Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

3000 on Dec. 31, 2006. 2007?

There is nothing magic about the number 3000 but it's significant that the number both surpasses the number of Americans killed on 9-11 and that this number of dead American soldiers in Iraq was reached the last day of 2006. As this is being written the number killed in Iraq stands at 2999. There is little doubt that before midnight one or more American sons or daughters will lose their life… and dozens more scared for life.

It would be different if an end to the killing was in sight. But, we appear to be more focused on the hanging of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and honoring the life of one of our own dead Presidents
With virtually no focus on Darfur, Bird Flu, global warming or the next terrorist attack, and none on the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi men, women and children, most of us will comfortably welcome in the new year...without a national plan for improving prospects in Iraq...or on the larger global war on terror.

President Bush is 'working' on a plan. One with the addition of more US troops into the killing zone at the core of the new strategy. Iraq is nothing like Vietnam (its far worse) but it’s extremely hard to see how more occupiers will make radical, or even moderate Muslims, more likely to like, or even tolerate American soldiers. Soldiers kicking down their doors and killing their innocent loved ones via collateral damage.

When we view ‘war’ as a solution…the only answer is ‘more troops’. But the fact remains that in Iraq, we are not in a ‘war’. We are in an occupation. We are in ‘nation building’/occupation mode where civilian security is infinitely more vital for acheiving peace than fighting terrorists.

There is hope. In the new military 'rule book' that outlines the most effective means for dealing with insurgencies suggests less fighging - more building. Soldiers however are trained for killing.

Even so, there appears to be some hope in the air. As we enter the New Year with a new Democratically controlled House and Senate, at least half of America is hopeful.

As citizens in this most amazing and powerful nation, I’m hoping more will become active in politics in 2007... and get us off this path to Armageddon.

I really hope 2007 will be better but the odds simply are not on our side. The world is growing more complex and interdependent each hour of each day. Yet we fail to even consider making the changes that are really needed in our own government or the global institutions that now try to deal with a lawless world.

God help us. It certainly doesn’t look like we are yet up to speed for helping ourselves.

Friday, December 29, 2006

UN is not the problem.

Ed Feulner, president of the anti-UN Heritage Foundation is disingenuous when he says “an effective United Nations is in everyone’s interest.”
(U.N.-der strain. 12-27-06) To him and many other ultra conservatives like him ‘UN Reform’ is code for making it weaker. To most liberals ‘UN reform’
isn’t much more than wishful thinking to make it stronger. Feulner claims that “the UN has often gone out of its way to avoid getting involved in the world’s trouble spots,” listing Darfur, Iraq and Iran as examples.
The fact is, Feulner and his like-minded cronies have gone out of their way to make sure the UN never gets the power it needs to effectively get involved in the world’s trouble spots.
Money isn’t the cure for everything but the UN’s budget and staff are both roughly the size of Disneyworld’s. These resources are completely inadequate to addressing such problems as terrorism, WMD proliferation, famine, genocide, peacekeeping, nation building, international crime control, pandemic prevention and response capacity, poverty alleviation or environmental protection, just to name a few of the crises that must be addressed because powerful governments like our own are unwilling to devote sufficient resources to prevent or deal with such massive loss of life and other basic human rights.
The Heritage Foundation has actively lobbied against any UN capacity for raising its own resources for investing in such needed capacity.
The Heritage Foundation has also actively lobbied against the creation of a stand alone UN Peacekeeping capacity. A standing force fully equipped and capable of immediate response to victims of genocidal governments like those in Darfur is obvious. Instead genocidal victims must depend upon the largess of troops donated from other more moral governments which always find some excuse not to get actively involved in fulfilling their promise of “never again”.
The Heritage Foundation under Feulner’s leadership has also actively lobbying against the democratization of the United Nations. It opposes the creation of a third UN body of individuals elected by those poor repressed people that it claims to care about. A new People’s Assembly would be far more valuable than another ‘respectable body’ of nations that believe they have a “clean human rights record”. Even the US would have trouble getting
accepted into this ‘club’. The veto power of the unelected few on the
Security Council mirrors the rights of kings, not entities accountable to any election process.
Feulner’s believes that those who contribute most to the UN can “demand a solid return on their investment”. That might work well for share holders in a corporation but real democracies or republics reject such a ‘golden rule’.
Finally, like the UN, our US Congress and the Administrative branch of our government is also riddled with scandal and corruption-and, I would add, incompetence. But there has been no call for ‘new leadership’ by Feulner and his foundation to address this legitimate problem.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Know your enemy! or lose war on terrorism

Jack Kelly’s view of key US policy makers and intelligence gatherers troubling “Ignorance about the enemy” (Dec. 15, 2006) is accurate and Nathan Fletcher’s “Letters” comment calling for the resignation of Representative Reyes due to his obvious and lethal ignorance is also laudable. But, Mr. Kelly’s suggestion that “our education should have begun on September 11, 2001” is laughable.

