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Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama & McCain: Economics & Foreign Policy

Obama & McCain: Economics & Foreign Policy

William Pfaff

Paris, October 30, 2008 -- The real issues of the American presidential election are the future of the economy and the future of American foreign policy. The one seems already settled. The second seems to unite John McCain and Barack Obama in support of a program doomed to fail.

The first is a matter of economic ideology. McCain, who admits that the subject doesn't really interest him, has made the traditional Republican argument that cutting taxes, particularly for the rich, causes economic growth. It says markets are the best available mechanism for making economic choices, and should not be regulated, since in the end individuals acting in their selfish interest always collectively make the best economic judgements.

This inherently implausible doctrine now is all but impossible to defend, since Alan Greenspan himself has confessed that his lifelong convictions have been disproven. These ultimately rested on the teaching of the cult writer Ayn Rand, that individual selfishness is the highest public virtue. American finance and business have now conclusively demonstrated that this is not true.

Obama believes that markets should be regulated and that government has an indispensable role to play in the direction of the national economy. McCain attacks him as a "socialist," a meaningless term of abuse. The only socialists currently active in the modern industrial world are members of major European parties who alternate with conservatives and centrists in the direction of successful and competitive national economies, such as those of the European Union.

On this count, the vote has to go to Obama, who clearly is in touch with the realities, while McCain's economic convictions are now part of the ruins that stretch from Wall Street to the family with the foreclosed mortgage.

The second big issue is foreign and security policy, where the two candidates have disputed how and when the United States should withdraw from Iraq, and whether priority should be placed on the struggle in Afghanistan.

Current circumstances are likely to prove the argument about Iraq pointless since the current reality is of political and sectarian rivalry over Kurdistan and who controls Mosul and its oil revenues; and over a status of forces agreement for U.S. troops, the timetable for their departure from Iraq, and whether they really will all go.

In the end, the matter is out of American hands and in those of the Iraqis. They will settle who gets Mosul; the U.S. is not going to stay around to police a partition of Iraq. It's the Iraqis who have the possibility (at even more cost to themselves, admittedly) of making continued American occupation of the country militarily and politically unsustainable, no matter who is president in Washington. Iran will also have an enormous influence on the decision because of its proximity, military threat to American forces in Iraq, and influence over the Shia political and religious groups in that country.

Afghanistan by January is likely to bear little resemblance to today's situation, and there is even a remote possibility that the talks that have been going on (and off) among Afghan and Pakistani governments, the American command, tribal leaders and certain Taliban leaders, may stop the fighting before then -- or change it into something worse.

Obama's exceedingly ill-advised promise to make Afghanistan the "real" war, and "go in and get" Osama bin Ladin if the Pakistanis won't produce him, may sound very hollow by then, as may McCain's demands for "victory" over terrorism (victory over just whom, where, how decided, and to what actual political result?).

Civil war could be going on in Pakistan by January, American troops in the middle of it, (even fighting the Pakistani army to seize control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons). Pakistan today, as the analysts say, provides a "scenario-rich" situation, fraught with unpleasant possibilities, and far better left to the peoples involved, while Americans and NATO leave as discreetly as possible. But this last is unlikely to happen unless they are forced out.

The fundamental question that should be put to the candidates is whether they are committed to a program of continuing American unilateral military and political interventions in the Muslim world intended to make despotic and "failed" states into democracies on good terms with the United States. They undoubtedly would both say yes.

That's too bad for the rest of us, who will be among those paying the price. Such a policy is the conventional wisdom in Washington, and certainly that of the array of former Clinton advisers so far reported as associated with Obama. The people publicly connected with McCain are all or nearly all survivors of the neo-conservative wing of the Bush administration (and not the brightest lights among the neo-cons either).

They all seem determined to press forward with the democracy offensive of the discredited Bush administration. Naturally they intend to make a better job of it, having noticed that under Bush the record thus far consists exclusively of failures.

Since the candidates currently seem agreed on this policy, the final question is not who would do it better, but which of them would be quickest to realize that it is impossible. Intelligence isn't everything; but Obama is seriously smart and seems to have common sense as well.

© Copyright by Tribune Media Services International. All Rights Reserved.

This article comes from William PFAFF

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How to stop an Iranian bomb

How to stop an Iranian bomb

By Trita Parsi and Andreas Persbo

October 31, 2008

The Guardian

Ever since Iran publicised its nuclear fuel cycle plans in 2003, western experts have tried to downplay its rate of progress in nuclear engineering. The Iranian scientific community is often viewed as technologically inept. Relatively minor obstacles have been portrayed as next to insurmountable. These arguments are now growing increasingly false – Tehran is adding centrifuges faster than the UN security council can step up the pressure. Time is not working in the favour of the west.

Iran is making good progress in many key areas of nuclear engineering. Presently, it has some 4,000 operational centrifuges at its facility in Natanz. This means that it is learning about the intricate art of connecting a large number of centrifuges with a vast amount of pipework while maintaining everything under vacuum. Getting centrifuges to run is not difficult; getting them to run as a single entity is the challenge.

Iran's increasing capabilities also mean that it can produce some 3.2 metric tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU) per year. This is about a tenth of the annual fuel load of a typical light water reactor. However, the technology can have other uses too. If Iran decides to re-enrich this product, it can theoretically produce some 115kg of weapons-grade uranium per year. It can have a bomb's worth of material in less than three months.

This does not mean, however, that Iran is producing weapons-grade material. Neither does it mean that it intends to. Indeed, capabilities and intentions are two different things. The IAEA is still insisting it has no evidence of any ongoing Iranian weapons programme. Some states therefore worry about what Iran could do if it builds enough capacity to go down the weapons route. In particular, many worry about what Iran could do with its LEU stockpile.

Many things need to happen before Iran can convert its low-enriched uranium stockpile to weapons-usable material. It would first need to get enough LEU in its warehouses. The international community would know when this happened, as long as all Iranian enrichment capacity is safeguarded by the IAEA.

Furthermore, the Natanz facility is set up to produce LEU only. Iran must therefore disconnect many miles of pipework and reconnect them to make it suitable for weapons-grade enrichment. Unless the Iranian floor managers are notorious gamblers, they would want at least a month to do this. Getting the centrifuges back on stream without testing the new configuration could cause severe damage to the sensitive rotors.

This provides the international community with a clear trigger to take decisive action against any Iranian weaponisation: once the inspectors are ejected, the clock is ticking. Current divisions within the security council on how to deal with Iran would probably be overcome. In fact, an agreement can be reached beforehand on how to deal with any Iranian move towards re-enrichment.

The bottom line is that inspections are instrumental in preventing Iranian weaponisation and much can be done to prevent Iranian enrichment from equating with an Iranian bomb.

Instead of investing further in a security council track focused on the losing proposition of stopping Iranian enrichment altogether, resources should be diverted towards making it as unattractive as possible for Iran to make the choice of re-enriching the LEU. This would require boosting inspections of Iranian facilities while defining the steps the security council will take in case Iran seeks to re-enrich. This could be spelled out in a security council resolution.

According to former weapons inspector David Kay, the west must also take measures now in regard to regional security to make any potential failure to stop an Iranian bomb an irrelevant development.

Nuclear weapons have little military utility, and their deterrent value has never been proven. In the Middle East, however, wihout a new security architecture, the spread of nuclear weapons is likely to be a game changer.

Unless the west redefines the game and makes the nuclear stand-off with Iran about bomb-making and not enrichment, and devotes resources to create disincentives for Iran to weaponise, time will continue to be on the side of Iran.
Trita Parsi is the author of Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US, a silver medal recipient of the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Book Award. Andreas Persbo is a senior researcher at the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre.

How to stop an Iranian bomb

How to stop an Iranian bomb

By Trita Parsi and Andreas Persbo

October 31, 2008

The Guardian

Ever since Iran publicised its nuclear fuel cycle plans in 2003, western experts have tried to downplay its rate of progress in nuclear engineering. The Iranian scientific community is often viewed as technologically inept. Relatively minor obstacles have been portrayed as next to insurmountable. These arguments are now growing increasingly false – Tehran is adding centrifuges faster than the UN security council can step up the pressure. Time is not working in the favour of the west.

Iran is making good progress in many key areas of nuclear engineering. Presently, it has some 4,000 operational centrifuges at its facility in Natanz. This means that it is learning about the intricate art of connecting a large number of centrifuges with a vast amount of pipework while maintaining everything under vacuum. Getting centrifuges to run is not difficult; getting them to run as a single entity is the challenge.

Iran's increasing capabilities also mean that it can produce some 3.2 metric tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU) per year. This is about a tenth of the annual fuel load of a typical light water reactor. However, the technology can have other uses too. If Iran decides to re-enrich this product, it can theoretically produce some 115kg of weapons-grade uranium per year. It can have a bomb's worth of material in less than three months.

This does not mean, however, that Iran is producing weapons-grade material. Neither does it mean that it intends to. Indeed, capabilities and intentions are two different things. The IAEA is still insisting it has no evidence of any ongoing Iranian weapons programme. Some states therefore worry about what Iran could do if it builds enough capacity to go down the weapons route. In particular, many worry about what Iran could do with its LEU stockpile.

