We Have Moved

Posted: February 22, 2006 in Politics

For techniecal and other reasons, we have changed our URL to http://amberandchaos.com . You will see the same content there, but I have access to the source code, there, and can add more bells and whistles. Please stop by.

Insurgents detonated bombs inside one of Iraq’s holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, destroying its golden dome and triggering more than 90 reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. The president warned that extremists were pushing the country toward civil war.

With the gleaming dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine reduced to rubble, leaders on both sides called for calm and many Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.

But the string of back-and-forth attacks seemed to push Iraq closer to all-out civil war than at any point in the three years since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

“We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq’s unity,” said President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. “We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war.”

This is a critical moment for Iraq. Whether or not they can survive this will tell if Iraqi Democracy can surivive. This could be the make or break point.

There is more to the port deal than meets the eye. The administration is in the middle of an extensive negotiation that has been ongoing for two years, in conjunction with similar meetings with Bahrain and Oman.y

This probably explains the harsh reaction of President Bush to the initial news of the opposition to this deal, threatening to use the first veto of his entire presidency. A rejection of this deal with the UAE could slow down negotiations seriously, even cause the parties involved to reject free trade agreements with the United States.

Of course, that does not excuse the administration’s lack of preparation for the firestorm created when news of this deal was released. This entire crises could have been avoided with a few phone calls to political leaders, who would have been well aware of public reaction to something like this…the administration’s arrogance have, again, cost it political ‘pull,’ and this might be the end of any poltiical influence the administration might have had. Who can trust them, after this? They have shown little capability in the past few months, and almost every initiative they have made, Social Security reform, Medicaire prescrption drug disaster, the Harriet Myers Supreme Court fiasco, and the most recent catastrophe, Dick Cheney’s unfortunate hunting accident.

This is worse than simply lame duck politics. The White House is in full meltdown. Someone call in the ambulance before the victim causes more damage to itself

 

John McIntyre at Real Clear Politics has the best take on the Port Deal, as far as I am concerned. At first,  I was aghast, but in the light of day, it probably was not as bad as it sounded originally…but the Bush administration really screwed up. A little preparation, calling the governors concerned, interacting with Congress, could have saved a lot of grief but, as it stands, now, this issue is dead on arrival. It is possible, as John says, that a deal will be worked out, but I do not see it. The administration has squandered its trust, and Bush’s hard-line stance will harden the stance of opposition to the bill.

The Financial Times has a well balanced and thoughtful editorial on the uproar over the deal on the U.S. ports and the UAE. I don’t agree with their conclusions, but if you want a more balanced understanding of this proposed transaction it is worth the two minutes to read it. This issue is more complicated than the cheap political demagoguery we have seen, especially from Democrats now preening about how tough they are on national security – and particularly from those who resist any profiling of young Arab men, but now somehow “know” this UAE company is a security threat. Isn’t this a degree of profiling?

I ask those politicians who want to “profile” this company why can’t we profile young Arab males. What’s the difference? It seems pretty common sense that if Arab companies should probably not be allowed to be contracted to run the operations at U.S. ports given the current environment, then young men from those same Arab countries should probably receive a higher level of scrutiny as well.

I don’t really want to get into the business or security aspects of this deal, because quite frankly they are irrelevant now. We live in a democracy, not a benevolent dictatorship, and because of that, politics matter. And the politics of this deal are insane. At some point along the food chain of this process, somebody with an ounce of common-sense should have spoken up and pointed out the obvious that this deal wasn’t going to fly.

This is what you would call an unforced error. The Bush administration should do themselves a favor, recognize the mistake, fix the problem and apologize to our friends in the UAE.

Other points of view can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Here’s the NYT’s write-up on the UAE port deal.

Michelle Malkin has done extensive blogging on this issue, as have many other bloggers – both on the right and left hand side of the aisle.

If this wasn’t so absolutely hysterically funny, it would simply be pathetic. Why would anyone think that this bumble-footed miserable excuse for a former President would be the only one in the entire country who supports the administration on this plan? It is obvious, from this support, that this plan is a very bad idea

Former President Jimmy Carter downplayed criticism of White House support of an Arab-owned company’s purchase of a major seaport-operations firm.

BY LESLEY CLARK
lclark@MiamiHerald.com

WASHINGTON – President Bush is taking a battering from fellow Republicans, even the governors of New York and Maryland, over the administration’s support for a decision that gives an Arab company control of some commercial operations at six major seaports — including Miami-Dade’s.

But he got a boost Monday from an unlikely source, frequent critic and former president Jimmy Carter, who downplayed fears that the deal poses a risk.

”The overall threat to the United States and security, I don’t think it exists,” Carter said on CNN’s The Situation Room. “I’m sure the president’s done a good job with his subordinates to make sure this is not a threat.”

