November 28, 2005

A fraught but worthy mission (BOB RAE, 11/28/05, Toronto Star)

The decision by the U.S./U.K.-led coalition to invade Iraq in the spring of 2003 had several consequences. One was the ouster and eventual capture of Saddam Hussein. Another was the unleashing of forces that the brutality of the dictatorship had kept under firm control for generations: a religious Shiite movement, largely in the south, which seeks to see more traditional values enshrined and protected in the constitution; and a movement of people who had been unable to express themselves for decades and who want a liberal, secular democracy, with groups advocating women’s rights, greater academic freedom, environmental protection, the protection of minorities, and the modernization of the Iraqi economy.

The Kurds were strong supporters of the invasion because it meant that their oppressor would finally be brought to book, and it could ultimately provide a protected constitutional status within a federal Iraq.

The decision to disband the Iraqi army and police and prohibit members of the Ba’athist regime from participating in civic life had far greater effect than was realized at the time, with two major consequences: first, a vacuum in the maintenance of civil order, which left foreign armies to assume basic police responsibilities; and second, a large and idle army of the downwardly mobile and disaffected.

A huge portion of the public sector lost their jobs, their vocation, and their pensions. They were, for the most part, Sunni, and now form an important base for the domestic insurgency that has engulfed Iraq since President GeorgeBush’s declaration of an end to major combat operations two years ago.

To this maelstrom add the terrorism of the Osama bin Laden surrogates, led in Iraq by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who has used the vacuum of civil order in Iraq as a breeding and recruiting ground; neighbouring countries, each with a different stake in Iraq’s continuing failure and weakness, and a tribalism whose full force had been pushed down by Saddam’s army and bureaucracy, but which now has very little to hold it back.

What is remarkable is that given these conditions and the consequent level of violence, some constitutional progress has been made. […]

Federalism, it is said, is essentially a foreign idea, a Western idea. It has no place in an Islamic state.

“Federalism will lead to separatism” is the next argument. It is an imported ideology that will put Iraq in a rigid straightjacket from which it will never emerge. The world, the oil companies, the West, will pick at Iraq’s remains. These arguments must be answered.

The demand for federalism has come from Iraqis themselves. Every federal country is different. There is certainly no single path to federalism. It is an approach, not an ideology.

The evidence would also show that, far from leading to separatism, an effective federalism counteracts those determined to break up a country.

By insisting on one language, one religion, one official identity, it could reasonably be argued that a dominant majority gives a smaller nationality no reason to stay.

It is the abuse of majority power that fuels the secessionist urge, not the dispersal and sharing of power, which is at the core of the federalist idea.

The key is “effective federalism,” which is different from confederation. The central government must have the sovereign capacity to relate to each citizen, to maintain the defence and foreign affairs of the country, and to ensure an economy where goods, services, commerce, and people are mobile.

If Iraq’s regions are feudal fiefdoms, separatism will indeed be built into the constituent parts but not because of federalism. After all, the idea of building a stronger and more perfect union is as important a part of the federal project as is the recognition of the particular nature of different regions.

Just as the myth of the ethnically homogeneous state denies the reality of diversity, the borders and powers of the regions themselves should not be based on notions of ethnic exclusivity.

Assyrians, Turkmen, Aziris and others have expressed strong anxiety that their interests would be lost in some simplistic ethnic carve-up. Given the absence of any strong pattern of protecting the rights of minorities, their concerns are understandable. Modern federal practices have made a consistent point of not allowing provincial or states’ rights to squelch human right

The built-in beauty is that by giving the majority power you allow them to be more tolerant of minorities they needn’t fear and at the same time apply pressure for conformity to those minorities, so that the whole system reinforces stability.



November 28, 2005

Blair too weak to win deal, says Chirac (David Rennie in Brussels and Anton La Guardia in Barcelona, 29/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

In an attempt to break the deadlock over the next EU budget, the Prime Minister is proposing to slash nearly £17 billion from an earlier budget proposal that failed to find agreement in June. The British plan represents a cut of £120 billion from an initial spending plan put forward by the European Commission.

