Saturday, April 30, 2005

A Call To Action

A Call To Action

Letting in the Draft
By Michael Schwartz,
Posted on April 30, 2005, Printed on April 30, 2005

After two years of intensive fighting in Iraq, the Pentagon is feeling the strain in every military muscle and has been looking for relief in just about every direction but one -- the draft. All across the United States today, young people are wondering whether, sooner or later, in its increasingly airless military universe, the Bush administration will open the window a crack and let the draft in.

A key reason for the ever-more-evident strain on military resources is that more than 40% of the 150,000 soldiers in Iraq are Army Reserves and National Guards. As Army Historian Renee Hylton told Salon reporter Jeff Horowitz, use of these forces creates pressure to "win and get out...there's a definite limit to people's service." When they are called to active duty, these troops risk their jobs as well as their lives; so, when their mandatory two-year terms expire, a significant proportion of them, under the best of circumstances, are likely to refuse further service. And service in Iraq has already proved something less than the best of circumstances. Little wonder then that, just past the two year anniversary of our invasion, the military is under increasing pressure to replenish this crucial element in the recruitment mix -- without much of an idea of how to do so.

In addition, in order to maintain troop strength in Iraq at anything like present levels, large numbers of active-duty soldiers must return there for more than one nine-month tour of duty, and this redeployment too generates distrust and distaste. Sooner or later, sizeable numbers of these angry soldiers must nevertheless be convinced to re-enlist, or else the pressure for new enlistees will escalate out of control and beyond the bounds of the present system to satisfy.

Add to this a constantly increasing casualty toll, now well beyond 30,000, which, in a variety of ways, places yet more pressure on recruitment. Finally, as embittered double-deployment veterans and angry Reserves, along with wounded and mentally stressed dischargees, return home, they only stiffen the resistance to enlistment among the young in their neighborhoods.

None of this was anticipated at the start of the Iraq war by Bush administration officials; they were confident that the American military could topple Saddam Hussein's government and pacify any left-over "dead end" loyalists of the old regime in about three months. Defense Department figures, reported by the Washington Post on March 19, projected reductions in American troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan from just over 200,000 at the time of the invasion to about 125,000 by September 2003; to 50,000 six months later; and -- not counting troops left to garrison the permanent bases -- to zero by the end of 2004.

They were wrong, of course. Troop levels, after declining according to plan during the summer of 2003, began climbing again as the resistance grew -- in response to a deepening economic and infrastructural disaster, and to the brutal nature of the American military occupation. With some fluctuations, since the beginning of 2004 the numbers of boots on the ground in Iraq have remained at about the 150,000 level (not counting expensive private "security contractors" hired by the Pentagon and private firms) -- almost double the number that the U.S. could hope to sustain in the long run, given the force levels of the present volunteer military.

Several recent reports have documented the depth of the impending crisis, including a detailed analysis of troop strengths by Ann Tyson in the Washington Post. So far, over one million U.S. military personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some 341,000 already doing the dreaded double-deployments (and many now entering triple-deployment territory). The military has moved troops into Iraq from all over the world, including previously untouchable Cold War detachments in Korea, Germany, and Alaska, and it's still "scrambling" to keep 17 battalions regularly in Iraq, many severely undermanned. These shortages have led to an increasing dependence on expensive private security contractors, who themselves add to the Pentagon's recruitment problems by hiring away otherwise re-upable military personnel for four times the wages paid in the Army.

To make matters worse, the Defense Department (to protect against a crisis elsewhere) has decided, with Congressional authorization, to increase the overall size of active-duty forces by 30,000, which can only amplify the retention/recruitment crunch.

Recruitment: Entering Freefall

Last fall the military embarked on a Herculean set of efforts to meet these daunting demands. It manufactured a 40% increase in the pool of candidates available for the Guard and Reserve by relaxing entry standards and raising the enlistment age to 40 years. It added thousands of new recruiters (1400 for the National Guard alone) and equipped them with an array of new inducements, including signing bonuses as high as $20,000 (for those with previous experience) and up to $70,000 in college credits for new enlistees. Re-enlistment bonuses, depending on specialty, can now reach $100,000. The Defense Department also launched a new $180 million recruitment campaign that includes "sponsorship of a rodeo cowboy, ads on ESPN, and a 24 hour web site that allows users to chat with recruiters...24 hours a day." In a special effort to help the most stressed service, the military is offering six million dollars of recruitment money in exchange for the right to name the home of the new Washington Nationals baseball team National Guard Stadium.

The most dramatic of the new measures were aimed at inducing (or coercing) personnel to remain in the military beyond their enlistment contracts. Tom Reeves, author of The End of the Draft and longtime observer of draft policy, reports that 40,000 soldiers have already been retained by using the notorious "stop-loss" system, which allows the Army unilaterally to keep soldiers for up to 18 months beyond the date their enlistment is scheduled to terminate. This is essentially a more bureaucratic and politer form of the old British method of "impressment," also known as Shanghaiing. There is now a Congressional investigation into persistent reports that short-timers -- those with less then a year or so left on their enlistment contracts -- are being told that re-enlistment will guarantee a non-combat assignment, while refusal to re-enlist will lead to an Iraqi deployment during the remainder of their service. While the Defense Department denies that such blackmail-style practices are taking place, they do admit that station "stabilization" -- a pre-agreed upon duty station away from Iraq -- has become a major incentive for re-enlistment.

Such military efforts were augmented by what may be the ultimate sign of military desperation: the call-up of 5,500 members of the "Individual Ready Reserves." As Reeves notes, these are "older men and women whose regular reserve duty has ended -- including grandmothers and grandfathers edging toward retirement...who have no idea they would be recalled to duty." It is hardly surprising that nearly one-third of these superannuated reserves have refused to report. Nor is it surprising that modest signs of rebellion are appearing inside what was, until recently, a volunteer military. The Los Angeles Times, for instance, has documented cases of National Guard soldiers protesting inadequate equipment and 60 Minutes, among other places, has reported at least 5500 desertions among the troops, largely to avoid deployment or redeployment to Iraq.

Worse yet, from the Pentagon's point of view, even its most far-reaching and draconian efforts seem to be failing. Re-enlistment levels in both the Army and the Guard have now slipped below quota, and Reuters reports that this shortfall can be expected to get dramatically worse once larger numbers of soldiers reach that 18-month stop-loss limit. New recruitment appears to be entering freefall, with the most drastic declines among African Americans, who traditionally make up 25% of the volunteer army. January and February recorded the first Marine recruitment shortfalls in a decade; while the army is running 6% below targets for the year. Hardest hit have been the Reserves, with a 10% decline, and the Army National Guard at 26%. These units are in full crisis, with the Guard already announcing it will not reach full strength in 2005, and Reserve Commander General James Helmly stating that "overuse" is making his units into "a broken force." Reeves reports that even the military academies have suffered 15% to 25% declines in applications for admission. To make matters worse, as USA Today has reported, the anti-war movement has begun (with at least some success) targeting the recruitment process. (A meticulous account by activist Peter Charaek of one successful protest in Oregon can be found on the Jeff Rense website.)

Major General Michael D. Rochelle, the man in charge of army recruiting, told New York Times reporter Damien Cave that the recruitment crisis constituted the "toughest challenge to the all-volunteer army" since its inception in 1973.

The Iraqi Armed Forces: Replacement Killers?

Optimistic reports that our local military allies will soon begin to replace American troops follow a familiar pattern of miraculous overstatement (first established in Vietnam decades ago), as reporter Timothy Phelps documented in a March 21 article in Newsday that reviewed the history of American attempts to build Iraqi military forces. In the spring of 2004, official (and unofficial) Bush administration reports claimed the existence of 206,000 fully trained Iraqi troops. To the surprise of those who had accepted these claims, none of them fought successfully in the major battles that April (in Falluja, Najaf, or Sadr City). Most deserted beforehand, refused to fight, or fled under fire. A measurable minority, however, did fight ferociously -- for the resistance, using American-supplied weapons and equipment.

By fall 2004, though the U.S. was publicly claiming 135,000 "combat ready" Iraqi troops, one military official told New York Times reporter John Burns that as few as 1,500 Iraqi troops were actually fully trained. This was vividly demonstrated in the second battle of Falluja, when only Kurdish militia units imported from the north fought successfully alongside the Americans. The official Iraqi Army units resisted, either through mutiny or desertion, or by defecting to the other side. Kalev Sepp, a counterinsurgency expert at the Naval Postgraduate School told Newsday's Phelps that the second battle of Falluja was largely fought against Iraqis who had been "trained and equipped by Americans."

