Thursday, August 31, 2006

The War for Hearts and Minds

By rushing to rebuild Lebanon, Hizballah and Iran are spreading their influence in the Middle East. Can the U.S. do more?

ByNicholas Blanford and Scott Macleod
TIME Magazine, Issue dated September 4, 2006

The new war in the Middle East is not being fought with bombs or bullets. Instead, it is being waged amid the rubble and wreckage of Lebanon's streets, and the prize is the support and gratitude of the hundreds of thousands of citizens attempting to piece together their shattered lives. At Mehdi High School in Beirut, now a temporary administrative center for refugees who lost homes in the war with Israel, Abdel Hussein Hodroj asks a bearded young official behind a desk for help. The young man doesn't work for the Lebanese government or a humanitarian group or a United Nations agency. He's a member of Hizballah, the militant Shi'ite Muslim group that fought Israeli forces to a draw during 34 days of conflict--and is emerging as the most powerful force in postwar Lebanon.

Hodroj, 72, describes how Israeli missiles turned his neighborhood in Beirut's southern suburbs into a Lebanese version of ground zero. The bearded man reaches into a lockbox and pulls out $12,000 in U.S. $100 bills. He presses the money into Hodroj's palm. It's meant to pay for a year's rent and furniture while Hizballah builds him a new home. Hodroj doesn't bother to count the inch-thick wad of cash, equal to more than twice the average Lebanese annual income. Score one for the militants. "We're with Hizballah all the way," Hodroj says, stuffing the cash into his pockets.

For Hizballah and its backers, of course, this isn't just about charity. The scramble to rebuild Lebanon's bombed-out landscape has become a central front in a wider contest for influence in the new Middle East. On one side are Hizballah's Shi'ite Muslim militants and their leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallahwho boast of winning a "divine victory" over the Jewish state--and the group's patrons, Iran and Syria. On the other are the U.S. and its Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, who have been blindsided by the surge in Hizballah's prestige across the Islamic world and are trying to bolster Lebanon's democratically elected but chronically beleaguered government. Judging from the activity on the ground in Lebanon, where Hizballah has already handed out grants--ranging from $10,000 to $12,000--to some 15,000 homeless families, it's clear who is gaining. "They pre-empted us," says a Lebanese official, who explains that his government is strapped for cash. "There's no doubt Hizballah is endearing itself further with its supporters."

The scale of Lebanon's destruction has provided opportunities as well as heartbreak. According to the Lebanese government, the war not only has killed 1,183 people, wounded 4,055 and displaced 974,184 but has also caused $3.6 billion in damage to residential buildings and civilian infrastructure like bridges, roads, power stations, telecommunications systems and airports.

Hizballah has pledged to rebuild apartment buildings and entire villages within three years; it has sent civil-affairs teams wearing hats that read JIHAD FOR RECONSTRUCTION. The group's offensive is most evident in ruined towns like Srifa, south of the Litani River, where piles of rubble are all that mark where houses once stood. Broken guardrails, shattered glass and pulverized concrete make it difficult even to walk around. Thirty-two people, mostly Hizballah fighters, died in the town, but within a day of the cease-fire with Israel, the militants turned into recovery workers, bringing in bulldozers and earth-moving equipment to dig through the debris. Residents say Hizballah is the only group they trust to help. "It's our government," says Abdel-illah Haidar, 24, an electrician.

In addition to strengthening Hizballah, the race to rebuild Lebanon has exacerbated conflicts that are tearing the region apart--between the U.S. and the Arab street, between fundamentalists and the West, between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Hizballah's principal sponsor, Iran, has moved quickly to take advantage of the respect the organization is now receiving.

