Friday, December 19, 2008

"Bush Has Made Us Vulnerable: Two incompetently prosecuted wars have undermined our deterrent"

Bush Has Made Us Vulnerable, by Mark Helprin
Two incompetently prosecuted wars have undermined our deterrent

In his great Civil War history, "Decision in the West," Albert Castel describes the last Confederate hope of victory. If in 1864 the Confederate armies continue to exact a steep cost from the North, "the majority of Northerners will decide that going on with the war is not worth the financial and human cost and so will replace Lincoln and the Republicans with a Democratic president and Congress committed to stopping hostilities and instituting peace negotiations." He cites the resolution of the Confederate Congress that: "Brave and learned men in the North have spoken out against the usurpations and cruelties daily practiced. The success of these men over the radical and despotic faction which now rules the North may open the way to . . . a cessation of this bloody and unnecessary war." Plus ça change . . . .

The administrations of George W. Bush have virtually assured such a displacement by catastrophically throwing the country off balance, both politically and financially, while breaking the nation's sword in an inconclusive seven-year struggle against a ragtag enemy in two small bankrupt states. Their one great accomplishment -- no subsequent attacks on American soil thus far -- has been offset by the stunningly incompetent prosecution of the war. It could be no other way, with war aims that inexplicably danced up and down the scale, from "ending tyranny in the world," to reforging in a matter of months (with 130,000 troops) the political culture of the Arabs, to establishing a democracy in Iraq, to only reducing violence, to merely holding on in our cantonments until we withdraw.

This confusion has come at the price of transforming the military into a light and hollow semi-gendarmerie focused on irregular warfare and ill-equipped to deter the development and resurgence of the conventional and strategic forces of China and Russia, while begging challenges from rivals or enemies no longer constrained by our former reserves of strength. For seven years we failed to devise effective policy or make intelligent arguments for policies that were worth pursuing. Thus we capriciously forfeited the domestic and international political equilibrium without which alliances break apart and wars are seldom won.

The pity is that the war could have been successful and this equilibrium sustained had we struck immediately, preserving the link with September 11th; had we disciplined our objective to forcing upon regimes that nurture terrorism the choice of routing it out with their ruthless secret services or suffering the destruction of the means to power for which they live; had we husbanded our forces in the highly developed military areas of northern Saudi Arabia after deposing Saddam Hussein, where as a fleet in being they would suffer no casualties and remain at the ready to reach Baghdad, Damascus, or Riyadh in three days; and had we taken strong and effective measures for our domestic protection while striving to stay within constitutional limits and eloquently explaining the necessity -- as has always been the case in war -- for sometimes exceeding them. Today's progressives apologize to the world for America's treatment of terrorists (not a single one of whom has been executed). Franklin Roosevelt, when faced with German saboteurs (who had caused not a single casualty), had them electrocuted and buried in numbered graves next to a sewage plant.

The counterpart to Republican incompetence has been a Democratic opposition warped by sentiment. The deaths of thousands of Americans in attacks upon our embassies, warships, military barracks, civil aviation, capital, and largest city were not a criminal matter but an act of war made possible by governments and legions of enablers in the Arab world. Nothing short of war -- although not the war we have waged -- could have been sufficient in response. The opposition is embarrassed by patriotism and American self-interest, but above all it is blind to the gravity of the matter. Though scattered terrorists allied with militarily insignificant states are not, as some conservatives assert, closely analogous to Nazi Germany, the accessibility of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons makes the destructive capacity of these antagonists unfortunately similar -- a fact, especially in regard to Iran, that is persistently whistled away by the Left.

An existential threat of such magnitude cannot be averted by imagining that it is the work of one man and will disappear with his death; by mousefully pleasing the rest of the world; by hopefully excluding the tools of war; or by diplomacy without the potential of force, which is like a policeman without a gun, something that doesn't work anymore even in Britain. The Right should have labored to exhaustion to forge a coalition, and the Left should have been willing to proceed without one. The Right should have been more respectful of constitutional protections, and the Left should have joined in making temporary and clearly defined exceptions. In short, the Right should have had the wit to fight, and the Left should have had the will to fight.

