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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, 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 campaigns, 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 military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list

SUNDAY through TUESDAY, October 29 through 31, 2006


SATURDAY, October 28, 2006


THURSDAY and FRIDAY, October 26 and 27, 2006

Here I'll give another stab at addressing the Middle East issues.  So far I haven't heard anything better.   In Iraq, our forces should withdraw to its borders and seal those borders to prevent any further interference from Syria, Iran, and any other interlopers.  We should leave the security of the Interior to the Iraqiis themselves, to their politics or to their war...whichever they choose...interfering only to prevent efforts toward Sunni genocide by the majority Shia.  The Iraqi people clearly have within their grasp, thanks to our admittedly sloppy intervention, the choice of a viable and democratic Iraq...or not. In Afghanistan, the only way to stop the Taliban from taking back the country is to eliminate their funding; ie. the entire opium crop.  That will require "creative destruction", substituting a Marshall Plan-type program of legitimate economy and infrastructure.  Pakistan will also learn something from that approach.  That would be a project worthy of us and of the NATO alliance.  In Iran, America and any willing allies should be prepared to go it alone regarding effective sanctions to influence their actions.  Nothing will come of "efforts" through the U.N., thanks to Russia, China, and France.  Regarding Israel and Palestine, Israeli actions should be brought under much better controls by the U.S., its guarantor.  And the Palestinians should be left to choose between politics and war to settle their differences...and their future.  Meanwhile, the other Middle East nations should be clearly advised that the U.S. considers all of the above to be critical to our own national interests...and that we would hold any nation that interferes directly responsible.   You laugh?  Let's hear a better solution.  But before you try, read "The Shia Awakening"; read any writings by Bernard Lewis; read "Hostage to Fortune", by Robert D. Kaplan (WSJ Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2006, Opinion, pA20); read "A Border Affair" by Barnett R. Rubin (WSJ Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2006, Opinion, pA14)...and read from the several other sources referenced in this section.


MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, October 23 through 25, 2006


ITEM 8: Tom Friedman: The Really Cold War (Russia)

October 25, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
The Really Cold War


The Berlin Wall fell almost 17 years ago. At the time, the future seemed clear: The fall of the wall would unleash an unstoppable tide of free markets and free people — and for about 15 years it did just that. Today, though, when you stand where the Berlin Wall once stood and look east, you see a countertide coming your way. It is a black tide of petro-authoritarianism emanating from Russia, and it is blunting the Berlin Wall tide of free markets and free people.

Why? Russia is a classic example of what I like to call “the First Law of Petropolitics,” which posits that the price of oil and the pace of freedom operate in an inverse relationship in petrolist states — states with weak institutions and a high dependence on oil for their G.D.P. As the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up. The day the Soviet Union collapsed the price of oil was near $16 a barrel. And as the price of oil goes up the pace of freedom goes down. Today, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, flush with surging oil and gas profits, is crushing domestic opponents, renationalizing major energy companies, throwing out Western human rights groups and generally making himself the big man on campus in Europe.

When Europeans tell you that they fear a new “cold war,” this time they really are talking about the temperature — and the fear that Russia, if it wanted to turn off the gas, could make Europeans very cold. About 40 percent of Europe’s natural gas imports come from Russia, and that is expected to grow to 70 percent by 2030.

With prices high, Russia has gone from the sick man of Europe to the boss man. Russia is a having a much bigger impact on Western Europe “with gas pipelines than it ever had with SS-20” long-range nuclear missiles, remarked the German foreign-policy expert Josef Joffe, author of the smart book “Überpower: The Imperial Temptation of America.”

“Ten years ago we thought Russia was out of it,” Mr. Joffe said. “We knew it was going to come back. But suddenly, out of the blue, with the rise in oil prices, it is back on stage, and this time it’s much more skillful. The image we have of Russia is [the port of] Murmansk, where the Russian fleet is rotting — but power comes in many forms.” And the most popular form today is oil and gas.