According to Lebanese officials, the Tehran regime sent some $150 million in cash for Hizballah's initial postwar handouts, and is expected to give hundreds of millions more to finance reconstruction projects. The consolidation of Hizballah's support in southern Lebanon may make it more difficult, meanwhile, for Lebanese and U.N. forces to oversee the disarming of the group's fighters. That's good news for Iran, which wants to preserve Hizballah's military capacity as a deterrent against any possible U.S. or Israeli attack on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

Although Hizballah officials claim that most of their money comes from charitable donations, an official interviewed by TIME acknowledged the importance of Tehran's support. "Thank God that Iran exists in this world," he said.

That kind of talk is unnerving the region's Sunni Arab states, which have watched helplessly as Iran's Shi'ite rulers have accelerated their nuclear program and carved out areas of influence in Lebanon and Iraq. Not surprisingly, the Arabs are eager to be in the Lebanon game: between them, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have pledged an $800 million aid package to the Lebanese government for rebuilding projects while handing an additional $1.5 billion in soft loans to the Bank of Lebanon to shore up the nation's currency. Saudi officials believe that the kingdom's support will far surpass the amount Iran provides Hizballah and will enable Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to ride out the group's grab for influence. "You have to empower the Lebanese government so that it can reconstruct the country," says Nawaf Obaid, head of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, which advises the Saudi government. "Iran and Hizballah will be the losers in the long run."

If the U.S. and its allies hope to see that prediction come true, they need to make some big moves. The war in Lebanon has driven Washington's influence to a new low. Even leaders of the country's 2005 Cedar Revolution protests, which at the time was hailed by the White House as a democratic milestone for the Middle East, are angry with the U.S. for not supporting an immediate cease-fire or using leverage with Israel to prevent the destruction in Lebanon.

Washington didn't do itself any favors by initially pledging just $50 million for Lebanon's recovery; the Iranians have already spent up to three times that. The White House last week more than quadrupled the U.S. aid package for Lebanon to $230 million, including support for the Lebanese Army to strengthen the central government against Hizballah.

But the U.S. could still do more. Siniora wants Bush to pressure Israel to lift a continuing air and sea blockade. He also says the U.S.'s aid pledge won't be nearly enough to get Lebanon back on its feet. A Siniora aide points out that the government is nearly $3 billion short of what it would need just to get the country's infrastructure back to prewar levels. "I almost had tears in my eyes listening to Bush speak about how supportive he was of Lebanon," says Lebanese Economy and Trade Minister Sami Haddad, who accompanied Siniora to an Oval Office meeting four months ago. "But what the Bush Administration has been doing is not acceptable. People are very resentful."

The longer such feelings persist, the more Hizballah is likely to press its advantage. The danger for Hizballah is that when the level of destruction fully sinks in, Lebanese leaders and ordinary citizens may well hold the group accountable for triggering Israel's wrath. For the time being, however, even Hizballah's critics are mainly silent, no doubt in deference to the prowess that Hizballah guerrillas have shown against Israel's more powerful armed forces. In Beirut's southern suburbs, where the group's bulldozers have cleared massive piles of rubble from the streets, Hizballah has planted bright red banners declaring MADE IN USA at the sites of destroyed buildings. At Mehdi High School, Hizballah officials move around, carrying walkie-talkies. As they perform their functions with the discipline of Hizballah guerrillas, military music blares from the loudspeakers. "We put it on to keep up people's spirits," says a Hizballah official.

And in the Middle East these days, that's the only tune they're hearing.

With reporting by With reporting by Christopher Allbritton/ Srifa, Andrew Lee Butters/ Beirut, Elaine Shannon/ Washington
Misunderspinning: Hezbollah

Honored For Sharp Media;

Where's Ours?

By John E. Carey
September 5, 2006
(Updated September 11, 2006)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently mused, “The enemy is so much better at communicating. I wish we were better at countering that because the constant drumbeat of things they say — all of which are not true — is harmful. It’s cumulative. It weakens people’s will and lessens their determination, and raises questions in their minds as to whether the cost is worth it.”

