The Daily Demarche
A few days ago I posted an open letter to the opponents of the war in Iraq (see below). The reaction was mixed, and in the comments only one person who identified himself or herself as against the war took me up on my offer for one day of solidarity in support of peaceful, safe, elections in Iraq. Now, with the elections on the book and the "stunning" (to those who bought
into the idea that the idea that terror conquers the desire for freedom) voter turnout a fact, the nay-sayers
on the left
are back at work
, harder than ever.
I fear that this bodes poorly for the future of democracy in Iraq and the Middle East. If the media and elites of the world can not recognize the implications of the voter turnout in Iraq for what it is- an outright rejection of terror and tyranny- what hope is there that they will support the people of Iraq in the hard work that is yet to be done? Never mind the fact that a good deal of those on the Euro-left may have benefited
from the elections today.
In light of this trend I have put together the following "talking points" as they are called in the colloquialism of the State Department. They are in the format of argument by opposition and suggested response:
Argument: The election was a fraud because of the security situation in Iraq.
Response: A larger percentage of Iraqi voters turned out than did American in the last election. Faced with the possibility of car bombs, snipers and other acts of aggression Iraqis took to the polls and voted for a positive tomorrow. Faced with missing Oprah or standing in line without a snack more than 40% of American voters stayed home and missed one of the most important elections in recent American history. Considering that many believe these were the two most important elections in the history of either country I'd say Iraq comes out on top.
Argument: Without Sunni participation the results are meaningless.
Response: The Sunni minority had long oppressed the Shia and Kurds in Iraq, similar to the situation that existed in South Africa with apartheid. Had white voters in SA not voted in the elections after apartheid would the elections that placed Nelson Mandela in power have been meaningless? I doubt the ivory-tower crowd would have worried over that situation, and I see no difference here. (Note- I found this idea on the web somewhere, and now don't remember where, if anyone has seen it let me know and I'll give credit where due.)
Argument: The newly elected government will not be able to agree among themselves to write a constitution.
Response: No thinking person expects a perfect document to emerge from this effort. Groundwork has already been laid for inclusion of Islam, and the approval process for the constitution allows for the minority Sunni to have sufficient sway to block a document that is not inclusive, and it appears they plan to participate in the process. A solid document with the ability to grow, and more importantly with the backing of the people, will suffice to help Iraq regain her place in the world while protecting her people.
Of course these discussions will only work with the more rational folks who oppose the war. Other arguments that will emerge are sure to be over the actual number of voters, the parties that win seats, hanging chads, color blind individuals who could not see the purple on their finger, etc. There will always be well reasoned arguments against the invasion and the war, and there will always be moonbats. Ignore the moonbats and engage the well reasoned. Please feel free to post any other counter arguments you may have in the comments section.
This post is dedicated to all the men and women of the coalition forces who have died in Iraq. Yesterday millions of Iraqis turned out to vote in a historic election- the first of many steps that will in the end lead to the establishment of a truly free democracy in the region. For the men and women fighting in Iraq I can only imagine the emotion of the moment. For the families of those who have been killed there, I hope the elections brought some small solace. I would encourage everyone to read this article about Francis Obaji who was killed in Iraq a short time ago, and what the election meant to his family.
True Heroes - the People of Iraq
Back in December, when the Daily Demarche was still quite young, I blogged
about giving the Nobel Prize to Iraqi bloggers. Today, I would like to extend my hand in admiration to all Iraqis who voted in their country's landmark elections. You have shown what true bravery is, and I salute you for it.
While it would be foolish to consider Iraq out of the woods, there is no doubting that these elections are an important first step. There are still many steps to be taken, and no doubt the losers, er insurgents, are not done yet, but these results make it pretty clear: they don't speak for the average Iraqi, and it appears that they don't even speak for the average Sunni. The road to freedom and democracy is a long and hard one, but there must be a first step. And Iraqis have shown themselves able to take that step. Maybe this will help put to rest the notion that Arabs can't handle democracy.
What next? One of the few wise things I learned in my Poli Sci classes in college was that the first election in a country is not as important as the second one. Iraq still has a long way to go in order to becoming a self-sustaining democracy and it will need the help of the United States and those members of the international community that care. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian Authority need to be assured of having future elections. The same would be true of any other nascent democracies in the region. To do that, their respective polities must become secure, stable, and safe. That is going to take work - possibly generations worth of work. But that shouldn't deter us. The only way out is through.
Imagine a Middle East with a democratic Palestine living next to a democratic Israel, and a democratic Iraq. Not that far away in South Asia, a democratic Afghanistan abuts Pakistan and India, both democracies. While I don't mean to say that this is the situation today, it is fair to say that this scenario is entirely possible -- much more plausible than it would have been four years ago. With the continued attention of the United States, United Kingdom and like-minded allies, it can become a reality.
(This is the end of this post. Ignore the link below.)
"This is the first day I feel freedom."
The idea of an election is much more interesting to me than the election itself...The act of voting is in itself the defining moment
. Jeff Melvoin
It will be a while before we know exactly how many Iraqis braved the threats of the murderous "insurgents" and turned out to vote, but estimates are 70%+
. Do you know what percentage of Americans voted in our recent "critical" election? Less than 60%
. I am both heartened for the people of Iraq and ashamed for our poor turnout. We beat our breast and rend our hair, then fail to vote in safety and security.
Today is a day for successes, however. The headlines tell it all:
Iraqis brave bombs to vote in their millions: From Basra to Mosul, voters confound expectations
: BAGHDAD, Iraq - Millions of Iraqis turned out to vote on Sunday, defying anti-U.S. insurgents determined to drown the historic poll in blood
I only have one quibble with that- the "insurgents" are anti-Iraqi, anti-democracy and anti-freedom every bit as much as, if not more than, they are anti-American.
'This Is Democracy' Say Delighted Iraqis Quotes from voters and observers on the Iraqi National Assembly elections
: This is democracy," said Fathiya Mohammed, an elderly woman who voted in the small town of Askan south of Baghdad. "This is the first day I feel freedom."
Attacks fail to stop voting
: Baghdad - Iraqis turned out to vote on Sunday in their country's first free election in a half-century, defying insurgents who launched deadly suicide bombings and mortar strikes at polling stations.
And for our friends visiting from the left:
'What a bloody charade'
: By Robert Fisk Baghdad - In Baghdad on Saturday they were supposed to be preparing for an election. But they were preparing for war.
It is of course too early to say what exactly this means, except for one thing: terror has lost in Iraq. There will be more violence, of that I am sure, but the extremists have been sent a powerful message by their fellow countrymen: We are not afraid of you, you can not deny us.
To the voters in Iraq, I salute you. I offer you my heartfelt congratulations, and pay honor to your courage and convictions. Much remains to be done, but know today that all who voted cast a vote not just for the leaders of Iraq, but for the future. We'll be there beside you as long as you need and want our help.
Sleep well tonight, my friends and heroes.
(end of post)
Your weekend reading
Both the good Doctor and I are going not going to be able to blog very much for the next few days as various commitments will keep us away from our computers. Therefore, I thought I would dig out a golden oldie and present it to you for discussion. Readers are invited to click here
and read the article, entitled The New National Interest
, written by one Condoleeza Rice for the January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs
. I invite you all to comment on how, if at all, Rice's views have changed in light of Sept 11 and the war in Iraq.
Also, I'd like to pitch the most underrated blog on the web, Marc Shulman's American Future
, and its companion, American Future Resources
, which is where the article I linked to came from.
Have a good weekend, everybody!
(End of post)
To those who oppose the war in Iraq:
This is it. Twenty-four hours to go until Iraqis take to the ballot boxes. The world is watching, and there are clearly many people who have a stake in these elections failing. We all know who these people are. But there are a great many people who are ambivalent, or worse- actively wish ill on the elections solely because they are a result of a policy that originated with the President. That, my friends, is wrong.
For all the Bush haters out there, for all the pundits who think it is clever to spell Republican with a triple “k”, I have a challenge for all of you. For one day, less probably by the time you hear of this, devote some of that energy to wishing success to the people of Iraq in this election. Forget for one day your raging anger and calls for us to abandon Iraq. It’s not going to happen, and for this single day we could use your support. You can resume your attacks on the Administration on Monday- because you
live in a free land.
I know that none of you really believe that Saddam was better for Iraq than liberty and freedom will be. I hope you all know that we who support this war feel deeply the loss of every American service member, and wish that every Iraqi injured or killed had been born in a free land, and spared this horror. But they were not.
It took a revolution to form the United States, and in that war we relied on a powerful foreign ally. Lest you forget, we had people in the colonies that did not support our revolution and took up arms with the enemy. In those days we called them Tories- perhaps today we would call them insurgents. History, I think, has proved them wrong. It is my fondest desire that future generations will feel the same about the Baathists fighting to continue their oppressive regime in Iraq as we feel about the Tories today- largely forgotten, consigned to the waste bin of history.
