Monday, December 19, 2005

War on Terror? Where does democracy fit in?

It was a huge mistake for the Bush administration to claim that it was embarking on a "War on Terror" in response to the events of 9/11. There are really TWO efforts going on: 1) the ongoing efforts to suppress terrorists (ala al Qaeda), and 2) efforts to promote democracy around the world. They ARE and should be KEPT as TWO DISTINCT efforts.

Terrorists don't give a hoot about democracy. Even if EVERY country in the world was a democracy, groups like al Qaeda would still be fighting to pursue their own visions.

I believe that efforts to promote democracy are laudable. Where we run into trouble is the question of means, and I'm one of those people who insists that the end can never justify all means.

If the administration, the neocons, and the Republicans overall wish to rally America around the concept of radical democratization (as we are seeing in Afghanistan and Iraq and as they tried with the Nicaraguan Contras), they should be clear about both the goals and the means.

Only a tiny minority of Americans probably believe that al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups will shrivel up and die once Iraq is a certifiable democracy.

If we want to pursue democracy in Iraq, that's great, but let's be honest and realistic and tell people what's really going on and what the goals really are. And let's NOT mislead them by claiming that democracy in Iraq or even the entire Middle East will somehow make terrorism go away.

If anybody tells you that a realistic goal in Iraq is that terrorist attacks against the U.S. will cease once Iraq or even ALL countries in the Middle East are democratic, they are basically saying something that is not true today and can never be true.

We need to have a clear roadmap for "The Struggle Against Terrorism".

We also need to have a clear roadmap for "The Struggle to Promote Democracy".

Just don't confuse the two and mix them up.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Howard Dean - Part I

I was once a fan of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. I was in attendence when he gave his first significant policy speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. well before the first primary and before he came to national attention. He seemed quite sharp. But, somewhere along the way, and long before "The Scream", he lost me. He's really just yet another refried Liberal and really isn't interested in radically reinventing America in a way that is true to both traditional Liberal values and inclusive of 80% of American voters. I don't want to throw away the social safety net, but the current safety net is in dire need of repair. Like a lot of "old" liberals he strangely doesn't get the whole "values" thing. It's also a real shame that Liberals don't have a decent approach to international affairs, especially when conservatives are such a mockery of international relations.


-- Jack Krupansky

I love to engage in repartee with people who are smarter than I am

I simply don't agree with conservative columnist Ann Coulter. She says "I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am", but I say "I love to engage in repartee with people who are smarter than I am."

My view is that if you encounter someone who is apparently stupider than you, you have a moral obligation to both try to understand them and to help them understand the error of their ways in a way that doesn't come across as being arrogant, demeaning, or talking down to them.

As far as people who are smarter than I am, and there are many of them, I enjoy hearing what they have to say, disecting the details, engaging them on aspects that might not be obvious, and occasionally discovering aspects that even they haven't fully fathomed. I have yet to meet someone who has really covered all the angles.

-- Jack Krupansky

The problem with "policy" (re: torture)

I read statements to the effect that the "policy" of the U.S. is to not condone tourture. Superficially that sounds great, but what does it really mean?

Yes, superficially the term "policy" means that it's a rule that nobody is permitted to violate.

But, having a policy and following the policy and enforcing the policy are three separate beasts.

In general, a lot of so-called "policies" hang on what I call "Nod and Wink Enforcement", which means that people are told that the policy *must* be obeyed, but the "nod and wink" unspoken message usually that the "policy" should be treated simply as guidance, people should *never* let so-called "policy" get in the way of "The Mission", and that people should do their best not to get *caught* violating policy. And, if anybody gets caught, deny it.

Case in point this morning in the news with regards to so-called "extraordinary rendition", where it is our "policy" to hand a suspect over to a foreign government *only* if they "agree" not to torture them. Sure, that sounds like a great policy, but it offers no means of enforcing the "agreement". And, it's simply a nod and wink agreement that torture is okay as long as the U.S. doesn't verifiably *tell* the foreign country to do it.