Both failed. The country is exhausted, divided, and improperly protected, and will remain so if the new president and administration are merely another face of the same sterile duality. To avoid the costs of a stalled financial system, the two parties -- after an entire day of reflection -- committed to the expenditure of what with its trailing ends will probably be $1.5 trillion in this fiscal year alone.

But the costs of not reacting to China's military expansion, which could lead to its hegemony in the Pacific; or of ignoring a Russian resurgence, which could result in a new Cold War and Russian domination of Europe; or of suffering a nuclear detonation in New York, Washington, or any other major American city, would be so great as to be, apparently, unimaginable to us now. Which is why, perhaps, we have not even begun to think about marshaling the resources, concentration, deliberation, risk, sacrifice, and compromise necessary to avert them. This is the great decision to which the West is completely blind, and for neglect of which it will in the future grieve exceedingly.

Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale" (Harcourt) and "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt).

Bret Stephens: Let's Buy Pakistan's Nukes

Let's Buy Pakistan's Nukes, by Bret Stephens

Every visitor to Pakistan has seen them: 20-foot tall roadside replicas of a remote mountain where, a decade ago, Pakistan conducted its first overt nuclear tests. This is what the country's leaders -- military, secular, Islamist -- consider their greatest achievement.

So here's a modest proposal: Let's buy their arsenal.

A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan's nuclear program (and midwife to a few others), likes to point out what a feat it was that a country "where we can't even make a bicycle chain" could succeed at such an immense technological task. He exaggerates somewhat: Pakistan got its bomb largely through a combination of industrial theft, systematic violation of Western export controls, and a blueprint of a weapon courtesy of Beijing.

Still, give Mr. Khan this: Thanks partly to his efforts, a country that has impoverished the great mass of its own people, corruptly enriched a tiny handful of elites, served as a base of terrorism against its neighbors, lost control of its intelligence services, radicalized untold numbers of Muslims in its madrassas, handed the presidency to a man known as Mr. 10%, and proliferated nuclear technology to Libya and Iran (among others) has, nevertheless, made itself a power to be reckoned with. Congratulations.

But if Pakistanis thought a bomb would be a net national asset, they miscalculated. Yes, Islamabad gained parity with its adversaries in New Delhi, gained prestige in the Muslim world, and gained a day of national pride, celebrated every May 28.

What Pakistan didn't gain was greater security. "The most significant reality was that the bomb promoted a culture of violence which . . . acquired the form of a monster with innumerable heads of terror," wrote Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy earlier this year. "Because of this bomb, we can definitely destroy India and be destroyed in its response. But its function is limited to this."

In 2007, some 1,500 Pakistani civilians were killed in terrorist attacks. None of those attacks were perpetrated by India or any other country against which Pakistan's warheads could be targeted, unless it aimed at itself. But Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has made it an inviting target for the jihadists who blew up Islamabad's Marriott hotel in September and would gladly blow up the rest of the capital as a prelude to taking it over.

The day that happens may not be so very far off. President Asif Ali Zardari was recently in the U.S. asking for $100 billion to stave off economic collapse. So far, the international community has ponied up about $15 billion. That puts Mr. Zardari $85 billion shy of his fund-raising target. Meantime, the average Taliban foot soldier brings home monthly wages that are 30% higher than uniformed Pakistani security personnel.

Preventing the disintegration of Pakistan, perhaps in the wake of a war with India (how much restraint will New Delhi show after the next Mumbai-style atrocity?), will be the Obama administration's most urgent foreign-policy challenge. Since Mr. Obama has already committed a trillion or so in new domestic spending, what's $100 billion in the cause of saving the world?

This is the deal I have in mind. The government of Pakistan would verifiably eliminate its entire nuclear stockpile and the industrial base that sustains it. In exchange, the U.S. and other Western donors would agree to a $100 billion economic package, administered by an independent authority and disbursed over 10 years, on condition that Pakistan remain a democratic and secular state (no military rulers; no Sharia law). It would supplement that package with military aid similar to what the U.S. provides Israel: F-35 fighters, M-1 tanks, Apache helicopters. The U.S. would also extend its nuclear umbrella to Pakistan, just as Hillary Clinton now proposes to do for Israel.

