Thursday, November 30, 2006

A successful strategy has to be one that is driven by the Iraqis

A successful strategy has to be one that is driven by the Iraqis.

Those words succinctly convey my position on how to cope with the "civil quagmire" in Iraq, except that they aren't my words at all, but those of an anonymous "senior administration official" quoted in an article in the New York Times by Michael Gordon entitled "Bush Adviser’s Memo Cites Doubts About Iraqi Leader" which discusses the classified Hadley memo and its ramifications for Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.

The article concludes:

The administration appears to have already begun carrying out some of the steps recommended in the document. Among them were a trip over the weekend by Vice President Dick Cheney to Saudi Arabia as part of an effort to seek help from Sunni Arab powers in encouraging Sunni groups in Iraq to seek a political compromise with Mr. Maliki.

The senior administration official who agreed to discuss the memo would do so only on condition of anonymity. The official said some of the steps projected in the document were being carried out.

The official also stressed that the administration retains confidence in the Iraqi leader. “What we are seeing is that he had the right intentions and is willing to act,” the senior official said. “Our own review has opened a consultative process on where Maliki wants to take the government. A successful strategy has to be one that is driven by the Iraqis.”

Alas, simply because a senior advisor makes a recommendation doesn't mean that President Bush will "make it so." The "leaking" of the memo may simply have been an intentional trial balloon to allow the administration to play both sides of the issue and then consolidate on the side that seems to garner the most interest and support.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blame the politicians for violence in Iraq

An article in the New York Times by Edward Wong entitled "Iraqi Premier Blames Politicians for Violence" points out how at least some people are coming around to focusing on the political dimension of the civil violence in Iraq. He opens by reporting that:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Sunday that Iraq's politicians were largely responsible for the surge in violence that engulfed the country over the past week, a departure from his previous assertions blaming militants for inciting the mayhem.

"These actions are at most the reflection of political backgrounds and wills and sometimes the reflection of dogmatic, perverted backgrounds and wills," Mr. Maliki said. "The crisis is political, and the ones who can stop the cycle of aggravation and bloodletting of innocents are the politicians." He said politicians must work harder to stop the violence.

Mr. Maliki spoke at a news conference just a few days before he was to meet with President Bush to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. The remarks were an acknowledgment of the political nature of the war here and placed responsibility on political leaders for achieving peace.

Left unsaid was the implication that the best that U.S. military forces and politicians and bureaucrats can do is to simply get out of the way so that the Iraqis can sort the politics out for themselves.

Presumably Mr. Maliki will deliver his same message to President Bush this week. The open question is whether he simply continues to imply that U.S. forces need to exit as soon as possible, or whether he explicitly and forcefully makes the case for their departure at the earliest possible date. Whatever is said this week, clearly there is an evolution in progress so that the latter (a request for the U.S. to leave) will gradually be assumed by all parties as the new presumed course of action.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Is Iraq really in a civil war?

The article in the New York Times by Edward Wong entitled "A Matter of Definition: What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So?" points out both the difficulty and the lack of utility in attempting to characterize Iraq as being in a "civil war." Certainly by some of the common traditional definitions, Iraq is in a state of civil war, but then the response should be: so what? My point is that the situation in Iraq is not driven primarily by the conflict between two "civil" groups, but by the refusal of the U.S. to exit from the stage and allow the "warring" parties to seek their own accommodation.

By the raw numbers of deaths and injuries and destruction of property, Iraq is in fact worse than most civil wars, but the nature of the conflict is somewhat different. Most of the civil conflict comes as a result of the role of the U.S. in Iraq. Absent the heavyhanded presence and influence of U.S. forces, this so-called "civil war" would very quickly be resolved in an accommodation and reconciliation, albeit one that would cause the administration, the Neoconservatives, the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby, and the conservative elements of the government of Israel to cringe in alarm that their agenda is endangered.

Who knows, maybe simply labelling Iraq as being "in a civil war" would lead to a more rapid departure of U.S. military forces. It is possible, but I wouldn't agree that this is a great purpose for labelling the "civil quagmire" as actually being a "civil war."

Despite the chaos and violence, the parties in Iraq are not that far apart. They need two things: 1) a form of federalism that permits power sharing between a central givernment and other political entities, and 2) for the U.S. to get out of the picture as soon as possible.

The proverbial elephant standing in the middle of the room that neither the article nor the Bush administration talks about is the status of de-Baathification and the extent to which the U.S. prevents any significant accommodation with former Baathists who are mostly Sunnis. The Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby is adamant about cleansing Iraqi politics of the former Baathists, but doing so has dramatically fueled the so-called insurgency and the so-called sectarion conflict. The non-Baathists are fully capable of deciding for themselves the extent to which former Baathists should be able to participate in Iraqi governance. Meddling by the U.S. only fans the fires of the "civil quagmire."

In summary, my point is that focusing on Iraq as being primarily a "civil war" would misguidedly take attention away from the primary cause of unrest in Iraq: the presence and influence of U.S. forces.

So, let's get the U.S. out of Iraq, give the Iraqis a year to negotiate reconciliation and an accommodation, and then we can continue the silly debate abou whether Iraq is in a "civil war." First things first.

