Monday, May 31, 2004

Robert Novak, Valerie Plame and the Afghan War

To describe columnist Robert Novak as an ultra-partisan Republican hack would be accurate, if overly generous.  So I had a hard time taking this column of his at face value:  U.S. is lost in Afghanistan Chicago Sun-Times 05/31/04.

Novak is the creep who helped the White House slime operation to "out" Joseph Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA agent.  John Dean, Richard Nixon's former White House counsel, has written about the Plame leak in Worse Than Watergate (2004):

The methodology - that of planting a nasty leak - is not new, but enlisting the news media as criminal co-conspirators is a breathtaking bit of bravado.  Like their stagecrafting and image control, they [the Bush White House] have pushed dirty tricks into a new dimension.

... Planting (or leaking) this story about Valerie Plame Wilson is one of the dirtiest tricks I've seen in lowball/hardball politics.  When the American Prospect wrote that "we are very much into Nixon territory here," it was an understatement.  I thought they played dirty at the Nixon White House, but this is worse for two reasons.  Nixon never went after his enemies' wives, and he never employed a dirty trick that was literally life-threatening.  Anyone in the White House with sufficient access to this information had to be sophisticated enought to realize that revealing the identity of a covert agent placed not only her life in danger but also the lives of those with whom she had worked in foreign countries.  In fact, covert agents' names are seldom provided even to the president, not to mention his staff.

Several other reporters refused to go with the story because it was obvious that it was a matter of political revenge directed at Joseph Wilson, not a news story in which his wife's undercover role was an issue.  Novak was slimy enough to go with it.  He probably isn't criminally culpable under the law, though the leakers are.  But it shows you that partisanship overrides news judgment for Novak in even an exceptionally dirty partisan trick like this.

So why is Novak sounding "off the ranch" on Afghanistan?

Afghanistan constitutes George W. Bush's clearest victory since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Taliban regime has been overthrown, eliminating al-Qaida's most important base. But the overlooked war continues with no end in sight. Narcotics trafficking is at an all-time high. If U.S. forces were to leave, the Taliban -- or something like it -- would regain power. The United States is lost in Afghanistan, bound to this wild country and unable to leave.

The situation in Afghanistan, as laid out to me, looks nothing like a country alleged to be progressing toward representative democracy under American tutelage. Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-sponsored Afghan president, is regarded by the U.S. troops as hopelessly corrupt and kept in power by U.S. force of arms.

I've mentioned Novak in connection with the Afghan War before.  He was the questioner who elicited Rummy's 2001 sneer at the Geneva Conventions for being "some convention," and to say that it didn't bother him that our Northern Alliance allies were murdering prisoners of war in cold blood.

Now, the part I just quoted is that kind of thing that, if it's written or said by a Democrat, brings howls of phony outrage from the rabid war fans, who accuse it of being "an attack on our soldiers" or "undermining the war effort" or "giving aid and comfort to the enemy."  Now, Novak may well have done the latter by facilitating the criminal leak about Valerie Plame, who had been working on "weapons of mass destruction" for the Agency.

But his statement about the state of the Afghan War is an unexceptional description of the situation there, and will be no surprise to anyone who's bothered to follow the all-too-few articles on that war for the last two and a half years.  The question is what agenda Novak is promoting with this.

He claims his sources are "hard U.S. fighters who are committed to the war against terrorism but have a heavy heart" over the state of the Afghan War.  But since Novak is such a hack, it's worth noting that even though he refers to his sources as though he's been talking to soldiers that have been directly involved in Afghanistan, he doesn't precisely say that.  So "hard U.S. fighters" could well refer to Pentagon ideologues, in uniform and out.  Paul Wolfowitz?  Novak's pal Rummy?  Christian General Boykin?

Now, I wouldn't take anything as fact just based on Novak's "reporting" (stenography is probably a better word for it).  But he uses a 17,000 number for US troop strength in Afghanistan, which would be the largest figure I've seen.  We're slowly escalating the troop presence there.

Novak seems to be complaining that US forces are there in order for Bush to make a show that he is seriously trying to capture Osama bin Laden.  He claims that the "men in the field" think the effort to find the chief mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is "a helpless [sic] cause."  But how many command or bureacratic levels above the actual "men in the field" that report came from is hard to say.  This part makes it sound like a criticism of Bush and a plea to just shut the operation down.

But I suspect the real point of the piece is this part near the end:

They are also hamstrung by senior officers who may be expert in conventional warfare but are at a loss to understand American troops who are far closer in style to Lawrence of Arabia than George Patton. The special operations soldiers and junior officers have a low opinion of Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, the U.S. military commander. ...

It is a strange war, with the JAGs -- Judge Advocate General military lawyers -- given a hand in military decisions. My sources tell of commanders, despite credible intelligence of enemy forces, calling off air strikes on the advice of JAGs. This is the kind of restraint the U.S. military has experienced starting with the Korean War, when as a noncombat Army officer, I knew our forces had their hands tied behind their backs.

In other words, he's making a plea for more indiscriminate killing of civilians and a free hand for the use of torture.  His complaint that the military isn't focused enough on counterinsurgency is one that many others have made.  But as we see in the part just quoted, his idea of counterinsurgency is more indiscriminate air strikes.  In fact, there were few good bombing targets in Afghanistan to begin with.  Using air power carefully is especially critical in guerrilla war situations.

I don't know exactly what Novak is promoting here.  It just looks very strange to me.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

I may have to stop reading the news

Just go read this post by Billmon.  I can't improve on it at all: Jumping the Gun 05/31/04.

And, yes, that is a reference to that gun.

Counterinsurgency and today's US military

I've mentioned here several times that part of the dilemma for the US military in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the Army is oriented toward counterinsurgency warfare, either in training or in strategy and tactics.  The same can be said of the Marines, though some units of both forces do have counterinsurgency training.

Lt. Col. Robert Cassidy addresses that issue in the Summer 2004 issue of Parameters, a publication of the Army War College: Back to the Street Without Joy: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam and Other Small Wars (*.pdf file)

I should mention that the War Colleges, despite being part of the armed services, maintain a high reputation for quality scholarship.  In other words, they are not like some of the better-known think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where ideology is paramount and quality of scholarship is entirely secondary.  In other words, scholars from the War College can and do express opinions that are critical of currently prevailing practices and assumptions within their own services. 

In the first part of his article, Cassidy discusses the importance of the experience of counterinsurgency warfare, and criticizes the Army for not applying those lessons extensively enough (my emphasis):

The US military has had a host of successful experiences in counter-guerrilla war, including some distinct successes with certain aspects of the Vietnam War. However, the paradox stemming from America’s unsuccessful crusade in the jungles of Vietnam is this - because the experience was perceived as anathema to the mainstream American military, hard lessons learned there about fighting guerrillas were neither embedded nor preserved in the US Army’s institutional memory. The American military culture’s efforts to expunge the specter of Vietnam, embodied in the mantra “No More Vietnams,” also prevented the US Army as an institution from really learning from those lessons. In fact, even the term “counterinsurgency” seemed to become a reviled and unwelcome word, one that the doctrinal cognoscenti of the 1980s conveniently transmogrified into “foreign internal defense.” Even though many lessons exist in the US military’s historical experience withsmall wars, the lessons from the Vietnam War were the most voluminous. Yet these lessons were most likely the least read, because the Army’s intellectual rebirth after Vietnam focused almost exclusively on a big conventional war in Europe—the scenario preferred by the US military culture.

… For most of the 20th century, the US military culture (notwithstanding the Marines’ work in small wars) generally embraced the big conventional war paradigm and fundamentally eschewed small wars and insurgencies. Thus, instead of learning from our experiences in Vietnam, the Philippines, the Marine Corps’ experience in the Banana Wars, and the Indian campaigns, the US Army for most of the last 100 years has viewed these experiences as ephemeral anomalies and aberrations—distractions from preparing to win big wars against other big powers.  As a result of marginalizing the counterinsurgencies and small wars that it has spent most of its existence prosecuting, the US military’s big-war cultural preferences have impeded it from fully benefiting—studying, distilling, and incorporating into doctrine—from our somewhat extensive lessons in small wars and insurgencies.

The lessons and successes of these programs are salient today because in both Afghanistan and Iraq, improving the quantity and capabilities of indigenous forces, ensuring that there is an integrated and unified civil-military approach, and the security of the population all continue to be central goals.

 Part of what is instructive about Cassidy's article is that the wars from which he suggests we have to learn include those mentioned in the quotation above, including the Indian Wars on the North American continent in the 19th century, the Phillipine War and subsequent counterinsurgency efforts there, and the "Banana Wars" in Latin American countries like Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.  Those wars don't bring to mind the happiest of memories.

