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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wilderness of mirrors by Arnaud de Borchgrave

Commentary: Wilderness of mirrors

UPI Editor at Large
WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) -- "Every lie contains a truth and every truth contains a lie" is a safe rule of thumb when Shakespeare's powers of observation are applied to the Middle East. With each shake of the kaleidoscope, the configuration of the key players becomes a wilderness of mirrors. Add to the mix a whispering campaign in which rumors and innuendo are spread to conceal ulterior motives, and sorting fact from fancy is frequently mission impossible. Good disinformation contains a kernel of truth spun with a tissue of lies. Even if you understand the game, there is still no Rosetta Stone that can decipher the Middle East's geopolitical hieroglyphics.

Some recent samples:

-- Brokered by Turkey, a Syrian-Israeli deal is in the works. Israel will abandon the Golan Heights and Syria will ditch its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah. If your marker's on this square, you're already out of the game. Israelis are not about to become fish in a barrel below the Golan Heights, even if demilitarized. The Heights command Israel's most densely populated regions.

-- A "viable and contiguous" Palestinian state becomes reality before President Bush leaves office Jan. 21, 2009. You lose again. The Israelis continue to build illegal settlements in the West Bank to make sure a Palestinian state is unworkable and discontinuous. There is no peace with Hamas as it spreads its underground influence from Gaza to the West Bank. Conversely, there is no peace without Hamas. Commented Haaretz, Israel's leading newspaper: "The dynamic of deception is continuing. Deception of the Americans, deception of the voters for parties that etched peace on their standard, deception of the Palestinians and above all self-deception. Our top leaders have joined together on a course that has no objective."

-- Arab nations don't much care about the Palestinians. Bold move on the board. The $7 billion pledged to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank by the oil-rich Gulf states has yet to materialize. With $3 billion cash, the "Gulfies" could have launched Gaza on its way to becoming the next Dubai on the Mediterranean. On the other hand, Israel's short-to-medium-range interest is to keep fanning the embers of an incipient civil war between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank.

-- Israel plans to do something about what most Israelis believe is an existential threat: an Iranian nuclear weapon in the nosecone of an intermediate-range ballistic missile. You're still in the game. A "60 Minutes" segment reported by Bob Simon last Sunday was a rare and heavily censored look inside the Israeli air force, which owns the airspace over the Middle East, or rather shares it with the United States. Gen. Eliezer Shkedy, the IAF chief, categorized Iran as "a very serious threat to Israel but more than this to the whole world. They are talking about wiping us from the Earth." The CBS piece left little doubt the IAF could duplicate the June 1981 bombing of Osirak, Iraq's French-built nuclear reactor, just before it went critical. The Israeli general's Mona Lisa smile left little doubt the IAF, no longer concerned with aerial dogfights, had been honing its long-range bombing skills. They also have enough air-to-air refueling capacity for a flying pit stop over Iraq.

-- President Bush will not leave office with Iran's nuclear bomb-making capacity intact. Still in the game here, too. Bush, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen and new Central Command Gen. David Petraeus, whose area of responsibility includes 25 nations that stretch from Egypt to Pakistan, including two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, take turns accusing Iran's Al Quds Revolutionary Guard Special Forces of smuggling weapons and explosive devices into Iraq that are killing U.S. soldiers. New pictures of Iran's uranium enrichment plant show the mullahs' defense minister in the background -- a geopolitical thumbing of the nose. U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates said, "What the Iranians are doing is killing American servicemen and women inside Iraq." The casus belli is now in place. Also in place off the Iranian coastline are two U.S. aircraft carriers. Mullen warned Iran not to assume the U.S. military can't strike. Vice President Dick Cheney, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and prominent neocons like former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, Bill Kristol and Michael Ledeen use different formulations to say there is only one thing worse than bombing Iran -- and that's Iran with a nuclear bomb. The rationale for doing it before Bush retires to his Texas ranch in January is that a Democratic president would most probably opt for learning to live with Iran's nuclear weapon. And if McCain becomes president, he may be hobbled by two Democrat-controlled houses of Congress.

-- The United States will be involved in Iraq militarily for several more years, probably the entire length of the next administration. Good bet. No sooner than Petraeus' surge was successfully completed than the insurgents reappeared with rocket and mortar barrages against the green zone where the largest U.S. Embassy in the world is now open for business. Four U.S. soldiers were killed in Baghdad in one day this week. If a Democratic president were to order a total pullout over 18 months, there is little doubt among Arab and European intelligence personnel based in Iraq that civil war would break out and democracy would not long survive.

-- Pakistan's new democratic coalition government will negotiate with the Taliban to cease and desist using their privileged sanctuaries in the seven tribal areas that abut the Afghan border to attack U.S., NATO and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Faulty assumption. The new team is bending over backward to distance itself from the United States and negotiate live-and-let-live peace pacts with the likes of Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban chieftain who controls both South and North Waziristan.

-- All restraints removed, the Pakistan-based Taliban is now free to focus on Afghanistan. Safe bet. This week Taliban insurgents opened fire on an Afghan military parade in downtown Kabul. Mortars and automatic fire killed six and wounded seven in the reviewing stand. Army and police officers fled the scene. Afghan state television shut down its coverage as President Hamid Karzai escaped his fourth assassination attempt unscathed.

-- Rashid Shah, another Taliban chief based in Waziristan, told a Swiss journalist, "It is impossible to stop us." Another safe assumption.
© 2008 United Press International. All Rights Reserved.


War with Syria? The Military Option by Uri Avnery

War with Syria?

The Military Option


War with Syria? Peace with Syria?

A big military operation against Hamas in the Gaza strip? A cease-fire with Hamas?

Our media discuss these questions dispassionately, as if they were equivalent options. Like a person in a showroom making a choice between two cars. This one is good, and so is the other one. So which should one buy?

And nobody cries out: War is the height of stupidity!

* * *

KARL VON CLAUSEWITZ, the renowned military theorist, famously said that war is nothing but the continuation of politics by other means. Meaning: war is there to serve policy and is useless when it does not.

What policies did the wars in the last hundred years serve?

Ninety-four years ago, World War I broke out. The immediate cause was the assassination of the Austrian heir apparent by a Serbian student. In Sarajevo they showed me how it happened: after a first attempt on the main street had failed, the assassins had already given up hope when one of them came across the victim again, by sheer accident, and killed him. After this almost accidental killing many millions of human beings lost their lives in the following four years.

The assassination served, of course, only as a pretext. Every one of the belligerent nations had political and economic interests that pushed it into the war. But did the war really serve these interests? The results suggest the opposite: three mighty empires - the Russian, German and Austrian - collapsed; France lost its standing as a world power beyond all hope of recovery; the British Empire was mortally wounded.

Military experts point to the shocking stupidity of almost all the generals, who threw their poor soldiers again and again into hopeless battles, which achieved nothing but slaughter.

Were the statesmen any wiser? Not one of the politicians who started the war imagined that it would last so long and be so horrible. In early August 1914, when the soldiers of all the countries marched into the war with merry enthusiasm, they were promised that they would be home "before Christmas".

No political aim was achieved in that war. The peace agreements that were imposed on the vanquished were monuments of unbridled imbecility. It can be argued that the main result of World War I was World War II.

* * *

THE SECOND World War was, seemingly, more rational. The man who launched it practically single-handed, Adolf Hitler, knew exactly what he wanted. His opponents went to war because they had no choice, if they did not want to be overrun by a monstrous dictator. Most of the generals on both sides were far more intelligent than their predecessors.

And in spite of this, it was a stupid war.

Hitler was, basically, a primitive person who lived in the past and did not understand the Zeitgeist. He wanted to turn Germany into the leading world power - an aim that was wildly beyond its capabilities. He intended to conquer large parts of Eastern Europe and to empty them of their inhabitants, in order to settle Germans there. That was a hopelessly obsolete concept of power. Like all ideas of establishing settlements as a national instrument, it belonged to centuries past. Hitler did not understand the meaning of the technological revolution that was about to change the face of the world. It can be said: Hitler was not only an evil tyrant and a monumental war criminal, but ultimately also a thoroughly stupid person.

The only aim that he almost achieved was the annihilation of the Jewish people. But even this mad endeavor failed in the end: Jews today have a strong influence on the most powerful country in the world, and the Holocaust played an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel.

Hitler wanted to destroy the Soviet Union and reach a compromise with the British Empire. He belittled the United States and almost ignored it. The result of the war was that the Soviet Union took over a large part of Europe, America became the main world power and the British Empire disintegrated forever.

Indeed, the Nazi dictator proved, more than anybody else, the utter futility of war as a political instrument at this point in time. After the destruction of Hitler's Reich, Germany did achieve his goal. Germany is now the dominant economic and political power in a united Europe - but this was attained not with tanks and heavy guns, without war and military might, solely by diplomacy and exports. One generation after all the German cities had become heaps of ruins in the Nazi adventure, Germany was already flourishing as never before.

The same can be said about Japan, which was even more militaristic than Germany. It achieved by peaceful means what the generals and admirals had failed to achieve by war.

* * *

FROM TIME to time I read enthusiastic reports by American tourists about Vietnam. What a wonderful country! What a friendly people! What good business can be done there!

Only a generation ago, a brutal war was running amok there. Masses of people were killed, hundreds of villages burned, forests and harvests destroyed by chemical agents, soldiers fell like flies. Why? Because of dominoes.

The theory went like this: if all of Vietnam were to be taken over by the Communists, all the other countries of Southeast Asia would fall. Each one would bring down its neighbor, like a row of dominoes. Reality has shown that this was complete nonsense: the Communists took over all of Vietnam, without affecting the stability of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. When the war memories faded, Vietnam indeed followed the path of its northern neighbor, Red China, but in the meantime China has a flourishing capitalist economy.

In the Vietnam War, the stupidity of the generals competed with that of the politicians. The champion was Henry Kissinger, a war criminal whose towering ego disguised his basic stupidity. At the height of the war he invaded the neighboring peaceful Cambodia and broke it into pieces. The result was a gruesome auto-genocide, when the Communists murdered their own people. Yet many still consider Kissinger a political genius.

* * *

THERE ARE those who maintain that for sheer futility, the invasion of Iraq takes the cake even in this fiercely competitive field.

It seems that the political leadership in Washington foresaw the dramatic rise of the world-wide demand for oil. They decided, therefore, to strengthen their hold on the oil of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea basin. The war was intended to turn Iraq into an American satellite and to station there, under a friendly regime, a permanent American garrison that would keep the whole area under control.

The results, up to now, have been the opposite. Instead of consolidating Iraq as a united country under a stable pro-American regime, a civil war is raging, the state is tottering on the brink of disintegration, the population hates the Americans and considers them a foreign occupier. The output of oil is less than it was before the invasion, the immense costs of the war undermine the American economy, the price of oil is increasing incessantly, America's once elevated position in world public opinion has reached rock bottom and the American public is demanding that the soldiers be brought home.

There is no doubt that American interests could have been safeguarded far better by diplomatic means, using the economic clout of the US. That would have saved thousands of American soldiers and ten times as many Iraqi civilians, and trillions of dollars. But the problematic ego of George Bush, who hides his hollowness and insecurity behind a bluster of noisy arrogance, caused him to prefer war. As to his cerebral prowess, a world-wide consensus has been achieved even before the end of his term in office.

