where it is emerging;
consolidate respect for human rights where it is suppressed; and offer
hope for a brighter future in situations where people are yielding to
despair," Abe said. "Our aim is to create a safer world where every
individual can live with pride. To make this goal a reality, we need to
be dynamic, and never fear casting off the shackles of dogma that we
have long taken for granted. My country is ready to meet the world's
rising expectations for our enhanced role in the international
community." Unfortunately for Abe and other Japanese conservatives,
playing that "enhanced role" in the future may require a deeper and
more forthright scrutiny of the past.
Thanks in part to its foreign aid policies and burgeoning
internationalism, Japan now commands remarkable global goodwill,
especially in Southeast Asia. Abe hopes to spearhead a Japanese freedom
agenda in that part of the world, while bolstering strategic ties with
countries (principally the U.S., India, and Australia) that share "such
fundamental values as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of
law." In order to facilitate a more robust security program, and better
address the challenges posed by China and North Korea, he wants to
revise the pacifist Article 9 of Japan's MacArthur-era constitution.
Critics suggest this will lead to "remilitarization." But Japan already
has a military, known as the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), which has been
deployed overseas for peacekeeping missions several times since the
early 1990s. After 9/11, Japan sent SDF naval ships to the war in
Afghanistan and SDF ground troops to the war in Iraq, both in noncombat
roles. Long criticized for not making its fair share of global
contributions, Japan demonstrated a willingness to do more. As former
Economist editor and Japan expert Bill Emmott wrote in April 2004, the
Iraq mission seemed to indicate that Japan would "play a fuller role
internationally" and "truly be part of an international community."
Abe's proposed constitutional tinkering is relatively modest and
incremental: He would keep the "No War" pledge, but would also make it
easier for Japan to pursue collective self-defense and integrate the
SDF into multilateral frameworks. Overall Japanese defense spending is
still capped at an artificially low level. "The claims of Japanese
'remilitarization' are both inaccurate and overblown," says Michael
Auslin, director of the Project on Japan-U.S. Relations at Yale. "It's
a very prudent and responsible buildup that is still defensively
In short, Abe's basic agenda, building on the legacy of former Japanese
prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, is healthy for Asia and healthy for
global security. It is certainly healthy for the U.S.-Japan alliance.
But Abe also gives credence to Japan's World War II revisionists. He
regards the postwar Tokyo Trials with suspicion, and has
unapologetically visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a private Shinto
religious memorial that honors roughly 2.5 million Japanese war dead,
including several war criminals from the Pacific theater such as Hideki
Tojo. Many have observed that Abe, 52, is the first Japanese premier
born after Hiroshima. We should also remember that his grandfather,
Nobusuke Kishi, served as minister of commerce and industry during the
war, and later became prime minister from 1957 to 1960.
So when, a few weeks ago, Abe whitewashed a terrible blight on Japan's
war record, he needlessly raised red flags about his intentions and
gave detractors fresh ammunition to cast him as a dangerous
nationalist. Inside the Bush administration, the ensuing diplomatic row
has placed pro-Japan officials on the defensive.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on March 1st, Abe appeared to deny that
Japanese soldiers had directly "coerced" tens of thousands of Asian
women into sexual slavery during World War II. Though Abe pledged to
honor the Kono Statement, Japan's 1993 apology for the wartime
brothels, and later personally apologized for the suffering of the
"comfort women" (as they are euphemistically known in Japan), the
damage was done. His groundbreaking trips to Beijing and Seoul last
October suddenly lost their potency. Abe had given Japan a black eye.
He earned scathing editorial rebukes from the New York Times, the
Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.
"It's extremely bad politics internationally," says a former Bush
administration official. "They're aiding and abetting their own
enemies." According to this official, who is very pro-Japan, some
senior Asia hands at the State Department now believe that Japan is
"isolated" and "radioactive," and that Tokyo's role in the freedom
agenda has been tarnished.
SO WHY WOULD Abe commit such a blunder? There are many possible
explanations. His poll numbers are sagging and he wanted to fortify his
conservative base prior to Upper House elections this July.
He is tired of being bullied over Japan's history by China and South
Korea. He takes a somewhat revisionist view of World War II. He was
responding to a caucus of over 100 members of parliament who have urged
him to reconsider the apology delivered by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary
Yohei Kono. He was mindful of a resolution introduced in the U.S.
Congress by California Democrat Mike Honda, which calls on Tokyo to
apologize frankly for the abuse of wartime sex slaves. He hopes to
imbue the Japanese people with a sense of patriotism. He wants to make
Japan "a beautiful country" and is uncomfortable with its dark past. He
recognizes that many Japanese suffer from apology fatigue. He is leery
of any apology that might compel Tokyo to pay financial reparations.
Whatever Abe's motivation, his comments were embarrassing and
indefensible. They have also distracted attention from his foreign
policy. Abe may be a nationalist, but he is hardly a revanchist
militarist bent on repeating the 1930s. He has always been a staunchly
pro-American nationalist--and the best guarantor against a genuine
revival of Japanese militarism is a firm U.S. alliance. Abe has boosted
bilateral security integration and, in particular, intensified
cooperation on missile defense. "It is essential that Japan strengthen
its alliance with the United States," he said in a recent speech at
Japan's National Defense Academy. He has called the U.S.-Japan
relationship "invaluable and irreplaceable," and has endorsed the late
Mike Mansfield's argument that it represents "the most important
bilateral relationship in the world, bar none."
"Abe is deeply conservative," says Thomas Berger, a Japan expert at
Boston University. But "his basic agenda is quite reasonable." No
question, Abe has accelerated Japan's evolution into a more muscular,
assertive nation, which has meant loosening its pacifist straitjacket.