The people in Iraq want our soldiers out of there, and I understand that. You want our soldiers out of there, and I support that too. I want our soldiers home. But I want them to have left behind a nation of free people, with a chance for a better tomorrow. So what do you say, can we all agree, for just one day, that these elections are vitally important, and that American politics can be safely set aside while we watch, and support the birth of a new democratic nation? Can we all hope that the Iraqis are able to vote safely, that the Baathists and their allies are unable to sweep the country in a spasm of carnage?
I’ll be watching, and hoping- hoping for a safe election in Iraq and hoping that all of you are with me, if only for one day.
(end of post)
Anti-Americanism: measuring distance in kilograms.
Smiley’s piece on anti-Americanism (The Church Doctrine, below) and the New Sisyphus’
post regarding his treatment in Paris are both excellent posts that make a good point: as an American traveling abroad you are unlikely to run into any blatant anti-Americanism. Even in my corner of the Far Abroad, where President Bush and America are viewed as the greatest existing threat to world peace by over 60% of the population I have only once been subjected to any anti-Americanism, and this was from a drunk woman who had no identifiable complaint or agenda, just general bitterness.
Many, if not most, of the people in the world do not wake up every day hoping to run into an American to tell off. Should you wander into their shop they will gladly take your money. They probably were genuinely saddened and angered by the events of September 11th, 2001. They like Bruce Willis movies (the Die Hard movies, not that Whole Ten Yards crap), some form of American music and most likely eat at McDonalds. But don’t confuse that with not being anti-American. Any personal feeling aside, anti-Americanism has become institutionalized around the world
The new anti-Americanism is less focused on external acts of the American state; it is more likely to be triggered by internal things such as the American love affair with the automobile, the cult of the gun or the uncritical assumption that American is always best. In some respects, today's critics are taking issue with the American way of life itself.
When nations such as Germany, Greece, and France and Italy who have flourished and in fact even continued to exist as a direct result of the existence of a powerful America not only oppose specific policies but ceaselessly complain about our elected leader that is institutional anti-Americanism. The German blogger Medienkritik has posted two excellent examples of elite sponsored anti-Americanism aimed at young German children: A Spoonful of Anti-Americanism for German Kids and Anti-Americanizing German Children. When the UN gives a despot 12 years and countless warnings, then declares US intervention in the region “illegal” that is institutional anti-Americanism. When Mikis Theodrakis, Greek nominee for the Nobel peace prize can say "I hate Americans and everything American. I hope the youth begin to hate everything American” that is pure institutional anti-Americanism (see Greece link above).
Just as some in America claim to support the troops but oppose the war many regular folks worldwide like individual Americans and more specifically American products, but oppose the idea of America. Foreign Policy online ran one of the best articles I have ever seen on anti-Americanism in 2003. From that piece:
People say that Americans are arrogant, but it's not true. Americans enjoy life and they are proud of their lives, and they are boastful of their wonderful inventions that have made life so much easier and more convenient. It's very difficult to understand the machinery of hatred, because you wind up resorting to logic, but trying to understand this with logic is like measuring distance in kilograms….
These are people who are envious. To them, life is an unbearable burden. Modernism is the only way out. But modernism is frightening. It means we have to compete. It means we can't explain everything away with conspiracy theories. Bernard Shaw said it best, you know. In the preface to 'St. Joan,' he said Joan of Arc was burned not for any reason except that she was talented. Talent gives rise to jealousy in the hearts of the untalented.
The Washington Times ran a series of articles between Christmas and New Year’s about America’s “soft power” (links to all the articles can be found at the end of this post) which addressed many of the reasons that America has come to be both loved and loathed at the same time. We have reached the top of the dog pile, and for many around the world the only place for us to go is down, and everyone is willing to give us a push. From that series:
"Most astute people around the world realize that America is very vulnerable. Its economy is held together by the ability to attract investment and capital. The whole of the American system, which has been a glowing success story, it could come to an end very quickly," says Kalle Lasn, editor in chief of Adbusters, a counterculture magazine that encouraged boycotts against American brands after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. "It is time for the backlash, time for the American economy to get its comeuppance," says Mr. Lasn, a native Estonian who now lives in Canada.
I find it telling that an immigrant living in the country that does the most trade with America actively wishes for our “comeuppance”. Does he really want the American economy to self-destruct? When the Canadian economy plummeted as a result would he declare victory and move back to Estonia?
Even in “old Europe” America looms larger than life. The anti-American elites are obsessed with America, and are equally perturbed that we are not obsessed with them (also form the WT series):
"You cannot imagine the impact of the American election in Europe," Italian religious philosopher and politician Rocco Buttiglione says during a recent Washington visit.
"America is modernity, and what takes place in America today will take place in Europe in 10, 15 or 20 years," he says. "The Europeans, all of a sudden, had to discover that America is religious, that ethical issues are relevant to politics."
German commentator Josef Joffe says the attraction of American culture "looms even larger than its economic and military assets."
"U.S. culture — low-brow or high — radiates outward with an intensity last seen in the days of the Roman Empire — but with a novel twist. Rome's and Soviet Russia's cultural sway stopped exactly at their military borders. America's soft power, though, rules over an empire on which the sun never sets."
And in those two quotes we find the heart of the matter. Our successes in the last century have assigned us to the most hated of role: the powerful guardian of the weak. As a teenager rebels against his parents and the elderly disdain assistance in completing the mundane tasks they once accomplished with vigor, so most of the world views America. They aspire to the sports car the father can afford to drive, and sun themselves in the memories of greatness past, much embellished in the retelling. On a face to face basis there is often deference, and outright friendship. But in the private places where they gather there is condemnation, big talk and petty plans.
So by all means, go to Egypt and see the pyramids. Eat crepes in Paris. Drink a beer in Berlin. The world is a beautiful and wondrous place, filled with friendly, smiling people. Just be aware that behind the smile, perhaps even subconsciously, it is quite possible that a small voice inside that person is whispering "damn Americans." It is jealousy, it is envy, it is basic human pettiness. In most of the world we can ignore it. In someplaces, like the Middle East, we simply cannot. And in Canada, and Europe, we can tolerate it to a certain extent. It bears watching, however, and eventually will have to be addressed. How we will manage that remains to be seen.
The Five Part WT series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
The Loyal Opposition
Too tired to blog something new today. I have confirmed that dentists are the same the world over, after a visit today. This make three continents for dental check-ups and cleanings. I think even the best of them are mild sadists, but that could just could be my fear of the dental arts as Mrs. Dr. D claims this service was fine.
While I recover, here are some leftwing blogs for your entertainment. Love 'em or hate 'em, it's always good to see what the loyal opposition is up to from time to time. I know the first two claim to moderate, but they are somewhere to the left of me!
Blog of the Moderate Left
: (no profile given)
The Moderate Voice
: a political independant and moderate's irreverent comments, analysis and links on important stories in the news.
The Pragmatic Progressive
: (no profile)
: The difference between flat Earthers and free traders is that flat Earthers are basically harmless.
The All Spin Zone
: Progressive Über Alles
: (no profile)
Give these sites a glance, even if you don't agree with them (lord knows I don't for most of it), there is some well written and thoughtful stuff mixed into the hyperbole.
End of post, more tomorrow.
The Church Theory
All the world hates America. That’s what we’re told, or at least that’s what the MSM would have us believe. This is, according to those sections of the MSM that have short memories or aren’t into that whole objectivity thing, a relatively new phenomenon. People may have kind of disliked us before, or perhaps found us annoying, but only recently (lets say, in the last, uhm, four years or so) have they really begun to hate us. And if you don’t believe that, there is always the helpful quote from some French garbage man, German coffee house intellectual, Kenyan dingleberry gatherer, or Palestinian street sweeper to solidify the impression.
Well, what the MSM is telling y’all is not entirely accurate.
Contain your surprise.
I’m not saying that anti-Americanism doesn’t exist, or that there aren’t people in this world who genuinely dislike America and Americans. In my time in the Foreign Service, I’ve lived in places with a long and proud tradition of anti-Americanism, and I’ve traveled through some parts of the Middle East, where anti-Americanism, along with anti-Semitism, is the common denominator in political discourse. Yet in none of those places was I afraid to tell people that I was American. I’m sure that if I had gone to the right (or wrong) neighborhoods, I would certainly run into some rough characters who disliked America and Americans and who would no doubt deal with me quite harshly, possibly even to the point of dirtying their Nikes, if they knew I where I came from.
A far more typical reaction, however, when someone found out I was American, was for my interlocutor to make one of the following three statements:
a) “I’ve been to the US and I loved it there!”;
b) “I’ve always wanted to go there!”; or
c) “My aunt/uncle/cousin/brother/whatever is a mandolin-string salesman in Austin. Have you ever been to Austin (or whatever city)?”