Then came Rear Admiral William Sullivan's report to Congress in Spring 2005 which spoke of 145,000 "combat capable," "new" Iraqi armed forces. This claim was disputed -- by of all people -- Sabah Hadhum, a spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. He told the British Telegraph reporter Anton La Guardia, "We are paying about 135,000 (members of the security services) but that does not necessarily mean that 135,000 are actually working." As many as 50,000 of these may actually be what he termed "ghost soldiers"-- men not on duty but whose paychecks were being pocketed either by their officers or themselves.

Newsday's investigative report confirms Hadhum's negative assertion. Just under 40,000 of the reported 145,000 armed forces turn out to be holdovers from the old Iraqi National Guard. According to Army experts, they had received the same "haphazard training," as their predecessors (who refused to fight) and could be relied upon to do nothing except receive their paychecks.

Another 55,000 were Iraqi police whose unwillingness to confront the guerrillas has become legendary. The Deputy Governor of Nineveh province -- where the Iraqi "northern capital," Mosul, is located -- accused the 14,000 police there of being "in league" with the resistance. He assured reporter Patrick Cockburn of the British Independent that his bodyguards "don't tell them our movements," since he suspects them of trying to assassinate him. Military expert Kalev Sepp told Newsday the U.S. military had concluded that "70 percent of the police in Anwar province are insurgents or sympathizers," with substantial infiltration elsewhere as well. (According to Sepp, even "one infiltrator with access to intelligence" could give the enemy "forewarning," so imagine what a 20%-70% infiltration rate might do.)

According to Rear Admiral Sullivan, only a meager 14,000 troops were fully trained units in the "new Iraqi army," the first beneficiaries of what Burns of the Times called a "$5 billion American-financed effort." These troops had not, however, yet endured a major battle, and some of the American troops who worked with them evidently considered them worthless. As one trooper told London Times reporter Anthony Loyd, "I'm more scared of going out with these guys than clashing with the insurgents." According to Los Angeles Times reporter David Zuccino, even the 205th Iraqi Army Brigade, "considered the country's best unit by many U.S. trainers," had been infiltrated by insurgents. And Army Staff Sergeant Craig Patrick, one of the advisers in charge of training the Iraqis told Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru, "It's all about perception, to convince the American public that everything is going as planned and we're right on schedule to be out of here. I mean, they can [mislead] the American people, but they can't [mislead] us. These guys are not ready."

Nevertheless, in mid-February, Burns reported that two brigades of this new force "became the first home grown unit to take operational responsibility for any combat zone in Iraq," the restive Haifa neighborhood in Baghdad.

The remaining 30,000 troops in Sullivan's count were vaguely defined military personnel commanded by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. In the long run, U.S. military leadership hopes that these will become the Iraqi equivalent of the U.S. Special Forces, and will constitute a new secret police or other sinister entities. In the meantime, they are, it seems, largely incapable of confronting the resistance. In their first solo effort, reported in the New York Times, between 500 and 700 members of the First Police Commando Battalion, with air support from the American military, could not capture a training camp containing under 100 guerrillas. Eventually, U.S. ground forces were needed, and even then, the guerrillas might have escaped.

In a recent report to the Carnegie Endowment, military expert Jeffrey Miller concluded that the "gap" between the forces needed to handle the security situation in Iraq and the actual strength of the Iraqi military had doubled in the past year, raising "grave doubts about the...hope for success" of the strategy of transferring responsibility to the Iraqi military. Certainly, no such transfer can succeed in time to allow for a comfortable transition before the onset of the recruitment crisis now facing the American military.

Does Anyone Feel a Draft Coming In?

As the strain on the U.S. military continues to build, so does the pressure on policy. The only option that does not imply the sacrifice of many more American lives and magnitudes more Iraqi lives may be the withdrawal of American troops, but this option is "unthinkable" to the Bush administration -- and to its loyal Democratic opposition, not to speak of the bulk of the mainstream media. Only the American people (according to the most recent Marist Poll) -- and the rest of the world -- consider it "thinkable."

According to former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, avoiding this unthinkable option would require "500,000 troops, $500 billion and the resumption of the military draft." The need for a draft has been seconded by a wide range of military experts, including then-presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, who, in 2004, said the U.S. needed to start "thinking about the draft"; frequent Pentagon advisor Colonel David Hackworth, who called the draft a "no-brainer in '05 and '06"; and Charles Moskos, adviser to four presidents on military manpower, who declared that "we cannot achieve the number of troops we need in Iraq without a draft." Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris and national security analyst Philip Carter articulated what might be the most comprehensive argument, calling for what a "21st Century draft," that would "create a cascading series of benefits," including turning the tide in Iraq.

Despite this crescendo of advocacy by friends and foes of administration policy, government insiders continue to tread very lightly on the issue. The Project for a New American Century, the policy planning group that developed significant aspects of current foreign policy, has called for several years of 25,000 troop increments to the military, but they have not indicated how this could be done. Secretary of the Army, Francis J. Harvey, after "bursting into laughter" when asked about the draft, stated, "The D-word is the farthest thing from my thoughts." And President Bush has repeatedly re-asserted his commitment to keeping the volunteer army.

The deal-breaker for the administration may be exactly what they have repeatedly said since talk of the draft burst onto the scene during the 2004 election campaign -- the experience of Vietnam gave a conscripted army a bad name. The current volunteer army (even if its recruitment involves large elements of coercion and manipulation) is better suited for the sorts of wars the U.S. is fighting, they believe, and any move toward the draft would severely undermine commitment to such wars, both inside and outside the army. Even such partisan advocates as Glastris and Carter concede this problem, though they offer what they feel are viable ways of getting around it.

But if the draft advocates eventually persuade the administration that a conscripted army is viable, I believe they would still have to overcome a second layer of reluctance among decision-makers in charge of military policy: a fear that the draft will specifically alienate those who currently endorse the war in Iraq. Pro-war partisans rest much of their support of administration foreign policy on the expectation that the January 30 election was a turning point, that the battle of Falluja disabled the resistance, that Iraqi troops will be ready to handle the guerrillas in the not-too-distant future -- and that American troops will soon be brought home at least reasonably victorious. The reinstitution of a draft would constitute an admission that these beliefs are so many illusions. In all likelihood, therefore, any relaxation of the unequivocal opposition to the draft in the administration would indeed precipitate a sharp erosion of the war's already eroding base. Opposition might then reach the critical mass needed to make withdrawal "thinkable."

But this reluctance to embrace the draft leaves the Bush Administration in a knot of a dilemma. Without rejuvenating the armed forces, the situation in Iraq is likely to remain at best undecided, and even a stalemated situation would constitute a mighty blow against the administration's larger foreign policy goals. The goal of unilateral American dominance in global politics and in global markets depends on the image and reality of American military invincibility, so that -- with each passing day -- the lack of victory in Iraq undermines the credibility of Washington's threats to force regime change wherever "rogue states" resist its diplomatic will. As Carter and Glastris wrote in their Washington Monthly article, "America has a choice. It can be the world's superpower, or it can maintain the current all-volunteer military, but it probably can't do both."

For many Americans, the de-escalation of American imperial ambition is an attractive alternative to further war and a conscripted army. But for the Bush Administration, this alternative is just as unthinkable as the draft. They are stuck, therefore, between Iraq and a hard place.

The solution thus far has involved a contradictory and unstable set of pronouncements and policies. Rhetorically, the administration has continued to reaffirm its commitment to a no-draft military and its promise to pursue "preventive wars" of all sorts. At the same time, its officials have taken specific steps meant to give them added flexibility. As Reeves has documented, they have been quietly erecting the Selective Service System (SSS) needed for a future draft. In March, the SSS issued a report assuring the president that "it would be ready to implement a draft within 75 days" after Congressional authorization. Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, told reporter Eric Rosenberg of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the SSS already has in place "a special system to register and draft health care personnel" and that they were undertaking active planning for "a special skills draft" aimed at computer programmers and language specialists. These programs would be ready for implementation any time the need arose.

News of this high level of preparedness has added to already widespread rumors of a renewed draft, and has fed speculation that the government was perhaps waiting for a dramatic event which would justify the draft without jeopardizing support for the war -- perhaps an internal terrorist attack, or an authentic (or U.S. precipitated) crisis elsewhere.

Fitted together with this posture of waiting is a shift in military tactics in Iraq. General Richard Cody, the Army's second ranking general, told New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt that "a shift from combat operations" to American "leadership" over Iraqi troops has been underway since the January 30 election. Babakr Badarkhan Ziabri, the Iraqi commanding general, told the Arabic language paper Al-Zaman that American troops would withdraw into bases within six months, emerging only when Iraqi troops needed support, but avoiding offensive operations.