-- Jack Krupansky

The role of Moqtada al-Sadr in deciding the fate of Iraq

The latest cover story in Newsweek by Jeffrey Bartholet entitled "Sword of the Shia - ... Why Moqtada al-Sadr may end up deciding America's fate in Iraq" (alternatively in the web page title, "How Moqtada al-Sadr Controls U.S. Fate in Iraq") finally makes at least a halfhearted attempt to dig beneath the surface to get at what makes politics tick in Iraq. I was unimpressed by the first few paragraphs which grossly oversimplified and misrepresented the situation, but the final paragraphs did a reasonable job of summing up the role of Mr. Sadr in Iraq:

As word spread that Moqtada would lead prayers, people crowded into the mosque, most of them clad in black as a sign of mourning. Sadr asked worshipers to pray for his dead relatives, and also for those who had been killed in Sadr City. He again called for the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. He urged a top Sunni sheik to issue three fatwas: one against the killing of Shiites, another against joining Al Qaeda and the third to rebuild the shrine in Samarra. He compared his father's followers to those of the Prophet Muhammad. "After the prophet died," he intoned, "some of his followers deviated from his teachings, and the same has happened with followers of my father." The "cursed trio"—Americans, British and Israelis—were trying to divide Iraq. "We Iraqis—Sunnis and Shia—will always be brothers."

No one in Iraq talks about arresting Sadr for the murder of al-Khoei anymore. That seems like ages ago—back when Sadr's armed supporters were estimated in the hundreds, compared with many thousands today. Now diplomats speak of trying to keep Sadr inside the political system, hoping he can tame his followers. He's a militant Islamist and anti-occupation, they say, but he's also a nationalist, and not as close to Iran as some of his rivals. Nobody knows whether Sadr is dissembling when he speaks about Iraqi unity, or preparing for all-out war. What is clear—more today than ever before—is that it's time to stop underestimating him.

(my emphasis)

Even those two paragraphs were somewhat poorly written. I don't believe that anyone in the administration "seriously underestimates" Mr. Sadr, rather there is a political dispute and the Neoconservatives are simply insisting that he be treated with the same disdain that the Neocons treat liberal Democrats. That is the key gain that will come from the departure of American forces and occupation "advisers": finally permitting Iraqis to come to their own internal political accommodation.

In line with the Neoconservative agenda, American forces have repeatedly tried to suppress the political ambitions of Mr. Sadr using military force. That he should resort to force to protect his political interests in the face of U.S. forces and occupation bureaucracy and the lack of a strong, politically-neutral Iraqi national army should be no surprise at all.

I don't believe that the premise in the subtitle of the article is correct at all. Mr. Sadr does not "control" the fate of the U.S. in Iraq. Yes, Mr. Sadr will have a role in forming a new Iraqi government, and even a major role, but there are plenty of other skilled Iraqi politicians with large political bases whose native political instincts are being suppressed by the heavy-handed American occupation, and together they will be quite able to give Mr. Sadr a run for his money once the U.S. is out of the picture.

Mr. Sadr may be more outspoken in his criticisms of the U.S. occupation, but that does not define him as being in a position to "control" our fate at all. Iraqi interest in seeing the U.S. exit as soon as possible is not limited to Mr. Sadr.

The good news is that the article does at least raise awareness of some of the political issues, albeit with more than a little taint of yellow journalism. The lead sentences signaled immediately the unwillingness of the reporter to stick with facts: "One way to understand Moqtada al-Sadr is to think of him as a young Mafia don. He aims for respectability, and is willing to kill for it." This is neither an accurate nor productive characterization of Mr. Sadr's role in Iraqi politics. Yes, Iraqi politics has a wild west quality, but this is in the context of a war, repressive life under the former dictator, occupation, and the stifling "control" of the Neoconservative agenda. But to distill the motives of Mr. Sadr down to Mafia-like financial interests is grossly misleading.

Mr. Bartholet should be very grateful that I am not his editor.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, November 25, 2006

One Last Kiss

The upcoming meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki may be a defining break-point in the evolution of a new Iraq. Call it "One Last Kiss." Up until this meeting, The fledgling Iraqi government has been all too happy to cooperate with and even depend on the support of the U.S. government and military. But this may be the final convivial meeting between the two governments. As superficially friendly as the meeting may be, the tension will be there and all parties will be well aware of the simple fact that the U.S. and Iraq will likely never again meet on the same terms until Iraq is clearly standing on its own two feet, and that could take years. This is all a good thing. The U.S. has made all of the positive contributions to Iraq that are in our ability. Now it is Iraq's turn to stand up and run with the ball.

There actually appears to be intense opposition in Iraq to this meeting with Bush. In an article in the New York Times by Edward Wong entitled "Militants Attack Sunnis’ Mosques in 2 Iraqi Cities", we read that:

The vengeance attacks unfolded while lawmakers loyal to the virulently anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr threatened to boycott the government if Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki met with President Bush next week in Jordan. Mr. Sadr controls one of the biggest blocs of seats in Parliament, and on Friday he reiterated his claim that the American presence was the root cause of the rising violence in Iraq.

Mr. Sadr is not the only leader in Iraq opposed to the American occupation and influence over the Iraqi government, simply the loudest among many voices. Although American forces are certainly not the direct cause of the sectarian violence, the presence of American forces and the heavy hand of American influence over the Iraqi government is certainly a key root cause of dissension that ultimately percolates to the surface as sectatian violence. If not a cause, at least the U.S. presence is a trigger.

The good news is that once this final meeting with the U.S. is out of the way, more rapid progress at reconciliation can at least begin.

It is unclear whether Maliki will survive the political turmoil, but nonetheless this meeting will likely be the break-point transition.

December will likely be a watershed month in the evolution of the new Iraqi government.

-- Jack Krupansky

Is Iraq really spiraling into horror?

