Updated: 5/16/2006; 2:52:47 PM.

Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses

daily link  Saturday, October 02, 2004

David Kennedy: Before the fall: "President Bush today claims to be pursuing the hallowed Wilsonian goal of making the world safe for democracy. But the president and his neoconservative brain trust have witlessly jettisoned Wilson's means even as they piously invoke Wilson's ends. The essence of Wilson's approach was the careful, laborious toil of building international institutions, agreements and partnerships step by careful step. He didn't expect to create a better world by flaunting America's military might or naively attempting to export democracy, but instead by patiently cultivating ties of trust, mutual interest and reciprocity.

The Bush administration's path to war in Iraq is but the most dramatic example of a set of policies that has put at risk the kind of international leadership that has served both America and the world so well for the past half-century. The policies of the past four years have made America and the world less safe, not more. ..

Wilson's [began with] two premises: that modern technologies had rendered warfare grossly, inhumanely and intolerably destructive, and that only in a world made more interconnected could America's own security be safeguarded at an acceptable cost. Accordingly, Wilson proposed a new doctrine, 'collective security,'"

  11:07:39 PM  permalink  

With China at G-7, new leverage: Some facts. "Over the past 25 years, China's economic performance has been spectacular. Growth has been so rapid that a quarter billion Chinese have been pulled out of poverty. China now ranks as the world's second largest economy, if measured by the purchasing power of the yuan. China accounts for roughly 12 percent of world output, almost twice as much as Japan by this measure.

China has $480 billion of US Treasury securities in its international monetary reserves, the result of large trade surpluses with the US. China's huge financial reserves, if switched substantially out of the dollar into the euro or yen, could put upward pressure on United States interest rates as the Treasury strives to finance the huge budget deficit in Washington. Vargo notes, though, that Japan's government ceased buying Treasuries this year, with no apparent effect on US interest rates."

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Match Iraq Policy to Reality, By Jessica Tuchman Mathews:  Important prescriptions from a person who proposed alternatives before the war.  "What is needed is a policy that takes deadly seriously what Iraqis believe about why the war began and what the United States intends. These beliefs [are] that the United States came only to get its hands on Iraq's oil, to benefit Israel's security, and to establish a puppet government and a permanent military presence through which it could control Iraq and the rest of the region ..

To succeed, the United States needs to do what it can to undermine each of these convictions. The president -- no one less -- needs to state formally and unequivocally that the United States will not maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq, and to repeat it at every opportunity. The phrase "enduring bases" should be erased and the construction of permanent facilities halted. A transparent mechanism that makes clear that no Iraqi oil revenue will touch American fingers should be created, and questions about what happened to that revenue over the past year should be quickly and forthrightly answered. The U.S. Embassy should be drastically cut in size and moved outside the Green Zone (to Camp Victory, for instance) to emphasize that the United States is no longer running the country and that it and the Iraqi government are not one and the same. A statement signed jointly by Iraq's neighbors should pledge the United States and each of them to respect Iraq's territorial integrity within its present borders. And the president needs to address many Iraqis' conviction that elections held under the occupation will be fixed, by saying loudly and often that the United States favors no candidate or party and will accept whatever government Iraqis elect."  She also recommends more troops and a delay to elections until they can be "robustly" monitored by the UN.

  10:35:20 PM  permalink  

Why We Cannot Win by Al Lorentz: Stunning, precise summary from a conservative Texan Army reservist in Iraq.  For writing this essay, he has been threatened with trial and prison (though it's unlikely he'll be convicted).   " I am not an armchair quarterback. Nor am I some politically idealistic and naïve young soldier, I am an old and seasoned Non-Commissioned Officer with nearly 20 years under my belt. Additionally, I am not just a soldier with a muds-eye view of the war, I am in Civil Affairs and as such, it is my job to be aware of all the events occurring in this country and specifically in my region.

I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons. Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality. ..

First, we refuse to deal in reality. We are in a guerilla war, but because of politics, we are not allowed to declare it a guerilla war and must label the increasingly effective guerilla forces arrayed against us as "terrorists, criminals and dead-enders."  This implies that there is a zero sum game at work, i.e. we can simply kill X number of the enemy and then the fight is over, mission accomplished, everybody wins. Unfortunately, this is not the case...

Second, our assessment of what motivates the average Iraqi was skewed, again by politically motivated "experts." .. While at one time there may have actually been support and respect from the locals, months of occupation by our regular military forces have turned the formerly friendly into the recently hostile. Attempts to correct the thinking in this regard are in vain; it is not politically correct to point out the fact that the locals are not only disliking us more and more, they are growing increasingly upset and often overtly hostile. Instead of addressing the reasons why the locals are becoming angry and discontented, we allow politicians in Washington DC to give us pat and convenient reasons that are devoid of any semblance of reality. ..