While this military strategy could slow or halt the disintegration of the forces stationed there (and lessen the wear and tear on their dangerously fraying equipment), it has already proven quite detrimental for the "pacification" effort. In early April, for example, the Washington Post quoted U.S. officials conceding that "many attacks have gone unchallenged by Iraqi forces in large areas of the country dominated by insurgents." At the same time, the Shia resistance, led by young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's forces, has re-emerged as a major force in many cities of the South.

These new strategies, therefore, are likely in the long run to further erode the U.S. military position and strengthen the resistance, and so may lead -- as Nixon's Vietnamization program did decades ago -- to the increased use of American air power against resistance strongholds. Such a strategy would promise an intolerable rate of civilian casualties, as well as the devastation of homes and neighborhoods wherever the resistance is strong. This, in turn, would, of course, only heighten support for the guerrillas and increase pressure on American forces.

The Bush administration is likely to find itself increasingly trapped between Iraq and a hard place, wound in an ever-tightening knot of failing policy and falling support, at the heart of which lies a decision about reconstituting a draft. How this will resolve itself will be one of the complex dramas of our time.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fw: Help Strengthen Nuclear Nonproliferation

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie"
To: "Miriam Vieni"
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2005 4:33 PM
Subject: FCNL: Help Strengthen Nuclear Nonproliferation

Next week representatives from over 150 governments will gather in New
York to review implementation and compliance with their commitments
under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This treaty codifies
one of the most important international security bargains of our time:
states without nuclear weapons pledge not to acquire them, while
nuclear-armed states commit to eventually give them up. Through this
bargain, the NPT has made the United States and the world safer by
restraining many countries that would otherwise have developed nuclear

The 2005 NPT review conference, which runs from May 2 to 27, is a vital
opportunity for the United States and the international community to
recommit to the treaty's goals for both nonproliferation and

Our increasingly interconnected world demands actions to prevent the
spread of nuclear weapons. It will take a shared effort from nuclear
and non-nuclear countries to build a world free from the threat of
nuclear weapons. The NPT is the cornerstone of just such an approach.

President Bush and Congress should make it the policy of the United
States to pursue a balanced set of reinforcing nonproliferation

* More should be done to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons
technology and materials through tighter controls on nuclear weapons
technologies and a redoubling of efforts to secure nuclear materials in
the former Soviet Union.

* To prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to new countries, the
authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor
compliance with the NPT should be expanded. The U.S. should pursue more
effective diplomacy to halt the nuclear weapons programs of Iran and
North Korea.

* The United States should abandon efforts to pursue a new generation
of "usable" nuclear weapons, often described as "bunker

* The United States must uphold its end of the bargain by implementing
deeper, verifiable nuclear reductions. It should support the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, as well as a treaty banning the
production of weapons-usable nuclear materials.

There are Many Ways You Can Help Strengthen the NPT.

1. Convey your concerns about nuclear nonproliferation in the absence
of a viable NPT agreement. Urge Congress to reaffirm support for the
NPT. The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a good deal that must be
honored, and the United States should lead by example in lending its
support to the world's best defense against the world's deadliest

Urge Congress to make it the policy of the United States to seriously
engage in multilateral efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons
in the upcoming review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. In particular, urge House members to cosponsor H.Con.Res. 133.
The resolution, drafted by two Republicans and four Democrats,
expresses support for the NPT and for the review conference in May.
Follow this link to write a letter

2. Write a letter to the editor. The opening session of the NPT review
conference will generate substantial press coverage in the United
States. You can use this press coverage as an opportunity to write your
local newspaper, thank your newspaper for writing about the NPT review
conference, and urge the U.S. government to uphold its end of the NPT
bargain by implementing deep, verifiable nuclear reductions. For more
information on writing a letter to the editor, go to

3. Find out more about the NPT review conference. Visit the FCNL web
site on Nuclear Disarmament at


Stop New Nuclear Weapons! Find out how,
The Next Step for Iraq: Join FCNL's Iraq Campaign,

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A Call To Action

A Call To Action

APRIL 28, 2005

By John Carey

Bush Is Blowing Smoke on Energy
Hitting all the points in a noted GOP pollster's playbook, the President's plan is driven by politics not policy. Worse, it won't cut oil dependency

On Apr. 27, President Bush made an impassioned plea for an energy plan that would wean the U.S. from imported fuels. "Our dependence on foreign energy is like a foreign tax on the American people," he declared in a speech to a gathering of small-business owners and entrepreneurs in Washington.

What the country needs is "a national strategy," Bush said. "And the most important component of our strategy is to recognize the transformational power of technology. By harnessing the power of technology, we're going to be able to grow our economy, protect our environment, and achieve greater energy independence."

Powerful sentiments, indeed. But the words are largely hollow. Sadly, the plan Bush proposed would do little to increase existing supplies of oil, gas, or electricity, or decrease domestic demand for energy -- the two steps that would really make a difference. Charges Frank O'Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch, a Washington-based environmental group: "The new Presidential energy plan seems mainly to be a public-relations stunt aimed at trying to reverse some of the latest polls, which show a growing public discontent with high gas prices -- and the President."

LOW PRIORITY. Of course, environmentalists such as O'Donnell can usually be counted on to bash GOP policies. But in this case the criticism is deserved. Plenty of evidence indicates that the White House's sudden interest in energy policy is driven far more by politics than substantive policymaking.

To understand why, recall the last Presidential election. Democratic candidate John Kerry struck a nerve when he called for reducing American dependence on Middle Eastern oil, saying that "we should rely in American ingenuity and not the Saudi Royal family."

Yet, Kerry failed to turn energy into a significant policy issue in the race. And the White House learned a lesson: You can score political points by talking about energy policy -- without ever needing to follow through. It has been widely reported that Vice-President Dick Cheney privately told top Washington energy-policy wonks after the 2004 election that the Administration would put the issue low on its priority list for 2005.

"RETAKE THIS ISSUE." That was before oil prices soared, however, and the Republicans started taking a beating, as higher gasoline and home-heating costs made Americans angry and anxious. President Bush's approval ratings dropped, and GOP strategists cited rising fuel costs as the primary rub.

In a strongly worded report to his party in late winter, Republican pollster Frank Luntz warned: "Right now, the Democrats are exhibiting perfect pitch when it come to their energy message.... You need to retake this issue now before the next spike at the pump and before the next surge in our home-heating bills."

Luntz recommended that Republicans hammer hard on four themes: energy independence, national security, the power of innovation and new technology, and the importance of balancing new supplies with conservation. "The energy debate is ripe for partisan picking," he wrote. "Americans loathe the idea of being reliant on the Middle East for our energy needs -- and they were waiting for someone to tell them so."

LAUNDRY LIST. Kerry's remark about not relying on the Saudis was his "single best line at the convention, and it continues to resonate even today," Luntz observed. And in a recent interview with BusinessWeek, Luntz added that if the Administration "stays silent [on energy], it loses."

Luntz's memo is a powerful political document, and the White House took his advice to heart. On Mar. 9, Bush gave a speech hitting all of Luntz's themes. The President called for new technology to reduce America's dependence on imported oil and to increase conservation, and, along the way, to boost national security. Then in his Apr. 27 speech, he repeated the grand ideals -- and offered concrete initiatives. "For the sake of this country, for the sake of a growing economy, and for the sake of national security, we've got to do what it takes to expand our independence," the President said.

Here's what Bush offered as policies needed to meet this ambitious goal:

• Provide federal risk insurance for nuclear plant builders, so that they don't bear the costs of delays in licensing new plants.

• Encourage building of new refineries on closed military bases and ease regulatory "burdens" to speed construction.

• Drill for more oil and gas at home, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

• Spend $1.7 billion over five years to develop hydrogen-powered cars.

• Expand the tax credits for hybrid cars to clean-diesel vehicles as well.

• Give the feds more power to site new liquefied natural gas terminals (LNG).

• Promote clean coal and nuclear power around the world.

Nothing is wrong with any of these ideas, although there's widespread -- and legitimate -- opposition to drilling in the ANWR. Even many environmental groups now reluctantly agree that clean-coal plants and advanced nuclear reactors are part of the solution to tomorrow's energy problems. Additional refining capacity would prevent the spot shortages that, in the past, have sent gasoline prices soaring in parts of the country.

REALITY AVOIDANCE. More LNG ports would bring additional natural gas to the nation. Clean-diesel cars would increase the average mileage of America's cars. And if anyone ever figures out how to actually produce enough hydrogen, fuel-cell cars do offer advantages.

But while the speech's rhetoric was lofty and inspiring, the President's proposals don't match up with the problems they purport to solve. They carefully avoid the politically difficult steps that actually would take America farther down the path of energy independence.

