Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review and a contributing editor to such publications as Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
In the Post-Cold War World, U.S. Is Still Searching for the Proper Role
During the Cold War, the U.S. faced an adversary that had the ability -- and the intent -- to destroy us. In response, we developed the most sophisticated and powerful military on earth. We engaged in proxy wars to thwart the ambitions of our adversary in Korea and Vietnam. We engaged in skirmishes in areas our adversary sought to control -- such as Grenada and Nicaragua. We challenged its efforts to establish a nuclear base in Cuba and established military bases around the world. We were instrumental in the creation of NATO.
In the end, the Soviet Union collapsed. We won the Cold War without firing a shot against our major adversary. During this period, we engaged in summit meetings, had an embassy in Moscow, as the Soviets did in Washington. Slowly, we saw the Berlin Wall come down, saw the emergence of democratic forces in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Our perseverance ended in victory and many looked forward to a "peace dividend." With the Soviet Union gone, and no potential enemy on the horizon that had the ability to do anything more than harass us, we entered a post-Cold War world with little debate about what our future role should be.
Sadly, there are those who could never give the Cold War up, who found it difficult to live without a looming enemy. Part of it was the "military-industrial-complex" about which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us. After the terrorist attack on September 11, a combination of neo-conservatives and establishment Republicans and Democrats found a new rationale for an almost Cold War-like U.S. posture. We went to war in Iraq on the false notion that it had weapons of mass destruction, and ties to al Qaeda. We went to war in Afghanistan, a legitimate effort to remove al Qaeda, which had attacked us. But, with al Qaeda gone from Afghanistan, we remain -- seeking a rational for our continuing role in that country.
What our role in the world should be at the present time -- and in the future -- is a subject about which all too little discussion and debate has been evident.
A contribution to such a discussion is the recently published book The Next Conservatism (St. Augustine's Press) by Paul M. Weyrich, founding president of the Heritage Foundation and in 1977 founder of the Free Congress Foundation, and his long time colleague William S. Lind. Weyrich died on December 18, 2008 and this book serves as his last political testament.
Weyrich and Lind write that:
Just as the next conservatism must confront the threat of ideology, it must also face up to another mortal danger to any republic, a quest for Empire. Driven with equal force by neo-liberals and neo-conservatives, our country has responded to the fall of Communism not as conservatives long expected, by a return to our traditional policy of avoiding foreign entanglements, but by plunging into foreign wars. Worse, we find ourselves caught up in, and losing, wars of a new type: what military theorists call Fourth Generation wars. While America now spends as much on defense as the rest of the world put together, much of what it buys is for yesterday's wars, wars between formal armies, navies, and air forces of states. Against the non-state forces of the Fourth Generation, most of our high-technology "systems" are proving to be expensive piles of junk.
Until recently, Weyrich and Lind point out, conservatives routinely warned against the danger from Leviathan, the all-powerful state. In recent years, particularly when Republicans were in power, the concern about government power has diminished. "The next conservatism," they write:
. . . needs to revive that warning, and make it stronger. Because of the so-called "war on terrorism" America may be on the verge of becoming a national security state, also known as a "garrison state." The Constitution and the liberties it protects will go out the window as citizens permit the state to do whatever it wants, so long as it justifies its actions in terms of "national security."
We have seen our liberties eroded by a series of steps entered into in the name of "national security" -- from wiretaps without judicial authorization to men and women being arrested without habeas corpus to individuals incarcerated for years without being brought to trial. Both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, have largely acquiesced in these dramatic expansions of state power.