War is war, and it involves killing the enemy.  Guerrilla war is nasty business just like any other kind of war, and it carries its own particular brands of nastiness.  The military assumption that guerrilla wars should be avoided in not entirely a bad instinct, by any means.  But if there had been an honest recognition prior to the Iraq War that what it would involve would be not a glorious "cakewalk" of quick conquest in conventional war, but a protracted, costly, bloody guerrilla war, the public and Congressional discussions prior to the war might have had greater seriousness and greater substance.

Cassidy points out, as have many others, that the dramatic conventional war-fighting capabilities of the US military, which was on display in the initial weeks of the Iraq War when conventional war predominated, in itself makes it inevitable that enemies will use the techniquest of guerrilla warfare and terrorism against the US.  Iraq's conventional army couldn't hope to defeat the US military.  But the US military has so far been unable to pacify the country and suppress the guerrillas.

Cassidy also looks to those historical experiences for the ways in which integrating the military effort with the particular political needs of counterinsurgency warfare can be accomplished.  If the Indian Wars seem like a poor example of enlightened counterinsurgency, the approaches he recommends were associated with Robert Cook, whom he mentions by name, who was known for using methods other than brute force in dealing with the Indians.  If the post-Civil War policy toward the Indians had been in the hands of people like Robert Cook, instead of the William Armstrong Custers who predominated, the Indian Wars might not be such an ugly and frequently disgraceful chapter in American history.

The main purpose of Cassidy's article is to recommend several books for use in the study of counterinsurgency.  Lited below are the various publications he recommends.  I can't speak for the value of individual studies.  I will mention, though, that neoconservative and Iraq War hawk Max Boot, whose work is included, hasn't proven himself to be the most astute of strategic thinkers in his writing on Iraq.

Birtle, Andrew J.; U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine 1860-1941 (Washington: US Army Center of Military History, 1988)

Boot, Max; “A Century of Small Wars Shows They Can be Won,” New York Times Week in Review, 6 July 2003.

Boot,Max; Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power (New York: Basic Books, 2003)

Brewington, Brooks R.; “Combined Action Platoons: A Strategy for Peace Enforcement,” unpublished paper, USMC Command and Staff College, Quantico, Va., 1996

Cassidy, Robert M.;  “Prophets or Praetorians: The Uptonian Paradox and the Powell Corollary,” Parameters, 33 (Autumn 2003)

Cassidy, Robert M.; “Why Great Powers Fight Small Wars Badly,” Military Review, 82 (Sept-Oct 2002)

Cassidy, Robert M.; Russia in Afghanistan and Chechnya: Military Strategic Culture and the Paradoxes of Asymmetric Conflict Robert M. Cassidy, (Carlisle, Pa.: US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2003)

Clarke, Jeffrey J.; Advice and Support: The Final Years (Washington: US Army Center of Military History,1988)

Greene, Lt. Col. T. N., ed; The Guerrilla and How to Fight Him

Joes, Anthony James; America and Guerrilla Warfare (Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2000)

Kopets, Keith F.; “The Combined Action Program: Vietnam,” Military Review,82 (July-August 2002), 78-79.

Pelli, Frank; “Insurgency, Counterinsurgency, and the Marines in Vietnam,” unpublished paper, USMC Command and Staff College, Quantico, Va., 1990

Sarkesian, Sam C.; America’s Forgotten Wars: The Counterrevolutionary Past and Lessons for the Future (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984)

Sorley,Lewis; A Better War (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999)

Taber, Robert; The War of the Flea: Guerrilla Warfare in Theory and Practice (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1965)

US Department of the Army, A Program for the Pacification and Long-Term Development of South Vietnam (Washington: Department of the Army, 1966)

US Marine Corps, Small Wars Manual (Washington: GPO, 1940) and the supplementary Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Small Wars (Draft) (Quantico, Va.: US Marine Corps, 2004)

At least it's not a body part...

This Reuters item passes along a story from Time Magazine: Bush Keeps Saddam Gun at White House 05/30/04:

Bush shows Saddam's gun to select visitors, telling them it is unloaded, both now and when Saddam was captured, Time reported.

"He really liked showing it off," Time quoted a visitor as saying. "He was really proud of it."

That's just strange.  No Freudian symbolism there, huh?

Iraq War: The reality of failure

I'm with Billmon on this one (Failure Mode 05/28/04).  Politicians in the nature of the thing have to come up with some kind of pragmatic-sounding (or at least hopeful-sounding) solution.

But what we're facing in the Iraq War is not how to achieve a positive outcome.  It's how to minimize the disaster.  As Billmon puts it in a nice historical reference, it's "messer than Manchukuo."  Manchukuo was the Japanese name for occupied Manchuria.

I'm not convinced that Billmon's view of what's emerging in right, though:

At best – at best -- we’re likely to end up with a weak central government whose writ barely extends beyond the Baghdad suburbs, precariously kept in power only by a U.S.-led Praetorian Guard and/or a CIA-run Mukhabarat. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is rapidly fragmenting into an independent-in-all-but-name Kurdistan, a Sunni Triangle dominated by ex-Baathist generals, and a Shi’a south gradually falling under Iranian influence and behind-the-scenes control.

It sounds like a civil war between various factions is possible.  But the difficulties presented to all parties, internal and external, of the outcome he foresees as the best possibility are so great that I think they are unlikely as more than an interim phase.  A more likely outcome is civil war, possibly accompanied by invasion from neighboring countries, ending with a strong central government of more-or-less authoritarian character.

But he is right about this:

So this is what failure looks like – and, realistically, it’s much too late to look to the UN or NATO or our Arab “allies” to save us from the consequences of the administration’s folly.

Josh Marshall (05/30/04), who came very close to supporting the war but before it began decided the Bush team was not competent to pull it off, also thinks we're looking at failure.  And he even see the current White House rationale for defending Bush's policy as essentially being, support Bush because he's better able to manage the failure of his own Iraq policies than Kerry is.

The president's actions, if not his words, concede that Iraq has become the geopolitical equivalent of a botched surgery -- botched through some mix of the misdiagnosis of the original malady and the incompetence of the surgeon. Achieving the original goal of the surgery is now close to an afterthought. The effort is confined to closing up as quickly as possible and preventing the patient from dying on the table. And now the 'doctor', pressed for time and desperate for insight, stands over the patient with a scalpal in one hand and the other hurriedly leafing through a first year anatomy text book.

Billmon also refers to a study by the conservative British International Instutite for Strategic Studies that estimates that 500,000 troops would be needed for effective stability operations.  He references this article by RAND's James T. Quinlivan (Burden of Victory: The Painful Arithmetic of Stability Operations RAND Review Summer 2003; it's also on p. 28 of the *.pdf version of the issue) that projects a similar number based on the troops-to-population ratios from British experiences in Northern Ireland and Malaysia and NATO experience in the Balkans:

The population of Iraq today is nearly 25 million. That population would require 500,000 foreign troops on the ground to meet a standard of 20 troops per thousand residents. This number is more than three times the number of foreign troops now deployed to Iraq (see figure). For a sustainable stabilization force on a 24-month rotation cycle, the international community would need to draw on a troop base of 2.5 million troops. Such numbers are clearly not feasible and emphasize the need for the rapid creation of indigenous security forces even while foreign troops continue to be deployed. The extremely low force ratio for Afghanistan, a country with a population even larger than that of Iraq, shows the implausibility of current stabilization efforts by external forces.

Meanwhile, war supporter Tom Friedman (Tilting the Playing Field New York Times 05/30/04)continues to believe things can be okay in Iraq because, hey, look at Russia.  But even he's lowering his sights in the general direction of what can realistically be expected:

We need to rebalance our policy. We still have a chance to do in Iraq the only thing that was always the only thing possible — tilt it in a better direction — so over a generation Iraqis can transform and liberate themselves, if they want. What might an Iraq tilted in the right direction look like? It would be more religious than Turkey, more secular than Iran, more federal than Syria, more democratic than Saudi Arabia and more stable than Afghanistan.

At least "We have to tilt in the right direction!" is marginally more inspiring as a war slogan than, "At least we're not as bad as Saddam!"

Saturday, May 29, 2004

The Future of NATO

This is a review of two recent books on US-European relations:

Allies at War: America, Europe and the Crisis Over Iraq by Philip H. Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro (New York; McGraw-Hill; 2004)

Friendly Fire: The Near-Death of the Transatlantic Alliance (Washington; Brookings Institution Press; 2004) by Elizabeth Pond

These two books look at the recent crisis in relations between the United States and the European Union countries, with particular reference to its current and possible future effects on what has been the US' most important military alliance since 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  The crisis was by no means limited to differences over the Iraq War, though it was that event that produced what Philip Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro call "the worst transatlantic crisis in nearly 50 years."