In January Tokyo upgraded the Japan Defense Agency to formal ministry
status. Abe's ultimate goal, long prized by Japanese conservatives, is
to amend the pacifist Article 9. He hopes to drag Japan away from a
guilt-driven foreign policy and toward "proactive diplomacy" based
around democratic interests. Apologizing for World War II, which the
Japanese have already done many times, is not his top priority, to put
But Abe also speaks frequently of Japan's "new values"--"freedom,
democracy, human rights, and the rule of law"--and the importance of
what Foreign Minister Taro Aso calls "value-oriented diplomacy." Citing
their "common values," Abe has pushed for a quadrilateral strategic
dialogue among the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia. On March 13th he
signed a defense pact with Australian prime minister John Howard, the
first formal Japanese security agreement with a country other than the
U.S. "Australia has no better friend or more reliable partner within
the Asia-Pacific region than Japan," said Howard. Abe is also keen on
embracing India, the world's largest democracy. Later this month, the
U.S., Japan, and India will reportedly stage their first joint military
The hope is that greater cooperation among these four nations--America,
Japan, Australia, and India--will check the rise of Chinese power and
preserve a regional order favorable to democracy. It is a bold and
provocative strategy, especially to Beijing, which is why, according to
the former Bush official, Foggy Bottom has been reluctant to pursue the
quadrilateral dialogue championed by Abe.
This highlights the same intra-administration split that has muddled
U.S. policy on North Korea. "For the most part, the hawks are close to
Japan," says the former Bush official, including J.D. Crouch, the
number-two man at the National Security Council, and Vice President
Dick Cheney. (Scooter Libby, incidentally, was very pro-Japan.) The
doves, chiefly those at State, are said to be more wary of angering
China and less thrilled with Japan's hard line on North Korea.
The pro-Japan Cheney wing has reportedly lost influence in recent
months. Hence the North Korea nuclear agreement, which left many
Japanese feeling cold. In a March 16th editorial, the centrist,
pro-American Nikkei Shimbun, a Japanese financial newspaper, criticized
the deal as a "risky departure" from Bush's "original strategy," which
symbolized "the erosion of Washington's basic principles." The paper
was specifically vexed about the easing of financial sanctions against
Pyongyang. "The Bush administration's soft approach could derail
international efforts to denuclearize the dangerous regime," it said,
worrying that the United States might "settle for easy cosmetic
solutions to extricate itself from problems concerning North Korea."
Tokyo also fears that U.S. diplomats may have marginalized the issue of
those Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean agents
during the 1970s and 1980s. "The overall impression is that we went
wobbly," says the former Bush official (who recently traveled to
Japan). The Japanese are "not happy," affirms a second former
administration official. "They're worried about what [the deal] means."
In an earlier editorial, on March 8th, the Nikkei warned that bilateral
ties could "fall into a real crisis" unless U.S. diplomats assuaged
Japanese anxiety. Should Japan feel entrapped or undermined, it might
begin hedging on the alliance.
Still, strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship remains a linchpin of
mainstream Japanese foreign policy thought. "This is a very deep
alliance," says David Kang, a Japan expert at Dartmouth's Tuck School
of Business. "The U.S. and Japan clearly have so many interests in
common." Kang is hopeful that the recent surge in business links may
limit the amount of Sino-Japanese political tension that can emerge.
(China, including Hong Kong, is now Japan's biggest trading partner.)
But to resolve lingering East Asian historical spats, "The Chinese
Communist Party has to change."
WHAT ABOUT TOKYO? It's true that demonizing Japan works well for
Chinese and Korean populists. The Communist rulers in Beijing, who
excel at whitewashing their own history, object to the security posture
promoted by Koizumi and Abe, and therefore use the World War II card to
poison Japan's image and raise the specter of resurgent militarism, all
the while reaping large dollops of Japanese development aid. In Seoul,
the left-wing government of President Roh Moo Hyun is also suspicious
of Japanese defense policies, particularly on North Korea. After a
brief thaw in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Japan-bashing is once
again a widespread element of South Korean domestic politics, stoked by
lingering animosity, the rise of pan-Korean nationalism, and the
investigation of those Koreans who collaborated with the Japanese
colonial regime between 1910 and 1945 (the years of the occupation).
Yet blaming China and South Korea for turning the "history issue" into
a diplomatic bludgeon doesn't excuse Tokyo from its own failure to
grapple honestly with the past. Japanese conservatives have a troubling
tendency to downplay or sugarcoat various atrocities, such as the sex
slaves and the Nanking massacre. This just hardens the impression that
Japan has been less than forthright about historical culpability.
In his 2004 book, Japan's Quiet Transformation, historian Jeff
Kingston, a professor at Temple University Japan, discusses why
different generations might be sensitive about acknowledging the
horrors of World War II. "For younger Japanese people, the burdens of
history seem unfair and irrelevant: grandfather did those things and
that is his problem," writes Kingston. "For many older Japanese, the
exoneration of Emperor Showa provides a convenient cover: if the man in
whose name a sacred war was waged was able to avoid responsibility, why
should anyone else be held accountable? For pragmatic government
officials, there is no pressing need to take official responsibility
and the tab for compensation could prove very expensive."
In his new book, Japan Rising, National Bureau of Asian Research
president Kenneth Pyle notes that younger Japanese of the postwar
"Heisei" generation "have no living memory of the war," and thus "do
not feel guilt or remorse for Japan's imperial past." Nor do they
appreciate the swell of anti-Japanese nationalism in China and South
Korea. There is also the matter of Japanese honor. A "recurrent
characteristic of the Japanese response to the international system is
a persistent obsession with status and prestige," writes Pyle. "Honor,
as such, may be attributed to an individual, but it can also be
attributed to groups and to nations." Probing Japan's imperial
atrocities may conjure up acute feelings of dishonor.
At the same time, Japan's "historical amnesia" has been overstated, as
have fears of rising Japanese nationalism. According to a poll
conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper last December, 85 percent of
Japanese feel they should "reflect," at least to some degree, on their
country's past aggression. When conservative media tycoon Tsuneo
Watanabe used his Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper to run a series of articles
examining Japan's war record, including the atrocities, he found that
the public response was mostly positive. As Berger testified before a
House panel in April 2005, "The large majority of Japanese high
school--and even middle school--textbooks carry references to the
history of Japanese atrocities and aggression in Asia."