Take nuclear power. Safer new designs promise a reliable, relatively inexpensive source of electricity that doesn't contribute to global warming. But potential licensing delays aren't the big hurdle. In fact, the industry is already preparing applications seeking approval for new designs, so that when a good business case for new plants exists, utilities will be ready to go.

MORE MILEAGE NEEDED. A much bigger problem: not having a place to put the radioactive waste. "We won't have a new generation of nuclear plants unless the government keeps its 50-year old promise of waste disposal," said John W. Rowe, chairman and CEO of Exelon (EXC ), a major nuclear utility, in a recent speech. But the waste issue is a political hot potato, so Bush steered clear of it. The truth is, what he did propose will do little to spur the development of new nuclear plants.

Similarly, Bush avoided the politically difficult -- but crucial -- steps on all the other issues, too. For example, energy experts agree the single-most effective way to cut oil dependency is to make cars and trucks -- which account for more than 60% of America's oil consumption -- more fuel-efficient. "You have to start with higher miles per gallon," says Robert E. Ebel, chairman of the energy program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington (D.C.) think tank. That means mandating higher fuel economy standards or taking similar politically courageous steps.

Extending tax credits for diesel cars is mere tinkering around the edges. And hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars are largely a pipedream for now.

FOLLOWING A SCRIPT? Want to take a real step to prevent gasoline shortages and keep a lid on energy prices? Easing regulations on refineries may sound good. But the Administration could make things truly easier for refineries by requiring that the nation use just one blend of fuel, instead of the current dozens that various states require. Of course, that wouldn't be a hit in many of the red states, which currently don't use the cleanest-burning fuels. It would be a bold step that would make a real difference, however.

Want to increase supplies of oil and gas? Instead of drilling in the ANWR or adding a few LNG ports, Bush could open up areas like the Gulf coast of Florida or the Rocky Mountains, which has a 60-year supply of natural gas, to exploration and drilling. But that wouldn't be popular in Florida, where his brother Jeb is governor, or in some of the Western states that are strong Bush country.

The President's failure to propose any meaningful solutions, while claiming to "do the right thing for America" makes it hard not to conclude that the Administration's main goal is not energy independence, but rather improving its standing the polls. Indeed, what's most striking about Bush's Apr. 27 speech is how closely it follows the script written by Luntz earlier this year. A few examples:

• The pollster recommended emphasizing that the nation's energy problem "has been years in the making, and it will take years to solve." On Apr. 27, Bush said: "This problem did not develop overnight, and it's not going to be fixed overnight."

• Luntz wrote that in advocating drilling in the ANWR, the Administration should say that "using modern techniques, only a very small area will actually be impacted by the development." In his speech, Bush echoed that, saying: "Because of the advances in technology, we can reach the oil deposits with almost no impact on land or local wildlife."

• The pollster stressed that Republicans should have a positive message, appealing "to American ideals of invention and innovation" and tapping "into feelings of American exceptionalism and ingenuity to seal the deal with the swing voters." Any surprise, then, that Bush emphasized in his address that "technology has radically changed the way we live and work"? He added: "Our country is on the doorstep of incredible technological advances that will make energy more abundant and more affordable for our citizens."

Stirring words. Americans can only hope the President is right. But the goals of energy efficiency and independence won't be spurred by anything this Administration is currently proposing.


Carey is a senior correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau
Copyright 2000-2004, by The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Long March

A Call To Action
Making Connections
By Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke, In These Times
Posted on April 27, 2005, Printed on April 27, 2005

In March, conservative uber-strategist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform launched the Media Freedom Project. This new group is the latest entry in a three-decade-long contest between the progressives who want to protect and extend First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and those on the right who view unfettered expression as a danger to the established corporate order.

The Media Freedom Project's first press release, "The Return of the Re-Regulators," warned that Democratic efforts to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine "could mean the end of popular talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and G. Gordon Liddy." (See "Fairness Now.")

The Media Freedom Project's priorities show why the Fairness Doctrine, which compelled FCC-licensed broadcasters to "afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of conflicting views on matters of public importance," is sorely needed in what commentators like the Media Channel's Danny Schecter are calling a "post-journalism era."

Decades-old journalistic standards of "objectivity" -- and even its less-learned cousin, "balance" -- are on the ropes. Paid political operatives posing as bloggers are taking down journalists like Dan Rather, while progressive "citizen bloggers" expose faux-reporters like Jeff Gannon. (See "The Blogosphere: Insiders vs. Outsiders.") The federal government is filling the airwaves with "video news releases" and hired pundits like Armstrong Williams. (See "The GOP's Quest for Color.") Meanwhile, a study by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey revealed that young people who regularly watch "The Daily Show" are "more likely to answer questions about politics correctly than those who don't."

How the Conservatives Came to Dominate

The story of how conservatives have reshaped the media to their own ends has generated plenty of ink. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) founder Jeff Cohen, Salon's Joe Conason and The Nation's Eric Alterman have all written convincingly and at length for both mainstream and progressive outlets about how right-wing media has come to dominate the national debate.

Reformed conservative David Brock explains in The Republican Noise Machine that tarring the mainstream media as "liberal" was the first step in the conservative campaign to dominate the airwaves. Founded in 1969 by anti-communist economist Reed Irvine, Accuracy in Media (AIM) was set up to support President Richard Nixon's Vietnam policies by mobilizing opposition to "liberal" bias in the news. "Irvine was practicing a form of jujitsu" writes Brock. "Seeing itself as a public trust, the media was responsive to calls for accountability and was highly susceptible to criticism." Dan Rather was one of the group's targets during that era and has remained so to this day. AIM mocked his patriotic final broadcast as an "extreme makeover."

Inculcating fear of conservative disapproval in the mainstream press -- and a consequent alienation of advertisers and viewers -- has been the lynchpin of the conservative strategy. It set the stage for the creation of a conservative media machine. In an effort to shift public discourse to the right, conservative foundations, right-wing donors and corporations worked together to create multiple organizations that in turn generated think tanks, issue-based nonprofits and conservative media outlets -- all with their own highly paid and well-coached "experts." Then, the right, ever more loudly denouncing the biased "liberal media elite," inserted these newly minted experts into a mainstream media that was now on the defensive and vulnerable to manipulation.

The goals of the conservative media strategy are multiple and overlapping: to protect business interests, elevate a free-market philosophy, advance a frame of "family values," promote U.S. political dominance, and counter popular movements for civil, women's, consumers' and gay rights that were gaining prominence in the late '60s and early '70s. The traditional Republican right found ready allies in leaders of the Christian right like Pat Robertson, who in 1960 founded the Christian Broadcasting Network, which by the late '70s reached millions of viewers and regularly featured prominent conservatives.

During the '70s and '80s, conservative and corporate funders followed an explicit plan to establish and expand right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Instititue. The think tanks served as incubators for right-wing ideas and by the '90s were poised to capitalize on emerging -- and unregulated -- media sectors such as cable television, talk radio and Internet commentary. They were complemented by a host of corporate-funded "astroturf" groups created by the public relations industry to counteract genuine grassroots organizations fighting for social, environmental and economic justice.

Like the Bush presidencies, the rise of a conservative media machine has been an elaborate, multi-generational affair. AIM's late-'60s media criticisms were complemented by the critiques of Irving Kristol, the influential co-editor of the conservative journal The Public Interest. Irving is the father of William Kristol, who founded the prominent conservative magazine The Weekly Standard in 1995 with funding from Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch. Small political magazines like these, despite their low circulation, have been standard-bearers for once-radical ideas that have now moved into the mainstream. After several years of editing The Weekly Standard, the younger Kristol used grants from the Bradley Foundation to establish the Project for the New American Century, a nonprofit organization of neoconservative activists who hatched the rationale for President George W. Bush's war in Iraq.

While Murdoch's support for The Weekly Standard has been instrumental in the recent history of conservative media, it's his Fox News that represents the pinnacle of right-wing media strategizing -- a 24-hour station, available to all cable subscribers that militantly masquerades as a "fair and balanced" member of the mainstream media. According to an analysis by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, in 2004 Fox News anchors and reporters included their own opinions in 73 percent of the stories they reported on Iraq. In contrast, only 2 percent of CNN reporters did so. The report notes, "Those findings seem to challenge Fox's promotional marketing, particularly its slogan, 'We Report. You Decide.' "

The 24-hour news cycle has also spawned its own virulent brand of media manipulation: repetitive, coordinated and incessant. For example, every Wednesday morning, the Media Freedom Project's Norquist convenes an invitation-only meeting of high-level GOP strategists, Congressional and White House staffers, and corporate leaders to formulate the "talking points" for the week. In a January 2004 profile of Norquist in Mother Jones, Michael Scherer wrote:

There is no time for canned political rhetoric. The focus is on winning. Here, strategy is honed. Talking points are refined. Discipline is imposed. ... In building his coalition, Norquist has made a conscious strategic decision to go with a big-tent approach. At his weekly meetings, social issues like gay rights and abortion, which can divide the electoral base of conservatives and libertarians, are played down in favor of issues like tax cuts, tort reform, and the rollback of federal regulations and rules. These are the broad-appeal political winners on which Norquist is pinning the movement's future. And they're a strong lure for the corporate community, some of whose members -- Philip Morris, Pfizer and Time Warner, for instance -- also happen to supply funding for Americans for Tax Reform.