The NATO alliance was founded to counter the threat of Soviet conventional invasion of western Europe. Though it provided definite advantages to the US, the Europeans needed it for their own immediate protection more than the Americans did for theirs. The Europeans were more immediately threatened by potential Soviet aggression.   

The disintegration of the USSR and the end of the Cold War changed this.  Although both America and the European NATO members have still seen mutual advantages in the alliance, the relative advantages have shifted.  When NATO was used in the 1990s for interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, US leadership and military power was still a decisive advantage for the Europeans, who were more directly menaced by the Balkan Wars than the US.

But it was symbolic that the only time that NATO's military mutual assistance clause has ever been evoked was after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States.  The NATO allies were fully prepared to assist the US in the Afghan War - and the Bush administration refused to make the action a NATO mission.  The Republican administration shared a general distrust of coalition warfare, and a negative view of the US experience with NATO allies in the Kosovo War in particular.

Official statements of policy still pay lip service to NATO as an alliance.  But in practice and in statements by administration officials, it's clear that the Bush Doctrine views NATO in practice as a kind of farm team which will provide troops for ad hoc coalitions for missions to be determined and controlled by the US.

So relative dependencies have shifted.  Europe is now capable of defending itself from any immediately apparent conventional military threat.  The EU countries collectively had more troops under arms than the United States, even before the recent expansion. But a US committed to Rumsfeld's vision of "military transformation" that envisions a relatively small number of troops, and to a goal of an international division of labor in which the "transformed" US military fights the conventional wars and leaves "nation-building" to the "coalitions of the willing", now needs the NATO allies more than Europe needs the US.

And as the European Union (EU) continues to develop common foreign and military policies, there is no reason that the EU itself couldn't assume NATO's former role of defending Europe.  So now a viable future for NATO means defining a mission on a worldwide scale, or at least a larger scale than Europe.  The current international force in Afghanistan is now a NATO force, for instance.  NATO interventions in the Balkans in the 1990s provided hopeful models for a possible future for the Atlantic alliance.  But the Iraq War raised a serious question of whether NATO is viable at all.

The Iraq War

Both Allies at War and Friendly Fire take close looks at the US and European disputes over the Iraq War, which of course included disputes among EU members and potential members as well as between European governments and the US.  The accounts are complimentary, in that Elizabeth Pond looks more closely at the internal politics in Europe driving the European actions, while Gordon and Shapiro focus more on the America positions and details of the diplomatic manouevering among the allies in the lead-up to war.

Britain, Spain and Italy were the core EU supporters of the Iraq War, with Britain being by far the most signficant in terms of its military participation, while France and Germany led the antiwar camp.

Both books recount the major steps in the development of that crisis, beginning with Bush's 2002 State of the Union address in which he introduced the phrase "axis of evil" to describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea.  The speech signalled to the NATO countries that he meant to confront Iraq in an immediate sense, with or without their support.

The following months were followed by discussions that involved public dissent by European nations, including even expressions of caution by Blair's government, warning the US against precipitous military action against Iraq.  Both books reviewed here give a good summary of those discussions, including attention to Robert Kagan's essay Power and Weakness (Policy Review (June-July 2002), which was eagerly taken up by neoconservatives and Republicans generally as a statement of their case against the European democracies.  Although short on analysis and long on propaganda - albeit a highbrow varient - Kagan's essay was able, as Pond observes, to "capture a partial truth at a point when their aperçu [insight] seizes the public imagination."  It popularized such ideas as, "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus" and the notion that Europe saw itself as realizing "Kant's 'Perpetual Peace'" while the US "remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable."

On a close reading, Kagan's famous essay offers little beyond sophomoric stereotypes of about European pacifism and American nobility and mission, as well as an ideological gloss on the Bush team's inclination to disregard "unreliable"inconveniences such as "international laws and rules."  But this particular formulation conveniently fitted the aggressive unilateralism of the Bush administration.  And it provided an ideological framework for "Martians" like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney to bash the European democracies and spew contempt at their concern for international law and settling disputes by diplomacy rather than war.

And it was Cheney's speech of 08/26/02 that kicked the dispute over Iraq into high gear.  "Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon," he declared.  And in another statement from that speech that has since joined the one just quoted in the annals of Bush administration deception of the public, Cheney announced, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

European diplomats were confused as to exactly what American policy was at that point.  As Pond puts it, at this point "a number of European observers began musing about the dark arts of neo-Kremlinology that were now needed to decipher American policy."  While Cheney's speech was taken as a rallying call by the Republican faithful, the reaction was very different in Europe.  And it had an immediate impact in the German election campaign then getting underway.  Pond's explains the background this way:

From its inception in 1949, the Federal Republic [of Germany] had been trained, especially by the occupying Americans, not to glorify the military, but rather to eschew any resolution of disputes by force.  So swiftly and thoroughly had West Germans internalized these lessons that founding father Konrad Adenauer already had to fight a major political battle to reconstitute a German army in the 1950s.  Germans as a whole prided themselves on being a model "civilian power" and making a clear division between (moral) defense and (immoral) offense in the use of military force.

Pond recounts the evolution of postwar German attitudes toward war, which included providing assistance to Israel when it was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles during the Gulf War of 1991.  Eventually, the "red-green" coalition government headed by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer successfully persuaded their parliament to support active German participation in the Kosovo intervention of 1999.  She also takes notice of an event that was little appreciated and quickly forgotten by Bush partisans:

And after 9/11 the chancellor [Schröder] even put his own office on the line in a touch-and-go vote of confidence inparliament to send German forces into combat, for the first time since World War II, alongside U.S. and British troops in eastern Afghanistan.

But when Schröder publicly opposed an immediate war on Iraq in his re-election campaign, the Bush Republicans reacted with a fury that I can only explain by two factors: the intense anti-Europe bent of Republican foreign policy today, and the Bush dynasty's extreme emphasis on personal loyalty.  Both books describe this chain of events in some detail.

But neither seems to fully appreciate the obvious.  Most German voters opposed the Iraq War and opposed their country participating in it.  Germany emphasizes the observance of international law, especially when it comes to launching wars of aggression, and one would think any remotely sane American with even the most superficial sense of history would be glad of that fact.  And German officials doubted the accuracy of the Bush administration's claims on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the imminence of the danger Saddam presented to Western interests and, well, they were right.

Imagine that: a democracy where the public is suspicious of war, and where the elected officials aren't willing to send their soldiers to kill and die in a war based on false claims on non-existent threats.  The fact that two books that are highly critical of the Bush administration's conduct in many ways seem to find that a matter in need of special explanation is itself disturbing.

Gordon and Shapiro point out that Cheney's August 26 speech put pressure on Schröder at an awkward time.  They relate this telling tidbit:

According to scholar Stephen Szabo, when asked whether Vice President Cheney had considered the potential impact on the German election of his tough Iraq speech in August 2002, a close confidant of Cheney's responded, "Why should he care about the reaction in Germany?"

Schröder won his election, and Tony Blair persuaded the Americans to go to the UN for a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.  Schröder joined up with French President Jacques Chirac in negotiating a compromise resolution that demanded immediate acquiesence to UN weapons inspections by Iraq, but contained wording that the antiwar camp could claim did not authorized automatic military action in case of non-compliance and that Bush and Blair could claim did so. Security Council Resolution 1441 passed by a unanimous 15-0 vote in November 2002, threatening "serious consequences" for Iraqi failure to comply.

Another milestone event was the publication in the Wall Street Journal of the "Letter of Eight" of 01/30/03.  The eight being Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, Portugal, and the Czech Republic, and the letter being a general statement of support for the Bush administration's hard line against Iraq.

Gordon and Shapiro accept the official version that the Bush Administration was not involved in the preparation of this letter, "although U.S. officials were aware of it."  Yet they tell a story of its origins that raises more than one question. 

In fact, the contents of the letter were not particularly controversial; officials from France and Germany later said that they had no objection to the language in the text.  The timing and symbolism of the letter, however, were highly significant.  The idea of such a letter originated with Michael Gonzalez, the deputy editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal Europe, who did not believe that the Franco-German vision of Iraq or transatlantic relations was shared by other European leaders.  Gonzalez thus contacted the office of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to propose that Berlusconi write an op-ed piece setting out his own, more Atlanticist, views.  Berlusconi like the idea, but wanted to associate it with other like-minded leaders, so he contacted Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, who in turn got in touch with Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Durao Barroso and Britain's Tony Blair.

This event intesified the conflict, and raised suspicions among the antiwar camp that the US was trying to divide Europe in order to dominate its policies.