Japan does seem to be wrestling with an identity crisis, prompted by
such factors as its "Lost Decade" of economic misery, the ascendance of
China, the North Korean threat, political scandals, a shrinking
population, social alienation, a looming welfare crisis, rising
inequality, and disputes over national purpose. Though Berger says
Japan has become less parochial in recent years, and more amenable to
outside cultural influences, the Japanese remain largely hostile to
immigration. Kingston calls the new public mood "nationalism lite."
But he places it in context: "Japanese assertion of nationalism is a
normal, and some might say healthy, reaction against Japan's prolonged
subordination." There are nationalists "of different stripes and hues,"
including left-wing nationalists. (Domestic reaction to Abe's "comfort
women" comments generally broke down along ideological lines, with
Japanese progressives and liberals most upset.) "It would be a
mistake," writes Kingston, "to assume that the mass of Japanese, or
even their conservative leaders, actually identify with, much less
support, extreme nationalism." Indeed, "Japanese scholars, educators,
politicians, and journalists have robustly challenged efforts to
whitewash the past."
To his credit, Abe has shown some flexibility on the history issue. On
March 26th he once again expressed remorse for the wartime brothels and
confirmed his support for the Kono Statement. This past October, during
his visit to Beijing, Abe agreed to launch a joint Sino-Japanese
history project in hopes of reaching a shared understanding of the
past. Wen Jiabao is scheduled to visit Japan this week, the first such
trip by a Chinese premier since 2000.
HOWEVER AWKWARD the history debate, those who consider Tokyo
"radioactive" should note the results of a new BBC World Service poll,
which found that Japan is one of the most popular countries on Earth.
In a survey of some 28,000 people in 27 countries, 54 percent of
respondents said Japan was a "mainly positive" influence in the world,
tying it with Canada for first place in that category. "Out of 27
countries polled," said the survey authors, "24 gave Japan a positive
rating, with just two giving it a negative and one divided." (The two
negatives came, not surprisingly, from China and South Korea.) A
stunning 84 percent of Indonesians and 70 percent of Filipinos consider
Japanese influence "mainly positive," in addition to 74 percent of
Canadians, 66 percent of Americans, and 55 percent of Australians.
India, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand: All these countries
(and others) are seeking to upgrade strategic cooperation with the
Japanese. Tokyo is now working with the Southeast Asian nations of
ASEAN on anti-terrorism operations. Without much fanfare, government
officials have also embraced democracy promotion. "This is really a new
idea," says a Japanese diplomat. "While not so openly assertive and
high profile in [their] defense of human rights as the Americans or
Europeans," writes Pyle, "the Japanese nevertheless have quietly made
these values an important principle in their recent diplomacy with
other Asian nations."
Looking back, it's striking how fast Japanese security policy has
changed since the first Gulf War. "Japan has come a long, long way in a
relatively short period of time," says a former Bush administration
official. "It's really an extraordinary transformation." In Iraq and
elsewhere, Japan has proved its mettle as a responsible international
actor. "I think people should applaud Japan," says Auslin. True enough.
But it would be easier if Abe and other leading conservatives came to
proper terms with Japanese history. As Jeannie Suk and Noah Feldman
wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "The denial of responsibility is an
Duncan Currie is a reporter at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
MONDAY and TUESDAY, April 9 and 10,
The following article, which appears on the web
, is a good subject for Easter Week...and a good blueprint for a life
By Judith Groch, Senior Writer, MedPage
Reviewed by Robert
Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of
California, San Francisco
April 10, 2007CHICAGO, April 10 -- A majority of physicians in a large
survey declared that religion and spirituality, including divine
intervention, affect their patients' health.
The survey of more than a thousand practicing physicians found that 56%
believe religion and spirituality have a significant effect on health,
researchers reported in the April 9 issue of the Archives of
- Explain to interested patients that, for the most
part, physicians believe patients' religious or spiritual beliefs have
a positive effect on health.
- If patients ask, explain that physicians' own
religious beliefs are likely to influence their perception of the
effect of religion on health.
Nearly as many said that on occasion the
influence is attributable
to divine intervention, said Farr A. Curlin, M.D., of the University of
Chicago, and colleagues. Yet only a few said that these beliefs change
"hard" medical outcomes.
"We find it notable, particularly in
light of perennial discussions
about the relationship between science and faith, that most physicians
apply medical science while maintaining a belief that God intervenes in
patients' health," said Dr. Curlin and colleagues.
The survey also found that the
physicians' perceptions were strongly
influenced by their own religious convictions. "Patients are likely to
encounter quite different opinions about the relationship between their
religion and spirituality and their health, depending on the religious
characteristics of their physicians," the authors wrote.
Although many patients draw on prayer and
other religious resources
to manage the spiritual challenges that arise from illness, controversy
has remained about whether, and to what extent, religion and
spirituality help or harm patients, Dr. Curlin and colleagues said.
To study this relationship, the
researchers mailed a cross-sectional
survey in 2003 to a stratified, random potential sample of 2,000
practicing U.S. physicians, 65 or younger, representing all
Physicians were asked to estimate how
often patients mentioned
religion and spiritual issues, how much these issues influenced health,
and in what ways the influence manifested itself.
The survey also included questions to
determine the physicians' own
religious characteristics, general observations, and interpretations of
Among eligible physicians, the response
rate was 63% (1,144 of
1,820), and the average age of the physicians was 49. Most physicians
(56%) believed that spiritual issues had much or very much influence on
health, while 54% believed that at times a supernatural being
intervenes, the researchers reported.
However, although 85% of the physicians
believed that the influence
of spirituality is generally positive, only 6% perceived that these
beliefs often changed "hard" medical outcomes.
