Coward Old Universe…

by Jeremy G.

Posts Tagged ‘Al Qaeda’

Giuliani’s right, Mr.Olbermann

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on October 16, 2007

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In an unusual display of hyprocrisy and intellectual dishonesty in his show Countdown, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC tried to belittle former New York Mayor Ruldolph Giuliani after the latter claimed that 23 terror attacks had been prevented since 9-11.  “Not even the White House claims that,” laughed Olbermann.  Little did he know that he was quite wrong.

Giuliani‘s performance was assessed by a non-partisan think tank, FactCheck.org, here and hereGiuliani ‘s statements were systematically analyzed and some were criticized, but not those remarks.  The same holds true in this article, published in Slate.

In fact, in my own research, relying upon the testimonies of Intelligence Officials in front of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I find that there have been 21 failed attacks against US soil up to 2006.  And that does not include the June 2007 plot against the JFK airport in New York.

Olbermann committed a big gaffe, and will never have to explain himself.  That’s how the system works, and I accept that, all the more so as Bill O’Reilly probably makes similar errors, but for the other side’s account.  The only take-home lesson, for me at least, is that I’ll have a hard time listening to someone telling me that Fox News is completely illegitimate and biased: although the latter might be true, the former is difficult to admit when one observes Olbermann‘s display of dishonesty.

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Posted in 2008 Elections, US Foreign Policy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

9-11: Six Years On

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on September 9, 2007

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So much has been written on the subject.  Yet, what is remarkable about the event and the comments it has generated, is that whatever was written a little while ago is still relevant today.

The most significant of those comments is that, ironically enough, the U.S., which was attacked on 9-11, is paying today a heavy political price for those strikes.  I’ve offered here a methodology to assess how beneficial security spending since 9-11 has been at home here.  It seems that a cost-benefit analysis, based solely – by definition – on financial considerations, passes the test.  The same is certainly not true if political factors are included in the computation.  Hence this heavy political price.

One fundamental reason for this is that as a democracy, in a struggle with groups and countries with little consideration with principles related to liberty, the U.S. is not playing by the same rules.  The most recent and very cogent instance of this state of affairs was recently revealed by David Ignatius here: While Iran actively intervened in the January 2005 Elections in Iraq, the U.S. refused to adopt similar methods and did not back more moderate Iraqi politicians.  No American move to challenge Iran‘s $11 million challenge, although, as Ignatius reveals, the did provide some alternatives.

There is obviously nothing wrong with that choice.  There is also nothing wrong with the current criticism currently formulated against the Bush Administration for its poor handling of the post-Iraqi war.  There is something troublesome, though, with the way this criticism has been expressed.  It seems, at time, as if the only type of international violence that one can witness today emanates from the U.S., and that no one else is causing any harm.  Or, to use Mark Steyn’s words in his column today, as if there is no terrorism, only war.  

Moreover, this raises a paradox.  In a more extreme form, criticism against the Bush Administration put the emphasis on the Administration’s incompetence.  While there may be grounds to argue in favor of this thesis, the fact that the U.S. did not suffer any attack since 9-11 contradicts the very notion that this Administration is fully incompetent – luck as an explanation might be a bit of a stretch here.  But the paradox doesn’t stop here.  Steyn, in his column, raises the many contradictions of the most extreme form of criticism, expressed by conspiracy theories.  On the one hand, the Bush is very incompetent, but still smart enough to orchestrate, on its own soil, an operation like 9-11.  That’s an issue conspiracy theorists have not been able to solve yet.  Some even claim Bush rigged elections.  I would personally add, beyond Steyn‘s remarks, that interestingly enough, Bush failed to rig the last election of his mandate, that led to a Democratic landslide in Congress almost a year ago.  How weird.

I never cared for this systematic Bush bashing, caused, in my opinion, by a left lacking reason and a right lacking pragmatism.  Democrats would have dealt with this problem in a way that would have not been any different than Republicans – anybody remember the Clinton Administration‘s obsession with Saddam Hussein? Regime change was on the table as early as 1998.  Republicans have responded to the emergence of a new constellation of more pro-American leaders in Europe with a “So What?” that is as troubling as it is bewildering, given what is left to do today.

Six years on.  Same debates.  Little change.

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Posted in 9-11, Global War on Terror, US Foreign Policy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Resilience, the British Way

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on July 6, 2007

Business as usual, in Britain, says the International Herald Tribune, here and here, after last week’s failed terror attempts. In a three year span, the British will have faced three consecutive summers of violence and threats, with the 2005 London Bombings, the 2006 major terrorist plot to blow up twelve planes over the Atlantic, and now, this new series of attacks.

