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The global battle for ideas cannot be fought with guns

 
 
Brookings
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 12:48 pm
I understand what an exclamation mark is used for, I also understand that he did not technically use it incorrectly, however, his usage was still awkward. I could have followed that last sentence with an exclamation mark, it would be technically correct, but still inappropriate!!!!!
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BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 01:19 pm
I am quite interested in Mr. Brookings' SOLUTIONS!!

What are the SOLUTIONS?

Before World War II, there were groups in the United States who were considered "isolationists". One of the most vocal was the German-American Bund.

Their SOLUTION was that we not involve ourselves in Europe militarily.

Can anyone think that would have been a viable SOLUTION?
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Brookings
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 01:45 pm
"So, you just let people attack you and murder your citizens, develop nukes or whatever, because they're hard to organize against. What a philosophy! "

Are you even reading what I wrote or does partisanship filter what you read? I SPECIFICALLY acknowledged the importance of the military dimension of this conflict, HOWEVER, I do not see it as the primary means to achieving what I believe we all hope is the proper endgame, that is the long term reduction of the terrorist threat. The military and the political aspects of this conflict cannot be divorced, that is a simple fact. The West will need to resort to crushing terrorist networks when they emerge, yet it also needs to be cautious not to legitimize the propaganda of our enemies and to make clear that the principles in which we are fighting for are preserved.

I understand that there is a fine line here which we need to tread. There is no cookie cutter solution to this problem. Various terrorist networks are different in nature, and need to be dealt with accordingly. Some can be co-opted, using carrots AND sticks, into joining a legitimate political structure. Others will be most effectively dealt with by applying pressure and engaging diplomatically (again carrots and sticks) with state sponsors. Others through the threat, or use of force. In most cases all the above will be needed, though in varying degrees. In all the cases, close cooperation will be necessary with regional allies.

The military will be necessary to crush terrorist networks and disrupt ttheir offensive capabilities, however, those are inherently short term goals when the ideology which fuels such networks flourishes among the polity which spawns it. Issues need to be addressed which compromise our ability to act with the authority necessary to A) work closely with regional allies B)have the moral authority, and credibility, to use force and utilize international support when the situation calls for it (minimizing political opposition from important allies) C) encourage a debate among Arab societies themselves about the virtues of democratic governance D) limit the polarization of volatile societies, resulting in the delegitimization of moderate internal forces, among others. I understand that some of these goals will be unattainable in certain situations, and in other situations military action to prevent an imminent terrorist threat will have a higher priority for Western policy makers. As I said above, there is no cookie cutter solution. Constructive disengagement may be helpful in one situation (getting Syria out of Lebanon) and unhelpful in others (Bush's refusal to engage with Syria at present).

Communism did not collapse primarily by force, neither will political Islam. I dont oppose the use of force, I oppose the spirit of the original poster which places primacy on the military over political dimension of this conflict.
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BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 02:21 pm
I read your admirably phrased comment, Mr. Brookings. If I understand you correctly, you make a place for military action, but do not think it should be the primary means. That is a viable position but I find that the rest of your post is very vague-----so vague that I must go back to military action as the PRIMARY means unless you can explain SPECIFICALLY just how the primary means will work.

What specific non-military steps should be taken?

Do we go through the admirable process in the UN to assure that all of those non-military steps will be taken?

Do we try to use carrots by sending Iran technology to put thier non-threatening nuclear facilities in place so they can utilize those facilities for strictly peaceful means?

Do we give carrots to the Hezbollah by helping them restore the infrastructre in Southern Lebanon if they will SINCERELY PROMISE not to target Israel again?

Do we try to convince Israel to give the Palestinians back all of the land won by the Israelis in the 1967 war if the Palestinians SINCERELY PROMISE never to send suicide bombers or lob Mortars at Isreali villages?

Do we show our good intentions by allowing the Taliban in Afghanistan a large piece of the govenment there at this time if they SINCERLY PROMISE NEVER AGAIN TO BEAT WOMEN IN THE STREETS?

Do we show our good intentions by pulling out of Iraq before the end of the year if the Iranians SINCERELY PROMISE not to utilize thier already muscular influence in Iraq by flooding that country with Iranian Shiite agents?


In short, Mr. Brookings, what is your plan--SPECIFICALLY!!!!!
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hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 04:19 pm
BernardR - the US fought a passionate war of independence against England - compare that relationship to the one the US and the UK share today. Was it possible over night? No. Baby steps, diplomacy, the battle of ideas.

Your comment about Iran's shiite agents in Iraq is disingenuous, the majority of Iraq's population is already shiite, who bear a grudge against sunni's not only because of the catholic/protestant-like rivalry between their faiths, but also because Saddam Hussein was Sunni himself and favoured that section of society over others.