The media loves a good story filled with wild characterizations of unpleasant events, but cringes away from dispassionately reporting such events even as it seeks to layer superficial characterizations and mock analysis onto what would otherwise be simple reporting. The media serves the people best when it sticks with reporting facts and collecting quotes from leaders and true experts. The media serves the people worst when mere reporters do their own "analysis" and attempt to characterize the views of non-experts. This is the plight we find ourselves in today with media coverage of Iraq. We find the media unnecessarily resorting to emotional language like "spiralling", "a new element of horror", "cast a shadow", "shocking", "gruesome", "blow to diplomatic efforts", "a move that could lead to the collapse", "vehicles roared through the streets", "fire rained down", "stormed", "slaughtered", "all-out civil warfare", "run-up toward chaos", etc. This is yellow journalism, not at its worst, but still very bad. Even otherwise reputable journalists at Associated Press and CNN are succombing to the seductive lure of excessively colorful and inciteful language. Shame on them. We would all be better off if they would stick to reporting facts.

As ugly as the ongoing violence is in Iraq, what the media fails to convey is the political nature of the conflict. Groups are jockeying for political power in Iraq. Plus, they are fighting the pressure and influence of the U.S. The sooner the U.S. is out of the equation, the sooner the Iraqis can begin to incrementally shift to less violent forms of "interaction."

American media coverage is doing little to enlighten either Americans or Iraqis. The Iraqis are struggling to find their way in a new and different world. The need for the media to "sell papers" and sell advertising is an unfortunate impediment to the right of the American people to understand what is really at stake and what is really going on at the political level in Iraq.

So, is Iraq really "spiraling into horror"? Not really. The so-called "waves of violence" simply indicate how seriously the Iraqis take the stakes for securing their own political future as an independent country and not simply a puppet of the U.S., the Neoconservatives, and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bringing back the draft???

Nobody is taking serious the proposal by Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) to reinstate the draft, but it does illustrate the disappointing fact that although the good news is that the Republicans got booted from power, the really bad news is that the Democrats are now in power. With all of the difficult problems before us and all the golden opportunities being presented to the incoming Democrats on a silver platter, what are they thinking?!

When they should be focusing on making rapid forward progress, they instead are shuffling sideways and even sliding backwards.

When the election made clear that the American people consider ethics to be a big deal, key Democrats are instead trying to explain away their own past indiscretions.

When what Congress needs is a clean sweep and focus on merit and competence, instead we see the Democrats falling back on the tired old clichés of seniority and loyalty.

A few more weeks and they will be making the Republicans look good.

-- Jack Krupansky

Does the U.S. need to talk with Syria and Iran about Iraq?

Does the U.S. need to engage in discussions with Syria and Iran about the security situation in Iraq? No. It is Iraq that must engage Syria and Iran and it is important that the U.S. stay out of those discussions.

Separately, the U.S. can and should engage in direct discussions with Syria and Iran concerning security issues in the whole Middle East, including Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Iraq as well, but not on behalf of Iraq and the interests of the Iraqis.

If anything, the Iraqis can help to smooth relations between the U.S. and Syria and Iran rather than the other way around.

The greatest danger in Iraq is not chaos, sectarian violence, and civil war, but that Iraq might be seen as a mere puppet and surrogate for U.S. interests.

-- Jack Krupansky

Only the Iraqis themselves can end the chaos and violence

In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times entitled "An Iraqi Solution, Vietnam Style", United States Marine Corps University associate professor Mark Moyar opines that "Critics of America's current Iraq policy, particularly among the Congressional Democrats, have tended to concentrate on international diplomatic remedies. Experience, however, suggest that only the Iraqis themselves can end the chaos and violence." I agree. He examines some of the relevant history and lessons from Vietnam. In his lead statement he notes that:

Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is now saying that he wants the United States to stand back and let him use Iraqi forces to restore order. Within six months, he asserts, the bloodletting will cease. The United States must give this proposal very serious consideration.

That is consistent with what I have been saying lately. We have to let the Iraqis take the lead. We've held their hand long enough. It's time for them to rock and roll. The most and best we can do right now is to simply stay out of their way and cease and desist from trying to force feed them Neoconservative dogma.

Professor Moyar concludes by noting that:

The United States may ultimately find that no Iraqi leader can neutralize both the insurgents and the militias. The benefits of a self-sufficient Iraqi government are so great, however, that we must give Mr. Maliki the opportunity to try.

I would simply note that it is not a matter of giving the Iraqis a chance, but the reality that they Iraqis are going to take the chance whether we go along or not.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Even more progress in Iraq: Syria, Iran, Basra

Just in the past several days several positive events have occurred in Iraq, demonstrating that the Iraqis finally are beginning to take their fate in their own hands.

Iraq has re-established diplomatic relations with Syria.

Iraq is about to begin talks with Iran.

The Brits say that they may hand over Basra to Iraqi forces by the spring.

I'm sure the Bush administration, the Neoconservatives, the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby, and the right-wing government of Israel cringe mightily at the thought of Iraq having peaceful relations with either Syria or Iran, but we should have a little faith that Iraqis will pursue their own best interests.

It is almost amusing how the experts and pundits in Washington, D.C. are wringing their hands over what to do with Iraq when the answer right in front of their noses is that we should let the Iraqis figure out their own plan and then offer support for their plan. The Iraqis are unlikely to make a deep and heartfelt commitment to the Neoconservative goals of the U.S. government, but they are much more likely to invest mightily in seeking their own goals and seeking peaceful relations with their neighbors. Oddly, Iraq may yet turn into a "beacon of hope" for the Middle East, albeit not the same form of beacon that the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby originally had in mind.

The Pentagon is floating a proposal for sending more troops to Iraq, but I strongly suspect that the Iraqis will veto such a proposal and instead insist on a reduction of on-the-street foreign forces within a couple of months.

I further suspect that within six months Iraq will insist that the infamous Green Zone in Baghdad be vacated of U.S. forces and "authorities".