In the view of Weyrich and Lind:
Conservatives accept the fact that the state must defend us from terrorism and other acts of war. This has always been one of the state's duties. But the next conservatism does not want "permanent war for permanent peace," as George Orwell put it in 1984. We are not convinced that the best way to defend America from terrorism is by invading and occupying other countries. . . . The Founding Fathers warned us that we could either preserve our Republic and our domestic liberties or play the game of Great Power, but we could not do both. Playing the Great Power game requires a strong central government that can make decisions with little regard for the thoughts or desires of the average citizens. Such a government will run roughshod over our liberties, because it can. Preserving our liberties requires a weak federal government with limited powers, especially in the executive, and strong internal checks and balances. Such a government by its nature is poorly structured to try to run the world.
In 1951, the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, Robert A. Taft of Ohio, wrote a book entitled A Foreign Policy for Americans. He declared that:
There are a good many Americans who talk about an American century in which America will dominate the world. They rightly point out that the U.S. is so powerful today that we should assume a moral leadership in the world. . . . The trouble with those who advocate this policy is that they really do not want to confine themselves to moral leadership. . . . In their hearts they want to force on these foreign peoples, through the use of American money, and even perhaps, American arms, the policies which moral leadership is able to advance only through the sound strength of its principles and the force of its persuasion. I do not think this moral leadership ideal justifies our engaging in any preventive war. . . . I do not believe any policy which has behind it the threat of military force is justified as part of the basic foreign policy of the U.S. except to defend the liberties of our people.
We are now engaged in two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the very people who so enthusiastically took us to Iraq are now urging a preventive strike against Iran. With the Cold War over, we desperately need a serious examination of what America's proper role in the world should be. Paul Weyrich and William Lind have given us much food for thought in their book. One need not agree with all of their analysis to know that our current posture is inconsistent with our long-term best interests.
Nation-Building in Afghanistan: A War of "Necessity" or a War of "Choice"?
President Barack Obama has described the war in Afghanistan as a "war of necessity" rather than a "war of choice." This may have been true of our initial effort, but the conflict, as it has evolved, may now be something else. As we consider whether or not to send additional troops, it is appropriate that we have a serious consideration of exactly what our purpose is in Afghanistan -- and whether or not it is achievable at a reasonable cost in a time frame that makes sense.
Our original mission in Afghanistan was to destroy those who had attacked us on September 11, 2001 and deny them a future base of operations. Our goal was to kill as many members of al Qaeda as possible, particularly Osama bin Laden, and force the Taliban, which harbored al Qaeda in Afghanistan, from power.
Slowly, as we achieved the removal of al Qaeda from Afghanistan and the Taliban from power, our mission grew. We decided to "nation build," to try to create a new and stable democracy. As part of our new "counter-insurgency" plan we decided that we had to improve roads, power plants, and bridges, and schools as well as make people feel safer in their villages by stationing U.S. troops near these villages. We also sought to get Afghan farmers to stop growing opium poppies and grow pomegranates instead. Thus far, we have not resolved the basic problem: opium, the basic ingredient of heroin, is far more profitable than pomegranates.
Now, more Americans have been killed in the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan than were killed on September 11. After eight years of fighting in Afghanistan, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in September that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces, told him that "quite honestly, he found conditions on the ground tougher than he thought." If we do not send more troops, McChrystal says, we risk "an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."
The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined U.S. involvements in two world wars. NATO assistance is reluctant, and is being slowly withdrawn. Military historian Max Hastings says that Kabul controls only about a third of the country and The Economist describes President Hamid Karzai's government as so "inept, corrupt and predatory" that people sometimes yearn for "restoration of the warlords, who were less venal and less brutal than Mr. Karzai's lot. His vice president is a drug trafficker."
On August 28, The New York Times carried a front-page headline: "Karzai Uses Rift with U.S. to Gain Favor." The article said that U.S. officials were growing disenchanted with the Afghan president, whose supporters allegedly stuffed ballot boxes in the recent elections, while Karzai struck deals with accused drug dealers and warlords, one of whom is his brother, for political gain. The article notes that Karzai "has surprised some in the Obama administration," by turning their anger with him "to an advantage, portraying himself at home as the only political candidate willing to stand up to the dictates of the United States."