* * *

IN THE 60 years of its existence, the State of Israel has fought six major wars and several "smaller" ones (the War of Attrition, the Grapes of Wrath, the two intifadas and more.)

The 1948 confrontation was a war of "no alternative", if one justifies the Jewish intrusion into Palestine by the fact that there was no other solution for the problem of their existence. But already the second round, the war of 1956, was an example of incredible short-sightedness.

The French, who initiated the war, were in a state of denial: they could not admit to themselves that in Algeria a genuine war of liberation was taking place. Therefore, they convinced themselves that the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, was the root of the problem. David Ben-Gurion and his aides (and particularly Shimon Peres) wanted to remove the "Egyptian Tyrant" (as he was then uniformly called in Israel) because he had raised the banner of Arab Unity, which they considered an existential threat to Israel. Britain, the third partner, was longing for the past glories of Empire.

All these aims were totally negated by the war: France was expelled from Algeria, together with more than a million settlers; Britain was pushed to the margins of the Middle East; and the "danger" of Arab Unity proved to be a scarecrow. The price: a whole Arab generation was convinced that Israel was the ally of the nastiest colonial regimes, and the chances of peace were pushed back for many years.

The 1967 war was intended at the beginning to break the siege on Israel. But in the course of the fighting, the war of defense became a war of conquest which drove Israel into a vertigo of intoxication from which it has not yet quite recovered. Since then we have been captives in a vicious circle of occupation, resistance, settlements and permanent war.

One of the direct results was the 1973 war, which destroyed the myth of our army's invincibility. Yet without this being the intent of our government, this war had one positive result: three unusual personalities - Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter - succeeded in translating Egyptian pride over the successful crossing of the Suez Canal into a peace agreement. But the same peace could have been achieved a year earlier, without war and without the thousands of killed, if Golda Meir had not arrogantly rejected Sadat's proposal.

The First Lebanon War was, perhaps, the most hopeless and dim-witted of Israel's wars, a cocktail of arrogance, ignorance and complete lack of understanding of the opponent. Ariel Sharon intended - as he told me in advance, to - (a) destroy the PLO, (b) cause the Palestinian refugees to flee from Lebanon to Jordan, (c) drive the Syrians out of Lebanon, and (d) turn Lebanon into an Israeli protectorate. The results: (a) Arafat went to Tunis, and later, as the result of the First Intifada, returned to Palestine in triumph, (b) the Palestinian refugees remained in Lebanon, in spite of the Sabra and Shatila massacre that was intended to panic them into fleeing, (c) the Syrians remained in Lebanon for another twenty years, and (d) the Shiites, who had been downtrodden and beholden to Israel, became a powerful force in Lebanon and Israel's most determined foe.

The less said about Lebanon War II the better - its true character was obvious right from the start. Its aims were not frustrated - simply because there were no clear aims at all. Today Hizbullah is where it was, stronger and better armed, shielded from Israeli attacks by the presence of an international force.

After the First Intifada, Israel recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization and brought Arafat back to the country. After the Second Intifada, Hamas won the Palestinian elections and later took over direct control of a part of the country.

* * *

ALBERT EINSTEIN considered it a symptom of madness to repeat again and again doing something that has already failed and to expect a different result every time.

Most politicians and generals conform to this formula. Again and again they try to achieve their aims by military means and obtain contrary results. We Israelis occupy an honorable place among these madmen.

War is hell, as an American general pronounced. It also rarely achieves its aims.
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is o a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Pentagon Pundit Scandal Broke the Law

Pentagon Pundit Scandal Broke the Law
By Diane Farsetta and Sheldon Rampton
Created 04/28/2008 - 19:04

The Pentagon military analyst program [1] unveiled in last week's exposé [2] by David Barstow in the New York Times was not just unethical but illegal. It violates, for starters, specific restrictions that Congress has been placing in its annual appropriation bills every year since 1951. According to those restrictions, "No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress."

As explained in a March 21, 2005 report [3] by the Congressional Research Service [4], "publicity or propaganda" is defined by the U.S. Government Accountability Office [5] (GAO) to mean either (1) self-aggrandizement by public officials, (2) purely partisan activity, or (3) "covert propaganda." By covert propaganda, GAO means information which originates from the government but is unattributed and made to appear as though it came from a third party.

These concerns about "covert propaganda" were also the basis for the GAO's strong standard for determining when government-funded video news releases [6] are illegal:

The failure of an agency to identify itself as the source [7] of a prepackaged news story misleads the viewing public by encouraging the viewing audience to believe that the broadcasting news organization developed the information. The prepackaged news stories are purposefully designed to be indistinguishable from news segments broadcast to the public. When the television viewing public does not know that the stories they watched on television news programs about the government were in fact prepared by the government, the stories are, in this sense, no longer purely factual -- the essential fact of attribution is missing.

In a related analysis, the GAO explained that "The publicity or propaganda restriction helps to mark the boundary [8] between an agency making information available to the public and agencies creating news reports unbeknownst to the receiving audience."

In case anyone disagrees with the GAO on this point, here's what the White House's own Office of Legal Council had to say, in a memorandum written in 2005 [9] following the controversy over the Armstrong Williams [10] scandal (when it was discovered that the Bush administration had actually paid him to publicly endorse its No Child Left Behind Law [11]):

Over the years, GAO has interpreted "publicity or propaganda" restrictions to preclude use of appropriated funds for, among other things, so-called "covert propaganda." ... Consistent with that view, OLC determined in 1988 that a statutory prohibition on using appropriated funds for "publicity or propaganda" precluded undisclosed agency funding of advocacy by third-party groups. We stated that "covert attempts to mold opinion through the undisclosed use of third parties" would run afoul of restrictions on using appropriated funds for "propaganda." (emphasis added)

The key passage here is the phrase, "covert attempts to mold opinion through the undisclosed use of third parties." As the Times report documented in detail, the Pentagon's military analyst program did exactly that.

1. It was covert. As Barstow's piece states, the 75 retired military officers who were recruited by Donald Rumsfeld and given talking points to deliver on Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and MSNBC were given extraordinary access to White House and Pentagon officials. However, "The access came with a condition. Participants were instructed not to quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon."
2. It was an attempt to mold opinion. According to the Pentagon's own internal documents (which can be downloaded and viewed from the New York Times website), the military analysts were considered "message force multipliers" or "surrogates" who would deliver administration "themes and messages" to millions of Americans "in the form of their own opinions." According to one participating military analyst, it was "psyops on steroids."
3. It was done "through the undisclosed use of third parties." In their television appearances, the military analysts did not disclose their ties to the White House, let alone that they were its surrogates. The military analysts were used as puppets for the Pentagon. In the words of Robert S. Bevelacqua [12], a retired Green Beret and for Fox News military analyst, "It was them saying, 'We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you."

Additional evidence of the illegality of the Pentagon pundits operation can be found in the February 1, 1988 memorandum mentioned above by the White House Office of Legal Council. That memorandum, titled "Legal Constraints on Lobbying Efforts in Support of Contra Aid and Ratification of the INF Treaty," was written for the Reagan administration by the well-known conservative lawyer Charles Cooper (then head of the OLC), explaining the limits of what the White House was allowed to do in its campaign to win support for the Contra War in Nicaragua. Cooper (clearly not some liberal naysayer with an anti-war ax to grind), wrote that the Reagan Administration "can make available to private groups, upon request, printed materials that explain and justify the Administration's position on Contra aid. These materials must be items that were created in the normal course of business and not specifically produced for use by these private groups." Cooper continues:

It would be unwise, however, for the Administration to solicit the media to print articles by or interviews with anyone not serving in the government. And, of course, the Administration cannot assist in the preparation of any articles or statements by private sector supporters, other than through the provision of informational materials as described in the preceding paragraph.

In the case of the current Pentagon pundit scandal, however, the Pentagon clearly was assisting in the preparation both of articles and statements by private sector supporters. It did not simply provide "informational materials" that had been "created in the normal course of business." Rather, it sat down with the retired military analysts, worked closely with them on drafting talking points, and in some cases scripted language for them to write in written commentaries, and deployed them as message amplifiers and surrogates without disclosure.
The target is you

A tantalizing window into Donald Rumsfeld [13]'s motives for creating the military analysts program can be find in a transcript [14] that the Times obtained of one of his meetings with them. In it, he complains that he has been warned that his "information operations" are "illegal or immoral":

This is the first war that's ever been run in the 21sth Century in a time of 24-hour news and bloggers and internets and emails and digital cameras and Sony cams and God knows all this stuff. ... We're not very skillful at it in terms of the media part of the new realities we're living in. Every time we try to do something someone says it's illegal or immoral, there's nothing the press would rather do than write about the press, we all know that. They fall in love with it. So every time someone tries to do some information operations for some public diplomacy or something, they say oh my goodness, it's multiple audiences and if you're talking to them, they're hearing you here as well and therefore that's propagandizing or something.

This comment shows that Rumsfeld knows about the law against information operations that propagandize U.S. audiences. Although it is illegal to target propaganda at the America people, the law does not forbid propaganda -- even covert propaganda -- aimed at foreign audiences. Rumsfeld has been warned, however, that in today's world with "bloggers and internets and emails," even information operations overseas reach "multiple audiences" including U.S. citizens who are "hearing you here as well and therefore that's propagandizing." The irony, of course, is that Rumsfeld made these comments in a meeting with military analysts whom he had recruited specifically for information operations targeting U.S. audiences. If Rumsfeld knew that there were legal concerns even about operations targeted at foreign audiences, he certainly knew that it was illegal to target the American public. Yet he went ahead and did it anyway, and in another part of the transcript, he explained why. In fighting the war on terror, Rumsfeld said, the "center of gravity's here in Washington and in the United States."

The term "center of gravity" in this context refers to a concept in military theory [15]. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, it means "those characteristics, capabilities, or locations from which a military force derives its freedom of action, physical strength, or will to fight." What Rumsfeld is saying, therefore, is that the most important battle in his war is not the struggle to control Iraq or defeat foreign terrorists. The most important battle, he's saying, is the fight to control the hearts and minds of the American people. And that's why he's willing to break the law to do it.
What is to be done?

Of course, the mere fact that a practice is illegal does not mean that anyone is going to be punished for breaking the law. For that to happen, someone with the power to act needs to enforce the law, which is why Congress needs to hold hearings and create enforcement mechanisms that will ensure compliance in the future. Currently, no such mechanisms exist. As the Congressional Research Service noted in its 2005 report, "No federal entity is required to monitor agency compliance with the publicity and propaganda statutes. At present, the federal government has what has been termed 'fire alarm oversight' of agency expenditures on communications. Scrutiny typically occurs when a Member of Congress is alerted by the media or some other source that an agency’s spending on communications may be cause for concern. A Member then sends a written request to the Government Accountability Office asking for a legal opinion on the activities in question."

Congress should certainly seek such a legal opinion from the GAO and the White House Office of Legal Council regarding the Pentagon's military analyst program, but this time it shouldn't stop at simply seeking an opinion. When the GAO has rendered such legal opinions previously, the government agencies caught violating the law have announced that they would comply in the future. No one was punished, however, and in practice they knew that they could continue doing what they want. That is what happened after the Reagan administration was caught using third-party surrogates to promote the Contra war in Nicaragua in the 1980s (which is how Charles Cooper ended up writing the memo I quoted above). It's what happened after the Armstrong Williams scandal broke in 2004. And without something more than mere publication of a GAO opinion, it's probably all that will happen as a result of this latest Pentagon pundits scandal.

