Friday, August 26, 2005

Conservatives Favor Fragmentation of Iraq

David Brooks' column in the NYT on Thursday saw as positive the fact that the Iraqi constitution reflects divisions in Iraqi society. Brooks reports that Amb. Peter Galbraith, who is working in Iraq, says:

There is, he [Galbraith] says, no meaningful Iraqi identity. In the north, you've got a pro-Western Kurdish population. In the south, you've got a Shiite majority that wants a "pale version of an Iranian state." And in the center you've got a Sunni population that is nervous about being trapped in a system in which it would be overrun. In the last election each group expressed its authentic identity, the Kurds by voting for autonomy-minded leaders, the Shiites for clerical parties and the Sunnis by not voting. This constitution gives each group what it wants.

"It's not a problem if a country breaks up, only if it breaks up violently," Galbraith says. "Iraq wasn't created by God. It was created by Winston Churchill."

What Iraqis don't want is a united Iraq. Apparently this is okay with Brooks and his buddies. The Iraqis want three separate countries, perhaps loosely united for a short time. But over the longer term the Shiites want to unite with Iran, the Kurds want to form their own country, Kurdistan, taking the parts of Turkey and Iran that are predominately Kurdish. The Sunnis lose out, because the Kurds and Shiites have all the oil, but the Sunnis have the heart and soul of Iraq, the city of Baghdad, which will have no oil income to support it relatively huge population. The Bushies don't care. Already, under Bush's US rule Baghdad has no infrastructure, no security, no electricity, no water, no sewer.

Churchill wasn't infallible, but he was a heck of a lot smarter than George W. Bush. W has Saddam's gun; that's all he really wanted. He can brandish it in his father's face and ridicule him for not killing Saddam, while Iraq becomes a hotbed of anti-Western terrorism under W's rule. W will let somebody else worry about that after he's gone. It will be interesting to see if David Brooks is gone from the NYT after the Bush adminstration leaves town. I really thought he was smarter than this.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Hegel & Kissinger on Iraq and Vietnam

I think Sen. Chuck Hegel is right when he says that Iraq is looking more and more like Vietnam, and that we need to figure out what to do. He says that we should not destabilize the Middle East: that the longer we stay, the more like is destabilization. I think that leaving any time soon is more likely to produce destabilization than staying. We need a strong hand to put down the insurgency and prevent Iraq from degenerating into civil war under a fundamentalist Islamic government.

In the Washington Post, Kissinger raises the question of what criteria we use to determine whether we are winning in Iraq. If we don't win, Iraq may degenerate into civil war, and the radicals will become ascendant in the Middle East. It would be ironic if the domino theory that politicians used as a justification for the Vietnam War turned out to be more applicable to the Iraq war.

Now is when we need the support of the international community, but because Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld gave the finger to the UN and the international community, we are unlikely to get much support. It may be that they will be so worried about the world instability that the US bull-in-the-china-shop approach has created that they will do something, if only for their own self preservation. But sending John Bolton to the UN is yet another example of Bush giving the finger to the international community, making the cooperation of other countries less likely.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Constitution Failure Could Be Chance for New Start in Iraq

The US plan for Iraq, if there ever was one, is going down the tubes fast. The Iraqis have demonstrated that they are not ready for self-government. Thus, if the constitution writing effort fails, the US should go back in with a strong man, like Gen. MacArthur in Japan, who will take control for a few years, whip the country into shape, and write a constitution for them in the process.

The US invasion of Iraq opened Pandora's box. It made Iraq a hotbed of Middle Eastern terrorism, which it was not before the invasion. We must put the lid back on. We need to double or triple the number of troops in Iraq for years to come, until order is restored and the infrastructure works -- electricity, water, sewers, etc. We need to kick out Halliburton and get some competent people in there who know what they are doing to restore services.

