The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Tuesday, November 30, 2004

As a Longhorn fan, I can relate... (click to enlarge)
DiscerningTexan, 11/30/2004 10:09:00 PM | Permalink | |

Destabilization in the Ukraine

Janusz Bugajski has a superb but sobering analysis of the situation in Ukraine running in the Washington Times. It appears that our old friends the Russians are stirring up trouble again... and this one is already turning into a major international crisis.

With Ukraine on the brink of revolt following the defrauded general elections, the international spotlight must expose Moscow's machinations in the escalating crisis.

While attention has focused on restoration of authoritarianism in Russia, the starker danger both for America and Europe is the revival of Russian imperialism that threatens to tear Ukraine apart.

President Vladimir Putin is intent on recapturing Russia's great-power status and is counting on Washington's continuing acquiescence. He pursues several strategies to undermine his neighbors, especially states such as Ukraine that Russia has sought to absorb for more than 350 years through assimilation, genocide and state terror.

Moscow is its regional hegemony by seeking predominant influence over the foreign and security policies of nearby capitals. States such as Ukraine are especially vulnerable because of Russia's overwhelming diplomatic, economic and ethnic pressures. Moreover, Mr. Putin's security services have deeply penetrated Ukraine and all other former Soviet republics to ensure the loyalty of selected political leaders.

Moscow is capturing monopolistic economic positions through targeted foreign investments and strategic infrastructure buyouts. This gives Moscow substantial influence over a neighbor's economic, financial and trade policies. Under Mr. Putin's direction, private business has been mobilized to serve regime interests.

The Kremlin has also increased regional dependence on Russian energy supplies and this relationship is being converted into long-term political dominance. Close connections between the Kremlin and large energy companies, whether through executive appointments or financial and police instruments, demonstrate close coordination of foreign and economic policy.

The Kremlin aims to limit the pace and scope of Western political and military penetration in Russia's "near abroad." NATO control in the Balkans and Central Europe and increasing U.S. involvement in Central Asia and the Caucasus are seen as springboards for American domination throughout Eurasia. Hence, the obstruction of closer links between Russia's neighbors and Washington is envisaged as a way to restrict American hegemony.

Moscow wants to use the eastern half of Greater Europe as a springboard for rebuilding its continental status. Simultaneously, Russia seeks a hierarchical international-relations system in which major powers' security agreements take precedence over smaller states between them.

Ultimately, Mr. Putin is intent on undercutting the trans-Atlantic link. By steadily expanding its dominance in targeted countries, Russian agencies aim to erode regional cooperation with the United States. The purpose is to reinforce the "Eurasian strategic pole" to counterbalance American globalism. Trans-Atlantic disputes provide fertile ground for Moscow to augment conflicts and maneuver itself into a stronger position to determine European security.

Moscow calculates that integration of Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova and the subversion of other East European countries will accelerate its strategic agenda and serve as a stepping-stone for further expansion. And it solicits European and American consent while it reconstructs the post-Soviet zone under its political and security umbrella. Ukraine is now a key piece in this geopolitical chess game.

To augment its position, Russia promotes itself as a regional stabilizer against the threat of weak states and Islamic terrorists. Internally divided countries such as Ukraine or authoritarian regimes such as the one in Belarus reinforce Moscow's claim that its role pacifies the region. In reality, Mr. Putin's expansionist and divisive policies may tear Ukraine apart into a pro-American West and a pro-Russian East while destabilizing a wider region.

In contrast to that of Russia, it is in America's national interests to build secure and democratic systems throughout Europe and among all former Soviet republics that can assume membership in international institutions. But to guarantee such a development, the U.S. needs to intensify its engagement and fortify the region's resilience to Russian pressure. Long-term Alliance interests should not be abandoned to Mr. Putin's ambitions or the European Union's weaknesses.

Washington has remained reticent while the Kremlin resurrects the Russian imperium. But the renewed Bush administration may soon reach a point of diminishing returns in its conciliatory approach toward Mr. Putin. Rather than help America's counterterrorism offensive, Russian support of local dictators and repressive systems contribute to inflaming regional instabilities, spreading terrorism and multiplying available deadly weapons.

As Ukraine lurches toward disintegration, with the potential for more direct Russian involvement, it is time Washington drew a line across the steppes. Moscow needs to be warned that any forcible intervention or support for Ukraine's partition, in a replay of the Moldova scenario, will have serious repercussions for bilateral relations. The White House must simultaneously lean heavily on Kiev to avoid doing anything that could spark the biggest crisis in Europe since the collapse of Yugoslavia.

This is disturbing news indeed. The next few days' events might have enormous long-term repercussions in the relationship between the United States and Russia.
DiscerningTexan, 11/30/2004 09:53:00 PM | Permalink | |

Euro-deception around Iran

Michael Ledeen is always adept at dissecting the very heart on almost any matter when it comes to foreign affairs:

The European "solution" to the threat of Iranian atomic bombs bids fair to join the "peace process" as the most boffo running gag in the history of show biz. Every few months, the elegantly dressed diplomatic wizards from London, Paris, and Berlin race across a continent or two to meet with Iranians dressed in turbans and gowns, and after some hours of alleged hard work, they emerge with a new agreement, just like their more numerous counterparts engaged in the peace negotiations. The main difference is that the peace-process deals seemed to last for several months, while the schemes hammered out with the mullahs rarely last more than a week or two. Otherwise, it's the same sort of vaudeville routine: a few laughs, with promises of more to come.

The latest Iranian shenanigan may have set a record for speed. On Monday they announced they had stopped the centrifuges that were enriching uranium. On Tuesday they asked for permission to run the centrifuges again. The Europeans sternly said no. The next scene will be at Turtle Bay, with brief interruptions for somewhat off-color remarks about sexual harassment at high levels (so to speak) of the United Nations. The idea that "we don't need to do anything, because so-and-so will do our dirty work for us" has in fact been central to Western strategy in the Middle East for quite a while.

The European posturing is the Western counterpart of the Iranian deception, a ritual dance designed to put a flimsy veil over the nakedness of the real activities. The old-fashioned name for this sort of thing is "appeasement," and was best described by Churchill, referring to Chamberlain's infamous acceptance of Hitler's conditions at Munich. Chamberlain had to choose between war and dishonor, opted for the latter, and got the former as well.

That is now the likely fate of Blair, Chirac, and Schroeder. They surely know this. Why do they accept it? They accept it for many reasons, of which two seem paramount: They have huge financial interests tied up with the Iranian regime (billions of dollars worth of oil and gas contracts, plus other trade agreements, some already signed, others in the works); and Iran is the last place in the Middle East where they can play an active diplomatic role. This is particularly acute for France, which knows it will long be a pariah to free Iraqi governments, and views Iran as its last chance to thwart America's dominant role in the region. Sad to say, there is no evidence that the Europeans give a tinker's damn either about the destiny of the Iranian people, or about Iran's leading role in international terrorism, or about the Islamic Republic's joining the nuclear club. They are quite prepared to live with all that. I think they expect Iran to "go nuclear" in the near future, at which point they will tell President Bush that there is no option but to accept the brutal facts -- the world's leading sponsor of terrorism in possession of atomic bombs and the missiles needed to deliver them on regional and European targets -- and "come to terms" with the mullahcracy.

In other words, as the editorialists at the "Wall Street Journal" have wryly commented, the real goal of the negotiations is to restrain the United States, which, left to its own devices, might actually do something serious. If President Bush found a way to prevent Iran from acquiring atomic bombs, it might well wreck the Europeans' grand appeasement strategy. There is certainly no risk that the United Nations will do anything serious, which is why the Europeans keep insisting that it is the only "legitimate" forum for any discussion of the Iranian nuclear menace.

At the same time, I rather suspect that the Europeans, like many of our own diplomats, would be secretly pleased if someone else -- that is to say, Israel -- were to "do something" to rid them of this problem. When they whisper that thought to themselves in the privacy of their own offices or the darkness of their own bedrooms, they mentally replay the Israeli bombing of the nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq, in 1981 -- an attack they publicly condemned and privately extolled. They would do the same tomorrow, sighing in relief as they tighten the noose around Israel's neck. Rarely has the metaphor of the scapegoat been so appropriate: the burden of our sins of omission loaded onto the Israelis, who are then sacrificed to atone for us all. This may seem sheer wishful thinking, but wishful thinking is an important part of foreign policy.

