Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.
The Great Divide and the Bush Doctrine
At a recent debate over the battle for Islamic ideals in England, a British-born Muslim stood before the assembled crowd and said Prophet Mohammed's message to nonbelievers is: "I come to slaughter all of you." "We are the Muslims" said Omar Brooks, also known as Abu Izzadeen. "We drink the blood of the enemy, and we can face them anywhere. That is Islam and that is jihad."
Winston Churchill, writing in The River War based on his experience fighting in the Sudan in 1898, noted:
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.
He went on to suggest that while individual Muslims may show splendid qualities,
. . . the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.
With this as a backdrop President Bush developed a strategic vision after 9/11 that has attempted to neutralize the naturally destructive impulses in Islam. Despite the daily drumbeat of criticism from the press and the chorus of Congressional critics, Bush, it seems to me, has orchestrated a plan to transform Islam in much the way President Truman and his successors attempted to transform Communism.
The chink in Communism's armor was its ideological inconsistencies and the chink in Islam is the conflict--both ideological and political--between Shia and Sunni.
For six hundred years Shia and Sunni maintained a modus vivendi. The differences that existed were overlooked in an effort to promote Islamic goals. In fact, in some areas of international relations, such as antipathy to Israel and the United States, Islamic factions remain united.
But since American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq a fundamental change has occurred, so fundamental that it may shift the lot of 1.3 billion Muslims across the globe. If, as Churchill implied and imams now infer, Islam is a religion based on frenzied fanaticism, a strategy must be adopted to transform Islam, i.e., to alter its focus and neutralize its violent impulses.
That strategy--largely ignored by myrmidons in the media world--is to turn Islam against itself. The saber rattling by Ahmadinejad and his desire for a Shia Crescent have mobilized Sunnis from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
The Sudanese government recently expelled Shia proselytizers from a book fair. Egyptian leaders talk openly about their distrust of Iranian motives. And King Abdullah of Jordan closed a Shia shrine because he doesn't want "trouble makers" visiting his nation.
It is plausible that a regional war could be fought in the Middle East in which Egypt and Saudi Arabia fight against Iran. It is equally plausible that the Sunni majority around the globe is potentially mobilized to contain the ambitions of Shia militia in Iraq and Ahmadinejad's military force.
While the only reformation Islam has known is Wahabbism, another reformation may be on the horizon that is a manifestation of Shia-Sunni hostility. That reformation could call for the repudiation of violence and result in a complete and utter transformation of Islam.
The Bush Doctrine, based on the containment and ultimately the elimination of jihadism in the neighborhood that spawns it, is a direct descendent of the Truman Doctrine that attempted to contain and undermine Communism. Iraq is merely one front in World War IV--to borrow a phrase from Norman Podhoretz (the Cold War being World War III). There will be many fronts and perhaps setbacks as well, but it is the impetus behind the Bush position to expose and defeat the jihadist and imperial ambitions of Islam and to convert it into the religion of peace the president has often cited.
Despite all of the criticism of the president, there is an apparent understanding of the threat that many Democrats and most media panjandrums do not comprehend. To state the matter starkly, either Islam is transformed or the West is doomed. Either the Bush Doctrine is successful in building a wedge between Shia and Sunni or the two major religious strains unite to undermine our civilization as we know it.
This "great divide" could be our salvation. What is unfolding in our time is Act I in a three-act drama. Bush may be the progenitor of the drama, but he will not be on stage when the victory occurs. That will be another time and another actor who I am confident will look back and pay proper heed to the much-abused Bush presidency and the implacable stand he adopted.
Anti-Americanism on American T.V.
Watching American television programs, specifically CNN, in Japan is a truly illuminating experience. While television producers will applaud the self-criticism that characterizes programming with reflexive references to the First Amendment, I am convinced that the steady dose of criticism aimed at the United States is nothing less than self-abasement.
While the United States does not yet have a culture as debased as the European where self-defense is now considered a form of undesirable discrimination, CNN is in the throes of attempting to undermine any American virtue. Day after day, hour after hour, CNN tells a Japanese audience that America is a land of wholesale racism and class discrimination.
Almost any decision from the location of a garbage dump to the selection of a football coach enters the realm of racial politics. In fact, Paula Zahn seemingly has only this one issue to discus usually in terms appropriate for adolescents. But it isn't the simplistic utterances she and her carefully selected guests express that bothers me as much as the continual drum beat of criticism.
Admittedly the United States is an imperfect nation fraught with problems. It is also the most tolerant, open, liberal, experimental, and generous nation the world has ever had. Whatever negative remark one can make about this nation is easily offset by something positive. But one will not know that by watching CNN. In fact, there isn't a scintilla of difference between CNN and al Jazeera. Is it any wonder anti-Americanism is widespread?