Goodbye NATO, hello Citgo.

The other day, the BBC quoted a senior “E.U. insider” as saying of European Union leaders: “You know what happens when they get in the same room with Putin?” They all prostrate themselves “and say, ‘I love you, Vladimir.’ ” The BBC was reporting about a tense summit meeting last Friday in the Finnish town of Lahti. E.U. leaders reportedly beseeched Mr. Putin to honor contracts with Western oil companies, as well as to ease his crackdown on press freedoms, on human rights groups in Russia and on Georgia, and to investigate the murder of a crusading Russian journalist.

What the E.U. wants, a senior German official explained, is to be able to invest in more Russian oil and gas drilling projects and pipelines upstream, so that Russian and E.U. energy interests will be so intertwined Russia will never consider turning off the gas. Mr. Putin wants Gazprom, the giant Russian gas company, to be able to buy into more downstream consumer operations in Europe. That way Russia could dominate the industry from its oilfields all the way to the gas meters of Berlin and Brussels. Right now, the two sides are in a standoff.

“We cannot allow energy to divide Europe as communism once did,” José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, told The Financial Times. But it is.

In fairness to Mr. Putin, turnabout is fair play. After the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia was enfeebled, the U.S. and the E.U. crammed NATO expansion down his throat. He’s now using petro-power to push back. “Russia is very different from Venezuela or Saudi Arabia,” remarked Clemens Wergin, an editorial writer at the German daily Der Tagesspiegel. Russia has nukes and oil, he noted, and therefore has the potential to play a much more domineering geopolitical role in Europe.

German officials don’t really think Russia is about to turn off the gas if it doesn’t get its way on some issue. After all, it never did that during the old cold war, and Russia today is much more dependent on Western markets. But still, centuries of uneasy relations between Europe and Russia make German officials queasy about how dependent they’ve grown on the Kremlin to heat their homes and offices. Queasy or not, one thing they know for sure: Russia is back. The gas man cometh.

SATURDAY and SUNDAY, October 21 and 22, 2006 GS

THURSDAY and FRIDAY, October 19 and 20, 2006


MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, October 16 through 18, 2006


SATURDAY and SUNDAY, October 14 and 15, 2006



FRIDAY, October 13, 2006

I have just been advised that, after months of work by volunteers and donations from throughout the region around New London, Ct.  that successfully restored  a Whaling Wall painted by Wyland in New London, the wall has been defaced with grafitti.  This is the work of an infantile and/or deranged deviant that will not be tolerated.  Nor should it be considered anything but unacceptable by the fool's peers.

It is also an example of the "culture war" in which we citizens are - or should be engaged, as articulated by Bill O'Reilly in his latest book ("Culture Warrior", Broadway Books, New York, 2006).  He describes the conflict as between "traditionalists" and "secular progressives"...with the character and soul of this country hanging in the balance.  None of us should sit this one out.


THURSDAY, October 12, 2006

Sometimes we all need a reality check!  Worth a read...

If they know of him at all, many folks think Ben Stein is just a quirky actor/comedian who talks in a monotone. He's also a very intelligent attorney who knows how to put ideas and words together in such a way as to sway juries and make people think clearly.

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

Here with a few confessions from my beating heart: I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they?  Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important? I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's wife.

Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. If this is what it means to be no longer young. It's not so bad.

Next confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.
And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel
threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key
intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I
think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution, and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?  I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.

But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this Happen?"
(regarding Katrina)

Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.
She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"  (She said the same thing when interviewed after 9-11)

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school the Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we
said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves. Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can
figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what
the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.

Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought
process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is

My Best Regards .. honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

WEDNESDAY, October 11, 2006


The Boring Fabulist
"State of Denial" amazes me.
Friday, October 6, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

Thirty-two years into his career as a writer of books, Bob Woodward has won a reputation as slipshod ("Wired"), slippery ("All the President's Men," "The Final Days"), opportunistic ("Veil"; everything) and generally unaware of the implications even of those facts he's offered that have gone unchallenged. As a reporter he's been compared to a great dumb shark, remorselessly moving toward hunks of information he can swallow but not digest. As a writer his style has been to lard unconnected sentences with extraneous data in order to give his assertions a fact-y weight that suggests truth is being told. And so: On July 23, 1994, at 4:18 p.m., the meeting over, the president gazed out the double-paned windows of the Oval Office, built in October 1909 by workers uncovered by later minimum wage legislation, and saw the storm moving in. "I think I'll kill my wife," he said, the words echoing in the empty room. I made that up. It's my homage.

Mr. Woodward has been that amazing thing, the boring fabulist.

 The Bush White House has spent the past five years thinking they could manage him. Talk about a state of denial.

 Now he has thwarted me. I bought "State of Denial" thinking I might have a merry time bashing it and a satisfying time defending the innocent injured.

But it is a good book. It may be a great one. It is serious, densely, even exhaustively, reported, and a real contribution to history in that it gives history what it most requires, first-person testimony. (It is well documented, with copious notes.) What is most striking is that Mr. Woodward seems to try very hard to be fair, not in a phony "Armitage, however, denies it" way, but in a way that--it will seem too much to say this--reminded me of Jean Renoir: "The real hell of life is that everyone has his reasons."

 His Bush is not a monster but a personally disciplined, yearning, vain and intensely limited man. His advisers in all levels of the government are tugged and torn by understandable currents and display varying degrees of guile, cynicism and courage. As usual, prime sources get the best treatment--the affable Andy Card, the always well-meaning Prince Bandar. Members of the armed forces get a high-gloss spit shine. But once you decode it and put it aside--and Woodward readers always know to do that--you get real history:

The almost epic bureaucratic battle of Donald Rumsfeld to re-establish civilian control of the post-Clinton Joint Chiefs of Staff; the struggle of the State Department to be heard and not just handled by the president; the search on the ground for the weapons of mass destruction; the struggles, advances and removal from Iraq of Jay Garner, sent to oversee humanitarian aid; the utter disconnect between the experience on the ground after Baghdad was taken and the attitude of the White House--"borderline giddy." This is a primer on how the executive branch of the United States works, or rather doesn't work, in the early years of the 21st century.

There is previously unreported information. Former Secretary of State George Shultz was top contender for American envoy to Baghdad, but there were worries he was "not known for taking direction." Spies called "bats" were planted in American agencies by American agencies to report to rival superiors back home.

After Baghdad fell, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, who appears to be the best friend of everybody in the world, went to the White House and advised the president to fill the power vacuum immediately: The Baath Party and the military had run the country. Remove the top echelon--they have bloody hands--but keep and maintain everyone else. Tell the Iraqi military to report to their barracks, he advised, and keep the colonels on down. Have them restore order. Have Iraqi intelligence find the insurgents: "Those bad guys will know how to find bad guys." Use them, and then throw them over the side. This is advice that has the brilliance of the obvious, and not only in retrospect.

Mr. Woodward: "'That's too Machiavellian,' someone said. The Saudi notes of the meeting indicate it was either Bush or Rice."

 It's isn't clear if "too Machiavellian" meant too clever by half, or too devious for good people like us. Either way it was another path not taken. The newly unemployed personnel of the old Iraqi government took to the streets, like everyone else.

 To the central thesis. Was the White House, from the beginning, in a state of denial? I doubt denial is the word. They were in a state of unknowingness. (I have come to give greater credence to the importance, in the age of terror, among our leaders, of having served in the military. For you need personal experience that you absorbed deep down in your bones, or a kind of imaginative wisdom that tells you even though you were never there what war is like, what invasion is, what building a foreign nation entails.) They were in a state of conviction: They really thought Saddam had those WMDs. (Yes, so did Bill Clinton, so did The New Yorker, so did I, and so likely did you. But Mr. Bush moved on, insisted on, intelligence that was faulty, inadequate.) They were in a state of propulsion: 9/11 had just wounded a great nation. Strong action was needed.