Most of the pain will be felt by the 10 newest members of the EU, mostly ex-Communist states, because the budget preserves both agricultural subsidies championed by France and the multi-billion pound annual British rebate. But as Mr Blair prepared to fly to eastern Europe this week to sell his scaled-down budget as being in the “true interest” of the new member states, Mr Chirac poured cold water on the chances of a deal by Britain, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU until the end of the year.

Speaking a few rooms from where Mr Blair was giving the closing press conference at a summit of European and Mediterranean countries in Barcelona, Mr Chirac said: “The United Kingdom has a very difficult mission. It is relatively isolated on the financial perspective.”

Now would be the perfect moment for Tory leadership–if they had any yet–to step forward and say that no deal is better than one on French terms. If it breaks the EU, so be it.


November 28, 2005

The US knows it will have to talk to the Iraqi resistance: Even Lebanon was not as terrifying as the random menace of occupied Iraq. But the violence could be brought under control (Zaki Chehab, November 25, 2005, The Guardian)

Many Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq are convinced that Washington’s message to the Shia and Kurdish leaderships, after Condoleezza Rice’s first visit to Iraq in May, to allow Sunnis to participate in the political process, was an important US admission that mistakes had been made and needed to be corrected. But they also believe that the political process in Iraq has yet to put them on anything like the same footing as the Shia and Kurds. As a result, large numbers feel the attacks are the only way to ensure their interests are taken on board.

An end to violence in Iraq will not happen while the occupation continues. But against all expectations, it is not impossible for the situation to be brought under greater control if Sunnis are given a role similar to that of the Shia and Kurds. When they feel that their areas are beginning to benefit from reconstruction and their men are allowed to go back to their jobs in state institutions and the army, from which they were expelled as a result of de-Ba’athification, there is little doubt that the situation could improve.

It was, of course, the Sunni themselves who boycotted the process, but their recognition that it was a mistake–even if they feel it necessary to blame others–is all to the good. Even better if they’ve finally figured out that they’re the main beneficiaries of federalism in a state where they’re only 20% of the population.


November 28, 2005

Bush to Asia: Freedom is More than Markets (Dan Blumenthal, Thomas Donnelly, November 28, 2005, Washington Post)

Obscured by the unblinking spotlight on Iraq, the most significant strategic development of President Bush’s second term is occurring in the shadows. If it can overcome the well-entrenched yet outdated policies of the past, the Bush Doctrine may be coming to East Asia, and the mere possibility is making foreign policy realists run the way the citizens of celluloid Tokyo used to run from Godzilla or the giant winged Mothra.

The president’s just-concluded Asian trip bore signs that his devotion to democracy is beginning to shape American strategy beyond the “greater Middle East,” calling into question the policy of economic engagement and the belief in the democratizing power of free trade that Washington has followed up until now. And military preparations are underway to give substance to the rhetoric of liberty. […]

The rhetoric and the realignment have alarmed some traditional Asian hands, who have invested decades in a policy of engagement. A recent New York Times editorial reflected the concern, fretting that the “Bush administration has been going out of its way to build up its military ties with countries surrounding China.” Leaving aside the editorial’s assertion that the “two most troubling” examples of Bush’s alliance-building are the region’s two most powerful democracies–Japan and India–what is the alternative? Would the engagement crowd favor a unilateral approach to counterbalancing China’s power? Does anyone really mean we should move out of the way and let authoritarian China become the dominant power in Asia?

Many foreign policy realists and Asia hands take China’s view that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is worrisomely nationalistic. But in Bush’s view, Koizumi is a longtime ally with “common values, common interests, and a common commitment to freedom,” as he said in his Kyoto speech. These are the same words Bush used this past July in a summit with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which Bush’s critics also faulted. Never mind the potential for a broad strategic partnership, the critics said, India is not committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Yes, but like Japan, India is more likely part of the solution in Asia, rather than the problem.

A reshaping of the U.S. defense relationship with Japan has been in the works for more than a decade. The United States will reposition its forces and base a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in a Japanese port when the non-nuclear USS Kitty Hawk is retired from active service. The United States and Japan will also work together more closely on common security concerns.

This new combination of Bush Doctrine rhetoric and military reposturing represents more than a hedge against the traditional American approach to the region, particularly when it comes to dealing with Beijing.