 Afghanistan has long been touted as a bright spot in the war on terror. Here, Michael Sheuer looks at the past history of the region, and current trends to be more pessimistic about the outcome.

It is hard to disagree with his analysis…except for the fact that he is talking about Americans, here, and not the British or the Russians, both of whom cared not a whit for the Afghanis, and the Afghanis knew that. Further, Americans have had a long history of helping nations defend themselves against foreign and internal enemies; look at the Phillipines, which is also under attack from internal Islamo-fascists…

I am not claiming that we are certain to win in Afghanistan, just that we can win…if we stay the course

By Michael Scheuer

Every rule has an exception and Afghanistan seems to be the rock-solid exception to the rule that history never repeats itself. The increasingly emboldened insurgency now confronted by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan is eerily similar to the insurgencies previously initiated, fought, and lost by Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Each of these three insurgencies saw the Western invaders win easy early victories, quickly occupy the major Afghan cities, and then find themselves increasingly ensnared in a prolonged campaign characterized by myriad vicious, hit-and-run skirmishes that proved costly in terms of morale, lives, military reputation, and treasure. The British and Soviets withdrew in clear and humiliating defeat, an end-state that now appears the U.S.-led coalition will have a hard time avoiding. Five-Point StocktakingAs recently as late last summer, Western leaders were pointing toward Afghanistan as the global war on terrorism’s one unqualified success story. The upbeat talk was of elections, foreign aid, rebuilding projects, and female parliamentary candidates. Yet, Afghan winters are notoriously harsh, and as spring approaches that harshness has begun to wring out the West’s premature optimism and to replace it with a picture that is at once more accurate and more properly pessimistic. It also is a picture recognizable to those familiar with Afghanistan’s war-filled history and the propensity of Afghan warriors for taking the long view of things and finding ways to ultimately defeat all the occupiers they have ever faced.

1. Fall 2005 Assertion: Two successful elections show democracy is taking root in Afghanistan.

Near-Spring Reality: After two nationwide elections, few of those who disagree with President Karzai have put their weapons away and decided to wait peaceably for the next election. Indeed, there has been an up-tick in violence after each election. While the Afghans are avaricious consumers and innovative users of the tools of modernity—be it ordnance or communications gear—they are steadfast opponents of “Westernization,” particularly of the variety that downplays religion, asserts women’s rights, ignores ethnic rivalries and hatreds, and seeks to undermine tribal politics and loyalties.

2. Fall 2005 Assertion: The U.S.-led coalition is mopping up the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Near-Spring Reality: The U.S.-led coalition suffered more casualties in 2005 than in any of the previous three years of occupation. In addition, the overall pace of combat increased in the second half of 2005 and has continued to escalate so far in 2006. The geographic breadth of the attacks also shows that Taliban and al-Qaeda forces are growing in number and initiating activities outside the Taliban’s traditional stronghold in Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces. The first six weeks of 2006, for example, have seen attacks in Helmand, Nangarhar, Herat, and Konar provinces, as well as an intensification of fighting along both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (Pajhwok Afghan News, February 10).

3. Fall 2005 Assertion: Most Afghans are moderate Muslims, not strident Islamists like the Taliban.

Near-Spring Reality: Each occupation of Afghanistan by “infidels” has caused a spike in the religious conservatism among Afghans; this increase does not subside but establishes a new, higher level of religiosity. Simply put, after nearly 30 years of continuous war against, and occupation by, Western infidels of one kind or another, Afghan Islam is decidedly more conservative and activist—in the jihadi sense—than it was before the 1979 Soviet invasion. Indeed, in 2005-06 Afghanistan’s so-called “moderate” Muslims have led the way in the Islamic world in protesting violently against such perceived Western affronts to Islam as the reported destruction of the Quran by U.S. guards at Guantanamo Bay and the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. These protests suggest, moreover, that al-Qaeda and the Taliban will find no shortage of recruits among young Afghans, and no lack of logistical and financial support among the parents and families of those young men.

4. Fall 2005 Assertion: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his army have broken the back of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, thereby denying them safe haven from which to launch operations into Afghanistan.

Near-Spring Reality: Since 2003, Musharraf sent the Pakistani army into the country’s border regions—especially into Waziristan—to attack and eliminate al-Qaeda and the Taliban forces based there. The incursions, however, now appear to have yielded a more secure safe haven for Islamist forces despite the Pakistani army having suffered more casualties than has the U.S.-led coalition since 2001. The net impact of these unprecedented Pakistani military operations appears to have been to unify the Pashtun tribes that straddle the Pakistan-Afghanistan border against Islamabad. The overwhelmingly Pashtun Taliban, according to Pakistani and Afghan media, now controls areas on both sides of the border, and they and their allies have stepped up border-area attacks on Pakistani servicemen and border guards, infrastructure targets, and individuals who are believed to be cooperating with Islamabad or the U.S.-led coalition (Lahore Daily Times, February 11).