Here I add something I have been thinking about the past year. It is about the young guys at the table in the Reagan era. The young, mid-level guys who came to Washington in the Reagan years were always at the table in the meeting with the career State Department guy. And the man from State, timid in all ways except bureaucratic warfare, was always going "Ooh, aah, you can't do that, the Soviet Union is so big, Galbraith told us how strong their economy is, the Sandinistas have the passionate support of the people, there's nothing we can do, stop with your evil empire and your Grenada invasion, it's needlessly aggressive!" Those guys from State--they were almost always wrong. Their caution was timorousness, their prudence a way to evade responsibility. The young Reagan guys at the table grew up to be the heavyweights of the Bush era. They walked into the White House knowing who'd been wrong at the table 20 years before. And so when State and others came in and said, "The intelligence doesn't support it, we see no WMDs," the Bush men knew who not to believe.

 History is human.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on


Thank Globalization for world of hurt when China bust finally hits
By Sol Sanders

Friday, October 6, 2006

The Bush Administration’s mint-new Treasury Secretary Paulson is no stranger to Beijing. And his recent trip there to lobby old friends — he comes from chairman of Goldman Sachs, a major player in China’s effort to snare foreign investment — was a muted success. Paulson set up a supposedly more effective consultation procedure. He says he didn’t expect to move mountains overnight even though he talked with both President Hu and Prime Minister Wen. He didn’t.

Paulson’s relative optimism, even taken at face value, does not diminish China’s growing threat as a major world player. Leaving aside escalating military power against — as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has so simply put it — an unseen enemy, China‘s integration into the world economy has become problematical.

An obvious manifestation is Beijing’s unprecedented foreign exchange reserves, now escalating toward a trillion dollars. They flow from China’s accelerating trade surplus – not the least based on the U.S.’ staggering bilateral deficit. Granted Washington’s problem is almost universal with the U.S. maw gulping imports and credit from all over the world.

But China accounts for something like a quarter of the total. Subsidies [along with cheap labor] back three-quarters of China’s exports which are multinationals’ assembly operations poducts. Chinese currency is undervalued to the dollar, by as much as a quarter, possibly a third. The result: skyrocketing Chinese exports and surpluses plus inflows of hot money. Speculators are betting Beijing inevitably would have to massively revalue.

Beijing is resisting, although it maneuvered toward floating its currency more than a year ago with resulting minor adjustments. In fact, the problem is growing apace.

China has a variety of reasons for stonewalling: Its leaders have the old fashioned mercantilist belief in trade surpluses. China’s own raw materials imports — not the least energy — are mushrooming, partly ironically from higher prices China generates as a new wastrel market.
But more important, a major currency readjustment’s psychological effect would bring on major unforeseen economic and unpredictable political effects — perhaps a run from the yuan no matter how draconian Beijing’s exchange controls. China greybeards remember inflation as much as Communist armed strength decided the civil war for the Communists in the late 1940s.

So Paulson’s entreaties nor some Senators’ threats to slap on emergency tariffs notwithstanding, there is likely to be little movement. The standpat attitude is despite recent signs Hu has consolidated his control, wiping out his predecessor, Jiang Zemi’s Shanghai power base and buying off the military through promotions and increasing their toys. But Hu, nor Wen for that matter, have the stuff of dramatic/risk initiatives but are rather Party hacks that have risen through ducking issues.

At stake may be stability of the system. Managing mushrooming reserves is increasingly difficult since they generate matching local currency leading to uncontrolled expansion and speculation. Most major Chinese cities, for example, have a real estate bubble where loose change is going. Liquidity reinforces growing loss of control by the center over regional Party leaders who plunge into huge infrastructure expenditures to meet growing unemployment. Money sloshing around inhibits reforms of banking, so inefficient they may have bad loans equal to the foreign exchange reserves! It encourages corruption, however iniquitous not just a moral and governance issue, but sapping as much as 13 percent of gross national product. According to government figures, almost $100 million was stolen from Chinese banks in 2005 alone!