NATO's decision on defense of Turkey early in February 2003 was another occasion for conflict.  In substance, the question had to do with a fairly technical issue of NATO military planning in the even of Turkish participation in the Iraq War.  Gordon and Shapiro relate the diplomacy at some length.  It was finally resolved by a compromise, and in any case the Turkish parliament soon voted against participation in the war.

Gordon and Shapiro make it clear that this particular crisis was largely cooked up by the Bush team:

Knowing that several NATO members were not yet willing to proceed with NATO plans for Turkey's defense, the United States could easily have avoided the controversy and ensured that the defensive measures were taken on a bilateral basis.  During the Cold War, Washington never made support for its out-of-area activities - such as the Korean or Vietnam wars - a litmus test of lyalty to the alliance as a whole.  And given Washington's snubbing of NATO in Afghanistan little more than a year earlier, it was hard to argue that it pushed a NATO role this time out ofdevotion and loyalty to the alliance.

The Americans who denounced the German and French positions, moreover, overlooked the fact that Turkey itself was never particularly concerned aobut having NATO play a role, and that both France and Germany were prepared to do whatever was necessary to actually help Turkey, just no to have NATO do it.  As a German official put it, "We promised to supply the Patriots to Turkey bilaterally and asked the Untied States please not to force us to be an obstruction within NATO.  But the Bush administration was determined to make life difficult for  Schröder by having Germany vote yes to the deployment, thus undermining the Chancellor's own position against the Iraq war.  That was a really nasty bit of political game playing, and we viewed [it] as bullying, pure and simple."

There seems to have been a desire on the US side to denigrate and possibly deliberately damage the alliance.  Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed his fear on this occasion that NATO was "breaking itself up because it will not meet its responsibilities."

Pond also observes of the US approach to this particular issue of NATO assistance to Turkey:

Substantively, the specific NATO dispute may have been risible.  But what was at stake was indeed the survival of the alliance.  After fifty-four years of protecting Europe, introducing unprecedented confidence building in open shared military planning ,socializing generations of American and German and Turkish and Greek officers to mutual trust, and helping the new post-cold war democracies to tame their armies, NATO now faced potential obsolecence, given American indifference verging on contempt.

For the Americans [in the Bush administration] it was clear that Paris was the villain in gratuitously demolishing the transatlantic alliance.  Some in Washington were so angry at the French - and at Tony Blair for getting them into the UN mess in the name of a spurious multilateralism - that they were ready to punish Europe by themselves helping to demolish NATO.  For the French, the sparring may still have beeen a game, which they were winning on points.  But to some Germans, Washington iself was the villain in sacrificing the alliance to its obsession with invading Iraq.  Their real worry was that the aggrieved United States might now declare its independence from an encumbering europe.  In the end only the hegemon [the US] that created the post-World War II cooperative institutions, in the belief that they magnified U.S. influence, had sufficient power to snuff out those institutions, in the belief that Washington was now strong enought to manage the globalized world on its own.

But there also seems to have been a notion at work that threatening the survival of NATO would intimidate the Europeans.  Even though with the Bush Doctrine, the US needs the NATO allies more than they need the US.

The low point for intra-NATO relations came in the controversy over a second Security Council resolution to authorize force against Iraq, which the US and Britain sought but ultimately failed to obtain over active opposition by France in particular.  At the same time, the US began a rapid military buildup in the Gulf that dramtically increased pressure for early military action.

The Gordon/Shapiro account of the diplomacy around the second resolution highlights the way in which Tony Blair's domestic need to have UN endorsement for war exacerbated tensions among the NATO allies.  The Bush administration agreed to go to for a second resolution to accomodate Blair.  As it turned out, they failed to get it, but had another round of confrontation with the antiwar Europeans led by France's Chirac.  Thus, they write, "By the time the war began [in March 2003], relations between the United States and some leading European governments were so strained that the veryfuture of the alliance was open to question."

Future Prospects

Gordon and Shipiro are more optimistic than Pond about the future survival of the alliance, though she too is more optimistic than recent experiences seem to warrant.  Gordon and Shapiro argue that bad diplomacy itself was largely to blame for the crisis.  But in fact, they themselves indicate the flaw in that argument, in what is stated as an even-handed description of mutual miscalculations between the prowar and antiwar camps within the alliance:

Both sides made some real miscalculations.  Bush administration officials, hewing to a theory of leadership that weaker allies would have little choice but to follow America's lead if the direction of U.S. policy were clearly spelled out, never believed that opponents in Europe would dare challenge U.S. power.  They were thus surprised and appalled when France, Germany and Russian - let alone Mexico, Chile, Cameroon, and others on the Security Council - did just that.  The Americans, so convinced they were right about what to do in Iraq, vastly underestimated the resistance to war in Western Europe, in Turkey, and in the rest of the world.  For their part, many Europeans - particularly the French - for too long did not believe that even the assertive, unilateralist Bush administration would, in the face of widespread public opposition, be able to go to war based mostly on alleged flaws in a highly technical Iraqi weapons declaration.  They thus misread Bush as badly as some in Washington misread the French.

But what do the "miscalculations" on the two sides have in common in this description?  On the prowar side, there was the arrogant faith of the Republican administration in the power and disirability of unilateral military action to achieve the desired results.  On the antiwar side, there was a failure to understand just how intense was the arrogant faith of the Republican administration in the power and disirability of unilateral military action to achieve the desired results.

NATO was fundamentally founded on a system of international order and law, one which excludes preventive wars, of which the Bush administration's war of choice in Iraq was one.  Neither the NATO alliance, or any other long-term cooperative military arrangement with the European democracies, are going to work when there's an American administration committed to preventive war, as this one is and will remain, and the European democracies are committed to a system of international law and order that rejects preventive war.

In  a subsequent article, Lurching Back Together (Internationale Politik 1/2004 Spring issue, accessed 05/29/04), Pond notes hopefully and with amusement that some of the leading neoconservative Martians have at least adopted a more humble tone recently:

Neoconservative apostle Robert Kagan sounds almost Kantian as he not only revels in US power, but now worries as well about the perception of US legitimacy in the world. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Under Secretary of State John Bolton, and Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle, on their most recent visits to Old Europe, were notably restrained and are no longer demanding either an invasion of Iran or the resignation of Gerhard Schröder as German chancellor.

She notes that European leaders have been diplomatically refraining from crowing over the disaster that the Iraq War has turned out to be.  Though Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder most likely would not dispute Al Gore's assertion that Bush "has created more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation - because of his attitude of contempt for any person, institution or nation who disagrees with him."  But they are refraining from expressing their sentiments so explicitly in public.

Pond sees these and other changes, such as well-received efforts by Tony Blair's Britain to strenthen relations with its EU partners, as providing hopeful prospects, for which the June 2004 meetings of NATO, the G-8 and a US-EU summit will be bellweathers.  She believes the US setbacks and failures in Iraq over the last year have provided a crucial shift in perspective for US policy-makers that make them more receptive to improved US-European relations.

D-Day, 1985

Ten years ago, as the big 50th anniversary observations of D-Day were pending, I translated a few articles from the German news weekly Der Spiegel on the controversial 1985 Presidential visit by Ronald Reagan to the military cemetery at Bitburg, Germany.  The controversy over the visit highlighted some historical issues about the war.  But it was also a good example of how symbolic issues can turn out to have substantive repercussions.

I'm reproducing the text here, but not the three articles to which it refers:

The following three articles are translations from articles in Der Spiegel about President Ronald Reagan's 1985 visit to a German military cemetery in Bitburg, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.  The event was intended by Reagan and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl as a symbolic reconciliation between the former World War II foes.  When it became known tht 49 members of the notorious Waffen-SS were buried there, a firestorm of controversy erupted.  Reagan biographer Lou Cannon calls it "the seminal symbolic disaster of an administration that placed great store in symbolism."

The incident in itself was symbolic rather than substantive.  It was a significant even in Reagan's Presidency because symbolism was extraordinarily important to the actor-President's leadership syle.  More generally, the controversy was important in setting a tone for how the heritage of World War II is interpreted in America and in Germany, and also for the Kohl Administration's attempts to assert a more prominent role for Germany in the world.

Many observers credit the Bitburg controversy as a major factor giving rise to the Historikerstreit, or historians' fight, in Germany, beginning in 1986.  In the Historikerstreit, conservative journals like the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung opened their pages to historians attempting to make "mainstream" arguments for interpretations of the Third Reich previously identified only with the far right.  Most notorious was Ernst Nolte's argement that the Russians were to blame for the mass killings of Jews at Auschwitz.