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Conservatives and Neoconservatives cutting and running from Bush will open opportunities for Iraq

An article in the Washington Post by Peter Baker entitled "Embittered insiders turn against Bush - War advocates, other conservatives say president mismanaged their vision" further illustrates how formerly ardent Conservatives and even Neoconservatives are abandoning President Bush in droves and leaving him hung out to dry, twisting slowly in the bitter winds of Washington. This "cut and run" is actually a rather surprising turn. The Neoconservatives have to realize that this was their big chance to advance their aggressive agenda. The combination of Bush, 9/11, the "failed state" of Iraq, and oodles of Conservative and even not-so-conservative support gave them an unparalleled mandate to be bold and break out of the box. But, as we are seeing, this was merely a house of cards that is now tumbling down. The good news is that this does give the Democrats an opening and it does give the Iraqis a huge opening to start pursuing their own path independent of the former Neoconservative agenda.

I fully expect the Democrats to botch this opportunity as badly as Bush botched his opportunity, but I really do think the Iraqis will in fact pick up the dropped ball and run with it quite well. Yes, there will be continued chaos and quagmire in Iraq for months to come, but I strongly suspect that the Iraqis are going to turn it into their own struggle towards their own goals rather than being hamstrung with the unworkable fantasies of the Neoconservative agenda.

When will things really turn the corner in Iraq? Probably about the same time that everybody in Washington gives up all hope of avoiding all-out failure in Iraq.

So many people are drawing parallels to Vietnam and how disastrous that was for our military, but today Vietnam is thriving and doing quite well despite being the key "domino" to fall in the so-called "Domino Theory." How did they manage to pull that off without the presence of large numbers of American troops? Maybe there are still lessons from Vietnam that have yet to be integrated into American foreign policy thinking.

Good luck Iraq!

-- Jack Krupansky


The Democrats campaigned against Republican corruption and ethical "lapses", but now that they are in a position to initiate some serious reform, the common plea among Democrats in Washington is "Not so fast." An article in the NY Times by David Kirkpatrick entitled "Democrats Split on How Far to Go With Ethics Law" illustrates the minimalist nature of some of the so-called ethics reforms and an extreme reluctance to commit to truly deep and meaningful and painful reforms.

Even the deepest reforms being discussed would put hardly a dent in the deeply corrupt nature of the relationships between those elected to represent the people and those who have financially "invested" in the election of those so-called representatives and those who are in a position of power to offer "incentives", financial or otherwise, in consideration for legislative action that would be favorable to their own personal or organizational interests.

So much for so-called ethics.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's up to Iraq when we should leave

If it were left up to the Neoconservatives, American troops would be in Iraq for a very long time. Even if Iraq were successfully "pacified" in the short run, the Neocons have an undisclosed but not-so-secret agenda with Syria and Iran which would require them to have a heavy U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Unfortunately for the Neocons, Iraq is in a state of "civil quagmire" and is showing no signs of becoming a solid and stable platform for pursuit of their agenda with Syria and Iran. Or maybe I should say the Pro-Israel Lobby agenda with Syria and Iran. Politically, their agenda is no longer tenable, now being a mere fantasy, which it always was. Nonetheless, being mortally committed to holding Iraq, the Neocons will not willingly let go. Being aligned with the Neocon agenda, the Bush administration and its Conservative congressional supporters simply will not take the lead in departing from Iraq while the totality of the Neoconservative agenda remains largely unfulfilled. The new Democratic majority in Congress has some degree of power now, but remains a toothless barking dog with quite a growl but otherwise unable to drag us out of Iraq by themselves. This leaves the Iraqis with the task of pulling together enough of a leadership consensus to basically "ask" the U.S. to remove its troops at the earliest possible date. Oddly, both the Shiites and the Sunnis depend on the U.S. for some degree of protection, but they also feel that the U.S. is thwarting their interests as well. This gives them common cause to come to some sort of accommodation to rally their own "troops" and ask the U.S. to leave as soon as possible.

There is a lot of chaos and a lot of risk in Iraq, but I do believe that accommodation and leadership by Iraqis leading to a "request" for the departure of U.S. troops is a very real and likely prospect sometime in the next six months.

Once the Iraqis file such a request, the Democrats will rally around it. The Neocons will resist, but world opinion will rally around the Democrats and the Iraqis, putting enough public opinion pressure on moderate Republicans to achieve a veto-proof congressional majority to pass a resolution "requiring" the departure of U.S. troops on some reasonably short but practical timeline.

Even with such an outcome, U.S. troops will probably remain in Iraq in some numbers and some form for many years, but not in large numbers and not as an "occupying force". For example, although the Iraqis are likely to seek an accommodation with Syria and Iran, they are also likely to welcome the deterrent value of some U.S. troops and quick reaction forces on bases that are out of sight of the general populace.

I'm also sure that there are plenty of pragmatic Iraqis who will welcome the opportunity to make a few bucks providing goods and services to a lingering U.S. contingent.

There is plenty of potential upside for this scenario, and little in the way of downside for anybody other than the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

-- Jack Krupansky

Good news and bad news of the election

The really good news from the recent election was that the Republicans were booted out of power. Unfortunately, the really bad news is that the Democrats are now in power. Sigh. A classic out of the frying pan and into the fire scenario.

How many times were we told by the media that the election was a referendum on Iraq? And almost the first things the Democrats do to the poster boy for the anti-war movement in Congress (Murtha) is give him a good kick in the teeth. Not to mention the fact that the voters of Connecticut picked as Senator the guy that the anti-war Democrats gave the boot to in the primary. Now, it seems like the first order of business for the Democrats has been and will be to back-pedal as rapidly as possible from passing a "troops out of Iraq now" resolution. Sure, there will be a lot of shuffling on the U.S. Iraq policy, but the likely prospect is that policy in the coming year will likely be little different than if the Republicans were in power.