The idea that "we don't need to do anything, because so-and-so will do our dirty work for us" has in fact been central to Western strategy in the Middle East for quite a while. For example, it was practiced by Bush the Elder in 1991 at the end of Desert Storm, when the president openly mused that it would be simply wonderful if the Kurds and Shiites overthrew Saddam Hussein. They tried it; foolishly believing that if things went badly the United States would support them. But Bush the First was quite serious about his wishful thinking, and stood by as Saddam slaughtered them -- the scapegoats of the hour -- by the tens of thousands.

Similar wishful thinking is now at the heart of European -- and probably a good deal of American -- strategic thinking about the Iranian nuclear project. That it is a disgusting abdication of moral responsibility and a strategic blunder of potentially enormous magnitude is both obvious and irrelevant to the actual course of events. I do not believe Israel will solve this problem for us, both because it is militarily very daunting and because successive Israeli governments have believed that Iran is too big a problem for them, and if it is to be solved, it will have to be solved by the United States and our allies. Whether that is true or not, I have long argued that Iran is the keystone of the terrorist edifice, and that we are doomed to confront it sooner or later, nuclear or not. Secretary of State Powell disagreed, and he was at pains recently to stress that American policy does not call for regime change in Tehran -- even though the president repeatedly called for it. And the president is right; regime change is the best way to deal with the nuclear threat and the best way to advance our cause in the war against the terror masters.

We have a real chance to remove the terror regime in Tehran without any military action, but rather through political means, by supporting the Iranian democratic opposition. According to the regime itself, upwards of 70 percent of Iranians oppose the regime, want freedom, and look to us for political support. I believe they, like the Yugoslavs who opposed Milosevic and like the Ukrainians now demonstrating for freedom, are entitled to the support of the free world. Even if you believe that a nuclear Iran is inevitable, is it not infinitely better to have those atomic bombs in the hands of pro-Western Iranians, chosen by their own people, than in the grip of fanatical theocratic tyrants dedicated to the destruction of the Western Satans? And maybe it isn't inevitable. Faster, please.
DiscerningTexan, 11/30/2004 07:17:00 AM | Permalink | |
Sunday, November 28, 2004

Fraud in the Ukraine

It got pretty ugly in the Ukraine last week. Sunday's London Telegraph had the inside scoop.
DiscerningTexan, 11/28/2004 10:07:00 PM | Permalink | |

click to enlarge Posted by Hello
DiscerningTexan, 11/28/2004 10:02:00 PM | Permalink | |

VDH: Debunking the media’s mythology

Victor Davis Hanson makes it clear that the media’s unfair treatment of the US in Iraq is a great reason to continue to do what we’re doing…

One of the more curious aspects of the commentary on this war has not been the bias of the mainstream media but the cynical punditry that somehow ends up as the conventional wisdom among our New York and Washington elites. Here is a small sample of misplaced metaphors, allusions, and conventional wisdom of the last three years.THE POTTERY BARN RULE"

You break it, you bought it" — so we were told ad nauseam throughout the war in Iraq. Bush and his Team America posse supposedly barged into an upscale store, rashly knocked over items, and now, quite startled, must stay on and pay the tab for the mess they made. How deep.

In truth, it was the wrong metaphor even before becoming hackneyed. The Pottery Barn image doesn't work for a variety of reasons. First, Saddam's Iraq was not a pristine, upscale shop. It was, rather, a trash heap of broken shards — its power, water, sewage, and garbage all fractured and scattered in pieces; its people both brutalized and often brutalizers as a result of three decades of institutionalized mass murder; its leadership a choice between Soviet-era killers and Dark Age jihadists. Second, unlike the naïve buyer who takes umbrage that he must pay for something he inadvertently knocked over, we went into Iraq with the explicit intention of fixing things. Indeed, we announced quite openly that we did not want a repeat of Lebanon, Afghanistan of the 1980s, Mogadishu, or the first Gulf War, when we let the locals murder and bomb after we pulled out. Third, the peeved naïf of the metaphor is left shelling out money for something that is permanently ruined. But we are mending the ware that others smashed, hoping to ensure that what we leave behind is far better than what was there when we arrived.

A final, darker thought: I don't think when Sherman went into Georgia, or Patton crossed the Rhine, or the Marines hit the caves of Okinawa, our elites warned them — or they would have much cared to hear — "Be careful folks: You break Georgia, Germany, or Japan, you buy it."

Reporters always allude to this nugget as they beam back video footage of street fighting from Iraq. Still, our talking heads seem not quite bold enough to repeat the aphorism explicitly in connection with Fallujah or Sadr City, since they have a vague notion that there is something quite wrong about this urban myth of Vietnam lineage. And, of course, there is something quite wrong with it. Peter Arnett once claimed that a U.S. army major had told him Americans had to destroy the village of Ben Tre to save it from the Viet Cong during the Tet offensive.

But Arnett never verified, much less produced, his source — and the town was mostly shelled by the Communists anyway. An exhaustive investigation by the Pentagon never found any such official who said anything such thing. Given Arnett's later "scoops" about the purported American use of Sarin gas in Southeast Asia and his more recent versions of the truth beamed back from Baghdad Bob's Iraq, we can rightly question whether the adage more likely reflected the cynicism of a jaded reporter than the doctrine of a soldier on the ground.

A good rule is, when you hear Arnett's fabrication promulgated on the news, assume that it is once again being used for its original purposes of distortion — like the example of Jenin when it was still neat to say that the Israelis had unleashed a Leningrad to save the city from terrorists.Nevertheless, the quip has entered the popular culture, and it supposedly illustrates how sophisticated journalists alone can stand back and "really see" what is going on in places like Fallujah: Our clueless Marines blow apart good houses one week, only to spread cash around the next to rebuild them. What a senseless cycle of destruction and creation we have wrought, so typical of a wild America that even at home destroys and rebuilds itself without thinking! Can't we sit down with the black-masked snipers, adjudicate our differences, and then agree that it makes no sense to fight among the homes and businesses of the innocents?

Not until the nature of man changes. There is a reason, after all, why Zarqawi's killers are in Fallujah and not out in tents in the deserts of Iraq, and why his arms caches and depots are in mosques and his machine-gunners in minarets. That logic transcends terrorists themselves, being age-old and often the same for a weaker, morally bankrupt power that is losing a war.

Look to historical precedents: As the conflict worsened in Japan, Japanese industry often dispersed itself among the suburbs of Tokyo in hopes that a forbearing United States could not distinguish propeller factories from neighborhood shrines and would thus pass on bombing urban centers. Milosevic chose to stay in the heart of Belgrade to direct his genocide rather than to supervise the machine-gunning from the killing fields of Bosnia. And, of course, Saddam's bunkers were spread throughout the suburbs of Baghdad to ensure women and children served as suitable "shields."

Such evil folk count on their Western enemies to not resort to their own level of barbarity by simply carpet bombing the sanctuaries they inhabit — as if Western democracies over Dresden or Hiroshima were overly picky about who worked at a war plant or troop-train depot and who did not. So the Islamic fascists also hope to operate with impunity from the firepower that would otherwise, on the battlefield, obliterate them in short order. And they assume that if the war really does intrude on the civilian infrastructure, the subsequent carnage will be such that surviving civilians will be more likely to blame the attackers or perhaps the war itself than the killers in their midst who brought such destruction home. Sometimes such logic works, as we saw in the debacle at Fallujah last April. But I wouldn't bet too often on either the restraint or the weakness of the West when it goes to war. Despite a postmodern morality that cannot distinguish Islamic fascists from the work of Western democratic soldiers, most Americans grasp not only that an enemy must be defeated at all costs, but also that the United States has the ability through GPS bombs and laser-guided munitions to kill lots of the bad and save most of the good. And that is the awful calculus in war, where forbearance in slavish insistence on perfection is the enemy of the achievable good.Second, we are starting to see that this war was never just a question of firepower or the "right" tactics — or even perhaps of "hearts and minds" in the sense of spreading around cash and building good feeling.

