Just Jihad: November 2007: Archives

November 13, 2007

Norman Mailer's Prescient Thoughts On The Iraq War genre: Happy Remembrances & Just Jihad & Polispeak

While seeking a fitting tribute to Norman Mailer given his recent death, I stumbled upon the following video clips from his appearance on Charlie Rose in early 2003. On the show, Mailer provides a reasoned analysis of the merits and pitfalls of invading Iraq. Mailer's comments harken to the concerns raised by Niall Ferguson in this prior Thought Theater posting.

Both men have a keen understanding of the objectives of the Bush Doctrine...though they approach it from different perspectives. Ferguson offers the views of a studied historian and Mailer provides the perspective of a prescient thinker capable of drawing insightful and informative connections frequently missed by those in the mainstream. Notwithstanding, both men appear to reach the same conclusion...a conclusion which suggests that the active exportation of democracy is likely a futile effort. Both men also touch upon the flawed logic behind the initiation of preemptive military actions in response to perceived fears.

Mailer's words in 2003 ought to instruct us well into the future and offer an important warning about the risks of losing the nobility of democracy and acceding to the lure of fascism. His comment that an invasion of Iraq is apt to be the start of something that we cannot finish without changing the nature of American democracy may someday be hailed as one of the most omniscient and prevailing perceptions offered in modern American history.

His anticipatory thoughts on Iraq with regard to it's position in the world political equation are astounding and when they are compared with the logic of the neoconservatives, his amazing visionary capabilities are illuminated. His conclusion about the nature of democracy is nothing short of brilliant and a rational review of the status of our efforts to export it to Iraq highlight the very concerns Mailer raised when he suggested that the Bush administration ultimately sought to change the nature of American life. Nearly five years after Mailer offered these thoughts, one would be hard pressed to refute his hypothesis or the ample evidence of an eroding democracy at home which exists to support it.

Flawed as he was, the magnitude of Mailer's life...and what was lost with his death...will undoubtedly become more evident with the passage of time.

Norman Mailer Discusses Iraq With Charlie Rose - Part One

Norman Mailer Discusses Iraq With Charlie Rose - Part Two

Tagged as: Charlie Rose, Democracy, George W. Bush, Iraq, Neoconservatism, Niall Ferguson, Norman Mailer

Daniel DiRito | November 13, 2007 | 10:27 AM | link | Comments (0)
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November 10, 2007

Niall Ferguson: After The Bush Doctrine genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

While many Americans are of the belief that the upcoming 2008 election will signal a new direction in U.S. foreign policy, there is little reason to conclude that the actions and implications of the Bush Doctrine can be reversed in short order. In order to understand the future, one must frequently consult the past.

In the following video, Niall Ferguson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, historian, and author of Colossus: The Price of America's Empire, offers an informed conceptual analysis of U.S. foreign policy focused upon the meaning and implications of what has come to be known as the Bush Doctrine. Ferguson points that this doctrine is premised upon three basic principles. They are as follows:

1. Preemption: The need to act against emerging threats before they are fully formed.

2. Unilateralism: The right to act alone against perceived threats.

3. Bringing the hope of democracy and free trade to all corners of the world...and standing for the rule of law, free speech, freedom of worship, equal justice, respect for women, religious and ethnic tolerance, and respect for public and private property.

Ferguson proceeds to explain the good and bad news associated with these goals and the various resources and costs which would be necessary to implement them...paying particular attention to the third goal. Ferguson believes this final objective is most constrained by financial considerations that would most likely exceed the capability of the behemoth U.S. economy.

Ferguson also points to three other deficit areas that would likely constrain the U.S. from achieving the goals of the Bush Doctrine. They include a manpower deficit, an attention deficit, and a legitimacy deficit. In listening to Ferguson, it becomes apparent that he views the legitimacy deficit as the prevailing obstacle to the ongoing pursuit of the Bush Doctrine.

Ferguson talks about manpower with relation to the war in Iraq and the latest surge...noting that the U.S. troop reduction in 2005 led to increasing violence and conflict. He notes that the current surge has improved the conditions in Iraq...which clearly points to the manpower requirements necessary to achieve the goals of the Bush Doctrine.

Ferguson continues with a comprehensive analysis well worth viewing by anyone looking to gain a full understanding of the United States foreign policy considerations, our status with other nations, and the factors which must be considered as we move forward in an ever more complex world.