Many things need to happen before Iran can convert its low-enriched uranium stockpile to weapons-usable material. It would first need to get enough LEU in its warehouses. The international community would know when this happened, as long as all Iranian enrichment capacity is safeguarded by the IAEA.

Furthermore, the Natanz facility is set up to produce LEU only. Iran must therefore disconnect many miles of pipework and reconnect them to make it suitable for weapons-grade enrichment. Unless the Iranian floor managers are notorious gamblers, they would want at least a month to do this. Getting the centrifuges back on stream without testing the new configuration could cause severe damage to the sensitive rotors.

This provides the international community with a clear trigger to take decisive action against any Iranian weaponisation: once the inspectors are ejected, the clock is ticking. Current divisions within the security council on how to deal with Iran would probably be overcome. In fact, an agreement can be reached beforehand on how to deal with any Iranian move towards re-enrichment.

The bottom line is that inspections are instrumental in preventing Iranian weaponisation and much can be done to prevent Iranian enrichment from equating with an Iranian bomb.

Instead of investing further in a security council track focused on the losing proposition of stopping Iranian enrichment altogether, resources should be diverted towards making it as unattractive as possible for Iran to make the choice of re-enriching the LEU. This would require boosting inspections of Iranian facilities while defining the steps the security council will take in case Iran seeks to re-enrich. This could be spelled out in a security council resolution.

According to former weapons inspector David Kay, the west must also take measures now in regard to regional security to make any potential failure to stop an Iranian bomb an irrelevant development.

Nuclear weapons have little military utility, and their deterrent value has never been proven. In the Middle East, however, wihout a new security architecture, the spread of nuclear weapons is likely to be a game changer.

Unless the west redefines the game and makes the nuclear stand-off with Iran about bomb-making and not enrichment, and devotes resources to create disincentives for Iran to weaponise, time will continue to be on the side of Iran.
Trita Parsi is the author of Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US, a silver medal recipient of the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Book Award. Andreas Persbo is a senior researcher at the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre.

Expanding War, Contracting Meaning:The Next President and the Global War on Terror by Andrew Bacevich

From TomDispatch
Expanding War, Contracting Meaning
The Next President and the Global War on Terror
By Andrew J. Bacevich

A week ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration's conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.

President Bush will bequeath to his successor the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone. To defense contractors, lobbyists, think-tankers, ambitious military officers, the hosts of Sunday morning talk shows, and the Douglas Feith-like creatures who maneuver to become players in the ultimate power game, the Global War on Terror is a boon, an enterprise redolent with opportunity and promising to extend decades into the future.

Yet, to a considerable extent, that very enterprise has become a fiction, a gimmicky phrase employed to lend an appearance of cohesion to a panoply of activities that, in reality, are contradictory, counterproductive, or at the very least beside the point. In this sense, the global war on terror relates to terrorism precisely as the war on drugs relates to drug abuse and dependence: declaring a state of permanent "war" sustains the pretense of actually dealing with a serious problem, even as policymakers pay lip-service to the problem's actual sources. The war on drugs is a very expensive fraud. So, too, is the Global War on Terror.

Anyone intent on identifying some unifying idea that explains U.S. actions, military and otherwise, across the Greater Middle East is in for a disappointment. During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt laid down "Germany first" and then "unconditional surrender" as core principles. Early in the Cold War, the Truman administration devised the concept of containment, which for decades thereafter provided a conceptual framework to which policymakers adhered. Yet seven years into its Global War on Terror, the Bush administration is without a compass, wandering in the arid wilderness. To the extent that any inkling of a strategy once existed -- the preposterous neoconservative vision of employing American power to "transform" the Islamic world -- events have long since demolished the assumptions on which it was based.

Rather than one single war, the United States is presently engaged in several.

Ranking first in importance is the war for Bush's legacy, better known as Iraq. The President himself will never back away from his insistence that here lies the "central front" of the conflict he initiated after 9/11. Hunkered down in their bunker, Bush and his few remaining supporters would have us believe that the "surge" has, at long last, brought victory in sight and with it some prospect of redeeming this otherwise misbegotten and mismanaged endeavor. If the President can leave office spouting assurances that light is finally visible somewhere at the far end of a very long, very dark Mesopotamian tunnel, he will claim at least partial vindication. And if actual developments subsequent to January 20 don't turn out well, he can always blame the outcome on his successor.

Next comes the orphan war. This is Afghanistan, a conflict now in its eighth year with no signs of ending anytime soon. Given the attention lavished on Iraq, developments in Afghanistan have until recently attracted only intermittent notice. Lately, however, U.S. officials have awakened to the fact that things are going poorly, both politically and militarily. Al Qaeda persists. The Taliban is reasserting itself. Expectations that NATO might ride to the rescue have proven illusory. Apart from enabling Afghanistan to reclaim its status as the world's number one producer of opium, U.S. efforts to pacify that nation and nudge it toward modernity have produced little.

The Pentagon calls its intervention in Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom. The emphasis was supposed to be on the noun. Unfortunately, the adjective conveys the campaign's defining characteristic: enduring as in endless. Barring a radical re-definition of purpose, this is an enterprise which promises to continue, consuming lives and treasure, for a long, long time.

In neighboring Pakistan, meanwhile, there is the war-hidden-in-plain-sight. Reports of U.S. military action in Pakistan have now become everyday fare. Air strikes, typically launched from missile-carrying drones, are commonplace, and U.S. ground forces have also conducted at least one cross-border raid from inside Afghanistan. Although the White House doesn't call this a war, it is -- a gradually escalating war of attrition in which we are killing both terrorists and noncombatants. Unfortunately, we are killing too few of the former to make a difference and more than enough of the latter to facilitate the recruitment of new terrorists to replace those we eliminate.

Finally -- skipping past the wars-in-waiting, which are Syria and Iran -- there is Condi's war. This clash, which does not directly involve U.S. forces, may actually be the most important of all. The war that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made her own is the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Having for years dismissed the insistence of Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs alike, that the plight of the Palestinians constitutes a problem of paramount importance, Rice now embraces that view. With the fervor of a convert, she has vowed to broker an end to that conflict prior to leaving office in January 2009.

Given that Rice brings little -- perhaps nothing -- to the effort in the way of fresh ideas, her prospects of making good as a peacemaker appear slight. Yet, as with Bush and Iraq, so too with Rice and the Palestinian problem: she has a lot riding on the effort. If she flops, history will remember her as America's least effective secretary of state since Cordell Hull spent World War II being ignored, bypassed, and humiliated by Franklin Roosevelt. She will depart Foggy Bottom having accomplished nothing.

There's nothing inherently wrong in fighting simultaneously on several fronts, as long as actions on front A are compatible with those on front B, and together contribute to overall success. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Global War on Terror. We have instead an illustration of what Winston Churchill once referred to as a pudding without a theme: a war devoid of strategic purpose.

This absence of cohesion -- by now a hallmark of the Bush administration -- is both a disaster and an opportunity. It is a disaster in the sense that we have, over the past seven years, expended enormous resources, while gaining precious little in return.

Bush's supporters beg to differ, of course. They credit the president with having averted a recurrence of 9/11, doubtless a commendable achievement but one primarily attributable to the fact that the United States no longer neglects airport security. To argue that, say, the invasion and occupation of Iraq have prevented terrorist attacks against the United States is the equivalent of contending that Israel's occupation of the West Bank since in 1967 has prevented terrorist attacks against the state of Israel.

Yet the existing strategic vacuum is also an opportunity. When it comes to national security at least, the agenda of the next administration all but sets itself. There is no need to waste time arguing about which issues demand priority action.

First-order questions are begging for attention. How should we gauge the threat? What are the principles that should inform our response? What forms of power are most relevant to implementing that response? Are the means at hand adequate to the task? If not, how should national priorities be adjusted to provide the means required? Given the challenges ahead, how should the government organize itself? Who -- both agencies and individuals -- will lead?

To each and every one of these questions, the Bush administration devised answers that turned out to be dead wrong. The next administration needs to do better. The place to begin is with the candid recognition that the Global War on Terror has effectively ceased to exist. When it comes to national security strategy, we need to start over from scratch.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His bestselling new book is The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books). To listen to a podcast in which he discusses issues relevant to this article, click here.

Copyright 2008 Andrew Bacevich

Unipolar Power: Not any more by Leon Hadar

To those interested:

Unipolar Power: Not any more
Posted on October 30th, 2008 by Leon Hadar

Robert Kagan in his monthly [thank the editor for small favors] column in The Washington Post today slams all those pundits who disagree with his central thesis that the U.S. is “Still No. 1″ (the title of his op-ed) and subscribe to the notion that America is in decline.

In fact, none of the writers that he quotes in his piece, including Francis Fukuyama and Fareed Zakaria disagree with him that “American military power is unmatched.” What they do argue is that as a result of the policies advocated by Kagan and pursued by Bush, American military and economic power is overstretched, as the mess in the Broader Middle East and the financial crisis have demonstrated. In fact, it’s China, America’s future geo-strategic and geo-economic competitor that is financing (together with the Arab oil states) America’s current-account deficit.