If I didn't know any better and watched CNN continually, I could easily adopt the opinion that the world would be a better place if the United States didn't exist.
Of course, it is not only the culture that is derided. The Bush administration is characterized as the worst in our national history; the president is either naive or a knave. He lies to promote his policies, but on the other hand, is too stupid to know anything or to have the wherewithal to do anything clever.
If one accepts this judgment, the American people must be very stupid to elect such a fool or they themselves must be easily fooled. Either way, it is hard to find positive sentiment about the American people.
Once again it is hardly surprising that Japanese visitors to the U.S. contend the American people are so different from their expectations. What kind of expectations can you have after watching CNN?
Thank goodness I do not watch the same television fare at home. But even if I did, I am accustomed to seeing America torn down and ripped apart by critics who are paid enormous sums to criticize freely. What I find difficult to appreciate, however, is how the Japanese viewer responds to this television fare.
Most of those I asked said America is not the place it once was. When asked to produce evidence to support this claim, most respondents say T.V. programs convinced them. Alas, without a contrary view, T.V. could convince me as well.
Lest detractors contend I am an unthinking patriot, I would hastily note I am a patriot apposed to censorship and in favor of criticizing our government and leaders when appropriate. At the same time, I am sensitize to the fact that television is an international medium which has a responsibility to tell the truth to its viewers even if that means an occasionally positive story should be aired. Surely there must be something positive about this land of liberty, technical advancement and prosperity.
While criticism of Japan is evident on local programs, it is moderated by a sense of fair play and national loyalty. At times, Japanese obedience can be cloying. Nevertheless, I prefer it to the television talking heads in the U.S. who believe it is their God-given duty to tear America down in front of international audiences.
Anti-Americanism thy name is CNN.
When Good Intentions Lead to Bad Results
It is often astonishing to consider how those with good intentions often do dangerous things. For example, the UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists), the soi disant speakers for scientific morality, issued the following statement:
The development and use of ASAT [anti-satellite] weapons threatens to undermine relationships and fuel military tension between space faring nations.
The group urged the U.S. "to enter international discussions to develop rules guiding the use of space and to ban the testing and use of destructive ASAT weapons."
The presumption in these comments, like the presumptions made about anti-missile defenses two decades ago, is that if the U.S. engages in restraint other nations including putative or prospective enemies will do so as well.
In 1985, due to the efforts of the UCS the Congress prohibited a test of a missile that could disable a satellite several hundreds miles in space. Our anti-satellite program was effectively neutered.
Unfortunately for us, China does not have a UCS and, even if it did have one, the government would ignore it. At the end of January 2007 China destroyed an aging weather satellite with a missile 530 miles from earth.
While we give lip service to the demilitarization of space, the Chinese--using technology we sold or they confiscated--have raised the ante in the military technology race.
What this means, on a practical level, is the U.S. could be deprived of space as an intelligence platform in warfare. The military's reliance on surveillance and positioning could be compromised. More important, the network of satellites needed to create an antiballistic defense shield is also in jeopardy.
Of course, a test--no matter how impressive--does not mean China is prepared to use this military asset against the United States. However, it does mean that a battle carrier group sent to the Taiwan Straits could easily be neutralized by an anti-satellite missile that renders it blind and exposed.
Now the question must be asked: what is the effect of America's good intentions? We are concerned about the militarization of space and have sponsored legal conventions to avoid this result. But the vacuum has been filled. Just as Hitler ignored the Kellogg Briand Pact that outlawed war "as an instrument of national policy," the Chinese have ignored conventions and America's leadership in outlawing the militarization of space.
For all practical purposes, space is now militarized. The onus is on the U.S. to address this Chinese technical advance or be a helpless behemoth on the globe's oceans. It is instructive that the UCS has not issued a statement about the Chinese technical achievement, nor have alarms gone off in the nation's scientific community.
Yet this is an ominous development that clearly challenges U.S. military superiority. If Max Boot is correct in asserting that technical military advances influence the course of history, it may well be that history is not on America's side.
And if there is blame to level, one must start with organizations such as the UCS, which in its effort to do good ignores the fact that America's sense of fair play is not always shared by other nations. In this case, China has a military doctrine of asymmetrical warfare that posits a need to destroy the military assets of a potential foe before war actually begins.
I hope the U.S. takes heed of this message. I hope we study Chinese military doctrine. And I hope, most of all, that we ignore the admonitions of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Almighty Dollar Less Mighty
Having recently spent some time in Europe, I can personally attest to the claim the "almighty dollar" is in descent. An only four-year-old euro is gaining dramatically in the competition of the two currencies.
In the past year the dollar fell ten percent in value vis-a-vis the euro. Now one is obliged to pay $1.32 for each euro, an exchange rate that evokes cries of frustration from American tourists in the European Union.