One might ask, but isn’t this a Chinese problem? If Beijing is willing to export its savings through underpriced products against an increasingly devaluing dollar and low-interest Treasury securities [supporting American low interest and inflation rates], why worry? True, the U.S. has sacrificed manufacturing jobs — some would argue its industrial base — but American unemployment remains low. Export of China’s incredibly frugal citizens’ savings [official statistics say 50 percent of GDP] is to the U.S. and the rest of the world’s advantage, it could be argued.

The answer is, of course, as China increasingly meshes with the world, can this Ponzi scheme continue? Does it not represent a threat to all members of the increasingly interlaced world economy?

America is addicted to low price Chinese-made consumers goods. Reliance on Chinese markets partially underlies Japan’s recovery after a decade of stagnation. South Korea’s domestic economy, never recovered from the 1997-98 East Asia Financial Crisis, depends on its “China boom”. Australia’s raw materials exports increasingly depend on China. So do higher Mideast oil prices supporting huge recycling of investment from the Persian Gulf worldwide.

In the next few weeks, the bankrupt [by everyone else’s standards] Chinese government banks will continue to float some of the largest IPOs in history. Foreigners, including American banks, are investing billions for minority positions to get access to those fabled savings.

Beijing is still a relatively minor world economic actor but the Chinese tail is wagging the dog. When the China bust comes, as inevitably it must given its fragile structure, globalization will quickly transmit the pain all around the world system.

Sol W. Sanders, (, is an Asian specialist with more than 25 years in the region, and a former correspondent for Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and United Press International. He writes weekly for World and

TUESDAY, October 10, 2006


While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies.
His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
"Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these p arts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you."
"No problem, just let me in," says the man.
"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heave n. Then you can choose where to spend eternity."
"Really, I've made up my mind I want to be in heaven," says the senator.
"I'm sorry, but we have our rules."
And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.
They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.
Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...
The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
"Now it's time to visit heaven."
So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing.  They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
"Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity."
The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers:  "Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell."
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.
He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.
The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. "I don't understand," stammers the senator "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?"
The devil looks at him, smiles and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning...... Today you voted."

Author Unknown

MONDAY, October 9, 2006


Please see my offerings on this subject on the "asthma" web-site, under "The Involved Citizen", "Miscellaneous".   The light of these facts should produce very little heat.


SUNDAY, October 8, 2006


FRIDAY and SATURDAY, October 6 and 7, 2006


WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY, October 4 and 5, 2006

Many serious events are going on throughout the world.  They are all interrelated, and they all must be understood by "the man in the street".  No excuses.  No "Wha Hoppen?".  We owe it to our children and grandchildren, if self-preservation is not a sufficient motive for some lazy individuals out there.  And there are plenty of sources of information available.  Just make sure to "cross-read": read about the the same stories and facts from at least two independent sources.  And, at risk of being accused of being a shill for the Wall Street Journal, make sure that that newspaper is one of your sources.  Some particularly pregnant references follow, in the course of my own take on the subjects.


MONDAY and TUESDAY, October 2 and 3, 2006

I agree wholehartedly with the views expressed in the following article, and with the frustration that underlies it.   Every important leader in the world has had his Achilles Heel that ultimately brought him down.  That of President George W. Bush is "loyalty".  Like "self-esteem', loyalty should not be a gift to be imparted, but rather a reward to be earned.  Whatever his previous record on behalf of this country, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has, since the Spring of 2003, not earned the loyalty he has received, like an umbrella against a hurricane.  Too bad.  This faulty understanding in the President's modus operandi may well bring down the otherwise good leadership of the Republican Party.  And then what?  GS

The New York Times, September 28, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
The Grand Delusion

You probably know Daniel Defoe as the author of "Robinson Crusoe," but he was also a journalist, and in 1705, he noticed a gigantic change occurring around him. "The Power of Nations," he wrote, "is not now measur'd, as it has been, by Prowess, Gallantry, and Conduct. 'Tis the Wealth of Nations that makes them Great."