Yet the secretatry frequently stresses the importance of the "hearts and minds" campaign, including in these remarks made on September 11, 2006: "In this very public battle for hearts and minds, we must be as confident in the rightness of our cause as the enemy is in its evil purpose. We cannot allow the world to forget that America, though imperfect, is a force for good in the world."

Mr. Rumsfeld also said, on another occassion, that the ability of terror groups to “manipulate the media keeps me up at night.”

The Secretary of Defense is certainly thinking of, for one, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah.
Widely acknowledge as a master manipulator of the media, Nasrallah has adroitly used, among other outlets, his own al Manar TV.

Hezbollah’s media empire - which includes the Al-Nur radio station and the Web site - has been an inseparable part of the psychological war. Sometimes, Hezbollah also transmits its messages through other media, such as the Iranian television station Al-Alam.

The crown jewel of the empire, Al-Manar, is broadcast in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world, by satellite. The “man on the street” believes in the message implicitly. The voice of al Manar also has terrific “trickle down” influence on other Arab media.

“Al-Manar has had an enormous impact on all the Arab press, and in effect on the Hebrew press as well,” said Amir Levy from Satlink Communications, which monitors Arab-language media.
Just after the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict ended, Dr. Uri Lebel of the Ben Gurion Institute, Beer Sheva University conducted polls of Israelis to determine the source of their most respected news.

Hezbollah won.

The result of his latest poll show that Israeli PR was so lacking, that in my cases the public was compelled to rely almost solely on media reports from Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

"Hezbollah is perceived in the Arab world as having won a victory over Israel," said U.S. Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian.

"Terrorism is a combination of two factors - motivation and operational capability," explains Dr. Boaz Ganor, founder of the Institute for Counterterrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. We got to know Dr. Ganor at the onset of the war against Hezbollah.

"Current global strategies to combat terrorism only focus on beating the operational capabilities but not the motivation. These strategies only buy time but do not solve the problem; if the motivation still exists they will find new methods to carry out attacks," said Dr. Ganor.

Half a world away, President Bush and his team pride themselves in a lot of things; not the least of which is communications.

But the cold, hard facts would make the Bush team blush rather than beam with pride, we suspect.

There are many examples of the White House and the Bush Administration “misunderspinning” when the facts are relatively clear. The White House has had problems communicating beyond those one might normally anticipate in war.

“The great irony of this administration is that its opponents credit it with being masterful at spin,” wrote Mr. Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post on September 3, 2006.

“When it is in fact pathetic in managing its messages and its collective image. Whatever small credit Bush was gaining for becoming more realistic about Iraq was quickly wiped out by the controversy created by sharply partisan speeches of Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld last week in the latest example of a gang that can’t spin straight.”

Vice President Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld were roundly criticized for referring to the terrorists as “fascists” and comparing the current struggle to the dark days before World War II.

“The message water was later muddied even more by a belated reaching-out letter to Democrats from Rumsfeld and by a bleak Pentagon report on sectarian violence in Iraq,” wrote Jim Hoagland.

The highly regarded UPI Editor at Large Arnaud de Borchgrave mused, “When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared his Iraq war critics to the appeasers of Nazism in Europe in the mid-1930s, it would seem he got his ‘isms’ confused.”

He believes the terror war is more akin to the Cold War than the war against the Nazis.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson also saw a certain over-reach or ineptitude in the theme from the White House: “With George W. Bush talking so much about Nazis and fascism, Donald Rumsfeld warning ominously against lily-livered appeasement and Dick Cheney quoting Franklin Roosevelt on the 'dirty business' of war, one might worry that this direction-challenged administration has wandered into some sort of time warp. Somebody’s going to have to break it to them that Churchill and Stalin are gone and the Dodgers don’t play in Brooklyn anymore.”

Even New York's Senior Advisor to the Governor for Counter-Terrorism, James Kallstrom, former FBI and chief investigator of the explosion aboard TWA 800, when asked about the "hearts and minds" effort in the war on terror said on September 11, 2006, "Quite frankly I don't think we are doing that great a job."