Also Iran had every right to call US the 'Great Satan' in the 1980s, after all the US did topple it's democratically elected government and install the Shah, who was only removed after a popular uprising - and then when Iraq attacked the nascent new state of Iran it did so with American training, aid and weapons. The numbers killed in that war alone would give every Iranian pause before considering the US a force for good.

If the lack of empathy or at least understanding of the 'other' side's position shown by you, MM, Tico et al reflects that of your administration I fear the US will have many more enemies before there is any sort of denouement in the middle east.
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BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 04:23 pm
Mr.Brookings- Are you there?
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Brookings
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 04:55 pm
"read your admirably phrased comment, Mr. Brookings. If I understand you correctly, you make a place for military action, but do not think it should be the primary means. That is a viable position but I find that the rest of your post is very vague-----so vague that I must go back to military action as the PRIMARY means unless you can explain SPECIFICALLY just how the primary means will work.

What specific non-military steps should be taken?"

I take issue with your insistence on describing the solution, as if there is a single broadly defined policy which will achieve our goal. But if you insist I can only say democratization. I will only briefly discuss specific policies, as it is a subject more adequately covered by a book or doctoral thesis. I'll also briefly talk about some on policies which have been adopted to date (for context), the constraints those policies have placed on our ability to achieve our goals (the limits of military power), and some possible policies which can be adopted which I believe will be more effective in the pursuit of a favorible Western endgame.

As is usually the case, such potential political policies are much more intricate, and difficult to explain than military solutions, so readers should note the immediate disadvantage which I am faced with. But, while terseness of argument may be a rhetorical advantage, it is often a result of shallow analytic depth.

I believe, much like the president, that the threat and appeal of terrorist ideologies would be greatly mitigated by the introduction of liberal democratic institutions to Middle Eastern states. But unlike the president, I'm much more critical about the ease and speed in which such a transformation can occur in the region.

The situation which we find ourselves in at this moment is one with considerable constraints, many a result of the militarily oriented policies of this administration.

Bush was both justified and correct in his decision to invade Afghanistan, as it was a nation which was providing both direct and passive support for the organization which killed 3,000 Americans. The United States was aided morally, militarily, and financially by most of the international community. Regional players were met with relatively little internal pressure to resist aiding the United States in its efforts to find and neutralize the Taliban and Al Quada in Afghanistan. The UN supplied peace keepers and a certain degree of international legitimization. (Note: since i know this will come up, it is obviously unreasonable to assume that US interests should be subserviant to UN mandate, however, it is also critical to appreciate the extent in which UN mandate is helpful (or hurtful) to the realization of certain policy goals. It is important for governments to plan accordingly)

However, the war in Iraq has certainly compromised our ability to deal with regional regimes, and much of the international community, on terms which optimize our interests. Various dimensions of the Iraq policy have weakened us internationally, not the least of which was a result of straying so far from the Powell/Scocroft doctrine. Doing so was risky enough, however, doing so without significant international support and an appropriate number of troops to secure quick stability was nothing short of folly. It is a well documented fact that democratic states, short of a visceral threat to that states existence, have a difficult time maintaing popular support for drawn out occupations of hostile foreign land due to the fickleness and inherent political influence provided to their polity. An historical trend which was seemingly brushed under the couch by this administration.

The dubiousness of the rhetoric used by the administration regarding the wars justification prior to the war to our allies(Powell at the UN), has undermined our ability to convincingly argue about the importance of stern reaction to future threats. Combine that with the overwhelming unpopularity of the war. The environment is one which is increasingly difficult for countries which we so desperately rely on for information regarding terrorism (namely the countries in which terrorist organizations operate Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia) to cooperate with our intelligence services.

Reliable Intelligence is the most important element to the military dimension in this conflicts operational success. Due to the nature of the United States' current intelligence community (which, unlike in decades past, relies mainly on satellite and electronic surveillance, rather than agents on the ground) is lacking a critical component which needs to be augmented by the proximity to critical areas that foreign intelligence services provide. Promoting policies which make it politically detrimental, (or even fatal) for foreign governments to cooperate with our services does not serve our interests. The war in Iraq has GREATLY hindered our war on terror.

Regardless, we are there now, a reality which I acknowledge and I have no interest in returning to the years old debate. What we need now are enlightened policies which will hopefully result in a better end than the likely outcomes of the present course.

The United States, instead of awarding so many contracts to American and Western companies, needs to start investing in regional companies. With unemployment at the its current rate, it is unsurprising that Iraqi's are disillusioned with the state of affairs. When the jobless rate is at such high levels it greatly contributes to political instability in any society.

The United States' needs to come out with an unequivocal condemnation of torture in all its forms, and reaffirm its commitment to the Geneva Convention regarding the norms of war. Information gained through torture is unreliable and should not be legitimated by its acceptance by the courts Torture should not be permitted by any society, it is important to maintain an international norm against its use.