In other words, nations had begun measuring themselves not by whom they conquered, but by how they fared in the competition for economic success. This was a major shift in consciousness, and as the great historian of nationalism, Liah Greenfeld, observes, today you can see a wide variety of societies — the U.S., Japan, China, India, Europe — that define their national greatness in this way.

The Arab world, though famous for its bazaars, has not defined national glory economically, Greenfeld adds. Instead, the rising radical groups today define greatness negatively through acts of anti-Western defiance.

Superseding market entrepreneurs, there are terror entrepreneurs competing to see who can issue the most militant call and perform the most galvanizing act of violence. They are driven by resentment toward the West, but also by the internal competition for prestige and standing.

To his eternal credit, after 9/11 George Bush quickly understood that the terror threat was fundamentally an ideological threat, a product of deep historical consciousness. To his eternal discredit, he didn't commit enough resources to successfully defeat and discredit that ideology. The chance to deliver the sort of blow that the Six Day War delivered to an earlier version of Arab nationalism may now be lost.

As a result, as the National Intelligence Estimate makes clear, the West now faces a diverse and metastasizing set of foes. The report also makes clear that while the Iraq war has so far enhanced the prestige of the terrorists, Iraq remains the crucial battleground where they will either gain glory or face humiliation.

If we lived in a serious political culture, we'd be discussing what we've learned from Iraq and how to proceed. Instead, all of Washington is involved in a juvenile game of gotcha. Bill Clinton is fighting about what did or didn't happen 10 years ago. The White House is still exaggerating the positive. Democratic senators purr like happy kittens as retired generals slam Donald Rumsfeld, and then stop up their ears when those same generals call for more troops and a longer war.

Voters now confront a Republican Party that understands the breadth of the threat but has bungled the central campaign, and a Democratic Party that is quick to criticize but lacks an understanding of the jihadists and a strategy for confronting them.

Worse, more and more people are falling for the Grand Delusion — the notion that if we just leave the extremists alone, they will leave us alone. On the right, some believe that if we just stop this Wilsonian madness of trying to introduce democracy into the Arab world, we can return to an age of stability and balance. On the left, many people can't seem to fathom an enemy the U.S. isn't somehow responsible for. Others think the entire threat has been exaggerated by Karl Rove for the sake of political scaremongering.

Perhaps it's understandable that many Americans would fall for this Grand Delusion. The Israelis, who have more experience with Islamic extremism, recently did. They imagined that they could build a security barrier and unilaterally withdraw from their historical reality. It took the war in south Lebanon to make them see there is no way to unilaterally withdraw. There is no way to become a normal society. Even if they pulled out of Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, they would still have to confront an existential foe, so long as the forces of political Islam continued to wage their competition for anti-Semitic glory all around.

The blunt fact is that groups of Islamic extremists will continue to compete and grow until mainstream Islamic moderates can establish a more civilized set of criteria for prestige and greatness. Today's extremists are not the product of short-term historical circumstances, but of consciousness and culture. They are not the fault of the United States, but have roots stretching back centuries. They will not suddenly ignore their foe — us — when their hatred of us is the core of their identity.

The National Intelligence Estimate predicts terror violence will get worse in the years ahead. The scarier estimate was made by a veteran of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, in conversation with his grandson who now lives in Boston: "This is forever."

