Tuesday, November 30, 2004

"Defeating the Jihadists"

The Century Foundation (TCF) has produced a new report called Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action (2004).  Among it nine authors are terrorism experts Richard Clarke and Steven Simon.  Presented as a joint product, it does show some signs of committee-type compromises in some of the wording.  But it is a good presentation of a lot of important current material on the jihadist threat.  (It was advertised through the Blogads on several blogs I follow, which is how I first heard of it.)

The opening lines of the chapter "The Nature of the Threat" talk about the how central of the war of the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets was in the development of the present-day jihadist movement:

The Global War on Terrorism [GWOT], as the Bush administration has labeled it, is actually a struggle by governments around the world to deal with a revivified radical and violent minority Islamist movement that has taken on greater international dimensions in the twenty-first century than it has previously in history. Throughout the twentieth century, radical groups arose in various Muslim nations seeking to use Islam as a justification for their use of violence against existing governments. These groups failed and seldom had a significant effect in more than one country at a time.

The Afghan War against the Soviets (1980–1988) served as a magnet for disenchanted elements from throughout the Islamic world. After that war, an informal network developed linking these violent radicals in over twenty nations. Subsequent struggles in Bosnia and Chechnya, in which Muslims fought non-Muslims, strengthened the network. By sharing their knowledge and experience, using the greatly expanded international travel and communications systems, these groups strengthened one another. They also shared funding, training, logistics, propaganda, and ideology. This  sharing and the use of the new technologies transformed these groups into a global network dedicated to fighting "holywar" against those who do not share their views. Although the meaning of jihad in Islam is broader than fighting war, these radicals proclaim them-selves as jihadists.

Suggesting that we think of the jihadist movement as a series of concentric circles, the report gives a good brief sketch of the way in which Bin Laden structured Al Qaeda to act not only as a force on its own, but as a catalyst to other organizations and for the larger jihadist movement.  As they explain:

Following 9/11 and the disruption of al Qaeda, affiliated jihadist groups stepped up their attacks. In the three years following 9/11, these groups successfully carried out twice as many major attacks as they and al Qaeda had in the three years prior to 9/11. Whether this wave of terrorism was part of a preplanned al Qaeda response to a U.S. invasion of fghanistan or was improvised by al Qaeda or the network, the result was a demonstration that with or without al Qaeda as a terrorist organization, the global jihadist network is still a threat. The connections among the various national groups already existed, thanks to al Qaeda, and are now strengthening.

Their view of the jihadist movement in terms of concentric circles is a valuable way of conceptualizing the fact there is a wide range of sympathy and support for the jihadists within Islam, ranging from the minimal grounds of the common religion, to the many who sympathize in some degree with the "Islamist" viewpoint, to a hardcore of supporters willing to take specific actions to help the jihadist groups, to a tiny core of actual leaders and group members.  It's ridiculous to claim, as some extremists Christians and secular rightwingers do, that the religion of Islam itself is "the problem."  Likewise, it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that the jihadist ideology is a religious outlook, not just a political program disguising itself as religion, and therefore some of their ideas and goals resonate with Muslims who have little or no sympathy fortheir terrorist acts.

The TCF report gives the first definition I've ever seen on the Bush administration's campaign claim that 2/3 of Al Qaeda's management had been captured.  It says that the claim is based on "the current status of the individuals who were believed to be members of al Qaeda’s consultative council, or Shura, in the summer of 2001."  But it goes on to point out that the figure is essentially meaningless, because Al Qaeda's two top leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, remain at at large and because Al Qaeda replaces the managers who are killed or captured.  Al Qaeda has long had at its disposal more qualified recruits for its "management" positions than it actually made into formal parts of the organization, so it has a signficant pool of willing and qualified recruits.

Before a full-blown propaganda campaign for war against Iran gets started, a campaign already in its early stages in the pronouncements of some neoconservatives like Michael Ledeen, it's worth noticing reliable sources who are reporting on the connections of Iran to international terrorism.  This report notes that after many leaders and cadre of Al Qaeda escapted the US intervention in Afgahnistan in late 2001, the were helped by some in Pakistan and also Iran:

Other al Qaeda leaders fled into Iran, elements of whose government had regularly supported and facilitated the travel of al Qaeda personnel throughout the late 1990s. The Tehran government claims that the al Qaeda personnel who entered the country have either been handed over to authorities in their home countries or are under "house arrest" in Iran. There is, however, some evidence that while in Iran, al Qaeda leaders sanctioned or directed terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia.

There is a good section summarizing the ideological/religious vision of the jihadist groups.  This report doesn't dwell on the effect of the Iraq War on the jihadists, though it does note:

Although the U.S. invasion of Iraq was generally opposed in the Islamic world, many understood the heinous nature of the Saddam regime and welcomed its end. The ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq, how-ever, has widely been seen throughout the Islamic world as an unjustified military occupation akin to the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The terrorist movements (both indigenous and foreign) involved in resisting the U.S. military presence have links to the international jihadist movement. Moreover, the movement successfully uses the U.S. occupation as a propaganda tool to recruit adherents and funds.

The limits of "public diplomacy"

Public diplomacy is the currently fasionable phrase for public information campaigns, which can include really substantial operations like the Voice of America or more simple public-relations/PR/propaganda campaigns.  The TCR report observes:

Although there is certainly truth to the notion that U.S. outreach in the region has been hindered by an inability to comprehend the nuances of Arab identity, linguistics, history, and iconography, those concerns are less important than the much stronger connection between anti-American attitudes and American foreign policy. Simply put, the effects of U.S. military, political, and economic engagement in the Middle East are too dramatic to be easily recast by rhetorical campaigns. Public diplomacy has a role to play in shaping America’s image abroad, but in the immediate context of Arab public opinion, its impact will remain at the margins.

They discuss some of the issues on which public diplomacy needs to focus.  Although the report cautions that an Israeli-Palestinian settlement would not in itself stop the jihadists'campaigns, they also make it clear what a central issue it is:

Of course, on no issue is the divide [between the US and the Muslim Middle East] greater than with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not surprisingly, the Pew Center recently found that 96 percent of Palestinians, 94 percent of Moroccans, 77 per-cent of Kuwaitis, 99 percent of Jordanians, and 90 percent of Lebanese believe that U.S. policies in the Middle East "favor Israel too much." Given the importance of this issue in the Arab world, there is little doubt that this fuels much of the animosity felt by Arabs toward the United States. Like all states in the international system, the United States must pursue policies based on self-interest, the special relationship with Israel included. However, realism also dictates that the United States internalize the cost of lost popular support in the region. Operating under the assumption that this can be offset or wished away through spin or smart campaigning is simply wishful thinking.

And since Turkey is the prime example of a predominantly Muslim country with democratic government and good protection of individual rights, they emphasize that the increasing economic prosperity that would come from Turkey joining the European Union would be a good thing for the West in its relations to Islamic countries.  I think that's true, though I'm not so sure about the report's dire prediction that without EU membership, Turkey is in serious danger that "it can devolve ino the kind of chaos that we have witnessed in Pakistan and Algeria."

Looking at particular countries

For me, the most informative section was the chapter providing a "country-by-country" approach discussing the current situation of five Islamic countries.  In a difficult dynamic for the US, the authors argue that in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the US is so unpopular thatthe governments encourage anti-American sentiment as a means of gaining popular support.  But in an oddly fatalistic line of argument, they argue that in Saudi Arabia in particular, "Anti-Americanism ... serves as a pretext for opposing forces of change within Saudi Arabia."  But then they argue that changes in American policy "will have little significant impact on the scope and quality of anti-Americanism" in that country.  This doesn't really make sense to me.An aggressive US policy of energy diversification, a real Israeli-Palestinia settlement and a winding-down of war in Iraq would radically change the context.