Equally important was sheer will. If the United States proves militarily adept, terrifyingly unpredictable, and singularly magnanimous to a defeated and humiliated enemy, we will prevail and have Iraqis smiling as they build a Fallujah free of murderous imams and Baathists. But should we abandon it to such folk, then all the untouched mosques and nicely preserved houses will not hide the mayhem that will go on behind those walls for decades to come.

Military pros like this one. We supposedly broke the thermometer of Iraq during the invasion. Thus we are now faced with droplets of leaky mercury that split apart as quickly as we try to corral them — in an endless and futile exercise of trying to capture what cannot even be grasped. Thus, Fallujah is subdued, only to see Mosul erupt in some perpetual succession of violence, the terrorists nearly elemental in their uncanny ability to resist being collected and disposed of. Two things are wrong with this smug metaphor. First, once mercury is out of its container, its original utility vanishes. One cannot take one's temperature with mercury beads that have scattered all over the floor — anymore than terrorist pockets can reform into some central command to recreate Saddam's reign of terror. The likes of Zarqawi really do have computers, written orders, ATM cards, safe houses, and weapons depots; they don't float on carpets above the sands of Iraq. Thus, the cleansing of Fallujah was a terrible setback for them all.Second, scattered mercury bits soon become so small that they literally separate into oblivion and are forgotten about. So too with the terrorists: Crush their nests in Fallujah, shut down the borders, raid the mosques, warn Syria and Iran of a reckoning to come for their export of terrorism, hit outbreaks hard elsewhere, and by the January elections once-emboldened Wahhabi and Baathist killers will reluctantly join a Kurdish and Shiite government rather than be crushed between the hammer of Iraqi democratic militias and American air and ground power.

For all the talks of virgins, paradise, and beautiful suicides, most of those who survived American firepower in Fallujah chose to run, hide, or be captured. After all, suicide is for young zealots, not pudgy men to whom life has become altogether too dear with its money, fame, and women in the here and now. In short, far from "there is no military solution," the truth in Iraq is rather that there is no political solution without a military victory and humiliation of the terrorists.

Why do we readily embrace such false wisdom? Reasons abound, from our own lack of confidence in American competence and morality to the creepy methods of the Islamic fascists that strike fear into a leisured and prosperous Western citizenry. But for now it is enough to realize that retail metaphors, stale Vietnam-era myths, and pessimism passed off as chemistry tell us far more about ourselves than they do of Iraq — which somehow, like Afghanistan, just zigs and zags forward toward a democratic future. Finally, on this Thanksgiving let us remember that, for all their snarls and snipes, the now-freed peoples of France, Germany, Japan, Eastern Europe, Korea, the Balkans, Panama, Grenada, Afghanistan, and Iraq owe a great deal to thousands of dead Americans, too often forgotten, who in awful places like the Hürtgen Forest, Tarawa, Monte Casino, Chosun, Hue, Panama City, Mazar-e-Sharif — and Fallujah — battled and defeated Nazis, militarists, Fascists, Communists, and Dark-Age Islamists so that millions of others might have the freedom that the rest of us lesser folk too often take for granted as our birthright.
DiscerningTexan, 11/28/2004 09:44:00 PM | Permalink | |

Life in Iran

If there was ever a place where the vacuum of the lack of freedom is festering, Iran is that place:

When Friday Prayer here finishes at about two o'clock in the afternoon, hundreds of worshipers parade toward waiting buses east of Tehran University, shouting canned rhetoric against America and Israel, defining themselves by their animosity toward others. Watching this ritual, one cannot help but ask a soul-searching question: "How can such a small minority of vocal people - totally orchestrated worshipers and their security guards - set the agenda for a nation of 70 million people?"

The short answer is lack of free speech - or, more accurately, the absence of freedom after speech. The state has a monopoly on public discourse, and intellectuals, whether they are religious, atheist or agnostic, are simply not heard. The mullahs in Qom, the holy city two hours drive southwest of Tehran, can dial the phone number of any revolutionary judge in Iran and order the persecution of anyone who dares to question the authorities and their divine agenda.

DiscerningTexan, 11/28/2004 09:42:00 PM | Permalink | |

Germany faces its demons

It is one thing to support Islamist dictators against your supposed “allies” when the dictator is paying you off with millions of illegal UN oil-for-food funds. Apparently it is quite another thing entirely when the Islamist menace rears its ugly head in your own country. Take for example this article in the recent edition of the German icon Der Spiegel:

No one likes to have guests like Hodja, a Turkish citizen who traveled to Germany for the sole purpose of contributing to the spiritual edification of his fellow Turks. "America is a great Satan, Great Britain is a lesser one, and Israel a blood-sucking vampire," he yelled into a prayer room in Bavaria.

Then the immigrant imam explained his vision of the future of Muslims in Germany: "Things will happen behind the scenes. You must be ready for the right moment. We must take advantage of democracy to further our cause. We must cover all of Europe with mosques and schools." His comments were greeted with loud applause from his audience of devout Muslims.

That was two years ago, at a time when, in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the security services had just begun taking a closer look at the inner workings of German mosques. At the time, however, politicians were still avoiding issues that were considered sensitive. The left wing was doing its utmost to protect its ideology of a peaceful, multicultural society, while the right wing held fast to its conviction that foreigners are guests who don't really belong.

After Sept. 11, the public debate about how people from different cultures will live together in the future began on a relatively furtive scale. People were too worried that criticism of Islamists could be misinterpreted as xenophobia. It was only after the gruesome murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh three weeks ago in Amsterdam that decades of repressing the issue came to an end. The uproar in the Netherlands has brought the conflict closer and made it much more visible. Last week, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a harmless, mainstream mosque in the southern German town of Sinsheim.

The incidents have opened many people's eyes to the dangers of religious extremism, and politicians of almost every stripe are now demanding a tougher stance against those believed to be responsible.
DiscerningTexan, 11/28/2004 09:38:00 PM | Permalink | |
Thursday, November 25, 2004

Krauthammer on Thanksgiving: from 1999

The Diplomad Blog has discovered what it calls the "best Thanksgiving post ever", a piece written a while back by Charles Krauthammer, who I respect very much. Is it hyperbole on the part of Diplomad? You be the judge:

We read it at the Diplomadic family Thanksgiving celebration every year; it is more relevant today than when it was run on November 29, 1999. Read it to a Frenchman . . .

Not for Moi, Thanks

IN THIS TIME OF GIVING THANKS, I find myself filled with gratitude for having been born American. And not French. (For me, a close call: My parents were French citizens at the time of my birth, and French was my first language.)

Why not French? We Americans could easily compare ourselves to, say, Argentina,another New World republic blessed with extraordinary natural and cultural resources, but which through colossal political mismanagement squandered its wealth and opportunity. Or to Canada, endowed like us with a vibrant democracy, a British political heritage, and a piece of this blessedly isolated and fruitful continent, but which has never been able to throw off its inferiority complex regarding the giant next door.

No, the real comparison that we ought to make is to France. Partly because we began our experiments in republican government -- models for the rest of the world -- at almost precisely the same time (the year of our Constitution was the year of their Revolution). But mainly because the French seem to insist upon measuring themselves against us. For the past 50 years they have insisted on making themselves the great Western dissenter to American greatness, the counterpoint to American dominance. The would-be East-West triangulator during the Cold War has now metamorphosed into a rallier of those disgruntled at the prospect of yet another American century. I wouldn't be picking on the French if they didn't take such delight in zinging the United States. Just three weeks ago, President Chirac delivered an address with a dozen subtle and not-so-subtle pokes at the United States, practically defining human progress as "moving toward a more balanced . . . distribution of power" in the world -- meaning, diminishing America's.

A day earlier, Chirac's foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, delivered a speech lamenting with equal subtlety American hegemony: "We cannot accept either a politically unipolar world, nor a culturally uniform world, nor the unilateralism of a single hyperpower." Note: Not superpower but "hyperpower," a typically barbed neologism that conjures up the image of some cartoonishly muscle-bound Schwarzenegger nation set to implode from its own gigantism. (In France's popular satirical TV puppet show, "Les Guignols de l'Info," the United States is represented by Rambo.)