It doesn't have to be this way. If the U.S. Congress had the will to take action, it could create real mechanisms for enforcing the law and ensuring compliance. This is important for reasons that go beyond the issue of whether anyone supports or opposes the current war in Iraq. So long as government agencies are allowed to continue getting away with covert domestic propaganda, the public is left unable to know whether the opinions of "independent" analysts are truly independent. During the Vietnam War, official Pentagon statements became so mistrusted that the term "credibility gap" was coined to describe the distance between official statements and public perceptions. The government's use of "surrogates" posing as independent experts extends the credibility gap not just to public officials but also to seemingly independent, private citizens and the news media. Until accountability exists to prevent abuses like Pentagon analyst program from continuing with impunity, the public will have to assume that anyone who appears on camera espousing views sympathetic to the White House (or, for that matter, to other government agencies) has been secretly trained, recruited and given financial incentives to do so.

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Taking back the debate over Israel

Taking back the debate over Israel

Sick of right-wing Jews speaking in their name, progressive American Jews have launched J Street to change the way the game is played in Washington.

By Gary Kamiya

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Iraq War Morphs Into the Iranian War by Paul Craig Roberts


Original Content at

April 28, 2008

The Iraq War Morphs Into The Iranian War

By Paul Craig Roberts

It is 1939 all over again. The world waits helplessly for the next act of naked aggression by rogue states. Only this time the rogue states are not the Third Reich and Fascist Italy. They are the United States and Israel.

The targeted victims are not Poland and France, but Iran, Syria, the remains of the Palestinian West Bank and southern Lebanon.

The American mass media is overjoyed. War coverage attracts viewers and sells advertising.

The neoconservatives are ecstatic. Hegemony uber alles is back on track.

The US Air Force can't wait "to show what it can do."

Defense contractors see no end of the profits.

Under cover of the mayhem and propaganda, Israel can grab the remains of the West Bank and have another go at grabbing the water resources of southern Lebanon.

Unlike the US and Israel, Iran is neither occupying any other country's territory nor threatening to invade another country. Nevertheless, propaganda against Iran is spouting from US and Israeli mouths at an increasing rate. Lie after lie rolls off the tongues of leaders of the "two great democracies."

On April 27 Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, blamed Iran for "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq. Has Admiral Mullen forgot that it is the US, not Iran, that is responsible for as many as one million dead Iraqis and four million displaced Iraqis, the "collateral damage" of a "cakewalk war" now into its sixth year?

On April 26 the Washington Post reported that "the Pentagon is planning for potential military courses of action" against Iran.

The Bush Regime's national security advisor says Iran is a threat in Iraq, an accusation echoed endlessly by secretary of defense Robert Gates, secretary of state Rice, vice president Cheney, and president Bush. The US, which has 150,000 troops in Iraq, is not a threat. The US troops are protecting Iraq from Iran, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Just ask Fox "News."

Doing its part to egg on war with Iran, the US TV news program, "60 MInutes," gave air time to the commander of the Israeli Air Force, General Eliezer Shkedi, who declared in a special interview that Iranian president Ahmadinejad was the new Hitler and that we must not again make the mistake of disbelieving a Hitler.

There are better candidates for the role than Ahmadinejad.

Gen. Shkedi himself sounds like Hitler blaming Poland for the outbreak of the second world war. Ahmadinejad has attacked no country, whereas Israel repeatedly invades its neighbors and continues 40-year occupations of Syrian and Palestinian territory.

As Noam Chomsky has written, the US government thinks that it owns the world (Chomsky could have added that Israel thinks it owns the Middle East and America). Americans can wallow in indignation over China's occupation of Tibet, but be perfectly content with America's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel can wax eloquently about "Palestinian terrorism" while its military and Zionist settlers terrorize Palestinians.

Americans see no hypocrisy in "their" government's damning of Russia for opposing the incorporation of former Russian satellites and constituent parts in a US military alliance.

Americans see manifest destiny, not US aggression, when "their" government drops bombs on Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan. Americans do not think it is aggression for them to develop war plans to attack Iran or China or N. Korea or whomever, or to maintain hundreds of military bases all over the globe. The same Americans work themselves into hysterical frenzies over "Iranian influence in Iraq" and "al Qaeda plans to bring the war to America."

As Chomsky says, we own the world. No one else counts.

Except Israel.

Israel counts so much that every presidential candidate has declared his and her willingness to expend whatever American blood and treasure are necessary "to protect Israel." There are no limits on the promise "to defend Israel," no matter what Israel does, no matter if Israel initiates (yet again) war with its neighbors, no matter if it continues to force Palestinians out of their homes and villages in order to "create living room" for Israelis.

With this sort of promise, why should Israel ever settle for anything less than "greater Israel"?

Just as the US government launched its illegal invasion of Iraq on the back of lies about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds, the US government claims it must attack Iran or Iran will build a nuclear weapon. The Bush Regime has learned never to discard a lie as long as it works.

The lie works for the US Congress, the US media and much of the US public, but it is breaking down abroad. On April 27 the British newspaper, the Independent, responded to the recent US government claim that the Syrian facility attacked last September by Israel in an act of naked aggression was a nuclear reactor built by N. Korea:

"There is no independent way to verify any of this, especially since the installation has now been destroyed. We must rely on the integrity of the Israeli and US intelligence. That is where we hit a problem. The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented similar evidence to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 showing what we were told was strong evidence of Iraqi storage of weapons of mass destruction. As we all know, that intelligence turned out to be bogus."

A needless war, a country destroyed, all for bogus intelligence. Why must we repeat our crime in Iran?

Why do we persist in our crime in Iraq? On April 27 McClatchy Newspapers reported that 50 Iraqi political leaders representing numerous political groups including Sunnis went to Sadr City to protest the siege by the US military. Why is al Sadr under seige? He called for a halt to bloodshed between Iraqis, for a "liberation of ourselves and our lands from the occupier," for "a real government and real sovereignty." However, for the Bush Regime, rhetoric about "freedom and democracy" is but a mask behind which to impose a US puppet government. Real Iraqi leaders like al Sadr are "terrorists" who must be eliminated.

Why do the American people and "their" representatives in Congress continue to tolerate a criminal Bush Regime that uses lies and propaganda to mask its acts of naked aggression, war crimes under the Nuremberg standard?

Why does the rest of the world continue to receive political representatives from a war criminal government?

What if the rest of the world told the US to close its bases, its embassies, its CIA operations and to go home?

Self-righteous Americans would regard such demands as effrontery! We own the world.

Authors Bio: Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, has held numerous academic appointments. He has been reporting shocking cases of prosecutorial abuse for two decades. A new edition of his book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, was published by Random House in March, 2008.


The Pentagon Strangles Our Economy: Why the US Has Gone Broke by Chalmers Johnson

The Pentagon Strangles Our Economy: Why the U.S. Has Gone Broke
- by Chalmers Johnson - 2008-04-26

War Propaganda: Disneyland goes to war-torn Iraq by Michel Chossudovsky

War Propaganda: Disneyland goes to war-torn Iraq
- by Michel Chossudovsky - 2008-04-28

Consider the Consequences of Bombing Iran's Nuclear Power Plants, and Pray by Floyd Rudmin

Consider the Consequences of Bombing Iran’s Nuclear Power Plants, and Pray
- by Floyd Rudmin - 2008-04-29

The New Walls of Baghdad: The Israelil Model Surges Toward Iraq by Steve Niva

The Israeli Model Surges Toward Iraq
The New Walls of Baghdad

The new "surge" strategy in Iraq, led by General David Petreaus, has been heavily marketed as an example of the U.S. military's application of the "lessons of history" from previous counterinsurgencies to Iraq, foremost among them the need to win the population over from insurgents through cultivating human relationships, addressing popular grievances and providing security.

Yet one glance at the realities on the ground in Iraq today reveal that the cornerstone of current U.S. military strategy is less about cultivating human relationships than about limiting them, primarily through concrete walls and checkpoints. And it has been less about minimizing violence than containing Iraq's population and redirecting the battlefield from the streets to the skies above Iraq.

While the coffee klatches between Marine commanders and Sunni tribal sheikhs may garner all the publicity, the real story on the ground in Iraq is that from Baghdad to Mosul, the U.S. military has been busy constructing scores of concrete walls and barriers between and around Iraqi neighborhoods, which it terms "Gated Communities." In Baghdad alone, 12-foot-high walls now separate and surround at least eleven Sunni and Shiite enclaves. Broken by narrow checkpoints where soldiers monitor traffic via newly issued ID cards, these walls have turned Baghdad into dozens of replica Green Zones, dividing neighbor from neighbor and choking off normal commerce and communications. Similar walls are being erected in other Iraqi cities, while the entire city of Falluja remains surrounded by a razor-wire barrier, with only one point of entry into the city. Moreover, the U.S. military has doubled its use of unmanned aerial drones and increasingly relies upon aerial strikes to quell insurgent activities, often through bombings and targeted assassinations.

While there is no question that overall levels of violence have temporarily decreased, Iraq has become virtually caged in a carapace of concrete walls and razor wire, reinforced by an aerial occupation from the sky. Reporting from a recent visit to the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, the seasoned journalist Nir Rosen noted in Rolling Stone (March 6, 2008) that:

Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood.

The Israeli Laboratory

The explosion of walls and enclaves reinforced by aerial violence across Iraq suggest that the primary counterinsurgency lessons being followed by the U.S. military in Iraq today derive less from the lessons of "Lawrence of Arabia" than from Israel's experiences in the Occupied Palestinian Territories over the past decade.

Over the past decade, Israel has developed a pacification strategy against Palestinian resistance to its military occupation by erecting separation walls and checkpoints across Palestinian territory that has enclosed Palestinians within a proliferating archipelago of ethnic enclaves to separate them from each other and from illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. This wall and enclave strategy is maintained under a blanket of aerial Israeli surveillance and deadly unmanned drones, which target the frequent airborne assassinations and strikes. This strategy reached its apotheosis in Gaza following Israel's withdrawal of its soldiers and settlements in 2005. In Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians are now living within an enclosed cage, while Israel controls access to the essentials of life through high-tech border terminals and unleashes "penetration raids" and airborne "targeted killings" when resistance is offered.

Iraq, it seems, is surging towards Gaza.

This fact is not missed by average Iraqis. Visiting the Sunni bastion of Amriya in Baghdad, Nir Rosen in The Nation (April 3, 2008) recounts how his Iraqi driver pointed to a gap in the concrete walls with which the U.S. occupation forces have surrounded Amriya: "We call it the Rafah Crossing." He was referring to the one gate from besieged Gaza to Egypt that the Israeli army occasionally allows to open.

The U.S. military's virtual reproduction of distinctively Israeli counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq reveals that claims about applying the "lessons of history" of counterinsurgent warfare to Iraq are largely beside the point. The actual application of counterinsurgency on the ground in Iraq has a distinctly Israeli DNA, born of very recent lessons from Israel's own urban warfare laboratory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This should not be surprising. The Israeli DNA in the new "surge" strategy is only the latest manifestation of a widely overlooked but unmistakable American predilection to increasingly draw from Israel's urban warfare laboratory and its flawed efforts to devise fresh tactics in the service of rebooting its own military occupation of Palestinian lands. What we are seeing in Iraq today has much less to do with the declared shift in U.S. military doctrine than with a deeper and more far-reaching "Israelization" of U.S. military strategy and tactics over the past two decades that was only heightened by America's misadventures in the Middle East after September 11, 2001. In the search for new means to confront urban insurgencies in predominately Arab and Muslim lands, there has been a complex institutional and cultural harmonization between these two militaries under the banner of fighting "the war on terror," though the traffic is mostly in one direction. In light of the real lessons of counterinsurgency history, however, mimicking Israel is a recipe for failure.