Where does this leave progressives? Stuck, as they are, with defending old-fashioned values, such as truth, fair play, factual accuracy, civility, the open exchange of ideas, the power of reasoned debate, and the honor of upholding the public trust.

Progressives Face a Predicament

In contrast to conservatives, progressives have done little to internally define "who we are," "what values we stand for" and "what we want." Lacking an agreed upon framework, progressives spread singular messages, resulting in a cacophony rather than an outline of a progressive agenda.

In early December, William Safire quoted James Carville's take on the matter in the New York Times Magazine: "They produce a narrative, we produce a litany. ... They say, 'I'm going to protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood.' We say, 'We're for clean air, better schools, more health care.' And so there's a Republican narrative, a story, and there's a Democratic litany."

The challenge for progressives is to create narratives that express progressive values. Progressives must develop the strength of speaking with a unified voice, one that communicates our fundamental beliefs while still drawing on the diversity of perspectives integral to progressive principles.

Currently, the progressive media network is missing both a coordinated messaging system and a self-sustaining network that can funnel ideas from the grassroots, progressive think tanks and the independent media into the mainstream media where national conversations take place.

In a 2002 report on progressive think tanks for the Open Society Institute, David Dyssegaard Kallick wrote, "What is lacking is not sharp individuals with creative ideas. ... What is missing is an institutional infrastructure that brings these people together with each other and with people who understand practical politics, media and organizing."

For decades, liberal foundations and individual donors have failed to recognize the need for building long-term capacity in progressive media and affiliated organizations, and thereby create a progressive "echo chamber" that can begin to counter the right's media machine. Progressive foundations, with their roots in the reform movements of the early 20th century, have focused on funding social work and single-issue groups.

As a result, the progressive media network has evolved in an ad hoc, organic basis in contrast to the conservative media machine's coordinated infrastructure. Progressive media is built by unconnected individuals who have in common the belief that the progressive agenda needs a voice of its own. When liberal foundations do provide media grants, they shy away from overtly political media projects, and instead direct millions toward federally-supported public media, such as the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and National Public Radio, or to individual documentary film projects that might be shown on PBS.

In their 2003 report "Funding for Social Change," Nan Rubin and Sharon Maeda write, "Progressive funders do not provide much support for infrastructures, distribution networks and membership organizations that provide the political and technical backbone for 'alternative media' to reach audiences."

They also note in a 2005 update to their survey that while foundations recognize the dangers of corporate media consolidation and the importance of organizing around media, they have little understanding of how to strategically fund media development or how to document its impact. "Few funders see media as an organizing tool or as a way to popularize messages or conduct public education campaigns," Rubin and Maeda write, "Primarily, though, they address the concept of the message and not the media themselves."

A media network emerges

Recently, new think tanks, such as the Center for American Progress and the Rockridge Institute, have started disseminating progressive messages, providing talking points and conducting fact-finding missions to discredit the misinformation coming from conservative think tanks and pundits. Online mobilizing groups such as MoveOn and progressive 527s like Americans Coming Together have re-energized a progressive voter base that is politically engaged and active.

Yet these Washington-centric efforts are still not connected to grassroots, single-issue organizations. Too often, they lack the involvement of women, people of color and those who are not upper-middle class.

Looking at "The Emerging Progressive Media Network," it's important to note the disconnect between the vast, well-funded "Issue-Based Nonprofits," the "Emerging Message Machine" of the think tanks, politicians and message creators and the struggling "Progressive Media." To participate in the mainstream dialogue, each of these spheres needs to be connected to each other and appropriately funded.

So what are the next steps?

* Progressive media makers should reach out to and educate foundations and individual donors about the strategic importance of providing significant funding to independent media outlets in order to build a sustainable progressive infrastructure that can effectively shape public dialogue.

* Progressive strategists should develop narrative frames and talking points that can successfully carry their values into the mainstream media. This will require an unprecedented level of cooperation among the disparate collection of independently run and funded organizations that currently make up the progressive movement.

* Progressive organizers should continue discussing ways to strengthen their media network without mimicking the top-down, undemocratic methods of the right's media machine. Supporting current infrastructure groups -- and building new ones -- is key to improving coordination between the different progressive media sectors. This will require financial resources and research.

* Progressives of all stripes should look for inspiration from innovative models of participatory information-sharing, such as the collective idea development pioneered in open-source networks, or the community-driven organizing of MoveOn's house parties and Democracy For America's meet-ups. New technological opportunities offered by advances like community WiFi also open up fresh media horizons.

These recommendations are only a start. Like the progressive media network itself, this analysis will continue to evolve. The prospects are exciting, but both financial support and dialogue are needed to reach the next level.
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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In Ethiopian Hills, Five Years to Create Something Out of Nothing

A Call To Action

April 27, 2005
In Ethiopian Hills, Five Years to Create Something Out of Nothing

ORARO, Ethiopia

For seventh graders here, class is held under the shade of a ficus tree because there are only six rooms in the village school. On a recent day, students sat and listened as a visitor from Addis Ababa, hundreds of miles away, asked which of them expected to go on to the eighth grade.

Twenty-nine hands went up - the entire class. Their Addis Ababa visitor, Hailay Teklehaimanot, looked at them with frustration. "How will you get there?" he asked gently.

Seventh grade is the highest class offered at the Koraro Primary School, and the nearest eighth grade is nearly 20 miles away. That's a good six-hour walk because the village has no car.

For a while, no one answered, and most students looked down at the dirt. Then Kahsay Gebneslasie, 14, spoke up. "We heard maybe they might open an eighth grade here," he said. The school's principal, Gidey Haileslassie, was standing nearby and gave a barely perceptible shake of his head.

A year ago, Koraro villagers scraped together the money to pay for a seventh-grade teacher, then put the class under the tree since there was no room in the school. Paying for an eighth grade is beyond the village's means at this point.

If the rich world is actually going to deliver on its promise to halve global poverty by 2015, then it has to start somewhere. It may as well be here in this village, deep in Ethiopia's northern Tigray Province, where food is scarce and water even scarcer, but 14-year-olds still cling to the hope that they will be able to go to eighth grade.

Koraro, which was recently chosen to be a United Nations test case in the fight against poverty, is where the rubber meets the road. It is one of the poorest and most isolated villages in the poorest and most isolated province of one of the world's poorest and most isolated countries.

If poverty can be whipped here in Koraro, it can be whipped anywhere.

The place has nothing. Some 5,000 villagers live their short lives - life expectancy here is about 40 years - out here in the red dust and rocks, eking out a subsistence living. There is no topsoil and the land is eroded, so farming is an uphill battle.

Half of Koraro's children - and there are some 1,500 of them - are underweight and malnourished. Only 34 families out of 1,500 have access to clean drinking water. The rest walk four miles round-trip to haul buckets of dirty water, and the water-borne illnesses they carry, into their homes for drinking, cooking and washing up. There's no electricity, no doctor, no industry, no market, nothing.

But Koraro is drop-dead beautiful, with jagged red cliffs that look like skyscrapers towering over wide expanses of drylands. The centuries-old churches, most carved deep into the cliffs, testify to how long villagers have been here, in one of the world's oldest cultures. Indeed, while it would appear easy for Koraro residents to decamp to a more hospitable site closer to the regional capital, Mekele, most of the villagers refuse to leave.

Zafu Tsegabu, who is 18, watched with her 2-month-old daughter as her husband moved to a bigger town about 25 miles away, and refused to join him. "This is my home here," she said simply.

As soon as the people here were told that they had been singled out to be one of the United Nations' test villages on poverty reduction, they organized themselves into committees to figure out how to get the job done. There's a water committee and a school committee, an energy committee and a health committee. The United Nations plan, spearheaded by the economist Jeffrey Sachs, calls for the participation of foreign donors, the Ethiopian government and the village of Koraro.