In the holiday spirit, however, I might have given my Francophobia a rest if the French Embassy had not faxed me a copy of an article in the current World Policy Journal, "Life After Pax Americana," by Professor Charles Kupchan. It came heavily underlined and starred. Highlighted were such passages as "the waning of unipolarity" and "new power centers are emerging" and "America's protective umbrella will slowly retract" and "a global landscape in which power and influence are more equally distributed looms ahead" and "The key challenge . . . [is] weaning Europe and East Asia of their excessive dependence on the current hegemon." And who might that be? "The United States." I might note that Kupchan's argument -- i.e., the part in between the highlighted and starred passages to which the ever-helpful French wanted to draw my attention -- is quite substantial and subtle. But the French Embassy (aware that, since my 1990 Foreign Affairs article on the subject, I have long advanced the notion of a "unipolar" world) wanted to put me on notice that my cherished "unipolar moment" was about to draw to a close. Typically wishful thinking for a country that has spent the last half-century living on fantasies of its lost "grandeur."

One can feel for the French. After all, their decline has not been pretty, with their empire, their power, even their language (once the second tongue of the world's educated elites) all in rapid retreat. And even worse, with the Anglo-Saxon barbarian in ascent. But to understand is not to forgive, helas. Thus provoked, I continue: Oh, to have been born to a nation that at the time of its great revolution produced a Madison instead of a Robespierre. To have been born to a republic that amid its great mid-19th century crisis produced Lincoln instead of the comical Napoleon III. To have been born to a people that in the first invasion of Nazi-held territory -- Operation Torch, the 1942 allied invasion of North Africa -- were firing in on the Nazis rather than out on the allies. One can almost see "Casablanca's" Captain Renault half-heartedly ordering a cannon or two fired on allied ships in order to please Major Strasser, and then welcoming the Americans and the British ashore when the unpleasantness was over.

Praise the Lord. Pass the turkey. Vive l'Amerique.

DiscerningTexan, 11/25/2004 08:51:00 PM | Permalink | |

Iran on the brink?

When a partisan publication such as the New York Times reports things are bad with Iran, you can rest assured they are pretty bad indeed:

Iran refused today to abandon plans to operate uranium enrichment equipment that could be used either for energy purposes or in a nuclear bomb-making project, European and Iranian officials said.
The Iranian refusal threatened to scuttle a nuclear agreement that Iran reached 10 days ago with France, Britain and Germany to freeze all of Iran's uranium enrichments activities, European officials said. It also gave new ammunition to the Bush administration, which contends that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program and cannot be trusted.

The impasse coincided with the opening of crucial meetings to review Iran's nuclear program at the International Atomic Energy Agency here, the United Nations nuclear monitoring body that has the authority to refer Iran to the United Nations for possible censure or sanctions.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency chief, said in a speech today that Iran has so far failed to meet its pledge to freeze uranium enrichment in full because of its insistence on operating 20 centrifuges for research.

Centrifuges are machines that spin at supersonic speed to purify or enrich uranium for use in nuclear reactors. But when uranium is enriched to a very high degree, it can be used in a nuclear weapon.
Noting Iran's long history of concealment of its nuclear activities, Dr. ElBaradei also said: "A confidence deficit has been created, and confidence needs to be restored. Iran's active cooperation and full transparency is therefore indispensable."

He also expressed the hope that the dispute would "resolve itself" by Friday, and one of his aides said Dr. ElBaradei was pressing the Iranians to back down.
But the new Iranian demand, included in two formal letters to the agency, has caught the Europeans in a bind.

On the one hand, the Europeans have stated that their deal must stand as is and have told the Iranians that an exemption for any reason is unacceptable.

On the other hand, they are eager to salvage their hard-won deal and have already softened language in a draft resolution critical of Iran's nuclear activities that is to be passed by the 35 countries that make up the agency's governing board.

"Someone is going to have to back down," one Western diplomat involved in the negotiations said. "Both Iran and the Europeans are in a very tough spot right now."

In a blow to the Bush administration's efforts to punish Iran for its nuclear activities, France, Britain and Germany have rejected more than a dozen American proposals for a more harshly worded resolution against Iran, diplomats involved in the negotiations said.

Among the rejected proposals was a threat to take Iran to the Security Council for possible censure or even sanctions if it resumed any enrichment-related work, the diplomats said.

The Europeans told the Americans that such a threat would be incompatible with their agreement with Iran, which requires Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities in return for possible rewards that would be negotiated over time.

Another proposal rejected by the Europeans was a much softer amendment that would have welcomed Iran's decision on the suspension of its enrichment activities as a "confidence-building measure" but also would have formally notified the Security Council of the agreement reached with the Europeans. For the Americans, that move at least would have put the Iran nuclear issue on the Security Council's agenda and made it easier to debate the matter there.

American officials said they were told that their proposals would go against the spirit of the recent accord. When the American delegation questioned the wisdom of that approach, they were repeatedly told by their European allies that the United States would have to trust them.

France, Britain and Germany, which are leading the drafting of the resolution, said they would not formally introduce it for consideration by the 35 countries unless the agency could certify that Iran had frozen all of its enrichment activities.

European officials said they were convinced that the Iranians were using their demand to perform enrichment research as a bargaining chip to wrest last minute concessions in the resolution.
"We think it's grandstanding," one British official said. "But the Iranians should know there is no room for exceptions. The agreement is set in concrete."

Indeed, members of the Iranian delegation suggested to reporters and other delegates that they would be willing to drop their new demand in exchange for a weaker resolution.

But the European trio was sufficiently alarmed that it told a meeting of delegations of the world's major industrialized countries today that the deal would be "null and void" unless the Iranians relented, participants in the meeting said.

How easy will it be to take out the known sites...and will we do so? This may be one of the most important questions in this war on Iranian jihadists.
DiscerningTexan, 11/25/2004 07:08:00 PM | Permalink | |

Something to be thankful for...

Our Marines do not have the luxury of enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with their families. However they have taken the holiday to capture the largest weapons cache yet in Iraq; and they found it in a mosque in Fallujah:

Iraqi forces and U.S. Marines searching a mosque in Fallujah ``discovered the largest weapons cache to date'' in the city, where the coalition has been carrying out an assault on insurgents, the military said.

The stockpile was found yesterday in and around the compound of the Sa'ad Abi Bin Waqas Mosque in the Hey Al-Shorta District, according to a military statement e-mailed from the capital, Baghdad. The building was used by Muslim cleric Abdullah al-Janabi, leader of the city's rebels, to preach ``anti-coalition rhetoric,'' the military said.

The number of weapons recovered in the complex is ``stunning,'' and is ``enough to mount an insurgency across the country,'' the Associated Press cited Marines Lieutenant Colonel Dan Wilson as saying without specify the size of the cache. A chemical-weapons laboratory also was found, Reuters reported, citing Iraqi Security Minister Kassim Daoud.

The interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi gave the coalition military the authority to begin the assault Nov. 8 to clear insurgents from the city, 64 kilometers (40 miles) west of Baghdad. The military said al-Qaeda-linked terrorists used Fallujah as base and that about 1,200 gunmen were killed there during the siege.

Bomb Factory
Buildings in the mosque complex, in a residential part of Fallujah, were laden with weaponry that included heavy machine guns, anti-tank mines and rocket-propelled grenades, the military said. A vendor's truck parked outside the mosque contained explosive compounds and may have been used as a mobile bomb-making factory, according to the statement.

``Every weapon that is found is a good thing,'' Mike Dewar, a London-based independent defense analyst who served as colonel in the British military, said in a telephone interview. ``But there are a lot more out there. The insurgents have a limitless supply.''

In al-Janabi's house, soldiers found documents with the names of people who had been kidnapped and interrogated for cooperating with the U.S. and its allies, the military said. Al- Janabi appears to be allied with al-Qaeda-linked terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi and ordered public floggings and beheadings, the International Herald Tribune said without citing anyone.

``Insurgents have used mosques as safe havens,'' the military said. ``Many mosques in Fallujah lost their protective status as places of religious worship when insurgents fired from minarets of these mosques at Multi-National Forces personnel.''

`Ruled by Thugs'
The assault on Fallujah was justified ``whether arms were found there or not,'' because the city was being ``ruled by thugs,'' Dewar said.