Background of the Bitburg Visit

The meeting at Bitburg had been suggested by Kohl in 1984.  It was inpspired by a reconciliation ceremony he had held with French President Francois Mitterand at the World War I battlefield of Verdun, where both French and German soldiers were buried.  Kohl and Mitterand had joined hands before the soldiers' graves.

Duplicating this ceremony with the Americans presented difficultires.  For one, there are no cemeteries where both German and American soldiers are buried, because American policy is generally to return soldiers' remains to the United States.

But the presence of the Waffen-SS dead sparked the greatest controversy.  The SS (Schutzstaffel, or "protective detachment"), also known as the Blackshirts, were an elite Nazi group headed by Heinrich Himmler.  The SS operated the concentration camps, and its members were infamous for their sadism, fanaticism and murderous brutality.

The SS grew into a large, complex organization.  The Waffen-SS was attached to regular military units and, unlike most of the SS, included conscripts as well as volunteers.  Nevertheless, the Waffen-SS earned its own notoreity.  It was the First SS Panzer Division who, on December 17, 1944, in the Battle of the Bulge, had murdered 71 unarmed American prisoners of war in the Belgian town of Malmedy.  Malmedy was the worst massacre of U.S. POWs during World War II.

Bitburg Becomes an Issue

The controversy broke in April, 1985, when Reagan's itenerary for his trip to Germany for the G-7 economic summit was announced.  The conservative veterans' groups, the American Legion, publicly stated, "we are terribly disappointed" at the planned Bitburg visit.  Author and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel publicly expressed his surprise and dismay.

The White House staff's reaction to the public brouhaha is fascinating.  As reported by Cannon:

Some of [the White House] officials complained that the press, and particularly Jewish reporters, were blowing up the story in an effort to discredit Reagan.  As [director of communications] Pat Buchanan saw it, the liberal media were always seeking an issue upon which they could seize to damage a popular president.  He urged resistance, to the Jews and to the media.  "Buchanan argued for a harder line, a bigger gesture, a clearer defense of the new Germany and virtually an amnesty for the Third Reich," said [public relations chief Michael] Deaver. ...Nancy Reagan ... wanted to end the controversy by cancelling the Bitburg stop.

Reagan stubbornly refused to cancel because of the commitment he had made to Kohl, a commitment the Chancellor reinforced with two phone calls that month.  When Reagan hesitated about his plans, writes British historian Michael Balfour, "Kohl ... obstinately refrained from providing him with a pretext" for cancelling the cemetery visit.

After Reagan ahd already decided to continue his Bitburg plans, Buchanan and White House aide Ed Rollins met with Elie Wiesel and five prominent Jewish Republicans, ostensibly to consider their objections.  All six, says Cannon, argued that the visit "would be morally and ethically improper."

Buchanan, also impassioned..., told the Jews that they were "Americans first," as if there was something un-American about opposing the Bitburg ceremony.  But what enraged the Jews [in the meeting] was not so much what Buchanan said but what they observed he had written over and over again on his notebook: "Succumbing to the pressure of the Jews."

Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, himself a disabled World War II veteran, publicly called the visit a "mistake."  Fifty-three Senators announced their opposition to the visit.  Protestant evangelist Billy Graham asked the President to find an alternative site.  Elie Wiesel, receiving an awared at a ceremony scheduled before the Bitburg flap, made a dramatic appeal to Reagan:

May I, Mr. President, if it's possible at all, implore you to do something else, to find a way, to find another way, another site.  That place, Mr. President, is not your place.  Your place is with the victims of the SS.

Reagan increased the controversy by declaring that the Waffen-SS soldiers buried in Bitburg "were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps."  To top it all off, White House public relations chief Michael Deaver, struggling with his own alcoholism, had to negotiate with Nancy Reagan's San Francisco astrologer Joan Quigley over the details of scheduling the trip.

The Trip to Bitburg

Reagan made his cemetery stop, reluctantly adding a visit to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for balance.  Cannon notes, "Reagan's moving address at Bergen-Belsen would prove [tp be] the last great commemorative speech of his presidency."

But, on the whole, it was a public-relations disaster, angering even veterans' organizations who normally were his enthusiastic supporters.  The following translated articles give some idea of how the controversy resonated in Germany.


Michael Balfour, Germany: The Tides of Power (Routledge; New York: 1992) p. 225

Lou Cannon, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime (Simon & Schuster; New York; 1991) pp. 486-492, 573-588

(Original text 05/27/94)

Friday, May 28, 2004

Celebrating the Second World War

Since we're already starting to celebrate D-Day here over Memorial Day weekend with the dedication of the World War II memorial in Washington, I thought I would talk about some issues relating to it.

Back in 1995, as the 50th anniversary observances of the war were under way, I came across this column in the paper about the memory of the Second World War: When Will WWII Finally End? by Howard Kleinberg San Francisco Chronicle 02/21/95.  It struck me as oddly cynical, basically whining about "revisionism" and seemingly about the whole process of remembering the war.  As in these closing paragraphs:

The men and women who fought that war are nearing the completion of their life's cycle. Most or all of those who directed the war on either side are gone. What remains is a coterie of persons, most born after the war, poking through old documents and new theories that would alter our impressions of what and who were Good and Evil.

On September 2, the last event of World War II, Japan's formal surrender, will be observed. Will the passage put an end to the revisionism and suspicions of motives and events of the past?

I would hope so. But I think not.

In those pre-blogging days, I sent the following letter to the editor by good old snail-mail:

Dear Editor:

I found myself sympathizing with Howard Kleinberg's feeling on remembering World War II while disagreeing with the point of his column.  As someone born nine years after the war's end, I also regret that the spirit and ideals of America's participation in that war are often obscured by "revisionist" arguments and Cold War cynicism.  On the other hand, I recognize that the World War II experience shaped American attitudes toward our country's role in the world like no other event.  Since the old certainties of the Cold War have collapsed, both policymakers and the public would benefit more than ever from a better familiarity with the experiences of the Second World War, its prelude and its aftermath.

To take just one example: Germany and the Czech Republic have held discussions recently on compensation for the ethnic Germans that postwar Czechoslovakia expelled from the "Sudetenland."  Why were these people expelled?  Is it a sign of German "revanchism" that these talks are taking place?  Does this have broader implications for post-Cold War Europe?  One would have to have some knowledge of the events surrounding World War II to make any sense of this situation.

We can honor those Americans who served their country during the war without pretending they were all plaster saints.  And we can recognize the fundamental justice and necessity of America's participation without defending every action our government or our allies took in pursuit of our war aims.  The internment of Japanese-Americans suring the war was just plain wrong, as Congress officially recognized in 1967.  But the itnernment did not define American wartime ideals, it contradicted them - as I'm sure the many Japanese-American soldiers who fought and died for the US in that war recognized.

I'm afraid that Kleinberg's column may unintentionally contribute to the very disregard for the ideals and lessons of the war about which he complains.  All "revisionisms" are not equal.  The Holocaust deniers are dishonest extremists with an anti-democracy agenda.  But there are practical and moral questions raised by the war that cannot be ignored by policymakers, and connot be understood by history that merely celebrates the past.

The US Strategic Bombing Survey immediately after the war, for instance, found that the bombing of German cities did not suppress armaments production nearly as much as hoped, and that the attacks seemed to have stiffened civilian resolve rather than weakened it.  What role did Japanese offers of surrender, fear of the Russians, or racial prejudice play in the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki?  Should the Allies have bombed Auschwitz?  How should revelations of Soviet or Anglo-American war crimes affect our attitude toward war crimes in the Balkans or Rwanda today?

These are all tough questions, and all issues that can be misused by ideologues.  But, if we take World War II and its lessons seriously, they are also unavoidable.  I would hate to see serious thought about the war become confined to specialists while the public discussion is left to cynicism and sensationalism on the one hand and thoughtless celebration on the other.

(Original letter dated 02/22/95)

Jeffrey Record and "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism"

I've quoted before from the paper:

Bounding the Global War on Terrorism (Dec 2003) by Jeffrey Record of the Strategic Studies Institute and professor in the Air Force's Air War College.  The focus of Record's paper is assessing Bush's "global war on terrorism" (GWOT): its definition, its successes and failures, its prospects.

Bush and his team are defining virtually their entire foreign policy in terms of the GWOT.  The medals soldiers in Iraq received are formally for their service in the GWOT.  In his May 24 speech devoted to the Iraq War, Bush sought to define Iraq as part of the GWOT, as he has since the buildup to war began. At the beginning of his speech, Bush sought to dramatically link the Iraq War with The Terrorists:

We've also seen images of a young American facing decapitation. This vile display shows a contempt for all the rules of warfare, and all the bounds of civilized behavior. It reveals a fanaticism that was not caused by any action of ours, and would not be appeased by any concession. We suspect that the man with the knife was an al Qaeda associate named Zarqawi. He and other terrorists know that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. And we must understand that, as well. The return of tyranny to Iraq would be an unprecedented terrorist victory, and a cause for killers to rejoice. It would also embolden the terrorists, leading to more bombings, more beheadings, and more murders of the innocent around the world.