But what is remarkable is the way Kagan has tried to change the subject of the post-Cold War debate. He begins with misleading historical examples:

Sober analysts such as Richard Haass acknowledge that the United States remains “the single most powerful entity in the world.” But he warns, “The United States cannot dominate, much less dictate, and expect that others will follow.” That is true. But when was it not? Was there ever a time when the United States could dominate, dictate and always have its way?
Many declinists imagine a mythical past when the world danced to America’s tune. Nostalgia swells for the wondrous American-dominated era after World War II, but between 1945 and 1965 the United States actually suffered one calamity after another. The “loss” of China to communism; the North Korean invasion of South Korea; the Soviet testing of a hydrogen bomb; the stirrings of postcolonial nationalism in Indochina — each proved a strategic setback of the first order. And each was beyond America’s power to control or even to manage successfully.

But there was never a “wondrous American-dominated era after World War II.” There was a bi-polar system in which the U.S. and the USSR were the two dominant powers. The debate after the collapse of the Soviet Union was not whether America was no. 1 based on its military power, but whether the U.S. has become the global hegemon, the Unipolar Power that would remain unchallenged and could impose its will on the rest of the world.

American Unipolarism was the neoconservative axiom that has been advanced by Kagan and Company since 1991. It was tested in Iraq. And now in the aftermath (?) of that war, the eroding influence of America in the Middle East, the confrontation with North Korea, and the financial crisis, no one is seriously arguing that the U.S. is “Still a Unipolar Power.” Not even Kagan.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Analysis: Taliban talks strategy attracts backers


Analysis: Taliban talks strategy attracts backers

Nic Robertson

(CNN) -- Since Afghan officials met with former Taliban leaders in Mecca, Saudi Arabia a month ago the drum beat of hammering out a political deal with the Taliban rather than smashing them militarily has been growing steadily.

Two days of talks in Pakistan's capital Islamabad between Afghan and Pakistani officials and tribal leaders have just concluded with an appeal to the Taliban command, come forward and discuss the war.

In the United States leaks from closed door debate both political and military are hinting ever more strongly that talks with some Taliban are on the cards.

Why now, why at all? Like all conflicts the Afghan/Pakistan regional war must end. The question is how? Both sides seem to accept a military victory is not around the corner and that means talks move higher up the agenda.

This doesn't mean everyone is on the same page. The U.S. still has a $10 million dollar bounty on Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader's head. They want him for giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.

The Afghan government seems to think Omar is the lesser of several evils, not as radical as some young wilder al Qaeda inspired Taliban leaders, and are offering him a way back home.

And the Saudis, who brokered the Mecca meeting, want a commitment from Omar to end his association with bin Laden before he can participate in peace talks.

According to sources close to the talks in Mecca, the Taliban representatives recognize they can't defeat U.S. military might.

Not so long ago U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen raised concerns the war in Afghanistan is not going well.

The U.S. is fighting a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and additional troops, while useful as Afghan security forces are built up, can also be counterproductive.

Afghan tolerance for an international force is finite -- they know they need help with security but collateral civilian casualties from errant NATO and U.S. missiles don't just inflame passions, they are political liability for the Afghan leadership.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is up for reelection next year. To win, he must look independent of the U.S. Paradoxically, ask any Afghan who they think will win and they'll tell you "whoever the U.S. wants."

The bottom line right now, there is a lot at stake for all the players to begin winding the war down.

No one expects quick results. The reality is 30 years of conflict won't be wrapped up overnight but the change in debate over the past month about the way forward is still a seismic shift.

Omar, who is in exile in Pakistan, has told his fighters to avoid civilian casualties -- a clear delineation with al Qaeda's suicide, kill all bombing tactics.

Nevertheless it's very hard to see how you get him to reconcile his differences with a U.S.-backed government in Kabul. His demand is for foreign forces, which essentially keep the Karzai government in power, to leave Afghanistan.

But as the U.S. and Afghan governments are fighting the war side by side, if the Afghan government is talking to the Taliban, inviting leaders like Omar to enter a peace process, the U.S. military must develop options that can keep pace with that political direction.

Lessons learned in Iraq now appear to offer solutions to U.S. military commanders.

Work with tribes and insurgents. In this case the Taliban, to isolate and defeat the hardcore radicals like al Qaeda. Although Iraq and Afghanistan are vastly different, the scale, complexity and history of the problems are far worse in Afghanistan. The U.S. does now seem to be considering this direction.

The other lessons of Iraq like surging troops seem to hold less attraction. Afghanistan is just so big, so rural, so under developed there just aren't the number of troops available to make it work.

Standing up Afghan national security forces will take far longer than in Iraq too. Literacy is low and the centrally run forces were last effective, if ever, over a generation ago.

Standing up local security forces similar to Iraq's awakening councils is being discussed but its detractors say it risks regressing to warlord regional rather than national mentality.

In Iraq the solutions were all about need and expediency. The same forces are at work in Afghanistan, need and expediency.

To win militarily is a generational fight no one can afford. To talk may yet offer something to everyone.

America: The Lost Leader by Michael Elliott

Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008
America: The Lost Leader

In the U.S. presidential election campaign, the speeches of the candidates on foreign policy have often turned on a single word, and a shared analysis. The word is "leadership," and the analysis is this. After World War II, the U.S. built an international system that protected those who signed up to its values, and that provided the means for contesting Soviet communism. Now, with the end of the Cold War, and in the messy world that has taken shape in its aftermath, it is time for America to show leadership again. In his set-piece speech on foreign policy in Chicago in April 2007, for example, Barack Obama identified no less than five ways in which the U.S. should lead the world. But John McCain made the point with greatest clarity in his speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council in March.

McCain said this: "President Harry Truman once said of America, 'God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose.' In his time, that purpose was to contain communism and build the structures of peace and prosperity that could provide a safe passage through the Cold War. Now it is our turn. We face a new set of opportunities and also new dangers ... The United States must lead in the 21st century, just as it did in Truman's day."

Beyond the assumption that the world today needs to see U.S. leadership just as it did after 1945, there has also been a second item of implicit agreement between the candidates: that the performance of the U.S. in its leadership role has been less impressive of late than it was following World War II.

It's hard to argue with that. During and after World War II, the U.S. encouraged the formation of multilateral institutions which spread a sense of collective political, military and economic security around much of the world. The Bush Administration, by contrast, has not been good at multilateralism or institution-building. Let's take some examples. It invaded Iraq without formal support from a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force. While the U.S. has welcomed a host of post-communist nations into NATO, it has been unable to rally its allies, new or old, around a clear vision of what NATO's role is or what its future might be. And though, in the wake of the financial crash, President Bush has endorsed the French suggestion of holding a conference that might lead to new arrangements to govern the international financial system, it was the British government, not that of the U.S., that first understood that recapitalization of financial institutions was the key to short-term amelioration of the crisis.

This record of unilateral action and standoffishness has borne bitter fruit in terms of America's reputation overseas. The polls don't lie; even among its staunch allies, the U.S is seen as untrustworthy and dangerous. In his speech in Chicago last year, Obama said "I still believe that America is the last, best hope on earth. We just have to show the world why this is so." But in March, in an interview with the International Herald Tribune, Bernard Kouchner, France's Foreign Minister — and a true lover of America — took a different view. When the rest of world now looks at the U.S., Kouchner said, "the magic is over." Asked if the U.S. could repair the damage done to its reputation over the last few years, Kouchner replied sadly, "It will never be as it was before."

So why has American leadership been so disappointing in the post-Cold War years compared to the period after 1945? What has changed?

Leadership, we should note, is a word and a concept that is used much more often in and about the U.S. than it is anywhere else. The French have so much trouble with the idea of a leader that they often revert to using the English word. The Germans — for understandable reasons — do not boast of their own nation's führerschaft. But American politicians, of all stripes, have no problem in claiming a leadership role for the U.S. — in fact, they regard it as axiomatic that the U.S. should "lead" the world. As David Rieff argued recently in World Affairs, "President Bush has argued that the war in Iraq was a demonstration of America's moral leadership, whereas his liberal opponents claim that Iraq was where the U.S. forfeited its moral leadership. What no one questions is the certainty that we are capable of, indeed accustomed to, exercising such leadership, and, more basically still, that our ideals as a nation entitle us to do so."

The factors that once underpinned this claim, however, do not seem as strong now as they once were. Why not?

The difference between the end of World War II and the end of the Cold War cannot simply be one of personality. Those who put together the international settlement after 1945 — Harry Truman, George Marshall, Dean Acheson and the like — were indeed, in the title of a marvelous book by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men. They were aware of their responsibilities and understood that American power would best be protected if it was shared in a network of institutions that made up a new liberal international order. Granted, George Bush is no Truman, nor Condoleezza Rice a Marshall. But to pin everything on personality ignores social and economic forces that have reshaped the shores of our world and our imagination. And in any case, it misses a significant change between the first term of President Bush and his second, during which the U.S. has relied much more on diplomacy, and much less on the use of force, to advance its objectives.

Underpinning much of that diplomacy has been the idea that democracy is a long-term cure for the instability that spills across national borders, as happened on 9/11. That intuitively makes sense. Democracies, because they institutionalize and internalize bargaining and the representation of different interests, tend to be peaceable. And democratic rights are popular. If the question is simply: Do people all over the world want the same trappings of liberal democracy that we enjoy — the right to choose our leaders, to think and say what we like, to worship how we choose? Then the answer is: Well, of course they do.