Tony Snow: Phone Home!

I experienced first hand how many in the media view the kind of talk Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld engaged in during an election cycle. When I told Alex Sirotin of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, on the air, that the White House wouldn’t use such language for political gain, my friend Alex laughed, on the air.

Alex, undoubtedly, believes I am way too naïve.

The bottom line is this; some time ago we at Peace and Freedom created a word for the White House missteps on communications: “misunderspinning.” We defined “minunderspinning” as that situation in politics and other dialogue that involved “spin” filled with misunderstanding, missteps, misjudgments and a general under achievement.

After the end of the war between Hezbollah and Israel, President Bush optimistically proclaimed that the Army of Lebanon, along with the United Nations, would disarm Hezbollah, ensure peace and stability in the region, and keep Hezbollah from being rearmed by Syria and Iran.

Though it is still early in the process, Kofi Annan’s experiences in the last two weeks might give the president reason for concern. No one has agreed to disarm Hezbollah, the U.N. force has arrived only belatedly in Lebanon, and the Syrian president told Kofi Annan his army would patrol the border between Syria and Lebanon unimpeded by international peacekeepers.
Consequently, we define the president’s initial analysis of the situation in Lebanon as “misunderspin.”

American foreign policy always relies upon correct and clear communications. Added to that, there is a widespread belief that in the war against terror, a critical element is an effort to win the “hearts and minds” of the people on the streets in the Middle East.

Last September, President Bush hired Karen Hughes, his long-time media advisor, to run the U.S. Department of State’s “hearts and minds” campaign. We thought Ms. Hughes might assist in straightening out the snarl of U.S. “misunderspinning.”

Apparently we were wrong.

On August 29, 2006, President George W. Bush told NBC News reporter Brian Williams, “We are great with TV but we are getting crushed on the P.R. [Public Relations] front.”

The misunderspinning of our government and that of Israel continues. Meanwhile the enemy continues to control his own message pretty well.

That keeps us up at night. And it should start to hurt the president’s sleep as well.

See also our Flagship:

And our member exclusive:
Redefining War

By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
September 4, 2006

Consider a new definition of war as: “getting what you want at the end in a struggle between forces.”This definition neither includes nor excludes the military, diplomatic or other measures that may help achieve that goal. It also does not define the forces or the methods of the confrontation. And it probably includes what most normally call “post war reconstruction,” which seems to have occurred slowly in Iraq.

The war on terror we are engaged in, what the pentagon calls the Global War on Terror (GWOT), and the underlying wars like the war between Israel and Hezbollah, may best be defined by this new definition: the GWOT is more than a military confrontation. It is also a spy game, a media battle for “hearts and minds,” a war of financial sleuthing and intrigue, a war on the internet and a lot more.

Using our definition, the war on terror is equally Hezbollah rockets into Israel and Hezbollah using counterfeit US currency to fund the recovery in Lebanon. It is “Shock and Awe” to defeat Saddam and a reconstruction and peacekeeping “Shock and Awe” with equal verve.

Certainly when describing the war on terror and the war in Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and many others have stressed the need for an articulated, comprehensive approach to include intelligence, diplomacy, the media and all other national and international assets.

But yet here at home in the United States we are politically divided and that, it would seem, erodes our will to win and our national determination. Our enemies certainly know this. To our enemies it might not be crystal clear that we are indivisible in our determination, with a national plan to succeed.

Additionally, we are bound by strict rules of procedure and by our own policies, like random airline searches to include 90 year old grandmothers. The enemy has no such restrictions. The enemy plays to win and this means playing dirty. Doctored photographs in the media are just the tip of the iceberg.

If war is truly “getting what you want,” did Israel do well in the war with Hezbollah? And is the United States achieving success in Iraq?

Israel did not achieve any of its top three objectives: the return of the captive soldiers, the elimination of Hezbollah and the destruction of Hezbollah’s rockets.