This is our chance. Declare the Iraqi efforts so far a failure and take control. Do it now! It's our country, and now we are just destroying it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pakistan Tests Nuclear Capable Missile

Bloomberg is reporting in a story datelined August 11 that Pakistan just tested a nuclear capable missile. What a surprise! No proliferation problem here!

Bloomberg reported:

"Pakistan today conducted a successful test of its first-ever ground-launched cruise missile HATF-VII, also known as Babur,'' the army said from Islamabad. The "Babur cruise has the capability to carry nuclear and conventional warheads to a range of 500 kilometers (300 miles) with a pinpoint accuracy.''

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Proliferation Problems in Iran and North Korea

The US is having trouble enforcing its non-proliferation policies against both Iran and North Korea simultaneously, and it's no surprise. One of the problems is India. The US just gave India a get out of jail free card, despite the fact that it was one of the first proliferators. The lesson of India is that if you proliferate and wait patiently, you will be forgiven and you can keep your atomic bombs. Our policy toward Pakistan gives sort of the same message, although somewhat ambiguously. Pakistan has turned into one of our allies in the war against terrorism, despite the fact that it is a notorious proliferator, and has helped other countries (Iran, North Korea) with their nuclear programs.

India is not such a bad country in this regard, and we probably need to work out some transitional arrangement for it to enter the nuclear club, but just to admit it to the club won't work, because everybody else will want to follow India's lead. We need some new agreement to replace or supplement the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It would have to set standards that tend to discourage other countries from following India's example, and that place stringent controls on their nuclear weapons. Ironically, we probably are happy that India has nuclear weapons with which to deter Chinese aggression, while we presumably are unhappy that there is something of a nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has shown total disregard for legalistic solutions to international problems. But that's what we need here. It's hard to envision a network of military alliances that would send US troops in on India's side of it fights China, but would bring our troops in on Pakistan's side if India fights Pakistan. Meanwhile what do we do about Iran and North Korea, and maybe later Brazil, Argentina and some other countries? They see India as the model for developing nuclear weapons. Just hang tough and you'll get to keep them.

The fact that negotiations with Iran and North Korea are going nowhere illustrates the weakness of this policy. It was probably influenced by John Bolton, who thankfully will be otherwise occupied, until we bring the issue to the UN Security Council for sanctions. Speaking of sanctions, what will they be? It's easy for the US to support any sanctions, because we do almost no business with Iran or North Korea. But if you don't do any business, sanctions have no effect. Countries that do more business with Iran (Russia, China) will be much less enthusiastic about sanctions.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Presbyterians Censure Investment in Israel

According to the Washington Post, "A Presbyterian committee accused five companies Friday of contributing to 'ongoing violence that plagues Israel and Palestine' and pledged to use the church's multimillion-dollar stock holdings in the businesses to pressure them to stop."

I was reminded of this when I checked on the Simon Wiesenthal Center web site for my previous post. Complaining about this Presbyterian action is at the top of the Center's list of concerns. It also complains about an action by the Disciples of Christ calling on Israel to tear down the wall it is building to separate Israeli Jews from Palestinian Arabs.

I certainly support these actions by the churches. Israel must be more loving in its treatment of the Palestinians, who lived in Palestine for centuries before it became Israel as a result of a UN resolution shortly after the end of World War II. Hooray for main line Christian churches! I don't totally understand, however, the love affair between fundamentalist Christian evangelicals and Israel.

Big Jewish Contributor Named Ambassador to Netherlands

I have been worried about Jewish influence on the Bush Administration ever since the war in Iraq. The US was not significantly threatened by Iraq, but Israel was. Most of the neo-cons arguing for going to war with Iraq were Jewish: William Kristol, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Ken Adelman, etc. But lots of the big Jewish donors are Democrats: George Soros, for example. Was there big Jewish money behind the Republicans, too? Turns out there was and is: Roland E. Arnall, who was recently named by Bush to be the US Ambassador to the Netherlands, for example, according to the LA Times. Interestingly, one of the pictures accompanying the story on the LA Times web site is of Arnall posing with Jewish Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman.