He pays particular attention to dissecting the false notions that make the Bush Doctrine (especially the Cheney driven belief that we must view future 9/11's as 100% probable and act accordingly) a suspect policy objective premised upon a number of faulty assumptions. From there, Ferguson takes a look at the future considerations and the issues which may soon face the United States and the world.

Tagged as: Bush Doctrine, China, Foreign Policy, George W. Bush, History, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Niall Ferguson, Preemption

Daniel DiRito | November 10, 2007 | 11:25 AM | link | Comments (0)
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November 6, 2007

2007 Deadliest Year: Defining A Successful Surge? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Defending Illusions

It's easy to get lost in the rhetoric that seeks to explain the status of the war in Iraq. Opponents and apologists alike work tirelessly to find the ammunition necessary to support their positions...yet only two thing remains a constant...the war continues and the deaths it creates are tallied.

Our latest preoccupation is defining the merits of, and deciphering the benefits from, the surge. Is it a success? Has it facilitated a turning point? What happens if we reduce or remove our troops? Unfortunately, the combatants...the ones waging the war about the war...endeavor to spin the data to their benefit...often ignoring context and relevance. A new article in The New York Times documents the annual troop fatalities and provides a glimpse into this back and forth battle...yet points out the prevailing dilemma that never seems to be answered...how and when will we be able to leave Iraq?

BAGHDAD, Nov. 6 — Six American soldiers were killed in three separate attacks Monday, the military said today, taking the number of deaths this year to 851 and making 2007 the deadliest year of the war for American troops.

The deaths come only a few days after the military announced a steep drop in the rate of American deaths this year. In October, 38 American service members died in Iraq, the third lowest monthly tally since 2003, according to Iraq Casualty Count, a web site that tracks military deaths. November’s total, if the current pace continues, would be higher but still far below the war’s average of 69 American military deaths per month.

Despite the decline, American commanders acknowledged that 2007 will be far deadlier than the second worst year, 2004, when 849 Americans died, many of them in major battles for control of insurgent strongholds like Falluja.

Military officials attribute the rise this year to an expanded troop presence during the so-called surge, which brought more than 165,000 troops to Iraq, and sent units out of large bases and into more dangerous communities.

Commanders maintain that despite the high cost in terms of lives lost, the strategy has brought improved security to the country and “tactical momentum" that could stabilize Iraq permanently.

Now I'm not trying to ignore the latest casualty numbers...they are encouraging and hopefully they will be sustained...but one mustn't ignore what history can tell us to expect. The latest surge has unfolded in much the same way as prior surges. It has brought greater security to Baghdad (the region of focus), reduced the number of IED attacks, and lessened the sectarian violence.

Those are tangible results...but they must be measured against the stated objective of the surge when it was initiated; that being to enable the necessary time and space for political progress to be achieved. Further, one must provide the reasons and the rationale by which we can conclude that this surge will result in sustained progress as opposed to the regression which has typified each of those previously attempted.

In looking strictly at the number of American casualties, there is little reason to believe that the surge has achieved lasting results. The fact that 2007 will be the deadliest year suggests that the problems we have confronted since the fall of the Hussein regime remain formidable and its even possible they have continued unabated. Empirical evidence suggests prior increased troop levels in other unsettled regions brought temporary reductions in the above measurables...only to be followed by rising violence once the troop levels were reduced or focused upon another hot spot (the whack-a-mole phenomenon). That certainly raises doubts as to the permanence of the latest achievements.

At the same time, one has to consider what the enemy has learned from the prior troop surges and how that may have impacted their current strategy. Keep in mind that it would be foolish to presume that their calculations have remained static. If history has taught us anything, it is that these extremists are immensely patient and sufficiently cunning.

Suppose they've concluded it is futile to engage in direct confrontation given the greater number of troops and the focused attention they bring? Suppose they believe that the U.S. cannot or will not maintain the current troop levels and the interests of the insurgency is best served by waiting for the Bush administration to begin troop reductions or to wait for the will of the American people to demand an end to the current level of occupation? Suppose they're convinced...as are many other observers...that the hoped for political progress has not materialized and the dynamics necessary for them to do so is not present and may not emerge any time soon?

To suppose otherwise on each of these points seems at best naive, and at worst fully illogical. That brings us back to speculating on a plausible exit strategy. Two thoughts quickly come to mind. One, there is a possibility that the powers that be are truly committed to a democratic Iraq and are therefore seeking an exit that insures as much. Two, there is a possibility that the powers that be have concluded that a democratic Iraq is unattainable and are therefore looking for a window of opportunity to claim success and hastily head for home.

