Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

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Month: December 2006 (page 1 of 3)

Best and Worst (in Public Policy) of 2006

If you’re looking for a year-end review a little more substantive than your usual best and worst dressed, check out this handiwork from the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. An overview is up at DMIBlog.

Somalia: Another Foreign Policy Failure

Back in June, LiberalOasis noted how Dubya’s foreign policy in Somalia had backfired:

They could have chosen to shore up the relatively new transititional government, fostered economic development, engaged in diplomacy to solve regional differences — all with an eye towards acheiving a stable, representative democracy.
Instead, they passed on the democracy, and secretly funded and armed Somali warlords — possibly some of the same warlords who killed US soldiers in the Black Hawk Down episode — in their battles with Islamist militia.

Fueling a civil war completely backfired, as the popularity of the Islamists increased over the last few months.
And now we risk, as Douglas Farah wrote, having this be “the beginning of another serious Islamist threat to a much broader world.”

Now the civil war is expanding into a regional war with Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Today, that might not seem so bad, with Ethiopia winning a military battle with Somali Islamist forces.
But yesterday’s W. Post story should make clear that short-term military victories do not equal long-term democracy and stability:

“The feelings are very bad, very confusing — everywhere, it’s confusing,” said a businessman in Mogadishu who did not want to be identified. “I didn’t expect this scale of war, but most Somalis, even if they were fighting each other before on a clan basis, they are united now against Ethiopia. And there’s a feeling that the international community is not helping.”

Analysts believe that Ethiopia’s offensive is intended to force the movement back into negotiations by changing the situation on the ground.
But some analysts have expressed fear that … even if its superior military initially routs the Islamic movement, the ideologically driven militias will become only more motivated to pursue a guerrilla-style war or terrorist attacks across the region.

“Hasn’t anyone heard of Iraq?” said John Prendergast, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group in Washington. “A military strategy of ‘countering terrorism’ never works and will likely blow up in their faces.”

While we certainly do not want Somalia to become a dictatorship and terrorist haven, Ethiopia — whose military is backed by ours — is ruled by an “increasingly authoritarian leader” who has tried to crush political opposition.
It is the propping up of such “friendly” leaders that breeds resentent, radicalizes populations and helps spread the jihadist movement.
This particular Somali movement, the Islamic Courts, is not simply a terrorist outfit. As the W. Post reports:

Opposition groups inside Ethiopia say that Meles, an increasingly authoritarian leader, has shrewdly played up the terrorism charges to win U.S. support.
Based in part on intelligence out of Ethiopia, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi E. Frazer has asserted that the Islamic movement is now under the control of an al-Qaeda cell, a claim that regional analysts believe is exaggerated.

The Islamic Courts, initially a grouping of local clerics [established] order based on Islamic law village by village, and winning the support of businessmen and others who found the transitional government ineffective and the warlords unacceptable.
Analysts say it is a measure of beleaguered Somalis’ desire for order, rather than a tendency toward religious extremism, that they embraced the movement.

Though the movement includes moderate leaders, it is backed by a militant core of young fighters called shebab, who have been indoctrinated with the ideology of holy war and whose leaders, analysts say, seem to have become more influential in recent months.

The current US-Ethiopia policy, disrespecting democracy and diplomacy, is strengthening militants and marginalizing moderates.
Whereas a change in policy, seeking credible democracy by diplomatically engaging parties that represent all peoples, would accomplish the opposite.
The violence on the Horn of Africa is just another example of how conservative foreign policy is failing us: destabilizing the globe, helping terrorist movements and weakening our security.

Left Jab on Sunday

This Sunday at 8 AM ET, I’ll be discussing Wait! Don’t Move To Canada! and politics in general on Left Jab, heard on XM Satellite Radio channel 133 (or perhaps 165).

Happy Holidays

LiberalOasis will post irregularly, as news warrants, from today through New Year’s Day. Happy holidays!

Today on WHMP-AM

Western Mass. readers, I’ll be winding up my guest hosting duties for Bill Dwight today from 9-10 AM ET, on The Morning NewsWatch Extra (1400 AM in Northampton, 1600 AM in Springfield, 1240 AM in Greenfield).
And I’ll also be interviewing David Pakman, host of Midweek Politics heard on Valley Free Radio and syndicated on the Pacifica Radio Network.