Rather, the study found that 76% of the
physicians believed that
spirituality helps patients cope, 74% said that it gives patients a
positive state of mind, while 55% reported that spirituality and
religion provide emotional and practical support via the religious
Only 7% of the physicians said that
spirituality often causes guilt,
anxiety, or other negative emotions, while 2% said it leads patients to
decline medically indicated therapy, and 4% reported that patients use
it to avoid responsibility for their own health. Finally, about
one-third said it can have these harmful influences sometimes.
The physicians' observations and
interpretations were strongly
influenced by their own religious beliefs, the researchers said.
Compared with those with low religiosity,
physicians were substantially more likely to report that patients often
mention spiritual issues (36% versus 11%; P<0.001).
They were also more likely to believe
that religion and spirituality
strongly influence health (82% versus 16%; P<0.001), and
to interpret the influence of religion and spirituality in positive
rather than negative ways, the researchers found.
These associations persisted in
multivariate analyses that
controlled for religious affiliation, region of practice, age, sex,
ethnicity, and specialty.
In further analyses, comparing physicians
affiliations with those with no religious affiliation, Protestant
physicians were more likely to report that their patients bring up
spiritual issues and are more likely to believe that God intervenes,
that spirituality helps patients cope, and sometimes prevents hard
Catholic physicians put their faith in
God's intervention first and
also agreed that belief helps patients cope. They were less likely to
say that belief causes negative emotions.
Physicians of other religious
affiliations were more likely to
report that their patients bring up spiritual issues, that God
intervenes, and that spirituality strongly influences health and
sometimes prevents hard medical outcomes.
Finally, physicians who practiced in the
South, followed by the
Midwest, were more likely to report that their patients often mention
religious beliefs, with those in the West and Northeast not as likely
to do so.
This survey indicated, said Dr. Curlin
and colleagues, that
religious issues may influence end-of-life care in which some patients
and families express hopes for miracles. Because religious physicians
may be more likely to share such hopes, further study is needed to
explore how these differences may affect the care patients receive.
As a cross-sectional survey, this study
was not able to explain why
religious and non-religious physicians differed so markedly in their
observations and interpretations, the researchers said.
Yet it is possible, they said, that other
factors being equal,
physicians with different religious or secular commitments may
interpret the same evidence in different ways. What the secular
physician may not notice or ignore, the religious physician may
emphasize or exaggerate.
The study had important limitations, the
Although the study had a better-than-average response rate and there
was no substantial evidence to suggest response bias, religious and
other characteristics may have affected physicians' willingness to
respond in unmeasured ways.
There may also have been other ways to
religiosity. However, the analyses found similar relationships for
frequency of attendance at religious services and self-reported
religiousness, the investigators said.
Limitations, notwithstanding, the
investigators said, these findings
challenge any attempt to create a single interpretation of the
relationship between religion and health. The study lends support to
recommendations by the Association of American Medical Colleges that
physicians recognize how their own beliefs affect the way they provide
care for their patients.
"Future studies should examine the ways
physicians' religion (and
secular) commitments shape their clinical engagements in these and
other domains," Dr. Curlin concluded.
No financial disclosures were reported.
The study was funded by the
Greenwall Foundation of New York, the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical
Scholars Program, and the National Center for Complementary and
SUNDAY, April 8,
Easter Sunday. For everyone who believes or
can entertain a belief in the meaning of this day, it reminds
us of our own coming resurrection after our deaths to a much better
place...or not. All others will have to take the
following as just another day in this vale of tears.
- After the story of the British sailors and Iran,
we read that GPS has been and can be seriously disrupted by
electromagnetic storms generated by the sun. So maybe we can
blame the sun for that sorry sequence of events...or not.
- Today we read about "suicide by court",
wherein admitted criminals have been allowed to waive due process
and to insist on their own execution - and have it carried out!
Wrong. Everyone, including the public, have the right of due
process. The alternative is "cruel and unusual punishment" - and
just plain CRAZY.
- The Veterans Administration has been receiving
high marks in recent years for the medical care it dispenses. Now
comes a report that the VA is decades behind on completing disability
evaluations for veterans. Another shame on central government.
- More spin by the liberal press, this time by Arianna Huffington
in the Los Angeles Times. See "Unequal Justice For All",
in The Day today, pE1. In this tortured version of the facts,
"the failed 'war on drugs' has morphed into a war on
people of color". Not acknowledged are that facts that "people of
color" are more likely to use highly addicting drugs like crack
cocaine, more likely to push drugs and more likely to use violence in
the entire process. Of course, poverty and inequality of
opportunity play a big role in this situation, a function of the
economic society in which we choose to live. But race and
politics do not, in my opinion.
- The use of DNA evidence is disrupting basic
concepts of Law including Statutes of Limitations and protection
against Double Jeopardy. And I believe that it should, in cases
of violence against human victims, as distinguisned from cases of
violence against economic functions of society. Such a matter
should be resolved on a national scale by the development of a "Uniform
Code" rather than on a State by State basis.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have broken the
Logan Act of 1799. See the following:
Did Nancy Pelosi commit a felony when she went to Syria?
Wall Street Journal
BY ROBERT F. TURNER
Friday, April 6, 2007 11:30 a.m. EDT
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may well have committed a felony in
traveling to Damascus this week, against the wishes of the president,
to communicate on foreign-policy issues with Syrian President Bashar
Assad. The administration isn't going to want to touch this political
hot potato, nor should it become a partisan issue. Maybe special
counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, whose aggressive prosecution of Lewis Libby
establishes his independence from White House influence, should be
The Logan Act makes it a felony and provides for a prison sentence of
up to three years for any American, "without authority of the United
States," to communicate with a foreign government in an effort to
influence that government's behavior on any "disputes or controversies
with the United States." Some background on this statute helps to
understand why Ms. Pelosi may be in serious trouble.