If one buys into the former, then one ought to expect a prolonged presence, an abundance of good luck, and a healthy dose of transformational magic. If one favors the latter, then one ought to expect a politically expedient timeframe for announcing an exit, an abundance of contrivance, and a sickening amount of obfuscatory manipulation.

As I review the choices, this seems to be one of those moments when being between a rock and a hard place actually sounds like a better place to be than where we're at. Its hard to imagine that an idiomatic location is more appealing than reality...but then doesn't that simply illuminate the degree to which our perpetual presence in Iraq baffles the mind?

Tagged as: Exporting Democracy, George W. Bush, Insurgency, Iraq, Neoconservatism, Sectarian Violence, Troop Fatalities, Troop Levels, Troop Surge

Daniel DiRito | November 6, 2007 | 11:36 AM | link | Comments (1)
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November 3, 2007

Will The U.S. Be Forced To "Pack It In" In Pakistan? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Pakistan

The problem with supporting military regimes is evidenced by the arbitrary declaration of martial law just imposed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. What hangs in the balance is Pakistan's ability to move towards democracy and our ability to insure a government which will be supportive of American efforts in the region.

Should Pakistan follow the unfortunate course of unelected regimes previously backed by the U.S., we may well have reached a point of no return and we may soon witness the chaos that accompanies efforts to overthrow an unpopular and self-appointed leader.

From The New York Times:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 3 — The Pakistani leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency on Saturday night, suspending the country’s Constitution, blacking out all independent television news reports and filling the streets of the capital with police officers and soldiers.

The move appeared to be an effort by General Musharraf to reassert his fading power in the face of growing opposition from the country’s Supreme Court, civilian political parties and hard-line Islamists. Pakistan’s Supreme Court was expected to rule within days on the legality of General Musharraf’s re-election last month as the country’s president, which opposition groups have said was improper.

The emergency declaration was in direct defiance of repeated calls this week from senior American officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, not to do so. A day earlier, the senior American military commander in the Middle East, Admiral William J. Fallon, told General Musharraf and his top generals in a meeting here that declaring emergency rule would jeopardize the extensive American financial support for the Pakistani military.

Even if Musharraf can maintain his hold on power, the move further harms the image of the United States with the Pakistani people. Our support for Musharraf has clearly begun to alienate the citizenry from all things associated with the United States and it seems to be fueling a shift towards support for the radical Islamists...extremists who are increasingly seen by Pakistanis as an acceptable alternative to the continuation of a U.S. backed regime.

I suspect the U.S. threat to withhold monetary and military support rings hollow with Musharraf since he may well have calculated his only means to hold power is found in a suspension of the constitution and the cancellation of future democratic elections. If that supposition is accurate, the U.S. seems to have diminishing leverage...at least for the foreseeable future.

The fact that we've wagered the bulk of our relationship with Pakistan on Musharraf may prove to have been a grave mistake and may well preclude the U.S. from exerting any substantial influence on the political future of this strategically significant nation. It may even lead to an outright rejection of any resolution put forth by the United States.

If Musharraf continues to push the envelope, the hopes for maintaining a regime friendly to the interests of the United States may rest upon the shoulders of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Should the suspension of the constitution persist, our prior efforts to forge a shared power arrangement between Musharraf and Bhutto may no longer be viable for two reasons. One, Musharraf may believe the arrangement is too threatening to his hold on power and simple refuse such a strategy. Two, such an arrangement may soon be viewed as another leadership arrangement contrived and supported by the United States...one which the Pakistani people flatly reject.

Should the latter happen and the moderates, who make up the membership of Bhutto's political party, conclude that she has become a pawn of the Bush administration, the last organized force for democracy may suddenly be weakened or, even worse, evaporate. Were the party to collapse; sending those moderates into the camp of extremists with the belief that they offer the only means to cut the strings that have kept a U.S. backed puppet regime in place, the worst case scenario...a regime hostile to the U.S. and sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda...may come to fruition.

Tagged as: al Qaeda, Benazir Bhutto, Bush Administration, Condoleezza Rice, Islamists, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, Taliban

Daniel DiRito | November 3, 2007 | 11:53 AM | link | Comments (0)
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