Congressman’s Hate Weakens America

Last week was dubbed the “Week of Rising Hate” by LiberalOasis, with rising anti-Muslim sentiment at home and anti-Semitism abroad.
Though this week, Iran’s voters were not impressed with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial conference and weakened his political standing in their election.
But anti-Muslim attitudes continue to be vented by prominent right-wing Americans.
Now it’s Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), who recently sent out this delightful letter to some of his constituents:

Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way.
The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.
We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country.
I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.
The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran.
My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.”
Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

(Apparently, Rep. Goode learned nothing about his state from former Senator George “Macaca” Allen.)
The “Muslim Representative” — who has a name, Keith Ellison — handled this incident pitch perfectly.
After noting that he is not an immigrant, but has American ancestry back to the 18th century, he said:

I’m looking forward to making friends with Representative Goode, or at least getting to know him. I want to let him know that there‚Äôs nothing to fear.
The fact that there are many different faiths, many different colors and many different cultures in America is a great strength.

But as good as Rep.-elect Ellison handled the matter, there’s more to say.
Because this is not just about discrimination at home. It’s about our policy abroad. As LiberalOasis wrote:

…anti-Muslim sentiment … feeds the notion that more violent confrontation is necessary, potentially steering our foreign policy course towards further destabilization.

In turn, the response to Rep. Goode should be:
To win the “ideological war” that President Bush speaks of, we need to win the hearts and minds of the Arab/Muslim world, by strengthening Muslim moderates and marginalizing extremists.
But when our political leaders attack the entire Muslim religion, they strengthen the jihadist movement and weaken America.
Our own intelligence community has reported that “fear of Western domination” in the Arab/Muslim world fuels “the spread of the jihadist movement.”
The reverberations of a single congressman disparaging the leading faith of the Gulf region can feed that dangerous fear and fuel that deadly spread.
We need to lead by example, respect Islam and all faiths held by our representatives, if we are to ever to convince the Arab/Muslim world we believe in democracy and not donimation.

Joining The Commonweal Institute

Today, the Commonweal Institute announced it has invited me to be a Fellow, joining Dave Johnson of Seeing The Forest and Chris Bowers of MyDD among others. As part of the post, I’ll be doing some blogging over at the CI blog, in addition to my regular blogging here at LiberalOasis. I’m honored to have been asked to join, and I’m looking forward to contributing to CI’s efforts to “advance ideas for the common good.”

Guest Hosting on WHMP

For readers in Western Massachusetts, today through Friday, I’ll be guest hosting for Bill Dwight on “The Morning NewsWatch Extra,” heard from 9-10 ET AM on WHMP-AM (1400 AM in Northampton, 1600 AM in Springfield, 1240 AM in Greenfield).
Today, I’ll be interviewing Charley Blandy from about the blog’s role in Gov.-elect Deval Patrick’s transition.
Also today at 3 PM PT, I’ll be discussing Wait! Don’t Move To Canada! with Christiane Brown on Reno, Nevada’s KJFK 1230 AM.

A Bigger Military, But For What?

So Dubya announces he wants to increase the overall size of the military, and leading Democrats applaud.
Before you get too ticked, do note that leading Democrats have been calling for an increase since 2003.
They have been critical of former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld’s strategy for a military more reliant on technology than troop size.
They rightly predicted Bush’s foreign policy would stretch the military too thin.
So they are merely being consistent in supporting a shift away from Rummy’s attempt at “transformation.”
But there’s a deeper issue than the size of the military — what our government should have the military do.
If a smaller military inherently meant less unnecessary war, then Rummy would be a leading candidate for Dennis Kucinich’s Department of Peace.
Bush’s foreign policy goals were awful with a smaller military. They will be awful with a larger military.
Back in 2003, when Time Magazine explored this debate, that very point was raised:

Some critics say the argument over enlarging the military misses the point: the country needs not a bigger Army but a different foreign policy.
“This nation cannot deal effectively with the combination of terrorism, rogue states and weapons of mass destruction in all places and every time through the unilateral use of U.S. military force,” says Lawrence Korb, a senior Reagan-era Pentagon official who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Working more cooperatively with other nations, he says, would ease the strain on the U.S. military while marshaling international support for the actions ultimately taken.

Korb is now with the Center for American Progress, pushing for strategic redeployment out of Iraq.
Democrats need to learn how, when Bush makes news, to broaden the debates beyond finer tactical points to deeper strategic goals.
It’s fine for them to be consistent about troop size and relieving the current stress on our military, but there’s no excuse for letting Bush argue we need more troops for an “ideological war.”
That’s a perfect opening to argue it’s not the military’s job to win hearts and minds.
That’s a job for politics, diplomacy and economics. Not a bigger military.

Last-Minute Holiday Gift

Online shoppers: if you’ve been thinking about Wait! Don’t Move To Canada! as a Christmas stocking stuffer or Hanukkah gift, you may want to click over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble today, to make sure the book arrives in time. Happy holidays!

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