The "Israelization" of U.S. Military Doctrine and Tactics

This "Israelization" of U.S. military doctrine and tactics can be traced back to the early 1990's, especially the "Black-hawk down" debacle of 1993 in Somalia, which led U.S. military strategists to rethink their approach to fighting urban warfare in poor Third World "battle spaces." In the following years, according to urban theorist Mike Davis in his 2004 article "The Pentagon as Global Slum Lord," Israeli advisors were brought in to teach Marines, Rangers and Navy Seals the state of the art tactics against urban insurgencies that Israel was using to ruthlessly suppress Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

This tactical "Israelization" of U.S. combat doctrine was accompanied by what Davis terms a deeper strategic "Sharonization" (referring to Israeli militarist and later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) of the Pentagon's worldview in which U.S. military strategists began to envision the capacity of high-tech warfare to contain and possibly defeat insurgencies rooted in third world urban environments. Sharon is known to have kept by his bedside a well-thumbed Hebrew edition of Alistair's Horne's A Savage War of Peace, an account of the failed French effort to defeat the Algerian insurgency against French colonial occupation. While many viewed the French defeat as proof of the futility of military solutions to anti-colonial insurgencies, Sharon's belief was that Israel could learn from Algeria to get right what the French did not. In 2001, the journalist Robert Fisk reported, Sharon told French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in a phone conversation that the Israelis were "like you in Algeria," the only difference being that "we [the Israelis] will stay.''

The "Israelization" of U.S. military doctrine and tactics since the attacks on September 11, 2001, has gone so far as to create what the Palestinian academic Marwan Bishara, writing in Al-Ahram Weekly (April-May, 2002), has termed a new "strategic cult" in which Israel's "asymmetrical war" against the Palestinians became seen as a continuation of the U.S. "war on terrorism" in both theory and practice. Learning from Israel's experiences centered on the need for new precision weaponry and a tactical emphasis on aerial assassinations and armored bulldozers, as well as other elements of Israel's fighting style in the new "asymmetrical" and urban battle spaces. According to The Independent's Justin Huggler (March 29, 2003) Israel's unprecedented assault on Palestinian cities and the refugee camp in Jenin during "Operation Defensive Shield" in April 2002 was keenly observed by foreign militaries, particularly the United States and UK as they geared up to invade and occupy Iraq.

But the most direct application of the Israeli tutorial took place in Iraq, particularly after the U.S. found itself mired in a growing insurgency in an occupied country, confronting urban guerilla warfare and suicide bombings in Fall, 2003. Having banished counterinsurgency doctrine from its own playbook after Vietnam, the Pentagon turned to Israel. According to the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh writing in The New Yorker (December 15, 2003),

One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America's closest ally in the Middle East. According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq. Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers — again, in secret — when full-field operations begin.
Hence, American forces increasingly used a new set of tactics that appeared to have come straight out of the Israeli playbook from the occupied Palestinians territories, including physically enclosing villages within razor-wire fences, bulldozing homes of suspected insurgents, destroying irrigation systems and agricultural fields, taking civilian hostages and using torture to extract intelligence. Seymour Hersh claims that the U.S. was told it had to "go unconventional" like the Israelis — to use harsh tactics to counter the harsh insurgency such as deploying assassination squads. As he summarized it: "The American-Israeli liaison on Iraq amounts to a tutorial on how to dismantle an insurgency."

According to Julian Borger at the Guardian (December 9, 2003) one former senior American intelligence official raised serious concerns about the dangers of adopting Israel's "hunter-killer" teams, and the political implications of such an open embrace of Israel: "It is bonkers, insane. Here we are — we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams."

The "Surge": Shifting Tactics in Iraq, Israeli-Style

The Israeli tutorial, as we know, was nothing less than a complete failure, as Iraq slipped into anarchy and then raging civil war in large part as a result of the destructive tactics deployed the U.S. military.

As a consequence, the failures in Iraq forced the U.S. military to reconsider the pre-eminence of harsh Israeli-style tactics. And so in late 2006, Gen. David Petraeus and his highly touted cadre of counterinsurgency (COIN) experts, fresh from a six-month command and staff course at Fort Leavenworth that according to The Independent's Robert Fisk (April 11, 2007) included at least four senior Israeli officers, ushered in a heavily marketed new counterinsurgency strategy that reduced the reliance upon brute military force in favor of creating alliances with former insurgents, building intelligence capacity, and restoring a semblance of security for the population, particularly in Baghdad.

But it would be a mistake to read this new "hearts and minds" counterinsurgency strategy as a full-scale retreat from "Israelization" in two important respects, both of which illustrate how remarkably similar American and Israeli strategic and tactical frameworks have become at this point in time.

First, it is striking how much the new U.S. approach in Iraq mirrors Israel's own tactical response to its failed attempt to use harsh and brutal tactics to crush the renewed surge of Palestinian resistance between 2001 and 2004. In 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unveiled a new strategy — what he termed "disengagement" — as a new way to "shift the narrative."

This strategy included the tactical withdrawal of Israeli settlements and soldiers from the Gaza Strip to be replaced by its complete encirclement and economic strangulation, while further enclosing Palestinians in the West Bank within separation walls, barriers and checkpoints. Whereas the previous approach relied upon aggressive Israeli military incursions within Palestinian areas, the new strategy seeks to control Palestinians from beyond their walled-off enclosures by selectively controlling access to life essentials and relying on air-strikes to quell resistance.

Similarly, in response to the chaos in Iraq and the growing popular demand for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in late 2006, President Bush and the U.S. military adopted the "surge" strategy as its own way to "change the narrative." As in the Israeli case, the "surge" has shifted techniques of domination across Iraq from the direct application of violence against insurgents to indirect spatial incarceration, multiplying archipelagos of externally alienated and internally homogenous ethno-national enclaves through walls and checkpoints, under a blanket of aerial surveillance.

Secondly, the tactical shift towards walls, enclaves and aerial domination is still rooted in the "Sharonization" of U.S. strategic doctrine mentioned earlier; that is, the belief that one can use military force to defeat an insurgency by reformulating one's military tactics. Neither Israel nor the United States are willing to countenance a serious political solution to either occupation, which would entail addressing the core political issue that is driving each insurgency: ending the foreign occupation. As it happens, Henry Kissinger is reported to have given President Bush a copy of Horne's A Savage War of Peace to read in the winter of 2006, and the U.S. military frequently uses the Algerian case as one its primary lessons in most COIN training. They appear to have learned the same faulty lessons as Sharon.

Both Israel and the U.S. are seeking to replace direct military occupation with a form of occupation management in order to preserve the fruits of their respective occupations.

Israel has simply shifted tactics to achieve its original goal of securing its illegal settlements and land confiscations in the West Bank to maintain "greater Israel." Since it is unwilling to accept a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and allow for a fully sovereign Palestinian state, its strategy is to pacify Palestinians through ever confining walls and enclaves until Palestinians accept their fate living in splintered enclaves under complete Israeli control.

Similarly, since the U.S. is unwilling to negotiate with the insurgency or consider a timetable for withdrawal, it is clear that the new counterinsurgency plan is an effort to pacify Iraq into accepting a form of "soft partition" into ethno-political enclaves to enable the U.S. to secure its original goals of establishing permanent military bases, securing access to Iraq's vast oil fields, and installing an Iraqi central government to pass laws to ensure these aims. Like the Palestinians, Iraqis will be sequestered within walled enclaves so that the political and economic occupation can remain in place.

The Real "Lessons of History" for Iraq

Needless to say, all this amounts to trying to find new ways to do the impossible. The bottom line is that both Israel and the U.S. will be losers in their quest for military solutions to fundamentally political insurgencies against a foreign military occupation. Framing an occupation as "liberation" or "counter-terrorism" does not make it any less a foreign occupation.
One of the great ironies in all of this is the willful failure of both Israel and the United States to learn the fundamental historical lesson of the French in Algeria: that they could have negotiated a withdrawal far earlier and spared all this bloodshed and violence.

Militarily, the French army did not lose — they certainly won the Battle of Algiers and had pacified the country by late 1958. But the military victory was hollow. The French achieved pacification only, which simply meant that the number of violent incidents per month was at a tolerable level. But this came at the price of herding over a million Algerians into fortified villages, extensive torture, and millions killed. This was a situation that could not be sustained and it unraveled as open warfare broke out between settlers and Algerians with the French army caught in the middle, battling both. All of this looks very much like Iraq today with Americans caught between Shia and Sunni militias, battling both in an effort to achieve pacification on behalf of an ineffective puppet government associated with its occupation. There are also obvious parallels to Israel's predicament in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The primary reason why the French military victory was hollow was because the French offered no political solution that met the core aspirations of Algerian nationalism, which should be clear to anyone who reads the second half of A Savage War of Peace. They only offered a flimsy notion of "self-determination" and "democracy" that De Gaulle called "association," which we recognize today as a neo-colonial relationship. France sought to maintain exterritorial control through military bases and dominion over Algerian oil resources, including a permanent French settler presence. The Algerians rejected this and fought until the French were forced to leave entirely. The parallels with U.S. plans for Iraq hardly need to be elaborated.

Instead of learning from the French experience, the U.S. has naively looked to the Israeli experience as a training manual for counterinsurgency. The U.S. continues to be mesmerized by a mythical version of Israel that is based more on savvy marketing than demonstrated performance. Israel's responses to unconventional war has never been well developed or very successful; it was defeated by Hezbollah in South Lebanon not once but twice, and its attempt to crush the Palestinian uprising through force actually led to further suicide bombings, while its destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure has left the political field open to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Mimicking Israel is a recipe for failure. Martin Van Creveld, an Israeli military historian who had lectured U.S. military officials on Israeli military strategy in late 2003, warned in an Associated Press article (December 12, 2003) that just as Israel had been unsuccessful in eliminating militant groups and suicide bombers, the United States cannot expect to be victorious in Iraq. "The Americans are coming here to try to mimic all kinds of techniques, but it's not going to do them any good," he reportedly warned. "I don't see how on earth they (the U.S.) can win. I think this is going to end the same way Vietnam did. They are going to flee the country hanging on the strings of helicopters."

Whether or not this happens will be the subject of future "lessons of history." But by following the Israeli model rather than the actual lessons of counterinsurgency history, the U.S. appears trapped by the logic of its own image co-dependency with Israel as a state now permanently at war with much of the Arab and Muslim world, with history's lessons decidedly not on its side. Read correctly, A Savage War of Peace is less a user's manual for counterinsurgency than a warning about the futility of fighting colonial wars in the first place.

Steve Niva is a professor of Middle East Studies and International Politics at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus, where this piece originally appeared . He is currently writing a book on the relationship between Israeli military violence and Palestinian suicide bombings.

Oil in 2012: $200 or $50?