After a while, I even stopped cringing in anticipation after I told people I was American.
Another exchange, though not typical, which warmed my heart, took place in Egypt; one of the locals asked where I was from.
“America,” I told him.
“I must ask you to do me a favor,” he said.
At this point, I could not help but gird myself for a question about visas. The “visa reflex” is a reaction that many FSOs develop when strangers in foreign countries tell them things like “I need you to do me a favor” because that “favor” usually involves some kind of assistance with a visa for themselves, a friend, or relative. So I started to get ready to give my standard response about visas when I realized that a) I don’t live in Egypt, and b) this guy had no idea what I do for a living.
Instead, my interlocutor said, “You must go back to America and tell all your friends to come to Egypt.”
By the way, if you ever get a chance, you should go to Egypt.
Sometimes I just have to scratch my head when the MSM reports how hated we are around the world. To be sure, it is always easy to dredge up some quotes from some random guy in the street or to refer to a poll to show how much America is hated, but I believe that there is a kind of uncertainty principle at play here that undermines such reporting whereby the mere fact that a reporter or pollster is talking to an individual influences the individual’s response. This has led me to formulate what I’ve taken to calling the “Church Theory of Anti-Americanism.” Let me explain it in more detail.
First, let me start with the admission that the Bush administration, through some blunders early in its administration and the war in Iraq, has inadvertently helped increase one type of anti-Americanism, what I will call political anti-Americanism, by giving fodder to those who have something to gain from triangulating off of America. By political anti-Americanism, I mean the dislike of American motives and/or policy in the political arena, and its subsequent manipulation for political purposes. For example, the Bush administration did a poor job of handling the withdrawal from Kyoto, even though it was fairly obvious that the Senate would never ratify the treaty. This type of action allowed all manner of people to paint the Administration as evil, corporatist, anti-environment, etc.
Let me continue, however, by noting that political anti-Americanism did not originate with George Bush. It has been growing since the end of the Cold War, and even though many Europeans admired Bill Clinton, severe splits between the US and Europe had begun developing prior to the inauguration of George Bush.
Given the tremendous disparity in wealth and military power between the United States and the rest of the world, and the perception that the US was indeed a “hyper power” it was inevitable that politicians the world over began blaming the United States for all the problems in their respective countries. In some parts of the world, this kind of triangulation has existed for decades, to the point where American evil is the sine qua non of political discourse. In these countries, belief in the wrongness of America has, in fact, taken on a religious dimension, to the point where mere facts can not deter it. This kind of thinking has long existed in the Middle East and other parts of the developing world; parts of Europe are now beginning to become “converts” as well.
This is where the “church” part of my theory comes into play. If you’ve ever been to a church on Easter Sunday or Christmas, you’ll likely notice the church is quite full – certainly more full than it would be on virtually any other day of the year. Some of the people in the church no doubt believe firmly and devoutly in God and the Scriptures. Some of the people, however, are not so devout – they are there because going to church on that particularly is what they think they should do, i.e. they are there to keep up the appearance of faith.
So it is with political anti-Americanism. Many nations’ polities have political anti-Americanism so deeply inculcated within them that they will, if asked publicly, loudly and proudly sound off the myriad evils of Washington even if, privately, they don’t agree or even care. I know this because I’ve done some time on the visa lines, an FSO rite of passage, in places where protesting outside the Embassy is always considered a good way to spend the day. The misguided zeal to protest notwithstanding, nearly all of the applicants I spoke to evinced great joy at the prospect of going to the US, often stating that it was “the dream of a lifetime.” And they weren’t just going to New York. Oftentimes they’d be going to visit relatives in a place that couldn’t be considered a tourist destination, like Scranton or Toledo (note: I’m not trying to put those places down; I’m just saying they’re not considered tourist destinations by most people). And many people would privately tell me, in hushed tones, after looking over both shoulders, that they absolutely loved America and that I should just ignore all that silliness that the politicians say.
Yet I have no doubt that if a Reuters, AP or BBC reporter stuck a microphone in those people’s faces, or if the CNN/Gallup people introduced themselves and asked a few questions about what those people thought of America, the answer would be the same tired old rhetoric about the US being behind all of the world’s ills. And then they would pack their bags, go to the airport, and hop on a flight to see their relatives in Scranton.
No, really- some of my best friends are Jewish!
After sixty years of silence on the holocaust the UN this week belatedly recognized the Nazi blot on human history- with a moment of silence. This week marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and the UN has finally decided to speak up about the millions of Jews (and others such as gypsies and homosexuals, but predominately Jews) who were murdered as the Nazi's pursued their "final solution."
Sort of, anyway. It seems that many of the nations involved in the UN were otherwise
occupied. Oh yeah, and America called for the special session, by the way:
The commemoration also was meant to eradicate the notion that the UN General Assembly is anti-Semitic, an accusation frequently made by Israel.
But there were signs of division and clear evidence that much of the Arab world was not participating. The General Assembly auditorium was less than half full even for the start of the commemoration, while just one Middle East country -- Jordan -- was scheduled to deliver a speech commemorating the liberation of the camps.
Annan opened the "historic special session" by stating:
The United Nations must never forget that it was created as a response to the evil of Nazism, or that the horror of the Holocaust helped to shape its mission"
Throughout the speeches references were made that the lessons of the holocaust have not yet been learned by the world. Ignoring it for six decades in the collective body formed as a response to WWII might just have something to do with that. Calling Zionism "a form of racism" might have had something to do with it too.
As anti-Semitic extremism rears its head in Germany, France and Russia it is telling that Gerhard Schroeder would lay the blame for the holocaust at the feet of ordinary Germans, as well as the hard-core Nazis.
In Berlin yesterday, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reminded Germans on the eve of Auschwitz commemorations that ordinary people empowered the Nazis and urged them to be vigilant against a continued far-right threat.
Schroeder insisted that the Holocaust could not be attributed solely to the ''demon Hitler."
For the UN to break the traditional silence over the holocaust now- while faced with the oil for food scandal and under the gun to produce results in SE Asia smacks of showmanship- the political equivalent of sleight of hand. Or maybe I am just too cynical. From Deutsche Welle:
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman, a vocal opponent at times of the body's stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said the organization’s decision to hold the event could be linked to an evolving world.
“Maybe we are at a point in history where the changes in the world are reflecting on the United Nations. We do live in a changing world, in a world which hopefully presents us today with a unique window of opportunity to make peace in our region,” he said.
Mr. Ambassador, I would not hold your breath on that issue. This is the flavor of the week at the UN, literally. They love you this week because it is politically expedient. I just hope you don't have to wait another sixty years for this kind of attention from the General Assembly again.
El otro lado.
That is how most poor Mexicans refer to America: the other side. In our last piece on this theme I addressed the apathy
with which the government of Mexico (GOM) views illegal immigration- as long as
that immigration is from Mexico and into America. Mexico received $17 billion
in remittances from the U.S. last year- making remittances the second largest contributor to the Mexican economy, ahead of tourism, behind only oil revenue. I realize that 100% of that income does not come from illegal aliens, but if 75% or even 50% of that total is from illegal aliens it is a huge sum of money. Mexico is so dependent on these remittances they like to say things like "when the United States sneezes Mexico gets a cold" in reference to our economy.
Anyone who has spent any period of time in Mexico can tell you just how shaky the economy
is there; closing the valve on these remittances would be devastating to the Mexican economy, and that is not in our national interest. The issue is putting "willing workers" together with "willing employers" in such a manner that American law is respected
and the Mexican economy stands a chance of being boosted for the long term. There has been much talk about what it would take to implement such a strategy- mostly centered on what to do with the millions already in America illegally. Many pundits and thinkers have addressed the need for this labor pool in America, and I'll stipulate that need- we are basically addicted to illegal workers and quitting cold turkey is not an option.
To this end, then, I propose the following five-step plan. This is a necessarily simplified version to fit the blog, but you'll get the idea. Like any plan to conquer an addiction some of the steps may be tough to swallow at first- especially when it comes to admitting that the problem lies with us to begin with. Here are the Big 5 steps, with details following:
1. Establish a more secure employment document- the Social Security card does not work.
2. Punish American firms that hire illegal workers- this is the most important step.
3. Revise and expand the H2 visa category- not just for Mexicans, but for all, and require that issuance only occur in the country of origin of the alien.
4. Require legal workers to pay into Medicaid, and deny public benefits to illegal aliens found in America.
5. Reduce the amount of foreign aid granted to any country by a set or variable amount based on the costs associated with each illegal immigrant detained/treated/deported.