Record discusses the risk that the current definitions used in the GWOT will:

...give states facing violent internal challenges, even challenges based on legitimate grievances (e.g., Kurdish and Shiite uprisings against Saddam Hussein), the benefit of the moral doubt, and in so doing invite such states to label their internal challenges "terrorism" and to employ whatever means they deem necessary, including the terrorism of counterterrorist operations of the kind practiced by the French in Algeria and the Russian in Chechnya.

And we see that already in the Iraq War.  The opposition, employing the tactics of irregular warfare, become The Terrorists in official rhetoric, lumping any kind of militant opposition - or anyone who happens to get swept up and stuck into the gulag - together with al-Qaeda as The Terrorists, the evil ones, the enemy of America, the killers of innocents.

Record discusses the problems of defining terrorism at some length in the first part of his paper.  That discusses takes fuller form when he looks at the war aims which the Bush Administration has articulated for the GWOT.  He identifies six of them.

(1) Destroy al-Qaeda.  Record sees the war against al-Qaeda and similar Muslim extremist groups targeting the United States for attack as a necessary undertaking for the obvious reason that they are systematically targeting Americans for killing, all too often successfully.  And while some substantial progress has been made since the 2001 attacks, the Iraq War has so far been a setback in pursuing that goal:

There have been considerable successes against al-Qaeda since 9/11 - the destruction of its base in Afghanistan, the killing and capture of key operatives, the disruption of planned attacks, all of which may account for the absence of another mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.  But al-Qaeda is also a fanatically determined foe with demonstrated recuperative powers, and its declared goals command significant and, some believe, growing political traction in the Muslim world.  Moreoever, the establishment of a large U.S. military presence in Iraq offers a new and proximate target set for al-Qaeda and other jihadist bombers, and the failure of that pressence to stabilize Iraq eases the ability of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-inspired organizations to infiltrate the country and conduct their operations without detection.

Record believes that this goal is realistic, so long as al-Qaeda is understood as not merely a single organization or group, but a movement as well.  And that even the most fanatical movement can and do evolve over time.  Al-Qaeda and the broader jihadist movement is not a static threat.  Despite the great tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, for instance, the Sunni jihadist group al-Qaeda at least explored the idea of cooperation with the Shiite terrorist group Hizbollah in the 1990s.

(2) Destroy or defeat other terrorist organizations of global reach, including the nexus of their regional and national analogs.  Record believes that this goal involves considerable overreach.  "It is unattainable because of the sheer number and variety of terrorist organizations.  It is strategically unwise because it creastes unnecessary enemies at a time when the United States has more than enough to go around."  Because not all terrorist groups threaten the US.  That doesn't mean that America has to ignore terrorism directed at others or decline cooperation.  Not at all.  But it is a question of priorities and pragmatism:

Should the United States, in addition to fighting al-Qaeda, gratuitously pick fights with the Basque Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (E.T.A. [Fatherland and Liberty]), the Sri Lanka Tamil Tigers, the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Sendero Luminoso, Hamas, and Hizbollah?  Do we want to provoke national- and regional-level terrorist organizations that have stayed out of America's way into targeting the U.S. interests and even the American homeland? 

Since Record prepared this paper, Bush's increasing endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's aggressive policies in the occupied territories has made the question very current, especially as regards Hamas and Hizbollah.

(3) Deligitimize and ultimately eradicate the phenomenon of terrorism.  Record expresses particular concern about this goal.  It's essentially open-ended and, in practice, impossible.  Terrorism is a technique, irregular warfare.  Pro-Allied partisans in the Second World War used some terrorist techniques, including bombing of targets like bridges and railroads, ambusing enemy soldiers and assassinating collaborationist officials.  Terrorism is classically the weapon of the weak against the strong.  "How do you defeat a technique, as opposed to a flesh-and-blood enemy?, he asks. "You can kill terrorists, infiltrate their organizations, shut down their sources of cash, wipe out their training bases, and attack their states sponsors, but how to you attack a method?"

(4) Transform Iraq into a prosperous, stable democracy.  Even since December (when the paper was published), there have been many new developments that make thisgoal a morechallenging one and considerably raise the likely costs of doing so to the United States.  Not least of them the revelation of the systematic practice of torture on Iraqi prisoners.

Record includes this element because it is a key concept in the Bush Administration's view of the GWOT that establishing democracies in the Arab world will reduce the threat of terrorism.  And that Iraq in particular should become a model democracy which would have a powerful domino effect on pushing other Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes toward democratic reforms.  But with reference to Iraq, he strongly cautions against facile assumptions based on historical analogies to the post-Second World War experiences of Germany and Japan:

Though the administration has repeatedly cited U.S. success in post-World War II Germany and Japan as evidence that the United States can do for Iraq what it did for those two former Axis Powers, the differences between 1945 and 2003 trample the similarites.  First of all the United States entered postwar Japan and its occupation zone in Germany with overwhelming force, which preculded the eruption of local resistance.  Second, both occupations were almost universally regarded as legitimate; Germany and Japan had plunged the world into war, and the victors of that war had the right and obligation to defeat and occupty them.  Germany's and Japan's neighbors, victims of their aggression, wanted the United States and its allies in control.  In the case of Japan, the Emperor himself legitimized Japan's unconditional surrender when he directly addressed the Japanese people over the radio, calling upon them to acdept the end of the war, and he legitimized General Douglas MacArthur's authority by repeated public appearances with him. ... In contrast, most of the world, including key friends and allies, opposed the U.S. war on Iraq, and it is fair to say that the U.S. occupation of iraq fails the test of legitimacy in the eyes of an over whelming number of Arabs.

He might also have referred to the grim fact that after years of brutal war, the supply of men of prime military age had been greatly reduced.

(5) Transform the Middle East into a regiion of participatory self-government and economic opportunity.  This is a far bigger and costlier task, especially if it is to be achievedby American-led warsof liberation in additional countries in the region, than the job of turning Iraq into a stable democracy, a goal to which the Bush Administration has so far not been willing to commit the necessary troop resources to establish basic stability.  Other than the hope, so far not bolstered by developments in reality, that a model democracy can be established in Iraq and provide an overwhelmingly persuasive goal for other countries in the area, there doesn't seem to be much of a plan to achieve this grand-sounding goal.

And he asks the very relevant question, how reasonable is the belief that democracy would produce governments more friendly to the US, or less willing to promote anti-American terrorism than the Saudi Arabias and Pakistans of today's world?   "Indeed," he writes, "fear of an Islamist electorate accounts in no small measure for the persistence of autocracy in Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.  Are U.S. strategic interests in the Muslim world really better served by hostile democracies than by friendly autocracies?"

Now, any admirer of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson would love to believe that democracy everywhere, as fast as it could come, would be the best thing that could happen.  But in reference to the phenomenon of terrorism, life is not quite so simple.  Referring to domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Record concludes: 

It is, in any event, not at all self-evident that anti-Western Islamist terrorism would cease or even significantly diminish with the emergence of friendly democracies and economic opportunity in the Middle East. ... Political extremism has a general though by no means exclusive assocaition with the absence of democracy and economic opportunity, but with respect to individual terrorists and terrorist groups, there is no demonstrable cause and effect relationship.  Left-wing terrorism in democratic Europe and the United States during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s attracted well-educated children of privilege; Osama bin Laden was born to great wealth; his chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a surgeon by profession; and most of the 9/11 attackers were educated and skilled.

(6) Halt, by force if necessary, the continued proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery to hostile and potentially hostile states and other entities.  The most important and deadly form of WMD, of course, is nuclear weapons.  Record makes the important point that for states, a policy of deterrance has worked in practice to restrain states of various kinds from the use of nuclear weapons, that can't necessarily be extended to the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Here is one way in which the enormous risks of the Bush Doctrine of preventive war becomes evident, assuming that it is a general approach and not just an elaborate construct to justify the invasion of Iraq.  If it is perceived as a general policy, it creates an incentive for potential targets of US attack like North Korea or Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

All of this suggests that the value of threatened or actual preventive military action may be limited to target states, like Iraq, that are incapable of either offereing effective military resistance or placing at risk assets highly valued by the United States and its allies.  States capable of doing so may indeed be deterring the United States rather than being deterred. ... In any event, the very facts of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and its unexpectedly burdensome aftermath severely constrain U.S. military resources for a second preentive war any time soon.