There are only two forms of meaningful legislation that will be passed by Congress over the next two years: proposals that are watered down to the point where enough moderate Republicans support them to override a presidential veto and compromise proposals which require that the Democrats grant conservative Republicans and President Bush a quid pro quo on some unpalatable issues that President Bush and the Conservatives really want but the Democrats really despise. We can characterise such legislation as Democrat-Light/Republican-Light. That's bad news if you were hoping for a thoroughly Liberal agenda to "roll back" Conservative policies, but reasonably good news if you are a moderate or an Independent (me).

The main contribution of a Democratic Congress over the next two years will be to provide entertainment and great theater with a complex mix of intense drama and amusing comedy, sprinkled with occasional (and too much) tragedy. I'm sure Shakespeare would love to watch. On the other hand, he might cringe and opine that "These people have learned nothing from the works of others."

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Christian wing of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby at work

An article in the NY Times by David Kirkpatrick entitled "For Evangelicals, Supporting Israel Is ‘God’s Foreign Policy’" illustrates the activities and influence of the right-wing Christian wing of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. The Times states quite clearly the nature of the right-wing Christian support for pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy:

Many conservative Christians say they believe that the president’s support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state, which some of them think will play a pivotal role in the second coming.

The primary focus of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby at this time, including both its right-wing Jewish and right-wing Christian evangelical wings, is to battle Iran as if it were Nazi Germany led by a new Adolf Hitler intent on a new Holocaust against the Jewish people. This is an exact replay of the characterization of Iraq and Saddam Hussein which led to heavy lobbying by these same people for the "liberation" of Iraq. Same groups, same motives.

The sudden interest in these people and their activies and intentions comes because, as the Times puts it:

Some evangelical leaders say they are wary of reports that a panel including former Secretary of State James A. Baker III might recommend negotiating with Iran about the future of Iraq. “It certainly bothers me,” said Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and one of the most influential conservative Christians. “That has the same kind of feel to it as the British negotiating with Germany, Italy and Japan in the run up to World War II.”

The article discusses Rev. John Hagee of San Antonio and his newly founded organization, Christians United For Israel. As this Times puts it:

Mr. Hagee is an author of several books about the interpretation of biblical prophecies. He says he believes the Bible assigns Israel a pivotal role as a harbinger of the second coming. Citing passages from Revelation and Ezekiel, he argues that conflict between Israel and Iran may be a sign that that time is approaching.

The Times goes go to say that:

Others say they believe more generally that God maintains his Old Testament covenant with the Jewish people and thus commands Christian believers to help protect their “older brothers.”

“My theology indicates that Israel is covenant land,” Dr. Dobson said in an interview.

Many conservative Christians and their Jewish allies acknowledge a certain tension between the evangelical belief in a Biblical commission to convert non-Christians and their simultaneous desire to help the Jews of Israel.

None of these biblical beliefs is a sound basis for U.S. foreign policy.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The so-called Pro-Israel Lobby at work

There were a few direct and indirect references to the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby in an article in the NY Times by Steven Erlanger entitled "In New Middle East, Tests for an Old Friendship." The primary thrust of the article related to questions of the degree to which Israel and the U.S. are really seeing eye to eye over policy towards Iran and its "nuclear ambitions." Yes, there has always been a "friendship" between the U.S. and Israel, but the article is about something far beyond simple friendship or pragmatic economic interest.

There is no hard and fast delineation for the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby, but I consider it a loose coalition between right wings Jews and right-wing Christians, both of who see Israel in a traditional biblical sense of "The Holy Lands" that were "promised by God", plus a number of politicians who find it advantageous to ally with these two main groups.

In the Times article we read that "Israel’s supporters, including those among an increasingly vocal, fiercely pro-Israel community of evangelicals, who visited the White House at least once during the Lebanon war to voice support for allowing the air attacks on Hezbollah to continue unabated." (My emphasis) This is the right-wing Christian contingent of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

Philip D. Zelikow, counselor to Secretary of State Rice, gave recently gave a speech for which the Times says "the furor over his comments was amplified because they appeared to some to echo criticisms published in March in The London Review of Books by two American scholars, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. They suggested that from the White House to Capitol Hill, Israel’s interests have been confused with America’s, that Israel is more of a security burden than an asset and that the “Israel lobby” in America, including Jewish policy makers, have an undue influence over American foreign policy." In fact, the only contentious point Mr. Zelikow had made was that "to build a coalition to deal with Iran, the United States needed to make progress on solving the Arab-Israeli dispute." That was the Times characterization. As he put it in his own words, "For the Arab moderates and for the Europeans, some sense of progress and momentum on the Arab-Israeli dispute is just a sine qua non for their ability to cooperate actively with the United States on a lot of other things that we care about." Those simple and intuitively obvious words led to quite a stir within the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

Unfortunately, one of the problematic aspects of dealing with the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby is that "opinion polls show that Americans are solidly in support of Israel, with new support coming from evangelical Christians." But such polls can be confusing an misleading. Yes, I myself support a "solid" relationship between the U.S. and many countries, including Israel. The question maybe is whether "solid" means "special" and then how special.

The bottom line here is that the Israelis are hyper-paranoid about Iran, far beyond the inherent interests of the U.S., and how that paranoia may be contaminating U.S. policy, or at least risking the contamination of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bristling Democrats

I had to smile at the CNN headline "Democrats bristle at Bush's push to confirm Bolton". As I have noted, this move is to be expected, the Democrats are wise to resist it, and it is ultimately likely to be a non-starter. Nonetheless, I have to applaud President Bush for his "spunk" in tweaking the noses of the Democrats, a lot of whom are arrogant and full of themselves. Bush will be humbled soon enough. I just wish the Democrats would show a little more humility while they do that humbling.