My rhetorical question for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: Are we *really* doing all that we can to assure that no suspects are ever treated harshly? It's a rhetorical question because we all know that the answer is simply "No."

And I'd ask her whether the U.S. ever willfully allows suspects to be placed in situations where a person with common sense might reasonably expect that torture might occur. The answer should be a clear "Yes."

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Appalled at Condoleezza Rice's dissembling and dishonest assertions

I am personally very appalled at U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's comments on Tuesday which refused to acknolwedge the obvious facts and talked as if the U.S. was not in any way involved in activities that everybody knows that the U.S. has been deeply involved in with regard to the handling of suspects in the "war on terror".

Serious questions have been raised and her trip was supposedly intended to address the concerns that raised those questions. She basically refused to directly address the questions and made statements that were either outright lies or at least depended on absurd interpretations of even simple English words.

According to the New York Times, she said "the United States does not condone torture." Of course we know that the administration has its own interpretation of which constitutes "torture" and we can only imagine what tortured meaning the administration gives to the word "condone".

The Times also quotes her as saying that "It is against U.S. law to be involved in torture or conspiracy to commit torture," but that begs the question of whether agents of the U.S. have *violated* U.S. law as well as how the administration interprets the meaning of "involved" and what exactly would constitute a "conspiracy". Besides, we already know they interpret the word "torture" in a way the defies common sense, if not international law.

What I would prefer to hear is that the U.S. will not engage in "harsh treatment" of persons under its control nor "aid and abet" others in engaging in "harsh treatment."

The bottom line is that Ms. Rice has *refused* to acknowledge the truth that is available to all of us and *refused* to hold out a standard to the world that citizens everywhere can look to as being fair and respectful of human rights.

-- Jack Krupansky

Bank of America

I have no way of seeing or controlling what ad you see at the top of this blog, but I almost always see an ad for the Bank of America. Although you may find the ad annoying, I'm rather amused since BofA is my *old* bank. I no longer have a checking account at BofA but use Wells Fargo now. Partly that's due to moving out to Colorado which is one of the few remaining states that BofA does not do business in, but I wasn't very happy with the quality of the service I was getting. So, why did I choose to open a BofA account? Well, I didn't. I had an account at Fleet Bank and was relatively happy with it, and then BofA bought fleet. I guess you could say that my "Mom" (banks should present a somewhat maternal image to consumers) married some jerk and since I didn't get along with my new step-dad, I decided to run away from home. Sorry BofA, but I ain't coming home any time soon, or even ever.

In any case, please enjoy all those wonderful ads. Especially since with all that red, white, and blue they're so patriotic, even though I'm not.

The sole reason that I started this blog was because I had heard that there was a big controversy over ads unexpectedly appearing on AOL journals, so I decided to see first hand what the big stink was all about.

Other than the fact that I would prefer to run Google ads on this blog since I have a Google AdSense account, the ads seems relatively benign.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, December 2, 2005

George C. Marshall where are you? Iraq needs you

Maybe what's really needed for Iraq is for President Bush to appoint a modern day George C. Marshall, to serve as point for the U.S. side of the fence, but not to serve as a MacArthur-style territorial governor. This would not be someone within the administration, but a retired, senior statesman to provide both ideological guidance and international leadership for "fledgling democracies". The idea is to provide moral and economic support, but stay out of the military security business.

Maybe "You Broke It, You Fix It" Colin Powell could fill such a role, although I'd prefer President Clinton.

-- Jack Krupansky

Victory strategy for Iraq, but no plan, yet

The so-called "plan" for "Victory in Iraq" is really simply a strategy paper, not an actual plan. In fact, although it lays out a number of "strategic objectives (the "pillars"), it really doesn't give us any clue as to what the plan is to achieve the elements listed for each pillar.

If we're going to make this Iraq democracy thing work, we need to see a "plan" come from the Iraqis themselves, not the invaders/liberators/occupiers.

-- Jack Krupansky