Oil in 2012: $200 or $50?
The US broad money supply by one measure has increased at an annual rate above 30% for most of this year. Maintained, that could triple prices within four years and oil would look moderate at US$200 a barrel, with gold hitting $2,000. Good sense by the US Fed and politicians might save the day, or a full-scale revolt by bond dealers. - Martin Hutchinson (Apr 29, '08)

US embroiled in de-basing deal

US embroiled in de-basing deal
The George W Bush administration is in crucial negotiations with the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over the future relationship between Iraq and the United States. The core issue relates to permanent military bases, but no one is saying so, even as a year-end deadline looms. - Daniel Smith (Apr 29, '08)

Surging to Defeat by Andrew Bacevich

April 21, 2008 Issue
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative

Surging to Defeat

Petraeus’s strategy only postponed the inevitable.

by Andrew J. Bacevich

The United States today finds itself with too much war and too few warriors. We face a large and growing gap between our military commitments and our military capabilities. Something has to give.

Although violence in Iraq has decreased over the past year, attacks on coalition and Iraqi security forces continue to occur at an average rate of 500 per week. This is clearly unacceptable. The likelihood that further U.S. efforts will reduce violence to an acceptable level—however one might define that term—appears remote.

Meanwhile, our military capacity, especially our ability to keep substantial numbers of boots on the ground, is eroding. If the surge is working as some claim, then why not sustain it? Indeed, why not reinforce that success by sending another 30 or 60 or 90,000 reinforcements?

The answer to that question is self-evident: because the necessary troops don’t exist. The cupboard is bare.

Furthermore, recent improvements in security are highly contingent. The Shi’ite militias, Sunni insurgents, and tribal leaders who have agreed to refrain from violence in return for arms, money, and other concessions have by no means bought into the American vision for the future of Iraq. Their interests do not coincide with our own, and we should not delude ourselves by pretending otherwise.

It is as if, in an effort to bring harmony to a fractious, dysfunctional family, we have forged marriages of convenience with as many of that family’s members as possible. Our disparate partners will abide by their vows only so long as they find them convenient.

Unfortunately, partial success in reducing the level of violence has not translated into any substantial political gains. Recall that the purpose of the surge was not to win the war in a military sense. Gen. David Petraeus never promised victory. He and any number of other senior officers have assessed the war as militarily unwinnable. On this point, the architects of the surge were quite clear: the object of the exercise was not to impose our will on the enemy but to facilitate political reconciliation among Iraqis.

A year later, signs of genuine reconciliation are few. In an interview with the Washington Post less than a month ago, General Petraeus said that “no one” in the U.S. government “feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation.” While it may be nice that the Kurds have begun to display the Iraqi flag alongside their own, to depict such grudging concessions as evidence of an emerging national identity is surely to grasp at straws.

So although the level of violence has subsided somewhat, the war remains essentially stalemated. Iraq today qualifies only nominally as a sovereign nation-state. It has become a dependency of the United States, unable to manage its own affairs or to provide for the well-being of its own people. As recent events in Basra have affirmed, the Iraqi army, a black hole into which the Pentagon has poured some $22 billion in aid and assistance, still cannot hold its own against armed militias.

The costs to the United States of sustaining this dependency are difficult to calculate with precision, but figures such as $3 billion per week and 30 to 40 American lives per month provide a good approximation.

What can we expect to gain in return for this investment? The Bush administration was counting on the Iraq War to demonstrate the viability of its Freedom Agenda and to affirm the efficacy of the Bush Doctrine of preventive war.

Measured in those terms, the war has long since failed. Rather than showcasing our ability to transform the Greater Middle East, Operation Iraqi Freedom has demonstrated just the opposite. Using military power as an instrument for imprinting liberal values in this part of the world has produced a failed state while fostering widespread antipathy toward the United States.

Rather than demonstrating our ability to eliminate emerging threats swiftly, decisively, and economically—Saddam Hussein’s removal providing an object lesson to other tyrants tempted to contest our presence in the Middle East—the Iraq War has revealed the limits of U.S. power and called into question American competence. The Bush Doctrine hasn’t worked. Saddam is long gone, but we’re stuck. Rather than delivering decisive victory, preventive war has landed us in a quagmire.

The abject failure of the Freedom Agenda and the Bush Doctrine has robbed the Iraq War of any strategic rationale. The war continues in large part because of our refusal to acknowledge and confront this loss of strategic purpose.

The great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr observed, “Even the wisest statecraft cannot create social tissue. It can cut, sew, and redesign social fabric to a limited degree. But the social fabric upon which it works must be ‘given’.”

In Iraq, to the extent that any meaningful social fabric has ever existed, events have now shredded it beyond repair. Persisting in our efforts to stitch Iraq back together will exhaust our Army, divert attention from other urgent problems at home and abroad, and squander untold billions, most of which we are borrowing from foreign countries.

To close the gap between too much war and too few warriors, we must reduce our commitments. That means ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq. It means exerting ourselves, primarily through diplomatic means, to limit the adverse consequences caused by our ill-advised crusade in Iraq. It also means devising a new strategy to address the threat posed by violent Islamic radicalism, to replace the failed strategy of the Freedom Agenda and the Bush Doctrine.

This reformulation of strategy should begin with an explicit abrogation of preventive war. It should include a candid recognition that invading and occupying an Islamic nation in the hope of transforming it qualifies as a fantasy.

There are people of good will who will disagree with this assessment. They will insist that we have no choice but to persevere in Iraq—although to say that the world’s sole superpower has “no choice” in the matter suggests a remarkable failure of imagination. They will insist further that restoring the social fabric of Iraq—engineering the elusive political reconciliation that will stabilize the country—remains an imperative. Such counsel seems certain to exacerbate the problem of having too much war and too few warriors. War is the realm of uncertainty, however. There’s always some chance of catching a lucky break. Perhaps next year the Iraqis will get their act together and settle their internal differences. Perhaps next year Congress will balance the federal budget. Such developments are always possible. They are also highly unlikely.

When it comes to Iraq, a far more likely prospect is that if the United States insists on continuing its war there, it will get what it wants: the war will continue indefinitely. According to General Petraeus, a counterinsurgency is typically a 10 to 12-year proposition. Given that assessment, and with the “surge” now giving way to a “pause,” U.S. combat operations in Iraq could easily drag on for another five or 10 years. A large-scale U. S. military presence might be required for two or three decades.

In that event, a conflict that already ranks as the second longest in our history will claim the title of longest. Already our second most expensive war, it will become the costliest of all. On one point at least, Donald Rumsfeld will be able to claim vindication: Iraq will indeed have become a “long slog.”

For the United States to pursue this course would qualify as an epic misjudgment. Yet if our political leaders insist on the necessity of fighting this open-ended war, then they owe it to those who have already borne five years of combat to provide some relief.

Bluntly, if the country’s leaders in Washington are unable or unwilling to reduce the number of wars in which U.S. forces are engaged, then surely they ought to increase the number of warriors available to fight them.

Today, in a nation that according to President Bush is “at war,” approximately one half of 1 percent of the population is in uniform. The present course, which involves soldiers going back for their third and fourth combat tours while the rest of the country heads to the mall, will break the Army before it produces policy success. Worse, our present strategy—in which a few give their all while most give nothing—is morally indefensible.

If the war in Iraq is as important as some claim, then sustaining that war merits a commitment on the part of the American people, both to fight the war and to pay for it. If neither the American people nor their political leaders are willing to make such a commitment, then the war clearly does not qualify as genuinely important. Our loudly proclaimed determination to “support the troops” rings hollow.

The choice is one that we can no longer afford to dodge: it’s either less war or more warriors.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His next book, The Limits of Power, will be published in August. This essay is adapted from testimony delivered before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jeremiah Wright Delivers the Knockout Punch, But Will It Topple Obama? by Mike Whitney

But Will It Topple Obama?
Jeremiah Wright Delivers the Knockout Punch


Reverend Jeremiah Wright appeared on PBS Bill Moyers Journal on Friday night and delivered a knockout punch to the bully-boys in the corporate media. Wright showed that he is neither a fanatic nor an “America hater”; just an extremely well-read and principled man with an unshakable commitment to justice. Wright has also paid his dues; he's an ex-Marine who served as a medic in Vietnam when most of his critics were either hiding behind their student deferments or languishing in the "Champagne Unit" of the Texas National Guard.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

"And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education and locked them into position of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God bless America? No, no, no. Not God bless America; God damn America!”

No one disputes Wright's summary of US history. His comments have simply been lifted, just to beat up on Barak Obama; everyone knows that. Just like everyone knows that the corporate media destroy political enemies, which means anyone who poses a challenge to America's unelected corporate oligarchy. That's why it is so frustrating to hear people say, "The media is not doing its job."

That's just plain wrong; the media IS doing its job. It's cheerleading the country to war, it is diverting attention from the main political and economic issues of the day, and it is destroying thr system’s political enemies, actual or potential.

What the media try to do by singling out Wright is pretty straightforward. They're trying to create the impression that blacks conceal a deep sense of grievance which expresses itself in rage. This generates feelings of fear among whites which, of course, is all part of the strategy. The message is simple; "blacks are angry, blacks are dangerous" and, oh by the way, Obama is black.
The attack on Wright is that it was set up in a way to make it look like the Reverend — a man whose entire career has been devoted to social justice — is a racist. That took a bit of maneuvering. In fact, the media, and their friends at the right-wing think tanks, had to dig through 15 years of Wright's sermons to find just the right snippets they needed to destroy Obama. Now that's determination!

Race has become one of the dominant issues on the campaign-trail. Obama is no longer just a man running for office; now he's a black man. That's how swift-boating works. Like they say in the Godfather; “It's not personal; it's just business”. The business of personal destruction.

Fortunately, Bill Moyers decided to give Wright a chance to acquit himself before the public. Wright took the opportunity and made the most of it.

Rev. Wright: “God is the giver of life. Let me tell you what that means. That means we have no right to take a life whether as a gang-banger living the thug life, or as a President lying about leading a nation into war. We have no right to take a life! Whether through the immorality of a slave trade, or the immorality of refusing HIV/AIDS money to countries or agencies who do not tow your political line! We have no right to take a life!”

Wright showed that the doctrine he preaches, Black Liberation Theology, is neither discriminatory nor racist as the media has suggested. Rather, it integrates the teachings of Jesus Christ with the real-time struggle for social justice and equality. Compassion is not possible if one does not have a grasp of one's own culture and identity. That's why Wright tries to reconnect his congregation to their roots, so they can be proud of who they are and have more productive lives.

Rev. Wright:

"You know, you come into the average church on a Sunday morning and you think you've stepped from the real world into a fantasy world. And what do I mean by that? Pick up the church bulletin. You leave a world, Vietnam, or today you leave a world, Iraq, over 4,000 dead, American boys and girls, 100,000, 200,000 depending on which count, Iraqi dead. Afghanistan, Darfur, rapes in the Congo, Katrina, Lower Ninth Ward, that's the world you leave. And you come in; you pick up your church bulletin. It says, there is a ladies tea on second Sunday. How come the faith preached in our churches does not relate to the world in which our church members leave at the benediction?”

This is the essence of Black Liberation Theology; how to make sense of the world we live in so the word of Christ can be applied in practice. Wright thinks that faith should be a transforming experience that changes behavior and shapes lives, not just a few hours of prayer every week at Sunday services.

Does that make it “a race-based theology? (as Moyers asks)

Rev. Wright: “No, it is not. It is embracing Christianity without giving up Africanity. ...We're not givin' up who we are as black people to become somebody else...No mas. Nada mas. We're gonna be ourselves. We're gonna be our culture. We're gonna be our history. And we're gonna embrace it and not say one is superior to the other. Because we are different. And different does not mean deficient. We talk about God of diversity? God has diverse culture and we're proud of who we are and that's not a race-based theology.”