If the Democrats want to truly govern rather than merely being onstructionist to the Neoconservative agenda, they need to stop "bristling." They need to rise up above the fray and dare to lead rather than merely react.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fixing the Middle East: Bill Clinton

Back in late 2000 and early 2001 my belief was that the single best hope for resolving the problems in the Middle East would have been for incoming President Bush to appoint outgoing President Clinton as a long-term special envoy to the Middle East. As it turned out, that would have been a silly thing to do because the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby had other plans. But now, with those plans in shambles, my old idea suddenly once again regains its original appeal. There is no other person on the face of the planet who has Clinton's potential for making a serious dent in the layers of problems in the Middle East.

Sure, President Bush would have to share the credit for solving some of the problems in the Middle East, but better that the problems get solved on his watch and he get some of the credit than to blamed forever in the history books for these and the many problems to come on his watch.

I don't have any real hope that my concept will be implemented, but at least we can know that the situation in the Middle East is not truly hopeless.

This next year will be a very interesting time.

-- Jack Krupansky


What will the departure of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld mean for U.S. policy in Iraq? Quite a number of people insist that our whole Iraq policy has been completely and wholly architected by Rumsfeld and that everybody else has just going along for the ride. If only that were true. The reality is that Rumsfeld has been simply the "point man" for the Neoconservative military policy of preemptive war. President Bush was wholeheartedly behind the push to "liberate" Iraq. Ditto for Cheney. Ditto for countless unnamed staffers within the administration. Ditto for quite a few Congressmen and Senators and their staffers. And ditto to the nth degree for the Neoconservatives and the now-defunct Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. So many people were so gung ho for every aspect of the policies that Rumsfeld was charged with carrying out. Now, as things have not turned out as expected, many of those "supporters" are either silent or actively jumping ship, leaving Rumsfeld holding the bag. Yes, he is certainly one of the main culprits, but to suggest that it was all his doing is truly absurd.

To be clear, the concept of preemptively liberating Iraq did not originate with Rumsfeld. The concept of fighting wars with smaller, technologically superior, and more agile forces did not originate with Rumsfeld. A disdain for "the generals and the admirals" did not originate with Rumsfeld. A disinterest in "nation building" did not originate with Rumsfeld. The whole Neoconservative agenda did not originate with Rumsfeld.

Yes, now that Iraq is a true quagmire, everybody blames Rumsfeld, but this is simply classic scapegoating. Even anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan notes that "He's being offered as a sacrificial lamb."

It is not sufficient to simply replace Rumsfeld. The thought that the new guy will all by himself radically change policy in Iraq is terribly naive and misguided. The big question now is how the supporters of the Neoconservative military and foreign policies will react. Will they yield, or will they only turn up the heat on President Bush and others within the administration whose ears they whisper into with urgent "briefing papers"?

The good news is that the raw power of a Democratic majority in Congress may be able to counteract the raw power of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. The primary difficulty is that quite a few Democrats are also under the sway of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

We will see changes in our Iraq policy, but the nature and extent of those changes is not readily apparent.

The bottom line is that changes will result more from a combination of the new Democratic majority and the upcoming recommendations from the Iraq Study Group than from Rumsfeld's departure.

The sad truth is that Rumsfeld was doing about as well as humanly possible given the misguided nature of the Neoconservative mission. Yes, we should blame Rumsfeld (and hundreds of others) for lobbying for the mission in the first place, but to suggest that the current quagmire is mostly of his doing is absurd. There is plenty of blame to go around.

Anybody who believes that the departure of Rumsfeld "changes everything" is a fool. The shifting sands that led to Rumsfeld's departure do mean everything and will change everything, but Rumsfeld was simply a bit player in the grand scheme of things. He was a dramatic symbol to be sure, but symbols are not reality.

And for those who argue that Rumsfeld's biggest mistake was not sending more soldiers, all I have to say is that we all should be eternally grateful that at least this one aspect of the war plan was in fact wise, otherwise we would have significantly higher casualty counts and a larger insurgency as well. Yes, it is counterintuitive, but the proper response to an insurgency is less force. The insurgency is politically motivated, and needs a political solution. "Crushing" the insurgency is not and has never been and never will be a reasonable policy option.

Rumsfeld should be packing his bags, but his departure alone should not be a cause for dancing in the streets.

-- Jack Krupansky


There is chatter that the administration and the lame duck Republican Senate may attempt to force a vote on the long-delayed confirmation of John Bolton for ambassador to the UN. Sure, they could do that and may try, but I suspect that this is really a non-starter. To pull it off, the Republicans would have to run really roughshod over the Democrats who in turn would react with dramatic fury, especially come January. That would build up a lot of bad blood between the incoming Democratic majority and the administration and lead to undesirable consequences such as the Democrats pushing for an even more rapid withdrawal from Iraq than the administration could have negotiated without squandering its very limited political capital. Besides, the Democrats might well be able to maneuver a delay of the vote until the new Democratic Senate takes power in January anyway. Don't count out Senator Robert Byrd when it comes to gamesmenship with the Senate rules. The administration and some Senate hawks might be willing to take the gamble, but there are probably more than enough moderate Republican Senators would would rather focus on building up positive political capital with the Democrats rather than digging their hole deeper. Bolton is urgently important to the Neoconservatives, but not so important to the average conservative.

A less "feisty" ambassador to the UN would dramatically improve our relations with the entire world and the Middle East in particular.

Bolton should start packing his bags.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, November 10, 2006

Iraq on autopilot

With the Democrats now in a position to start calling the shots on Iraq and Rumsfeld essentially out of the picture, my suspicion is that Iraq and its government will now be on autopilot. Since the Democrats want to get out of Iraq ASAP, not much will happen in Iraq except to the degree that Iraq's fledgling government takes matters into its own hands. This is actually a very good thing.

We've given the Iraqis several years to get used to governing themselves and living without their lives under Saddam Hussein's thumb. It's not at all clear that coddling them for a few more years would really help, and might hurt.

My expectation is that within six months we can expect that Iraq will formally "demand" that the U.S. begin departure. In two to four months from today we could see Iraq "order" the U.S. to move out of Baghdad, or to at least cease patrols and checkpoints and guard duties.

Progress to date has been very spotty at best, but the pace will likely pick up dramatically as the Iraqis begin to more deeply grasp the extent to which their destiny is in their own hands.

-- Jack Krupansky

More real progress in Iraq: rolling back excessive de-Baathification

We read in an article in the Washington Post by John Ward Anderson entitled "Proposal Would Rehire Members of Hussein's Party - Tens of Thousands of Sunnis Pushed Out of Government Jobs Could Benefit From Shiite Measure" about a third significant increment of progress in Iraq in barely a single week, which is the decision by Iraq to substantially roll back the excessive de-Baathification that the U.S. right-wing hawks forced on Iraq. Sure a handful of Iraqi Baathists are outright war criminals, but most are far less evil. The problem was that by banning them from holding office or even having jobs in the government left them with little in the way of disincentive to refrain from supporting the insurgency.

This is an important move and will facilitate an accommodation between the disenfranchised Sunnis and the dominant Shiites.

I have personally been waiting for this move for some time. It is an absolute requirement for a peaceful solution to the unrest in Iraq.

The decision is not final since it is only a draft law, but its passage is almost certain. The fact that it was even discussed at all is truly significant.

Most importantly, it indicates the extent to which the fledgling Iraqi government is establishing its credentials as independent from the excessive, overbearing, extremist influences of the U.S., notably the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

Alas, even as the Iraqis are recognizing and correcting one of the worst mistakes of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, unnamed "right wing nut jobs" at the Wall Street Journal in an editorial entitled "Justice for Saddam" are editorializing about the supposed dangers of the Baathists by saying that "the U.S. must also defeat the insurgency that battles on in Saddam's name", without recognizing that a negotiated compromise is far superior to endless battles that the generals don't even know how to win.

As a side note, at this stage I don't have an opinion as to the impact of Saddam Hussein's conviction on the evolution of peaceful relations in Iraq. It appears to be more of a sideshow than a critical component of policy.

-- Jack Krupansky

Iraq on autopilot

With the Democrats now in a position to start calling the shots on Iraq and Rumsfeld essentially out of the picture, my suspicion is that Iraq and its government will now be on autopilot. Since the Democrats want to get out of Iraq ASAP, not much will happen in Iraq except to the degree that Iraq's fledgling government takes matters into its own hands. This is actually a very good thing.

We've given the Iraqis several years to get used to governing themselves and living without their lives under Saddam Hussein's thumb. It's not at all clear that coddling them for a few more years would really help, and might hurt.

My expectation is that within six months we can expect that Iraq will formally "demand" that the U.S. begin departure. In two to four months from today we could see Iraq "order" the U.S. to move out of Baghdad, or to at least cease patrols and checkpoints and guard duties.

Progress to date has been very spotty at best, but the pace will likely pick up dramatically as the Iraqis begin to more deeply grasp the extent to which their destiny is in their own hands.

-- Jack Krupansky

Iraq on autopilot

With the Democrats now in a position to start calling the shots on Iraq and Rumsfeld essentially out of the picture, my suspicion is that Iraq and its government will now be on autopilot. Since the Democrats want to get out of Iraq ASAP, not much will happen in Iraq except to the degree that Iraq's fledgling government takes matters into its own hands. This is actually a very good thing.

We've given the Iraqis several years to get used to governing themselves and living without their lives under Saddam Hussein's thumb. It's not at all clear that coddling them for a few more years would really help, and might hurt.

My expectation is that within six months we can expect that Iraq will formally "demand" that the U.S. begin departure. In two to four months from today we could see Iraq "order" the U.S. to move out of Baghdad, or to at least cease patrols and checkpoints and guard duties.

Progress to date has been very spotty at best, but the pace will likely pick up dramatically as the Iraqis begin to more deeply grasp the extent to which their destiny is in their own hands.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Republicans: Keep on fighting

I am no fan of the Republicans, but I'm not that keen on a lot of Democrats either. Although people are writing the Republicans off for this election cycle, I would strongly urge the Republicans to keep on fighting until the last ballot is cast. I would urge the Democrats to do the same, even if or especially if they feel their wins are "baked into the cake." If anything, the sight of the Republicans "toughing it out" may spur the Democrats to put in their best effort as well.

And I do hope there is little fighting over the counting of the ballots. If there is one thing this country doesn't need, it is more lawyers.

-- Jack Krupansky

Enough with the polls, let the people vote

The last-minute frenzy of polls for the election is truly absurd. Enough with the polls already. Let the people vote as they will.

And any candidate or party or supporter or voter who assumes that any candidate or party will win or lose based on some poll that they read deserves to lose. Take nothing for granted.

Everyone should be campaigning as if their next breath was going to make or break their entire campaign.

And the voters actually need to work much harder to refrain from offering support for any candidates except as the candidates really and truly commit to serve the citizens in their constituency.

Enough with loyalty to "the party". Loyalty is owed only to the citizens in the district or state.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Vanity Fair: Neo Culpa: Now They Tell Us: Neoconservatives Cut and Run

There is a fascinating article by David Rose on the Vanity Fair web site entitled "Neo Culpa" which reveals that a number of the prominent Neoconservatives who had lobbied so heavily for the "liberation" of Iraq are now blaming the administration for incompetence and claiming that they themselves are in no away responsible for what has happened. It's called "Cut and Run." The article is actually a short teaser for the full article which will appear in the January issue of Vanity Fair in December. The subtitle paragraph says it all:

Led by Richard Perle and Kenneth Adelman, the war's neoconservative architects blast the Bush administration for what even they call the "disaster" in Iraq.