The authors point out the problem in the ideological assumption that is so key to the "neoconservative" worldview - as window dressing, at a minimum - that democratization in Muslim countries will result in a more pro-American and pro-Isreali orientation:

The implications of reform in Egypt are hard to assess. A look at the effects of liberalization in the past suggests that reforms affecting wages, food prices, and rents can spur instability. In 1977, demonstrators in Cairo protested Sadat’s reforms, which had sent the price of food staples soaring. Yet, reforms in the political realm are more likely to find favor. Democracy continues to be a broadly popular concept in Egyptian society and progress toward it—sponsored from within and not by outside actors—will be met with approval. Unlike Saudi Arabia, where the ulema stand to lose from the process of democratization, in Egypt no major sector of society—apart from the regime—is threatened by democratization. In fact, Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, whose ultimate objectives remain deliberately cloaked in ambiguity, would make serious gains if their informal support were translated into formal political power. ...

[Despite a "yearning" among the Egyptian population for reform in the post-Hosni Mubarak era, expected to begin soon], it is unclear whether genuine political reform, if it were to happen, would result in the kind of democracy that Egyptian liberals—and Washington—wish for. Hopelessness, financial hardship, and an increasingly Islamist mind-set have become as pervasive in Egypt as has longing for meaningful political expression. Those factors may be as much of a barrier to democratization as regime intransigence.

As the buildup of the case for war against Iran continues, it's worth thinking about the possibility, which the TCF seems to see as a realistic one, that the current regime in Iran could become more of a cooperative one for the US:

[R]egional dynamics arising from American interventions in the Middle East factor in as a key determinant of Iran’s stability. With American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran will be forced to decide the nature of its relationship with the United States. Moreover, the possibility of the Khatami regime becoming an ally of the United States will also contribute to the importance of Iran determining its position vis-à-vis both the United States and a new Iraq. In this context, the traditional anti-Americanism of conservatives within the regime is an important factor. It is critical to distinguish between the regime and the population of Iran. Although conservatives who inveigh against the "Great Satan" dominate the regime, the population largely admires the United States. Iran stands apart in this respect in the region as one of the few states with a pro-American population in opposition to the anti-American sentiment of the government. [my emphasis]

Embracing the option of regime change and supporting armed opposition groups in Iran will quickly squander this sentiment, however strong or weak it may be at present.  The TCF report doesn't address whether a more democratic regime in Iran will be more open to international agreements on nuclear weapons development; given the reported popularity of the nuclear program among Iranians, it's conceivable that a more democratic regime would be more determined to develop a nuclear weapons capability than the current regime.

The section of Pakistan warns that nuclear-armed "Pakistan is on the precipice of political instability."  And Islamist parties are gaining support because President Musharraf's "strategy is to rely on religious parties for political support and marginalize mainstream secular parties, while asserting that Pakistan remains a democracy."

Al Qaeda and the ideology of jihad also continue to affect Pakistan’s stability. Public opinion surveys show that Osama bin Laden is an enormously popular figure in Pakistan. His popularity is inversely proportional to that of the United States, which functions as an all-purpose symbol of protest in a relatively discontented society. Bin Laden’s now fabled role in the war against the Soviets during the 1980s forms the nar-rative base of his popularity. American pursuit of bin Laden is emblematic, for many Pakistanis, of a larger war they believe the United States is waging against Muslims. His successful attacks against the United States in 2001 consolidated his image as a self-denying hero. [my emphasis]

The current close US alliance to Pakistan, which is the world's worst nuclear proliferator at this point, is a very risky and problematic one, necessary as it may be in the short run.

And the TCF report also has some things to say about Iraq, which will not be welcome for Iraq War fans:

Little has been written on the impact the Iraq war has had on the terrorist threat facing the United States. It is a bitter irony that Iraq has turned into the very thing we went to war to prevent: a terrorist sanctuary with an al Qaeda and jihadist presence that far exceeds what was there during Saddam Hussein’s reign. ...

Some have argued that Iraq has expanded our security perimeter; that it is better to fight the terrorists in Iraq than here in United States. It would be a fabulous argument, if only it were true. It mistakenly assumes that the terrorists killing U.S. soldiers and civilians in Iraq are the same ones who would be trying to attack the United States. ...

[The Iraq War] has had little effect on the behavior of the real state sponsors of terrorism. In the aftermath of Saddam’s overthrow, some in Washington argued that Iraq would send an unmistakable message to Iran and Syria: Change your behavior, or you’re next. In fact, the opposite has happened. Not only has Iran continued with its nuclear program, but ourinvasion of Iraq has done little to deter Syria and Iran from continuing to sponsor anti-Israeli terrorism. ... Our mistakes post-Saddam have also afforded Damascus and Tehran the opportunity to “bloody our nose in Iraq,” quietly supporting the insurgency inside Iraq and encouraging Hizbullah operatives to do the same.

Additional aspect of the problem

Some of the chapters in the report are more general summaries on issues like terrorist financing and particular approaches and techniques to combat terrorist groups. The report talks about particular devices that could be used as integral parts of a more thorough system of inspecting containers in seaports, like GPS tracking systems, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and scanning devices.  Some aspects of the current system of container shipping offer opportunities to achieve much greater screening at relativly lower cost.  For instance:

Virtually all containers coming into the United States pass through a few foreign seaports. In fact, approximately 70 percent of the 8 million containers that arrived in U.S. ports in 2002 originated from or moved through four overseas terminal operators. These operators, Hutchinson Port Holdings, P&O Ports, PSA Corporation, and Maersk-Sealand, are the second-to-last line of defense, and they should ensure that only secure boxes are loaded on ships that cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Their job would involve two steps. First, they should confirm that a low-risk container is in fact low-risk; if it is deemed high-risk, it should be handled in a way that minimizes danger and disruption.

The report highlights military weapon that is a favorite of co-author Richard Clarke:

One of the major successes of the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns was the use of the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The Predator provided outstanding real-time intelligence to military forces and was able to conduct its own strike missions when armed with the Hellfire missile. This capability should be a cornerstone for future special operations counterterrorism missions. U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) should be provided with a dedicated Predator UAV capability, for both reconnaissance and strike missions, and sufficient infrastructure so it can be deployed globally.

The TCF report is also useful in providing a list current as of late 2004 of some of the more significant jihadist groups, with summary histories of their background and ties to Al Qaeda.  So if you need a quick reference to distinguish between Al-Muhajiroun, Jamaat al-Tabligh, Jama ’at al-Tawhid w ’al-Jihad, Salafiya Jihadiya and Ansar al-Islam, then the handy guide in Chapter 3 is just the thing for you.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The latest Al Qaeda tape

Following Osama bin Laden's pre-election tape, another Al Qaeda message has been broadcast by Al Jazeera, apparently made before the presidential election:

Al-Qaida releases new video Al Jazeera 11/30/04 

In an exclusive Aljazeera broadcast on Monday, the Islamist network's second-in-command Ayman al-Dhawahiri said the way the US dealt with Muslims was unacceptable. ...

"The two US presidential candidates are challenging each other to satisfy Israel, to continue a crime against the Islamic nation in Palestine that began 87 years ago.

"I say to Americans, vote for whomever you want: Bush or Kerry or even the devil - it is not of any importance.

"What concerns us is to purify our nation from the aggressors and to resist whoever [is] attacking us, profaning our sanctities and stealing our wealth", said al-Dhawahiri.

Reuters reports some additional text of the tape: Al Qaeda's Zawahri Says Will Keep Fighting U.S. by Ghaida Ghantous 11/29/04.

"We are a nation of patience and we will continue fighting you (United States) until the last hour," Zawahri said in the excerpts of the tape aired on Arab television Al Jazeera.