Since Koraro has no money to offer, the villagers are supplying the labor and local materials. On a recent day, some 1,500 villagers - just about every able-bodied man, woman and teenager, were hacking rocks out of the earth and moving them into piles. The rocks will eventually be transferred to the site where they hope to build a village clinic.

Mr. Sachs's proposal allots Koraro $250,000 a year for the next five years to turn itself around. The government of Ethiopia will kick in technical expertise, including help to build a proper road to link Koraro with the rest of the world.

The list of what the money will buy is as basic as it comes: five metal doors for the clinic, one diesel generator to provide occasional electricity to the village, three windows for the school, one grinding mill so villagers can turn their cereal crops into food, and a village truck that could serve a variety of needs.

But there is no eighth grade on the list. There are too many other basic necessities that have to come first.

Still, Koraro, if it works, can become a model for scaling up this type of development for villagers all over Africa - provided the rich world makes good on its promise to donate 0.7 percent of G.D.P. to foreign aid. The Group of 7 summit meeting in July, when leaders of rich countries will get together in Scotland, will probably provide critical answers to that question.

Britain, Germany and France have all provided timetables to ramp up their aid money to 0.7 percent by 2015. But the United States has yet to do the same.

In the meantime, the people in Koraro continue to hope and make plans. In the twilight of her life at age 30, Kidan Hagos, a mother of seven, leaned against a shady tree as she took a break from hacking rocks for the new clinic. Her youngest child, Haregeweini, 9 months old, was propped against her, nursing. Mrs. Hagos, for her part, took a moment to dream big.

Asked what she would ask for if she could have anything in the world, she spent a good three minutes carefully considering her answer.

"A food market close by," she said, "and a well with good water."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Fw: This Earth Day, Help Bring Congress Back to Earth to Reduce Oil Dependence

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathy Guthrie"
To: "Miriam Vieni"
Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2005 4:43 PM
Subject: FCNL: This Earth Day, Help Bring Congress Back to Earth to Reduce
Oil Dependence

Act Now for Peace, Security, a Healthy Environment, and a Stable Climate.

Today, Thursday, April 21, the House is expected to complete work on
its omnibus energy bill (H.R. 6), a bill that would set priorities for
national energy policy for the next several years. While the bill has
many positive elements, overall, the bill does not offer a good
blueprint for our future. It emphasizes boosting environmentally
harmful domestic oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy supplies over
reducing energy demand. It proposes too little, too late to reduce the
United States' dangerous and environmentally damaging dependence on

Congress needs to get real about reducing U.S. oil dependence. The
Senate must do better. Soon, your senators will begin drafting their
own version of the bill. Now is the time to let them know how urgent
and important it is for the U.S. to reduce its oil dependence now.


Please contact your senators. Urge them to promote a national
mobilization to rapidly reduce U.S. oil consumption, improve the
efficiency of our transportation system and vehicles, and accelerate
development and use of renewable fuels and energy sources. Urge them to
oppose giving subsidies or tax credits to the oil industry, oppose
opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, and
oppose reducing environmental protection in the permitting and
production of oil and gas on public lands and the outer continental

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* Find out how your representative voted on the Boehlert (NY) amendment
to increase average vehicle fuel economy to 33 MPG:

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The Normalization of War

A Call To Action

By Andrew J. Bacevich,
Posted on April 21, 2005, Printed on April 21, 2005

Andrew J. Bacevich has written a book on militarism, American-style, of surpassing interest. Just published, "The New American Militarism, How Americans Are Seduced by War" would be critical reading no matter who wrote it. But coming from Bacevich, a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, former contributor to such magazines as the Weekly Standard and the National Review, and former Bush Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, it has special resonance.

Bacevich, a self-professed conservative, has clearly been a man on a journey. He writes that he still situates himself "culturally on the right. And I continue to view the remedies proffered by mainstream liberalism with skepticism. But my disenchantment with what passes for mainstream conservatism, embodied in the present Bush administration and its groupies, is just about absolute. Fiscal irresponsibility, a buccaneering foreign policy, a disregard for the Constitution, the barest lip service as a response to profound moral controversies: these do not qualify as authentically conservative values. On this score my views have come to coincide with the critique long offered by the radical left: it is the mainstream itself, the professional liberals as well as the professional conservatives who define the problem."

At the end of the Cold War, Americans said yes to military power. The skepticism about arms and armies that pervaded the American experiment from its founding, vanished. Political leaders, liberals and conservatives alike, became enamored with military might.

The ensuing affair had and continues to have a heedless, Gatsby-like aspect, a passion pursued in utter disregard of any consequences that might ensue. Few in power have openly considered whether valuing military power for its own sake or cultivating permanent global military superiority might be at odds with American principles. Indeed, one striking aspect of America's drift toward militarism has been the absence of dissent offered by any political figure of genuine stature.

For example, when Sen. John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, ran for the presidency in 2004, he framed his differences with George W. Bush's national security policies in terms of tactics rather than first principles. Kerry did not question the wisdom of styling the U.S. response to the events of 9/11 as a generations-long "global war on terror." It was not the prospect of open-ended war that drew Kerry's ire. It was rather the fact that the war had been "extraordinarily mismanaged and ineptly prosecuted." Kerry faulted Bush because, in his view, U.S. troops in Iraq lacked "the preparation and hardware they needed to fight as effectively as they could." Bush was expecting too few soldiers to do too much with too little. Declaring that "keeping our military strong and keeping our troops as safe as they can be should be our highest priority," Kerry promised if elected to fix these deficiencies. Americans could count on a President Kerry to expand the armed forces and to improve their ability to fight.

Yet on this score Kerry's circumspection was entirely predictable. It was the candidate's way of signaling that he was sound on defense and had no intention of departing from the prevailing national security consensus.

Under the terms of that consensus, mainstream politicians today take as a given that American military supremacy is an unqualified good, evidence of a larger American superiority. They see this armed might as the key to creating an international order that accommodates American values. One result of that consensus over the past quarter century has been to militarize U.S. policy and to encourage tendencies suggesting that American society itself is increasingly enamored with its self-image as the military power nonpareil.

How Much Is Enough?

This new American militarism manifests itself in several different ways. It does so, first of all, in the scope, cost, and configuration of America's present-day military establishment.

Through the first two centuries of U.S. history, political leaders in Washington gauged the size and capabilities of America's armed services according to the security tasks immediately at hand. A grave and proximate threat to the nation's well-being might require a large and powerful military establishment. In the absence of such a threat, policymakers scaled down that establishment accordingly. With the passing of crisis, the army raised up for the crisis went immediately out of existence. This had been the case in 1865, in 1918, and in 1945.

Since the end of the Cold War, having come to value military power for its own sake, the United States has abandoned this principle and is committed as a matter of policy to maintaining military capabilities far in excess of those of any would-be adversary or combination of adversaries. This commitment finds both a qualitative and quantitative expression, with the U.S. military establishment dwarfing that of even America's closest ally. Thus, whereas the U.S. Navy maintains and operates a total of twelve large attack aircraft carriers, the once-vaunted [British] Royal Navy has none -- indeed, in all the battle fleets of the world there is no ship even remotely comparable to a Nimitz-class carrier, weighing in at some ninety-seven thousand tons fully loaded, longer than three football fields, cruising at a speed above 30 knots, and powered by nuclear reactors that give it an essentially infinite radius of action. Today, the U.S. Marine Corps possesses more attack aircraft than does the entire Royal Air Force -- and the United States has two other even larger "air forces," one an integral part of the Navy and the other officially designated as the U.S. Air Force. Indeed, in terms of numbers of men and women in uniform, the U.S. Marine Corps is half again as large as the entire British Army--and the Pentagon has a second, even larger "army" actually called the U.S. Army -- which in turn also operates its own "air force" of some 5,000 aircraft.

All of these massive and redundant capabilities cost money. Notably, the present-day Pentagon budget, adjusted for inflation, is 12 percent larger than the average defense budget of the Cold War era. In 2002, American defense spending exceeded by a factor of 25 the combined defense budgets of the seven "rogue states" then comprising the roster of U.S. enemies. Indeed, by some calculations, the United States spends more on defense than all other nations in the world together. This is a circumstance without historical precedent.

Furthermore, in all likelihood, the gap in military spending between the United States and all other nations will expand further still in the years to come. Projected increases in the defense budget will boost Pentagon spending in real terms to a level higher than it was during the Reagan era. According to the Pentagon's announced long-range plans, by 2009 its budget will exceed the Cold War average by 23 percent -- despite the absence of anything remotely resembling a so-called peer competitor. However astonishing this fact might seem, it elicits little comment, either from political leaders or the press. It is simply taken for granted. The truth is that there no longer exists any meaningful context within which Americans might consider the question "How much is enough?"