Moreover, Israel now faces an even more enraged group of Arabs (and Persians) due to the destruction of much of southern Lebanon; a media machine even more emboldened by Nasrallah due to his adroit use of Al-Minar, al-Jazeera, and other outlets; some loss of trust and respect for the IDF by the Israeli people; and arguably, a political and military leadership shake-up for Israel in the offing.

And it is uncertain that Israel, with the help of the UN, has, as yet, ended support for Hezbollah from Iran and Syria. It is also not certain that the international community that cannot seem to field a peacekeeping force, can stop arms shipments to Hezbollah.

To the IDF, and especially Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, the “war” against Hezbollah relied heavily upon a precision air campaign. An Air Force General, Halutz saw development of his campaign against Hezbollah through the prism of an air campaign. His trust in this plan can be traced to the incredible American military successes against Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm in 1991 and the “Shock and Awe” of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But that returns us to how we define war itself. Is war limited to the military action? Or is war about “getting what we want” in the end?

In the debate among “think tank” experts, one criticism of President Bush and his leadership team is that in their vision of war, they pay too little heed to diplomacy and other possible elements of war that may have served them better in Iraq.

“This vision focuses on destroying the enemy’s armed forces and his ability to command them and control them,” wrote author and military historian Frederick Kagan in the Hoover Institution’s Policy Review in August 2003. “It does not focus on the problem of achieving political objectives.”

Kagan continued, “They see the enemy as a target set and believe that when all or most of the targets have been hit, he will inevitably surrender and American goals will be achieved.”

“Shock and Awe” worked remarkably well in 2003, but two years later, with a steady loss of blood and life, mostly due to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), it might be productive for all Americans to come together to help determine the best course of action here on out.

The critical questions might be, “are we getting what we want”? Or, what is now our confidence level that we can get what we want? And how might we adjust to get what we want?

For Iraq, we might discuss a bipartisan and national effort to win; or a bipartisan national decision to withdraw. The discussion might forge a new recommended “way ahead.” More troops or fewer troops are just two options below a potentially new and larger framework.

One potentially helpful discussion could come from renewed hearings on the progress of the war in Congressional committees. These would have to be not political grandstanding committee meetings meant to score points by skewering Secretary Rumsfeld, but genuine, bipartisan and adult discussions on how to proceed as a nation to achieve what we want in the war. This will require statesmanship not showmanship.

Because before too long we have to either open the tool kit of our thinking and win; or put our hammer away and go home. The alternative is that the President’s current methodology will continue.

Vice President Cheney echoed some of the president’s recent statements on Iraq at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno on August 28, saying, “A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be … a ruinous blow to the future security of the United States.”

Journalist Bill O’Reilly, in a nationally syndicated essay on August 28 wrote, “Despite what revisionist historians say, the USA did not lose militarily in Vietnam; we simply did not defeat the Communist enemy.”

What Mr.O’Reilly and others seem to miss is this: winning militarily is not the objective; especially if the greater goal is lost as it was in Vietnam.

What we need in Iraq is to get what we want.

What we do not want, if it can be avoided and there are better alternatives, is a decades long conflict called GWOT.

To get what we want we may need more bipartisan thinking.

My home paper, The Washington Times, front page:

A Few Reference essays on The Battle For "Hearts and Minds....."

Don't be too alarmed: we are not at all sure that the United States has done enough in this part of the terror war......

Communications and Cultural Ineptness: Where is Karen Hughes?

Where is Karen Hughes?

Who Is Rebuilding Lebanon: An Update

Hezbollah Is Way Ahead

Facile 'Fascist' Terminology

By Arnold Beichman
The Washington Times
September 15, 2006

There is no more misused political expletive today than the word "Fascism" or "fascist." President Bush's global war on terrorism is against, in his words, "Islamic fascism." White House press secretary Tony Snow often uses the phrase as a curse word. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has attacked administration critics of seeking to appease "a new type of fascism" without defining the old type. And there is the upcoming book by Jonah Goldberg, "Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton."