A pipe dream? Not necessarily. People forget that the world has subtracted more nuclear powers over the past two decades than it has added: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and South Africa all voluntarily relinquished their stockpiles in the 1990s. Libya did away with its program in 2003 when Moammar Gadhafi concluded that a bomb would be a net liability, and that he had more to gain by coming to terms with the West.

There's no compelling reason Mr. Zardari and his military brass shouldn't reach the same conclusion, assuming excellent terms and desperate circumstances. Sure, a large segment of Pakistanis will never agree. Others, who have subsisted on a diet of leaves and grass so Pakistan could have its bomb, might take a more pragmatic view.

The tragedy of Pakistan is that it remains a country that can't do the basics, like make a bicycle chain. If what its leaders want is prestige, prosperity and lasting security, they could start by creating an economy that can make one -- while unlearning how to make the bomb.

Science Mag: John Holdren to be Nominated as Obama's Science Adviser

Science reports:

Strong indications are that President-elect Barack Obama has picked physicist John Holdren to be the president's science adviser.

A top adviser to the Obama campaign and international expert on energy and climate, Holdren would bolster Obama's team in those areas. Both are crowded portfolios. Obama has already created a new position to coordinate energy issues in the White House staffed by well-connected Carol Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and nominated a Nobel-prize winning physicist, Steve Chu, to head the Department of Energy. That could complicate how the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which Holdren will run, will manage energy and environmental policy. "OSTP will have to be redefined in relation to these other centers of formulating policy," says current White House science adviser Jack Marburger.

Holdren had been planning to attend a staff meeting this morning with colleagues at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he heads the technology and science program. But instead, he flew today to Chicago to meet with the transition team and prepare for the announcement; initial plans are to release the official news of the appointment on a weekly radio program that Obama records and will be broadcast on Saturday. The transition office declined to comment.

Holdren is well known for his work on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Trained in fluid dynamics and plasma physics, Holdren branched out into policy early in his career. He has led the Woods Hole Research Center for the past 3 years and served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceInsider) in 2006.

—Eli Kintisch

CNN's Zain Verjee interview: State Secretary Condi Rice

MRC's transcript of CNN correspondent Zain Verjee interview with State Secretary Condi Rice, aired on Wednesday night’s Anderson Cooper 360:

VERJEE: Staying in Iraq, the shoe-throwing incident, it was really a symbol in so many ways in the Arab world of utter contempt for President Bush.

RICE: And it was one journalist among several who were sitting there respectfully, and I hope it isn’t allowed over time to obscure the fact that this was the President of the United States standing in Baghdad next to the democratically elected Shia Prime Minister of a multi-confessional Iraq that has just signed agreements of friendship and cooperation with the United States for the long term.

VERJEE: But the man may have been one journalist, but he was viewed throughout much of the Arab world as a real hero.

RICE: Oh, I –

VERJEE: My question is –

RICE: I have heard so many people –

VERJEE: My question to you is: Does it bother you that with all the diplomacy that you’ve done, President Bush’s policies, the policies that you’ve carried out that the U.S. is so loathed around the world?

RICE: Zain, the United States is not loathed. The policies of the United States are sometimes not liked. People don’t like that we’ve had to say hard things and do hard things about terrorism. People don’t like that we’ve spoken fiercely for the right of Israel to defend itself at the same time that we’ve advocated for a Palestinian state. But I have to go back. So many people in and around when that incident happened told me how embarrassed they were by the fact that that had happened. But the crux –

VERJEE: But didn’t it upset you? Didn’t it?

RICE: No, no, only that the focus of those who are supposed to be reporting for history didn’t focus on the historical moment, which is that this was the President of the United States in Baghdad, for goodness’ sakes, with a freely elected prime minister in a show of friendship. It didn’t get reported that the Iraqi band spent apparently several – all night trying to learn our national anthem and did it really rather well.