"Our final advice to America, although I know they will not heed it: You must choose between two methods in dealing with Muslims. Cooperate with them with respect and based on mutual interests or deal with them as free loot, robbed land and violated sanctity," he said.

This kind of warning, which was also contained in Bin Laden's last tape, is aimed more at justifying Al Qaeda's actions to potential Muslim supporters than it actually is directed to getting Americans to change their opinions.

This doesn't sound good to me.  MSNBC reports: Al-Qaida No. 2 vows to continue fight against U.S. 11/29/04.

U.S. intelligence analysts pay nearly as much attention to the timing of such broadcasts as to the content because seven statements by al-Zawahri have been followed within a month by major al-Qaida attacks.

On an eighth occasion, al-Zawahri called for the assassination of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Six weeks later, would-be assassins believed to be linked to al-Qaida tried to kill him twice within 12 days.

I wonder if the color-coded terror alert will be affected by this.  Or if that worse-than-useless exercise is just going to be allowed to fade quietly into the fog of history.

The Washington Post at least went to the trouble to interview terrorism expert Bruce Hoffmann of the RAND Corporation: Bin Laden Aide Warns U.S. to Alter Policies by Craig Whitlock 11/30/04.

"Just the fact that we've heard from the both of them in such a short period of time -- that in itself is significant," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism researcher and director of the Washington office of the Rand Corp. "They are going out of their way to make their presence known. . . . They are trying to behave as if they are not being hunted or harassed around the world." ...

"They don't want any ambiguity," Hoffman said. "Both messages are remarkably clear and to the point. They are stripped of the flowery rhetoric."

Klage gegen Rumsfeld wegen Folter in Abu Ghuraib

"I wouldn't join the International Criminal Court. It's a body based in The Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors can pull our troops or diplomats up for trial.

"And I wouldn't join it. And I understand that in certain capitals around the world that that wasn't a popular move. But it's the right move not to join a foreign court that could -- where our people could be prosecuted." - George W. Bush 09/30/04

This wasn't just idle rhetorical posturing on our president's part.  An American human rights group, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), is bringing a legal case against Donald Rumsfeld in German court over torture in the gulag.  Rummy, former CIA director George Tenet and General Ricardo Sanchez (who Rummy recently recommended for a promotion after his work at Abu Ghuraib), and Undersecretary of Defense Steven Cambone are named in the case, among others.

I don't know how solid this particular case is.  But I don't think this will be the last legal action taken over the torture cases.  All good Republicans and a lot of Democrats will be inclined to dismiss this as some kind of stunt.  But the legal implications of the torture system that the US set up in Abu Ghuraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere are large, and the practical consequences could be much more far-reaching than the arrogant leaders of the Republican Party may think.

Here is the states at CCR's Web site: CCR Seeks Criminal Investigation in Germany into Cupalbility of U.S. Officials in Abu Ghraib Torture (undated, accessed 11/29/04):

In a historic effort to hold high-ranking U.S. officials accountable for brutal acts of torture including the widely publicized abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib, on Tuesday November 30, 2004, CCR and four Iraqi citizens will file a criminal complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office at the Karlsruhe Court, Karlsruhe, Germany.  Under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction suspected war criminals may be prosecuted irrespective of where they are located.

US-Juristen verklagen Rumsfeld in Karlsruhe von Steffen Hebestreit Frankfurter Rundschau Online 29.11.2004

Die US-Juristen stützen sich auf das deutsche Völkerstrafgesetzbuch [VStGB], wonach Kriegsverbrechen, Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit und Völkermord selbst verfolgt werden können, wenn keine Deutschen beteiligt sind und das Vergehen nicht hier stattfand.

[The US lawyers are basing their case on the German international criminal law, according to which war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide can be prosecuted, even if not German was involved and the actions did not take place here [i.e., in Germany]]

Der Kriegsverbrechen beschuldigt Frankfurter Rundschau Online 29.11.2004.  Excerpts from the CCR brief in German.

Kleinod des Völkerrechts von Astrid Hölscher Frankfurter Rundschau Online 29.11.2004.  This article explains that the VStGB, the particular set of laws which the CCR seeks to utilize, was put on the books in 2002 but has scarcely been utilized up until now.  It quotes the Social Democratic Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries as saying that the intent of the law is not to make Germany a "world policeman," though it's not clear if her statement was made with particular reference to the CCR action.  But the law is written specifically to allow for the prosecution of crimes not committed in Germany or involving German citizens, as mentioned above.  Hölscher writes:

Das bedeutet eine ausdrückliche Anerkennung des "Weltrechtsprinzips". Die Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit werden als schwere Angriff auf das Wertesystem der Völkergemeinschaft betrachtet, zu gravierend, als dass irgendein Staat wegsehen dürfe.

[This represents an explicit recognition of the "world law principle."  Crimes against humanity are regarded as a serious attack on the value system of the international community, too grave for any country to be allowed to look away from them them.]

U.S. Group to File Iraq War Crimes Case in Germany Reuters 11/29/04.  It says the CCR is holding a press conference Tuesday.  I'll be curious to see what kind of play this gets in the US media.  I'm guessing our Potemking press corps will treat it as a mildly amusing sideshow.  Then one day when Rumsfeld gets arrested in an EU country they will be shocked, shocked that such a thing could happen!

This case involves a filing under German law in a German court.  I don't know enough of the details of how the ICC processes are set up to know how, when or even if the ICC could get involved. 

But, no, Bush wasn't just being rhetorical when he fretted about international law being applied against Americans.

James Galbraith has a Jacksonian moment

James Galbraith is comparing the election experiences in the Ukraine, where the US government is raising a stink about it for foreign policy reasons, with experiences closer to home: Democracy inaction Salon 11/30/04.  He says:

But if the Ukraine standard were applied in Ohio -- as it should be -- then the late lamented U.S. election certainly was stolen.

And why is there not a bigger stink about the events in Ohio?  Galbraith's take:

One reason, of course, is that the U.S. government gives direction in these matters, here at home as well as around the world. And our press, like that in "Putin's Russia," follows suit. ...

Another reason is that in Ohio, pissed-off voters are well behaved. They are working the hearings process, the recount process and the unhearing, unseeing courts. In Kiev, by contrast, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are on the streets, staying there overnight in the bitter cold, bringing the government to a halt and the world to attention.

We'll get our democracy back, one of these days, when the Democratic Party has a mass base and is prepared to use it in the same way.

What good Jacksonian could argue with that?

Maybe in 2008, we should require the Democratic candidate to pledge that he or she will not concede to Jeb Bush until at least two weeks after Election Day.  It would be a terrible travesty of history if democracy in America becomes no more than a cynical slogan for "wars of liberation" conducted by the Bush dynasty.

Iraq War: Was it a just war?

The ideas used to justify the Bush Doctrine "build not on foundations for constraining unavoidable human violence, but stretch toward a vision of an ideal of liberty that justifies the selective killing of some to achieve a greater good of liberty for many others. This emerging ethic installs the United States as the guardian of a universal, even transcendent, cause of freedom and the ultimate arbiter in that cause."

This is the conclusion of one of the best pieces I've seen discussing the Iraq War in light of traditional Just War doctrine, a concept from Christian ethics that has been largely adopted in a secular form and incorporated into international law, the Just War doctine being itself one of the sources of our modern laws of war.  The article by Franklin Eric Wester argues that " the use of military force by the Bush Administration against the regime of Saddam Hussein does not meet the ethical criteria for 'preemptive war' set forth in the classical Just War tradition." It appears in the latest edition of the Army War College's quarterly journal ParametersPreemption and Just War: Considering the Case of Iraq by Franklin Eric Wester Parameters Winter 2004-05.