It isn't known whether al-Janabi was in the city during the assault and, if so, whether he survived. The U.S. military said Zarqawi, who was based in Fallujah, escaped before the attack.

Since the Fallujah incursion began, violence has increased across Iraq as insurgents fled from the city to nearby Ramadi, and north to Baqubah, Mosul and Kirkuk. In the south, as many as 5,000 U.S., U.K. and Iraqi soldiers have been raiding rebel positions in the area around Basra, the U.S. military said.
``Of course militants from Fallujah are going to disperse,'' Dewar said, ``We just have to keep fighting them.''

U.S.-led troops must stay in the country until the Iraqi forces are numerous and well-trained enough to cope on their own, a change that may take 10 to 20 years, the analyst said.
The lack of border security is a major obstacle to peace and stability in Iraq, according to Dewar. Arms and foreign fighters are coming into the country from neighboring Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Iran, he said.

In an attempt to tackle these issues, Iraq will hold a meeting on security with its neighbors and Egypt in the Iranian capital, Tehran, by the end of this month. Representatives from Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are expected to attend.

Now that is a reason to be truly thankful.
DiscerningTexan, 11/25/2004 06:55:00 PM | Permalink | |
Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Creating a new world order?

Victor Davis Hanson sees the United States as a Revolutionary force in the modern world. His conclusion is an excellent summary of the neo-conservative vision:

If someone wonders about the enormous task at hand in democratizing the Middle East, he could do no worse than ponder the last days of Yasser Arafat: the tawdry fight over his stolen millions; the charade of the First Lady of Palestine barking from a Paris salon; the unwillingness to disclose what really killed the "Tiger" of Ramallah; the gauche snub of obsequious Europeans hovering in the skies over Cairo, preening to pay homage to the late prince of peace; and, of course, the usual street theater of machine guns spraying the air and thousands of males crushing each other to touch the bier of the man who robbed them blind. Try bringing a constitution and open and fair elections to a mess like that.

But that is precisely what the United States was trying to do by removing the Taliban, putting Saddam Hussein on trial, and marginalizing Arafat. Such idealism has been caricatured with every type of slur — from both the radical Left and the paleo-Right, ranging from alleged Likud conspiracies and neo-con pipe dreams to secret pipeline deals and plans for a new American imperium in the Middle East shepherded in by the Bush dynasts. In fact, the effort not just to strike back after September 11, but to alter the very landscape in which our enemies operated was the only choice we had if we wished to end the cruise-missile/bomb-'em-for-a-day cycle of the past 20 years, the ultimate logic of which had led to the crater at the World Trade Center.

Oddly, our enemies understand the long-term strategic efforts of the United States far better than do our own dissidents. They know that oil is not under U.S. control but priced at all-time highs, and that America is not propping up despotism anymore, but is now the general foe of both theocracies and dictatorships — and the thorn in the side of "moderate" autocracies. An America that is a force for democratic change is a very dangerous foe indeed. Most despots long for the old days of Jimmy Carter's pious homilies, appeasement of awful dictatorships gussied up as "concern" for "human rights," and the lure of a Noble Prize to ensure nights in the Lincoln bedroom or hours waiting on a dictator's tarmac.

In the struggle in Fallujah hinges not just the fate of the Sunni Triangle, or even Iraq, but rather of the entire Middle East — and it will be decided on the bravery and skill of mostly 20-something American soldiers. If they are successful in crushing and humiliating the fascists there and extending the victory to other spots then the radical Islamists and their fascistic sponsors will erode away. But if they fail or are called off, then we will see Days of Sorrow that make September 11 look like child's play.

We are living in historic times, as all the landmarks of the past half-century are in the midst of passing away. The old left-wing critique is in shambles — as the United States is proving to be the most radical engine for world democratic change and liberalization of the age. A reactionary Old Europe, in concert with the ossified American leftist elite, unleashed everything within its ample cultural arsenal: novels, plays, and op-ed columns calling for the assassination of President Bush; propaganda documentaries reminiscent of the oeuvre of Pravda or Leni Riefenstahl; and transparent bias passed off as front-page news and lead-ins on the evening network news.

Germany and France threw away their historic special relationships with America, while billions in Eastern Europe, India, Russia, China, and Japan either approved of our efforts or at least kept silent. Who would have believed 60 years ago that the great critics of democracy in the Middle East would now be American novelists and European utopians, while Indians, Poles, and Japanese were supporting those who just wanted the chance to vote? Who would have thought that a young Marine from the suburbs of Topeka battling the Dark Ages in Fallujah — the real humanist — was doing more to aid the planet than all the billions of the U.N.?

Those on the left who are ignorant of history lectured the Bush administration that democracy has never come as a result of the threat of conflict or outright war — apparently the creation of a democratic United States, Germany, Japan, Italy, Israel, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Serbia, and Afghanistan was proof of the power of mere talk. In contrast, the old realist Right warned that strongmen are our best bet to ensure stability — as if Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been loyal allies with content and stable pro-American citizenries. In truth, George Bush's radical efforts to cleanse the world of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, bring democracy to the heart of the Arab world, and isolate Yasser Arafat were the most risky and humane developments in the Middle East in a century — old-fashioned idealism backed with force in a postmodern age of abject cynicism and nihilism. Quite literally, we are living in the strangest, most perilous, and unbelievable decade in modern memory.

I agree, and I still believe that historically this period will be looked upon as one of the defining moments of world history...
DiscerningTexan, 11/23/2004 06:55:00 AM | Permalink | |

And from the great white north…

…all that melts is not necessarily a global catastrophe
DiscerningTexan, 11/23/2004 06:53:00 AM | Permalink | |

Europe, thy name is cowardice...

A German newspaper calls out the appeasers for failing to face up to the Jihadist threat. And David’s Medienkritik is there to notice:

Matthias Döpfner, Chief Executive of German publisher Axel Springer AG, has written a blistering attack in the daily WELT against the cowardice of Europe in the face of the Islamic threat. Hartmut Lau translated the article for us.

Europe – Thy Name is Cowardice

A few days ago Henryk M. Broder wrote in Welt am Sonntag, "Europe – your family name is appeasement." It’s a phrase you can’t get out of your head because it’s so terribly true.Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to agreements. Appeasement stabilized communism in the Soviet Union and East Germany in that part of Europe where inhuman, suppressive governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities. Appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo and we Europeans debated and debated until the Americans came in and did our work for us. Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians.

Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore 300,000 victims of Saddam’s torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace-movement, to issue bad grades to George Bush. A particularly grotesque form of appeasement is reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in Holland and elsewhere by suggesting that we should really have a Muslim holiday in Germany.

What else has to happen before the European public and its political leadership get it? There is a sort of crusade underway, an especially perfidious crusade consisting of systematic attacks by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians and directed against our free, open Western societies.

It is a conflict that will most likely last longer than the great military conflicts of the last century—a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by tolerance and accommodation but only spurred on by such gestures, which will be mistaken for signs of weakness.Two recent American presidents had the courage needed for anti-appeasement: Reagan and Bush. Reagan ended the Cold War and Bush, supported only by the social democrat Blair acting on moral conviction, recognized the danger in the Islamic fight against democracy. His place in history will have to be evaluated after a number of years have passed.In the meantime, Europe sits back with charismatic self-confidence in the multicultural corner instead of defending liberal society’s values and being an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, America and China. On the contrary—we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to the intolerant, as world champions in tolerance, which even (Germany's Interior Minister) Otto Schily justifiably criticizes. Why? Because we’re so moral? I fear it’s more because we’re so materialistic.

For his policies, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy—because everything is at stake.

While the alleged capitalistic robber barons in American know their priorities, we timidly defend our social welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive. We’d rather discuss the 35-hour workweek or our dental health plan coverage. Or listen to TV pastors preach about "reaching out to murderers." These days, Europe reminds me of an elderly aunt who hides her last pieces of jewelry with shaking hands when she notices a robber has broken into a neighbor’s house. Europe, thy name is cowardice. (emphasis added)

Matthias Döpfner has done it
before - criticizing the spineless reaction of the European political elites to the dangers of Islamic terror. He is by far the most powerful voice in the German media against the reappearance of the rotten European appeasement policies of the 20th century.
DiscerningTexan, 11/23/2004 06:49:00 AM | Permalink | |
Monday, November 22, 2004

Where are the "moderate" Muslims? (continued)

A week or so back I asked the question "where are all the moderate Muslims" to come forward and denounce Jihadism. So it was nice to see today that Ralph Peters echoes my sentiments on the matter:

Last week, I had an in spiring conversation with a Muslim-Ameri can. An immigrant from Pakistan, he hadn't yet been granted citizenship, but he had more faith in America than our native-born elite does.