5. Fall 2005 Assertion: The war in Afghanistan is separate and unrelated to the war in Iraq.

Near-Spring Reality: It now appears that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are increasingly interrelated and symbiotic; as Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah recently claimed, there are “contacts with the mujahideen in Iraq. We are one and the same mujahideen.” Although media reports that al-Qaeda sent some of its Afghanistan-based fighters to Iraq were at first disbelieved in the West, the identification of some of the Islamists captured and killed in Iraq has validated that reporting, as does the evidence that has surfaced since the invasion of Iraq about the existence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s pre-war ties to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

In Afghanistan, moreover, the insurgency led by the Taliban and al-Qaeda is clearly applying lessons learned from the insurgents in Iraq. The Afghans’ growing sophistication in the use of remotely detonated improvised explosive devices is one pertinent example. Others include the steady rise in the number of suicide attacks by individuals on foot or using vehicles, the increasing number of urban-warfare operations in Kabul, Kandahar, and other cities, the diversification of attacks to hit more of the non-U.S. members of the multi-national force, such as Canadians and Norwegian soldiers and Turkish and Indian civilian contractors, and the steady improvement in the quality and focus of the Taliban’s propaganda and media apparatus (Afghan Islamic Press, February 10 and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 17).

Conclusion

While it is too early to say that Afghanistan is again lost to the West, the trend lines are heading in the direction of another Western defeat and withdrawal. If such is the case, the result will be rightfully attributed to the failure of Western leaders—military, political, and media—to have read and assimilated the lessons of Afghan history before invading. One Westerner, the eminent British military historian Sir John Keegan, did read that history and offered a clear and early warning. “The Russians [1979-89]…foolishly did not try to punish rogue Afghans, as [Britain’s Lord] Robert’s did, but to rule the country,” Keegan wrote on September 14, 2001 in the Daily Telegraph. “Since Afghanistan is ungovernable, the failure of their effort was predictable….America should not seek to change the regime, but simply to find and kill the terrorists.” U.S. and Western leaders should heed Sir John’s prescient words.

 

Jimmy Carter speaks up again and, again, demonstrates how thoroughly and breathtakingly lacking is his grasp of reality.  This guy is a real work of art, and he is dangerous in his ineptitude; I am sure there are young, naive people who listen to this bilge and are willing to fight for the principles he espouses, here. While I certainly wish no harm on anyone, and if Carter would simply retire to a quiet lake where he could fish and not bother anyone, I would be very happy but, until then, until this man vanishes from the face of the earth, we are all deeply in trouble.

To suggest that Israel negotiate with a State which has elected an organization devoted to its destruction is ludicrous. Hamas is no more a real partner to discussions with the Jews of Israel than would be Hitler; neither have any intention of maintaining any agreements they make that do not further their goals of destroying the Jews…and Carter is either an implicit or explicit believer in those principles. He might, indeed, not see himself as an anti-Semite, but his actions are anti-Semitic, in that they promote the genocide of the Jews of Israel, and he deserves no more respect than any other anti-Semite deserves.

Don’t Punish the Palestinians

The election of Hamas candidates cannot adversely affect genuine peace talks, since such talks have been nonexistent for over five years. A negotiated agreement is the only path to a permanent two-state solution, providing peace for Israel and justice for the Palestinians. In fact, if Israel is willing to include the Palestinians in the process, Abbas can still play this unique negotiating role as the unchallenged leader of the PLO (not the government that includes Hamas). 

The election of Hamas candidates cannot adversely affect genuine peace talks, since such talks have been nonexistent for over five years. A negotiated agreement is the only path to a permanent two-state solution, providing peace for Israel and justice for the Palestinians. In fact, if Israel is willing to include the Palestinians in the process, Abbas can still play this unique negotiating role as the unchallenged leader of the PLO (not the government that includes Hamas). It was under this umbrella and not the Palestinian Authority that Arafat negotiated with Israeli leaders to conclude the Oslo peace agreement. Abbas has sought peace talks with Israel since his election a year ago, and there is nothing to prevent direct talks with him, even if Hamas does not soon take the ultimately inevitable steps of renouncing violence and recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

It would not violate any political principles to at least give the Palestinians their own money; let humanitarian assistance continue through U.N. and private agencies; encourage Russia, Egypt and other nations to exert maximum influence on Hamas to moderate its negative policies; and support President Abbas in his efforts to ease tension, avoid violence and explore steps toward a lasting peace.