Wright has also been skewered in the media for suggesting there may be a connection between American foreign policy and the attacks of 9-11. The media considers any analysis that doesn't square with Bush's crackpot "they hate our freedoms” theory to be either anti-American or outright heresy. In his most famous sermon, Wright elaborates on the "blowback" theme as well as the so-called war on terror:

"We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism! We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism! We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel. We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers. We bombed Gadafi's home and killed his child. "Blessed are they who bash your children's head against a rock!" We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to payback for the attack on our embassy. Killed hundreds of hard-working people; mothers and fathers who left home to go that day, not knowing that they would never get back home. We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye! Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilians - not soldiers - people just trying to make it day by day. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant? Because the stuff we have done overseas has now been brought back into our own front yards! America's chickens are coming home to roost! Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism."

America has blood on its hands. America, as Martin Luther King said, "is the greatest perpetrator of violence in the world today." So what else is new?

The media use every soapbox in the country to preach uber-nationalism and vilify America's critics as unpatriotic. That's why the wrath of the media has descended on Obama like a Texas hailstorm; they're afraid he doesn't understand who really runs things in America.

Wright means nothing to the media or to the men behind the curtain. If he didn't provide an avenue for denigrating Obama, he'd be treated with the same indifference as the thousands of other blacks who were herded at gunpoint into the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. Better buckle up. Obama has entered the crosshairs of America's criminal oligarchy and things are bound to get nasty.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington tate. He can be reached at:

Hizbollah builds up covert army for a new assault against Israel by Mitchell Prothero, The Observer logo
The Observer logo

Hizbollah builds up covert army for a new assault against Israel

* Mitchell Prothero
* The Observer,
* Sunday April 27 2008

Villages empty as Shia militia sends recruits to tough training camps in Bekaa Valley, Syria and Iran, reports Mitchell Prothero in southern Lebanon
This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday April 27 2008 on p39 of the World news section. It was last updated at 00:00 on April 27 2008.

The dead of southern Lebanon watch the living from the sides of buildings and from lampposts, their faces staring out defiantly from posters, heads often superimposed on bodies of generic men in uniform. These are Hizbollah's martyrs: men killed fighting against Israel before it abandoned the occupation of the south in 2000 or in the numerous clashes since, including the bloody summer war of 2006.

The images are often the only public acknowledgement of the individuals who make up this most secretive of institutions: Hizbollah's military wing.

But an Observer investigation has discovered that this covert organisation is quietly but steadily replacing its dead and redoubling its recruitment efforts in anticipation of a new, and even more brutal, conflict. Hizbollah has embarked on a major expansion of its fighting capability and is now sending hundreds, if not thousands, of young men into intensive training camps in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to ready itself for war with Israel. 'It's not a matter of if,' says one fighter. 'It's a matter of when Sayed Hasan Nasrallah [Hizbollah chief] commands us.'

The group's policy of refusing to discuss military matters extends to the highest levels. In speeches and rare interviews, Nasrallah refuses to answer even the simplest questions about the military wing, never referring even to the fact that his eldest son, Hadi, was a fighter himself. Life as a Hizbollah fighter is anonymous until death. But meetings with fighters, activists, Lebanese security officials, the UN peacekeepers along the border and residents of south Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut, where the group is most active, offered a glimpse inside the workings of a group rarely open to outsiders. None of the sources within the group can be named - Hizbollah has barred members from speaking with the Western media since the mysterious death of a top commander, Imad Mughniyeh, in a Damascus car bomb.

'The most important thing is to never talk,' says one fighter, who agreed to speak about the group without revealing his name or specific duties inside 'the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon', as the military wing of Hizbollah is known. 'From the moment we begin our training, we are told two things: never disobey an order and never talk about the resistance. Hizbollah is not a job, it is not a family. It is a mix of religion, honour, dignity and discipline. It is my life.'

But what is becoming more obvious, even as Hizbollah tries to hide it, is that the group has embarked on an unprecedented build-up of men, equipment and bunker-building in preparation for the war that almost everyone - Lebanese and Israeli - considers inevitable. 'The villages in the south are empty of men,' said one international official. 'They are all gone, training in Bekaa, Syria and Iran.'

A trip by The Observer through villages in the Hizbollah heartland confirmed a conspicuous lack of fighting-age men. Visible were several new martyr posters, but unlike the traditional ones they portrayed anonymous, fresh-faced youngsters without military garb. According to locals, these are boys who have been killed accidentally in the latest wave of training in Iran. In the city of Tyre, too, posters showing young men killed in training exercises are cropping up. One is of Ahmad Hashem, killed while instructing recruits in the use of rocket-propelled grenades.

The initial training and selection of recruits is done in Lebanon, with Iran preferred for training on specialities - use of certain weapons, RPGs and anti-tank missiles - that require firing live rounds. 'But mostly the training in Iran is in theoretical things: philosophy, religion. The best training for fighting is done here in Lebanon,' said a fighter. 'We are so close to Israel here that our training becomes real.'

Israeli official statements suggest the increasingly aggressive recruiting results from the heavy casualties suffered by the group in 2006, a notion dismissed by sources within Hizbollah and even by the US military. While Israel contends that between 500 and 700 Hizbollah fighters were killed, the group itself said that about 80 fighters had died. Hizbollah sources admit that the losses were double that figure, while the US military study decided the death toll was 184.

'How could they be lying so much?' asked one resident of the south. 'People would not tolerate not having a funeral or posters of their son or husband. If it were 700 dead fighters, we would all know. We'd know more people killed, we'd be hearing the complaints from the families. Where can you hide 700 dead bodies in south Lebanon? It's too small.'

Losses aside, before 2006 most observers also widely overestimated the size of the military group. Some analysts put it as high as 5,000 men with more than 10,000 reservists, including its allied Amal - meaning Hope - militia supporting them.

'Ridiculous,' says the Hizbollah member. 'Before 2006 there were not more than 1,000 professional fighters, guys who manned bunkers and conducted operations full-time. The rest are trained and armed but lead ordinary lives unless called upon.'

This assessment is supported by regional intelligence services and Lebanese Shias, but now signs of the militia's dramatic expansion are alarming Hizbollah's domestic and international enemies.

The US military study described Hizbollah's military wing as 'completely decentralised'. Its commanders famously exercised this independence when they refused orders by the top command to abandon Bint Jebel in 2006 - then under massive Israeli ground assault. The town did not fall and Hizbollah rank-and-file today laud the refusal of orders as one of the biggest victories in the war. Recruiters closely watch youngsters for this kind of nerve and self-motivation, selecting the most talented boys for advanced training when they reach adulthood.

Hizbollah fighters describe a series of units - built around specialities such as rocket teams, heavy weapons experts, infantry, scouts and or part-time basis. 'Some units will be sent for training or operations for one, even two, years. Others continue to work or go to school. But even if you work your life is still Hizbollah. They call and that's it - you go. Maybe you tell your boss or professors you're going to Qatar or something for family reasons. But you never tell anyone what you're really doing.'

The decision to expand both the military wing and the supporting militias stems not from the losses during the 2006 war but from Hizbollah's success as a conventional military force in that conflict, says a Lebanese army commander who has worked with the group, his view being confirmed by the US military study. 'They were guerrillas during the occupation but shocked Israel in the war by standing and fighting from fixed positions. Even badly outnumbered, they held territory with minimal losses even under assault from tank units,' he says. 'Now they want to expand to make sure they can stop the next invasion before the tanks reach the flat plains of the Bekaa, where Israel's armoured units will have the advantage.'

Another crisis driving the build-up is Lebanon's political conflict, which pits Hizbollah and its allies against a coalition of Sunni, Druze and Christians supporting the Western-backed government. Street fights between Sunnis and Shias are becoming commonplace but Hizbollah cannot afford to take its men away from the bunkers in the south to fight on the streets of Beirut, say members of Amal and the Lebanese army.

'They know they can't send their best fighters, or the Israelis could attack. Israel will always be their main focus. But they have access to many that are good enough to fight with rocks, sticks and maybe some guns. They're training those guys to fight the Sunnis in Beirut,' says the army officer.

One Hizbollah fighter says he hopes that the situation doesn't deteriorate into them taking up arms against other Lebanese groups, but admits it is possible. 'God willing, I will never fight a Lebanese, but I will if ordered.'

· Audio: Rory McCarthy reports from Gaza on the effects of the Israeli fuel blockade.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

Demonizing Jimmy Carter by Patrick Seale

Demonizing Jimmy Carter
by Patrick Seale Released: 26 Apr 2008
Why did Israel treat the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter so rudely during his recent visit to the Middle East? Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior ministers refused to meet him. The Shin Beth, Israel's security service, refused to provide him with the protection usually given to distinguished foreign guests. Israel's lobby in the United States vilified and insulted him, dismissing his brave peace efforts as the work of an ignorant and bumbling old man.

The most extraordinary outburst came from Israel's United Nations ambassador, Dan Gillerman, who told journalists that Carter "went to the region with soiled hands and came back with bloody hands after shaking the hand of Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas."

How can such scandalously undiplomatic language be explained?

One would have expected Israel to be eternally grateful to Jimmy Carter, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the man, after all, who had handed Israel what was possibly the greatest single strategic prize of its history. He brokered the Israeli-Egyptian peace of 1979, which, by removing Egypt from the Arab military line-up, confirmed Israel's military supremacy over its Arab neighbours.

The freedom of action Israel thus achieved allowed it to attack and invade Lebanon in 1982, in a bid to smash and expel Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization and draw Lebanon into Israel's orbit.

But there is no gratitude in politics. Carter's great gift to Israel was forgotten, wiped out -- in Israeli eyes -- by his 'crime' of seeking to promote an Israeli deal with Hamas, which would include a mutual ceasefire and an exchange of prisoners.

Last Friday, Israel rejected the Hamas offer of a mutual ceasefire -- conveyed through the Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman -- dismissing it as a ruse to buy time in order to regroup and rearm.

Hamas had offered to end all rocket attacks on Israel and other military operations, including arms smuggling into Gaza. In exchange, it demanded that Israel cease all assassinations, arrests and other military activity in the Gaza Strip, and ease the shipments of supplies into and out of the strip.

In a concession to Israel, the Hamas ceasefire offer was limited to Gaza alone, on the understanding that it would later be extended to the West Bank.

But Israel was not interested. It wants to destroy Hamas, not include it in any peace process. That explains its barbarous siege of Gaza, which has now been made far worse by starving the Strip of petrol and fuel oil. This has led to immobilizing virtually all vehicles, cutting off of water and electricity for long periods each day, and closing schools and universities. The absence of petrol has forced the World Food Programme and UNRWA -- the UN agency responsible for helping Palestinian refugees -- to halt the distribution of food packages on which one million inhabitants of Gaza depend for survival.

Gaza thus sinks into intolerable misery, while the world looks the other way.

There are two main reasons why Israel refuses any sort of compromise with Hamas, such as the one Carter has attempted to mediate:

First, Israel rejects any mutual ceasefire, because it would signal a form of mutual deterrence. It wants to force Hamas to stop all resistance, while retaining for itself the freedom to strike and kill at will. It has no interest in anything that might hint at a balance of power with the Palestinians, or indeed with the Arabs as a whole.