From the LA Times story, it sounds like Arnall is probably a sleazebag. It says his mortgage company, Ameriquest, used boiler room tactics, bait-and-switch tactics, etc. But he made a lot of money, some of which he apparently gave to George Bush and his Republican colleagues. His main claim to political fame is that he financed the Simon Wiesenthal Center to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

I have been very worried that one origin of the Iraq war was that after 9/11 Jews paid Bush and company to send Christian soldiers to kill Muslims for Israel. That's probably too cynical, but this is some indirect evidence of that motivation.

US Plans to Cut and Run in Iraq

I am not a fan of the Iraq war, but I am also not a fan of the Pentagon's plans to pull out. The problem is that we don't have enough troops in Iraq now, not that we have too many. Bush and Cheney were draft dodgers and are now chicken hawks. The Iraq invasion has turned into a mess, and they have no idea how to clean it up. We need US troops on every street corner to establish order, not a few hundred troops driving into a city, shooting some people and then leaving again. The insurgents just come right back.

And we need to re-establish the Iraqi infrastructure. Maybe Saddam Hussein is responsible for the damage to the electrical grid, the water and sewer system, the oil wells, etc. Or, maybe we did more damage than expected when we bombed the hell out of Iraq during the invasion. In any case, the Pottery Barn rule enunciated by Colin Powell applies. You break it, you own it, and you've got to fix it. A significant percentage of ordinary Iraqis think life was better under Hussein than it is now, because there is no security, and public services don't work. Halliburton is incompetent to get the public services working despite the billions it is getting paid.

Iraq is likely to degenerate into civil war. The Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds will end up fighting each other, each with additional support or opposition from foreign neighbors. The Iranians will help the Shiites. The bulk of the Arab world (which is mainly Sunni) will help the Sunnis, and the Turks will work against the Kurds, because they fear the creation of a Kurdistan nation that will include part of Turkey. We opened Pandora's box when we invaded, and Bush and company don't have a clue how to close it.

I think Sam Donaldson was right on ABC news on Sunday morning. The administration wants the Iraq constitutional assembly to stay on schedule and wants all the other elections, etc., on schedule, so that we can declare victory and get the hell out. It worked in Vietnam. (Everybody knows how well that war ended.) Bush and company think it will work in Iraq, too. It will probably work about as well. Remember the genocide in the Cambodian killing fields. Basically the world looked the other way, and we will probably look the other way when the killing fields in Iraq run red with blood again. It probably won't be Saddam Hussein who does the blood letting, but it will probably be somebody about as bad.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

How I Came To Be A Democrat

The first political event I ever attended was a Republican rally for Barry Goldwater for President in Montgomery, Alabama. After serving in the Army in Vietnam and joining the Foreign Service, I may have become pretty liberal. What happened when I was assigned to Warsaw, Poland, in the mid-1990's may have confirmed my then existing predilections.

I was assigned to be the Science Counselor at the American Embassy in Warsaw, where my main job was supposed to be to manage scientific cooperation between the US and Poland under an arrangement named the Maria Sklodowska Curie Fund II. It was Fund II, because the first fund had been closed during the bad old days of Polish martial law. An agreement to work under the second Fund had been signed just before I left for Poland, and it was to last for five years.

After about one year, Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took over Congress and cancelled the funding for our Polish cooperation. The agreement had a clause that said if either of the parties was unable to fund the cooperation, it would end. This clause had been included with Poland in mind, because it faced so many financial problems as it came out of 50 years of Communist rule, but America took advantage of it. The Polish Foreign Ministry called me in almost weekly to complain that the US was not living up to its agreement. I told them that I would report their complaints to Washington, but if they were really serious, they would raise the matter with the Ambassador in Warsaw, or with the Secretary of State or one of his immediate subordinates in Washington. But Poland then wanted more than anything to be included in NATO, and it would not do anything that might endanger that goal, such as making a big stink about the Maria Sklodowska Curie Fund. So, they kept raising the matter with me. Although I knew there was nothing personal about it, I ended up taking it personally. I began to feel that I was at least partly responsible for American breaking its word to Poland. I began to feel that I could not represent an America that did not keep its word.