Wester provides a useful review of the basic requirements for a just war in the traditional theory (my wording):

1. The war must be waged by a legitimate authority.

2. There must be a public declaration of intention by the belligerents.

3. There must be a just intent behind the conduct of the war.

4. The cost of the war must be proportional to the benefits to be gained (this is known as the principle of proportionality and is by no means limited to a financial calculation of costs and benefits).

5. War must be taken only as a last resort.

6. There must be a reasonable prospect of success.

Wester walks through each critierium in succession and applies it to the Iraq War.

He finds the first criteria, the question of legitimate authority, to be especially problematic from an ethical viewpoint.  That does not mean that he is questioning the legitimacy of the American government as such.  But if the authority for going to war was based on enforcing UN resolutions against Iraq was the justification for the war, the UN itself would be the legitimating authority, however scornful today's Republican Party may be toward such a notion.  Even if humanitarian concerns had been used to justify the war - actually they were only used as window-dressing to the WMD threat in the leadup to war - the "coalition of the willing" hardly consitutes legitimate authority for such a step.  As Wester says:

To act on the authority of a “coalition of the willing” relies on vague ethical criteria. US leaders indicated they possessed persuasive information that an attack against the United States or US interests using weapons of mass destruction was possible, and that Iraq was advancing terrorism. Both the assertion of possible attack with WMD or conventional means and the involvement of Iraq with terrorism (specifically al Qaeda) have since come under considerable dispute, to say the least.

He finds that the Bush administration was onl sounder grounds on the criteria of a public declaration.  But on all the other four critieria, he finds problems in meeting the traditional ethical standard.  The goal of regime change is one that he finds particularly problematic from the traditional viewpoint of the Just War doctrine, which held that the goal should be as far as possible to restore the status quo that existed before the war.

He could have also added the Congressional war resolution, which authorized war against Iraq only if two conditions were fulfilled, neither of which the Bush administration met.

He is less specific on the issue of resorting to war only as a last resort, because he argues that since there are theoretically always other alternatives and therefore the decision to go to war always involves some judgment calls.  Part of the reason for his vagueness on this one appears in other parts of the article as well, which is that he makes it a point to look at the question strictly from the point of view of the prewar situation.  I understand why that is necessary.  But it's also hard to overlook that the glaring absence of the "weapons of mass destruction," or even ofany active programs to create them, also calls into question the credibility ofthe prewar claims and thedecisions allegedly based on them.  How can we say that there were no alternatives to war to get rid of Iraq's WMDs when we know now that they didn't have WMDs, and that UN inspections were underway which would have provided that information if the US had allowed them to continue?

This is an article that I highly recommend.  Aside from the review of the six traditional criteria of the Just War, it also has a lot of additional discussion that is very worthwhile.  For instance, he notes:

Some ethicists and religious leaders endorsed military action. Some saw it as a continuation of the 1991 conflict, while others saw the action in 2003 as moral. For example, one theologian, the Reverend Richard Land, president of the ethics and religious-liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, endorsed military action on grounds of self-defense: “I believe we are defending ourselves against several acts of war by a man who did not keep treaties and who has already used weapons of mass destruction.”

There will always be clerics who are willing to endorse Our Side (whichever that may be) in a war.  But Land's position raises an interesting question for me.  I've seen it claimed that conservative Protestant Christians that do not have reference to a concept of "natural law" generally have not worried much about the Just War doctrine.  I've never fully understood that argument, though it certainly makes sense that conservative Protestants might have a much clearer focus on individual morality (no sex, no dancing, no drinking, no smoking) rather than on social demands of the Gospel.

But that's not how it is.  Because fundamentalist Protestants like Richard Land do take positions on a wide range of political and social issues, from abortion laws to judiciary appointments to foreign policy.  But a big reason I've always taken the position of Catholic anti-abortion advocates more seriously than those of their Protestant counterparts is that the Catholic Church, which does use a natural law approach, also takes issues like the Just War and capital punishment and aiding the needy seriously as part of an ethic of preserving life.  On the other hand, it seems to me that the Christian Right (which is basically Protestant fundamentalists) is willing to cheer for any war backed by the Republican Party.

Wester's article also has good sections describing the distinctions between preemptive strikes, preemptive war and preventive war.  And he discusses some of the practical problems with the Bush Doctrine, made official in the 2002 National Security Strategy, as they involve ethical issues: (1) the compressed time involved in action uder the current US military doctrine of Rapid Decisive Operations; (2) the risk of a wrong decision in using the standard of preventive war instead of preemptive war; and, (3) the problem of incomplete information on the claimed justifications for war.

And its good to see some clear statements about the serious problems of the Bush Doctrine of preventive war, as in this delineation of the difference between preemptive and preventive war:

[A] preventive war is started well before the imminent threat or humanitarian crisis, when the balance of forces is the primary consideration. [In contrast], a preemptive war is launched at a time close to a documented or presumed threat, when the forces initiating war retain tactical, operational, or strategic advantage. Preventive war, on the other hand, is built on a sheer calculation of advantage—nation X can gain an advantage by acting now to attack nation Y, regardless of the threat.

And even though he tries to be generous on the prewar intelligence assumptions that were claimed as the basis of the decision to go to war, Wester is sticking to the facts about what the claimed war aims were:

The principal reason for war stated by the Bush Administration to the nation and the world was the possible use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Disarming Iraq was the desired end, and regime change in Iraq was the only possible way to achieve that end. Preemptive military action was required, and thus justified, to prevent possible use of WMD. ...

Another facet of the just intent for war with Iraq was the idea of protecting innocent people from humanitarian abuses. ... But humanitarian intervention was never seriously advanced by either the Clinton or Bush administrations, until it was included as part of the justification for ousting the regime of Saddam Hussein.  In this instance, protecting victims from humanitarian abuse is probably most accurately described as an ex post facto reason for war. [my emphasis]

Even here, Wester is being a tad generous.  The brutal nature of Saddam's regime was window-dressing on the cause for war.  The WMDs were the justification, with the claimed connection to Al Qaeda being used as a heavy supplement to that.  The Congressional of October 2002 was explicit that the WMDs and connection to terrorist attacks including the 9/11 attack were the necessary conditions of war.  Ousting Saddam's regime in itself was not something that Bush claimed as the jusitification for war or that Congress accepted as legal grounds for war.  Wester notes:

In the case of the war on Iraq, regime change was a way, not an end, and the end of a disarmed Iraq was determined by the Bush Administration to be achievable only by regime change. Regime change as a “morally desirable side-effect” of disarming an aggressor is consistent with the Just War ethic. Regime change as the end or intent falls outside the recognized standards of Just War logic. Regime change was incorporated explicitly in the justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Regime change is not a status quo ante bellum and commits the nation far beyond military application to postwar responsibility, building a new, politically functioning nation. This is a commitment shouldered determinedly, so far, by the United States, while most other nations and the UN still search for a morally and politically acceptable role.

Wester gives a good description of the ethical dimension of the Bush Doctrine as incorporated into official US foreign policy by the 2002 National Security Strategy:

The argument for this just cause, or just intent, points toward the central dimension of an emerging paradigm shift in the ethics of war. Preemptive war to prevent a potential threat through regime change using military force exemplifies the change proposed in the 2002 National Security Strategy. Disarming and restructuring a nation using preemptiveor preventive war is driven by an ideal future vision, not defense of or return to the status quo. This model or framework for action employs military force to improve the lot of citizens in a foreign land while eliminating a real or potential threat to the territory of the United States, allies, and US political or other interests. This ethic asserts an idealist, universal, God-given liberty as the bedrock for decisionmaking. This freedom is to be advanced by the United States with or without coalition partners, not as a model nation or political persuader. [my emphasis] ...