But liberal democracy is not all that people want. They want security — that is, quite simply to know that they and their families are safe. And they want justice.

That should not be surprising. Justice, after all, is an older concept than democracy; societies which had no conception of democracy as we know it nonetheless had sophisticated systems of justice. But it is important to distinguish two ways in which justice is relevant to claims of American leadership. First, there is a search for equity between the competing claims of individuals — the sort that might be made by a Palestinian farmer, for example, who has seen water from the local aquifer appropriated by an Israeli settlement. We ignore such claims, and the sullen outrage that accompanies them, at our peril. But there is a second sense in which people make a claim of justice, and this is as a collective — asking that a group to which they belong should receive their just deserts of respect, dignity and influence.

This gets us to the heart of the matter. When the wise men looked at their world in 1945, it was one of ruins. Germany and Japan had been destroyed. Britain was tired out; France shamed; Russia bled white. In China war would continue for another four years. Of the industrial democracies, only the U.S., Canada and Australia had been spared misery in their homeland. The U.S. economy accounted for nearly a half of total world output in 1945, a proportion that it has never approached since. Crucially, the U.S. defined what it was to be modern. The U.S. was big shouldered and handsome, the U.S. wore nylons and lipstick, the U.S. enjoyed a level of prosperity of which others could only dream. In Manhattan '45, her love letter to New York, Jan Morris writes "The old brag biggest and finest in the nation more and more evolved into biggest and finest in the world. Battered and impoverished London, humiliated Paris, shattered Berlin, discredited Rome — the old capitals towards which, before the war, Americans had so often looked with sensations of diffident inferiority now seemed flaccid beside this prodigy of the west."

In this context, it made sense to think, and speak, of "American leadership." If you were an American policymaker in 1945, you did not actually need to make a moral claim to leadership. You did not need to argue that because America was an idea, a city on a hill, the last, best hope of mankind, it had a right and responsibility to remake the world. It was much simpler than that. American leadership in the post-1945 world was not a moral aspiration, or a policy goal, at all. It was, as the Marxists would say, an objective reality, a fact that needed neither justification nor proof.

But that does not even come close to describing the world today. The American domination — economic, social, cultural, political — that was such a feature of the post-1945 world is missing now. Plainly, there are material aspects of modern American life that still inspire admiration from overseas, and features of American innovation that nobody else can match. But I spend about half my time outside the U.S., and I have to say that in many ways, like Bernard Kouchner, I think that the magic is gone. You want modern transportation systems? Try France or Japan. New airports? Half the cities of Asia. The old assumption that American culture would sweep the planet no longer holds good. In Africa and Asia, they don't cluster round TVs to watch baseball's World Series, but they do hang on every minute of every football game in the European Champions League.

Beyond anything else, though, it is the shift of the world's economic center of gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific that has changed the environment. In 1945, Asia was typified by the rubble of war and the languidly racist torpor of colonial rule. Today, even making all appropriate allowances for a downturn in economies after the financial crisis, Asia remains the most dynamic part of the planet. Both India and China are growing at annual rates of more than 8%, and modernizing at a ferocious clip. China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile-phone company, adds more than 7 million new subscribers to its network every month. Companies like India's Tata and China's Lenovo — to say nothing of the sovereign wealth funds of Asia and the Gulf — routinely snap up icons of Western industry and commerce.

It is not really Asia's economic dynamism that is so important, however. It is the psychological consequences of economic success. The world, I often say to myself when I come home to New York from Asia, just looks better from over there. In Asia today, millions of people have a clear sense that their life is improving — that each year they will have some more creature comforts, maybe a car, maybe air-conditioning, and be better able to look after their aging parents or support their childrens' ambitions.

This economics made flesh is not just terribly moving — though it certainly is that. It also produces a sense of intense pride in those who are living it. It is that sense of pride — quite palpable throughout Asia today — that provides the demand for respect, for influence, for the nations that have achieved such economic success to receive their just deserts.

Nowhere is this more keenly marked than in China. I spend enough time in China to be able to say without equivocation that many of its cities are dystopian, that much of its natural environment is a poisoned wasteland, and that its government can be arbitrary and cruel. At the same time, never in human history are so many people improving their life chances so rapidly as in China today. Understandably, that is a source of immense pride to ordinary Chinese (not just in China, incidentally) and to their leaders. Sometimes this pride manifests itself as old-fashioned nationalism. But more usually it shows itself as a demand for recognition, for — to use that phrase again — just deserts. To be sure, Chinese leaders will often tell you that in some ways, great power status has come too soon to them, that they do not yet have the skills or expertise to handle difficult diplomatic challenges. But though modern Chinese will often ask for understanding, they will always ask for respect. They think they've earned it. And they're right.

This self-confidence of modern China, and other Asian societies, too, has had profound implications. At the most basic level, it has encouraged a wide-eyed admiration. In 2004, the World Bank held a global conference on poverty reduction in Shanghai, and I remember press reports describing the scene each evening. African delegates would gather on the Bund and look over the brown waters of the Whampoa to Pudong, gazing in wonder on an unearthly tableau of neon and skyscrapers built on marshes and paddyfields in not much more than 10 years.

What those Africans were seeing, of course, was not just a collection of extraordinary buildings — the world's highest hotel or a funky reworking of the Eiffel Tower — they were seeing a way of being modern. And that goes directly to the problem with claims of American leadership today. In the post-1945 world, the U.S. had a monopoly on modernity. Now it does not. There are, we have learned, many ways of being modern, and they do not all follow the path blazed by the U.S. This isn't just because in China — or in Russia, for that matter — the social and economic attributes of modernity have taken shape without the trappings of democracy, American style, though that is important. The same phenomenon is also evident in countries that are recognizably democracies. I have written before in TIME about a village in Crete that I have been visiting for more than 30 years. In the mid-1970s, there was just one paved street, the priest was the most important local figure, and there was a crisis among the local families when a girl student returned from college in Athens one summer wearing cut-off jeans. Now the streets are all paved and village children sunbathe in thong bikinis. The village is part of modern Europe. And I do mean Europe. Its sports and cultural heroes are not American, the political issues it cares about are not American, and its sense of the good life is not measured by 500 TV channels and huge McMansions. It has become modern, but its sense of modernity is largely unshaped by anything that the U.S. has done or has been.

This matters, because you cannot be a leader without followers. The end of America's monopoly on modernity, coupled with the pride that other nations and cultures take in their own versions of modernity, has changed the game. What the U.S. faces in the world now is not a crisis of leadership so much as one of followership. To be sure, the fiasco of Iraq has meant that there is no new generation of people and nations keen to follow America's lead. But the fundamental point transcends Iraq. It is that the conditions which created leadership and followership in the post-1945 world are gone, and they're not coming back.

None of this means that the U.S. is not the strongest power on earth; plainly, by any combination of measures it is. Often, other powers will want the U.S. to play a role far from its borders because that is the only way of getting things done. And I am certainly not arguing that the rest of the world should be anything but grateful for the leadership that the U.S. took on in the period after World War II. But the world has changed; the language and the concepts that made sense 50 years ago do not make sense now. The U.S. cannot expect an old debt of gratitude to be paid in the coin of perpetual deference. Nations outside the U.S. have no special need or want to hear claims for American leadership today. If those claims are made, they are likely — in American eyes — to be met with nothing more than a sullen ingratitude. Better for all if we just dispense with the whole idea and come up with something better.

It would be too much to ask those seeking the Presidency to embrace this reasoning. The leadership gene is too firmly lodged in the DNA of American politicians. But both McCain and Obama have stressed the need for a new and heartening approach to international relations. Even as he was calling for American leadership on everything from nuclear proliferation to global warming, Obama in Chicago spoke of the need for the U.S. to adopt "the spirit of a partner — a partner that is mindful of its own imperfections." And in his Los Angeles speech, McCain redefined leadership in a sophisticated way. "Leadership today," he said, "means something different than it did in the years after World War II, when ... the United States was the only democratic superpower. Today we are not alone. There is the powerful collective voice of the European Union, and there are the great [democracies] of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil. There are also the increasingly powerful nations of China and Russia. In such a world, where power of all kinds is more widely and evenly distributed, the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone ... We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary ... we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we in return must be willing to be persuaded by them."

The America that is sketched in passages such as that — one that does not claim a monopoly of wisdom; one that recognizes that the world has changed; one that does not argue that simply because America was founded on a great idea 232 years ago, it has a moral superiority over everyone else today — is an America to which others would listen. We will soon know if such an America is taking shape.

An earlier version of this article was given as the Howard Higman Memorial Lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder in April, 2008.

We Should Talk to Our Enemies by Nicholas Burns, Newsweek Web Exclusive

Sponsored By
We Should Talk to Our Enemies
Nicholas Burns
Newsweek Web Exclusive

One of the sharpest and most telling differences on foreign policy between Barack Obama and John McCain is whether the United States should talk to difficult and disreputable leaders like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. In each of the three presidential debates, McCain belittled Obama as naive for arguing that America should be willing to negotiate with such adversaries. In the vice presidential debate, Sarah Palin went even further, accusing Obama of "bad judgment … that is dangerous," an ironic charge given her own very modest foreign-policy credentials.

Are McCain and Palin correct that America should stonewall its foes? I lived this issue for 27 years as a career diplomat, serving both Republican and Democratic administrations. Maybe that's why I've been struggling to find the real wisdom and logic in this Republican assault against Obama. I'll bet that a poll of senior diplomats who have served presidents from Carter to Bush would reveal an overwhelming majority who agree with the following position: of course we should talk to difficult adversaries—when it is in our interest and at a time of our choosing.

The more challenging and pertinent question, especially for the McCain-Palin ticket, is the reverse: Is it really smart to declare we will never talk to such leaders? Is it really in our long-term national interest to shut ourselves off from one of the most important and powerful states in the Middle East—Iran—or one of our major suppliers of oil, Venezuela?

During the five decades of the cold war, when Americans had a more Manichaean view of the world, we did, from time to time, cut off relations with particularly odious leaders such as North Korea's Kim Il Sung or Albania's bloodthirsty and maniacal strongman, Enver Hoxha. But for the most part even our most ardent cold-war presidents—Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, none of whom was often accused of being weak or naive—decided that sitting down with our adversaries made good sense for America. They all talked to Soviet leaders—men vastly more threatening to America's survival than Ahmadinejad or Chávez are now. JFK negotiated a nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with his mortal adversary, Nikita Khrushchev, just one year after the two narrowly avoided a nuclear holocaust during the Cuban missile crisis. Perhaps more dramatically, Nixon, the greatest anticommunist crusader of his time, went to China in 1972 to repair a more than 20-year rupture with Mao Zedong that he believed no longer worked for America.

All of these cold-war presidents embraced a foreign-policy maxim memorialized by one of the toughest and most experienced leaders of our time, Israel's Yitzhak Rabin, who defended his discussions with Yasir Arafat by declaring, "You don't make peace with friends, you make peace with very unsavory enemies." Why should the United States approach the world any differently now? Especially now? As Americans learned all too dramatically on 9/11 and again during the financial crisis this autumn, we inhabit a rapidly integrating planet where dangers can strike at any time and from great distances. And when others—China, India, Brazil—are rising to share power in the world with us, America needs to spend more time, not less, talking and listening to friends and foes alike.

The real truth Americans need to embrace is that nearly all of the most urgent global challenges—the quaking financial markets, climate change, terrorism—cannot be resolved by America's acting alone in the world. Rather than retreat into isolationism, as we have often done in our history, or go it alone as the unilateralists advocated disastrously in the past decade, we need to commit ourselves to a national strategy of smart engagement with the rest of the world. Simply put, we need all the friends we can get. And we need to think more creatively about how to blunt the power of opponents through smart diplomacy, not just the force of arms.

Talking to our adversaries is no one's idea of fun, and it is not a sure prescription for success in every crisis. But it is crude, simplistic and wrong to charge that negotiations reflect weakness or appeasement. More often than not, they are evidence of a strong and self-confident country. One of America's greatest but often neglected strengths is, in fact, our diplomatic power. Condoleezza Rice's visit to Libya in September—the first by a U.S. secretary of state in five decades—was the culmination of years of careful, deliberate diplomacy to maneuver the Libyan leadership to give up its weapons of mass destruction and renounce terrorism. She would not have achieved that victory had she refused to talk to the Libyans.

For sure, a successful diplomacy needs to be backed up by strong military and intelligence services to fight our wars and terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. We should constantly remind our adversaries that we have other options, including the possible use of force, if talks fail. But we have put too many of the world's problems on the shoulders of our generals and intelligence officers when diplomacy—our ability to persuade, cajole or threaten an opponent—is sometimes the better and more effective way to proceed. We need to trust our ability to outmaneuver dangerous regimes at the negotiating table and in the high court of international public opinion.

Iran is a case in point. Its hard-line, theocratic government poses the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East today. It is funding and arming most of the region's terrorist groups shooting at us, Israel and our moderate Arab friends. It has complicated our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most alarming, Iran is seeking a nuclear-weapons capability that would change the balance of power in the Middle East.

Rather than default to the idea of using U.S. military force against Iran, wouldn't it make more sense for the next American president to offer to negotiate with the Iranian leadership? Here's the logic. If the talks end up succeeding, we will have prevented a third, and potentially catastrophic, war for the United States in the volatile area linking the Middle East and South Asia. If the talks fail, we will have a far better chance of persuading Russia and China to sign on to tougher sanctions against Iran. I think war with Iran would be unconscionable if we refuse even to try diplomacy first.

I'm not saying the next president should sit down immediately with Ahmadinejad. We should initiate contact at a lower level to investigate whether it's worth putting the president's prestige on the line. We should leave the threat of military action on the table to give us greater leverage as we talk to the Iranian government. And ultimately we'd want other countries with influence—like Russia and China—to sit on our side of the table in order to bring maximum pressure to bear against Tehran. But the United States hasn't had a meaningful set of talks with Iran on all the critical issues that separate us in 30 years, since the Khomeini revolution. To illustrate how far we have isolated ourselves, think about this: I served as the Bush administration's point person on Iran for three years but was never permitted to meet an Iranian. To her immense credit, Secretary Rice arranged for my successor to participate in a multilateral meeting with Iranian officials this past summer. That is a good first step, but the next American president should initiate a more sustained discussion with senior Iranians.

If we aren't willing to talk to Iran, we may leave ourselves with only one option—military action. The next U.S. president will have little chance of securing peace in the Middle East if he doesn't determine Iran's bottom line on the nuclear issue through talks. Similarly, there will be no peace treaty between Syria and Israel if we don't support the talks underway between those countries.

In Afghanistan, the new president will face a very difficult set of choices roughly similar to those in Iraq before the surge. The brilliance of Gen. David Petraeus's strategy in Iraq was, in part, to build bridges to formerly bitter foes in the Sunni militias and to cajole and entice them to switch sides. Some are now suggesting that we should deploy a similar strategy with the Taliban rank and file.

While we should have absolutely no interest in sitting down with Qaeda fanatics or the Taliban leadership, does it make sense to try to persuade lower-ranking Taliban supporters to give up the armed struggle and commit to a democratic Afghanistan? While that's a seemingly logical goal, it would be highly problematic in the short term. We would be better served if we first built up a position of much greater military and political strength, and increased security for Afghan villagers. Talking to our adversaries is not always the answer to all our problems, especially in a highly complex environment such as Afghanistan. We have a long way to go before it might be part of a long-term solution there.

America faces a complex and difficult geopolitical landscape. The next president needs to act more creatively and boldly to defend our interests by revalidating diplomacy as a key weapon in our national arsenal and rebuilding our understaffed and underfunded diplomatic corps. Of course he will need to reserve the right to use force against the most vicious and implacable of our foes. More often than not, however, he will find that dialogue and discussion, talking and listening, are the smarter ways to defend our country, end crises and sometimes even sow the seeds of an ultimate peace.

Burns was under secretary of state for political affairs, the highest-ranking American career diplomat, until his retirement in April. He is now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Twilight Struggle: In its closing days, the Bush Administration escalates the war on terror by Eli Lake



Twilight Struggle

In its closing days, the Bush administration escalates the war on terror.

Eli Lake

On Sunday, U.S. helicopters accompanied by a special forces team struck in Sukkariyeh, Syria, just over the border from Iraq. It was a raid with enormous implications for the war in Iraq and the broader war on terror. The target of the raid was a man named Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, better known in his circles as Abu Ghadiya. Since 2004, intelligence officials have been targeting Abu Ghadiya for his pernicious role in Iraq: helping fuel the Sunni insurgency by transporting foreign fighters, money, and weapons. Never before had Americans struck within Syria with such visible fingerprints. But officials believe that killing Abu Ghadiya justified that kind of action. One military official told me that the elimination of Abu Ghadiya represents a significant triumph over al Qaeda in Iraq. "The organization is pretty much finished now," he told me.

That is a big story. But it doesn't begin to capture the magnitude of the strike in Sukkariyeh. We have entered a new phase in the war on terror. In July, according to three administration sources, the Bush administration formally gave the military new power to strike terrorist safe havens outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. Before then, a military strike in a country like Syria or Pakistan would have required President Bush's personal approval. Now, those kinds of strikes in the region can occur at the discretion of the incoming commander of Central Command (Centcomm), General David Petraeus. One intelligence source described the order as institutionalizing the "Chicago Way," an allusion to Sean Connery's famous soliloquy about bringing a gun to a knife fight.

The new order could pave the way for direct action in Kenya, Mali, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen--all places where the American intelligence believe al Qaeda has a significant presence, but can no longer count on the indigenous security services to act. In the parlance of the Cold War, Petraeus will now have the authority to fight a regional "dirty war." When queried about the order from July, deputy spokesman for the National Security Council Ben Chang offered no comment.

Strikes within Iran could be justified by the order, since senior al Qaeda leaders such as Saif al Adel are believed to have used that country as a base for aiding the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda affiliates in Iraqi Kurdistan. For now, however, any action inside Iranian territory will require at least sign off from the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff because of Iran's capacity to retaliate inside the western hemisphere.