While China’s inevitably going to arrive at the End of History, it would be irresponsible not to be prepared to squash them in the meantime and un-American not to keep pushing them in the right direction.


November 28, 2005

BREAKING RANKS: What turned Brent Scowcroft against the Bush Administration? (JEFFREY GOLDBERG, 2005-10-31, The New Yorker)

Scowcroft is a protégé of Henry Kissinger—he was his deputy when Kissinger was Richard Nixon’s national-security adviser. Like Kissinger, he is a purveyor of a “realist” approach to foreign policy: the idea that America should be guided by strategic self-interest, and that moral considerations are secondary at best. […]

The war began on January 16, 1991. An air campaign that lasted five weeks greatly weakened Iraq’s military capabilities. On February 24th, General Schwarzkopf, the commander of American and allied forces, unleashed a ground attack that quickly turned into a rout; the Iraqi Army collapsed, and its soldiers fled Kuwait on foot. The road to Baghdad was clear, but, on Bush’s instruction, the Americans did not take it. Although Bush had publicly compared Saddam to Hitler, the goal was never to liberate Iraq from his rule. “Our military didn’t want any part of occupying that big Arab country, and the only way to get Saddam was to go all the way to Baghdad,” James Baker told me recently.

Afterward, Bush was criticized for the decision to end the ground war at its hundredth hour. Even some officials of the Administration were unhappy at what they saw as a premature end to the fighting. In “Rise of the Vulcans,” James Mann recounts that Paul Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby, who were then aides to Cheney, believed that a coup d’état might have occurred had the Bush Administration waited to announce that the war was over.

At the time, though, no one close to Bush expressed doubts about the ending of the war, much less about its strategic goal. “For a bunch of years, a lot of people who should know better have said that we had an alternative,” Powell told me. “We didn’t. The simple reason is we were operating under a U.N. mandate that did not provide for any such thing. We put together a strong coalition of Gulf states, and Egypt and Syria, and they signed up for a very specific issue—expelling Iraq from Kuwait. Nor did President Bush ever consider it.”

A principal reason that the Bush Administration gave no thought to unseating Saddam was that Brent Scowcroft gave no thought to it. […]

Rice’s conversion to the world view of George W. Bush is still a mystery, however. Privately, many of her ex-colleagues from the first President Bush’s National Security Council say that it is rooted in her Christian faith, which leads her to see the world in moralistic terms, much as the President does. Although she was tutored by a national-security adviser, Scowcroft, who thought it intemperate of Ronald Reagan to call the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” she now works comfortably for a President who speaks in terms of “evildoers” and the “axis of evil.”

Rice’s split with her former National Security Council colleagues was made evident at a dinner in early September of 2002, at 1789, a Georgetown restaurant. Scowcroft, Rice, and several people from the first Bush Administration were there. The conversation, turning to the current Administration’s impending plans for Iraq, became heated. Finally, Rice said, irritably, “The world is a messy place, and someone has to clean it up.” The remark stunned the other guests. Scowcroft, as he later told friends, was flummoxed by Rice’s “evangelical tone.”

Scowcroft told me that he still has a high regard for Rice. He did note, however, that her “expertise is in the former Soviet Union and Europe. Less on the Middle East.” Rice, through a spokesman, said, “Sure, we’ve had some differences, and that’s understandable. But he’s a good friend and is going to stay a good friend.”

Yet the two do not see each other much anymore. According to friends of Scowcroft, Rice has asked him to call her to set up a dinner, but he has not, apparently, pursued the invitation. The last time the two had dinner, nearly two years ago, it ended unhappily, Scowcroft acknowledged. “We were having dinner just when Sharon said he was going to pull out of Gaza,” at the end of 2003. “She said, ‘At least there’s some good news,’ and I said, ‘That’s terrible news.’ She said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said that for Sharon this is not the first move, this is the last move. He’s getting out of Gaza because he can’t sustain eight thousand settlers with half his Army protecting them. Then, when he’s out, he will have an Israel that he can control and a Palestinian state atomized enough that it can’t be a problem.” Scowcroft added, “We had a terrible fight on that.”