President John Adams requested the statute after a Pennsylvania
pacifist named George Logan traveled to France in 1798 to assure the
French government that the American people favored peace in the
undeclared "Quasi War" being fought on the high seas between the two
countries. In proposing the law, Rep. Roger Griswold of Connecticut
explained that the object was, as recorded in the Annals of Congress,
"to punish a crime which goes to the destruction of the executive power
of the government. He meant that description of crime which arises from
an interference of individual citizens in the negotiations of our
executive with foreign governments."
The debate on this bill ran nearly 150 pages in the Annals. On Jan. 16,
1799, Rep. Isaac Parker of Massachusetts explained, "the people of the
United States have given to the executive department the power to
negotiate with foreign governments, and to carry on all foreign
relations, and that it is therefore an usurpation of that power for an
individual to undertake to correspond with any foreign power on any
dispute between the two governments, or for any state government, or
any other department of the general government, to do it."
Griswold and Parker were Federalists who believed in strong executive
power. But consider this statement by Albert Gallatin, the future
Secretary of the Treasury under President Thomas Jefferson, who was
wary of centralized government: "it would be extremely improper for a
member of this House to enter into any correspondence with the French
Republic . . . As we are not at war with France, an offence of this
kind would not be high treason, yet it would be as criminal an act, as
if we were at war." Indeed, the offense is greater when the usurpation
of the president's constitutional authority is done by a member of the
legislature--all the more so by a Speaker of the House--because it
violates not just statutory law but constitutes a usurpation of the
powers of a separate branch and a breach of the oath of office Ms.
Pelosi took to support the Constitution.
The Supreme Court has spoken clearly on this aspect of the separation
of powers. In Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall used the
president's authority over the Department of State as an illustration
of those "important political powers" that, "being entrusted to the
executive, the decision of the executive is conclusive." And in the
landmark 1936 Curtiss-Wright case, the Supreme Court reaffirmed: "Into
the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude, and Congress itself
is powerless to invade it."
Ms. Pelosi and her Congressional entourage spoke to President Assad on
various issues, among other things saying, "We came in friendship,
hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace." She
is certainly not the first member of Congress--of either party--to
engage in this sort of behavior, but her position as a national leader,
the wartime circumstances, the opposition to the trip from the White
House, and the character of the regime she has chosen to approach make
her behavior particularly inappropriate.
Of course, not all congressional travel to, or communications with
representatives of, foreign nations is unlawful. A purely fact-finding
trip that involves looking around, visiting American military bases or
talking with U.S. diplomats is not a problem. Nor is formal negotiation
with foreign representatives if authorized by the president. (FDR
appointed Sens. Tom Connally and Arthur Vandenberg to the U.S.
delegation that negotiated the U.N. Charter.) Ms. Pelosi's trip was not
authorized, and Syria is one of the world's leading sponsors of
international terrorism. It has almost certainly been involved in
numerous attacks that have claimed the lives of American military
personnel from Beirut to Baghdad.
The U.S. is in the midst of two wars authorized by Congress. For Ms.
Pelosi to flout the Constitution in these circumstances is not only
shortsighted; it may well be a felony, as the Logan Act has been part
of our criminal law for more than two centuries. Perhaps it is time to
enforce the law.
Mr. Turner was acting assistant secretary of state for legislative
affairs in 1984-85 and is a former chairman of the ABA standing
committee on law and national security.
- Senator John McCain is once again displaying
courage under fire. He is betting his Presidential compaign on
current Iraq policy and its unknowable consequences. Given what's
at stake for America's national security in the coming
decades, it's a prudent bet. See the following: GS
The War You're Not Reading About
By John McCain
Sunday, April 8, 2007; Page B07
I just returned from my fifth visit to Iraq since 2003 -- and my first
since Gen. David Petraeus's new strategy has started taking effect. For
the first time, our delegation was able to drive, not use helicopters,
from the airport to downtown Baghdad. For the first time, we met with
Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province who are working with American
and Iraqi forces to combat al-Qaeda. For the first time, we visited
Iraqi and American forces deployed in a joint security station in
Baghdad -- an integral part of the new strategy. We held a news
conference to discuss what we saw: positive signs, underreported in the
United States, that are reason for cautious optimism.
I observed that our delegation "stopped at a local market, where we
spent well over an hour, shopping and talking with the local people,
getting their views and ideas about different issues of the day."
Markets in Baghdad have faced devastating terrorist attacks. A car
bombing at Shorja in February, for example, killed 137 people. Today
the market still faces occasional sniper attacks, but it is safer than
it used to be. One innovation of the new strategy is closing markets to
vehicles, thereby precluding car bombs that kill so many and garner so
much media attention. Petraeus understandably wanted us to see this
I went to Iraq to gain a firsthand view of the progress in this
difficult war, not to celebrate any victories. No one has been more
critical of sunny progress reports that defied realities in Iraq. In
2003, after my first visit, I argued for more troops to provide the
security necessary for political development. I disagreed with
statements characterizing the insurgency as a "few dead-enders" or
being in its "last throes." I repeatedly criticized the previous
search-and-destroy strategy and argued for a counterinsurgency
approach: separating the reconcilable population from the
irreconcilable and creating enough security to facilitate the political
and economic solutions that are the only way to defeat insurgents. This
is exactly the course that Petraeus and the brave men and women of the
American military are pursuing.
The new political-military strategy is beginning to show results. But
most Americans are not aware because much of the media are not
reporting it or devote far more attention to car bombs and mortar
attacks that reveal little about the strategic direction of the war. I
am not saying that bad news should not be reported or that horrific
terrorist attacks are not newsworthy. But news coverage should also
include evidence of progress. Whether Americans choose to support or
oppose our efforts in Iraq, I hope they could make their decision based
on as complete a picture of the situation in Iraq as is possible to
report. A few examples:
· Sunni sheikhs in Anbar are now fighting al-Qaeda. Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited Anbar's capital, Ramadi, to meet with
Sunni tribal leaders. The newly proposed de-Baathification legislation
grew out of that meeting. Police recruitment in Ramadi has increased
dramatically over the past four months.