[W]e are left with the revolutionary idea of redefining imminent threat and just cause according to the Bush doctrine. The Bush doctrine contends that preemption is right, just, and different from aggression, transcends imperialism, and is based on a vision of the future achievable through preemptive or preventive war. The Bush doctrine builds on a vision of extending liberty and an open-market economy, and authorizes invading a sovereign nation to topple a regime through preemptive war [based on criteria that go far beyond the traditional doctrine of the Just War].

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Iran War, etc: And the beat goes on ...

Ivo Daalder, Bush II - More of the SameHankyoreh Daily 11/08/04:

Now that George W. Bush has won the reelection victory that eluded his father, will we see a different American foreign policy? Many political pundits think so. They believe that the president's preoccupation with his legacy will lead him to soften his hard charging ways. They will be disappointed.

U.S. won't attend international conference on land mines by George Gedda, AP 11/26/04:

The United States will not attend a major review conference next week about a 1997 international treaty on land mines because of the cost of participation and disagreement with crucial elements of the pact.

In making the announcement Friday, the State Department said the decision should not be seen as a sign of U.S. indifference to the land-mine problem.

You mean there are people out there who might think such a thing?!?

The conference, starting Monday in Nairobi, Kenya, will review compliance with the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines. Ratified by 143 countries, the pact bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines and stipulates that mined areas be cleared within 10 years.

The United States, China and Russia are among 51 countries that have not ratified the treaty. ...

Lincoln Bloomfield, the State Department's top official on land mines, said the administration decided it could not justify using tax dollars to support the Nairobi conference. The meeting, he said, "will have obviously a political platform that is not our policy."


U.S. needs to step in on Iran deal, some say by James Sterngold San Francisco Chronicle 11/27/04.  At least this story tells us who says that, unlike the way Fox News commentators use "some people say" to introduce some Republican Party talking point or the other.  One of those who say that is neoconservative publicist Max Boot:

"In my view, we are trapped in a no-win dichotomy with Iran," said Max Boot, a conservative military expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "The Europeans can make all the deals they want, but Iran won't stick to them, and the military option is not really possible. Once they have a bomb, we have almost no options." ...

Skeptics like Boot argue that diplomacy is essentially a sham and military force unthinkable, so the United States should use every tool it has to overthrow the Islamic regime from within, supporting opposition groups, beaming propaganda into Iran and imposing sanctions to weaken the government economically.

"That's the kind of thing we ought to be supporting because I don't think anything else would work," said Boot. "I'm not sure you can stop them with air strikes at this point. The Europeans can pursue negotiations, but we ought to pursue our own policy of regime change."

I call this the "Contra option," after the ill-fated operation to support the rightwing Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua during the Reagan administration.  Boot's strategy at this point seems to be to make "regime change" the official policy of the US government and to escalate militarily through proxy forces.  The ability of the US to intervene militarily is definitely constrained, as Sterngold's article explains:

Military force, the other choice, is hardly an option.

With 140,000 U.S. troops tied down in Iraq and no end in sight there, the United States does not appear to have the capability to launch a full-scale attack on Iran, even if it wanted to, or an invasion aimed at regime change. Experts say surgical strikes on suspected nuclear installations would not work either, because of the likelihood that Iran has spread out its nuclear facilities to ensure that some of them would survive.

I suspect that the need to show "credibility" in the face of this horrible, urgent Iranian threat will be the hook on which the Bush administration hangs its initial request to reactivate executive authority to impose military conscription, aka, the draft.

It will probably be lost soon enough in the fog of war fever against Iran, but its worth remembering that in 2002, when we were building up for war against Iraq, which had no WMDs, no WMD programs and no active connection with terrorists targeting Americans, it was well known - and publicly discussed, though not nearly widely enough - that Iran did have an active nuclear weapons program, and that they were the chief "state sponsor" of international terrorism, including groups that aimed at the United States.  Now we don't have the ability to make a credible military threat against them, because there was such an urgent need to invade and occupy Iraq - which had no WMDs, no WMD programs and no active connection with terrorists targeting Americans - and to fight a years-long counterinsurgency war there with no realistic hope of success.

U.S. Lacks Reliable Data on Iran Arms by Greg Miller Los Angeles Times 11/27/04:

Although convinced that Iran is "vigorously" pursuing programs to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, the U.S. intelligence community has few sources of reliable information on any illicit arms activities by the Islamic republic, current and former intelligence officials and Middle East experts say. ...

The dearth of quality intelligence has complicated American efforts to convince other nations to more aggressively confront Iran, and accounts for the caution expressed by some U.S. intelligence officials last week when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he had seen important new evidence that Iran was pursuing ways to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile. ...

The combination of the hard-line U.S. diplomatic stance and the scant underlying intelligence has prompted comparisons to the United States' flawed case for war against Iraq.

Yeah, when you're relying on intelligence data from the pizza guy, it's a bit of a challenge to convince some obstinate countries to trust your information.

As Daalder writes in the article linked at the beginning:

[The] election results did not turn Bush timid. Quite the contrary. As he told reporters on Thursday, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." ...

Bush's ability to pursue his foreign policy preferences will inevitably be affected by economic events. Should the U.S. economy plunge into recession, say, because the historically high U.S. current accounts deficit becomes unsustainable or because oil prices spike to $100 per barrel, he could quickly find himself with no political capital to spend on foreign affairs.

But in the absence of such developments, American foreign policy during the second Bush term will be "more of the same." Of course, John Kerry meant that phrase as criticism. For George W. Bush, though, it is a badge of honor—and a good description of the foreign policy he intends to pursue.

Anatol Lieven addressed the problem the public faces with trying to understand Bush's Iran policy in an article last month (Liberal Hawk Down The Nation 11/25/04; also available at the Carnegie Endowment site) in which he reviewed some of the positions associated with "liberal hawks":

The American government today has no lack of Middle East experts in the State Department and the CIA; indeed, many predicted the disaster in Iraq well before the invasion. The problem is that the ranks of the US intelligentsia are packed with pseudo-experts who are willing to subjugate the most basic historical facts to the needs of their ideological or nationalist agendas. ...

Speaking of the failure of many of these intellectuals to distinguish between crucial factors such as the difference between Sunni and Shiite Islam, Lieven says:

It is bad enough that most of the American public is incapable of making this distinction, without the error being actively encouraged by so-called experts. In consequence, the Bush Administration may be stumbling toward an attack on Iran's nuclear program that could have the most disastrous consequences for Iraq, Afghanistan and the entire American position in the Middle East--without even a truly serious national debate taking place in the United States on the subject of US-Iranian relations.

Iran is predominately Shiite, as are most Iraqis and a large number of Saudis.  Al Qaeda and his sort of jihadist groups are Sunni fundamentalists, though Al Qaeda has given some aid to Shiite groups on occasion - and has even had some operational cooperation with Iran, unlike Iraq under Saddam.  The Baathist regime in Iraq that was overthrown by the American invasion was Sunni-dominated, so at least the Shiite Muslims can see some positive element in the Iraq War, since Iraqi Shiites now have the chance to have representation in the government closer to their weight in the population.  But an American invasion of Iran could quickly squander even that sliver of good will, as Lieven warns:

Given the threat posed by Al Qaeda and its Sunni extremist allies to virtually every state and elite in the Muslim world, and given the savage divisions between these forces, the Shiite tradition and secular Arab nationalists like the Baath, there was a cornucopia of opportunities after September 11 to seek Muslim allies in the war on terrorism. From this point of view, for the Bush Administration to have succeeded in uniting Shiite radicals, Baath die-hards and Sunni extremists in Iraq; to have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq while simultaneously threatening Iran and Syria; and to have alienated both Turkey and Saudi Arabia--this almost defies description.

As Daalder says, we are seeing some analysts raising the possibility, even likelihood, that the second term will see a more moderate foreign policy.  Governing Against Type by Edward Luttwak New York Times 11/28/04.  Luttwak argues that "while re-elected presidents who no longer have to face the voters are theoretically free to pursue their wildest dreams, in practice they never do."