Third, the guerillas are filling their losses faster than we can create them. .. Fourth, their lines of supply and communication are much shorter than ours and much less vulnerable.  .. Fifth, we consistently underestimate the enemy and his capabilities. .. Our tactics have not adjusted to the battlefield and we are falling behind. Meanwhile the enemy updates his tactics and has shown a remarkable resiliency and adaptability.

Because the current administration is more concerned with its image than it is with reality, it prefers symbolism to substance: soldiers are dying here and being maimed and crippled for life. It is tragic, indeed criminal that our elected public servants would so willingly sacrifice our nation's prestige and honor as well as [its] blood and treasure to pursue an agenda that is ahistoric and un-Constitutional. .."

  10:16:43 PM  permalink  

Baghdad's Green Zone 'island' prepares for rough seas: "The Green Zone - as opposed to what the military calls the "Red Zone," anything outside the vast compound's 12-foot concrete walls - is experiencing a case of the jitters. One reason is the approach of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, set to start around Oct. 15 (the exact commencement depends on phases of the moon). Last year Ramadan saw a surge in violence against the US-led military occupation. This year the holy month starts just two weeks before the US presidential election, an event some US officials say Iraq's insurgents may try to mark with another wave of violence.  Other reasons for the heightened anxiety include the ever-bolder attacks on Baghdad streets just a short drive from the zone, and the recent spike in kidnappings and killings of foreigners in Baghdad. ..

[This] is prompting "what-if" sessions, where scenarios involving various security breaches are thrown out and responses are weighed.. "What if they were able to take 200 Americans hostage, and announced they would kill one a day until they got what they wanted," one official queries. "What would our response be?""

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Iraq Universities: Insights on Iraq from the point of view of higher ed, titled "How Should America’s Academic and Humanitarian Communities Respond to Iraq’s Coming Civil War and the Rise of Arab-Islamist Nationalism?":

"A few months ago.. I had to ask myself what would Iraq look like in a couple months’ time. And I choose the term “civil war.” .. Iraq may not as yet fulfill the normative definition of civil war employed by political scientists, but it must be close. Militias have been formed and armed, and most Iraqis being killed are being killed by other Iraqis, though large numbers are also being killed by Americans. Lines are being drawn in anticipation of an American withdrawal, and US forces are fighting elements of the Iraqi body politic that welcomed us a year ago, primarily the Shia of Sadr City. Clearly, the status quo in Iraq is much more than a mere insurgency pitting a rag-tag guerilla force against an occupational army in the way America’s Vietnam war was more than just a conflict with the Viet Cong, in the way France’s Algerian war was more than just about protecting their pied-noirs colonists..

We are at war with Iraqi society and Iraqi society is a war with itself. This statement should be the central principle for understanding what is happening in Iraq and contribute how we respond to the needs of Iraq’s people. ..

US Department of State sources confirm that almost none of the funding promised by the CPA as redevelopment aid for Baghdad’s universities has materialized.. [Iraqi educators] saw the CPA’s advisor to Ministry of Higher Education, John Agresto, as a man of “little knowledge.” ..

Understanding why John Agresto was there and was a failure, and exploring why USAID grants have taken the form they have and worked and not worked is crucial to reformulating the way the US should approach higher education in Iraq. I’ve written about Agresto elsewhere. In brief, Agresto, who was senior advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education, was one of the leading right-wing figures in the “culture wars” of the 1980s and a friend of the Secretary of Defense’s wife, Joyce Rumsfeld.

His appointment was an act of cronyism. He has an admitted lack of knowledge of Iraq’s history, languages, culture, or empathy for Iraqis themselves. He has no experience in the administration of large, public, graduate higher educational systems, no background whatsoever in international education or the role of higher education in developing nations, and no understanding of how higher education can emerge from totalitarianism. Unfortunately, however, Agresto has emerged as an “expert” on higher education in Iraq and is giving speeches about “what went wrong” at colleges and universities around the country . .

USAID programs are another issue. These have tremendous potential if they are formulated in coordination with Iraqis and meet Iraqi needs – not ours. Ironically among the largest grants made was for archaeology, museum conservation and the teaching of ancient Mesopotamian languages. Something of incredible importance to us – as we often identify with Iraq’s ancient past rather than the Arab Islamic present - but of less relevance to Iraqis; but millions of dollars are going to this effort and almost none to contemporary arts, humanities, social sciences or Islamic studies. The other problem is the USAID programs are subcontracted and those dedicated to community building initiatives/ democratization programs, usually go to those companies with Republican-party connections or sympathies (think Halliburton, but on a very small scale). And there is no body of evidence that top-down democratization programs of this kind even work. This old-fashioned style of corruption allied to neocom utopianism is cataloged at-length in a recent article for Harper’s Magazine by Naomi Klein. "  The article concludes with suggestions on improving relations between Iraqi and US higher education. 

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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 2:52:47 PM.