· More than 50 joint U.S.-Iraqi stations have been established
in Baghdad. Regular patrols establish connections with the surrounding
neighborhood, resulting in a significant increase in security and
· Extremist Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr is in hiding,
his followers are not contesting American forces, sectarian violence
has dropped in Baghdad and we are working with the Shiite mayor of Sadr
· Iraqi army and police forces are increasingly fighting on
their own and with American forces, and their size and capability are
growing. Iraqi army and police casualties have increased because they
are fighting more.
Despite these welcome developments, we should have no illusions. This
progress is not determinative. It is simply encouraging. We have a
long, tough road ahead in Iraq. But for the first time since 2003, we
have the right strategy. In Petraeus, we have a military professional
who literally wrote the book on fighting this kind of war. And we will
have the right mix and number of forces.
There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but we must try. As every
sensible observer has concluded, the consequences of failure in Iraq
are so grave and so threatening for the region, and to the security of
the United States, that to refuse to give Petraeus's plan a chance to
succeed would constitute a tragic failure of American resolve. I hope
those who cite the Iraq Study Group's conclusions note that James Baker
wrote on this page last week that we must have bipartisan support for
giving the new strategy time to succeed. This is not a moment for
partisan gamesmanship or for one-sided reporting. The stakes are just
The writer is a Republican senator from Arizona and a candidate for
FRIDAY and SATURDAY, April 6 and 7,
- Here are two educational stories from Connecticut.
Although Governor Rell has proposed a large increase in spending
for education in the State, to be paid for by an increase in the income
tax, but accompanied by a cap on property tax increases by
municipalities, the Democrats in the State Legislature are balking at
any limit on their ability to raise any taxes. A true "dog
bites man story". It gets better (worse). An extensive
report on the use of technology in education has concluded that all
those expensive computers don't make much of a dent in the abilities of
Connecticut children, which still aren't so hot. The
Education Industry: the only industry in America that keeps getting
rewarded for putting out a product that doesn't work.
- Felons may be given the right to vote in Florida, as well
as in some other States. I'm not totally against this,
done right and as a quid pro quo for demonstrated
rehabilitation. But that's not what is happening. Still
better than registering grave sites, I guess.
- Civil Unions - yes. Gay "Marriage" - NO.
Gays, who are rightly receiving more understanding (including more
scientific understanding), have always been their own enemies.
These unnecessary battles do not make friends; and they do influence
- WMD'S in Iraq: more chlorine gas attacks.
Why the silence in a world otherwise outraged at anything America
does? And we keep being told that we need their friendship and
cooperation. With friends like that....
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have stepped in
it this time. And by the way, I'll have to look up the Logan Act
that she may have broken by her actions in Syria. Poor judgment,
THURSDAY, April 5,
- The British mis-adventure with Iran. Help
me to understand this. If the small boat was off course and in
Iranian waters, according to GPS, why did the Brits not admit that
immediately, and avoid swinging slowly in the breeze? If the
small boat was on course and in Iraqi waters, according to GPS, why did
the Brits not offer clear proof to the world as another example of
Iranian arrogance? Once captured by the Iranians, what happened
to "NAME, RANK AND SERIAL NUMBER"? Instead, the British military
personnel allowed themselves to be photographed having lunch and a
smoke; and they participated actively in instructing the world on how
they were "off course" and on how they had "invaded Iran"; and
they offered homage to their captor at the time of their release; and
they came back without weapons, without their uniforms, and - pending
further explanation - perhaps without honor. The British people
have been great allies during the last four years. But this
certainly was not their "finest hour".
- And now a little more about Iran: GS
Cold War II
What Islamist Iran has in common with the Soviet Union.
BY DAVID HAZONY
Wednesday, April 4, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
A new Cold War is upon us. Though there is no Soviet Union today, the
enemies of Western democracy, supported by a conglomerate of Islamic
states, terror groups and insurgents, have begun to work together with
a unity of purpose reminiscent of the Soviet menace: not only in
funding, training and arming those who seek democracy's demise; not
only in mounting attacks against Israel, America and their allies
around the world; not only in seeking technological advances that will
enable them to threaten the life of every Western citizen; but also in
advancing a clear vision of a permanent, intractable and ultimately
victorious struggle against the West--an idea they convey articulately,
consistently and with brutal efficiency.
It is this conceptual strategic clarity that gives the West's enemies a
leg up, even if they are far inferior in number, wealth, and weaponry.
From Tehran to Tyre, from Chechnya to the Philippines, from southern
Iraq to the Afghan mountains to the madrassas of London and Paris and
Cairo, these forces are unified in their aim to defeat the West, its
way of life, its political forms and its cause of freedom. And every
day, because of this clarity, their power and resources grow, as they
attract allies outside the Islamic world: In Venezuela, in South
Africa, in North Korea.
At the center of all this, of course, is Iran. A once-friendly state
has embarked on an unflinching campaign, at considerable cost to its
own economy, to attain the status of a global power: through the
massive infusion of money, matériel, training and personnel to
the anti-Western forces in Lebanon (Hezbollah), the Palestinian
Authority (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and the Sunni and Shi'ite
insurgencies of Iraq; through its relentless pursuit of nuclear arms,
long-range missiles and a space program; through its outsized armed
forces and huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; through
its diplomatic initiatives around the world; and through its
ideological battle against democracy, Zionism and the memory of the
Holocaust. For the forces of Islamic extremism and political jihad,
Iran has become the cutting edge of clarity.
The West, on the other hand, enjoys no such clarity. In America, Iraq
has become the overriding concern, widely seen as a Vietnam-style
"quagmire" claiming thousands of American lives with no clear way
either to win or to lose. (As the bells of the 2006 congressional
elections continue tolling in American ears, it is hard to hear the
muezzins of the Middle East calling upon the faithful to capitalize on
Western malaise.) Europeans continue to seek "diplomatic solutions"
even as they contend with powerful and well-funded Islamists in their
midst and their friends among the media and intellectual elites--forces
that stir public opinion not against Iran and Syria, who seek their
destruction, but against their natural allies, America and Israel.