SUNDAY, October 1, 2006

The most frustrating part of events over the last three and one-half years, during which time I have been offering these "rapid responses", is the continuing blindness...approaching recklessness...of Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld and the military brass regarding fighting the Iraq war on the cheap, while decimating our force structure.  I have been saying this, again and again, since the Spring of 2003.  The following article amplifies on this message.  Is anyone listening?  GS

More Troops
 The consensus for a larger Army is about as complete as it could be.
by Frederick W. Kagan & William Kristol
Weekly Standard
10/02/2006, Volume 012, Issue 03

You can hardly read a story about Iraq these days without seeing an Army or Marine officer say he doesn't have enough troops to accomplish his mission. Senior officers respond that this is what junior commanders always say. That's not quite true. Commanders in charge of secondary missions often ask for more resources than they need, not recognizing their missions are less vital. But the calls for more troops in Iraq come from soldiers training Iraqis, from soldiers trying to secure Baghdad, from soldiers in Anbar. If all of these are secondary missions, where's the main effort? The truth is there are not enough ground forces in Iraq, and military officers are finally saying so in public.

The administration could respond to this obvious fact by sending more troops. Rather than do that, some military and civilian leaders are spinning: There are no more troops to send, they say. In fact, some military leaders say we won't be able to sustain even the current levels--as CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid has said we must--without risking grave damage to the military.

To those who warn that Iraq is "breaking the Army," we would respond that losing in Iraq will increase the burden on the military over the coming decades rather than decreasing it. Nothing breaks a military like losing.

But there's an even more important point here. If it were, in fact, true that there is not a single additional soldier to send to Iraq, then the United States would be facing the gravest national security crisis since Pearl Harbor. For this would mean that there is not a single soldier available to be sent anywhere: Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Lebanon, or wherever the next crisis arises. It would mean that the president has no strategic options at all involving the use of ground forces. And this would be an open invitation to our enemies to take advantage of our weakness.

Now, the fact is that there are more troops available to be sent to Iraq. But we also are stretched too thin, and need a larger military. In a front-page article on September 22, the New York Times's Thom Shanker and Michael Gordon reported that "strains on the Army from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become so severe that Army officials say they may be forced to make greater use of the National Guard to provide enough troops for overseas deployments." This prospect "presents the Bush administration with a politically vexing problem: how, without expanding the Army, to balance the pressing need for troops in the field against promises to limit overseas deployments for the Guard." Actually, this "vexing problem" has a solution: expanding the Army.

Analysts outside the government are increasingly in agreement:?Researchers at conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation call for larger ground forces, as do thinkers at centrist and liberal organizations like Brookings, CSIS, and even the Center for American Progress. The more modest recommendations call for increasing the Army, over the next few years, by 50,000 to 100,000 new troops from its current 500,000. We would urge an immediate expansion toward a 750,000-person Army. In any case, the consensus for a larger Army is about as complete as it could be. Except within the administration.

 What's preoccupying the Defense Department, even the top brass at the Army like Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker, is the Future Combat System--the Army's major "transformational" weapons system. Schoomaker has said that he would even cut the number of soldiers in uniform to pay for the system. The key premise of this argument is that Iraq is a blip, and the strain on our ground forces a temporary problem, while the FCS will ensure the Army's superiority for decades to come. But the armed forces have been strained for almost a decade now. And is Iraq really a "blip"? Most of the wars in the last 15 years have led to protracted deployments (the first Iraq war, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, for example). Only Haiti and Somalia--two signal failures--allowed a rapid exit.

The military should not be forced to choose between modernization and manpower. Army and Marine Corps vehicles are more than 20 years old and burned out by years of hard use. They need to be replaced. The president keeps saying that we are a nation at war, but the military keeps having to make budget decisions as though we were at peace. If this trend continues, we could lose in Iraq and break the ground forces as well.

The strain on the soldiers and Marines must be eased. Recruiting and training takes time, of course, and many will argue that it is too late: We'll be out of Iraq before they take the field. That same argument was made in 2003, 2001, 1999, and 1997. If we'd started at any of those times to increase the size of the ground forces, new soldiers would be on the ground today where they are badly needed. How many times are we going to repeat this mistake? How long will it take this administration, properly committed to a robust foreign policy, to provide the tools needed to do the job?

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