Other questions Verjee made:

-- "What about North Korea? At every step in this deal, the North Koreans have made promises, they’ve broken them, they’ve made demands, you’ve made concessions, you’ve moved your red lines. Your critics say that really what happened was, was the North Koreans were just playing you like a violin."

-- "What about the Middle East? You really put in a lot of effort. And made progress when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But do you ever think to yourself, gosh, you know, I really wish that we started this kind of engagement a long time ago at the beginning of the Bush Administration, not toward the end? Do you ever think about that?"

-- "The worst breach of national security in the history of the United States came under your watch....Did you ever consider resigning?"

-- "One of the issues raised by some of your critics, they say that as National Security Advisor you were really steamrolled by Vice President Cheney, by former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and didn’t present a broad enough view to the President. Do you think you did?" Rice replied: "Certainly, the principals had their say, and as National Security Advisor I faithfully presented to the President what his principals were thinking – all of them."

Verjee wrapped up the interview by asking if Rice voted for Obama (she avoided an answer) and "Was Sarah Palin a bad choice?" (Rice praised her as historic for women.)

h/t: Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center

"I know, I know there are reasons not to love this country, and to fear her"

Sent to Anna Bosch's blog in the federally owned Spanish radio and TV company, RTVE:

hola, cuatro apuntes acerca de lo que vemos en este blog:

1 A partir de la lectura de la presentación de Da. Anna Bosch (Perfil):

"…Ya, ya sé que hay razones para no querer a este país, y para temerlo, pero entiendo que sería redundante enumerarlas porque, según todas las encuestas y sondeos, las tenéis muy, muy presentes. Citando un clásico de Hollywood, nobody's perfect."

Primera idea: no nos imaginamos un corresponsal de la emisora sostenida con dinero del contribuyente trabajando en, digamos, Corea del Norte, o Libia antes de renunciar a su programa nuclear militar, o Afghanistan con los taliban, y que se pudiera considerar neutral escribiendo algo como lo que acabamos de citar. ¿No sería mejor, por parecer neutral, evitar pronunciamientos así?

2 Respecto a lo de "Con la inclusión de Sarah Palin en el ticket y las perspectivas de derrota la campaña de John McCain ha virado a la derecha, a la extrema derecha" ("Una de las dos Américas ha de helarte el corazón"), segunda idea: ¿no parece raro que alguien que trabaja para, entre otras cosas, dejar un registro al que acudan los historiadores en el futuro escriba lo de "extrema derecha"?

3 Respecto a "en algunos actos de Palin han abundados gritos o comentarios del público que asustan. Gritos de "que lo maten" "traidor" "terrorista" referidos a Barack Obama" ("Una de las dos Américas ha de helarte el corazón"), lo que recuerdamos de esas alegaciones es que:
according to Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley [...] "The Secret Service did not hear any threatening statements directed at targets under its protection and no threatening statements were reported to us by law enforcement or citizens at the event," Wiley told Radar. Also unclear: whether the remark was directed at Obama or Ayers if the words were actually "kill" and "him."

Yo particularmente no he visto aún rectificación de Dana Milbank, Washington Post, pero, tercera idea, como tantas otras veces, sirva esto para que aprendamos más prudencia, más paciencia, y no citar como verdades históricas cosas que nos dicen nuestros amigos o colegas, 98% de los cuales piensan de política como nosotros mismos.

4 Cuarta idea: a lo mejor no es suficiente citar como medios que uno admira (por tanto, escucha/lee/vee más que los demás) los que aparecen en el perfil:

"El New York Times, el Washington Post, la NPR y la PBS…"

ya que no son medios bipartidistas ¿Puede ser que parte de la realidad se escape por no leer/ver/oír con igual frecuencia otros medios? La admiración sentida (después de Lauren Bacall, nada menos) ¿no es peligrosa para la objetividad?

Gracias por la oportunidad de expresar nuestras inquietudes,

Jorge Mata
Press Office
Bipartisan Alliance,
a Society for the Study and Defense of the US Constitution, where Republicans and Democrats meet.