They also argued about Iraq. “She says we’re going to democratize Iraq, and I said, ‘Condi, you’re not going to democratize Iraq,’ and she said, ‘You know, you’re just stuck in the old days,’ and she comes back to this thing that we’ve tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth,” he said. Then a barely perceptible note of satisfaction entered his voice, and he said, “But we’ve had fifty years of peace.”

Tell it to an Israeli, a Marsh Arab, a Kurd, a Kuwaiti….


November 28, 2005

“There is a Real Fear of Radical Imams” (Der Spiegel, 11/28/05)

The recent riots across France have raised new questions about the integration of immigrants into European society. Muslims have faced particular scrutiny following terrorist attacks in Spain and Britain. SPIEGEL ONLINE interviewed Jytte Klausen, the author of a new book looking at the challenges from the perspective of European Muslim leaders. […]

SPIEGEL: Some countries, like Germany, are already taking steps to foster the growth of a so-called “Euro-Islam” and you mention in the conclusion to the book that you believe this European Islam is emerging. How would you characterize it?

Klausen: The revolutionary new Islam is what is called Islam of the Book, and it is based very much on an individual’s own readings of the Koran, on each person sitting down as part of a prayer group and figuring out what Islam means to them. Usually there is no imam, and everybody has the same relationship to Islam because they can all read the text. That is already the Islam of Europe, the Islam of the next generation, the inter-ethnic Islam. It is all about a textual reading of the Koran, in local languages, and there are broad variations of interpretation, everything from neo-orthodox understandings where people say: “I must wear the hijab, because that’s what the book tells me.” Other groups say: “There is nothing in the Koran which tells women they must wear a hijab, only that both men and women should be dressed modestly.” I think what is important is that when European governments step in and try and resolve issues around Islam, that they are attuned to this diversity, that they do not just work with traditionalists, because if they do, then we are going to short-change that new thinking which is going on and which should be stimulated and encouraged.

What’s important is that if you recognize the bases of Western Civilization you can Reform Islam so that it conforms to them.

Non-Christian clerics urge the Kirk to push religious teaching in schools (EDDIE BARNES, 11/27/05, Scotland on Sunday)

HINDU and Muslim leaders are urging the Kirk to boost religious teaching in schools in order to counter the “secular society”.

David Lacy, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said senior clerics from other faiths were now telling him to offer a more “strident” view of Christian beliefs, in order to provide young people with more moral teaching.

The non-Christian leaders added that the Kirk had been “too concerned” with being inclusive at the expense of laying down its own beliefs in schools.

The surprising calls come with religious communities preparing to mark Scottish Inter Faith Week from today, in which the links between the country’s main faiths will be celebrated.

Their leaders will present the Scottish Parliament with a framed compilation of quotes from their respective scriptures which support the values engraved on the Scottish Mace.

PAGING DAVID CAMERON (via Robert Schwartz):

November 27, 2005

Brussels publishes list of first seven pan-European crimes (Anthony Browne, 11/24/05, Times of London)

The ruling means that for the first time in legal history, a British government and Parliament will no longer have the sovereign right to decide what constitutes a crime and what the punishment should be.

The highly controversial announcement, made possible by a European Court of Justice ruling in September, would represent a huge transfer of power from national capitals to the EU. At present member states jealously guard their right to decide what constitutes a criminal offence, and when their citizens should be fined, imprisoned or given criminal records.

The Commission suggested several other offences, including racial discrimination and intellectual property theft, which could become European crimes in the future. It will also set out the level of penalty, such as length of prison sentence, that would apply to each crime.

The announcement is strongly opposed by Britain and many other member states. The Commission is using powers granted by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the EU’s supreme court, and governments fear that there is little they can do to prevent it. The court ruled that the EU had the right to require member states to create criminal offences, and could dictate the length of prison sentences.

The case before the court in September applied only to environmental law, but the Commission says it means that it can create criminal penalties to enforce the entire body of EU law. A Commission statement said that the court’s reasoning can be applied “to all Community policies and freedoms which involve binding legislation with which criminal penalties should be associated in order to ensure their effectiveness”.

The Tories can break Labour, Europe or both if they use this well.