So what is "fascism" and where did the name come from? And is it reasonable to give a meaningless political name to a phenomenon -- terrorism?

Back in the last century it became a mark of true liberalism to warn against the imminence of fascism in America. Walter Lippmann, a noted commentator at the time, warned about fascism without defining his terms, or specifying whether he meant Italian, German, Spanish or Peron "fascism." Another commentator at the time said this pernicious system would come to America as "friendly fascism."

To this day, almost eight decades after Benito Mussolini's 1922 march on Rome and establishment of his dictatorship, there is still no definition of fascism. In fact, as Professor Henry Ashby Turner has written:

"Anyone who reads many studies of fascism as a multinational problem cannot but be struck by the frequency with which writers who begin by assuming they are dealing with a unitary phenomenon end up with several more or less discrete subcategories. ... The general term fascism is in origin neither analytical nor descriptive."

For George Orwell, author of "1984" and "Animal Farm," the word "fascism" was "almost entirely meaningless." His view: "In conversation, of course, it [fascism] is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, fox-hunting, bull-fighting... Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else."

Unlike Marxism, socialism or communism, which have an immense and significant literature (like Marx's "Das Kapital" or Lenin's multivolume works), fascism as an ideology has no extensive literature, except for an article in the Italian Encyclopedia written by Giovanni Gentile who described himself as a "the philosopher of Fascism," and ghostwrote "A Doctrine of Fascism" for Mussolini.

Just as Nazism had a symbol, the swastika, fascism had its symbol, the traditional fasces, a bundle of birch rods tied together with a red ribbon as a cylinder around an ax and carried during parades in ancient Rome. Unlike the swastika, which covered every German indoor and outdoor space, the fasces weren't used much and rarely seen, not much of a public competitor for the swastika.

Fascism as a form of government has no meaning in today's political market. And adding an adjective like "Islamofascism" doesn't make it so. What the Islamic terrorists are doing is not "fascism," it's terrorism, pure and simple based on their reading of the Koran supported by guest appearances of Osama bin Laden.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.
Where is Karen Hughes?

By John E. Carey
August 20, 2006

More precisely, “Where is the United States’ campaign of truth and honesty in the Middle East?”

Declaring the United States “must do better job of engaging the Muslim world,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduced former presidential adviser Karen Hughes on Monday (March 14, 2005) as the Bush administration’s choice for a State Department post designed to change Islamic perceptions about America.

Hughes became undersecretary of state for public diplomacy with the rank of ambassador.“I’m eager to listen and to learn,” Hughes said, with Rice standing at her side.

The official U.S. State Department web site says, "Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes has been tasked by President Bush with leading efforts to promote America's values and confront ideological support for terrorism around the world. She oversees three bureaus at the Department of State: Educational and Cultural Affairs, Public Affairs, and International Information Programs, and participates in foreign policy development at the State Department. "

How do you think she is doing?

Recently in Lebanon, a thug named Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, emerged from the shadows to become, in just over a month, one of the more important political figures of Lebanon and one of the leaders of the Arab world’s radical wing.

Before the war, Hassan Nasrallah was the one who made sure the garbage went out, the aged were cared for, the children had schools.

During the war Hassan Nasrallah, as seen by Arabs, is the man who faced down Israel and the Great Satan.Before this war, few respected moderates in Beirut or in the greater Arab world paid much attention to Nasrallah. Now his stock has soared.

He is the darling of the man on the Arab street for not just keeping his forces in the field for more than thirty days with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) but by apparently winning.

By appearing almost daily on al-Manar ("The Beacon," the name of Hezbollah TV), al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya TV during the conflict saying, "We have not been harmed," Nasrallah made himself the most important face of the war, eclipsing everyone in the governments of Israel and Lebanon.