But from what we've seen so far, such expectations seem to fit the cynical definition of second marriages: the triumph of hope over experience.  And even Luttwak's supposedly reassuring look forward envisions Iran and Syria meekly backing down before threats of war against them, based on their fear of American resolve or some such thing, as supposedly demonstrated by the invasion of Iraq.


Prior tothe 9/11 attacks, we didn't know, and maybe Bush himself didn't know, to what extent the Bush administration would embrace the "neoconservative" notion of wars of liberation in the Middle East.  But Bush's arrogant, unilateralist approach was already clear in his cool-to-negative attitude toward our democratic allies in Europe and in his scorn of international agreements, from land mines to chemical weapons nonproliferation.

This 2001 column from Joe Conason, who certainly proved to be one of the most astute observers and analysts of Dubya's first administration, reminds us of a now-nearly-forgotten incident, a realtively minor diplomatic flap in retrospect, but one which showed the risks of the unilateralist approach.  It was the outster of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Commission,  Bush league by Joe Conason Salon 05/08/01:

What this incident demonstrates, among other things, is how lamely the Bush administration is managing foreign policy -- despite the supposed competence of the president's courtiers. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters he believed that the U.S. had locked up 43 votes, enough to ensure its reelection to the human rights body.

But that anticipated support evaporated, at least in part because the Bush White House disdains multilateral diplomacy, and consequently neglects U.N. business (including the payment of back dues). Moreover, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is no longer a Cabinet-level position, as it was during the Clinton administration. And at the moment we don't even have a fully accredited representative at the United Nations because John Negroponte, the dubious Bush nominee, has yet to be sent up to the Senate for confirmation.

That would be the same John Negroponte who is now the US Ambassador to Iraq and therefore the de facto civilian proconsul there.

Instead, this vote ought to be taken by policymakers in the White House as a rather mild warning. The advancement of human rights and democracy around the world, while never a Republican priority, is certainly in our interest. So is the maintenance of alliances with other democratic nations. This latest fiasco only indicateshow poorly such vital interests have been served by the people who now wield power in Washington.

The erratic Howie Kurtz - it seems to be an informal requirement on liberal blogs that Kurtz's name has to be preceded by a derogatory adjective, e.g., the "loathsome" Howie Kurtz - did a roundup in June of 2001 about the anti-Europe ideology pouring from conservative Republican sources: Pundits Take Up Arms Against Europe by Howard Kurtz Washington Post 06/14/04.

Bush definitely faces more obvious and urgent foreign-affairs problems than a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission going into his second term.  But his unilateralist orientation was alarmingly evident even in his first few months in office.  They've obviously intensified by several degrees of magnitude, almost unaffected it seems by the outpouring of sympathy for the US across the world in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

We can expect more of the same arrogant unilateralism for the next four years.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Bush's vision: The National Security Strategy of 2002

George W. Bush's vision of the world was made the official policy of the United States in: The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Sept 2002), White House Web site.

The Introduction to the National Security Strategy signed by President Bush starts off by declaring the universal nature of the desire for freedom and democracy as we understand it in the United States.  And it basis itself on the starting point:  "Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence."

And it invokes the frightening, uncertain nature of terrorism to justify an aggressive strategy, focusing on state sponsors of terrorism (my emphasis):

Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government. Today, that task has changed dramatically. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank. Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us.

To defeat this threat we must make use of every tool in our arsenal—military power, better homeland defenses, law enforcement, intelligence, and vigorous efforts to cut off terrorist financing. The war against terrorists of global reach is a global enterprise of uncertain duration. America will help nations that need our assistance in combating terror. And America will hold to account nations that are compromised by terror, including those who harbor terrorists— because the allies of terror are the enemies of civilization. The United States and countries cooperating with us must not allow the terrorists to develop new home bases. Together, we will seek to deny them sanctuary at every turn.

This policy was issued in thefall of 2002, as the administration had its campaign for war in Iraq in full swing.  The most immediatefocus of this policy was Iraq itself.  The following paragraph has been much quoted, which provides therhetorical justfication for the Bush Doctrine of preventive war (my emphasis):

The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed. We will build defenses against ballistic missiles and other means of delivery. We will cooperate with other nations to deny, contain, and curtail our enemies’ efforts to acquire dangerous technologies. And, as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. So we must be prepared to defeat our enemies’ plans, using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action.

Official adminitration statements have been careful to call it "pre-emptive war," which is legal in international law, versus "preventive war."  But as applied in Iraq and apparently as envisioned by this this administration in a larger perspective, it means preventive war, with all that implies.

As the official statement of the broad outlines of American foreign policy, this document is more bland than some of the speeches by Bush and Cheney or the opinion pieces by others advocating various aspects of the policy.  But it does give a view of how Bush frames the world for his foreign policy.

So its worth noting that the policy of preventive war is framed in terms of Wilsonian rhetoric about spreading the benefits of democracy to other nations of the world (my emphasis):

This is also a time of opportunity for America. We will work to translate this moment of influence into decades of peace, prosperity, and liberty. The U.S. national security strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests. The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but better. Our goals on the path to progress are clear: political and economic freedom, peaceful relations with other states, and respect for human dignity.

This formulation of the notion is also worth noting (my emphasis):

America must stand firmly for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property.

These demands can be met in many ways. America’s constitution has served us well. Many other nations, with different histories and cultures, facing different circumstances, have successfully incorporated these core principles into their own systems of governance. History has not been kind to those nations which ignored or flouted the rights and aspirations of their people.

The phrase "nonnegotiable demands" for democratic rights is particularly jarring, since the US has to conduct business of various kinds with countries that observe both lower and higher standards of democratic rule and respect for law than does the US.  This was well before the Abu Ghuraib torture scandal hit the press, of course.  But now it's much more clear - at least to anyone willing to see it and who gets information from something more reliable than Fox News - that one of the biggest problems for the US in the world now is the perception of administration's conduct as lawless and lacking in restraint.

In the context of the buildup to the war in Iraq, this passage stands out in the strategy paper's discussion of terrorism:  "Our immediate focus will be those terrorist organizations of global reach and any terrorist or state sponsor of terrorism which attempts to gain or use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or their precursors." (my emphasis)

The emphasis on terrorism as a problem of state sponsors of terrorism is also evident when the doucment says that the US will deny "further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists by convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities."  It also talks about deligitimizing terrorism so that it will come to be regarded as "behaviorthat no respectable government can condone or support." (my emphasis)

The document invokes the Cold War atmosphere in which American security concerns, even though defined in terms of the so-called Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), are directed at combatting threats from state actors (my emphasis):

But new deadly challenges have emerged from rogue states and terrorists. None of these contemporary threats rival the sheer destructive power that was arrayed against us by the Soviet Union. However, the nature and motivations of these new adversaries, their determination to obtain destructive powers hitherto available only to the world’s strongest states, and the greater likelihood that they will use weapons of mass destruction against us, make today’s security environment more complex and dangerous.

The following list of criteria that provided a general background for the claims made against Iraq are worth noting as the administration escalates its confrontational stance against Iran.  It defines "rogue states" as those which:

  • brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal gain of the rulers;
  • display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors, and callously violate international treaties to which they are party;
  • are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other advanced military technology, to be used as threats or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of these regimes;
  • sponsor terrorism around the globe; and
  • reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for which it stands.
  • And, the paper says, again articulating the preventive war stance, "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends."

    The paper makes a definite gesture toward at least defensively justifying preventive war under international law (my emphasis):

    For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack.Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat—most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.

    We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction—weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.

    The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.