Why has the administration changed policy at this late date? For starters, the administration is genuinely worried about al Qaeda's resurgence, not just in Pakistan, but across Asia and Africa. Within the administration, there is growing frustration with security services that are either unable or unwilling to root out al Qaeda within their borders. Pakistan is perhaps the best example of this. And even friendly services, like the one in Kenya, have made maddeningly little progress in their fight against terrorism.

When the administration first proposed this approach, it met with internal resistance. The National Intelligence Council produced a paper outlining the risk associated with this change in policy such as scuttling the prospect for better security cooperation in the future. And Admiral William Fallon, who preceded Petraeus at Centcomm, opposed taking direct action against al Qaeda and affiliated targets in Syria. But with the clock winding down on the administration, it has a greater appetite for racking up victories against al Qaeda--and less worries about any residual political consequences from striking. Roger Cressey, a former deputy to Richard Clarke in the Clinton and Bush administrations, says, "[W]ith the administration in the final weeks, the bar for military operations will be lowered because the downsides for the president are minimal."

The big mystery now is whether the next administration will dismantle this policy or permit Petraeus to follow it to fruition. Obama has said nothing about Sunday's strikes in Syria (a silence that has rightly earned him taunting from the McCain campaign). On one level, this new policy conflicts with Obama's stated desire for opening up diplomatic channels to places like Tehran and Damascus. On the other hand, this is precisely the type of policy that he has repeatedly promised at least for Pakistan, whose territory is believed to host Osama bin Laden: If America has actionable intelligence on al Qaeda leaders, and the country housing those terrorist sits on its hands, we will act. His campaign rhetoric has now become the official war policy he will inherit. Is this a development that pleases him?

The End of International Law?



The End of International Law?

Robert Dreyfus

A parallel new Bush doctrine is emerging, in the last days of the soon-to-be-ancien regime, and it needs to be strangled in its crib. Like the original Bush doctrine -- the one that Sarah Palin couldn't name, which called for preventive military action against emerging threats -- this one also casts international law aside by insisting that the United States has an inherent right to cross international borders in "hot pursuit" of anyone it doesn't like.

They're already applying it to Pakistan, and this week Syria was the target. Is Iran next?

Let's take Pakistan first. Though a nominal ally, Pakistan has been the subject of at least nineteen aerial attacks by CIA-controlled drone aircraft, killing scores of Pakistanis and some Afghans in tribal areas controlled by pro-Taliban forces. The New York Times listed, and mapped, all nineteen such attacks in a recent piece describing Predator attacks across the Afghan border, all since August. The Times notes that inside the government, the U.S.Special Operations command and other advocates are pushing for a more aggressive use of such units, including efforts to kidnap and interrogate suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders. Though President Bush signed an order in July allowing U.S. commando teams to move into Pakistan itself, with or without Islamabad's permission, such raids have occurred only once, on September 3.

The U.S. raid into Syria on October 26 similarly trampled on Syria's sovereignty without so much as a fare-thee-well. Though the Pentagon initially denied that the raid involved helicopters and on-the-ground commando presence, that's exactly what happened. The attack reportedly killed Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, an Iraqi facilitator who smuggled foreign fighters into Iraq through Syria. The Washington Post was ecstatic, writing in an editorial:

"If Sunday's raid, which targeted a senior al-Qaeda operative, serves only to put Mr. Assad on notice that the United States, too, is no longer prepared to respect the sovereignty of a criminal regime, it will have been worthwhile."

Is it really that easy? To say: We declare your regime criminal, and so we will attack you anytime we care to? In its news report of the attack into Syria, the Post suggests, in a report by Ann Scott Tyson and Ellen Knickmeyer, that the attack is raising cross-border hot pursuit to the level of a doctrine:

"The military's argument is that 'you can only claim sovereignty if you enforce it,' said Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 'When you are dealing with states that do not maintain their sovereignty and become a de facto sanctuary, the only way you have to deal with them is this kind of operation,' he said."

The Times broadens the possible targets from Pakistan and Syria to Iran, writing (in a page one story by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker):

"Administration officials declined to say whether the emerging application of self-defense could lead to strikes against camps inside Iran that have been used to train Shiite 'special groups' that have fought with the American military and Iraqi security forces."

That, of course, has been a live option, especially since the start of the surge in January, 2007, when President Bush promised to strike at Iranian supply lines in Iraq and other U.S. officials, including Vice President Cheney, pressed hard to attack sites within Iran, regardless of the consequences.

On October 24, I went to hear Mike Vickers, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, speaking at the Washington Institiute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a pro-Israeli thinktank in Washington. He spoke with pride about the vast and growing presence of these commando forces within the U.S. military, noting that their budget has doubled under the Bush administration and that, by the end of the decade, their will more than 60,000 U.S. forces in this shadowy effort. Here are some excerpts of Vickers' remarks:

"If you look at the operational core of our Special Operations Forces, and focus on the ground operators, there are some 15,000 or so of those -- give or take how you count them -- these range from our Army Special Forces or our Green Berets, our Rangers, our Seals, some classified units we have, and we recently added a Marine Corps Special Operations Command to this arsenal as well. In addition to adding the Marine component, each of these elements since 2006 and out to about 2012 or 2013 has been increasing their capacity as well as their capabilities, but their capacity by a third. This is the largest growth in Special Operations Force history. By the time we're done with that, there will be some things, some gaps we need to fix undoubtedly, but we will have the elements in place for what we believe is the Special Operations component of the global war on terrorism.

"Special Operations Forces, I think through this decade and into the next one, have been and will remain a decisive strategic instrument. ...

"There's been a very significant -- about a 40 or 50 percent increase in operational tempo and of course more intense in terms of the action since the 9/11 attacks. On any given day that we wake up, our Special Operations Forces are in some sixty countries around the world. But more than 80 percent or so of those right now are concentrated in the greater Middle East or the United States Central Command area of responsibility -- the bulk of those of course in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Notice what he said: operating in 60 countries.

Of course, the very invasion of Iraq was illegal in 2003, and it flouted international law. So some may say, these cross-border raids are small potatoes. But they're not. This is a big deal. If it becomes a standard part of U.S. military doctrine that any country can be declared "criminal" and thus lose its sovereignty, then there is no such thing as international law anymore.

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked about this, here's what he said, as quoted in the Post article cited earlier:

"'We will do what is necessary to protect our troops,' Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in Senate testimony last month, when asked about the cross-border operations. Under questioning, Gates said that he was not an expert in international law but that he assumed the State Department had consulted such laws before the U.S. military was granted authority to make such strikes."

Not an expert in international law? He'll leave it to the State Department? And this is the guy that Barack Obama's advisers say ought to stay on at the Pentagon under an Obama administration?

The Debate on America's Decline

With the debate about putative American decline in full flow, partisans on either side are having their say. For example, Robert Kagan addresses the topic in today's WP while taking a few swipes at Senator Obama. ( ). For a more considered guided tour to this subject, readers may wish to consult the exceptionally interesting article "Is America Really on the Decline" written by Salon member Tom Omestad in this week's US News and World Report. This quotes Committee for the Republic Chairman Chas Freeman. The link is at:

Syria warns US of retaliation

Syria warns US of retaliation
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
ISTANBUL - TDN with wire dispatches

A U.S. military raid inside Syria was an act of "criminal and terrorist aggression," Syrian government said, and Damascus warned of retaliation if its borders were violated again. If there is a repeat of the weekend raid, "we would defend our territories," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told a news conference in London, according to The Associated Press.

Syria also decided yesterday to close the U.S. cultural center and the American school in Damascus, the state news agency SANA reported. Syrian news agency said the decision came at a Cabinet meeting yesterday chaired by Prime Minister Naji Otari. The report also added that the Syrian education minister has been instructed to implement the decision.

The U.S. military said it was targeting the network of al-Qaeda-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria to help fight in Iraq. But Syria said troops in four helicopters attacked a building and killed eight civilians, including four children.

Al-Moallem said that a farmer, three children and a fisherman who was out working are among the dead.

"All of them are civilian, unarmed, and they are on Syrian territory," he said. "Killing civilians in international law means a terrorist aggression. We consider this criminal and terrorist action." He said he did not believe civilians had been killed mistakenly.

"The Americans do it in the daylight ... this means it is not a mistake - it's by blunt determination," Al-Moallem said.

Al-Moallem dismissed claims that the U.S. had been pressed to act inside Syria's borders because the country has done too little to halt the flow of fighters crossing into Iraq. Syria is working hard to seal the border, but the U.S. is "blaming us by killing our civilians," al-Moallem told reporters.

US under fire for raid:

Meanwhile, Iraqi government as well as Egypt and China condemned deadly U.S. raid into Syria at the weekend.

"The Iraqi government rejects U.S. aircraft bombarding posts inside Syria. The constitution does not allow Iraq to be used as a staging ground to attack neighboring countries," Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said yesterday.

Dabbagh said Iraq had opened an investigation into the incident and urged U.S. forces not to repeat it. But he also called for a halt to what he described as insurgent activity inside Syria, as reported by Agence France-Presse.