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Contrary to 2005, it seems though that this plot was not homegrown, or was at least not led by British nationals. This does not mean in any way that one should be reassured – should one prefer a homegrown plot, right in the middle of modernity, or terror plot emanating from an external and nihilist group?

Be as it may, the British composure we celebrated in the wake of the 2005 bombings remains relevant today, as the British people has proven once more. This is not an empty victory by any means. It is an example of how Western societies can partially win, at the individual level, the fight against terror. Everybody has it its own way with resilience.

Posted in Global War on Terror, Resilience | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The War on Giuliani has already started

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on June 25, 2007

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It took quite some time for Democrats to figure out who their worse nightmare was.  Although they are ahead according to the pollsGiuliani is the candidate they dread, and they should.  But regrettably, we’re not in for a fair fight…

Matt Taibbi’s op-ed” in Rolling Stone is a good instance of how “below the belt” this fight is going to be.  Taibbi tries to trash Giuliani for the former mayor’s snappy answer to Congressman Ron Paul during the last Republican Debate – the latter made a dubious argument in favor of isolationism, linking the 9-11 attacks to America’s involvement in the Middle East:

Though a controversial statement for a Republican politician to make, it was hardly refutable from a factual standpoint — after all, Osama bin Laden himself cited America’s treatment of Iraq in his 1996 declaration of war.

Hardly refutable?  Does this mean that because Ben Laden does not appreciate American involvement in the Middle East, the U.S. should consider disengaging from the region?  The propensity to advocate isolationism when every honest observer knows that American isolationist periods corresponds to the darkest hours of World history is, in fact, dubious to say the least.

Fred Kaplan‘s attack is more surprising, given the fact that the Slate journalist is usually more inspired.  Kaplan asserts that the only reason Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group was not politics, but a financial one.  According to Kaplan, the former mayor missed two meetings before being given by James Baker, the head of the ISG, an ultimatum:

On April 12, 2006, he was giving a keynote address at an economics conference in South Korea for a fee of $200,000. On May 18, he was giving a speech on leadership in Atlanta for $100,000.

So it’s only about the money?  How about accepting the fact that beyond the “bi-partisan” marketing statement the Group used to its advantage, both chairmen, Baker and Hamilton, shared a very similar view of international relations, leading to a report as biased as the ideological arguments that led to war in the first place…  But anyone pleading for a fairer debate, emphasizing that the reasons for intervening in Iraq in the first place should be taken into considerations beyond the very poor planning on the part of the Bush Administration, does not seem to be given fair attention, it seems, these days.

So… Where does that leave us?  Why this war, now, when the Democrats are leading?  Here’s a two-fold answer: 1) Polls don’t matter this early in the race; 2) Every reason explaining why one – from mainstream America – might hate Republicans (abortion and religion being on top of the list) are not applicable to Giuliani.  Here’s an interesting point of view about the abortion issue:  Why Pro-Choice Is a Bad Choice for Democrats.  I very much disagree with the statement in favor of a pro-choice candidate, but this op-ed just tells me that should Giuliani win the Republican nomination, the Democrats are in big trouble.  

Giuliani might just win by a landslide in 2008 if Democrats continue to deny reality about the significance of U.S. involvement in the world.  A need for redefinition of this involvement is obvious.  But without a clear alternative, the Democrats won’t be able to fool anyone.

Posted in 2008 Elections | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Return of International Willingness?

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on June 10, 2007

In a quite bizarre column last Tuesday in the Washington Post, Op-Ed writer Anne Applebaum recited a eulogy in the memory of New Europe.  Her point is simple: The mere fact that Aznar, Berlusconi and Blair are gone shows the limits of the alliances Bush maintained in Europe, and is yet another sign of failure of this country’s administration in the international realm. 

The argument is not dubious, it’s fallacious.  Applebaum selects the cases that suits her reasoning best, overlooking until the end of the article the most notable cases of Germany and France.  Whereas in 2002 Schröder was elected in Germany on an essentially anti-American agenda to cover his own domestic failures, he was quickly ousted from office only four years later by Angela MerkelNicolas Sarkozy, who never hid his admiration for the United States and the closeness he feels with Israel, left no chance to his competitors in the French presidential elections last month, showing in the process that expressed sympathy for America was not a strategy doomed to failure.  And that’s not saying anything about Tony Blair’s re-election in Great Britain in 2005, in spite of what Applebaum calls the “Iraqi failure”, nor the extraordinary circumstances under which Aznar lost power – Aznar was a favorite until the very end in the first election ever decided by Al Qaeda.