1. Social Security- the current social security card and usage of it as a labor control is a joke. I think the signature on mine is from when I was about age 10. You can buy a card on almost any corner of any big city. Coupled with a decent photo ID any employer can hire you- and he or she is off the hook. How is a well-meaning employer to know that the person who is presenting the card and is willing to pick lemons for $2 an hour is not really Justin Timberlake? This card should at a minimum have a photo and be linked to a verifiable database for employers. I don't want hear anyone complaining that it would be a national ID card, either. I am not saying you have to carry it all the time- just present it when you apply for a job.
Anyone who thinks illegal aliens are not presenting false Social Security cards in order to obtain work is in denial. No one wants to pick crops forever, and if an illegal alien has the wherewithal to learn a bit of English and scrape together the funds for decent fake documents he or she will readily do so. In addition countless illegals present real social security cards with falsified supporting documents, one of the main reasons that the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends you an annual summary of benefits.
2. Punish American firms that hire illegal workers. Laws against hiring illegal aliens are on the books. They must be enforced. Once a process is in place by which employers can be held accountable we need to enforce the laws on the books. If American employers realize that there is a penalty involved for breaking the law they will be less likely to hire illegal workers. Supply and demand takes over from there- fewer jobs, fewer illegal immigrants.
3. Revise and expand the H2 visa category. I would wager that most Americans have no idea that a guest worker program already exists in America- it is the H2 visa program. The H2 program as it exists today, however, is clearly broken. There are two H2 categories: H-2A applies to temporary or seasonal agricultural workers and H-2B, which applies to temporary or seasonal nonagricultural workers. This classification requires a temporary labor certification issued by the Secretary of Labor and is limited to 66,000 per year. The process is convoluted (employers have to petition in advance, and prove that American labor is not available, applicants for the visa have to have a job offer before they apply) and much more expensive than hiring from the pool of available workers- almost no employer petitions without a lawyer involved.
I would revise this program not just for Mexicans, but for all nationalities, national limits can be adjusted as necessary to replace global limits, and the national market economy would dictate these totals. Issuance of this new H2 visa should occur solely in the country of origin of the alien, no Chinese applying in London, please, and no exceptions for people already in the US illegally. The visa would include a taxpayer ID number tied into the same SSA system for verification of employability, providing for collection of taxes from these workers as well. When the initial term of the visa is up the holder will have to return to his or her home country for a set period of time before being eligible to apply again.
4. Require legal workers to pay into Medicaid, and deny public benefits to illegal aliens found in America, combined with deportation. Clearly most of these workers will not be in jobs with top-notch insurance programs. As it stands illegal aliens in America cost the nation hundreds of millions of dollars a year in medical care, almost none of which can be recuperated by the communities and states most affected. Of course we must supply basic aid to all who need it, I am simply saying stabilize the injured and transport them home. This brings us to step five.
5. Reduce the amount of foreign aid granted to any country by a set or variable amount based on the costs associated with each illegal immigrant detained/treated/deported who is a national of that country. Where applicable, such as in medical care cases that often are in the tens of thousands of dollars, this money would be paid directly to the hospital or organization providing the care. In cases of simple enforcement it remains in the treasury to fund the operation of the law enforcement agencies. This will have the direct effect of placing some of the burden on the host countries by pinching their pockets. In addition, should the nationals of any country be egregious in breaking immigration laws the total number of work visas available in the country could be reduced as well.
Obviously immigration reform is much more complicated than I've made it appear here. We need to move beyond the rhetoric and examine the possibilities that the current system offers. To use a popular buzzword, illegal aliens represent an insurgency into America. Mexicans will joke that the real Montezuma's revenge is the influx of people slowly reclaiming Texas, California and Arizona. Except that it is no laughing matter.
Powell says "goodbye."
History will ultimately judge Colin Powell in his role as the Secretary of State. Colin Powell, the leader of the Department of State, however, has already been judged by the men and women around the world who have worked under him for the last four years. He brought a new doctrine of leadership
to the role and single-handedly resurrected a Department devastated by President Clinton's stinginess when it came to the budget, and restored the sense of pride in an organization that had withered under Madeleine Albright
. Last week he delivered his farewell message to the staff at Foggy Bottom. It is reproduced here for all to read. Come what may in foreign affairs for the next four years, Dr. Rice will have a very large pair of shoes to fill when it comes to the hearts and minds of her employees.
FAREWELL MESSAGE FROM SECRETARY OF STATE POWELL-JANUARY 19, 2005
Four years ago, you greeted me with great warmth and enthusiasm for the work that we would do together. Today, I bid you farewell with great affection and pride in what we have accomplished as an extended State Department family. I am deeply grateful to President Bush for having given me the privilege of serving as America's 65th Secretary of State, and I consider myself especially blessed to have served alongside all of you.
Every day for the past four years, I have seen you do the hard work of freedom, here in Washington and out on freedom's frontlines across the globe. The lists of honored dead on the memorial plaques in the State Department lobby have grown longer on my watch. Like my predecessors before me, I have had the sad duty of comforting the loved ones of fallen colleagues. I will never truly be able to convey to each of you just how honored I feel to have served as your Secretary.
When we came into office, Rich Armitage and I knew that we were inheriting an impressive and dedicated group of professionals. Over the past four years we have made it our priority to equip the State Department for the demanding decades ahead, and to ensure that all of you -- the men and women of the Foreign and Civil Services and our Foreign Service Nationals -- have the tools and the training you need to perform your vital mission. It gives Rich and me great satisfaction to be able to pass on a much strengthened State Department, the U.S. Senate willing, to my distinguished colleague and dear friend, Condi Rice. She will be terrific. We and our fellow Americans can all be proud when she represents us as our 66th Secretary of State.
Four years ago, I said that together we were going to show a vision to the world of the value system of America, and that is exactly what we have done. As you have served and sacrificed in the performance of your duties, you also have carried with you out into the world our nation's core values of courage and compassion, of democracy and decency.
The vicious terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 only made our efforts to build a better world all the more urgent and essential. For a world of freedom, prosperity and peace is a world of hope where terrorists and tyrants cannot thrive.
American diplomacy has been instrumental in forging the global coalition against terrorism. American diplomacy has been crucial to helping the 50 million liberated people of Afghanistan and Iraq take their first, bold steps toward democratic self-government. With our hemispheric partners, we have worked to deepen and defend democracy and promote growth, development and free trade throughout the Americas.
NATO has embraced new members, with more to come. We have collaborated closely with an expanding European Union. We have revitalized our alliances with our most important partners in Asia: Japan, The Republic of Korea and Australia. We have enhanced our relationships with friends throughout the region. And we have worked to strengthen regional institutions in Asia and ensure that they remain open and inclusive.
We have a strong partnership with Russia that enables us to expand cooperation on critical matters of counter-terrorism, nonproliferation and other global concerns even as we discuss our differences candidly.
We have moved with China toward a more constructive, action-oriented relationship, in which our differences do not prevent us from cooperating to build a more stable world and promote global growth.
We have transformed and broadened our relationship with India and simultaneously we have forged a long-term partnership with Pakistan, a close ally in the global war on terror. We helped to defuse near-war between them, and we have encouraged their efforts to improve relations with one another.
Libya has denuclearized. The parties in Sudan have signed a comprehensive peace accord after more than two decades of war. Now the National Unity Government must build on the momentum of the peace accord to bring stability to the entire country and work together immediately to end the violence and atrocities in Darfur.
We have built mutually productive partnerships with the countries of Africa that share our commitment to freedom: free peoples and free markets. We have doubled the amount of foreign assistance that USAID provides and in addition, we have been instrumental in getting President Bush's innovative Millennium Challenge Corporation initiative up and running - a program that is nothing shy of a revolution in our thinking about international development.
We have done more for the fight against HIV/AIDS than any other country. Time and again, we have shown the world the caring face of America, most recently in our swift and generous response to the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
Yes, there are still challenges and crises with which our country must deal. But this is a hopeful time for the world. The men and women of the State Department have done a great deal to generate this hope. And in the years ahead, you will be key to ensuring that our country is
able to seize more opportunities to create fresh hope across the globe.
After four years serving with all of you, witnessing your passion, dedication and skill, I have the greatest confidence that the work of freedom that is American diplomacy is in the best of hands.
One final thought: From the very beginning, I have spoken about taking the principles of leadership to heart and putting them into practice every single day. As you continue on with your careers, remember to take care of your people. That is the most important thing you can do to ensure the future success of American diplomacy.
Just as I will always think of myself as a soldier, I will always think of myself as a member of the State Department family. Alma joins me in thanking each and every one of you and your families for the warmth you have extended to us these past four years and for your service to our country.
May God bless you and your families and may God bless America.
I salute you.
I am unabashedly fascinated by The Truth Laid Bear's
Ecosystem ranking of blogs on the net. The Daily Demarche recently "evolved" from Adorable Rodent to Marauding Marsupial- and we owe it to all of you who read this blog and link back to us. We experienced a huge jump in readership when Belmont Club
linked to us twice last week, and of course we owe a large portion of our readership to Diplomad
(both Mortal Humans on the ecosystem scale).