Throughout the West we now hear increasingly that a nuclear Iran is
something one has to "learn to live with," that Iraq needs an "exit
strategy," and that the real key to peace lies not in victory but in
brokering agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and "engaging"
Syria and Iran. The Israelis, too, suffer from a lack of clarity: By
separating the Palestinian question from the struggle with Hezbollah
and Iran, and by shifting the debate back to territorial concession and
prisoner exchange, Israelis incentivize aggression and terror, ignore
the role Hamas plays in the broader conflict, and send conciliatory
signals to the Syrians. Like the Americans with Iraq, Israelis have
allowed themselves to lose sight of who their enemies are, how
determined they are, and what will be required to defeat them.
The greatest dangers to the West and Israel, therefore, lie not in
armaments or battle plans, but in our thinking. Like World War II and
the Cold War, this conflict cannot be won without first achieving
clarity of purpose. Even the most urgently needed actions, such as
stopping the Iranian nuclear effort, require leaders who understand the
nature of the threat and have sufficient public support to enable them
to act decisively. To achieve this, however, requires a major,
immediate investment in the realm of ideas--a battle for understanding
that must be won before the battle for freedom can be effectively
Israel, in particular, has a pivotal role to play. As the frontline
state in the conflict, and the lightning rod of Islamist aggression, it
is to Israel that the world looks to see how it will respond. From its
birth, Israel has served as a model to the West: in deepening its
democratic character while fighting a series of wars; in fighting
terror effectively, from the defeat of the PLO in the early 1970s in
Gaza, to the Entebbe raid in 1976, through Operation Defensive Shield
in 2002; and striking pre-emptively against enemies who combined
genocidal rhetoric with the acquisition of sophisticated weapons, as
with Egypt and Syria in 1967, and Iraq in 1981.
Israel can again serve as a model of a state proud of its heritage, a
democracy that knows how to fight against its tyrannical foes without
sacrificing its own character. But to do this will require that Israel,
too, disperse the conceptual fog in which it has been operating,
recognize the strategic costs of ambiguous outcomes such as with the
Lebanon war last summer, and adopt a clear and coherent vision and plan
of action. If the West is to act decisively and with clarity, it may
need Israel to show the way.
What would such a struggle look like? We should not fear to call this
conflict by its name: It is the Second Cold War, with Iran as the
approximate counterpart of the Soviet Union. Like the U.S.S.R., Iran is
an enemy that even the mighty United States will probably never meet in
full force on the battlefield and instead must fight via its proxies,
wherever they are found. Like the Soviet Union, the ayatollahs' regime
is based on an ideological revolution that repudiates human liberty and
subjects its political opponents to imprisonment and death, a regime
which, in order to maintain its popular support, must continue to
foment similar revolutions everywhere it can, to show that it is on the
winning side of history. And like the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the
Iranian regime today has two clear weaknesses, which could ultimately
spell its downfall: economic stagnation and ideological disaffection.
With unemployment and inflation both deep in double digits, an
increasing structural dependence on oil revenue, a negligible amount of
direct foreign investment, and a stock market that has declined over
30% since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's heavy
investment in other people's wars and its own weapons and terrorist
groups must in the end exact a price in terms of support for the
regime. Today, moreover, the great majority of Iranians do not identify
with the government's Islamist ideology, and among young people the
regime is widely derided.
Is it possible to bring about the fall of revolutionary Iran? Despite
the obvious differences, there is a great deal the West can learn from
the way victory was found in the first Cold War. Led by the United
States, Western countries in the 1980s mounted a campaign on a wide
range of fronts--military, technological, diplomatic, public relations
and covert operations--to convince the Soviet elites that their regime
was failing at every turn, and was headed for collapse. By deliberately
escalating the arms race and through trade sanctions on the Soviets,
America increased the pressure on the Soviet economy. By supporting
dissident groups, sending radio transmissions into the Soviet Empire,
and making dramatic pronouncements such as Ronald Reagan's famous
Berlin Wall speech in 1987, the West emboldened the regime's internal
opponents. And by supporting anticommunist forces around the world,
from Latin America to Africa to Western Europe to Afghanistan, the West
halted the expansion of the communist bloc and even began to roll it
back. In all cases the goal was the same: to make it clear to the ranks
of Soviet elites, upon whom the regime's legitimacy continued to
depend, that they were on the wrong side of history.
When taken in combination with the Soviet Union's failing economy and
widespread ideological disaffection among the populace--much as we see
in Iran today--it was possible for the West's multifront strategy to
bring about the downfall of what was, during the time of Jimmy Carter,
believed to be an unstoppable, expanding historical juggernaut for whom
the best the West could hope was "containment" and "détente."
Its vast nuclear arsenals, its pretensions to global dominance, its
coherent world-historical ideology--none of these could protect it
against the determined, united efforts of the free world. But it
required, above all, a spiritual shift of momentum which began at home:
A belief that victory was possible, that the Soviet Union was
impermanent, and that concerted effort could change history. It
required a new clarity of purpose.
By most measures, Iran is an easier mark than the Soviet Union. It does
not yet have nuclear weapons or ICBMs; its Islamist ideology has less
of a universal appeal; its tools of thought control are vastly inferior
to the gulag and the KGB; and its revolution is not old enough to have
obliterated the memory of better days for much of its population. In
theory at least, it should be much easier for the West to mount a
similar campaign of relentless pressure on the regime--from fomenting
dissent online, to destabilizing the regime through insurgent groups
inside Iran, to destroying the Iranian nuclear project, to ever-deeper
economic sanctions, to fighting and winning the proxy wars that Iran
has continued to wage--in order to effect the kind of change of
momentum needed to enable the Iranian people to bring their own regime
down the way the peoples under communism did in the 1980s and 1990s.