As early as 1997 the news pages of the Washington Times was educating its readers about the links between US “interventionist” military policy around the world and the growth of terrorism against Americans. Reporting on a CATO Institute study that year your paper informed us that of approximately 50 terrorist attacks against Americans in the previous ten years, all but two were a direct response to US military intervention abroad. Even your reporting on Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City made it clear that his mass murderous actions were in response to what he saw as excessive US government intervention at WACO and Ruby Ridge.

Given this indisputable history its painstaking to see the Washington Times editorial writers match the ignorance of other policy makers, ‘experts’, and military leaders in calling for “additional troops” to quell the violence in Iraq. If they were calling for additional Muslim troops they might have a real leg to stand on. Putting more US troops into that region of the world will only result in tens of thousands of US soldiers and innocent Muslims not having any real legs to stand on. But, advocates of ‘more troops’ are calling for more US troops.

We are not losing in Iraq but putting more US troops into the MiddleEast is a sure way of moving us that much closer to losing the nation building process there and even the larger global war against terrorism.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Slaying the Course 2

The solution to our Iraqi “quagmire” is simpler than the Iraq Study Group or other brainy experts believe. If defeat by retreat is not an option and an Iraqi democracy is our goal…let the Iraqi people vote for the future path they take.

If the majority votes to send US troops home…it’s not a retreat, it’s a democratic victory. If they vote for us to stay it would be a defeat for the terrorist recruiters who claim the US occupation is a war against Islam.

It is obvious to any thinking person that both Al Qaeda and Iran’s leaders want the US troops to stay in Iraq for a very long time and to even increase presence. As Michael O’Hanlon suggests (Toward Conditional Commitment 12-8-06) we are highly unlikely to launch preemption actions against Iran if we are bogged down and overstretched in Iraq.

But, there are two other strategic reasons Al Qaeda wants us to stay and increase our numbers of troops or trainers. They know that they cannot defeat us on the battle field but they are certain they can perpetually checkmate us and prevent us from ever winning the war. This contributes to the two primary goals of Osama Bin Ladin of breaking us economically and dividing us politically. It also aids his recruiting efforts when we stay without the approval of the majority of Iraqis.

If the Iraqis vote for us to leave and we do, there are three possible outcomes. The Iraqis will either federate their government and make it work, or, there will be an all out civil war that might spread to other neighboring countries. Either a stable federation in Iraq or Muslims mass murdering other Muslims is to our advantage in defeating Al Qaida.

Our only down side would be a sharp rise in oil prices. But even that’s helpful because it’s the only way US policy makers and voters will seriously invest in alternative fuels and stop sending our petrol dollars to funding more jihadists. And, with the money we would save from exiting Iraq we would have the money to invest.

If we stay in Iraq with any level of military presence without an Iraqi vote, Osama and his Jihadists win. Our being there inspires them. Our dependence on oil funds them. Our mentality of might-makes-right will never defeat them.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Slaying the Course

The release of today’s Iraq Study Group report with 79 recommendations clearly exemplify Albert Einstein's old claim; current problems can’t be solved with the same thinking that got us into them. A group of professional politicians with the youngest member only 67 years old doesn’t inspire confidence in ‘creative’ thinking or the ‘comprehensive approach” Chairman Lee Hamilton insists is needed.

Most experts agree there is no magic bullet. Most agree there is not even a good solution to the “grave and deteriorating” situation. All we have is bad choices and hopeful outcomes. That's just what we started with. Ideally, the study group would have been useful before the invasion and occupation but that’s not the way the Bush Administration worked.

Outreach to Syria and Iran?
If Iran wants the US bogged down in Iraq it is unlikely that even ‘tough negotiations” will work on the one nation that has the most influence inside Iraq today. It is possible that progress could be made after Iran refuses negotiations and is then embarrassed into positive action but it is far more likely that Iranians will see US diplomacy as an appeasement and simply up their anti-US policies. The greatest opportunity for US influence in Iran is to advance the international indictment of Iran’s President for his violation of both the UN Charter and the Genocide Convention by his repeated incitement of genocide against Israel and the Jewish people.

Our greatest interest in persisting in our efforts to create a peaceful Iraq is our dependence on Middle East oil and our interdependence with Israel’s quest for security in the war against Islamic extremists.

Bush has preached about “The transformational power of liberty” but this murderous debacle isn’t really about liberty or democracy. It’s about security. Ours and the Iraqi people’s. Shortly after the release of the report Tony Snow said “The power of the hope of liberty is something you cannot quantify”. This is true, but the lethality of war and terror can be. With well over three thousand Iraqi’s being murdered every week and over 100,000 Iraqis leaving the country every month the simple quantitative analysis is more than horrific. It’s catastrophic. Talking about freedom and democracy in a catastrophic climate demonstrates complete ignorance of both human nature and sound political judgment.

The real, persistent and growing threat to Israel is no more and no less important, than the real and growing threat to the majority of the Iraqi people of continued violence.