In practice, this goal is achievable.  But it will require an effective international anti-proliferation regime more effective than that in place.  And that would require a major change in the Bush Administration's approach to international treaties limiting nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their enforcement.  It also raises serious questions about the current reliance on Pakistan as an ally in the GWOT, given their dubious distinction of being the worst nuclear proliferator of recent years.

Record addresses the question of the sustainability of the GWOT as currently defined and practiced, which includes the Iraq War in the administration's view.  Record isn't quite this dramatic in his statement of the problem, but it's not sustainable under current conditions.  With a balooning deficit, an overstretched military, an unwillingness to discomfort affluent Republican voters with the prospects of a draft, a stubborn insistence on ever-increasing tax relief for the wealthiest, and a serious credibility gap and loss of public confidence in the Iraq War, the GWOT simply not sustainable without a change in those conditions.

Record makes an important point about the willingness of the public to accept casualties in war, one which I think is accurate even though it defies the conventional wisdom and the comfortable story lines to which our lazy national press have accomodated themselves.  Americans are willing to accept casualties in conflicts which they believe are necessary and in the real interests of the country

Elite civilian and miltary opinion has ... tended to overestimate public sensitivity to incurring casualties; most Americans are willing to tolerate substantial casualties if they believe in the cause for which they are incurred and see visible policy progress.  The problem, at least before 9/11, was casualty phobia mong the political and military elites, which produced a series of timid U.S. military internventions in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, only one of which committed U.S. ground forces to possible combat.  But the interventions of the 1990s were wars of choice; most Americans continue to regard the war against Iraq as a war of necessity, and therefore worth much greater risk in blood and treasure.

"There is certainly no evidence of intolerance of U.S. casualties at the rates that have been incurred so far," he says.  But he soon goes on to report signs of growing dissent over the Iraq War that were evident in public opinion polls even by late summer 2003 which already provided evidence of significant public "intolerance" for the Iraq War and its associated casualties, an intolerance which has grown dramatically since December.

Record also suggests six adjustments in our current approach to the GWOT to "bound" it, i.e., to give it a more realistic, achievable definition:

(1) Deconflate the threat.  See below for more detail

(2)  Substitute credibile deterrence for preventive war as the primary policy for dealing with rogue states seeking to acquire WMD.

(3) Refocus the GWOT first and foremost on al-Qaeda, its allies, and homeland security.

(4) Seek rogue-state regime change via measures short of war.  Record doesn't dwell on this concept at length.  The US record on "regime change" via covert action is not unambiguously inspiring.  Both Democratic and Republican administrations have decided that annoying regimes with uncomfortable policies required regime change "via measures short of war" in Iran, Guatemala, Chile and other places.  The results have at times resulted in considerable "blowback" onto the US, and unnecessary hardships on the populations who found themselves subject to the changed regimes.

(5) Be prepared to settle for stability rather than democracy in Iraq, and international rather than U.S. responsibility for Iraq.  Events since December have largely overtaken this recommendation.  In any case, I suspects that Bush and most officials of his government intended to install some compliant regime and christen it "democracy." (Pun intended on "christen.")  And despite considerable UN assistance on trying to arrange the June 30 transition, Iraq is still a case of "you broke it, you own it" for the US.

(6) Reassess U.S. force levels, especially ground force levels.

The issue of "threat conflation" is one in which the definition of the threat becomes critically important.  At least, for the purposes of this paper, Record used the Bush Administration's paradigm of regarding the Iraq War as one episode in the GWOT.  In fact, there is considerable evidence now in the record that make it highly doubtful that the administration's key decision-makers actually believed the claims about WMDs and links to al-Qaeda that justified selling the Iraq War as part of the GWOT.

Still, Record provides useful insights into how the Iraq War relates to the struggle against anti-American terrorism.  Viewed as an aspect of the GWOT, the priority the administration gave to invading Iraq represents a serious conflation of the threats of "rogue states" and transnational terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.  States like Iran and North Korea can be deterred from military aggression in a way that a religiously-motivated group of zealots like al-Qaeda cannot be. The latter really is close to what Bush described in the May 25 quotation above as "a fanaticism that was not caused by any action of ours, and would not be appeased by any concession." (Even there, some caution is in order; there is evidence that al-Qaeda made mutually-beneficial deals with the regimes of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, though neither of those regimes represent al-Qaeda's Islamic ideal - far from it.)

The practical consequences of threat conflation Record describes in stark terms, arguing here that in reality the Iraq War was not a part of the GWOT but a hindrance to it:

Strategically, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM was not part of the GWOT; rather, it was a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against al-Qaeda.  Indeed, it will be much more than a distraction if the United States fails to establish order and competent governance in post-Saddam Iraq.  Terrorism expert Jessica Stern in August 2003 warned that the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was "the latest evidence that America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one."  How ironic it would be that a war initiated int he name of the GWOT ended up creating "precisely the situation the administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists; a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizen's rudimentary needs."  Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director of counterterrorism operations and analysis, Vincent Cannistraro, agrees:  "There was no substantive intelligence information linking Sadda to international terrorism before the war.  Now we've created the conditions that have made Iraq the place to come to attack Americans."

Record's analysis gives some good ideas about the way the national efforts of the US need to be refocused in approaching the fight against terrorism.  Although he employs the term GWOT in the paper, he stresses that dealing with the jihadist threat is much less of a war in the normal sense of the term than it is an international law-enforcement effort than may involved military elements:

Indeed, the key to their defeat lies in the realm of intelligence and police work, with military forces playing an important but nonetheless supporting role.  Beyond the military destruction of al-Qaeda's training and planning base in Afghanistan, good intelligence - and luck - has formed the basis of virtually every other U.S. success against al-Qaeda.  Intelligence-based arrests and assassinations, not divisions destroyed or ships sunk, are thecutting edge of successful counterterrorism.

And, as he notes a few paragraphs later, even the initial successes in Afghanistan have been severely compromised by the lack of meaningful follow-up actions.

Although I have reservations about some of his suggestions, as noted above in relation to regime change, Record's approach to the GWOT is the kind I hope we see returning to official government policy soon.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Rosanne Cash on the Iraq War

Rosanne Cash is a New Yorker these days.  But she certainly has her share of Nashville roots, and was an important innovator in country music herself.  Her style of music has gone considerably beyond the country idiom.  But she can still crank out a mean version of her father's hit "Flat Top Box," or her own signature "Seven Year Ache."

At her excellent Web site, she occasionally posts thought on various topics, musical and otherwise.  Which is great, not least because she's a very talented prose writer, both essays and fiction.  Her Web post for May 17 includes the following:

Those of you who know my activism and deep political interests are probably wondering why I have not said anything about the war in a very long time.  I don't know what to say.  I am in shock.  I don't need to reiterate my position and why I was against this war from the beginning, and I don't need to give you a laundry list of the administration's catastrophic missteps.  I just want to encourage you to register, if you are not, and VOTE.  And get everyone you know registered as well.  In the Fall of the election year of 1988, I was hugely pregnant, and I stuffed my handbag with voter registration forms, and took them everywhere I went, and was not at all shy about soliciting registrants.  I could hear some people whisper, 'Isn't that Rosanne Cash, pregnant, registering voters?'  I was proud of that.  I plan on doing it again this year.  I cannot tell you how important I think it is to vote.  I believe in democracy like some people believe in a religion, and I believe that no matter how many blows democracy takes, no matter how secretive or underming a particular administration may be, that no single person, no single Cabinet, is more powerful than democracy.  I believe the democratic process will always, eventually, win out, but in order for that to happen, more than half the people in the country need to VOTE!  So please, do your part.  You can't complain about what's going on if you don't vote, and you know how much we all like to complain.

Just before he passed away last year, Rosanne said of her father Johnny that he was as opposed to the Iraq War as anyone else she knew.  Al Gore, it seems, is not the only person who catches some of the Andy Jackson spirit in Tennessee.

When I saw her perform last year, she added some closing lines to one of her songs:

I don't believe in violence
I don't believe in terrorism
I don't believe in preemption
I don't believe in war

Chuckie Watch 56: Chuckie almost gits an award

Ole Chuckie was up for the Home Depost Humanitarian Award at the Academy of Country Music awards program on Wednesday.  Chuckie almost got hisself that award.  But that Martina McBride dame done beat him out of it.

Now, let's not be sarcastic about ole Chuckie's charties.  No, the Fund for Disabled Klansman is not one of his charity projects.  You can read about Chuckie's charities, and see a benign photo of Chuckie himself, ats the CMT Web site.