It happened that about this time I became eligible to retire from the Foreign Service, and after discussing it with my wife, I had about decided to retire, so that I would not have to represent a dishonest government. You may say that it is naive to think that any government is going to be totally honest. But I think that if a government is going to be dishonest, there should be a reason for it. For example, virtually every Foreign Service officer will have to lie at one time or another because he or she knows something from intelligence that he or she cannot admit knowing without compromising that intelligence. (Unless of course he has the same lack of morals and patriotism as Robert Novak.) But in this case, the United States was not going to be bankrupted by paying for continued scientific cooperation with Poland, which was the circumstance foreseen by the clause in question.

In any case, I was about to retire, when out of the blue I got a call from Washington asking me if I would agree to go to Rome, where the Science Counselor had be unexpectedly removed. He was not a Foreign Service officer, and the State Department said that after several years, he could not continue to serve in Rome without becoming one, which for some reason he would not do. So, my wife agreed to move from Warsaw to Rome with me.

When I got to Rome, it turned out that one of my main duties was to handle issues involving the North Korean nuclear program, in particular the follow-up to the KEDO agreement, which promised North Korea two Western style reactors that do not produce weapons usable by-products in return for shutting down the plutonium production reactor(s) that North Korea had been using. In addition, the US, Japan and South Korea promised North Korea to supply it with a certain amount of fuel oil to provide energy to replace that produced by the indigenous reactors until the new non-proliferating reactors could come on line.

Once again, the Republican Congress refused to appropriate the money for all the fuel oil that the US had promised. So, one of my jobs was to go the Italians (both in their national capacity and at that time as the Presidency of the European Union) and ask them to contribute money to make up for what the Congress had refused to appropriate. Following up on my experience with the Maria Sklodowska Curie Fund II in Poland, I was not happy. I felt that once again the US was failing to honor its promises. Thus, I told the Embassy that I would stay until Italy relinquished its presidency of the EU, but then I would retire.

Another more personal matter intervened, as well. After I agreed to move from Warsaw to Rome, my wife and I decided that it would save the government money, and would be interesting for us, to drive from Warsaw to Rome. We could have had our car shipped, and had the government purchase airline tickets, etc., but we could drive in a few days. Hotels, food and gas would certainly be less than airline tickets and the cost of shipping our car. Plus, we could carry stuff in our car that would reduce the amount we had to ship at government expense. In any case, we had packed everything. Big stuff had been shipped to Rome. The car was loaded to roof, and was parked outside ready to leave that night for Krakow, our first stop. I was saying good-bye to friends in the Embassy, and while I was in the defense attache's office, someone came in to tell me that I had just had a call from Rome saying, "Don't leave!" It was tough to get me the message, because the call had come to a Pole in our personnel section who could not come to the defense attache's office, because it was in a secure, American-only part of the Embassy. So, the Pole had to find an American to deliver the message.

It turned out that the problem was that Newt Gingrich had closed down the American government, and only essential personnel could work. However, I had no place to live, either in Warsaw (since we had moved out) or in Rome. I was furious and called Rome. Because I was just being a good soldier and going where the State Department asked me to go, I didn't know any of the personalities in Rome. It turned out that the DCM (the deputy ambassador) was an old friend from an assignment in Brasilia, Brazil. He arranged some deal with the personnel office in Rome that allowed us to travel. But for what I considered a personal insult, possibly stranding by wife and me with nowhere to live in Warsaw during a cold November, Newt Gingrich won my undying displeasure (a mild word). I also thought it was ironic that the Republicans claim to be the party of business, but if there is one thing that businesses have to do, it's meet a payroll. Newt couldn't do that. Now meeting payrolls is less important. Many businesses now leave their employees twisting in the wind, especially when it comes to health care and retirement. Newt was ahead of his time, unfortunately for us all.