Thus, after eight years, we still do not have a reliable Afghan partner. The strategy that Gen. McChrystal is pursuing calls for additional troops to create something that does not now exist in Afghanistan -- and has never existed -- a reasonably non-corrupt state that will serve its people, and keep Afghanistan free of drug lords, warlords, the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Military expert Andrew Cordesman, who has advised the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, says that it would require "a significant number" of U.S. reinforcements and time to do what the Kabul government has failed to do, because it remains:
. . . a grossly over-centralized government that is corrupt, is often a tool of power brokers and narco-traffickers, and lacks basic capacity in virtually every ministry.
The fact is that we are not just talking about adding more troops to Afghanistan, we are transforming our mission. We are going from a limited mission in order to prevent an al Qaeda return to a state-building project.
In the meantime, al Qaeda has regrouped along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in other locations, such as Somalia and Yemen.
According to Bruce Riedel, a retired CIA officer called upon by the Obama administration to lead a two-month strategic review of the war, shortly after the inauguration, President Obama went to the Pentagon where the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave a slide briefing. Instead of delineating a clear goal in Afghanistan, the briefing listed more than a dozen goals.
Mr. Riedel's review looked at an array of options, including an abandonment of counter-insurgency and a very narrow focus on al Qaeda. This "minimalist" view has been embraced by a divers group of thinkers, including Rory Stewart, the British diplomat and writer who runs a foundation in Kabul, conservative columnist George Will, and Lester Gelb, whose recent book Power Rules, argues for a reduced American commitment in Afghanistan and recommends, among other things, threatening air strikes in order to deter the Taliban from allowing al Qaeda back into the country.
In a much-discussed column, George Will wrote:
. . . the Obama administration should ask itself: "If U.S. forces are there to prevent re-establishment of al Qaeda bases -- evidently there are none now -- must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen, and other sovereignty vacuums?". . . Forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes, and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan.
President Obama's target in pursuing the Afghan war was, or at least used to be, al Qaeda. But Osama bin Laden's terrorist group left Afghanistan after the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001.
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said:
My view is that the mission has to be very clear. I believe it is not now. I do not believe we can build a democratic state in Afghanistan. I believe it will remain a tribal entity.
As skepticism grows about our role in Afghanistan on the part of some Democrats, Republicans -- with the rare exception of individuals such as Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) -- seem to be lining up in support of additional troops. Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute, notes that: "You'd certainly expect conservatives to be the leading skeptics of government's attempts at massive social transformation."
Liberals may have a temperamental affinity for nation-building, together with their neo-conservative allies. Historian and Vietnam veteran Walter McDougall calls Vietnam "the Great Society War" and believes that President Obama would do well to learn from the errors of that period, particularly the failed "pacification" program and the effort to "model" South Vietnamese society via the computer.
The original war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan was indeed "a war of necessity." What we can call our current effort, and the one projected for the future, is something far different.
Examining the Real -- and Largely Ignored -- Causes of Gang Violence in Chicago and Other Major U.S. Cities
On September 24, 16-year-old Derrion Albert was beaten to death in Chicago as he headed for a bus stop near Christian Fenger Academy High School where a melee broke out between feuding factions. In the beating, captured in a cellphone video, one teenager swung a plank, knocking Albert down. Others hit him as he struggled to get away. Four youths stand charged with murder.
We know of this case because of the video that captured the violence which is all too typical of Chicago, and other urban inner-city schools. More than 125 people 25 and younger have been killed in Chicago this year. Chicago Public School officials say that 298 students enrolled in the nation's third largest school system have been shot since September 2008.
Because of the attention the video produced, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., joined by Education Secretary Arne Ducan, former head of the Chicago public schools, traveled to Chicago and met with public school students and elected officials.
Mr. Duncan defended is own actions in Chicago which, critics argue, led to his closing dozens of Chicago public schools and reassigning thousands of students to campuses outside of their neighborhoods -- and often across gang lines. This has led to a spike in violence that has turned increasingly deadly, according to many activists, parents, and students.