But we also want to thank some of the less heavily trafficked blogs out there who have linked to us, this is by no means all of them (click here to see them all
) but rather a sample of some my favorites- if you are looking for something new to add to your daily reading give these a try:
A Guy in Pajamas
Why are all the good names gone?
ramblings of a news junkie
And thanks to those who are posting to My Blog is Your Blog
- a half dozen excellent pieces have been posted there in the last few days- two of the best are Wanted: Human Shields
& The Speech Misheard Round the World
Smiley and I are really enjoying writing this blog, and love to get e-mails from you and to read your comments, so don't be shy and keep 'em coming. Thanks to all who read this site, leave a comment and link back to us.
End of post.
The New Third Rail
Our neighbors to the south are sure to have noticed that immigration reform has hardly merited a sound bite or two in the hubbub surrounding the inauguration. President Bush began his first term with his eye on our hemispheric neighbors, and was quickly and rightly, distracted by the events of September 11th. The repercussions from that day had a chilling effect on both legal and illegal immigration as we struggled to establish the “secure borders, open doors” policy that would become the norm. This is the first in a planned series of posts relating to immigration.
The 2,000 plus mile border between Mexico and the United States is also the border between the first and third worlds- nowhere else on earth do the two collide as they do here. The societies and economies of the two countries are intertwined all along this meandering border, and are interdependent. We have become addicted to cheap labor, and the Mexican government relies on the vast pool of relatively high paying jobs found in America and the remittances to Mexico that come from them.
The government of Mexico (GOM) has long played the role of hypocrite when it comes to immigration issues. On the one hand the southern border of Mexico is as aggressively patrolled as they can manage, and on the other illegal immigration to America by Mexicans is tacitly approved.
In the aftermath of September 11th as the United States became more aggressive in actually enforcing laws already on the books a large number of Central and South American gang members found themselves deported to their homelands. Many of those deportees have worked their way into Mexico, where they are thriving. This, of course, is illegal immigration at it’s worst and must be stopped- according to the Mexicans. At the same time, the GOM continues it’s long held position that it is the right of every Mexican to emigrate if they wish, and that it is the United States problem to secure our border. I can accept that as reasonable, up until the point that the GOM actively assists illegal immigrants.
The “Guide for the Mexican Immigrant” in the form of a comic book advises Mexicans on the ins and outs of immigrating to the U.S. To be sure, the book tells intending immigrants that it is best to enter legally with a passport and visa, but then goes on to detail the following:
"If you get lost, guide yourself by light poles, railroad tracks or dirt roads."
The guide says water crossings are "very risky" and suggests removing thick clothes that could become heavy if wet.
"Avoid noisy parties, the neighbors could become annoyed and call the police and you could be arrested."
The booklet comes at a time when many oppose a guest worker program involving illegals in the U.S. and many more that are calling for stricter enforcement of the laws already in place. This position has much support and is led by conservatives such as Ariz. Sen. Jon Kyl and Scottsdale Congressman J.D. Hayworth. Calls for even more action along the border such as the following are increasing almost daily:
Close the border, Mr. President. Shut it down. Do whatever it takes, no matter the cost.Want to stimulate the economy in this country? Bring 100,000 troops home from Europe where they are doing little but stimulating the European economy and put them to work at the border while we build a 2,000-mile security fence.
Don't tell us it's impractical. It's a matter of life and death.
Secure borders and fences have been built throughout history by nations far less affluent than our own.
No more excuses.
Either we are at war or we are not.
It is reasonable that the fear of our inability to keep out unsophisticated farm workers can be easily translated into an inability to keep out terrorists. No matter what the outcome of the illegal immigration issue we must control our borders.
The answers to these increasingly complex issues lie partially in better enforcement of existing law, partially in reforming and restructuring the law and largely in developing the Mexican economy. Mexico is so heavily dependant on foreign remittances that simply deporting all the illegal Mexicans in America would destroy an already fragile economy in Mexico, and the loss of all that labor would bring the U.S economy to it’s knees. Any program that is put in place for Mexican guest workers in the U.S has to be focused on long-term growth of the Mexican economy.
In a follow up to this piece I’ll float some of my ideas as to just how such a program could be developed, and what I think it would mean to both countries.
Finally, a Chance to Diss France
Now that President Bush's second term has officially begun, a lot of ink has been spilled on the need to revitalize the transatlantic relationship. As an avowed atlanticist, I think this is a good thing. I could go into more detail on why I think this is a good thing, but that would mean a separate post, so for right now, I encourage our readers to go along with me.
One thing that is important to remember when discussing US-EU relations is to remember that Europe and France are two different entities, and that pointing out the flaws of the French, which is quite fun (in fact, I intend to diss France in this piece), is not the same as taking Europe down a peg. It is important to remember that while we may have issues with Europe, or the EU in general, they are often very distinct from those issues we have with France.
So why do we kvetch about the French?
Multipolarity, for starters. Multipolarity is the notion, popular among the welfare-intelligentsia in France and elsewhere in Europe, that there are various “poles” of influence. Europe is a pole, the US is a pole, India is one, China another, etcetera. The French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, recently espoused this charmingly academic notion (read all about it here at Marc Shulman’s always excellent American Future blog).
When I use the words “charmingly academic” readers must understand that the word “charming” is sarcasm, and “academic” in this case is not a compliment. The whole concept of multipolarity may sound great in the form of typed pages passed around the corridors of the Sorbonne or Yale or somesuch place, but when put into practice it does nothing to advance what should be the interests of France and the EU. And therein lies the problem: the idea of multipolarity does a lot to advance the short-term, selfish interests of France, but even a passing study of history shows that looking at the world in such a dispassionate fashion has given the world more problems than it is worth.
To me the idea of multipolarity is nothing more than old-fashioned balance of power politics writ large; France now wants to apply to the rest of the world the same principles that statesmen once applied to keeping peace in Europe in the 19th century. The problem here is that, failing to look at the balance of the world’s powers qualitatively, one might end up bulking up some illiberal powers at the same time, which could have disastrous effects for those poor individuals caught in between said powers (or even the powers themselves: America, like Europe has also suffered from bulking up illiberal regimes in order to balance out competing powers, such as in Iran in 1979).
When the whole balance of power system came about after the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Europe was relatively homogenous and there were very few democracies in the world. The system worked for nearly one hundred years largely because the various nations involved were largely similar. It all came crashing down, however, during World War I, when technology improved the ability to kill beyond the ability of statesmen to keep re-balancing the power.
So the balance of power system worked for a while, when applied to a relatively small, homogenous region, with limited military technologies over a hundred years ago. Why should it work when applied to the larger world, today, when cultures and ideologies are as diverse as the world itself? It won’t.
If the French are honest with themselves, they should realize that what is in everyone’s interest is not trying to lead Europe into acting as some kind of counterweight to the American hegemon. They should realize that America and Europe are in it together, because foreign affairs is not a zero-sum game of balancing competing nations or poles against one another. A brief glance at the history of the last one hundred years will reveal that the greatest threats to stability have come from illiberal states and/or ideologies. This continues to the present day: illiberal strains of Islam (and the states that give them succor) pose a serious threat to the democratic world.
Rather than concern themselves with balancing the various pillars of the world, like-minded democracies, such as those in the US, EU, Australia and perhaps India, should create a balance of power that favors the spread of democracy. (This may sound familiar: the last line comes almost directly from the National Security Strategy of the United States.) Rather than wasting our time trying to play some silly 19th parlor games, the community of democracies should make earnest efforts to share the most effective way to promote long-term stability: liberal democracy. If any kind of balance of power must be effected, let it be that. And let the democratic side of that balance continue to grow until it far outweighs the illiberal side.
Inauguration Day and the world.
“Upon the success of our experiment much depends, not only as regards our own welfare, but as regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn.”
Theodore Roosevelt 1905, (from the BBC)
Inauguration Day. This is a day every American should take pride in, whether or not his or her candidate won or lost. Today is the embodiment of what America has meant from the moment of her founding and throughout her history. This particular inauguration may be the culmination of the re-affirmation by the majority of Americans for the President, but many other inaugurations have seen the peaceful transition of power from one party to another. Even the much maligned election of 2000 ended with the solemn ceremony of a new President being sworn in. There were no armed mobs in the streets, no military junta seized control. There will, of course, be protesters out in force today, despite the cold and snow. This too is a proud legacy for America. No storm-troopers will break up the protests, no dissidents will be dragged from their beds, and no families will fear a knock on the door in the dark of the night.
Tomorrow there will be reactions to the President’s address, and to the commentary from the faithful opposition, from around the world. The global pres is already covering the inauguration, of course- their favorite themes are the protestors and the cost. Here is a sampling of the global coverage:
From China: Protesters plan to turn their backs on Bush
The day promises to be a series of contrasts between gentility and abandon. Anarchist Resistance Call to Action says it plans to "bring anarchy to the streets of DC" during Bush's "coronation." Bicyclists plan to gather at Union Station, near the Capitol, for a "counter-inaugural critical mass bike ride" to protest sites around town. The D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN) is calling for "non-violent civil disobedience die-ins to draw attention to the dead at the hands of the Bush administration."
From Saudi Arabia: Anti-War Activists Plan ‘Counter-Inaugural’
The anti-war “counter-inaugural” is being organized by the ANSWER Coalition. ANSWER stands for “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.” Brian Becker, the national coordinator, told journalists at a recent briefing at the National Press Club, that the coalition of liberal groups was formed shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in anticipation of the Bush administration using this terrorism as an excuse “to carry out a previously planned, aggressive, right-wing, militaristic foreign policy.”
From Canada: Anti-war protesters gear up for Bush inauguration
To spend $40 million at war-time after a disputed election, it's preposterous," said Shahid Buttar, an organizer with the DC Resistance Media Collective who predicts hundreds of thousands will attend events focusing on the Iraq conflict and other issues like abortion and gay rights. Buttar is also angry about steep fees for public events. Entrance to each of the nine balls costs $150 US and the best viewing seats along the parade route run $125. "If you don't have a lot of money, Bush has no time for you. It's just an affirmation of his policies as president, like tax cuts for the wealthy that hurt average Americans."
From Taiwan: Bush's bash will include quite a bit of security
When US President George W. Bush is inaugurated for his second term today, up to 200 central city blocks will be restricted or closed completely to vehicles -- and at least 3,000 police officers will be imported from other jurisdictions.
The event will be highest security inauguration in the country's 229-year history, the first installation of a president since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Bush himself believes the inauguration is "an attractive target for terrorists," he recently told the Washington Post.
From Germany: Not Exactly the Welcome Wagon
Thousands of protesters are expected at US President George W. Bush’s inauguration. While some in Germany will hit the streets, demonstrators really want their voices to be heard during the president’s February visit.
Candlelight vigils, street protests and a Mardi Gras-like parade are some of the events that will bring out hundreds of people in Germany to express their unhappiness with the American president at anti-inauguration activities around the country.
From Switzerland: Bush to start ambitious second term
Analysts see Bush as offering a far more vigorous agenda than in his first term, which became dominated by his response to the September 11, 2001, attacks and the Iraq war. Democrats are already hoping to stymie his plans for revamping the Social Security retirement system and other domestic goals.
From the British- a slew of articles:
House of Bush turns inauguration day into a crowning moment for reign of King George
An inauguration is this nation's equivalent of a coronation, a four-yearly, utterly American mix of reverent idealism, crass commercialism, noisy protest and ruthless networking. Didn't they get rid of a real King George 229 years ago? Indeed, but few historians would dispute that the office of president is more monarchical than ever. Increasingly, it is a battleground for competing dynasties. Once there were the Roosevelts and the Kennedys. Today it is the House of Bush, and who knows, the House of Clinton. In 2008, the election could pit the brother of the present incumbent against the wife of his predecessor.
US prepares for Bush inauguration
The war in Iraq is increasingly unpopular and opinion polls suggest Mr Bush's overall approval ratings are lower than any other re-elected president in recent years.
Memo to Bush: brevity and the Bible
The Bible is nowhere specified in the constitutional article that provides for the inauguration, by the way, but since George Washington used a borrowed one in 1789 it has become an essential prop in the theatricals. So much so that when Lyndon Johnson was hurriedly sworn in by a Texas judge on Air Force One in Dallas in November 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, panicked aides held up the impromptu ceremony until someone could find a copy of the Good Book. Poignantly, they ended up with the only one on board — a Catholic version that belonged to the dead President, found by his bedside in his private cabin.
Friends, Americans, countrymen, send me your cheers
George Bush's inauguration as US president tomorrow is an altogether different matter - a thoroughly imperial event, scripted down to the last detail.
Ignoring the fact that Mr Bush is president already, Republicans are planning a $40m (£21m) celebration they say will be bipartisan. In truth it resembles an election victory party. To deflect criticism, the four-day extravaganza has been dedicated to US soldiers abroad and entitled Celebrating Freedom and Honouring Service
I find it odd that countries ruled by communists, monarchs, an indirectly elected chief of state and a parliament that results to fisticuffs
to solve partisan issues would consider weighing in on this, but their coverage tells us more about them than it does them about us. Today is an opportunity for the rest of the world to see all that is best in the American system in action- if only they will watch with open minds and report what they see, not what they want to see.
Smiley's (back) in da house
Gentle readers: I apologize for my absence. The two of you who missed me will be happy to know that after what seemed like a lifetime away from our beloved Blog, I'm back in the pocket. Expect a new post from an older, wiser and more enlightened Smiley soon.
In the meantime, please enjoy this
That is all.
Between the name and the reality.
You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.
Yesterday I read an excellent article
about the role language has played in the “War On Terror” and our lives post 9/11. Everyone of us, the authors of this site included, has come to use a new lexicon, and to wield words as they have not been used for some time. The very concept of sites such as this, and the name they have been given is a new construct based almost entirely on language, and much of it on the new language.
A few tidbits from the referenced article:
Immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Department of Defense designated the military response as "Operation Infinite Justice." Muslim groups protested, saying that Islam teaches that Allah alone can provide "infinite justice." The military campaign was quickly renamed "Operation Enduring Freedom." Similarly, when Bush described the war on terrorism as "a crusade," he came under criticism because of the evocation of medieval wars between Christendom and the Islamic world. He dropped the term.
And there are the changing names for the enemy in Iraq. U.S. military spokesmen first referred to them as "dead-enders" or "Baathist holdouts." When the insurgency turned out to be undeniably widespread and well organized, its members were "former regime loyalists." Then, when it was pointed out that "loyalty" generally has a positive connotation, the term mutated to "former regime elements."
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks there were no words to describe what had happened. Then came the comparisons to Pearl Harbor, and the talk of “war.” Phrases like “nothing will ever be the same” crept into our collective conscience. Language was used simultaneously to define the enemy not as Islam but as “terror”, and to call for tolerance at home for those who shared a religion with our attackers. The President used words like “evil” and “crusade” and was resoundingly chastised since crusade implies religion- even though we are facing an enemy who has declared holy war on us.
I have long been opposed to the phrase “War on Terror” itself. Designed to be non-offensive to the public in general and Muslims in particular it is an incredibly vague construct. “Terror” is not the enemy, it is the tactic. We have, more or less, declared war on a feeling in order to spare the feelings of a certain demographic and avoid the PC issues inherent in naming a readily identifiable enemy. We can’t even argue that we are at war against terrorists- we are not, after all, pursuing the Basque separatists, or Chechnyan rebels. As was argued on this site back in November, if we are at war with anyone it is the islamo-fscists. We need to clearly articulate who the enemy is, and then define how we will defeat that enemy, thereby identifying an endpoint in the “war”. (I have similar feelings about the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Poverty”).
We try to use the language of economics to explain where terrorists come from (“the poor, the disadvantaged”), rather than point to the language of hate preached in the madras’s and schools from which the 19 Sept. 11th killers emerged. Once and for all, poverty does not cause young men and women to grow up to be terrorists- hate filled rhetoric from men bent on evil does.
Muslim and Arab groups in America and other Western countries make every effort to steer the language back towards conciliation, or speak of the “hijacking” of Islam, branding the terrorists as usurpers of religion and language as well as murderers. More recently, in his taped message just before the election, OBL sounded like a clip from a Michael Moore film as he embarked on a pre-emptive bashing of the President. All the players have adapted their language for the new stage.
As the President delivers his speech at the inauguration tomorrow, and as we enter the final countdown for the election in Iraq, we must be sure to say what we mean, and mean what we say. This administration has been accused of oversimplifying matters when it comes to global relations and foreign policy. I accuse the MSM, the apologists and the anti-America crowd of obfuscating what are simple truths: there is an enemy, the enemy can be named and must be defeated. Islamo-fascism is our “bird”- but you can call call this flock what you wish, the name is not important. We have all seen them at work. We all recognize them when presented with their deeds. We all know what they want- nothing short of the death of the West. We all know the difference between the name of this war and the reality. The time has come to stop mincing words.
Since I opened with a quote, here is an ending one as well:
Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking- John Maynard Keynes
A walk on the wild side of the net.
As an American living abroad, and even more so in my role as a diplomat, I am always on the lookout to find out what host country and other non-American nationals think about America, on an individual level. Most people, one on one, are very nice. It seems to me that all mothers around the world teach their children to be polite and avoid voicing an opinion that might be offensive to a guest in an intimate (i.e. personal, small group) setting. At times this can make it extremely difficult to learn what our hosts are thinking, let alone establish a dialogue. This is one of the reasons I am glad that we work with so many host country nationals in our embassies and consulates. They often are willing to have a direct and open conversation after some time working together, or at least repeat things they have heard.
Today while surfing the foreign press I found an article that made me think the world had either ended or would end at any moment: "Germany Calls for Bigger US Role in Mideast
." That was going to be the centerpiece of tonight's post. As interesting as that story is, however, and for all the possibilities it offers, I found something that lead me down a different path.
I found "Talk to U.S
.", a collection of short video and audio clips, some obviously prepared and scripted, many apparently "man on the street" interviews. This site was established with the November elections in mind, and most of the clips are addressed to potential voters.
According to the header on the site:
The US election in November 2004 affects everyone, everywhere. Talk to US is a global video forum, inviting ordinary people around the world to speak directly to the American public.
I could not stop watching these videos. Many of them were predictably anti-Bush, but for everyone like that there was one with a hearfelt and honest opinion. This got me thinking- and I decided to check out some sites related to Talk to U.S.
From there it was a short leap to Open Democracy-free thinking for the world. I did not have high hopes for this site, based on the name- free thinking, in my experience, often means anything but. Then I found this article, and this (click then scroll down) amazing collection of photos from Afghanistan, many showing American soldiers actually helping Afghans! On another section of this site I found a project called "My America: Letters To Americans", subtitled "Letters to Americans: the hidden treasure of the US vs the World." I could tell you all about it, or you could read about it in this Turkish newspaper.
What the heck was going on here? Where had all the anti-Americanism gone? Where were all the crazed foreigners screaming for the election of John Kerry? Those folks are still out there, I found with a few clicks, and the International Herald Tribune is all too happy to collect them in one place for you. And some of them are still in America, like the California college professor who told a Kuwaiti exchange student to seek psychological counseling over a pro-US essay.
All in all, however, there are a great many people out there who do not "refuse... to see America for what it really is--a large community of normal people--families, children, workplace colleagues--just like themselves." (Tip o' the mug to Expat Yank for the lead to that piece). We need to remember that, and we need to continue to reach out to these people.
America and Americans will never have great success convincing the rest of the world, the portion that is predisposed to hate us without knowing us, that we are not the global bogey man. We must rely on those who know us as a nation of basically good individuals, and we must be willing to engage in honest debate those who are willing to learn about us and teach us in turn.
Can we do this simultaneously with the hunting down and destruction of al-Qaeda and other terrorist threats? We have no choice. In the next two weeks the world will see America extend the hand of peace to tsunami victims across SE Asia while at the same time holding back the darkness in Iraq with force as they take up the torch of liberty. Those of us in the Far Abroad, and at home, need to stay engaged even if means leaving the echo chamber occasionally for a walk on the wild side of the net.
The SDRU spreads.
The State Department Republican Undeground gained another voice recently with the launch of New Sisyphus
This covert-blogger did not waste any time; the site was kicked off with a great piece entitled "Welfare Reform, Dependence Theory and U.S.-E.U Relations." If this is any indication of future postings I expect great things from this blog.
For any other budding members of the Underground out there, as the Diplomad
says "there is plenty of room for more!" Get yourselves a blog or feel free to post at My Blog is Your Blog
End of post. Go read New Sisyphus.
Where is the outrage?
As you know in a few days we will inaugurate George W. Bush as President of the United States of America, for his second term. Of course the usual suspects
oppose this, and contend that "Bush cheated
" , etc. Everyone loves a harmless crackpot- even members of the State Department Republican Underground.
What took me by surprise today was the numerous complaints that the line-up and festivities
should be altered to in light if the tsunami devastation in SE Asia.
South Africa's IOL (Independant On-line) has an article entitled 'Bush inauguration too lavish for wartime'
President George Bush is drawing heat over a $40-million (R242-million) splurge on inaugural balls, concerts and candlelight dinners while the country is in a somber mood because of the Iraq war and Asian tsunami.
Our good friends in Australia
have also picked up this story (word for word), as they have in India
and a host of other nations. A few papers in America have picked this up too; a paper in St. Louis
is running this theme with a little more fiestiness than most.
I am all for an informed debate over the type of event that should be held while American men and women are in harms way and risking their lives (although I doubt that we have ever
had an inauguration where brave men and women were not at risk in some remote part of the world- we just did not have the means to send that message into every home 24/7). In fact, I too believe that a more somber event would be fitting with our armed forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But because of the tsunami?
That may sound callous, but let's ask a question here. Where else in the world is a major event taking place that might have been altered somewhat due to the devastation wreaked in the affected regions? How abbout Mecca?
This week is the culmination of the Hajj. Al-Jazeera (see previous link) explains thusly:
No annual event on the face of the globe, religious or non-religious, compares to hajj in terms of the sheer number of participants, duration of the event and the breadth of agenda. In spite of this fact, it has always remained equally fascinating and mysterious to not only non-Muslims, who are barred from entering the holy city, but also to millions of Muslims, who had not performed hajj.
During the hajj this year security is at an all time high, since Jews have been attacking targets throughout Saudi Arabia lately. No wait- the threat is from fellow Muslims- sorry, too much time on the al-Jazeera site. In other exciting news from Mecca this year: Muslims who can't make the hajj in person may be able to experience it virtually.
With all of that the support for tsunami victims, an estimated 115,000 of whom were Muslims from Indonesia, must be amazing. I mean, "nothing compares... to the breadth of the agenda." Last year over 1.8 million people made the hajj. They must all be donating at least $1, right?
Here is what is being done:
No special memorials or events have been announced during the hajj for the tsunami victims, but some survivors have offered special prayers upon reaching Mecca.
Where is the outrage? I could not find one single article on the Internet linkingthe hajj to aid for survivors of the tsunami, even if limited to only Muslim survivors. Why is no one asking this question? Has non-jihadi Islam become immune to criticism? The United States of America is doing more, right now, than the rest of the world combined for the tsunami victims, yet our inauguration is in the limelight for not being somber enough. Millions of Muslims are spending untold sums of money to travel to Mecca to offer prayers for the dead and dying... and the world is silent.
I simply do not understand.
Two great reads for today.
I'll be taking the day off today to remember Dr. King on my own, away from the crushing Euro crowds in peace and solitude. If you are looking for something to read try these two places:
1. My Blog is Your Blog
lives! The first posting (unsigned) is up, and it's a good one:
Iran: CFR Seminar on US policy options
The Council on Foreign Relations has just published the seminar transcript for Transition 2005: U.S. Policy Toward Iran, held in DC on Jan 12, 2005. The panel is comprised of some serious thinkers who take on the hard questions, resulting in very useful and informed debate on the policy options.
2. American Future
has posted the following excellent analytical piece:
The Israeli-Palestinian Face-Off
A moment of truth is fast approaching in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Thus far, Palestinian President Abbas has still not indicated his willingness to use coercion against the militants who are attempting to delegitimize his government. On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Sharon, having earlier suspended communication with the Palestinian Authority (PA), has now authorized the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to fight fire with fire until Abbas does what he has thus far been unwilling to do.
If you have a chance today please give them both a look, we'll be back soon with more of the usual here on this site.
End of post.
No blog of your own?
In the past Smiley and I have invited readers and fellow bloggers to participate in various themes- the most popular was the "What If We Hadn't Invaded Iraq" series (see the archives). A number of readers sent me contributions to post here, invariably stating something along the lines of "I don't have a blog of my own...". Well, now you do.
Drop on by My Blog Is Your Blog
and have at it. Directions to log in are on the site. Posting a message is as easy as sending an e-mail. My hope is that users will continue threads started elsewhere, or those who are occassionally inclined to post, but aren't otherwise inclined to set up and run a blog, will post there. Feel free to pass this along to as many people as you like.
As I wrote in the "welcome" posting:
Got something to say in a comment field on another blog that is just too long to fit? Post it here and leave a link in the comments at the referenced blog. Found a news article or other item online that you want to share? Post it here! Got your own blog and want to promote it? Here is your place!
Ideally I'd like to see some debate, blue staters and red staters, right, left and center, all contributing. Will it work? Who knows. Will anyone post here? Beats me.
To paraphrase the greatest college movie ever made, Animal House, "Grab a blog, don't cost nothing!"
End of post.
The Pensacola Factor
I received the message below from the parent of a Naval Academy Midshipmen. I have no way of actually verifying this, since it seems that we are breaking the story here at the Daily Demarche! Based on the sheer number of "@.mil" addressees in the chain of e-mails and my experience with the federal government in action I feel entirely confident in assuming what is detailed below is true: the Navy has too many pilots in training in the pipeline and will raise the bar to flush some of them out of training (this is a long message, the last two paragraphs are the key in my opinion). No big deal, right? After all we only want the best of the best defending the skies above our naval fleets and supporting our Marines and other land based operations. I agree, this would not be a problem if the men and women who do not qualify for flight school are put to the best use of their abilities. No one who graduates from a service academy is a slouch or dullard- just because they didn't make flight training does not mean there is nothing for them to do. At least one would hope.
According to the sender of this e-mail the Mids at Annapolis are facing a bleak future- some may graduate from the Academy and pass directly into the Individual Ready Reserve. I could not locate an exact cost to the taxpayer for producing a shiny new Ensign, but found several references to "hundreds of thousands of dollars" which I have no trouble believing based on the cost of higher education in general, the need for security checks, the salaries paid to Mids and the cost of running the weapons systems they train on.
Having said that, read the message below and if you have any information regarding this in the Navy (or the cost to taxpayers per graduate of the military academies) please leave a comment or send an e-mail- your privacy is assured. And as graduation day approaches, and perhaps the MSM begins to sniff around this, remember: you read it here first.
Subject: The Pensacola Factor...
This email concerns midshipmen/graduates who want or are waiting for flight school as a Student Naval Aviator (Navy Pilot). On Tuesday, January 4th, 2005, the commanding officer (CO) of Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC) spoke to all officers currently waiting to start flight school as pilots in what is called the "Alpha Pool" (A-pool). The purpose of his remarks were to explain the current situation regarding the extreme backlog in the student naval aviator (SNA) pipeline and what course of action will be implemented to resolve the situation. This is a brief explanation of the Captain's remarks.
Obviously, the US military is a very complex entity requiring a tremendous amount of planning and forethought. Part of this planning is projecting how many people will be required to fulfill a particular job in the years ahead. In the case of naval aviators, this personnel projection window is 3-7 years based on the longest naval aviator training track, an F/A-18 Hornet strike pilot. For planning purposes, it takes a minimum of 3 years to train an OCS (Officer Candidate School) graduate to be a Hornet pilot. This is because OCS kids already have their college educations. It takes a minimum of 7 years to train Academy and ROTC kids to be a Hornet pilot, because of the 4 years spent in college. Therefore, the Navy must predict 3-7 years in advance how many pilots they are going to need.
Clearly, the military is a very dynamic, ever changing organization, just like any large organization. In the 3-7 years leading up to the present time, the naval aviation community changed in ways that were not anticipated. The F-14 Tomcat and S-3 Viking platforms are retiring sooner than expected. The EA-6B Prowler community shrunk by 2 squadrons, unexpectedly. The P-3 Orions are dropping like flies because they are so old. All of these factors have resulted in more pilots than planes. Rather than purge trained and experienced aviators as their platforms disappear (they are transitioned into another platform when possible), it is more advantageous to purge those people who are untrained and inexperienced officers. The powers-that-be (up to the highest levels in the naval aviation community, whom I will use NASC as a simple, catch-all designator) determined that 160 student naval aviators need to be purged from the program.
They did consider simply firing those individuals who scored just well enough on the ASTB (the standard aviation aptitude test) to qualify for flight training, but did not over-achieve. They decided against this because it would obviously be changing the rules mid-game and cheat individuals who were promised on good-faith a spot in flight training. After several months of analysis and debate, the course of action decided upon was to "raise the bar" in the first portion of flight training, known as Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API). This is the 6-week course with which all naval aviators and naval flight officers begin their flight training. Up to this point, the command policy regarding API has been 3 academic failures (out of 6 academic tests) resulted in removal from flight training. This created an attrition rate in API of approximately 2%. In order to meet the new attrition quota, NASC decided that the attrition rate in API should be forcibly raised to 20%. Using the last 200 pilots to complete API as a data set, NASC calculated that approximately a 91 average on all tests will be required to continue in flight training beyond API (80% is already considered a failing grade). However, those last 200 pilots were not affected by this new rule, and the new standard is a "rolling average". This means that the pilots now starting API will obviously work harder and score higher, pushing the "rolling average" up with each API class. A new API class starts every week.
**SIDEBAR** The Navy actually uses a more complex scoring system than simple averages for flight training called the "Naval Standard Score (NSS)", but an explanation of this system exceeds the aforementioned statement of "brief explanation". For those of you that know this system, the NSS now required in API for student pilots will begin at 42.5, but could change as each class progresses. The average NSS for API is 28. There are literately hundreds of Ensigns waiting to start API, whether they are actually here in Pensacola or still at the Academy or their ROTC units. NASC also decided that to get their numbers as rapidly as possible, they are going to activate the "Charlie Pool" (C-pool). Up to this point, in order for a pilot to start API, a slot must be available at one of the locations that conduct the second phase of flight training, known as "Primary". These locations are as follows: NAS Whiting Field in Milton, FL, NAS Corpus Christi, TX, Vance Air Force Base (AFB), OK, and Moody AFB, GA. The Primary locations are as backed-up as Pensacola; therefore, the follow-on slot requirement is being waived. Upon the successful completion of API, student naval aviators will enter the C-pool and continue waiting in Pensacola for a slot at one of the Primary locations; a wait of several more months. The activation of the Charlie pool will facilitate the new goal of pushing all waiting Ensigns through API by May of this year. The measures being taken by NASC are temporary, designed to rapidly purge the program of approximately 80 of the required 160 student pilots.
Measures are also being taken along other portions of the training pipeline which are beyond the Captain's remarks of Tuesday the 4th. Pilots further along in the pipeline have been feeling the crunch for some time. Several SNAs have transferred to the Marine Corps, which is currently short on pilots. Others have simply been removed from active duty upon completion of flight school and sentenced to the reserves. A relative few are actually making it all the way through the flight training syllabus into the active fleet. There are virtually no jet slots available, with only the top individual from each primary class even having a shot at getting into the jet training pipeline. All those dreams of being Maverick are virtually gone. For those of you with Ensigns currently waiting to start API, the consequences of the new policy are obvious: a much higher level of effort will be necessary to pass API and continue in flight training as a pilot. It may be possible to acquire an NFO (Naval Flight Officer, back-seater) slot if an individual falls below the required pilot score. The Navy has a slight current need for NFOs. It may also be possible to obtain a transfer to the Marine Corps; however, the likelihood of that occurring is slim to none. The Marine Corps is in need of pilots now, not 2-3 years from now, so they are looking for transfers much farther along in the training pipeline. Remember that all Marine Corps officers must go to The Basic School (TBS, 6 months long) in Quantico, VA before going on full active duty in the Fleet Marine Force (FMF). For Marine Corps transfers, they will attend TBS after earning their pilot wings.
For some, Pensacola and API will be as far as their Navy career will take them. The entire Navy is overwhelmed with junior officers (Ensigns, Lieutenant Junior Grades, and Lieutenants) at the present time, not just the aviation community. Some Ensigns will be placed on "Individual Ready Reserve" which, according to the NASC CO, will likely be recalled "only in the case of global thermonuclear war".
Translation: the payback commitment is meaningless. Here's your ticket home, thanks for playing, have a nice life. What about transfers to other services you ask? Extremely problematic at best, with the exception perhaps being Army infantry. Inter-service transfers are very difficult to negotiate and accomplish. For those of you with midshipmen hoping to become Navy pilots, this paints an uncertain indefinite future. Pilot slots for the Academy and ROTC are being reduced by 50 as a whole, for how long I do not know. I understand there to be quite a few issues with service assignment for the class of '05. If you are hoping and praying for more pilot slots, stop, there will be none this year that I can guarantee. For those '05 graduates that actually do secure a pilot slot, I would expect the Navy to throw graduate school at them like candy at a football game. Graduate school defers people for a good solid year from Pensacola. Many '04 graduates were given graduate school slots this past summer to prevent them from getting to Pensacola and exacerbating the problem. Those that do make it to Pensacola this summer or fall, if the quota has not been met, expect the new policy to still be in effect. Even if the quota has been met, expect an uncertain and bumpy ride through the flight training pipeline. The outlooks for '06 and '07 are quite uncertain from my point of view. I am speculating far beyond my pay grade, but I would anticipate a sharply reduced number of pilot slots from years past, resulting in much stiffer competition. I think the outlook for '08, '09, and '10 improves, because the Navy will be acquiring the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and a replacement for the ailing P-3 Orion in the years following these classes' graduations.
What all this really comes down to is the fundamental dictum of life on Earth: Hard work is rewarded. Then again, not everyone can finish first and someone has to be the anchor-man. Tell your mids that with the current state of the Navy, their effort at the Academy will directly affect their career in the Navy. With the class of '04, they started commissioning "undesignated" officers. These officers will do 2 years as a surface warfare officer and hope that there is another place in the Navy for them at the end of those 2 years. Of course, the pendulum will once again swing the other way and the Navy will find itself in desperate need of officers, but not today and not for the immediate future.
Respectfully, xxxxx, ENS, USNR
Class of 200X
Pensacola, FL "Still swimming in the now turbulent and uncertain waters of the A-pool"