Clash of Common Sense

Richard Clarke's recent commentary in The Atlantic is a must read today. It's opening paragraph:

Imagine if, in advance of Hurricane Katrina,thousands of trucks had been waiting with water and ice and medicine and other supplies. Imagine if 4,000 National Guardsmen and an equal number of emergency aid workers from around the country had been moved into place, and five million meals had been ready to serve. Imagine if scores of mobile satellite-communications stations had been prepared to move in instantly, ensuring that rescuers could talk to one another. Imagine if all this had been managed by a federal-and-state task force that not only directed the government response but also helped coordinate the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other outside groups.

One doesn't have to imagine because, as Clarke points out, this was the scenario before Hurricane Francis just before the last election. Preside Bush even handed out water to the evacuees compared with resting comfortably at his ranch this time not to be disturbed with minor business when Brownie was doing such a great job.

Hurricane Katrina has highlighted the abject failure in protecting the United States from any type of mass destruction of disruption. Proactive measures and plans have failed to materialize. Talk about Department of Defense "quarantines" and replacing FEMA are short-sighted and miss the point of accountability and functionality.

So, why are we still no further along the path than we were before? I offer the following open letter to try to frame the discussion on the "GWOT" (Global War on Terror), which, unless portrayed and understood properly, cannot be "won" or stopped and we cannot be "victorous". Actual terrorism has increased substantially, even when Condi suppresses the yearly report from State.

Mr. President,

Your Administration is apparently relying on over simplified and historically disengaged arguments, brushing aside the realities of an increasingly complex and interconnected world. The new "rollback" theory, modeled on the Us vs Them of the Cold War and Samuel Huntington's "Clash" thesis fails from the start. Huntington's irrelevant arguments of "civilizational" cleavages have no place in the contemporary world of instant communication and decreased state autonomy. Providing a convenient launching pad for other “cognitive misers” who also fail to contextualize  inputs into the present, the emotionally congruent images are framed for popular acceptance and not practical problem solving. This is a disingenuous ignorance of reality that simultaneously masks the real threats and viable solutions. Ultimately setting the stage for a self-fulfilling prophecy of failing American foreign policy initiatives. How is Iraq today? Are there four score or 1 Iraqi battalions?

Huntington uses a map analogy to form a convenient, simple, and seemingly appropriate view the world, but it is inherently problematic.

While acknowledging the complexity of the world, he argues for a highly simplified construct resulting in an overly simplified black and white world. This “map”, without tributaries, junctions, and landmarks, is better for travel from one big city to the next since “we do not need and may find confusing a map…in which the major highways are lost in a complex mass of secondary roads”.  By excluding alternative routes and the often not-so-small geographic and political details significant to the location and personality of the “big city”, your Administration has clearly failed to undertake a comprehensive review of all relevant facts and options. Through an ignorance of history, politics, societies, and religions seeks to re-invent the black and white schema of the Cold War into what is not the “first time in history [that] global politics has become multipolar and multicivilizational”, as Huntington states. The "enemy" is not as broad as you argue, nor are the divisions as deep. They are not diametrically opposed to our "way of life" but are opposed to our actions.

While you have made public statements acknowledging the distinction between "good" and "evil" and "those who want democracy", actions go further than talking points and audio clips. By allowing any criminal behavior in our armed forces, including the failure to adhere to international law (Geneva Conventions Article 4 - protection of civilians), let alone the prison torture scandals, without swift and severe punishment is an utter failure and will do more to prevent the security of "hearts and minds" than most anything else. It was not just the low level soldiers that participating, nor was it a single National Guard general. Accountability within your Administration is lacking. The American ideal which you espouse is not in our deeds. We are a better people than your foreign policy makes us out to be.

Prescient of the “West versus East” conflict, the author of the Cold War’s containment theory, George Kennan, warned of the artificiality of the future clash as manufactured by Stalin to sustain and promulgate his absolute rule. Kennan noted Stalin’s assertion that capitalism and socialism could not peacefully coexist did not derive from the population, but strictly from a subset of the population: its leadership. In a political environment dominated by realpolitik with the state center stage in global affairs, it is not surprising that three years later National Security Council Memorandum 68 (NSC-68) firmly cleaved the division between “Us” and “Them” declaring the fundamental design of those who control the Soviet Union and the international communist movement [calls] for the complete subversion or forcible destruction of the machinery of government and structure of society in the countries of the non-Soviet world and their replacement by an apparatus and structure subservient to and controlled from the Kremlin.

In the present situation, the "scorecard" you want "because [you're] a baseball fan" is non-sensical. We are not against a monolithic enemy. The enemy may have been more vertically oriented in the past, but we lost our chance to rip the heart out of the beast. The enemy is now a franchise operation with a highly-decentralized control structure. There is no effective leadership to keep track of anymore. The 2005 Bali and London bombings did not need Osama bin Laden. We need to undermine his entire ideological platform to be successful. Our foreign policy is, at present, completely missing this. If this were a Presidential campaign, what would you do? Will you hand out voting forms?

Signed,

A Proud and Concerned American