And you can see in Chuckie's regular Soapbox rants that heart of gold underneath the gruff exterior.  I mean, those three recent columns defending torture were obvious overflowing with humanitarian spirit!  And his rants against immigrants and welfare mothers and traitorous Senators are just bubbling over with compassion and concern for the community.

I do notice among his "Christian Charities" the 10 Commandments Project of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.  (Martina McBride's charities prominently include domestic violence awareness; she is currently the national spokesperson for the Domestic Violence Hotline.)

Also, while I was checking out the latest Chuckie news, I found that there is a Chuckie brand jam out there somewhere.  At least I guess that's what this item means, which says that Chuckie "put his name on" some jam.  I assume they didn't mean that he was writing his name in jam on the table.

And here's a scandalous little item.  Back in 1976, ole Chuckie supported Jimmy Carter for President!  See this Charlie Daniels profile from

Daniels aligns himself with presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. "I didn’t think he had a chance. When I was asked about doing something for him, he was ‘Jimmy Who?’ But he called me one night. I read some clips about him, and I felt good about him. We’d come out of a catastrophic political time...Carter personified honesty and goodness." When "Jimmy Who?" becomes President Carter, the CDB are among performers at his inauguration.

Oh, Chuckie, Chuckie, Chuckie.  How can we believe in your true Patriotic Correctness ever again if you could be so, so ... liberal? Chuckie, how could you do this to your loyal fans?

But somehow, by 1990 Chuckie had finally crossed over to the Oxycontin Side:

Simple Man is issued and rises to #2 on the country charts. The album is ignited by the title single, in which a simple man ("with simple attitudes," Daniels explains) calls for the lynching of drug-dealers and slow deaths by way of gators and snakes for murders, child abusers and rapists. The song gets Daniels onto numerous talk show, where he’s asked to explain himself. He wrote the song, he says, "out of frustration." He’s read about a scandalous case in which a child was killed by her stepfather. "I know how I feel about it; I know what I’d like to do. Some of it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek; it’s a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t really want to take people out and leave them in the swamps... But violent crimes--that’s what that song’s about."

Technically speaking, the song's more a revenge fantasy than one about violent crimes.  Hey, I bet Chuckie's working on the "Abu Goo Raib Blues" right now!

Chuckie's latest soapbox offering is about how ole Chuckie's Disappointed 'cause the NASCAR races are being taken over by the "the Perrier and lime for lunch bunch."

Go figure.  What is the world coming to?

Arrogance and its progeny

This piece by Sidney Blumenthal is a healthy reminder of what can result from the unbelievable arrogance that intoxicated the "neoconservative" architects of the Iraq War: The Bush orthodoxy is in shreds Guardian (UK) 05/27/04.

At a conservative thinktank in downtown Washington, and across the Potomac at the Pentagon, FBI agents have begun paying quiet calls on prominent neoconservatives, who are being interviewed in an investigation of potential espionage, according to intelligence sources. Who gave Ahmed Chalabi classified information about the plans of the US government and military?

The Iraqi neocon favourite, tipped to lead his liberated country post-invasion, has been identified by the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency as an Iranian double-agent, passing secrets to that citadel of the "axis of evil" for decades. All the while the neocons cosseted, promoted and arranged for more than $30m in Pentagon payments to the George Washington manque of Iraq. In return, he fed them a steady diet of disinformation and in the run-up to the war sent various exiles to nine nations' intelligence agencies to spread falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction. If the administration had wanted other material to provide a rationale for invasion, no doubt that would have been fabricated. Either Chalabi perpetrated the greatest con since the Trojan horse, or he was the agent of influence for the most successful intelligence operation conducted by Iran, or both. ...

Last week, Powell declared "it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that I'm disappointed, and I regret it". But who had "deliberately" misled him? He did not say. Now the FBI is investigating espionage, fraud and, by implication, treason.

Buried in their self-righteousness, they joined with Ahmed Chalabi, a conman without a conscience, to start a war that has been a disaster for America on the basis of lies.  Justice hasn't caught up with many of them yet.  But the police sirens are beginning to be audible in the distance.

And it's a whole lot more serious than oral sex with an intern.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The President Speaks

No, not Dear Leader Bush.  He spoke on Monday: we gone git them terraists, stay the course, bring democracy to the Iraqis no matter how many of them we have to kill to do it, etc.

No, I mean the elected President Gore.  The text of his May 26 speech to the MoveOnPAC is posted online.  Excerpts follow, as the elected President once again channels Andrew Jackson.

George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.

He promised to "restore honor and integrity to the White House." Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.

Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind." He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq. And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins. ...

What happened at the prison, it is now clear, was not the result of random acts by "a few bad apples," it was the natural consequence of the Bush Administration policy that has dismantled those wise constraints and has made war on America's checks and balances.

The abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from the abuse of the truth that characterized the Administration's march to war and the abuse of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American people in the aftermath of September 11th.

There was then, there is now and there would have been regardless of what Bush did, a threat of terrorism that we would have to deal with. But instead of making it better, he has made it infinitely worse. We are less safe because of his policies. He has created more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation -- because of his attitude of contempt for any person, institution or nation who disagrees with him. ...

Luckily, there was a high level of competence on the part of our soldiers even though they were denied the tools and the numbers they needed for their mission. What a disgrace that their families have to hold bake sales to buy discarded Kevlar vests to stuff into the floorboards of the Humvees! Bake sales for body armor.

And the worst still lies ahead. General Joseph Hoar, the former head of the Marine Corps, said "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss."

When a senior, respected military leader like Joe Hoar uses the word "abyss", then the rest of us damn well better listen. Here is what he means: more American soldiers dying, Iraq slipping into worse chaos and violence, no end in sight, with our influence and moral authority seriously damaged.

Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, who headed Central Command before becoming President Bush's personal emissary to the Middle East, said recently that our nation's current course is "headed over Niagara Falls."

The Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Army Major General Charles H. Swannack, Jr., asked by the Washington Post whether he believes the United States is losing the war in Iraq, replied, "I think strategically, we are." Army Colonel Paul Hughes, who directed strategic planning for the US occupation authority in Baghdad, compared what he sees in Iraq to the Vietnam War, in which he lost his brother: "I promised myself when I came on active duty that I would do everything in my power to prevent that ... from happening again. " Noting that Vietnam featured a pattern of winning battles while losing the war, Hughes added "unless we ensure that we have coherence in our policy, we will lose strategically." ...

Private Lynndie England did not make the decision that the United States would not observe the Geneva Convention. Specialist Charles Graner was not the one who approved a policy of establishing an American Gulag of dark rooms with naked prisoners to be "stressed" and even - we must use the word - tortured - to force them to say things that legal procedures might not induce them to say.

These policies were designed and insisted upon by the Bush White House. Indeed, the President's own legal counsel advised him specifically on the subject. His secretary of defense and his assistants pushed these cruel departures from historic American standards over the objections of the uniformed military, just as the Judge Advocates General within the Defense Department were so upset and opposed that they took the unprecedented step of seeking help from a private lawyer in this city who specializes in human rights and said to him, "There is a calculated effort to create an atmosphere of legal ambiguity" where the mistreatment of prisoners is concerned." ...

One of the Generals in charge of this war policy went on a speaking tour in his spare time to declare before evangelical groups that the US is in a holy war as "Christian Nation battling Satan." This same General Boykin was the person who ordered the officer who was in charge of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay to extend his methods to Iraq detainees, prisoners. ... The testimony from the prisoners is that they were forced to curse their religion Bush used the word "crusade" early on in the war against Iraq, and then commentators pointed out that it was singularly inappropriate because of the history and sensitivity of the Muslim world and then a few weeks later he used it again.

"We are now being viewed as the modern Crusaders, as the modern colonial power in this part of the world," Zinni said.

What a terrible irony that our country, which was founded by refugees seeking religious freedom - coming to America to escape domineering leaders who tried to get them to renounce their religion - would now be responsible for this kind of abuse..

Ameen Saeed al-Sheikh told the Washington Post that he was tortured and ordered to denounce Islam and after his leg was broken one of his torturers started hitting it while ordering him to curse Islam and then, " they ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive." Others reported that they were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol.

In my religious tradition, I have been taught that "ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." ...

The president episodically poses as a healer and "uniter". If he president really has any desire to play that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush Limbaugh - perhaps his strongest political supporter - who said that the torture in Abu Ghraib was a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were "good old American pornography," and that the actions portrayed were simply those of "people having a good time and needing to blow off steam."

It makes me proud all over again that we elected Al Gore President.  Bush's misdeeds haven't brought General Jackson bodily out of his grave yet.  But it's nice to see his spirit carrying on the battle against the corrupt plutocrats of the Bush dynasty.