    The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

    The paragraphs just quoted are an example of ways in which the Bush administration sought to create a linkage in the minds of public between the preventive war on Iraq, justified by the threat of WMDs that did not exist, and the attacks of 9/11/2001 by Al Qaeda, which had no connection with Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

    The paper contains a fair amount of diplomatic boilerplate on American positions on free trade, NATO and various other issues.  The anxiety of the Bush administration over the International Criminal Court is reflected in this statement:

    We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept.We will work together with other nations to avoid complications in our military operations and cooperation, through such mechanisms as multilateral and bilateral agreements that will protect U.S. nationals from the ICC.We will implement fully the American Servicemembers Protection Act,whose provisions are intended to ensure and enhance the protection of U.S. personnel and officials.

    It's unfortunatley appropriate that an official document laying out a general justification of preventive war, with a think attempt to present it as "pre-emptive" war redefined, also focus on the ICC as a potential danger to Americans implementing the Bush national security strategy.

    The National Security Strategy of 2002 was the official codification of the process we saw unfold in reality from the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11/2001 to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.  Robert Jay Lifton describes that process well in Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation With the World (2003), which I'll be discussed further in a later post:

    The war on terrorism, then, took amorphous impulses toward combating terror and used them as a pretext for realizing a prior mission aimed at American global hegemony.  The attack on Iraq reflected the reach not only of the "war on terrorism" but of deceptions and manipulations of reality that have accompanied it.  In this context, the word "war" came to combine metaphor (as in the "war on poverty" or "war on drugs"), justification for "preemptive" (preventive) attack, conventional military combat, and assertion of superpower domination.

    Thursday, November 25, 2004

    Iraq War: Tom Hayden on antiwar strategy

    Tom Hayden, who has been a prominent student and antiwar activist, including participating in the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the early 1960s, and who was a California state representative for several terms, has some ideas for the antiwar movement post-election.  And, yes, war-lovers, he was married to Jane Fonda, the actress and born-again Christian who is still a favorite hate-figure for good prowar Republicans.

    Believe it or not, ole Chuckie himself praised Jane Fonda's religious conversion and referred to her as "my sister" in a 2000 Soapbox rant:  An Open Letter to Jane Fonda.  Boy, I wonder if his publishers at Regnery know about that!  A guy who wants to be thought of as the Nashville guru of Patriotic Correctness presumably wouldn't want to advertise his spiritual solidarity with Jane Fonda.

    Anyway, Hayden lays out his ideas at some length in How to End the Iraq War AlterNet.com 11/23/04 (also available at CommonDreams.org).  He summarizes near the end:

    In short: pinch the funding arteries, push the Democrats to become an opposition party, ally with anti-war Republicans, support dissenting soldiers, make "Iraqization" more difficult, and build a peace coalition against the war coalition. If the politicians are too frightened or ideologically incapable of implementing an exit strategy, the only alternative is for the people to pull the plug.

    Where do mass demonstrations and civil disobedience fit into this framework? Certainly Bush's inauguration will be an appropriate time to dissent in the streets. Nationwide rallies are an important way to remain visible, but many activists may tire if they see no strategic plan. The civil disobedience actions at Bechtel, the San Francisco financial district, and the Port of Oakland in early 2003 come closer to the strategy of pressuring the nerve centers of war. Care will have to be taken during such militant actions to send the clearest possible message to mainstream public opinion.

    One strong aspect of Hayden's long essay is that he talks about the ways in which the election of Bush to a second term means that opponents of the war will be able to focus on a more direct criticism of the the Iraq War than would have been possible in practice under a Kerry administration.  And that means making things like this clear:

    By any moral or economic accounting, we now are worsening the lives of Iraqi since the fall of Saddam. We have turned innocent young Americans into torturers in places like Abu Ghraib. When going into battle, we close hospitals first. We make sure that television and newspapers are not "able to show pictures of bleeding women and children being taken into hospital wards" – this reported on Veterans Day in the Times. Not even our friends like us anymore, whether we are tourists in Europe or diplomats at the United Nations.

    This is not a throwaway rhetorical point.  Part of the strength of Bush's overall message - it's become fashionable to call it a "narrative" - is that we are spreading democracy and freedom with our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The reality is that its an ugly, brutal and unjustifiable mission to try to spread democracy - even if one believes that is truly the Bush administration's goal - by attempting to bomb, shoot and torture another country into accepting an American-imposed version of democracy and freedom.  It was a foolish and doomed undertaking in Vietnam, and the same if true in Iraq.

    And it's time to stop chasing fantasy strategies about bringing in some other countries into our Potemkin coalition to bail out the administration's failed project:  "Ending this bloodbath is the most honorable task Americans can perform to restore progressive priorities and our respect in the world. We have passed the point for graceful exit strategies," he writes.

    Hayden talks about issues like how to approach international coalition building, draft resistance and electoral strategies.  I agree with his point on the larger "narrative" of war critics, as well.  The current bipartisan consensus on the so-called "war on terrorism" is a destructive thing.  It may sound like sixties nostalgia to use a phrase like "false consciousness."  But the current attitude of the Republican Party toward the GWOT (global war on terrorism), largely seconded by the Democrats in its general rhetoric, creates a false picture of the threats the United States faces from the jihadist groups like Al Qaeda:

    Both parties now are trapped in the vicious cycle of the "war on terrorism," just as they were caught up in the Cold War, be it the nuclear arms race, opportunistic alliances with dictators, and McCarthyite suppression of domestic critics. Only the Sixties peace and civil rights movements could finally shatter Cold War thinking at that time. It will take another such movement today to restore America's respect in the world, take steps towards global justice, and in the process possibly prevent another 9/11 attack.

    Iraq War: More "pockets" in Falluajah, more troops needed

    I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving.  I know I did.

    Not it's back to blogging.

    When we look back on this war - and I'm afraid "looking back" on it isn't going to be anytime soon - I think "pockets of resistance" will be one of the phrases we most remember.  In fact, it may be remembered with such cynicism and bitterness that it will have to be retired from official Pentagonese.  Sort of like "light at the end of the tunnel" from the Vietnam War.

    In pockets of Fallujah, US troops still face harsh battle by Scott Peterson Christian Science Monitor 11/26/04.  Describing a particular skirmish with determined guerrillas, Peterson writes:

    US commanders say that such costly battles are taking place across Fallujah, where US Marine and Army units launched an assault more than two weeks ago in a bid to cut off the lethal insurgency that has spread across Iraq.

    But the battle Monday, fought amid the maze of houses and alleyways in this ghost city that once held a population of 300,000, shows the difficult and dangerous task of uprooting insurgents who have hunkered down. Protecting civilians may also prove a daunting task as marines try to locate fighters who filter quietly back in as residents return.

    "You are seeing individuals willing to die, and take as many Americans and Iraqis with them," says Marine Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, 1st Marine Division commander in an interview. "We overwhelm them, but despite that, they put up a very stiff and determined resistance. This [assault] had to be done, because Fallujah was a sanctuary for insurgents, and now it isn't."

    Peterson also makes it clear that some of the Marines on the scene are very aware of the complicated nature of the task they face, of fighting insurgents without further alienating the civilian population.  An all-but-impossible task in the current situation:

    A clear example of the tricky balance is Monday's battle, which started out as a typical clearing operation, in which LAR vehicles and on-foot scout teams pushed east to west between two clocks, clearing house after house.

    Red Platoon began in typical fashion, with a reading the 91st Psalm from the Bible.

    "Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness," read Corporal Dustin Barker of Midland, Texas. Citations from the Bible mark his helmet strap.

    The marines used explosives, axes, and even their boots to break down doors and storm houses.

    They searched rooms and destroyed food stores when they found them to deprive insurgents moving from house to house of support.

    "The problem with this, is we are opening [by breaking locks] the whole town up for terrorists to move in," said an intelligence officer with the unit.