Yet it is precisely because of the ayatollahs' apparent frailty that
the West has failed to notice the similarities between this menace and
the Soviet one a generation ago. For despite their weakness on paper,
the forces of jihad are arrayed in full battle armor, and are prepared
to fight to the end. What they lack in technological and industrial
sophistication, they more than make up for in charisma,
public-relations acumen, determination, ideological coherence and
suicidal spirit. Above all, they possess a certainty, a clarity and a
will to sacrifice that will greatly increase their chances of victory,
and of continued expansion, until they are met with an equally
The fall of the Iranian regime will not end the global jihad. Beyond
the messianic Shiite movement, there is still a world of Sunni and
Wahhabi revolutionaries, from al Qaeda to Hamas, determined to make war
on the West even without Iran's help--just as anti-American communism
did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union. Yet there can be no
question that today, it is Iran that has earned the greatest
admiration, given the global jihad its greatest source of hope and
funds, and racked up the most impressive victories, taking on the West
and its allies throughout the Middle East--and especially in Iraq,
where its proxy insurgencies have frustrated American efforts and even
brought about a shift in the internal politics of the United States.
Iran is not the only foe, but it is the leader among them. It is only
through Iran's defeat that the tide of the Second Cold War will be
Mr. Hazony is editor in chief of Azure, in whose Spring issue this
WEDNESDAY, April 3
- This is turning out to be the "...NOT" primary campaign.
My guess is that the success currently enjoyed by Mitt Romney and by
Rudy Guliani represents a fundamentalist Republican vote,
"McCain...NOT". Similarly, the success of Barak Obama is
substantially an ultra-liberal "Hillary...NOT" vote. We'll
- The British soldiers and sailors captured by Iran.
What happened to "Name, Rank and Serial Number"?
They may not want to get back to their commanders in England too
- Only in America can a massive Federal agency whose name is the ENVIRONMENTAL
PROTECTION Agency need the U.S. Supreme Court to tell them
that they have the right and obligation to protect the
environment! This reflects one part of Jay Leno's
reason for remaining politically unaffiliated: "Every time I think
of joining the Republicans, they do something greedy.
And every time I think of joining the Democrats, they do something stupid".
- Now come the Democrats. Having won a bare
majority in the Federal legislature, with a great deal of help from the
feckless Republicans, they are acting as if they won by a landslide and
are governing with a broad mandate of the people. Their
over-confidence and over-reaching is beginning to border on
recklessness. (Read here Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi). Keep
it up, folks, and you'll still be on the White House lawn looking in
after the November 2008 election.
- More on Health Care Reform. The Day
Wednesday, April 4, 2007 reports on an important conference held on the
subject ("Health Care Disparity Is Focus Of Conference",
by Judy Benson, pA1). I would like to obtain and read a
transcript of the entire conference in order to see how many times the
following concepts were mentioned: preventive care and
coordination of care...and adequate physician reimbursement for such
care; patient personal responsibility; means testing to determine
eligibility for particular State or Federal assistance with health care
costs; medical malpractice reform, especially establishing Health
Courts for such cases; rational rationing / prioritization of medical
treatments and procedures...regardless of ability to pay; ethical and
anti-trust controls over Managed Care Organizations, their attempts at
practising Medicine and their profits.... Much more to come on
MONDAY, April 2,
It has been a long time since a person of great eminence in one field
embarrassed himself by venturing into another field with grandiose
pronouncements. Linus Pauling, of Nobel fame and of
Vitamin C infamy, comes to mind. Now comes Zbigniew
Brzezinski, he of the enlightened counsel regarding the Soviet
Union in the Cold War, whose commentary article in The Day on Sunday,
April 1 begins with the statement: "The 'War On Terror'
has created a culture of fear in America" (Perspective,
pE1). Whereupon his comments regarding the years since 9/11
involve progressively more hysterically purple prose against the Bush
administration and its "war of choice in Iraq". His
thesis is that "We are now divided, uncertain and
potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist
act in the United States itself". How do you say "HOGWASH"
in Polish? This Cold War specialist is clearly out of his
element in the current 21st century World War against global
terrorism. Maybe it's age. Or maybe this former National
Security Adviser has been spending too much time with his former boss,
Jimmy Carter. If struck again, this country would be as fearless
and effective as it was beginning on December 8, 1941. In fact,
that may be the reason that we haven't been struck again by the
terrorists. The Democrats are doing just fine keeping the country
SUNDAY, April 1,
- Prisons. We're talking about domestic
prisons here, not about Gitmo. The conditions in U.S. prisons,
home to about 2 million people, are coming to be more and more a
national disgrace. From prosecutorial misconduct to negligent
errors resulting in convictions and even
executions, from massive overcrowding to mediocre medical care,
from loss of crowd control from gang warfare to male - on - male rape,
from sadism and sexual abuse of women prisoners by staff to the
over - prescription of psychptropic drugs, from lack of elements of
punishment to lack of elements of rehabilitation: a case can be made
that all this constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment". This is
yet another major area for legislative action that is being totally
ignored in favor of business as usual by our political class.
- Health Care Reform. See the article on the
subject in today's NYTimes Magazine section by Jonathan Cohn
(p44). See also "Roosevelt's or Reagan's America? A
Tilme For Choosing", by John Marini, in the March 2007
publication of Imprimis (www.hillsdale.edu).
It's al about individual inititiative and personal freedom vs. the
Nanny State and galloping government control.
- Japan's Prime Minister Abe is a wake-up call to
those of us who were beginning to feel that Japan had learned from its
actions in the 1930's and 1940's and could be trusted with its own
military. Not so, as it re-writes its history books to expunge
uncomfortable facts. We hope that, in this age of global
information, at least the younger generation will inform itself and
will soon elect a government worthy of its future - and not of its
- Is the pet food crisis a "canary in the
mine" of the entire country's food supply? And is this
another example of the decline and fall of the FDA? Shades of
1900. Do we have to wait for "100,000 complaints" to be lodged
about human illness in addition to pet illness? Are
we all "April Fools"?
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