Second, Israel does not want anything that might disturb the grim farce of its 'negotiations' with Mahmud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority. These negotiations have gotten nowhere -- and will get nowhere -- so long as Israel continues its creeping annexation of the West Bank.

There are now close to 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank -- excluding the settlers in annexed East Jerusalem, who number over 150,000 and are increasing steadily. Uri Lupiansky, mayor of Jerusalem, recently said that plans for the construction of 10,000 housing units in East Jerusalem were moving forward.

By his on-going talks with Olmert, the unfortunate Mahmud Abbas is simply providing Israel with cover for its steady expansion into the West Bank. To head off any pressure from the United States, Olmert can point to his meetings with Abu Mazen.

Any involvement of Hamas would take the 'peace process' to a different level of seriousness -- something Israel is determined to avoid.

Little wonder, therefore, that the gentle, peace-loving Jimmy Carter is seen by Israel as an enemy, not a friend.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright © 2008 Patrick Seale

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A China Policy for the 21st Century by Chas. Wl Freeman, Jr.

US-China relations will feature prominently in the tableau of global international relations for the years to come. After an Administration not known for its foreign policy acumen, relations with China are surprisingly stable. But there is no guarantee that this stature of affairs will remain. In his address to National War College Alumni Association, Chas Freeman, Chairman of the Committee for the Republic, draws on his unique insights into China and its role in US foreign policy to highlight some of the problems (single-issue politicking) and, most usefully, most of the solutions.

A China Policy for the 21st Century

Chas. W. Freeman, Jr.

Remarks given to the National War College Alumni Association on April 25, 2008, in Washington D.C.

If today were January 20, 2009 – which not a few here must wish it were – the 44th president of the United States would be in his or her first day on the job. Our new president will have inherited a dismaying list of foreign policy messes that clamor for an urgent fix, but, barring the unexpected, relations with China probably won't be on that list. During the Bush Administration, the best relationships the United States has had have been with the nations of the Asia-Pacific region, among them – much to the surprise of many – China. If nothing goes badly wrong between now and the inauguration, Mr. Bush's successor will be able to savor memories of the cathartic China-bashing of the campaign but to succumb to the temptation to put the actual development of a strategy for handling China onto the back burner.

After all, the new president will have to deal with recession; inflation; mounting foreign debt amidst a credit crisis; public and private pension systems that are slouching toward insolvency; a massive budget deficit with a built-in fiscal time bomb of unsustainable tax cuts that are due to expire; a health insurance system that is driving individual Americans to distraction and businesses over the edge; an educational system that saps rather than fuels the competitiveness of the US economy; a workforce unnerved by broken immigration policies and the fact that industrial jobs are now less than 10 percent of our labor market, and falling; an energy policy that celebrates self-indulgence and continually deepens import dependence; increasingly shabby infrastructure, complete with collapsing bridges, terminally gridlocked traffic, and man-eating potholes; almost universal disbelief in the capacity of Washington politicians to do anything about any of these things; and so forth.

And then there's foreign policy.

Unless something fundamental changes, when the next president takes office, Osama Binladen will still be at large and al Qaeda will be planning something to one-up 9/11; most of our land combat capacity will still be committed to reinforcing strategic failure in Iraq; no one will have yet come up with a plausible endgame for our intervention in Afghanistan; Pakistan will still be a catastrophe waiting to happen; the threat of terrorist reprisal for our intrusions into the realm of Islam will continue to escalate; an outmoded international monetary and reserve system will still menace our prosperity; withering alliances will ensure that we are without international cover or back-up for our foreign policies and overseas operations; Israel will remain a pariah state in its own region, besieging others in anticipation of their besieging it and losing friends and alienating people throughout the world; Iran will be farther along in its efforts to develop a complete nuclear fuel cycle as the basis for an independent nuclear deterrent; Russia will continue its regression toward its tsarist past; Turkey's estrangement from the United States will be a work in progress nearing completion; transatlantic relations will remain rancorously adrift and Western values will still lack the long-term, unified backing they need to prevail over competing ideas; Venezuela and other Latin American nations will be working on new and ingenious ways to undermine American leadership of hemispheric affairs; Africans will stay on the road to alignment with a resurgent China and reinvigorated India; ASEAN will persist in preferring Chinese attentiveness and flattery to American scolding and neglect; Japan will remain strategically perplexed; no one will be doing much to stop the Earth from warming; the United States will still be isolated, resented, or ignored in the United Nations and other multilateral fora; very few foreign nations will accept American leadership; and so forth.

Thus, we arrive at the question at hand. How should we deal with China, in all its dimensions – global, regional, bilateral, multilateral and domestic? Given everything else on the plate, the new president could well decide that the condition of US-China relations is good enough for government work, and defer the task of developing a comprehensive strategy for dealing with it. But that would be a mistake. China and our relations with it will determine a good deal of what happens in this century and how we fare in it.

It would be nice if China were on our side or at least not against us on the formidable range of foreign and domestic challenges we have accumulated since the end of the Cold War. It would be reassuring to be confident that we are not headed into a new cold war, this one with China – a nation that manifestly lacks the ideological rigidity, military overextension, and economic dysfunctionality that enabled us to box in the Soviet Union until it collapsed of its own infirmities. We were able to encapsulate our strategy for dealing with the Soviet challenge to our values and interests in a single slogan, "containment." Both China and the international context in which it is rising are vastly more complex. No bumper sticker suffices to describe a relationship that is simultaneously cooperative and competitive, distant and close, wary and warm.

In economic terms, China is already a world power. It is beginning to extend its diplomatic influence well beyond its immediate region, to recover its ancient cultural eminence, and to resume its historic contributions to the advance of science and technology. It is a significant regional military power with an increasingly formidable capacity to defend its borders and the approaches to them. China is a growing contributor to peacekeeping operations under the United Nations flag. It may, in time, extend its military reach more widely, though, at this moment, there is no clear evidence that this is its intention. The global expectation that China is destined to assume a world leadership role, however, gives it political influence that its unappealing political system would otherwise deny it.

There is no American consensus about how we should deal with growing Chinese power. Nor is there a unified US government strategy for doing so. Members of Congress, as usual, are too busy seeking favors or passing condemnatory resolutions on behalf of special interests and single-issue activists to think about how their actions could affect the broader national interest in a cooperative relationship with China. A small group of members seeks to equate hostility toward China with patriotism. These members have sought to raise public alarm about China through special commissions and annual reports and the passage of legislation to bar contacts and dialog with the Peoples Liberation Army. The lowest common denominator of these disparate views is very low indeed – a tapestry woven of a little bit of pandering and a whole lot of slandering that is the opposite of strategy.

Amidst the cacophony, the executive branch has often seemed to consist of disconnected departments and agencies, each doing its own thing – or not doing it – with Beijing. In a speech in 2005, former Deputy Secretary of State Zoelleck made a noteworthy attempt to synthesize a strategy from all this bureaucratic Brownian motion, quirky indiscipline, and ideological knuckle-dragging. He coined the phrase "responsible stakeholder" to describe the kind of China we would like to work with but the incoherence didn't really go away. The phrase lingers on but not the ideas behind it. More recently, Treasury Secretary Paulson has tried to pull together a comprehensive approach to economic aspects of our interaction with China.

It is a long time since there has been an effort at the presidential level to articulate a comprehensive statement of objectives vis-à-vis China, and there is no overall plan. Nor has there been any effort by the executive branch to educate the public on the challenges we face and do not face in our relations with China and the Asia-Pacific region. Perhaps this reflects the fact that China has become the subject of such a wide range of celebrity and interest-group politics that our leaders fear that saying what they want to do with China might get in the way of actually doing it.

Whatever the reason for it, the absence of a unifying concept has left us and everybody else to figure out for ourselves what the United States is actually trying to do with or to China. The Chinese, it must be said, are particularly bad at this kind of analysis. The majority of Chinese appear to believe, for example, that public reaction here to the recent race riots by Tibetans and to unrest among other Chinese minorities proves the existence of a plan by the United States and its western allies to divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China. The admirably stiff upper lip and unwillingness to politicize the Olympics that President Bush has shown in the face of these events will, I hope, help to convince them that they are wrong. But I wouldn't count on it. The level of patriotic indignation in China against posturing by American and European politicians over Tibet is already so high that a long-term clamp-down in Tibet seems inevitable, while public support in China for continued cooperation with the West can no longer be taken for granted.

Even if we make it through the Olympics without more riots and recriminations, there will still be a good deal to be said for taking the guesswork out of China strategy and its supporting policies. Doing so could help establish a better coordinated and more disciplined approach in executive branch departments and agencies while dispelling counterproductive misimpressions abroad and rebutting conspiracy theories in China itself.

It is not enough simply to have relations with China. Those relations should be grounded in reality and calculated, directed, and managed to advance our interests or at least to save them from harm. The next president needs to find an early occasion to restate our objectives with respect to China and the reasoning behind them. I hope he or she will do so both realistically and with a selfish regard for American interests.

Before I talk about some of the elements of such a statement of objectives, given the military focus of this audience, I'd like to put forward a few sobering observations about the post Cold War era and the limits of American coercive power in relation to the rise of China. There is, after all, no point in responding to China's return to wealth and power with daydreams about options that do not in fact exist.

Even if we wanted to do so (and it is not immediately obvious why we should), we could not hold China down. In the globalized economy of today, no effort – even by a country as great as our own – to organize the isolation of China could succeed. Opposing China's rise will not stop it. It will simply earn us the enmity of China's once-again proud people. The observation of the founding father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, applies. "The heart of diplomacy," he said, "is to grant graciously what you no longer have the power to withhold." Only by coopting what one cannot stop can one hope to direct its trajectory and thereby shape the future to one's advantage.

Some of the same Americans who promised marvelous strategic results from the invasion of Iraq continue to argue for the containment of China. The fact is that an attempt to implement such a policy would isolate the United States from our allies and friends to an even greater extent than our policies in the Middle East have. It would raise almost as much distrust of our intentions in Delhi, Hanoi, Islamabad, and Tokyo as in Beijing. >From Japan and Korea, through Southeast Asia, to India and Pakistan, and onward through Central Asia and Russia, every nation on China's periphery is well along in a wary accommodation of it. None of China's neighbors sees an effort to isolate it, weaken it, or divide it as feasible, and none is prepared to incur the high costs of attempting to do so.

Though all nations desire continued participation by the United States in the Asian-Pacific balance of power, none wants the United States to act as the sole balancer of Chinese power. None favors American confrontation with China or the division of Asia into spheres of influence like those of the Cold War. All wish to see a regional and global balance that incorporates rather than excludes China, India, and other emerging great powers, as well as Japan, which cannot forever hide behind Uncle Sam. This is as true outside the Asia-Pacific region as within it. Although the European Union bans weapons sales to China, it does so on human rights, not geopolitical, grounds, and in deference to American concerns, not out of strategic conviction.

The strategically inclusive approach to China favored by our allies is not contradicted by the Taiwan problem, the only issue that anyone has been able to identify that could ignite a war between China and the United States. There is broad regional and international appreciation of the United States' role in blocking unilateral moves to alter the status quo by either Beijing or Taipei. Still, no US ally has committed itself to participating in a defense of Taiwan's continued separation from the rest of China. Our most stalwart allies in the Pacific, the Australians and south Koreans, who have fought alongside us in every other conflict over the past half century, have made it clear that they would sit out such a fight. Despite its oft-expressed apprehensions about China's return to Asian primacy, even Japan is undecided about whether and to what extent it would facilitate military operations from US bases on its territory in a war to define Taiwan's relationship to China.

