David Horowitz, the reknowned apostate from the New Left movement who now writes so eloquently from a right wing standpoint, lays out a disturbing timeline for America’s defeat in the War on Terror. Read it at Front Page Magazine. This is some thought-provoking (and possibly highly infammatory) stuff.
Yesterday I reported the impending launch of the Democrats’ new “100 Days” campaign leading up the the November 7 elections. Today, the Democrats announced a new plan, “Six for ’06.” Evidently both initiatives tie in with the “New Direction for America” manifesto that accompanied the 100 Days announcement. If you are counting, that is three cheeky slogans so far. With this recent prodigious output from the DNC, one can only imagine what tomorrow will bring.
The newest member of the trifecta, “Six for ’06,” stands for the six major issue groupings the Dems will be hammering on this fall; they are as follows (courtesy of CNN):
Jobs and wages
Affordable health care
College access for all
The common theme throughout these discussions will be attacks on President Bush. The “Democrats insist most of this year’s campaigns — 75 percent — will be a referendum on President Bush,” according to the CNN article. That should come as no surprise as common as it is to hear Democrats denouncing Bush and Republicans in Congress (and on rare occasions, rightly so, to be fair) while providing no clear alternatives from their camp. To see this in another context, compare the two party websites, GOP.org and democrats.org. Only one reference is made to Democrats on the GOP homepage, while on the Democrats’ homepage I counted 16 links to GOP-bashing articles. At some point, after the 75 percent Bush-bashing is done, Democrats will have to be quite astute in utilising the remaining 25 percent of the campaign energy they have alloted themselves to articulate their solutions.
In this legislative session, the Republicans have been their own worst enemy.They have failed to pass corruption reform agenda even as corruption involving key Republicans (and Democrats)coninues to be exposed. They have failed to act decisively on immigration, citing the wide disparity between the House and Senate versions of the bill. They also waffled embarassingly on renewing the Voting Rights Act. And that is only to name a few. In sum, the Republicans have done everything they can to diminish their own credibility with the American voter.
And yet, while the Democrats could seize the opportunity to pummel a faltering GOP, it fights to not fall apart itself. Only now with the earth-shattering “New Direction for America” has the DNC finally tried to outline a cohesive platform for the fall. But the party is still in disarray. National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Nick said from the GOP standpoint that the Dems are “flailing in their desperate attempt to demonstrate that they have a plan and are unified. Their plan is really to raise taxes, increase spending and weaken important tools that protect Americans in the war against terror.” There is some merit to the adage that “it all starts at the top;” and if we look at the head of the DNC, we find a leader in Howard Dean that flip-flops on issues depending upon his audience while making the odd crazy comment such as his statement this week calling the Iraqi prime minister Al-Maliki an “anti-Semite.” The one-time presidential hopeful who made campaign blogs famous now runs a party whose website projects an uncomfortable mix of a groovy, activist, juvenile spirit that tries vainly to contain itself within the realms of a more traditional level of decorum. No better is its media campaign, with its confusing jumble of new slogans and credos.
The Republicans should really be feeling the heat as November approaches, but one does not get the sense that they feel threatened. And why should they? The Democrats are blowing a golden opportunity through their own failure to create a clear, solid, united front in the fight to take back congress. One gets the impression that the Democrats feel like underdogs in the fight, even though polls show them as clear favorites. A telling event took place this afternoon as the Democrats worked to roll out the new campaign. CNN reports that “At a meeting with reporters at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headquarters, Democratic leaders unveiled a Web video with clips of the president saying ‘stay the course’ interspersed with graphics such as ‘gas prices at an all time high.’They played the video on a small laptop in the front of the room full of reporters because, they said, they couldn’t find a screen projector.”
Indeed, if the Dems want control of the House and Senate, they must develop solutions to the problems they perceive are evident with the Republican congress. They must articulate, then, these agendae. And they must be united. Because it will take more than a passel of lame slogans to charm th American voters.