In Cairo a foreign ministry statement carried by Egypt's official MENA news agency called the U.S. strike a "serious violation of Syria's sovereignty."

It said Egypt called on all parties "to refrain from any activity or measure that could destabilize the region... and respect the principles of good neighborliness."

China also condemned the raid, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu telling reporters that Beijing opposes "any deed that harms other countries' sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"Relevant parties should properly handle this case to safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East."

On Monday, France, Russia and also the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana voiced concern about the U.S. operation.

© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc.

The State Department, not the Pentagon, should lead America's public diplomacy efforts

The State Department, not the Pentagon, should lead America's public diplomacy efforts
Why is the Department of Defense getting so much money and personnel to carry out the mission?
By Kristin M. Lord

from the October 29, 2008 edition of the Christian Science Monitor

Washington - Today's public diplomats wear boots, not wingtips. Increasingly, the Defense Department is at the forefront of US efforts to engage public opinion overseas. While the State Department formally leads the effort, the Pentagon has more money and personnel to carry out the public diplomacy mission.

This trend is risky. The message foreign publics receive – not the message the US sends – changes when the Pentagon is the messenger. Putting our military, not civilians, at the forefront of US global communications undercuts the likelihood of success, distorts priorities, and undermines the effectiveness of US civilian agencies.

According to a Washington Post report, the Department of Defense will pay private contractors $300 million over three years to produce news and entertainment programs for the Iraqi public. These well-intentioned efforts aim to "engage and inspire" Iraqis to support the objectives of both the US and Iraqi governments.

Such outreach campaigns can be powerful if done well and as part of a broader strategy of engagement, political reconciliation, and economic development. Indeed, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has argued eloquently that the United States must call increasingly upon "soft power" to advance national interests. Soft power can take many forms, but it is primarily the use of culture, values, and ideas to attract, instead of military or economic threats to coerce.

After the cold war, the US gutted its soft power arsenal and has yet to rebuild it fully. The Department of Defense stepped into this vacuum, and in many cases has done the job well. However, the Defense Department is not the right agency for this job.

In most circumstances, the Department of Defense (DoD) should not serve as the most visible face of the United States overseas. This is particularly true in areas where the public feels threatened by American power.

The Middle East is one area where polls show distrust of American motives and concern that America seeks to dominate the region militarily. Indeed, according to a Pew Global Attitudes Project survey taken last year, 64 percent of Turks – citizens of a NATO ally – see the United States as the greatest threat to their country in the future. Civilians, including those who do not work for government agencies, are the best conduits for building trust with wary publics.

Civilians should not just be the public face of communications. They should also set strategy and tactics that advance American foreign policy interests, in close cooperation with defense officials and military commanders. This is officially the role of the State Department, our nation's lead agency in making and implementing foreign policy. Yet, informally, resources drive outcomes, and the Pentagon has most of the money.

Consider this: The $100 million annual price tag of the initiative described above is just one element of the Pentagon's communication efforts in one country. Yet, it is equivalent to roughly one-eighth of the State Department's entire public diplomacy budget for the entire world.

Perhaps the DoD's new Iraq activities deserve this level of prominence – but it is unlikely that a government-wide discussion of priorities ever took place. Whereas $100 million per year is big money for public diplomats, it is small change for the military, which spends $434 million per day in Iraq.

The State Department, meanwhile, must meet a host of pressing concerns ranging from short-term communication needs to long-term educational exchanges with about $800 million per year.

Personally, I hope US public diplomats are now planning a major communications effort to rebuild global confidence in our financial system – a task with long-term implications for America's economic health and our country's ability to advocate effectively for deregulation and free markets in the future. Yet I doubt they will have anything approaching $100 million to devote to this purpose.

Some argue that the Pentagon has taken a leading role in public diplomacy because the State Department has not been effective. But it's hard to be effective when your hands are tied by limited resources. Other problems remain, but a realistic budget matched to the mission is an important starting point.

The next president faces a daunting global to-do list. Whether the US seeks to diminish support for terrorists, urge allies to contribute more troops to Afghanistan, or address global climate change, the cooperation of foreign publics will be paramount.

Doing public diplomacy well means putting civilians at the forefront and giving them sufficient resources.

The Pentagon should play an important role in public diplomacy, but as a partner – not the principal. For its part, the Congress should give public diplomats the tools they need to do their jobs, and then hold them accountable.

• Kristin M. Lord is a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Project on US Relations with the Islamic World and Foreign Policy Studies program.

The contributions of Iran


The contributions of Iran

By Lawrence J. Korb and Laura Conley | October 24, 2008

FEW COUNTRIES were as helpful to the United States in its early involvement in Afghanistan as Iran. Yet after the fall of the Taliban, the US failed to capitalize on the possibilities of that strategic relationship. Now coalition and Afghan troops are losing ground against the same insurgents they confronted in 2001, in a war that the United States is unlikely to win unless it rethinks its relationship with Iran.

Even before the terrorist acts on Sept. 11, 2001, Iran opposed the Taliban and strongly backed the Afghan Northern Alliance. After the attacks, Tehran stepped forward to help topple Afghanistan's extremist Sunni government and pledged $560 million for reconstruction efforts.

Furthermore, Iran demonstrated an impressive ability to work with and guide the nascent Afghan government. James Dobbins, the Bush administration's first special envoy to Afghanistan, recognized Iran's substantial contributions in training and equipping the Afghan army. He also praised their contributions at the Bonn Conference in 2001.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration bungled this successful relationship by continually isolating the Iranians, rather than drawing on their influence to create a relatively stable Afghanistan.

Worse, Bush placed Iran in the "axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union address. While Iranian meddling elsewhere in the Middle East should be criticized, Bush's characterization made no mention of Iran's substantial aid against the Taliban. Rather, the president allowed political calculations to override strategic realities.

The United States has little to show from its diplomatic silence with Iran. Since being inducted into the axis of evil, Iran has proceeded with its nuclear enrichment program. It has also expanded its influence in the Middle East courtesy of the US invasion of Iraq and the election of a Shi'a-dominated government there. Meanwhile, the United States has faltered in Afghanistan, with troops increasingly paying the price.

Bush has asserted that the United States will not sit down with Iran without preconditions. However, asking the Iranians to cooperate in Afghanistan would not imply a resumption of diplomatic relations or a willingness to tolerate Iran's nuclear program. It would demonstrate pragmatic recognition of the need to use regional diplomacy to create stability in Afghanistan.

Others in the Middle East are leading the way. Even though the Saudis cut off diplomatic relations with the Taliban in 2001, they have reportedly conducted peace talks between the government of Hamid Karzai and the Taliban, negotiations that even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said are necessary. Similarly, Syria and Israel, countries that do not have diplomatic relations with each other, are moving forward with discussions through the Turks. Although the two nations will never be friends, they may find a way to make progress on a number of issues.

Seven years ago, the United States had an opportunity to act in a comparable manner. It could have reached out to Iran in the hope of capitalizing on their long experience in the Greater Middle East and their intimate knowledge of the Northern Alliance. It could have sought a working relationship, distinct from a friendship, with Iran in order to help stabilize Afghanistan. While the US failure to do so did not undermine coalition efforts in Afghanistan so much as its thoughtless race to war in Iraq, the Bush administration's unwillingness to work with a nation it dislikes has made it much harder to achieve US goals there.

While US efforts in Afghanistan do require more troops, any success will not come without a renewed commitment to diplomacy and the engagement of Afghanistan's neighbors. Iran is the indispensable player in this process.

This is a vital time for Afghanistan. US casualties are higher than at any time since the invasion, and instability in Pakistan is fueling violence across the border. The United States may have one more chance to reach out to Iran to secure its participation in stabilization efforts, diplomatic relationship notwithstanding. This time, it should make the right decision.

Lawrence J. Korb is a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where Laura Conley is a special assistant.

EI interview: Hamas advisor on talking to the US, Fatah and Israel

EI interview: Hamas advisor on talking to the US, Fatah and Israel
Rami Almeghari, The Electronic Intifada, 28 October 2008
Is the Bush administration making quiet overtures towards Hamas? What are the prospects for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and what are Hamas' views on peace with Israel? Does the Islamist movement support the one-state solution and where does it look to for political role models? Dr. Ahmed Yousef, senior advisor to Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Hamas government in Gaza, recently spoke to The Electronic Intifada's Gaza Strip correspondent Rami Almeghari about these and other issues.

In June 2007 Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip, ousting American-trained militias loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Since then, the territory, just twice the size of Washington, DC, has been under a punishing Israeli blockade forcing the vast majority of its 1.5 million residents to depend on UN food handouts. Hamas, elected to govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip with a landslide majority in January 2006, has been boycotted by Western powers and declared a "terrorist organization" by the United States. While Haniya's government is confined to the Gaza Strip, the US recognizes only the unelected Ramallah-based government appointed by Abbas in the West Bank. Since June, Hamas and Israel have observed an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended months of violence in which hundreds of Palestinian civilians and several Israelis were killed.

Western overtures towards Hamas

RAMI ALMEGHARI: A Gulf-based newspaper reported recently that the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made contact with Hamas via third party. Can you confirm or deny that?

AHMED YOUSEF: Actually it was more of a verbal statement passed through some of the Arab leaders in the Gulf to Hamas because the Americans feel that they are satisfied with the ceasefire and that is a credit to Hamas and for the first time they acknowledge that Hamas can control the border and make sure there is no one violating the ceasefire. So it was like a compliment from high-ranking American officials.

RA: Recently there have been reports of an opening between Hamas and some European countries like France. Can you confirm that and the extent of such contacts?

AY: To be honest with you, before the Hamas takeover in Gaza we had good ties with many countries. But unfortunately after the takeover the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah put pressure on Western delegations not to meet with Hamas. We have traveled and we have met with many European leaders and diplomats and we are still doing that behind the scenes. France sent a delegation here, and many others have.

RA: Wasn't that a parliamentary delegation?

AY: It depends. Sometimes they claim they are coming without the support of their government, but we know for sure they cannot come without permission from their governments. Even an American delegation came and met with the Hamas leaders. They said they were independent but we know from some information we had that they were really sent by the Bush administration. It was not independent. It was like a fact-finding mission. They wanted to know Hamas and what is its political vision. They came to discuss with us our vision and see if we have a plan for peacefully settling the conflict.

Palestinian reconciliation

RA: What is the status of Palestinian reconciliation talks underway in Cairo aimed at ending the division between Hamas and Fatah? Reports have said that Hamas had reservations about a proposed memorandum of understanding submitted by Egypt.

AY: The Cairo document is a good starting point. We have some reservations, but we think we will be able to solve them when we meet with the Egyptians and the rest of the Palestinian parties in Cairo on 9 November. We believe that as long as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not part of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], and the reform and restructuring of the PLO is unfulfilled, then the PLO does not have the right to sign any agreements with Israel or with the international community. Before we as Palestinians all agree that the PLO will be the sole representative of all the Palestinians then the PLO won't have that kind of authority.

RA: If division between Hamas and Fatah continues would this overshadow the Palestinian people's aspirations for statehood?

AY: I believe that in the next couple of months, we will be able to end this division and unify our people under a new government. It is shameful to have such divisions and I believe that every patriotic Palestinian wants to see an end to this saga.

RA: Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly called for early presidential and legislative elections. Would Hamas accept that?

AY: The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not reunited yet and so I don't know how we could have elections while Hamas controls Gaza and Abbas and his security forces control the West Bank. When we restore unity it will be easier to address early elections.

Also, there would not be much time for early elections. The legislative council has only one year and three months left in its term. The moment we have reconciliation and a transitional government, it might take another six months to address the issues in the Egyptian-produced reconciliation document, and then we would still need at least six months to prepare for elections. So I think we are heading towards a timetable where we would have elections in January 2010.

Hamas and the situation in Gaza

RA: Some people have claimed that Hamas is trying to establish an Islamic emirate and is about to impose Sharia law in the territories under its control. Is this true?

AY: It's totally false, and from the time of the Hamas takeover of Gaza I don't think any Palestinian observed any change in daily life. This claim is used just for propaganda to satisfy Israel and maybe some of the American agenda. We live the same life here, and we are facing the same problems with sanctions, occupation and isolation. Nothing has changed. It is the same life. People can wear a head scarf or not wear it and nobody will force anyone to abide by Islamic law. Life here is very democratic and we hope to stay like this.

I am sure that the people who started talking about these things needed to satisfy some of the stereotypes in the minds of some western governments to discredit Hamas and keep up the pressure and sanctions in order to squeeze us into a corner. I don't think this propaganda succeeded because one thing is different from the past -- everyone who came here saw that Hamas was able to enhance the security and safety of the people of Gaza.

RA: How would you describe the experience of the Islamists in government here, particularly under continued Israeli occupation and the rejection of the Islamist movement by nearby countries?

AY: People were stunned by the majority won by the Islamists in the elections. No one was expecting that. Even in Israeli elections no party can win such a percentage. Hamas did it because people were saying this is a movement that is doing good things to help the Palestinian national cause and people trust them and think they are not corrupt. It's something amazing that we could have very free, fair and transparent elections and many people said the election held in Palestine was the best among all Arab countries.

RA: How have the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the international boycott of Hamas impacted Hamas' rule?

AY: Nobody expected that Hamas could withstand this kind of siege, sanctions and isolation. Maybe some people tried to sell the idea that in three months Hamas would fail, would collapse. Just keep putting pressure on them and they will buckle. Fortunately Hamas proved their steadfastness to the people of the world. This is because the who people who supported Hamas still give their backing to this government because people believe Hamas is not corrupt and is trying to serve the highest Palestinian national interest. This is why this government did not collapse despite the siege and the continuous Israeli incursions and aggression against us here and in the West Bank. We have proved we can stand and challenge and no one can twist our arms in a way that does not serve our national interest.

RA: Do you believe that measures taken against members of Hamas in the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah are intended to maintain order and security or are they aimed at undermining Hamas?

AY: Everybody knows that the crackdown against Hamas in the West Bank is aimed at undermining the movement there and breaking the will of its members. It is aimed at telling them, "You can't enjoy the same freedom you have in Gaza, and you can't challenge the government and security people in Ramallah."

RA: Do you see any relation between the Ramallah authority's vow not to allow Hamas to hold arms and the Israeli defense minister's recent approval of the deployment of five hundred Palestinian security personnel in the West Bank city of Hebron?

AY: Unfortunately the security apparatus in Ramallah is cooperating fully with the Israelis. They became like agents, like Saad Haddad [Editor: Haddad headed the South Lebanon Army, an Israeli-backed collaborator militia that operated in southern Lebanon during the period of Israeli occupation from 1982-2000]. This gives me the impression that in order to survive, those corrupt people in Ramallah are trying to do whatever they can to satisfy the Israelis. Their aim is not just to strengthen security in the West Bank -- because the West Bank is still under occupation and the Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves and have the right to resist. That's legitimate under international law. I believe that the way the people in Ramallah are handling the resistance in the West Bank will undermine their own credibility and authority.

RA: Reports by independent human rights groups point out some violations by Hamas-controlled forces. How do you respond to those reports?

AY: When you see people conspiring against you and collaborating with the occupation, you have to be harsh with it. Remember what happened in America after 11 September 2001? They launched two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because they claimed that people from those countries were linked with those attacks. And in Britain after the 7 July 2005 bombings when they suspected some Arabs and Muslims were behind the explosions they cracked down on all Arabs and Muslims.

We are trying to enhance the state of law and prevent people taking the law into their own hands and we want people to respect our local laws. I can say we are concerned about enforcing our own local laws and we don't want to see any body violating these laws.

Hamas' views on the future

RA: Hamas has long called for a long-term truce with Israel, an offer that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel have rejected already. Is there a possibility that Hamas would consider other options?

AY: We still stick to our political vision which is based on the truce or long-term ceasefire of five, ten or twenty years if Israel accepts to withdraw to the pre-1967 border. This remains our vision of the basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

RA: Abbas argues that a long-term truce will give Israel a chance to reoccupy the Palestinian territories. How do you view this?

AY: I don't think that Abbas understands fully what we mean by a truce. The truce means that the Israelis will withdraw in a specified period, maybe six months, from all the occupied Palestinian territories, and they can get a guarantee for security for these ten or twenty years. We think this might set the stage for confidence building. After twenty years maybe the new generation of Palestinians will have different views for how to settle the conflict.

When you do not have bloodshed maybe that would be a good time to talk about peace, but now while the cycle of death continues and we have daily funerals; I do not think this is a good time to talk about a full peaceful settlement. So we need to have time to heal from the injuries and from the bad memories of bloodshed between Muslims and Jews, between Palestinians and Jews. And after that this new generation will have its own political vision about how to settle the conflict maybe through a binational state or a one-state solution. I am sure they are going to come up with different proposals. But today this is what we can offer. A hudna -- twenty years of peace with the Palestinians having their own independent and free state on the pre-1967 borders.

RA: There is a lot of talk about the death of the two-state solution and increased activism calling for a one-state solution as in South Africa. How does Hamas relate to these discussions and what are the current trends in thinking about a long-term solution?

AY: It sounds good to talk about a one-state solution but this will be considered when the two-state solution fails. However, so far we are sticking to our position about a long-term truce. South Africa is a good model for coexistence, reconciliation and atonement. Until now we are still not addressing this issue. But in the future if the world's expectation of a viable independent Palestinian state fails because of expansionist Israeli policies -- already Israel has confiscated and annexed 50 percent of the land in the West Bank -- people will come to this issue and we will address it.

RA: Who does Hamas look to as a political model from other struggles in history?

AY: Of course there is Nelson Mandela, and we do look to non-Muslim and non-Arab countries as models. For example, Michael Collins in Ireland [Editor: Collins was one of the key leaders in Ireland's independence struggle]. I do believe that Hamas also looks at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey as a good model as well. We are not Taliban, we are Erdogan.

Rami Almeghari is contributor to The Electronic Intifada, and Free Speech Radio News. Rami is also a former senior English translator at and editor-in-chief of the international press center of the Gaza-based Palestinian Information Service. He can be contacted at rami_almeghari A T hotmail D O T com.

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