In the only war with China that anyone can imagine, then, for all practical purposes, we would be on our own. Given how much more capable our navy and air force are than those of the People's Liberation Army and despite the disagreeable experiences of the Korean War, I have little doubt that we would prevail in any battle with the PLA. What no one can tell me is how we would limit the conflict or win the war. Unlike Korea and the proxy war we fought in Indochina, a US-China war over Taiwan would not be fought in a third country. It would take place on territory that all Chinese agree is theirs and in the Chinese homeland. Strikes on the Chinese homeland would elicit counterstrikes by the PLA on ours, by fair means or foul. After we took out Chinese forces in the Taiwan area and beyond it, much of Taiwan would be a smoking ruin and China and its nationalism would still be there to rebuild the capabilities to have another go at it. We would have made a permanent enemy of China. This is not an appealing scenario and it's hard to see much in it for us or anyone else.

These are some of the reasons that the aim of US policy with respect to Taiwan has wisely been to ensure that no war over it ever occurs. This policy now seems once again to be bearing fruit, as Taipei and Beijing prepare for negotiations on a wide range of initiatives to further the already extensive integration of their economies and societies and to establish a long-term framework for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Americans need to make it clear that there is a corollary to our opposition to coercion and unilateral efforts to change the status quo, and that is our willingness to embrace and act to support changes that are mutually agreed between the two sides of the Strait. We should do nothing to disrupt their crafting of such changes. We must ensure that as Taiwan negotiates, it does not do so from a position of weakness, but we should encourage it to negotiate. Asia, and the world, would be a better place and US interests would be well served if the Taiwan issue were peacefully resolved.

The Taiwan problem has been a persistent constraint on the development of US-China relations and an intermittent source of bilateral crises that destabilize the region and alarm our allies and friends. Ironically, the principal beneficiaries of Sino-American tensions over Taiwan have been the Russians and other countries with territorial disputes with China. They have been able to exploit Beijing's obsession with the great rent in China's territorial integrity that Taiwan represents. One result has been border demarcation agreements and military confidence-building measures along their borders with China that are considerably more generous than they might otherwise have been. Another has been the emergence of China as Russia's biggest arms market, alongside India. Of course, Taiwan has also become a major destination for US arms sales, a market we monopolize because no other arms exporting country is prepared to sell there. It is a fact that our military-industrial complex has acquired a vested interest in demonizing China while talking up Taiwan's defense needs.

To the dismay of some, Taiwan has recently become much more selective about what it buys from us. This reflects its recognition that an island of 23 million people cannot hope to sustain a long-term military balance with a society of 1.3 billion-plus. This would be true even if China were not driven by other factors unrelated to Taiwan to reequip and modernize its military. But it is. Even as the PLA builds preparedness for Taiwan contingencies, it must mount a credible defense along fourteen land borders and against other powerful nations that, like Japan, have a history of invading China. Ironically, any US military planner charged with planning China's defense would demand a vastly greater level of defense spending than the PLA has been able to wangle.

Both Beijing and Taipei want to end their military confrontation. Both now seek to negotiate a formula that would permit the long-term peaceful coexistence of Taiwan's political economy with the quite different systems now flourishing on the mainland, in Hong Kong, and in Macau. Working out such a formula, consistent with the principle of "one China," is the stated objective of the administration that will take office in Taipei on May 20. Doing so will not constitute "reunification." Discussion of arrangements for that could be deferred, perhaps indefinitely. In the meantime, both sides are committed to exploring – I quote – "a formal ending to the cross-Strait state of hostilities" and "the establishment of a military mutual trust mechanism, to avoid cross-strait military conflict." The United States should express willingness to help secure any new status quo that may be agreed between Taipei and Beijing and to act accordingly.

If Taipei and Beijing can achieve what they now hope they can, Taiwan's democracy will, for the first time, be unthreatened and a major burden on our relationships in the area, not just with China but with other countries, will be lifted. Concern on the part of the Republic of Korea about our embroiling Koreans in a war with China over Taiwan has been the principal obstacle to the transformation of our alliance into a partnership for power projection. A somewhat similar concern has kept our alliance with Japan from achieving its full potential. Obviously, new possibilities for a strategic relationship with China, leveraging its capabilities to serve our purposes, would also arise.

The downside is, of course, that the credibility of China as a putative "peer competitor" of the United States would be greatly diminished. Our defense industries would be thrust back into another season of "enemy deprivation syndrome" – the queasy feeling they get when their enemy goes away and they have to find a new one to justify defense acquisition programs. I am sure they would prove up to that challenge! A moment of disorientation in the military-industrial complex would, in any event, be a small price to pay for greater security in the western Pacific and the end of any serious prospect of armed conflict with China.

With this prospect in mind, let me return to the broader issue of US objectives vis-à-vis China. I think these should be to ensure, to the extent possible,

• That Americans benefit rather than suffer from China's emergence as an economic great power;

• That China becomes a committed guardian and follower of good practices of global governance within a rule-bound international order favorable to American as well as Chinese interests;

• That China pulls with us rather than against us as we tackle global, regional, and transnational problems;

• That the Taiwan issue is resolved peacefully on terms acceptable to both sides of the Taiwan Strait; and

• That disputes, including those few remaining territorial issues that China has with its neighbors, are also resolved by peaceful means.

Serious pursuit of these objectives would demand of us a degree of farsightedness and diplomatic creativity like those we evidenced six decades ago, when the now-vanished world for which we built our present international institutions and practices was still new. It would require us to recognize that the alliances and multilateral structures we set up to deal with the threats of fascism and Soviet communism need reform, supplementation, or replacement to be able to deal with the very different challenges and opportunities of the post-Cold War era. These challenges cannot be met with coalitions or through gatherings that do not include those with the capacity to wreck the solutions we craft as well as those essential to craft them. We need new diplomatic and security architectures to manage new global and regional problems. Creating them will require us to combine vision with pragmatism and to set aside our rigid insistence that nations demonstrate democratic credentials before we will work with them.

China is very relevant in this regard. There is a growing range of problems that cannot be addressed and opportunities that cannot be seized without China's cooperation or acquiescence. Such issues now embrace every element of our national interest and every facet of national power. They may sound abstract but they can help ordinary Americans – or hit us where it hurts. Fortunately, the prospect for Chinese cooperation on many of them is good, especially if Taipei and Beijing succeed in taking the Taiwan issue progressively off the Sino-American agenda. Whether that happens or not, since time is limited, let me mention just a few things the next president could usefully take up with the Chinese to serve the objectives I've outlined.

One of these is the trade imbalance and the dollar-yuan exchange rate. These problems are linked politically. They now also connect to a broader issue of global concern. With about one-fourth of the global economy and a much higher proportion of its debt, our currency can no longer bear the burden of providing three-fifths of the world's reserves. American need to return to funding our economic advance with our own savings rather than through foreign borrowing. China and other high dollar-surplus countries need to know that their long free ride on the dollar is coming to an end. They will have to pick up their fair share of sustaining the health of the global economy and the international monetary and reserve system on which it depends. We need urgently to sit down with the Chinese and others to begin to work out a new system that would include full convertibility for the yuan but preserve as much as possible of the value of China's, Japan's and other countries' hard-earned dollar reserves. The aim should be to begin to craft a joint proposal for international monetary reform that we could put before the world's great financial powers.

Consider also the questions of international good governance and the rule of law. One of the lessons Americans may well take away from Iraq is that we should get out of the business of trying to propagate democracy in foreign lands and instead focus on making it work here, counting on the good example we set to inspire others to emulate us. But we have a big stake in the extent to which China internalizes the idea of the rule of law. This is not just because China is becoming an increasingly important element in the forces shaping world order but because no nation that is scofflaw at home can be trusted to follow the rules abroad. (The reverse of this, that scofflaw behavior abroad fosters unconstitutional corner-cutting at home is, also true, as our own government has recently reminded us.) We need to set a good example at home to have credibility abroad. But we must do more than that.

We need to work with the Chinese to improve the performance of their courts, enhance their legal education, upgrade their forensic standards, and modernize their law enforcement practices. This, not public condemnation and verbal abuse, is how we helped south Korea and Taiwan become democratic societies characterized by a high degree of respect for human rights. Twenty years after the student uprising in Tiananmen, it is time to do away with the sanctions – self-imposed restrictions – that prevent us from working with the Chinese government to help the vastly larger society of the mainland attain comparable standards of civilized behavior.

Yet another challenge that tests our willingness to explore partnership with China is environmental degradation and climate change. Nothing the United States can do will have much effect on the deteriorating global environment without parallel or complementary action from China. It has been all too easy to use this fact as an excuse for doing nothing. The next president should use it as a reason to challenge China to join us in tackling the problem.

If the Bush administration succeeds, as it yet may, in removing the nuclear issue as an obstacle to a permanent peace on the Korean peninsula and normal relations with north Korea, its successor will have something to build on in terms of creating a northeast Asian security system that can help with crisis management and dispute resolution in that region. China would be an essential partner in any such arrangement, as it has been in the 6-party talks. China would also be an indispensable participant in any broader concert of Asia-Pacific powers, including not just our allies in Japan and Korea, but also India, ASEAN, Australia, and others. Such a gathering could advance our objective of assuring that territorial and other disputes are worked out by measures short of war.

Finally, to return very briefly to military matters, it is shocking that we had more contact and were more familiar with the reasoning processes of our Soviet enemies than we are today with the Chinese, who are not and need not become our enemy, and with whom we share many common concerns. At present, if there were an abrupt transition in Korea or Pakistan, or an incident in Central Asia, we would not have the mutual confidence and familiarity necessary to work with the Chinese to address the resulting problems, despite the almost certain desire of both of us to do so. Military dialog and exchanges need a lot of work on both sides.

The United States faces a daunting array of foreign and domestic problems, many of which we cannot hope to solve on our own. We cannot take China's cooperation with us on these problems for granted even though in some cases it is indispensable. Equally, however, we have no basis for presupposing China's opposition or indifference on these issues. How the United States conceives of our relations with China and how we approach these relations will determine whether it is helpful or hostile on matters of concern to us. We will do better, I think, with a less stridently critical and militaristic approach than that we have recently followed.

Diplomacy is not just about preventing problems or deterring others from creating them, though both are part of it. Diplomacy is equally, as the Truman and Nixon administrations showed in the past century, about responding to broad strategic challenges, about redefining the world and regional orders, about creating opportunities to advance the national interest, and about crafting strategic architecture that embraces the capacities needed to pursue these opportunities. In 2009, Sino-American relations are likely to be ripe for redefinition, renewal, and mutually beneficial enlargement.

It will fall to the president who takes office next January 20 to compose a comprehensive strategy to accomplish this and to devise realistic policies to implement that strategy. But, as former Secretary of State Kissinger once wisely remarked, "no foreign policy – no matter how ingenious – has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none." The next president must also lead the American people toward a better informed consensus on how we can best compete and cooperate with an increasingly influential and powerful China.

The potential for partnership between the United States and China is great; the costs of antagonism are greater. China's leaders have said on many occasions that they want a strategic partnership with America. To test whether that is possible, Americans must decide what we want from such a partnership and be constant in our pursuit of it.