I keep asking myself, where is Karen Hughes? Or, more correctly, where is the mighty U.S. and its public diplomacy?

Are we to expect that Nasrallah stole a march on the entire U.S. government and that is O.K. ?

I don't generally mind my public servants doing nothing; but when the stakes are so high I get interested.

But maybe our public servants are working hard.

On Saturday, August 19, 2006, the president said in his weekly radio address, "Thanks to the leadership of Secretary Rice and Ambassador Bolton at the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that will help bring an end to the violence and create a foundation for a sustainable peace. "

Does the president really believe that? We don't.

Maybe this is more "misunderspinning."

Didn’t the president hire his Texas friend Karen Hughes, with a salary clearly over $150,000 a year, to do for the U.S. just what Nasrallah is doing in his spare time? I mean, am I the only one outraged?

The degree of lasting political clout Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah have gained remains to be seen. But there is a gain, not a loss.

And Nasrallah's gain is the United States' loss.

The last time we saw Karen Hughes, she was apparently carrying U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s baggage.

We ask the president; “Where is Karen Hughes?”
A General's New Plan To

Battle Radical Islam

Top commander Gen. Abizaid uses soldiers to buildhealth clinics and dig wells. But is it enough?

Learning from Hezbollah

By Greg Jaffe
The Wall Street Journal
September 2, 2006; Page A1

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- In the fall of 2002, the U.S. military set up a task force here on the Horn of Africa to kill any al Qaeda fighters seeking refuge in the region. The base was crawling with elite special-operations teams, and an unmanned Predator plane armed with Hellfire missiles sat ready on the runway.

Today, the base houses 1,800 troops whose mission is to build health clinics, wells and schools in areas where Islamic extremists are active. The idea is to ease some of the suffering that leaves the locals susceptible to the radicals' message, thus bolstering local governments, which will run the new facilities and get credit for the improvements.

Behind the shift is Gen. John Abizaid -- a 55-year-old of Lebanese descent and a fluent Arabic speaker -- who leads U.S. forces in the Middle East. In May, the four-star Army general visited 17 Navy Seabees, or engineers, at work designing a school. "Those 17 Seabees doing their mission out there achieve as much for us as a battalion of infantry on the ground looking for bad guys," the general said.

In an interview in Iraq later, he was even blunter about the limits of U.S. firepower. "Military power can gain us time...but that is about it," he said.

It's a striking comment from one of the country's most influential generals, whose views are increasingly being echoed by President Bush. As head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Abizaid oversees the U.S. military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Horn of Africa, Central Asia and the Mideast. He wields great military power, commanding more than 200,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, along with hundreds of warplanes and dozens of ships.

But his view of the region is increasingly shaped by the inability of all that firepower to prevail against a violent strain of Islam seeking to expand its foothold. "The best way to contain al Qaeda is to increase the capacity of the regional powers to deal with it themselves," he says.

Gen. Abizaid's approach is part of a broader rethinking within the Bush administration of how best to fight terrorism, driven in part by the failures of the past five years. One of its tenets is that change must take place gradually and be led by locals. The U.S. can provide help training and equipping indigenous counterterrorism forces to break up al Qaeda cells, Gen. Abizaid says. But bigger changes that address the root causes of terrorism in the region must take place over years, if not decades.

"We tend to be very impatient and want democracy to form tomorrow," he says. But "reform paced too quickly can have unintended consequences."

Gen. Abizaid says his approach calls for a "long war, because it will take a long time for reform to take place." President Bush has adopted the "long war" notion and uses it regularly in speeches.
The general's critics say such a strategy isn't bold enough. "The 'long war' is not a war to transform the Middle East -- it's a light hand and get out of there as fast as you can," says Thomas Donnelly, a conservative military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. Others say helping autocratic regimes to build local support could simply entrench them and further stymie change.