"I write to my brothers and sisters," he said, "And I tell them that they do not know true Islam. If you want to see true Islam, you must come to America."

He meant the social justice and the respect for the individual, rich or poor, prescribed by the Koran. He had not found those qualities in the land of his birth. Nor do they prevail in any Muslim state between Casablanca and Karachi.

Islam sets high standards for the daily behavior of its adherents — but all too often the Koran's calls for fairness, charity and common decency are rejected in favor of social strictures misinterpreted by bitter old men and fanatics. The oppression of women, terrorism and the police states of the Middle East were not part of the Prophet Mohammed's vision.

My Muslim friend had recently found yet another reason to believe in America — in a place the rest of us would overlook. Coming from a land where the rich can even murder with impunity, he was thrilled that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps had to face drunken-driving charges.

"Seven gold medals!" my friend said. "He is a hero, sir! And still he must face the court!

"It is not hidden away because he is powerful. This is very good, this is Islam."

The crime and possible punishment of young Mr. Phelps looks very different to a man born where the poor are eternal victims.

Nor is this soon-to-be citizen an exception among our immigrants. In his personal life, he follows the trail that so many newcomers of various faiths walked before him. He works two jobs. Family finances are tight, but he discourages his sons and daughters from working part-time jobs, insisting that they concentrate on their studies.

The result? His eldest son is studying business and accounting in a good university. The younger kids are determined to emulate their big brother and make the honor role at school. One boy is a gifted athlete.

In this country less than five years, they're as American as overpriced coffee.
Not all of our fellow Americans who happen to be Muslims are as vocal as my pal, but I believe that they overwhelmingly share his affection for their new home. The headlines will always go to the bad apples, but the very few American Muslims who've engaged in extremist behavior are often converts to the faith, jailbirds or troubled young people of the sort drawn to the worst elements in any belief system, from white supremacists to Islamic extremists.

No matter their backgrounds, new immigrants have to work through a period of disorientation. Emotional ties to their native cultures tug hard in difficult times — and no one likes to be vilified over an accident of birth.

Personally, I wish more American Muslims would speak out publicly against extremism, against the punitive visions that disfigure Islam and against the oppression they felt compelled to flee. But I also recognize that these new Americans have been badly shaken by the events of recent years. They're not sure where they stand, or if they'll ever be truly welcome. They're wary of criticizing their own kind, partly from shame and partly because their community is their only safety net.

There is more to the article, but the bottom line is that the day intelligent and decent Muslims start speaking out against this will be a very important day in this war. And I truly fear what will happen if some Muslims are not brave enough to speak out. Let us hope for our sake, and for theirs, that doing the right thing trumps doing the expedient thing. Muslim patriots for the American cause are every bit as welcome here as any other American long as country comes first.

DiscerningTexan, 11/22/2004 07:20:00 AM | Permalink | |

Doing what is necessary...

Great read in this morning's London Telegraph entitled "A Marine's gotta do what a Marine's gotta do", which shows that some Europeans are finally starting to "get it" too about the enemy we face in Islamic Jihadism:

Not being a subscriber to al-Jazeera television, I can only imagine what it has recently been playing on its news service - but I'd go bail it was clips of the US marine shooting dead a wounded Iraqi in a mosque in Fallujah. Indeed, it is probably on a continuous loop. Needless to say - for reasons of "sensitivity" - al-Jazeera is not showing the murder of Margaret Hassan.

The outcry over the killing by the marine passes all belief. Moreover, we actually know the context for the shooting. The marines thought the room in the mosque contained only dead bodies, not wounded. When the marine saw a "dead" man move, he cried out first, and then shot him.

Lance Corporal Ian Malone and Piper Christian Muzvuru, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, RIP, took no such precautions in Basra in April last year. They simply ignored the body of the dead fedayeen fighter as they dismounted from their Warrior armoured fighting vehicle - and it, being on a suicide mission, promptly rose up and shot them both, before itself being blown apart. Thenceforth, the "Micks" probably made it their business to re-kill every corpse they saw.

I agree it's not nice. War is not nice - and the US marine that the entire world has now seen kill a defenceless, wounded man, had probably spent the previous two days in street-fighting and house-clearing. This kind of warfare causes unspeakable stress, for soldiers are in danger every second, for hour after hour after hour. It is simply fatuous to sit in high moral judgment on the split-second decision-making of some 20-year-old in the middle of such combat.

In other words, I'm saying the marine who killed the Iraqi did the right thing - he put the lives of himself and his colleagues first. Ask Mrs Malone in Dublin or Mrs Muzvuru in Harare what they now fervently wish their sons had done.
No, the real issue here is the presence of the cameraman in the frontline and the decision to broadcast the footage he took. Supposedly, all material filmed by "embedded" cameramen - ones formally attached to a unit - is vetted by military commanders before transmission. I don't know whether this footage was vetted; if it was, then the commander who authorised it is an utter fool, and if it wasn't, then the cameraman responsible should congratulate himself on handing such a propaganda coup to the enemy.

What about the freedom of the media? Well, that is a question that only one side of this war will even begin to understand. To Islamic fundamentalists, such freedom is taking a liberty with common sense, self-interest and the very reason why they're fighting. Indeed, their war is against all such effeminate, self-indulgent weaknesses that so characterise Western society.

Even for democrats, the media cannot be free in war: the zaniest of media-libertarians understand that they may not disclose military secrets. If that principle is accepted, is it then so very wrong for the defenders of freedom to ensure that that freedom is not used as a weapon against them? For the media cannot have true freedom in a battlefront where their existence and their survival are only made possible by the presence of allied armed forces.

So what was an independent camera crew doing with frontline troops in the course of urban fighting - the filthiest kind of war there is? An "atrocity" of some kind is sooner or later bound to happen, the revelation of which can serve to assist only one side in this war. Why therefore allow cameras to be free to record what can only be of value to your enemy? Freedom's freedom is freedom's foe.

To allow such unfettered media access to the fighting is to forget the stakes being played for in Iraq. All the enemy has to do is to maintain the status quo: that is his victory. On the other hand, it is not necessary for the allies to force a surrender of the enemy, as in 1945, before they withdraw - as withdraw they must. But they do have to make the equivalent of the Rhine crossing, and allow the Iraqi security forces to get on with the job, meanwhile ignoring the largely narcissistic needs of the Western media.

Moreover, an unprecedented struggle awaits us when Iraq is done. We in the media must learn what our role in that struggle will be. Vicarious indignation at so-called atrocities is a moral frivolity: it proves that we are unaware of the scale of the crisis we face, now and into the foreseeable future. Our common enemy has vision, dedication, courage and intelligence. He is profoundly grateful for whatever tit-bits come his way: our media have a moral obligation to ensure that we are scattering absolutely none in his direction.

DiscerningTexan, 11/22/2004 07:11:00 AM | Permalink | |
Saturday, November 20, 2004

A plea to my countrymen

I saw clips of Tom Daschle’s farewell speech, and my first thought was: how different might things have been had Daschle actually brought this attitude to the day to day negotiations in the Senate... Nevertheless I must admit that I did appreciate his sentiments:

In a speech notable for its lofty aspirations and lack of recriminations, Daschle challenged his colleagues to work together in the same spirit that united them briefly in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"If I could leave this body with one wish, it would be that we never give up that search for common ground," he said. "The politics of common ground will not be found on the far right or on the far left -- that is not where most Americans live."

As his voice strained but never broke, Daschle expressed optimism that the Senate would rise to the challenge.

I was talking to a liberal acquaintance the other day and it struck me that democracy works best when there is reasonable intellectual dialogue between different points of view, rather than when both sides are so insulated from the other that hurling acrimonious ICBM’s at anything or anyone having to do with the “other side” becomes the only means of discourse.