The UN credibility and impotency problem needs to be addressed. The flaws of the United Nations are numerous, and I hardly need to tell them to the people here. Regardless, the importance of a multilateral institutional mandates is important in establishing legitimacy for most policies. Legitimacy, especially for a policy as inherently idealistic as democracy promotion is essential. Since the fact is that most of the countries in the United Nations are not democratic, and the choice of their representatives is not reflective of public support at home, but that of an entrenched, and many times despotic elite, it is unfair to proclaim that any international action which does not receive a UN mandate is illegitimate (as the many superfluous cases thrown against Israel show). It also contributes to the fact that many fundamentally humanitarian measures are stricken down. The fact that the Sudan has a say on the Human Rights board is inexcusable. The skepticism which many Americans view the UN is entirely justifiable. The creation and consolidation of more international institutions (perhaps like a league of democratic nations) could act as another source of legitimacy and support for policies which are humanitarian in nature and work towards the recognition of universal human rights. This is a controversial proposition, and has many potential downfalls, however, it is one which should receive more attention and analysis of which I am incapable of doing justice.

It is also important to convey the message to our hesitant allies that they have just as much to gain, or lose, in this campaign. Saudi Arabia's lack luster support of US security interests after September 11th quickly changed after Saudi Arabia itself was attacked in 2003. The Saudi's realized that it will ultimately suffer the wrath of the organizations which they had often let tacitly operate on their soil. Saudi Arabia since 2003 as greatly increased its anti-terrorism operations. Though public outrage could potentially boil over.

The disarmament of Libya is another case which a policy of carrots and sticks was effective. Despite what champions of this administration say, the normalization of relations with Libya was not a direct result of the invasion of Iraq., though that may have played some part. Carrots and sticks were used over an extended period of time to scare and lure Libya to accept some limitations on its sovereignty exchange for the gains that acceptance into the international community brought.

Back loaded incentives are important for securing genuine political change in many Middle East societies. Often incentives are given which promise X benefits for Y political reform. Such reform is made, X is given, but within short time political reform Y is devolved. Democratic institutions such as the EU provide back loaded incentives which force countries such as Turkey to initiate internal change on their own in order to gain membership (and its tasty financial incentive). This results in much stabler, self-regulating, nuanced, democratic institutions.

To treat this conflict as if it were of a military nature alone is asinine. To act as the only nonmilitarily oriented solutions there is the reliance on the viscitudes and promises of states (many of the worst in the world none-the-less) is equally so. There are hard nosed, yet constructive political avenues this conflict could, and should take if we want to ensure the safety of the United States, as well as the safety of the international environment for democratic governance.


"
0 Replies
 
BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 05:13 pm
Mr. Brookings- If I may I will react to your post by extracting some key elements, if you don't mind!

First, you say:


I believe, much like the president, that the threat and appeal of terrorist ideologies would be greatly mitigated by the introduction of liberal democratic institutions to Middle Eastern states. But unlike the president, I'm much more critical about the ease and speed in which such a transformation can occur in the region.

end of quote

HURRAY, HUZZAH, WONDERFUL, EXACT AND ON POINT.

But, I must tell you that I never read any comment by the President in which he referred to the "ease and speed' with which a transformation can occur in the region"
0 Replies
 
Brookings
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 05:23 pm
"But, I must tell you that I never read any comment by the President in which he referred to the "ease and speed' with which a transformation can occur in the region""

"* Feb. 7, 2003 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy: "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

A speech by the secretary of defense is a de facto statement of the political opinions of the administration, and the president.
And while you may protest "that is not a statement about regional democratic transformation" I say that it is undeniably implicit, and to think otherwise is willfull ignorance.
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BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 05:26 pm
0 Replies
 
BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 05:35 pm
Mr.Brookings wrote:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"But, I must tell you that I never read any comment by the President in which he referred to the "ease and speed' with which a transformation can occur in the region""

"* Feb. 7, 2003 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy: "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

A speech by the secretary of defense is a de facto statement of the political opinions of the administration, and the president.
And while you may protest "that is not a statement about regional democratic transformation" I say that it is undeniably implicit, and to think otherwise is willfull ignorance.

*****************************************************

You have a good point Mr. Brookings. I am sure that you realize that the Secretary of Defense may have been quite aware of the political implictions of the statement he could have made--

eg I'm not sure. It is possible it could last for years>

He didn't choose to go that way, obviously!!
0 Replies
 
Brookings
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Aug, 2006 06:07 pm
I hope you'll understand if I dont make a response to that article at this point, perhaps later. It's quite long and i should get to the gym tonight. Its been an invigorating chat though, cheers.
0 Replies
 
BernardR
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Aug, 2006 01:22 am
I don't mind waiting for your response, Mr. Brookings. I find your posts higly organized and logical--Much more appealing in terms of doing some real debating and interchanging of ideas in a rational and convivial way.

Cheers to you- sir!!!
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