The lesson of all of this?  Europeans are not as dumb as some would hope, and understand far better the real stakes of current international politics, beyond the situation in Iraq.  The ludicrous controversy Putin tried to launch on the issue of the missile defense shield fooled no one in Europe, as the issue of Iran is a widely shared concern throughout the West.  It is hard to understand how Putin’s bluff, that this shield was against his own country, was not brushed away as ridiculous sooner.

The true question is whether or not the US political and intellectual class will have the courage to recognize that the current Bush-bashing, related to this Administration’s inability to take care of Iraq, should not prevent Americans from redefining the rules of international activism.  Should the mess created in Iraq lead us to remain arms crossed on all of today’s inacceptable issues?  Has the Iraqi turmoil discredited any type of political activism for the future, and condemn the US to systematic inaction as the world goes south?

Applebaum‘s conclusion – America’s arrogance is all the more so irrelevant that it could collaborate with Germany and France – is unfounded because Washington can find in Paris and Berlin two fundamental allies to redefine the possibilities for broad and ambitious international missions.  Kouchner‘s nomination should be interpreted as such.  One that would involve signalling to Russia that threatening Western Europe with its missiles is inacceptable could be a start.

 

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The picture is still fuzzy…  But who knows?

Posted in Al Qaeda, International Willingness, US Foreign Policy, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Benefits of the Global War on Terror

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on June 4, 2007

The latest terror plot recently uncovered could have been twice as worse as 9-11, according to some reports.  It also goes to show that, beyond the chronic instability in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror is an ungrateful task: Failure leads to dreadful consequences whereas success allows for business as usual.

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This explains why a general assessment of the current Administration efforts to curb the terror threat on American soil is necessary, in order to evaluate the efficiency of security spending since 9-11

In the working paper available for download below, I offer a first crack at such an assessment, relying on a cost-benefit analysis and testimonies from the U.S. Intelligence Community in front of the Senate Select Committee on IntelligenceI find that if, between 2001 and 2006, the U.S. avoided at least one terror attack that would have caused 20% more damage than 9-11, then security expenditures pass the usual cost-benefit tests. 

The reasoning is still a little sketchy, and there is significant room for approval, especially in assessing the nature of the terror threat the U.S. has faced since 9-11.  That’s why I’m looking forward to any comments readers may have, and ideas or previous work to improve such an assessment.

Download Working Paper (.doc)

Posted in cost-benefit analysis, Global War on Terror | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Al Qaeda: Knocking on Lebanon’s door

Posted by Jeremy Ghez on May 27, 2007

Recent violence in Lebanon seems to confirm a very ugly truth: After wondering why terror movement Al-Qaida had not been more involved in the Near East – although answers were brought in the weeks following 9 11– and after fearing that it wouldn’t be long before it would actually get involved soon, we now know that thru a group unknown a year ago, Fatah al-Islam, Al-Qaida is present in Lebanon and threatening the country.

While it is correct that the whole truth has not been shed yet on the nature of this group and of the violence, especially as Syrian implication is not to be excluded in the wake of growing pressure for an international tribunal to investigate the Hariri assassination, this opposition between the Lebanese army and the terrorist group is pushing Lebanon a little bit more towards complete chaos.  In this context, international involvment, especially US military aid and French efforts thru the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner, to re-affirm the international community’s solidarity with the current Siniora administration, are perfectly laudable, but fall short of being what Lebanon really needs.

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Current events are just a new element confirming a structural trend: Lebanon is not on anybody’s priority list.  The 2006 war triggered by Hezbollah‘s kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers on the Southern frontier of the country was disastrous for Lebanon, but even more, in the long run, for the international community.  As a matter of fact, it proved the extent to which the latter had completely abandoned Lebanon, after feeling good about itself for having voted two useless UN Resolutions – 1559 and 1701.  The international community celebrated Syria‘s “departure” of Lebanon, pretending to believe that this withdrawal actually occurred.  It also failed to do anything about the disarmement of Hezbollah, one of Lebanon‘s core problems.

The fact of the matter is that Lebanon is being abandoned at a time the West feels it has other regional issues to deal with – namely Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  Nevertheless, the more the West remains inactive on the issue and leaves a weak Lebanon state deal with terror groups alone, the more it will suffer the consequences.  We are not talking about a group of limited individuals in Madrid or London – that were still able to inflict mass casualties in the middle of two European capitals – but a fully funded group, with a strategic base, right at the frontier with Europe.  Inactivity is not a strategy.

Posted in Middle East, World Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »