Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thinking Things Over

One of the great things about being young, a student, someone hungry to understand how this world operates, and, of course, honest, is that I'm allowed to question myself, ask myself the difficult questions, and re-think how I consider the issue of our time. That issue is our present war. During my time at the Claremont Institute this summer, I've been exposed to an approach for America's approach to the world that does not jive with what I've written for public consumption in columns for two daily papers at Penn State, what I've written (or linked to) on this blog, and what I've argued over with whomever, everywhere else. I've come to really consider - and even agree with - this new (new, in that it's new to me) approach. Don't worry, though. I haven't become a lefty, I haven't become a blame-America-first type. I'm still a hawk. I still - and will always - believe in defending the United States. And I'm still - and will always - believe in the U.S. military as the gaurantor of our freedom.

However, I'm not going to get into what this new view on foreign policy right now because it is going on 2:30 in the morning (and I have to be up in five hours for work). So I'll get into that at a later time. But, tonight was one of those nights where I just may have come full circle. But then I think, maybe I haven't. I haven't read everything yet, I tell myself. I can't come to a new conclusion on things just yet. Maybe what I've thought all along was and is the way to go. I don't know. Now I'm just rambling. But what I do know is that I'm not done trying to figure everything out. And really, I don't think anyone has it totally figured out. And that's why I can change my mind - or at least be open to accept something new. That's not easy, especially when that's all I've written about and all I've believed.

So before I lose any more precious minutes of sleep, I'm going to leave it at that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

WFB on Iraq

Bill Buckley makes a great point about the struggle to write up a new Iraqi constitution:
Most recently a division arose in the matter of women’s rights. [Newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay] Khalilzad has laid down the law, that women’s rights are to be held as sacred as men’s rights, which is all very well, but requires adaptation to different protocols involving, for instance, inheritance, and divorce.

Communicants of western ideals cannot at this point go back and say simply that Iraq’s three major sectarian divisions will need to work out their own compromises on the authority of the laws, federal and local. We engaged the challenge as arising from the constitutional loins of the West, and we speak as if western accomplishments which required generations of nurture can and should be simply implanted in the new constitution. If we were devising a mathematics textbook for the schools, we would incorporate in it known advances in geometry, rather than proceed as though such refinements would be left to be intuited by Iraqi students. In the United States we took one hundred years to go from the promulgation of laws of equality, to a civil order that demanded true equality — from 1864 and the end of the civil war, to 1964 and the passage of the civil rights bills. Mr. Khalilzad is asking, in respect of women’s rights, that we begin right away with the third act.

It is a very important public question: Will we succeed? Are we traveling at a rate so ideologically prepossessing as to scorn human and cultural experience? Or are we overcome by the universality of insights we grew to know and love? President Bush certainly speaks language of this kind, defining an advance toward liberty as the purpose, pure and simple, of our foreign policy. It is awesome to remind ourselves that in a mere three weeks we are expected to know whether the Iraqi version of our Constitutional Convention is taking off.

The Corner on China

NRO's the Corner seems to have been expressing the "alternative" view on China lately. This morning Jonah Goldberg linked to a post by Andrew Sullivan's guest blogger, Judith Klinghoffer, who isn't too worried about the China threat. She notes the following, in the context of the Chinese general who recently said he'd hit the U.S. with nukes if we intervened in a conflict with Taiwan:

I suspect that sharp words were also exchanged between the Chinese government and the army. Why? Because some years ago when I raised in private the issue of Taiwanese independence with a senior advisor to the Chinese government on relations with Taiwan, he responded by taking a paper and drawing a map of the Chinese coast and Taiwan. He sought to demonstrate that an independent Taiwan would mean the encirclement of China. "The army will never stand for it," he said excitedly, "everything will be lost." He, apparently, knew what he was talking about and so should all the militant advocates of a formally independent Taiwan.
And last week, Kathryn Lopez posted this email from a CATO Institute think-tanker about the China-Unocal deal:

Most of the objections to the proposed deal stem from fear and loathing regarding the Chinese government. The argument seems to be that anything that promotes economic growth in China and, in turn, "feeds the beast." Now, of course it's true that China's government shows little to no respect for human rights and is one of the uglier regimes that populate the U.N.. It's attitude towards those who challenge party power in print or through civic action is savage and reprehensible. But it is on a positive trajectory. What was once a totalitarian state is now an authoritarian regime. Economic liberalization has had a lot to do with that - the emergence of capitalism and free trade has eroded the government's power and is likely to continue to do so in the future. Encouraging wealth creation and engagement in world markets will do more to encourage civil society in China than economic isolation, stagnation, and saber-rattling.

It's also important to keep the military issue in perspective. China's economy is the size of Italy's and, depending upon how you count it, American defense spending is 5-10 times larger than defense spending in China. Since Mao's death, China has not initiated war with anyone and has shown no inclination to initiate hostilities with the United States, Japan, or any of our allies in the region save for ... Taiwan. That's the only source of tension - the possibility that the United States might initiate a war with China over some future confrontation in Taiwan. A Chinese attack on Taiwan is a real worry, but notice that in that particular case, it would be the United States acting as the aggressor in this relationship, not the Chinese. Whether the U.S. has any business risking a nuclear war over Taiwan is an open question.

The argument that a wealthier, more prosperous China equals a more dangerous China is not necessarily true for the reasons I laid out above. Blocking China from access to markets or private economic assets would arguably incline the Chinese to think that only military muscle will allow it to secure access to markets and resources. That's not an idea we ought to encourage.

And I'm getting sick of hearing how China is a communist country. It is communist in name only. China is laboring to enter international markets and commerce and has substantially freed its economy from state control. It is arguably more capitalist than France. Moreover, China's lack of concern for human rights or the rule of law abroad is not substantially different from France's attitude towards the same.

Finally, the "level playing field" argument is a red herring. U.S. based companies have $105 billion of assets in China and employ 391,000 people there. Chinese firms own only $8 billion of U.S. assets and employ only 15,000 people here. Access to the Chinese economy is regulated and more difficult than it should be, but the suggestion that U.S. firms are "kept out" while we let Chinese firms into the U.S. is not founded upon fact.

Monday, July 25, 2005

National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism

Voice of the Taciturn, a great blog I discovered via Michael Ledeen at the Corner, writes on the fruits of the serious strategic planning for the war on terror that has been done the past 18 months at the Pentagon. As you'll read, Special Ops Command is taking the lead in directing the war on terror. The military is transforming. More jointness among the branches and more creative planning. It's just a reaction to the new kind of world we live in.

The idea of the big, two-power war (read: U.S.-China in the Taiwan Strait) is headed out the window. I mentioned this a few weeks ago. Granted, some of the old elements remain, such as strategic defense, but, really, the conventional-style, two-power war died when the Soviet Union died.

Whalid Phares UK Field Trip

Walid Phares, professor of Middle East Studies at Florida Atlantic University, sent an interesting and eye-opening report to The Counterterrorism Blog about a "sociological field trip" he took throughout Britain in 1999:

The Jihadists have penetrated the country since the end of the cold war. Any expert in the field would have understood as of the mid 1990s that the systematic spread of the Salafi ideology and its activists in the UK was to end up in Terrorism. It was ineluctable that the British dar al Harb [war zone] had to be attacked at some point; especially when many among its elites –inside academia or its political establishment- were confirming what the Islamists were convinced of: That the country was indeed evil, and it needed justice. An Allah administered justice. But while British elite-apologists aimed, such as MP George Galloway, at changes in Foreign policy, their Jihadi sympathizers aimed at the British people while attending their daily lives on July 7.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

John Burns on Iraq

The best reporter on this story gives us the harsh reality on the ground in Iraq. Maybe, as the U.S. commanders tell Burns, we're going to have begin looking at our best worst options:

America, these officers seem to be saying, can do only so much, and if Iraqis are hellbent on settling matters violently - at the worst, by civil war - that, in the end, would be their sovereign choice.
The new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, obviously has a brutal assignment ahead of him:

"Iraq is poised at the crossroads between two starkly different visions," he said. "The foreign terrorists and hardline Baathist insurgents want Iraq to fall into a civil war."

The new ambassador struck a positive chord, to be sure, saying "Iraqis of all communities and sects, like people everywhere, want to establish peace and create prosperity." Still, his coda remained one of caution: "I do not underestimate the difficulty of the present situation."

The Power of Yellow

That's 7 straight Tours de France for Lance Armstrong. What a career. How will history regard him? I have a feeling, pretty well.

Articles Worth Reading

Here are a couple articles I've been meaning to post. The first is Charles Krauthammer in the July/August issue of Commentary, writing on the "Neoconservative Convergence." Sort of a follow-up to his AEI lecture given last year. And pretty much the view held by this blog.

The other is an op-ed from last week's Wall Street Journal by Caleb Carr, whom I've never heard of. But now I'm glad I do know of him. "The Smell of Fear" is a must read for those who want to blame Anglo-American policies in the Mideast for the 7/7 bombings, rather than identify those really responsible for those murders.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

If Only More of the French Were Like Him

French intellectual Olivier Roy has a great op-ed in Friday's New York Times that gets at the root of what I've been trying to figure out since 7/7...and, for that matter, 9/11.

I've never heard of Roy before until I read a recent piece (which I linked to) in which he was quoted by Reuel Marc Gerecht in The Weekly Standard. Good to see a right-minded Frenchman get some op-ed space in the Times.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed

Why is this guy still around?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mideast Required Reading

Middle East pro and Bernard Lewis protege, Martin Kramer has posted some of his selected essays on a variety of topics concerning the Middle East as suggested readings to provide some semblance of balance for our impressionable young mind to Middle East Studies curriculae (is that the correct plural form?) on college campuses across the country. Print 'em out and break out the highlighter, yo!

China Round Up

We've got a pretty good round-up of some articles on China recently.

The Los Angeles Times had two articles from a couple days ago worth reading detailing China's global quest for oil and the new round of Sino-U.S. diplomatic engagement, beginning next month. The Chinese crusade for oil all over the world, where dealing with some not-too-friendly-to-us governments like Venezuela and Iran is viewed by Chinese officials as strictly securing economic interests, has raised concern for many of China's assertion as an emerging world power. The diplomatic engagement with China next month will be headed by Dep. SecState Robert Zoellick, who, as the U.S. trade rep during President Bush's first term, was instrumental in getting China admitted to the WTO. The key, it seems, for both sides is getting the management of China's rise right. Do we consider their rise hostile to U.S. security or do we seek a strategic partnership?

In this context, the Pentagon has released its annual report on Chinese military power. The New York Times reports on it here. The Pentagon report (PDF file) is here.

It looks like the Bush team is performing a balancing act on their China policy. Hawks in the Pentagon and Congress worry about China's intentions toward Taiwan, the balance of power in Asia and its coziness with American adversaries like Venezuela and Iran via oil deals. The other view is headed up by Zoellick and Asst. SecState for East Asia, Christopher Hill, who see the Chinese as more of a partner than a hostile belligerent. I'm more sympathetic to the State Dept. view on China, as I think the Chinese are rational and, despite some of their new oil "friends," are economic determinists. I don't see them risking all their economic gain and political clout for a confrontation with the U.S. that would likely erase all that and devastate the global economy. But it is still necessary to monitor China's military developments, especially their arms transactions.

Lastly, Tom Friedman is talking China today in his column, and I like what he's saying.

Also see my post on the Pentagon and Goldman Sachs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Jihad Euro-style

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Reuel Marc Gerecht has a couple interesting points about the evolution of radical Islam in Europe.

The effect of western culture on radicalized Islam:

In Europe as elsewhere, Westernization is the key to the growth and virulence of hard-core Islamic radicalism. The most frightening, certainly the most effective, adherents of bin Ladenism are those who are culturally and intellectually most like us. The process of Westernization liberates a Muslim from the customary sanctions and loyalties that normally corralled the dark side of the human soul. Respect for one's father, an appreciation for the human need to have fun, a toleration of eccentricity and naughty personal behavior, the love of art and folk music--all are characteristics of traditional mainstream Muslim society wiped away by the arrival of modernity and the simultaneous spread of sterile, esthetically empty, angry, Saudi-financed Wahhabi thought. In this sense, bin Ladenism is the Muslim equivalent of Western totalitarianism. This cleaning of the slate, this break with the past, is probably more profound in the Muslim enclaves in Europe--what Gilles Kepel called les banlieues de l'Islam--than it is in the urban sprawl of Cairo, where traditional mores, though under siege and badly battered by modernity, nevertheless retain considerable force.

Gerecht then seems to dismiss the "grievance factor":

Most intellectuals and politicians would prefer to see Islamic terrorism in Europe as a by-product of accumulated foreign grievances [Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Gulf Wars I and II, the current Bush administration]....Although some of the reasons put forth by Europeans to explain their Muslim problems are undoubtedly valid, a wise U.S. counterterrorist policy would downplay the external causes of Islamic activism in Europe. We should prepare for the worst-case scenario and assume that European society itself will continue to generate the most lethal holy warriors."

As as has been the theme recently, I don't know if Gerecht's approach of dismissing the "grievance factor" and getting ready for the worst is particularly sound. Maybe paying attention to this by trying to change minds is a waste of time? Maybe, as Gerecht seems to suggest, the "grievance factor" is tied to the fate of the Middle East:

There is no satisfying, expeditious answer to Europe's Muslim problems. If Olivier Roy is right--European Islam, for better and for worse, is now independent of the Middle East--then democracy could come to Muslims' ancestral homelands even as a virulent form of Islamic militancy persisted for years in Western Europe. But the intellectual and family ties with the Middle East are probably still sufficient to ensure that if the Middle East changes for the better, the ripples will quickly reach Europe. The democratic discussion in the Middle East, which is often broadcast through media headquartered in Europe, is becoming ever more vibrant and powerful. If Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt begins to give way to democracy, it's a very good bet that the discussion in every single mosque in Western Europe will be about the popular triumph and the democratic experiment beginning in the Arab world's most important country.

Amid all the ensuing political and religious debates and arguments, in the expectant hope that other dictators would fall, al Qaeda and its allied groups might find it even harder to attract recruits who would incinerate themselves for a revolutionary ideal increasingly at odds with reality. If the Bush administration wants to help Europe, it should back as forcefully as possible the rapid expansion of democracy in the Middle East. It would be a delightful irony if the more progressive political and religious debates among the Middle East's Muslims saved their brethren in the intellectually backward lands of the European Union.

I agree wholeheartedly, but I fear Gerecht is either to Muslim-centric in his analysis or he doesn't believe the state of Europe, with an ever-growing democratic and moral deficit, helps foster these enclaves of radical Islam. The people of Europe need to understand what is at stake in their own backyard. They need to know what is at risk and they have to ask themselves if they're willing to stand up and defend it. It would be great if the Middle East Muslim's can set an example for their brothers and sisters in Europe. Yet, it would be an even greater irony if the democrats in the Middle East prove to be a source of democratic inspiration to Europe as a whole.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Tiger and Lance Do Europe, Among Other Important Things

Just got back from a weekend road trip up US 101 visiting relatives in Morro Bay, CA. Great to see them as it is a rare occasion, living on opposite sides of the country. Except for the traffic hell-hole that is Santa Barbara, the trip up (and down) the coast is a treat. Beautiful sites of the Pacific and the mountainous California coast. And, I have mastered the L.A. freeway system at 80 mph.

Well it looks like we have more American athletic dominance on the European continent. Tiger, winning his 10th major overall, captured his second Open Championship (second win at St. Andrews, incidentally, in 2000) by five strokes, quelling hopes (or fears?) for a final round charge by Monty - Scotsman and Open gallery favourite, Colin Montgomerie.

Lance Armstrong gets one step closer to winning his seventh Tour de France, extending his overall lead by 2:46, after placing seventh in the 15th stage of the epic bike race.

Haven't had a chance to track too much news this weekend. Looks like Iraq is blowing up again, literally and figuratively. Might be an emboldened response to the London bombings? John Burns is on the beat.

B.D. has a pretty good round-up from the Sunday NYT. As you'll read, the French are being French. And, we may have an answer to the mysterious appeal of radical Islam. B.D. quotes this NYT Week in Review piece:

At least one of the young men from Leeds was from an affluent family, and none were particularly poor or unhappy, according to press reports. At least two had become devout. At least two had traveled to Pakistan. At least some of their parents clearly opposed such violence. A breakthrough for the police came when the mother of one, fearing her son was a victim of the bombings, informed police he was missing.

Jessica Stern, a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the author of "Terror in the Name of God," spent part of the spring in the Netherlands investigating the attitudes of young Muslims there. She said she feared that for some of them, violent Islamism had become a fad.

For some, she said, "To be angry and rebellious these days is to be angry, rebellious and Islamist, and, unfortunately, to be violent." In a previous era, she observed, they might have embraced Marxism. She said that while these young people experienced some prejudice and economic hardship, their grievances were reinforced by "a feeling of vicarious humiliation" of Muslims elsewhere. The radicalism of some appeared driven less by contact with a charismatic cleric than by what they found for themselves on the Internet.

"They self-recruit, self-radicalize, and they go and find their own imam," Ms. Stern said. "So the picture that we have, that all we have to do is watch those fiery imams, or go into the mosques - well, those days are over."

A fad?!? This is kinda scary considering how it is sooo cool now at college to wear a Che Guevera t-shirt and fight for "social justice." I hope when my kids go off to college in 2030-whatever, it isn't fashionable to wear an Al-Zarqawi or Arafat t-shirt. But look at the picture of the London bombers before they went off and killed 50+ people. I just spent a semester in Barcelona studying and did a lot of European traveling. The bombers look like any other youthful, wide-eyed college kid heading to out explore some corner of Europe. But, no; these guys aren't studying abroad. These guys are heading to battle.

This NYT July 16 story touches on some themes B.D. mentions, as well. Although B.D. wants to shrug off what seems to be the motivating factor for these young guys joining the jihad:

Reports the NYT:

LEEDS, England, July 15 - At Beeston's Cross Flats Park, in the center of this now embattled town, Sanjay Dutt and his friends grappled Friday with why their friend Kakey, better known to the world as Shehzad Tanweer, had decided to become a suicide bomber.

"He was sick of it all, all the injustice and the way the world is going about it," Mr. Dutt, 22, said. "Why, for example, don't they ever take a moment of silence for all the Iraqi kids who die?"

"It's a double standard, that's why," answered a friend, who called himself Shahroukh, also 22, wearing a baseball cap and basketball jersey, sitting nearby. "I don't approve of what he did, but I understand it. You get driven to something like this, it doesn't just happen."

To the boys from Cross Flats Park, Mr. Tanweer, 22, who blew himself up on a subway train in London last week, was devout, thoughtful and generous. If they understood his actions, it was because they lived in Mr. Tanweer's world, too.

They did not agree with what Mr. Tanweer had done, but made clear they shared the same sense of otherness, the same sense of siege, the same sense that their community, and Muslims in general, were in their view helpless before the whims of greater powers. Ultimately, they understood his anger.

B.D. says, big deal?!:

There are those, even now, who seek to 'understand' their actions and who get airtime in the predictable places like the pages of the Guardian. This time is past. The call must be to ferret out such killers before they strike again. Too much is at stake.

I think this "grievance" issue is the heart of the problem for young, Westernized Muslims. They feel - for whatever their circumstances - there has been no justice for what they view have been repeated wrongs. Just re-read the quote above from the 22 year old friend of the one bomber. He "understands" - and probably feels - the same anger his buddy had, but isn't compelled to blow himself and everyone else up. So again, I go back to what I wrote a few days ago about a re-education of the Western world about the Western world. You talk to any foreign student at Penn State or anyother college in the U.S. or Europe about U.S. foreign policy past and present, America's history of slavery and racial segregation, etc., etc., and you'll get at least a similar response like you did from the kid in Leeds. Everything is America's fault. Nothing America does or has down is legitimate or good, in foreign students' eyes. The ironic thing is that, for how bad America is, it's still a great place to get that PhD.

An answer, a response, something is necessary to counter the various views or opinions that make the young Muslims in Leeds so angry. Because it seems like these views and grievances, which make them feel weak, inferior and full of injustice to Western power lead them to radical Islam, which gives them a feeling of justice, moral superiority and righteousness. Considering all that has been said, can we say that if these guys only knew better, or had a better understanding of whatever they viewed to be a grievance or source of anger, that they might not have been driven to radical Islam and, therefore, the cult of suicide bombing in the name of Allah? It is possible.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Iraq Update

Greg Djerejian forwards to us an update from the Green Zone in Baghdad:

From a reliable source I hear the tea-leaves from a senior, seasoned diplomat at our Embassy in Baghdad are thus: 1) the strategy of us standing down as they stand up (translation: train and equip) is making real progress (if often hard and tortuous progress); 2) the Sunnis are getting increasingly involved in the political process so that there is some optimism the insurgency will see some life sucked out of it; and 3) there are fears federalist demands from the Kurds could be a sleeper issue that imperils progress on 1 and 2. There are other nuances, but this is the story from the Green Zone at present. If you are on the ground, of course, and this is your life and blood and daily chore--you have the right to be a cautious optimist. My source tells me too that the thinking there is that we will 'make it', if only we do not lose our 'will'. I think all this is pretty much right. Assuming we have the resources in theater if things take nasty, unpredictable turns, however, I'd like to caveat too.

I'd like to know more about the Kurdish demands as well. Though the "cautious optimism" is always welcoming.

Friedman and Krauthammer

Good columns today from Tom Friedman and Charles Krauthammer.

Friedman alludes to something I referenced yesterday. He writes:

One of the London bombers was married, with a young child and another on the way. I can understand, but never accept, suicide bombing in Iraq or Israel as part of a nationalist struggle. But when a British Muslim citizen, nurtured by that society, just indiscriminately blows up his neighbors and leaves behind a baby and pregnant wife, to me he has to be in the grip of a dangerous cult or preacher - dangerous to his faith community and to the world.

How does that happen? Britain's Independent newspaper described one of the bombers, Hasib Hussain, as having recently undergone a sudden conversion "from a British Asian who dressed in Western clothes to a religious teenager who wore Islamic garb and only stopped to say salaam to fellow Muslims."

The secret of this story is in that conversion - and so is the crisis in Islam. The people and ideas that brought about that sudden conversion of Hasib Hussain and his pals - if not stopped by other Muslims - will end up converting every Muslim into a suspect and one of the world's great religions into a cult of death.

In my post yesterday, the uncle of one of the bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, said: "It wasn't him. It must have been forces behind him." I then wrote, "Here are two seemingly regular, assimilated British citizens. But they caught the Islamo-fascist disease. This disease has been exported to Britain, and everywhere else in Europe."

As Friedman says, the heart of the problem is the conversion to and the appeal of radical Islam by these young Muslims - people my age. Understanding how this process occurs; understanding the appeal of radical Islamism (maybe it's the purpose, the sense of duty and mission?) is hugely critical to winning this war. But, maybe, before we can do that, we have to accept the reality of it. Says Krauthammer:

One of the reasons Westerners were so unprepared for this wave of Islamist terrorism, not just militarily but psychologically, is sheer disbelief. It shockingly contradicts Western notions of progress. The savagery of Bouyeri's act [the slaughter of Dutch filmaker Theo Van Gogh], mirroring the ritual human slaughter by Abu Musab Zarqawi or Daniel Pearl's beheaders, is a return to a primitiveness that we in the West had assumed a progressive history had left behind.

Many people in the U.S. and Europe either don't believe such evil exists or know it exists, but don't acknowledge it and blame the execution of it (9/11, 3/11, 7/7, etc.) on America and the West. These folks might be called the "apologists among us" (hat tip, Roger Simon). And their problem is a rejection of the principles and the inherent goodness and rightness of these principles. I don't know how this problem can be fixed, considering the state of our P.C. universities and high schools. But maybe it can start at the top with presidential leadership?