Ironically, when we returned to northern Virginia after I retired, in the first election I voted in after my return to the States, I voted for Republican John Warner for senator, because I thought (and still think) he was (and is) a good man. But he was the exception. In general, no more Republicans.

However, I still think Goldwater, like John Warner and John McCain, was probably a good man, much better than most of the rest of the sleazeballs currently occupying the seats of power in the Republican party he helped create.

Difference between Iraq and Vietnam

The deaths in Iraq of about 20 Marines from Ohio points out an important difference between the way we are fighting the Iraq war and the way we fought the Vietnam war. Troops are sent to Iraq in cohesive units, like the one from Ohio. In Vietnam, they were sent pretty much individually, probably due to the draft, but perhaps due to some political considerations.

I enlisted when I came up 1-A to try to maintain some control over my destiny. However, I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where very few of my colleagues from Alabama were sent. Then, after going through basic training, I was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and given further training there with no one from my basic training unit. Then only three of us who had trained together at Fort Sill were sent to Vietnam together, and although we were sent to the same artillery battalion, we were sent to different batteries, and so never saw each other after the first few days. As individual soldiers reached the end of their tour, they were replaced individually, so that the unit in Vietnam was in constant flux, a few old hands and a few new ones.

Of course this created problems for unit cohesiveness in Vietnam, but I think that one of the worst problems was coming home, because there was no support. Most of your buddies were still back in Vietnam, and the ones who had left before you were back home wherever they lived, some in New York, some in California, etc. After several years, I did see one of my old battery mates in the Washington, DC, area, where we both had moved by coincidence. I think this lack of support had a lot to do with the feeling of alienation when troops came back singly. The country rejected them as war criminals, and they didn't have anywhere to turn for support. The guys who might have supported them were halfway across the country. And the veterans who were nearby did not have the same shared experiences as the guys who had served in Vietnam with you.

I think the current system of maintaining the integrity of entire units is better. But when you have a unit suffer significant casualties, as the Marines from Ohio did, then it is tougher. But even then there is a shared support system for the families of the dead, because other families live nearby.

Quillen Right on Intelligent Design

In today's Denver Post, Ed Quillen's op-ed on "What Intelligent Design?" makes exactly the right reply to those who would replace evolution with intelligent design in our schools and scientific laboratories. If whoever did the intelligent design was so smart, why aren't we (and most of our fellow creatures) better designed?

In additions to the points raised by Quillen, I wonder: Why can't dogs talk? Why do some turtles live longer than human beings? Why do so many human beings become sick and useless years before they die? Who designed the dodo bird?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bush Believes He Is Still at War

Bush's advisors tried to change the "war on terror" into a "global struggle against violent extremism," but Bush himself isn't buying it. Bush wants to be a war president. The fact that we are not clearly winning the war is apparently less important than being at war. The military appears to be uncomfortable with being in charge of the war on terror. Rumsfeld and his four star lackeys led the charge to change the name from war to struggle.

Karl Rove made fun of "liberals" who thought that the police, rather than the military, had to be the front line against terrorism. Rove said that after the 9/11 attacks, liberals, "wanted to prepare indictments, therapy and understanding" for the attackers. Rove clearly thought indictments were useless, but after the London underground bombings, Tony Blair didn't declare war on any new countries, as Bush declared war on Iraq. Rather, Blair has increased the role of the British police in fighting terrorism. No doubt Rove ridicules Blair and the British people in private, despite the fact that the British bombers appear to be home grown in Britain, rather than people who have come from the Middle East specifically to carry out the bombings.

Bush has no clue what he's doing, or what needs to be done to protect the American people, but he knows that he likes being a war president. By the way, how's the war in Iraq going these days? How many American military have been killed? How many innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed? How much better is life for the average Iraqi? How democratic is the new Iraqi government under the new constitution going to be?