Today the Democrats announced their “100 Day” strategy to win over voters in the midterm elections this fall. The slogan for the campaign is particularly energizing–“A New Direction for America” The new initiative begins this Saturday, exactly 100 days before the November election, with the “Democratic Reunion: 100 Days, 100 Voters, 100 Actions.” It remains unclear as to how the Democrats plan to take over the Congress with a mere 100 votes; maybe its the 100 actions that take up the slack. Lack of imagination on the part of the DNC marketing team notwithstanding, the 100 Day strategy intends to focus on “a compilation of positions the party has staked out over the past few months on income, national security, energy, education, health care and retirement accounts.” The Dems are expected to draw much attention to “inflated” gas price as a key to their energy policy agenda. Sure, gas prices concerns will resonate with the American populace, but to rail on the Administration as the source of high gas prices is nothing less that a cheap populist appeal. It would do the Democrats well to look at some facts before they talk about helping out Americans at the pump.
Economics 101: High demand + low supply = High Prices. And that is exactly what we have. The US by far consumes the highest percentage of fossil fuels of any nation, but others are catching up. Most notable is China, which has maintained the higest rate of increase in consumption, having surpassed Japan in 2003 for the dubious distinction as the world’s second-largest oil consumer. China’s struggle to ensure a steady stream of oil is well documented, and very concisely so in this BBC article. Now China consumes nearly 7 million barrels per day and is projected to overtake the US in about 2020. If highway contruction indicates a trend, then take into consideration that the Chinese have over tripled their miles of highway in the past couple of years. So if the US is using over 20 million barrels per day and China uses 7 million and counting, we can safely assume that demand is very high. If production matched demand, then no problem would exist save the obvious negative environmental impact. But as we know the US has built no new refineries since the 1970s, meaning it is really difficult to increase supply. So it is simple economics. Republicans don’t set oil prices-the market does. Higher prices at the pump reflect the realities of supply and demand in today’s market.
And this all under the assumption that today’s gas prices are killing us. In reality, we are actually quite spoiled. Compared to the rest of the world, gas is a real bargain for Americans. Europeans often pay six or seven dollars per gallon! Now that might drive more of us to go out and buy a new Honda Civic as your author has; but at three dollars per gallon many Americans can still afford to keep their SUVs humming along. Speaking of humming, General Motors’ poster child for fuel inefficiency, its Hummer division, saw sales up almost 60 percent in May. To further put things into perspective, looking at prices adjusted for inflation shows that we are paying less per gallon than we did at the heigh of the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s.
So get real, Democrats. You cite a poll in which Americans said they “preferred Democrats to handle gas prices.” A note to the DNC: you can no more control gas prices than the Republicans. A key plank in the Democrats’ energy policy is the commitment to “a comprehensive policy that makes America less dependent on foreign oil, and ultimately energy independent by 2020.” How are they going to wean us of foreign oil? Are we do begin drilling in Alaska? Yes we can provide incentives for fuel efficiency. We must in fact. But the market ultimately will be responsible to make this change happen. Up until this point, consumers have shown that demand is not there to support hybrid cars, for example, as evidenced by most manufacturers of these vehicles scaling back production. But this is changing.
Retooling of the US economy to cut oil consumption will be a lengthy process, and I think both parties realize the need to look in that direction. In the meantime, oil prices may stay the same or rise some. But it is not a function of evil “Big Oil” being in cahoots with Dubya et al. It the market that drives prices. And even so we have it perhaps too good. So get real, Democrats. I’m calling you out on this one. I’m sure at least 100 voters will too.
One thing I find striking as we analyze the conflict in Israel and Lebanon is the amount of new information we discover each day. This information invariably seems to serve mainly to further muddy the issue. But the revelation that Hizballah is so highly active within the US is particularly disturbing, and I think it really underlines the reasons why Islamic extremism should be treated as the major threat to world peace in our time (as I explained in yesterday’s post “The New War”). I urge you to read this piece from NPR’s website that details how Hizballah is no new enemy to the US and how active they remain on our own soil.