Kenneth Adelman is the Neocon who famously predicted that "demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk."

It is really tough to swallow the sentiment that such a prominent figure who had the ear of President Bush and the administration and so many members of Congress is now doing a 180-degree turn:

Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself—what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, "it's not going to sell." And if he, too, had his time over, Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless. I guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked CAN'T DO. And that's very different from LET'S GO."

Yes, the liberation aspect was a relative "cakewalk." Creation of a stable Democracy was never a part of the Neocon game plan. As President Bush famously proclaimed in the 2000 presidential debates, American armed forces are for warfighting, not nation-building.

-- Jack Krupansky

Can the Democrats really do it?

Can the Democrats really do it?

By "do it", I mean can they refrain from doing making a lot of really dumb moves (e.g., trying to be clever and pretend to be comedians as we saw Senator Kerry foolishly attempt to do) between now and Tuesday evening.

I believe it can be done and I believe that it is (barely) likely, but as Senator Kerry showed us so vividly, seriousness, dignity, and discipline are not the strong suits of the Democratic Party.

As far as Kerry's prospects in 2008. If he runs for president (again), it will be the first time in 36 years that I won't be voting for a Democrat for president. He is now officially on my "do not call" list. Sure, he might be able to redeem himself over the next two years, but I honestly think that the guy truly believes that he didn't do anything wrong last week. Blaming the Republicans for your own stupidity is a non-starter in my book.

I have already cast my absentee ballot, voting "the party line" for the Democrats (as usual), but I actually hope that the Democrats fail to get a majority in either or both Houses of Congress. I think they are still too arrogant to govern wisely and can be more effective as minority underdogs. My suspicion remains that my "hope" will be dashed.

My other hope is that the closeness of the election will result in a sense of humility that will tamp down enough of the Democratic arrogance so that they can govern and compromise effectively. Once again, I don't hold out high hopes for my hopes.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More real progress in Iraq

It was heartwarming to read in a NY Times article by Kirk Semple entitled "Iraqi Demands Pullback; U.S. Lifts Baghdad Cordon" that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had demanded the removal of American checkpoints from the streets of Baghdad on Tuesday. This is only a second instance of an Iraqi leader showing some real spine and suggesting that Iraqis really do understand the stakes. I don't know if this is really what President Bush had in mind when he talked about the U.S. standing down as the Iraqis stand up, but it will do. It's not enough, yet, but it is a good start.

It is now very possible that within merely a few months we could see a situation where Iraq "demands" that American forces evacuate Baghdad, or at least don't have a presence on the streets.

We will need to see a lot of little steps and some big ones as well in the coming months, but the name of the game will be building confidence that Iraq's national government is simultaneously willing to stand up for the various groups in Iraq as well as standing up against American attempts to keep the Iraqis as mere puppets for American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Go Iraq! Send the Americans packing... ASAP.

I only hope the Bush administration will recognize the deep wisdom of Iraq's moves and leave on good terms that will serve the long-term interests of both the U.S. and Iraq.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In politics, trying to be clever really sucks

Well at least Senator Kerry did one thing right, by apologizing to the troops and their families. Yes, the Republicans misrepresented Kerry's "botched joke", but the real issue here is that Kerry showed incredibly bad judgment by trying to be ever-so-clever on a topic that really needed to be treated with solemn seriousness. Yes, President Bush and his gang and their supporters have shown very poor judgment with the whole Iraq debacle, but Kerry should have left Bush out of the discussion and focused on the need to replace all of those Republican congressmen and Senators who supported the Iraq fiasco. By all means, Kerry could have and should have referred to Republicans in Congress as ill-educated and unable to exercise good judgment and learn from the history lessons they should have been taught in school. Instead, Kerry tried to take a shortcut to success by being clever instead of being serious, and the lesson to students should be that taking shortcuts, like Congress and President Bush tried to take with Iraq are almost always a really bad idea.

Here's a scary thought: What if Kerry had been elected president in 2004 and we were in the middle of intense diplomatic negotations with Iran? Would he have publicly joked about the education of the leaders of Iran? I would hope not, but now we have to wonder!

Maybe Kerry was simply acting out his anger about the 2004 campaign and election. Or maybe he was previewing the 2008 election. Whatever, it was plain simply very bad judgment.

My advice to Senator Kerry: Let Jon Stewart, et al handle the President Bush humor. We elect Senators to be serious, not to fantasize about being artful comedians.

"Kerry's comment" suggests a serious character flaw. Unfortunately, it is a character flaw that afflicts most of the Democratic Party. Arrogance, excessive cleverness, a penchant for shortcuts, whatever, it all stinks. Just when you think these guys have it all under control and have the election sewn up, one of them pulls a bonehead move like this. I would say that it is unbelievable, accept that I fully expected that somewhere along the line some Democrats would take the election and the voters for granted and think that they could say or do whatever they want with impunity.

I still think the election is still the Democrats' to lose and they will likely gain control of both Houses of Congress, but absolutely no benefits will accrue to the Democrats when they show such poor judgment as Kerry did with his "humor."

Maybe there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of "Kerry's comment": it was a stern wakeup call to all Democrats: be carefeul, watch your mouth, and focus on what it takes to win. Bad jokes can wait until after the election results have been certified.

I can't believe it... I'm actually madder at Senator Kerry than I am at President Bush.

-- Jack Krupansky