What this portends is a weakening U.S. economy at a time when business conditions in Europe are improving. In this scenario, one might assume the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates, while borrowing costs in the euro region are rising.
But scenarios often run headlong into political and economic realities. Rising rates in Europe will attract foreign capital that might have gravitated to the United States. As a consequence, the Fed will probably refuse to cut interest rates, suggesting instead that there is a need to keep inflationary pressures in check. Of course, the prime motivation for this Fed decision is the dollar's weakness.
In the past, foreign investments flowed to the U.S., despite meager returns, because America offers a safe harbor for assets. Low returns are merely an insurance premium for security.
But Europe is looking very secure as well. Moreover, foreign investors are understandably worried about currency losses when they repatriate U.S. dollars.
Should employment growth stall or corporate profits weaken, there will be pressure on the Fed to lower interest rates, cuts that will put inexorable pressure on the dollar.
My vision, however, is limited. The state of the bullish euro may be quite temporary. If one considers the demographic conditions in Europe, the unfunded liability for pensioners and the generally uncompetitive industrial base, the future of the euro does not seem secure. The rise and fall of a currency are related to specific events over a limited period. Bold assertions about the future of the euro are certainly misplaced.
Surely some of the conditions predicted for Europe apply to the U.S. as well. An unfunded entitlement liability looms large in the nation's future as does our relatively uncompetitive industrial base. It is not coincidental that Toyota will overtake G.M. as the world's leading car manufacturer this year. Nonetheless, the U.S. appears to be a more resilient economy than Europe and, as a consequence, less affected by shocks to the system.
If I were to wager, my bet is the U.S. dollar will strengthen in the next few years, despite a rocky short-term scenario. I would argue as well that persistent discussion of potential inflation will characterize economic debate. While some of this pressure exists due to relatively high oil prices, among other factors, the real reason for the discussion is the use of inflation as the pretext for high interest rates that bolster the dollar.
If the U.S. wants to be the harbor for foreign capital, capital on which the government is increasingly dependent, the Fed cannot allow interest rates to falter. This is the new and real economic predicament of the moment, albeit what we experience today may be very different several years from now. In economics it is wise to keep predicting; at some point, you may be right.
Conyers and House Corruption
Here we go again. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, said plaintively that ethics indiscretions would not be tolerated on her watch, a comment quite similar to the one made by former President Bill Clinton in 1993.
Yet remarkably, several weeks after her comment, the House Ethics Committee revealed that John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had "accepted responsibility" (admitted guilt?) for a series of violations involving members of his staff.
What was perhaps most notable is that the report was issued on the Friday before the New Year holiday weekend in an obvious attempt to avoid publicity. No matter what Democratic leaders said about Jack Abramoff and his ties to Republican elected officials, corruption in Washington is bipartisan.
According to reports, Conyers used several staffers as personal servants requiring them to baby-sit, chauffeur him to events, and help around the house. Sound familiar? New York's state comptroller Alan Hevesi, lost his job and pleaded guilty to a felony for doing pretty much the same thing with taxpayer-funded employees.
What is Conyers losing? According to Ms. Pelosi, nothing. He will be the chairman of the powerful Judiciary committee, notwithstanding his transgressions. In fact, Conyers did not admit to any wrongdoing, just a "lack of clarity." He now promises to follow "new procedures" with his staff. Presumably Conyers didn't know the House rules, despite having been a member for 42 years.
This, of course, is a very interesting way for Ms. Pelosi to dispose of the evidence of "unethical" behavior, even when one of Conyers' key aides resigned, saying she "could not tolerate it any longer."
In this case the Republicans, already burned by their own scandals, averted their gaze. The New York Times, accustomed to partisanship, didn't even give the story a glancing blow. And Ms. Pelosi reiterated her support for Conyers even with his tarnished reputation.
Of course, this isn't the first time and, most likely, won't be the last time a Congressional ethics committee offered a whitewash for one of its own. It was certainly done for Senator Al D'Amato and Representative Gary Studds among others.
If there were truth in advertising, it would be noted that a Congressional Ethics investigation is to ethics what rap is to music. It appears to be related or at least offers the pretense of a relationship, but is really nothing of the kind. Now one assumes "responsibility" and moves on. I've long wondered what assuming responsibility in the present context means. Today those culpable of transgressions merely say, "Yes I did it" and then contend--rightly it turns out--that all is forgiven or ignored. In a cosmology of ethical relativism, it is understandable that firm standards do not exist.
However, what is the message being delivered to the American people? Presumably if you are in power, you can get away with almost anything. Instead of a system based on the consent of the governed, we have reverted to a system of the descent of the governors. Power brokers in DC have gone from being servants of the people to their masters as corruption saps legitimacy from this democratic polity. *
"These politicians, when they can't make politics pay, can always fall back on---the honorable practice of law." --Will Rogers