In evaluating the problem between Israel and Hezbollah, I find myself viewthe struggle less in normative sense and more from the realist perspective. This comes as I see increasingly impossible the probability of achieving a sustainable peace in the Middle East without radical restructuring in the region. The Islamic fanatics are firmly entrenched with the stated goal of spreading fundamentalist Islamic government throughout the world. I believe we are seeing the emergence of the latest conflict structure in the lineage that includes in the past century the Cold War, which composed the latter half of the 1900s; and the two world wars, which composed a goodly portion of the first half of the century.
Going back the more distant conflict, the World Wars, we see the roots of the struggle begin the late 1800s and truly pick up steam at the turn of the century as in Europe new power structures began to challenge the status quo. Chief among these new power structures was Germany under the Kaiser. Germany’s ambition and its military might made peace within Europe increasingly difficult to maintain, and eventually the First World War erupted. Amid great spillage of blood, the alliance of Britain, France, and the US eventually trumped the mighty Germans. But the extreme marginalisation of Germany at the end of hostilities, coupled with other prejuidices that had yet to be resolved by the war’s end, planted the seeds for revisiting the issue in the near future. Indeed, the Germans again rose to power in Europe under Hitler’s fanatically racist Nazi party, whose goal was the extermination of Jews and other races deemed inferior to the Aryan nation. Germany again was eventually unable to contain its ambitions and brought a war of conquest upon Europe. This time, though, another conflict arose simultaneously almost a hemisphere away. Japan rose to military might under an imperialistic regime that held the fanatical support of the populace for the Emperor. So in the end the Allies–The US, Britain, France, and now Russia–were able to overwhelm the radical, imperialistic regimes of Europe and Asia as they did in World War I, and again with the shedding of very much blood. The key storylines here were fanatic regimes with imperialistic aspirations being beaten by what for the most part were what we call free nations.
After the World Wars were settled, another type of fanaticism arose, this time in the form of a politcal religion called communism. Unlike the Germans and Japanese, however, the communists, at least the largest and most dangerous contingent thereof, had nuclear weapons. These were based on Russia and its satellite nations in eastern Europe. Not only were the communists a major threat to the world with their impressive nuclear arsenal, they worked diligently to expand their influence throughout the world, on every continent perhaps save Antarctica. And these communists were absolutely brutal in repressing dissent. The USSR appears to have killed about 61 million during its existence–43 million appear to have been the work Joseph Stalin alone. The US utlised a variety of strategies in the drive to remove the threat. In the meantime, the two nations scuffled through proxy nations, most notably Vietnam. Containment reigned as the supreme doctrine until President Reagan determined to confront communism. In the end, the USSR went broke and fell apart in the early 1990s. The key to victory in the Cold War was the construction of an extermely robust military deterrent, something that did not drain the US economy as it did the Russian economy. The US kept pressure on the Soviets in South America and in some cases drove them out, all while building an immense military complex. The Soviets in the end ran their economy into the ground attmepting to stay on par with the US military.
Now, we face a new international conflict between fanatical Islam and the Western world. It is similar to the previous two structures in that a fanatical regime seeks to spread its control throughout the world. But in each conflict structure are differences. In this case, while we do have the fanatical imperialists we expect to see, we in addition have to deal with the fact that the protagonists here act outside the normal confines of state warfare. They justify their goal on idealism and religion, as did those before them; but they act in large part as transnational terrorist groups rather than as a traditional military. Worse still, they play by a different set of rules that makes conventional military engagement in large part a maddening exercise in futility. Terrorism, its chief vehicle of warfare, directly targets civilians rather than actual opposition military in many cases. It also shrewdly uses public relations to impact the public opinion battle.
This is the new battle we face. Again I must emphasize I am addressing this from a realist perspective, leaving emotion out of it. I am ignoring in this treatment the questions and prejuidices that give rise to “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” discussions. I think it difficult, though, regardless of one’s background, to condone the movement’s self-avowed goal of defeating Western civilization and implementing in its place the rule of Islamic extremism. The Islam isn’t the problem here; fundamentalism is. The hope is that it will take much less than the approximately 50 it took to bring an end to the Cold War, and that many millions fewer will fall victims of the struggle. In that regard, the tragedies as a result of Islamic fundamentalist-inspired terrorism, terrible as they are, still pale in comparison the heinous crimes perpetrated by history’s butchers like Hitler and Stalin.
In the meantime, futile as it may be, we owe it to humanity to seek with all urgency a end to hostilities in Lebanon and Israel, and to implement aid efforts to Lebanese victims with all due haste. But I think given the intransigence of Islamic fundamentalism, we should view it in terms of a new conflict structure, not some thing that will quietly disappear if the US disengages in Iraq or Israel gives up all prisoners and occupied land. Because even with those concessions, the agenda of the fundamentalists is still far from being fulfilled.
As the pummeling of southern Lebanon by Israeli military might continues, the diplomatic picture simultaneously unfolds. Diplomatic efforts have taken some time to get off the ground, particularly in the case of the United States. While I previously posed this issue as a Catch-22 of sorts for the US, in light of the evolution of the situation I am inclined to become a bit more optimistic.
For the past week or so the Administration has voiced support for Israel and called on Syria to reign in Hezbollah, however, its response to the conflict really amounted to little more than a wait-and-see approach. Diplomatically, this seems to have been the wise choice. Israel has made very clear from the beginning that it will settle only for the removal of Hezbollah from threatening proximity to Israeli borders and that a prisoner exchange was unacceptable; so for the US to implore Israel to end hostilities would serve only to create a case of dissonance between the two.
This ultimately translates to the necessity that Hezbollah be the one to give in. As the bigger picture begins to unfold, this seems increasingly reasonable. Hezbollah has been a highly destructive force in Lebanon, which mere weeks ago was a promising island of relative stability in the region. Unfortunately there existed a small problem in the shape of a terrorist organization that controlled the southern third of the country, an organization that exists independently on the Lebanese government. Its very existence marginalizes the legitimacy of the Lebanese government, which is not powerful enough to subdue it. In an interview with Al-Jazeera Saturday, Lebanese social affairs minister Nayla Moawad admitted that Lebanon “never pretended that we could disarm Hezbollah.” She went on to emphasize the divergence of the Lebanese government’s interests and policy from that of Hezbollah, saying “we clearly stated that we did not approve of the operation and we did not know about the operation and we did not adopt or support this operation.”
The landscape would be dramatically different if Hezbollah acted only on behalf of a group of Lebanese dissidents. Reality is that Hezbollah operates in Lebanon not as an advocate of the Lebanese but as an enemy of Israel under the auspices of Iran and Syria. The disconnect between the interests of Lebanon and those of Hezbollah were made very apparent by Hassan Nasrallah himself, the leader of the terrorist organization, when he said that they are fighting not only for Lebanon but for the entire Arab people. He went further saying that “war will continue whether the Lebanese people like it or not” according to the report by Al-Jazeera.
It is increasingly clear, then, that Hezbollah is the problem. They have prevented Lebanon from building upon the pullout by Syria and relatively successful democratic elections. And it is their singular and self-professed goal of destroying Israel that has brought destruction upon Lebanon. The problem goes still deeper though. Hezbollah exists only thanks to Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made no secret of his agenda to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, so it comes as no surprise the stance of its proxy Hezbollah.
If we look at this in the wider context of the Middle East, we see how very pertinent the outcome of the current conflict in southern Lebanon is to the entire region. If Iran is to destroy Israel, it certainly has no interest in allowing the US to create a stable sphere of influence centered in Iraq. No one will deny that the US has many interests in the region, not the least of which is oil. Looking into a future where an nuclear-armed Iran dominates a Middle East composed of nations ruled by extremist clerics there is inevitable conflict in the form of threats to Israel and access to oil.
So in sum, Iran’s regional ambitions are at the heart of the problem. It will continue to be a source of headaches in the region until confronted. If it is not confronted, a long parade of violent episodes much like the one we currently face is the likely result. That is the reality we face. In the short term, we must seek the quickest path to a cessation of hostilities and a swift relief effort for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Lebanese. But we must approach this with the knowledge that unsustainable half-measures are just that—compromises that only set the stage for another round of violence later down the road.