On a day-to-day basis, what do these expensive forces exist to do? Simply put, for the Department of Defense and all of its constituent parts, defense per se figures as little more than an afterthought. The primary mission of America's far-flung military establishment is global power projection, a reality tacitly understood in all quarters of American society. To suggest that the U.S. military has become the world's police force may slightly overstate the case, but only slightly.

That well over a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States continues to maintain bases and military forces in several dozens of countries -- by some counts well over a hundred in all -- rouses minimal controversy, despite the fact that many of these countries are perfectly capable of providing for their own security needs. That even apart from fighting wars and pursuing terrorists, U.S. forces are constantly prowling around the globe -- training, exercising, planning, and posturing -- elicits no more notice (and in some cases less) from the average American than the presence of a cop on a city street corner. Even before the Pentagon officially assigned itself the mission of "shaping" the international environment, members of the political elite, liberals and conservatives alike, had reached a common understanding that scattering U.S. troops around the globe to restrain, inspire, influence, persuade, or cajole paid dividends. Whether any correlation exists between this vast panoply of forward-deployed forces on the one hand and antipathy to the United States abroad on the other has remained for the most part a taboo subject.

The Quest for Military Dominion

The indisputable fact of global U.S. military preeminence also affects the collective mindset of the officer corps. For the armed services, dominance constitutes a baseline or a point of departure from which to scale the heights of ever greater military capabilities. Indeed, the services have come to view outright supremacy as merely adequate and any hesitation in efforts to increase the margin of supremacy as evidence of falling behind.

Thus, according to one typical study of the U.S. Navy's future, "sea supremacy beginning at our shore lines and extending outward to distant theaters is a necessary condition for the defense of the U.S." Of course, the U.S. Navy already possesses unquestioned global preeminence; the real point of the study is to argue for the urgency of radical enhancements to that preeminence. The officer-authors of this study express confidence that given sufficient money the Navy can achieve ever greater supremacy, enabling the Navy of the future to enjoy "overwhelming precision firepower," "pervasive surveillance," and "dominant control of a maneuvering area, whether sea, undersea, land, air, space or cyberspace." In this study and in virtually all others, political and strategic questions implicit in the proposition that supremacy in distant theaters forms a prerequisite of "defense" are left begging -- indeed, are probably unrecognized. At times, this quest for military dominion takes on galactic proportions. Acknowledging that the United States enjoys "superiority in many aspects of space capability," a senior defense official nonetheless complains that "we don't have space dominance and we don't have space supremacy." Since outer space is "the ultimate high ground," which the United States must control, he urges immediate action to correct this deficiency. When it comes to military power, mere superiority will not suffice.

The new American militarism also manifests itself through an increased propensity to use force, leading, in effect, to the normalization of war. There was a time in recent memory, most notably while the so-called Vietnam Syndrome infected the American body politic, when Republican and Democratic administrations alike viewed with real trepidation the prospect of sending U.S. troops into action abroad. Since the advent of the new Wilsonianism, however, self-restraint regarding the use of force has all but disappeared. During the entire Cold War era, from 1945 through 1988, large-scale U.S. military actions abroad totaled a scant six. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, they have become almost annual events. The brief period extending from 1989's Operation Just Cause (the overthrow of Manuel Noriega) to 2003's Operation Iraqi Freedom (the overthrow of Saddam Hussein) featured nine major military interventions. And that count does not include innumerable lesser actions such as Bill Clinton's signature cruise missile attacks against obscure targets in obscure places, the almost daily bombing of Iraq throughout the late 1990s, or the quasi-combat missions that have seen GIs dispatched to Rwanda, Colombia, East Timor, and the Philippines. Altogether, the tempo of U.S. military interventionism has become nothing short of frenetic.

As this roster of incidents lengthened, Americans grew accustomed to -- perhaps even comfortable with -- reading in their morning newspapers the latest reports of U.S. soldiers responding to some crisis somewhere on the other side of the globe. As crisis became a seemingly permanent condition so too did war. The Bush administration has tacitly acknowledged as much in describing the global campaign against terror as a conflict likely to last decades and in promulgating -- and in Iraq implementing -- a doctrine of preventive war.

In former times American policymakers treated (or at least pretended to treat) the use of force as evidence that diplomacy had failed. In our own time they have concluded (in the words of Vice President Dick Cheney) that force "makes your diplomacy more effective going forward, dealing with other problems." Policymakers have increasingly come to see coercion as a sort of all-purpose tool. Among American war planners, the assumption has now taken root that whenever and wherever U.S. forces next engage in hostilities, it will be the result of the United States consciously choosing to launch a war. As President Bush has remarked, the big lesson of 9/11 was that "this country must go on the offense and stay on the offense." The American public's ready acceptance of the prospect of war without foreseeable end and of a policy that abandons even the pretense of the United States fighting defensively or viewing war as a last resort shows clearly how far the process of militarization has advanced.

The New Aesthetic of War

Reinforcing this heightened predilection for arms has been the appearance in recent years of a new aesthetic of war. This is the third indication of advancing militarism.

The old 20th-century aesthetic of armed conflict as barbarism, brutality, ugliness, and sheer waste grew out of World War I, as depicted by writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Erich Maria Remarque, and Robert Graves. World War II, Korea, and Vietnam reaffirmed that aesthetic, in the latter case with films like Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Full Metal Jacket.

The intersection of art and war gave birth to two large truths. The first was that the modern battlefield was a slaughterhouse, and modern war an orgy of destruction that devoured guilty and innocent alike. The second, stemming from the first, was that military service was an inherently degrading experience and military institutions by their very nature repressive and inhumane. After 1914, only fascists dared to challenge these truths. Only fascists celebrated war and depicted armies as forward-looking -- expressions of national unity and collective purpose that paved the way for utopia. To be a genuine progressive, liberal in instinct, enlightened in sensibility, was to reject such notions as preposterous.

But by the turn of the 21st century, a new image of war had emerged, if not fully displacing the old one at least serving as a counterweight. To many observers, events of the 1990s suggested that war's very nature was undergoing a profound change. The era of mass armies, going back to the time of Napoleon, and of mechanized warfare, an offshoot of industrialization, was coming to an end. A new era of high-tech warfare, waged by highly skilled professionals equipped with "smart" weapons, had commenced. Describing the result inspired the creation of a new lexicon of military terms: war was becoming surgical, frictionless, postmodern, even abstract or virtual. It was "coercive diplomacy" -- the object of the exercise no longer to kill but to persuade. By the end of the 20th century, Michael Ignatieff of Harvard University concluded, war had become "a spectacle." It had transformed itself into a kind of "spectator sport," one offering "the added thrill that it is real for someone, but not, happily, for the spectator." Even for the participants, fighting no longer implied the prospect of dying for some abstract cause, since the very notion of "sacrifice in battle had become implausible or ironic."

Combat in the information age promised to overturn all of "the hoary dictums about the fog and friction" that had traditionally made warfare such a chancy proposition. American commanders, affirmed Gen. Tommy Franks, could expect to enjoy "the kind of Olympian perspective that Homer had given his gods."

In short, by the dawn of the 21st century the reigning postulates of technology-as-panacea had knocked away much of the accumulated blood-rust sullying war's reputation. Thus reimagined -- and amidst widespread assurances that the United States could be expected to retain a monopoly on this new way of war -- armed conflict regained an aesthetic respectability, even palatability, that the literary and artistic interpreters of twentieth-century military cataclysms were thought to have demolished once and for all. In the right circumstances, for the right cause, it now turned out, war could actually offer an attractive option--cost-effective, humane, even thrilling. Indeed, as the Anglo-American race to Baghdad conclusively demonstrated in the spring of 2003, in the eyes of many, war has once again become a grand pageant, performance art, or a perhaps temporary diversion from the ennui and boring routine of everyday life. As one observer noted with approval, "public enthusiasm for the whiz-bang technology of the U.S. military" had become "almost boyish." Reinforcing this enthusiasm was the expectation that the great majority of Americans could count on being able to enjoy this new type of war from a safe distance.

The Moral Superiority of the Soldier

This new aesthetic has contributed, in turn, to an appreciable boost in the status of military institutions and soldiers themselves, a fourth manifestation of the new American militarism.

Since the end of the Cold War, opinion polls surveying public attitudes toward national institutions have regularly ranked the armed services first. While confidence in the executive branch, the Congress, the media, and even organized religion is diminishing, confidence in the military continues to climb. Otherwise acutely wary of having their pockets picked, Americans count on men and women in uniform to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons. Americans fearful that the rest of society may be teetering on the brink of moral collapse console themselves with the thought that the armed services remain a repository of traditional values and old-fashioned virtue.