    In theory, the city was "liberated" by last weekend.  But the battles are continuing.  I remember just after the invasion when we heard about the "pockets of resistance" throughout Iraq.  Now we have remaining "pockets of resistance" in various places in Fallujah.  How many "pockets of resistance" will be left the next time our forces have to go in and liberated Fallujah?

    Oh, we finally found a chemical lab that guerrillas were supposedly using to make weapons to use against US troops.  Saddam didn't have WMDs.  But now we're facing a resistance that (if this claim can be believed) is trying to make crude versions of them: Iraqi official: Troops found chemical lab during sweep of Fallujah (AP) San Francisco Chronicle 11/25/04.

    [Later note:  Juan Cole says of this report:

    According to AFP, the story being trumpeted all day on Fox Cable News about the discovery of chemical and anthrax weapons labs in Fallujah by Iraqi troops is questionable to say the least. The US military denies it and Hans Blix is skeptical. I smell the troika of Iyad Allawi, Naqib al-Falah, and Hazem Shaalan behind this announcement, which will be remembered even if it is discredited.]

    And how is the personnel situation doing? U.S. struggles to find troops for Iraq, Afghanistan by Joseph Galloway Knight-Ridder Newspapers 11/24/04.

    The Army, which has been hard pressed to find enough soldiers to man the rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, may soon be faced with an urgent request to find another 5,000 to 7,000 troops to increase the number of boots on the ground in Iraq.

    Commanders there have been quietly signaling an immediate need for at least that many more soldiers to add to the 138,000 Americans already there. This, they say, is the minimum number needed to allow them to pursue the offensive against the insurgents in the wake of the taking of Fallujah.

    Far from breaking the back of the insurgency, the capture of Fallujah only served as a signal for the enemy to launch its own offensive in cities across the Sunni triangle and in Baghdad itself. The fighters and leaders who fled Fallujah before the Americans launched their attack simply moved to other cities and went straight to work sowing havoc. [my emphasis]

    Reinforcing the point about the scramble to find troops, Galloway notes:

    Finding the rest of the troops that commanders want may be difficult. Getting them to Iraq in time and properly equipped to fight in that dangerous environment may be even more difficult; Army and Marine commanders have already used up most of their bag of tricks to find troops for the usual rotations to Iraq.

    Reality is still crashing in hard on the Bush administration merry little adventure in Mesopotamia.  The process will continue, no matter how much happy talk the administration and Fox News (or is that being redundant?) crank out.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004

    Iran War: Bits and Pieces

    I am going to take a break for Thanksgiving Day from posting. But here are a few links on Iran:

    New Allegations Against Iran by Revati Prasad and Joseph Cirincione, Carnegie Institute for International Peace (undated, accessed 11/23/04). This is commenting on allegations last week from the Iranian exile group called the National Council of Resistance (NCR), which is listed by the US government as a terrorist group:
    The dissident group has provided accurate information in the past, blowing the whistle on the enrichment plant at Natanz and the heavy water reactor at Arak in 2002. Both sites were later acknowledged by Iran and declared to the IAEA. If these new allegations are proven to be true, they would be the first proof that Iran is engaged in actual nuclear weapon activities. Up to this point, Iran has breached its obligations to declare activities and facilities but all of these, Iranian officials say, are for peaceful civilian development of nuclear fuel, not weapons. The new IAEA report found no evidence of weapon-related activities. Proof of such a program would likely kill the EU deal and dramatically increase the likelihood that the IAEA Board of Governors would refer Iran to the UN Security Council.

    But the group may have its own agenda and the charges cannot be proved or disproved without an IAEA inspection of the site, which the agency has now requested. Iraqi dissident claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs were equally detailed and specific, but none proved to be true. (my emphasis)

    This article includes an important observation, if other information bears out its accuracy: If Iran goes nuclear ... by Howard LaFranchi Christian Science Monitor 11/23/04.
    In any event, the Bush administration remains deeply skeptical of the prospects for the European plan to derail Iran's nuclear ambitions. One reason is that over recent years Iran's nuclear program has become tightly bound with national
    pride, thus making it all the more difficult for a regime - particularly one whose popularity is already on the wane - to give it up.

    "It doesn't matter what faction it is, from the radical religious conservatives to the left, there's a consensus that Iran has a right to pursue the nuclear fuel cycle, and that indeed it has a right to develop nuclear weapons if it chooses," says
    [Daniel] Brumberg [an Iran and Middle East expert at Georgetown University]. "It's something that unites the country, so in a time of deepening divisions it's not something that anyone wants to renounce."
    In other words, if Iran became a full-blown democracy tomorrow, it wouldn't necessarily make the nuclear issue any easier to solve.

    Hawks push deep cuts in forces in Iraq by Bryan Bender Boston Globe 11/22/04:
    Those arguing for immediate troop reductions include key Pentagon advisers, prominent neoconservatives, and some of the fiercest supporters of the Iraq invasion among Washington's policy elite.

    The core of their arguments is that even as the US-led coalition goes on the offensive against the insurgency, the United States, by its very presence, is stimulating the resistance.

    "Our large, direct presence has fueled the Iraqi insurgency as much as it has suppressed it," said Michael Vickers, a conservative-leaning Pentagon consultant and longtime senior CIA official who supported the war.

    Retired Army Major General William Nash, the former NATO commander in Bosnia, said: "I resigned from the 'we don't have enough troops in Iraq' club four months ago. We have too many now."
    Now, not everyone quoted in this article necessarily have common motivations in what they are saying. But I'm among those who thinks this looks suspiciously like an attempt to free up some troops short-run for an invasion of Iran - and to convince the American public that everything will be all right if we just invade and occupy one more country and fight just one more years-long counterinsurgency war. The fact that Ken "Iraq-would-be-a-cakewalk" Adelman is one of the people quoted in the article doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about the whole thing.

    Matt Iglesias at TAPPED has this take:
    The main task facing people who would like to see regime change in Teheran (or Damascus or wherever) at this point is that the problems in Iraq have created a lot of (perfectly warranted) skepticism about the feasibility and desirability of further ventures. Re-writing the history of the Iraq campaign so that the problem turns out to be that we went in with too many troops (rather than that, say, the war was sold with a non-factual rationale and the postwar planning conducted according to ideological rather than empirical criteria) lays the groundwork for the idea that the next war will be quick and easy, rather than "another Iraq."
    Oh, no, this will be nothing like Iraq. This will be no problem. A real cakewalk. Why, those oppressed Iraqis are just waiting to show us with flowers. They are just pining every day to have the Americans bomb, shoot and torture them into democracy.

    Iglesias links to Jim Henley, who cautions us to Don't Go Getting Excited. He writes:
    This is less about understanding than desire. At least some of them want to invade Iran (and Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon, and ...). Militarily that means finding some ground forces to do it with. Politically it means selling the idea that we won't be walking into another Iraqlike occupation. Solution: promote the idea that our problems in Iraq come from too many troops. Declare that we won't make that mistake again. Once we've broken and bought Iran we'll have a tiny, unobtrusive occupation force whose convoys no Persian would ever notice long enough to think about bombing. It will be, dare they say it? a cakewalk. As a side bonus, Rumsfeld loyalists get to argue that the Old Man was right about this military reform stuff after all. Mil reform doesn't suffer the fatal flaw of being insufficient to the task of policing our gains. Policing our gains is the source of our post-conquest problems. Everybody wins!
    Molly Ivins says that it's "not even three weeks into the new Bush regime, and already I'm jaw-dropped, you've-got-to-be-kidding mad." But, she advises:
    Dan Green of New York City says of the election results, "You can't be depressed now, the worst is yet to come." Following that good advice, I intended to keep my indignation dry and save the outrage for when it is really needed, kind of like saving room for the pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner. If we're going to get through the next four years, we have to pace ourselves, I concluded.
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