Even this person at times seemed more interested in telling me what a fool I was personally (and thus justifying to himself—and to no one else-- his own “moral superiority”) than he was wanting to discuss actual intellectual points or than he even cared what my point of view was. He was so tragically intransigent in his own point of view that he has disowned his own mother, presumably simply because she voted for Bush and believed in him. And he has refused to answer phone calls from former friends who supported the President for the same reason. This was a truly angry, bitter person; What a tragedy when you can both empathize with a fellow human being yet at the same time see that he was stewing mostly in a cauldron of his own making. Is this what our country has come to?

So long as individuals believe that they know everything that there is to know about a subject as complex as geopolitics, and who further believe that there is zero room for any opposing point of view, we are in great danger in this society. For that is totalitarianism taken to the individaul level.

And it isn’t just bitter Democrats who have this problem; I know many of my fellow conservatives are guilty of this too, and I see that as equally wrong and equally dangerous. We must stop relying on the intellecutlly lazy habit of painting with too broad a brush about “Republicans” or “Democrats”, and to start talking about people as individuals again. And we must all wake up and realize that we don't and can't know everything. We must be open to facts that adjust our course, rather than allowing our course to adjust the facts. Because this country is on a very dangerous precipice right now. And it is time for us all to take stock and to recognize our collective insanity before it is too late.

Perhaps it my Mediation training and Negotiation background talking; but it nevertheless struck me while listening to this man rail against my own personal “ignorance” that I was able to step back from my own tendency to take things personally and to get defensive to take an objective look at the dynamics of what was taking place. And I concluded that this tact of constantly demeaning people who do not believe exactly as you do can never result in cooperation and bipartisanship and real progress in “uniting” this country. The more difficult, but critical task is to try to reason with people who see things differently; to articulate in a non-threatening way why you think what you think; and then to discern the motivations, assumptions, and even commonalities underlying the other's opinion. And you can only do this by listening to them, not merely by trying to out-shout them. Otherwise it is a lose-lose. (NOTE: I am not talking about attempting such methods with Islamic Jihadists who have no interest in anything save the killing of non-Muslims—I am speaking about the need discourse between the “right” and “left” in this country…)

For all the angry talk from the left of Bush not being a “uniter”, some of the same people making that accusation just can’t wait to start slinging mud at anyone who does not agree with their personal point of view. Shows like “Crossfire” and “Hardball” don’t do anything to help the situation in our culture, and indeed shows like this degrade, rather than enhance, the level of cooperative information-sharing.

The fact in a 50/50 society is that to truly unite this country we need the other side too; and if we do not want to someday see this country in flames a la 1861-65, then we need to find a better way to conduct ourselves than to continue to spew invective about each other and threatening each other based solely on our interpretation of their “group”; and then turning around and expecting those same people to suddenly see things from our point of view. That is insanity.

After the unprecedented bitter acrimony of this past election; and because so many people are still so angry still about the results, it is time to drop the walls we have erected around our points of view and start to talk intelligently again about what we do have in common, and about common values that we do agree on.

Daschle is right--common ground is sorely needed: but that will only work if BOTH sides try to find it. A little more shared gratitude, a little more respectful sharing of viewpoints of minus the ugly personal attacks, and a lot less of the hate and vitriol would be the best thing that could possibly happen to this country right now. To see the majority of Americans genuinely cooperating toward common goals would be a welcome change.

Personally I do not want to have to live through another Civil War. So maybe we can all start to save civilization simply by being civil to each other.

One need only look at the situation between Israel and Palestine as a perfect example of what not to emulate. And what I just witnessed during this last election cycle, particularly from the angry left, was unlike anything I have seen in this country before. We are at a dangerous precipice in this complex society, and we need to step back. We have turn this thing around together, before it is too late for all of us, and for our country.

To my like minded friends on the right: we can achieve a lot of what we want to achieve without steamrolling over half of the country. Yes, we are in the majority now. But that does not mean we cannot listen to reasonable arguments that are not 100% in sync with our “party line”. We have to rule the whole country, not merely the red states.

And to my friends on the left: don’t believe that the means to your ends lies in telling anyone and everyone how much you hate Republicans, and how stupid and incompetent we all are, and then expecting any person in power to do you any favors. Or any Republican not in power for that matter... You simply don’t shoot the finger at someone on the one hand and then expect that person to listen to your reasonable arguments on the other. Civilization begins with the individual, and it starts with treating other people, even people you disagree with (perhaps especially those people), with dignity and respect. A thousand mile journey begins with the first step… and dammit, I want my country back. So let’s get started.
DiscerningTexan, 11/20/2004 10:55:00 AM | Permalink | |

Why we don’t need a draft

If there were any questions left as to whether or not there will be a draft, the US Marines’ incredible performance in Fallujah has erased all doubts:

The amazing, perhaps historic, battle of Fallujah has come and gone, and the biggest soldier story to come out of it is the alleged Marine shooting. There must have been hundreds of acts of bravery and valor in Fallujah. Where will history record their stories?

Maybe it's just a function of an age in which TV fears that attention spans die faster than caddis flies, and surfing the Web means ingesting information like a participant in a hot dog eating contest. By contrast, Michael Ware of Time magazine has a terrific account this week of one platoon led by Staff Sgt. David Bellavia ("We're not going to die!"), fighting its way through the snipers and booby traps of Fallujah: "A young sergeant went down, shrapnel or a bullet fragment lodging in his cheek. After checking himself, he went back to returning fire."

Amid mostly glimpses this week of telegenic bullet flight paths and soldiers backed against walls, I wanted more stories like this. More information about who these guys are and what they were doing and how they were doing it. The commanders in Iraq praise them profusely, and by now maybe that's all these young U.S. soldiers need--praise from peers.

But the American people, many of them, have been desperate for some vehicle that would let them actively lend support to the troops, or their families back in the States. The Bush administration, for reasons that are not clear, has never created such an instrument. Had they done it, a force would have existed to rebalance the hyperventilated Abu Ghraib story. The White House seems to have concluded that the American people would support a big, tough war almost literally as an act of faith. And they did, but just barely. Neglect of the homefront almost cost George Bush the election.

The election's one, ironic nod to the nature of the troops in Iraq was the controversy over the draft. Michael Moore traveled to 60 college campuses saying Mr. Bush's opposition to restarting the draft was an "absolute lie." Shortly after, a senior saluted the jolly Hollywood misanthrope and wrote a column for Newsweek denouncing the draft. "We have no concept of a lottery," she wrote, "that determines who lives and who dies." But not to worry, dear. The military brass, to the last man and woman, doesn't want you. Not ever.

The draft ended in 1973. What has happened to the all-volunteer military in the three decades since ensures that no draft will return this side of Armageddon.

Post-Vietnam, the military raised the performance bar--for acquired skill sets, new-recruit intelligence and not least, self-discipline. The thing one noticed most when watching the embedded reporters' interviews last year on the way into Iraq was the self-composed confidence reflected throughout the ranks. And this in young men just out of high school or college.

It was no accident. Consider drugs. In 1980, the percentage of illicit drug use in the whole military was nearly 28%. Two years later, mandatory and random testing--under threat of dismissal--sent the number straight down, to nearly 3% in 1998.

Today recruits take the Armed Forces Qualification Test. It measures arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, word skills and paragraph comprehension. The current benchmark is the performance levels of recruits who served in Operation Desert Storm in 1990. The military requires that recruits meet what it calls "rigorous moral character standards."

After his August report on Abu Ghraib and U.S. military detention practices, former Defense Secretary Jim Schlesinger told a writer for The Wall Street Journal's editorial page: "The behavior of our troops is so much better than it was in World War II." And more. Unit cohesion, mutual trust in battle, personal integrity and esprit all are at the highest levels in the nation's history, right now, in Iraq. Indeed, the U.S. armed services may be the one truly functional major institution in American life.

Some fear the creation in the U.S. of a military caste, dissociated from the rest of society, or worry about the loss of civic virtue. The bridge across, I suspect, is narrower than many suspect. A 2002 Harvard Institute of Politics survey of college students found that if their number came up in a new draft, 25% would eagerly serve and 28% would serve with reservations. The draft itself is quite irrelevant today. But contrary to the last election's confusing signals about the attitudes of the young, most of them, it seems, are willing to "do something" to protect their country, if asked. It is their elders' job to find a way to ask. The military writer Andrew Bacevich has summed up our current situation nicely: "To the question 'Who will serve?' the nation's answer has now become: 'Those who want to serve.'"