Before the 2006 school year, an average of 10 to 15 public school students were fatally shot each year. That soared to 24 deadly shootings in the 2006-07 school year, and 34 deaths and 290 shootings last school year.
At the Chicago meeting, Attorney General Holder declared that:
Youth violence is not a Chicago problem any more than it is a black problem, a white problem or a Hispanic problem. It is something that affects communities big and small and people of all races and colors. It is an American problem.
In fact, the situation is more complex. Almost all of the teenage victims in Chicago -- and almost all of the perpetrators -- were African-Americans. The same is true in other urban inner-city school districts. We ignore reality at a high price, for if we do not recognize the real problems we face, we are unlikely to resolve them.
The Washington Post, in its report about the Chicago violence, quotes Miesha Houston, 28, who grew up near the latest murder scene. She declared:
It's going to take a lot more than policies and police. It's poverty, drugs, rap music, the media. There are a lot of single-parent homes and parents on drugs, so kids don't want to be home. And when they go outside, there's trouble.
The dilemma of an enduring underclass in our urban areas has rarely been confronted. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2004, 69.2 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. That contrasts with 24.5 percent for white children and approximately 45 percent for Hispanic children.
Within the larger black community, progress has been dramatic. Today, half of all black families are middle-class, earning at least twice as much as the poverty line. Only one percent of black families made that claim in 1940. Rates of college graduation have skyrocketed. In 1940, the out-of-wedlock birth rate for blacks was 19 percent. In fact, at the start of the 20th century black people had higher marriage rates than whites.
Yet, while progress has been dramatic for the black middle class, for an underclass that largely lives in our inner cities, out-of-wedlock birth has become a way of life, as have involvement with drugs and lack of respect for education.
Only 50 percent of black students who enter the ninth grade later graduate with a high school diploma. A 2004 study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and the Urban Institute found that the black high school graduation rate was even lower than the 53 percent rate of Hispanic students, who are recent immigrants, and who face a language barrier. Within the 50 percent graduate rate for black students is an even lower graduation rate for black males. Only 43 percent of black males graduate from high school with a diploma.
In his book Enough, the respected black author and journalist Juan Williams notes:
Official graduation rates for blacks have not significantly changed since 1982. Something terrible has happened, and school officials have been hiding this festering rot behind flimsy claims that 84 percent of black students get some version of a high school certificate. The fact is that many of these high school degrees are worthless in a competitive global economy. According to federal data, the average black American twelfth grader scores worse on basic skills than 80 percent of white twelfth graders. This is a serious gap. It is a mortal threat to the race.
The gap between black and white students already exists when the children are entering kindergarten. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, half of black children starting kindergarten scored in the bottom quarter on general knowledge.
Juan Williams laments that:
Very few leading black voices in the pulpit or on the political stage are focused on having black people take personal responsibility for the exorbitant amount of crime committed by black people against other black people. Today's black leaders sing like a choir when they raise their voices against police brutality and the increasing number of black people in jail. . . . But any mention of black America's responsibility for committing the crimes, big and small, that lead so many to prison is barely mumbled or mentioned at all.
Charles H. Ramsey, former police chief in Washington, D.C., who is black, declared:
Behavior has to change. Responsibility for your own behavior has to change. We have people who just let T.V. and video games and music raise their kids and instill values . . . and then we wonder why we have a problem.
It is unfortunate that the accidental video of inner-city teenage violence is needed to focus attention on a continuing problem. It is ironic that when Attorney General Holder and Education Secretary Duncan travel to Chicago to address the situation, they tend to generalize the problem rather than focusing attention on the inner-city underclass, and the increasingly intractable problem that is largely ignored. Misdiagnosing a problem is the best way to see it perpetuated. That, it seems, is where we are at the present time. *
"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." --Thomas Jefferson