Confidence in the military has found further expression in a tendency to elevate the soldier to the status of national icon, the apotheosis of all that is great and good about contemporary America. The men and women of the armed services, gushed Newsweek in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, "looked like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. They were young, confident, and hardworking, and they went about their business with poise and élan." A writer for Rolling Stone reported after a more recent and extended immersion in military life that "the Army was not the awful thing that my [anti-military] father had imagined"; it was instead "the sort of America he always pictured when he explained ... his best hopes for the country."

According to the old post-Vietnam-era political correctness, the armed services had been a refuge for louts and mediocrities who probably couldn't make it in the real world. By the turn of the 21st century a different view had taken hold. Now the United States military was "a place where everyone tried their hardest. A place where everybody ... looked out for each other. A place where people -- intelligent, talented people -- said honestly that money wasn't what drove them. A place where people spoke openly about their feelings." Soldiers, it turned out, were not only more virtuous than the rest of us, but also more sensitive and even happier. Contemplating the GIs advancing on Baghdad in March 2003, the classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson saw something more than soldiers in battle. He ascertained "transcendence at work." According to Hanson, the armed services had "somehow distilled from the rest of us an elite cohort" in which virtues cherished by earlier generations of Americans continued to flourish.

Soldiers have tended to concur with this evaluation of their own moral superiority. In a 2003 survey of military personnel, "two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve. ... Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality." Such attitudes leave even some senior officers more than a little uncomfortable. Noting with regret that "the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve," retired Adm. Stanley Arthur has expressed concern that "more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve." Such tendencies, concluded Arthur, are "not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy."

In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgivable sin is to be found guilty of failing to "support the troops." In the realm of partisan politics, the political right has shown considerable skill in exploiting this dynamic, shamelessly pandering to the military itself and by extension to those members of the public laboring under the misconception, a residue from Vietnam, that the armed services are under siege from a rabidly anti-military left.

In fact, the Democratic mainstream -- if only to save itself from extinction -- has long since purged itself of any dovish inclinations. "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about," Madeleine Albright demanded of Gen. Colin Powell, "if we can't use it?" As Albright's question famously attests, when it comes to advocating the use of force, Democrats can be positively gung ho. Moreover, in comparison to their Republican counterparts, they are at least as deferential to military leaders and probably more reluctant to question claims of military expertise.

Even among left-liberal activists, the reflexive anti-militarism of the 1960s has given way to a more nuanced view. Although hard-pressed to match self-aggrandizing conservative claims of being one with the troops, progressives have come to appreciate the potential for using the armed services to advance their own agenda. Do-gooders want to harness military power to their efforts to do good. Thus, the most persistent calls for U.S. intervention abroad to relieve the plight of the abused and persecuted come from the militant left. In the present moment, writes Michael Ignatieff, "empire has become a precondition for democracy." Ignatieff, a prominent human rights advocate, summons the United States to "use imperial power to strengthen respect for self-determination [and] to give states back to abused, oppressed people who deserve to rule them for themselves."

The President as Warlord

Occasionally, albeit infrequently, the prospect of an upcoming military adventure still elicits opposition, even from a public grown accustomed to war. For example, during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, large-scale demonstrations against President Bush's planned intervention filled the streets of many American cities. The prospect of the United States launching a preventive war without the sanction of the U.N. Security Council produced the largest outpouring of public protest that the country had seen since the Vietnam War. Yet the response of the political classes to this phenomenon was essentially to ignore it. No politician of national stature offered himself or herself as the movement's champion. No would-be statesman nursing even the slightest prospects of winning high national office was willing to risk being tagged with not supporting those whom President Bush was ordering into harm's way. When the Congress took up the matter, Democrats who denounced George W. Bush's policies in every other respect dutifully authorized him to invade Iraq. For up-and-coming politicians, opposition to war had become something of a third rail: only the very brave or the very foolhardy dared to venture anywhere near it.

More recently still, this has culminated in George W. Bush styling himself as the nation's first full-fledged warrior-president. The staging of Bush's victory lap shortly after the conquest of Baghdad in the spring of 2003 -- the dramatic landing on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, with the president decked out in the full regalia of a naval aviator emerging from the cockpit to bask in the adulation of the crew -- was lifted directly from the triumphant final scenes of the movie Top Gun, with the boyish George Bush standing in for the boyish Tom Cruise. For this nationally televised moment, Bush was not simply mingling with the troops; he had merged his identity with their own and made himself one of them -- the president as warlord. In short order, the marketplace ratified this effort; a toy manufacturer offered for $39.99 a Bush look-alike military action figure advertised as "Elite Force Aviator: George W. Bush -- U.S. President and Naval Aviator."

Thus has the condition that worried C. Wright Mills in 1956 come to pass in our own day. "For the first time in the nation's history," Mills wrote, "men in authority are talking about an 'emergency' without a foreseeable end." While in earlier times Americans had viewed history as "a peaceful continuum interrupted by war," today planning, preparing, and waging war has become "the normal state and seemingly permanent condition of the United States." And "the only accepted 'plan' for peace is the loaded pistol."
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Rooting for the Good Guys

A Call To Action

April 20, 2005
Rooting for the Good Guys

n the surface, the dramas playing out among Israeli Jews - over whether to withdraw from the Gaza Strip - and among Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian Arabs - over how to share power - may seem totally disconnected. But in fact they are all variations on a theme: can democracy really take root or thrive in the Middle East?

Lord knows, I am rooting for the good guys here. For me, the war in Iraq was always about democracy and the necessity of helping it emerge in the Arab-Muslim world. I am thrilled that things have come this far. This is the most interesting drama in the world today, but it's not over, because the forces opposing it are deep and virulent - virulent enough to stall it in the Arab world and to make it dysfunctional in Israel.

In Israel, the question is whether its democratic system can sustain the monumental decision to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and all the Israeli settlements there. For the Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese, the question is whether these multiethnic communities can produce, through horizontal dialogues, a political arena where monumental decisions can be taken - decisions that are essential if these societies are to progress in the modern age. In short, can Arab society give birth to infant democracy in order to get healthy, and can Israel's adolescent democracy survive a monumental decision required for its society to stay healthy?

Let's start with the Jews. One of the criticisms leveled at Ariel Sharon over his decision to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza is that he has never fully spelled out the reasons for his epiphany. After all, Mr. Sharon not only helped build many of these settlements, but he consistently proclaimed the need to hold onto them, for security reasons, forever.

A leading Israeli columnist, Nahum Barnea of Yediot Aharonot, once described Mr. Sharon's sudden turnaround by quoting a lyric from a famous Israeli pop song: "What you see from here, you don't see from there."

What Mr. Barnea meant was that when Mr. Sharon finally became prime minister, with full responsibility for the Jewish state, he had to face squarely the reality that his predecessors had faced: the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza was eroding the moral fiber of the Israeli Army, and, if sustained, would result in an apartheid situation - a minority of Jews would be ruling over a majority of Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Jewish settler movement in Israel has always been a minority. The Israeli majority went along with it - as long as there was no price. But now the price has become inescapable.

"There is something quite stunning when you think about it," the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi remarked. "Three Israeli prime ministers, [Yitzhak] Rabin, [Ehud] Barak and Sharon - all of them army generals, two from Labor one from Likud - all came to the same conclusion: that the occupation was unsustainable [from the point of view of] Israel's national defense." As a result, they all shifted from focusing on "wars of necessity to focusing on a peace of necessity," Mr. Ezrahi added. Mr. Sharon doesn't want to explain this about-face publicly, in part, I assume, because it suggests weakness - that Israel can't keep doing what it has been doing, and knows it.

But this withdrawal is a threat to the Jewish religious nationalists. Their goal is not peace, but to conquer Israeli society with their messianic vision and biblical map. They killed Mr. Rabin for getting in their way and have threatened to do the same to Mr. Sharon. Some of these settlers will not go down quietly.

Ditto in the Arab world. Democratic politics in the West is about horizontal bargaining between parties and civil organizations. Politics in places like Iraq and Palestine have been based for decades on "Oriental despotism" - top-down monologues by dictators buttressed by a politics of fear. What Iraqis and Palestinians are trying to do is make a transition from one system to the other. But the fundamentalists and Nasserites within their societies - who for years have been nourished by their Oriental despots as a way of keeping the people backward, divided and focused on the wrong things - are still powerful and virulent. They, too, will not go quietly. The more they are seen to be losing, the crazier they will get.

So this story is not over by a long shot. The birth of democracy in the Arab world and the sustaining of democracy in Israel are now on the table. I am an optimist about both in the long run - but brace yourself for the short run.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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