After the horrors of World War II (genocide, nuclear weapons, mass refugees) we created a United Nations to prevent the scourge of war for future generations. It wasn’t a bad idea. It just wasn’t given a decent chance. At the heart of the UN Charter was the supremacy of national sovereignty; ‘the right of any nation, to do anything it wants, to anyone it wants, whenever it wants’. This inherently flawed system of global management cannot stand. The UN has neither the financial or military capacity to enforce even its most important Security Council resolutions such as the disarmament of Hezbollah or even the simplest, the return of a handful of kidnapped Israel soldiers. It is increasingly clear that such toothless governance, or limited ‘war’ or even ‘faith’ is not the answer.

Perhaps its time we fall back on the concept that our founding fathers leaned on…”the concept of ‘federation’ and the ‘rule of law”. The first test action after a global police action to stop genocide in Darfur could be the enforceable indictment of Iran’s President for his repeated incitement of genocide against Israel and it’s people.

Another possible and important action ignored by the Iraq Study Group is the need for a sincere apology by President Bush for what may be the greatest foreign policy error in American History. With nearly 3000 brave US military personal dead, over 20,000 wounded and half a trillion dollars already spent there is little doubt that Americans will likely be paying even more in both blood and treasure for generations to come. The only means of reducing the accumulation of future costs will require an increase in security for the Iraqi people … and it is clear that no level of US military power cannot achieve it. The report’s commissioners unanimously agree that while more US troops are not a good idea, they also believe that nearly 5 times more US consultants/trainers are. They are wrong.

What is needed is a capable international force made up of personal from various Muslim majority nations heavily supported by US financing and technical support. Every nation in the Middle East has an interest in seeing a peaceful resolution to Iraqi chaos and the consequences that growing chaos would spread to their own territory. In short, we broke it, but we don’t have to fix it. We must however, acknowledge that we broke it and then go out of our way to pay financially for fixing it. Our blood or theirs is no longer acceptable currency.

Any other approach is extremely flawed and potential dangerous for everyone. Appeasement of Iran, Syria, PLO and Hamas is not an option. But waging war against them isn’t either. Everyone, including the US Bush administration, must be held accountable, protected from mass murder and contribute to cessation of unlawful violence.

Those who use terror must never be given a free pass. But those who chose war cannot be given a ‘freedom’ pass to achieve their goals however they see fit.

It’s often said that governments can always be counted on to do the right thing. But, only after throughout exhausting every other possibility…at least twice. Iraq is not Vietnam but you get the point. It’s time to take another path. Security for all (Jews, Iraqi’s and Americans alike) need to be the foundation of that path.

But according to the study US troops will be in Iraq a very, very long time…

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Iran '06 isn't Germany '39

Congressman Dan Burton’s comparison of today’s Iran to pre-war Germany (The ’39 parallel? 11-27-06) misses the actual history leading up to World War II and misinterprets other realities. Iran is not a serious threat.

First, it was the abusive Versailles Treaty at the end of WWI that “paved the way for the beginning of World War II”. Hitler was determined to expand the Third Reich with or without a “Non-aggression Pact” with Stalin. Second, Iran has no expansionist plans. Jihadists may have fantasies of a global caliphate but they have as much chance of achieving that as the KKK.

It is our failure to learn from history that will lead to the end of civilization. The first World War set the stage for WWII and most of the Middle East conflicts we see today. WWII set the stage for the Cold War which in turn set the stage for rise of radical Islamists. There is only one conclusion from this. War begets war. The League of Nations and the UN failed to achieve peace because they were never given the power to do anything beyond disease control, feeding the poor, after-the-fact ‘peacekeeping’.

If the US had given the UN had any real enforcement powers it could have indicted Saddam Hussein after he used poison gas to mass murder Iranians and Kurds in the late 1980s. But Saddam was a US ally then and Iran the victim, not the aggressor. Saddam’s capture then would have prevented the first Gulf War which led to the massive US troop buildup in Saudi Arabia (Osama Bin Ladin’s primary grievance against the US).

The greatest acts of Jihadist appeasement are the Bush Administration’s withdraw of US troops from Saudi Arabia almost immediately after 9-11. That’s what Bin Ladin wanted. He also wanted Palestinians to have a state of their own. Bush again acted in Bin Ladin’s favor. Bin Ladin was also opposed to US sanctions on the Iraqi people. Bush obliged and gave Bin Ladin a recruiting bonus – tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq so Jihadists wouldn’t have to cross the Atlantic to kill Americans.

“Tough sanctions” on the Iranian people could be more deadly than US air strikes. It is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that’s the real problem. His calls for genocide are a violation of the UN Charter and the Genocide convention. Ahmadinejad may be ignorant but he’s not stupid. He knows a nuclear strike on Israel would mean the end of Iran’s long and glorious civilization.

If Burton is still looking for a legitimate and profoundly serious ‘parallel’ he should consider the global catastrophic threat of the Bird flu. It was the chaos of WW I that accelerated (and may have even sparked) the spread of the Spanish flu that killed over 40 million people world wide and more Americans in just one year than all the wars of the 20th century. Waging war in our era of hyper globalization sets the stage for a pandemic that could easily kill more Americans than a limited nuclear exchange. Iran is not a serious threat. The chaos of war is.