At a ceremony on Nov. 13 at Camp Taji, Iraq--with Fallujah raging elsewhere--Army Maj. Gen. Pete Chiarelli presented 19 Purple Hearts for wounds in the battle of Najaf, the big battle before Fallujah. Gen. Chiarelli remarked that George Washington created the Purple Heart in 1782, for what Gen. Washington himself described as "unusual gallantry . . . extraordinary fidelity and essential service." Essential service. After 20 months of it in Iraq and two hard weeks of it in Fallujah, "service"--an old idea in a world too busy to take much notice--is a word worthy of at least some contemplation.

DiscerningTexan, 11/20/2004 10:50:00 AM | Permalink | |
Friday, November 19, 2004

America's Great Shame
DiscerningTexan, 11/19/2004 07:09:00 AM | Permalink | |

That Marine (continued)...

The more I read about the soldier in Fallujah, the more disgusted I become in general: not with the military, but with the media's reprehensible treatment of this man, particularly when compared with their treatment of the savages we are fighting against.

In World War II our press got behind our men in uniform, and I do not believe it was just because the President then was a Democrat. Our society has degenerated to a point where the world media focuses solely on our percieved "wrongs" while simultaneously ignoring (or at best "sanitizing") some of the most sickening and heinous actions ever taken by men in the name of religion. Is it not germane to question the purpose of the relentless attack on the very men and women who make it possible for a free press to operate in the first place?

Today's Wall Street Journal had a great article entitled "Semper Fi" that really sums it all up:

Some 40 Marines have just lost their lives cleaning out one of the world's worst terror dens, in Fallujah, yet all the world wants to talk about is the NBC videotape of a Marine shooting a prostrate Iraqi inside a mosque. Have we lost all sense of moral proportion?

The al-Zarqawi TV network, also known as Al-Jazeera, has broadcast the tape to the Arab world, and U.S. media have also played it up. The point seems to be to conjure up images again of Abu Ghraib, further maligning the American purpose in Iraq. Never mind that the pictures don't come close to telling us about the context of the incident, much less what was on the mind of the soldier after days of combat.

Put yourself in that Marine's boots. He and his mates have had to endure some of the toughest infantry duty imaginable, house-to-house urban fighting against an enemy that neither wears a uniform nor obeys any normal rules of war. Here is how that enemy fights, according to an account in the Times of London:

"In the south of Fallujah yesterday, U.S. Marines found the armless, legless body of a blonde woman, her throat slashed and her entrails cut out. Benjamin Finnell, a hospital apprentice with the U.S. Navy Corps, said that she had been dead for a while, but at that location for only a day or two. The woman was wearing a blue dress; her face had been disfigured. It was unclear if the remains were the body of the Irish-born aid worker Margaret Hassan, 59, or of Teresa Borcz, 54, a Pole abducted two weeks ago. Both were married to Iraqis and held Iraqi citizenship; both were kidnapped in Baghdad last month."

When not disemboweling Iraqi women, these killers hide in mosques and hospitals, booby-trap dead bodies, and open fire as they pretend to surrender. Their snipers kill U.S. soldiers out of nowhere. According to one account, the Marine in the videotape had seen a member of his unit killed by another insurgent pretending to be dead. Who from the safety of his Manhattan sofa has standing to judge what that Marine did in that mosque?

Beyond the one incident, think of what the Marine and Army units just accomplished in Fallujah. In a single week, they killed as many as 1,200 of the enemy and captured 1,000 more. They did this despite forfeiting the element of surprise, so civilians could escape, and while taking precautions to protect Iraqis that no doubt made their own mission more difficult and hazardous. And they did all of this not for personal advantage, and certainly not to get rich, but only out of a sense of duty to their comrades, their mission and their country.

In a more grateful age, this would be hailed as one of the great battles in Marine history--with Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Hue City and the Chosin Reservoir. We'd know the names of these military units, and of many of the soldiers too. Instead, the name we know belongs to the NBC correspondent, Kevin Sites.

We suppose he was only doing his job, too. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to indulge in the moral abdication that would equate deliberate televised beheadings of civilians with a Marine shooting a terrorist, who may or may not have been armed, amid the ferocity of battle.

Thomas Sowell also had a nice column on this topic.

While it continues to air the video of this Marine defending himself and his comrades on an hourly basis, the leftist, anti-American media in this country and elsewhere is completely burying the Marines' discovery of Jihadist slaughterhouses in the same city. Isn't it interesting that the media is so focused on one Marine's probably justifiable action, and yet collectively it completely ignores scenes that would make any civilized person sick, because to show such depravity would be to sway public opinion in a decidedly non-Jihadist fashion. How utterly tragic that the American press has sunk to such depths. One might expect this of Al Jazeera, but not of least not until now.
DiscerningTexan, 11/19/2004 06:58:00 AM | Permalink | |

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DiscerningTexan, 11/19/2004 06:56:00 AM | Permalink | |

Our Goals in Iran

I have to admit the new blog The Adventures of Chester has really wowed me. And Chester’s excellence continues today with more on the tense situation with the Islamist government of Iran:

In Part I yesterday, The Adventures of Chester attempted to show, among other things:

-That confrontation with Iran is looming because of Iran's weapons program.
-That the US must make its decision to act within the next 12-18 months.


The key to unraveling and predicting the steps which the US will take with regard to Iran lies in deciphering what the American political goals will be. A word on strategic goals, from Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1-1, "Strategy":

"Despite their diversity, political objectives in war can be labeled as either limited or unlimited. The distinction is fundamental. An unlimited political objective amounts to the elimination of the opponent as a political entity. A limited political objective on the other hand, is one in which the enemy's leadership can survive and remain in power . . ."

An unlimited political objective, then, may embrace anything from merely deposing a particular leader to physically exterminating an entire people or culture. Ideological revolutionaries, would-be world conquerors, and both sides in most ture civil wars tend to seek unlimited political objectives. Occasionally, defensive alliances seeking to eliminate a habitual aggressor will also pursue an unlimited political objective.

"Conversely, a limited political objective includes anything short of eliminating the political opponent. It is envisioned that the enemy leadership will remain in control after the conclusion of hostilities, although some aspects of its power (influence, territory, resources, or internal control) will be reduced or curtailed. Limited political objectives are the characteristic of states seeking better positions in the international balance of power, clans vying for political position within a larger society, mafias or street gangs battling for "turf", and reformist political movements. "

Examples of each:

Limited Political Objectives:
(opposing political leadership survives)
-intimidate-cause change in policy-reduce enemy miliary capacity
-take slice of territory

Unlimited Political Objectives:
(opposing political leadership is removed)
-change regime
-change form of government/ruling class-conquer/absorb-exterminate (genocide)

What will the goals of US action in Iran be, with regard to its weapons program? There are many possibilities, but two are distinct:

1. Limited Political Objective: Remove the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
2. Unlimited Political Objective: Remove the Iranian nuclear weapons program and the Iranian regime that created it.

Many variations of these two goals exist, but these are the most fundamental. For example, a tangential goal could be stopping Iranian support to the Iraqi insurgency. Moreover, there are varying degrees of action for each goal. Removing the Iranian regime could involve simply that and no postwar stability operations at all, in a distinctly realist fashion. Or the removal of the regime could be accompanied by a US goal to create a free and democratic replacement -- an ideological goal, a la Iraq or Afghanistan.

Tomorrow, in Part III, The Adventures of Chester will begin to examine different operational campaigns to accomplish either of the above political objectives. A series of alternatives will be examined for each objective, and each one analysed against the criteria of:

-Possibility of accomplishing the given political objective
-Constraints in time, space and material-Reinforcement of overall national strategy against Islamic Fascism (the War on Terror)
-Iranian Responses

I know I will be tuned in to Part III; Chester is doing an outstanding job of putting US objectives into clear discernable terms.
DiscerningTexan, 11/19/2004 06:42:00 AM | Permalink | |