The Horn of Africa effort, the centerpiece of Gen. Abizaid's long war strategy, has had to fend off questions from Washington about its value. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a pointed memo, asked what the U.S. was getting out of it. Gen. Abizaid says the resistance was less from Mr. Rumsfeld than from the "Pentagon bureaucracy," which he says didn't understand the mission's worth or the peril if it failed.

Gen Abizaid's unorthodox strategy is a product of his unusual career. Most Army officers who rose high in the 1980s and 1990s didn't stray far from basic muddy-boots soldiering. Gen. Abizaid has spent significant stretches of his career immersed in the Arab world. He served a year in Jordan early in his military career, and traveled widely. In the early 1980s he served with a United Nations mission in Lebanon, and after the 1991 Gulf War he was part of a mission to carve out a haven for the Kurds in northern Iraq. Along the way, he earned a Harvard degree in Middle Eastern studies.

In Lebanon, Gen. Abizaid says, he saw firsthand how Hezbollah used guerrilla violence, political activity and social aid to grow over the course of decades. "We Western-educated people tend to view war as first you fight then you talk," he says. "Here you are always talking and fighting."

The general's counter strategy -- particularly in the Horn of Africa -- in some ways mimics Hezbollah's hybrid approach to war.

Implementing the "long war strategy," however, has proved fiendishly difficult for troops in the Horn of Africa. The idea is to send small teams into some of the world's most troubled lands to train local forces, gather information and build clinics and schools that extend the local government's influence. The military has long dispatched humanitarian aid, civil affairs teams and military trainers to places like Indonesia, the Philippines and North Africa to provide relief and bolster allies. But the Horn of Africa task force marks the first time that a large military command has been established solely to address the root causes of terrorism in a region.

"This is the most complex thing I have done in my military career," says Rear Adm. Richard Hunt, the commander of the mission. He has struggled mightily in the last nine months to get his troops access to countries in the region. Local leaders, even after they grant U.S. troops access and win projects, don't immediately abandon anti-American attitudes. Even when things are going well, progress is often so slow that it is imperceptible to the soldiers performing the mission.

Earlier this year, the Horn of Africa task force dispatched a six-man civil-affairs team to Yemen. A poor land with a history of Islamic extremism, Yemen is a key battleground in the war on terror. It is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden and about 106 Yemenis are among prisoners the U.S. holds at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The place is awash in arms. Officials at the U.S. embassy in its capital, Sana, worry that without an infusion of aid, Yemen could become a haven for al Qaeda operatives.

Three months into its tour, the U.S. team was having a hard time getting projects going. Just leaving Sana needed approval from a regional government and as many as five national ministries.

"I am stunned how hard it is. We want to help people and there is an obvious need, but we can't seem to get through the bureaucracy," says the team's senior noncommissioned officer, named Mike. The Army asked that full names not be used because the small team operates on its own in a dangerous place.

The team was eager to start projects in Marib, a restive province where, in 2002, a missile fired by a U.S. Predator drone incinerated six al Qaeda men as they rode across the desert in an SUV.

Early in July, after almost two months of planning, the civil-affairs team thought it had finally scheduled a 10-day visit to the province.

The night before the visit, the regional governor canceled it. He said it was too long and he hadn't been briefed sufficiently on the team's movements. To appease him, the U.S. cut the trip to four days. Instead of looking into 10 or 11 potential projects, it would aim for five.

When the team entered the provincial capital, also called Marib, it found a maze of trash-strewn streets, dilapidated shops and mud-brick houses. Virtually every male on the street carried an AK-47 assault rifle on his shoulder. Escorting the team were a dozen Yemeni soldiers and Marib's education minister, who kept a snub-nosed .38-caliber pistol tucked in his belt. Asked why, he smiled and said it was for "bird hunting."

On the first day, the team met with the headmistress of a girls' school, clad head-to-toe in black so only her brown eyes peeked out. The team made plans to double the size of the school, which serves 1,000 students with 19 classrooms.

The next morning they headed deep into the desert on a paved road that after 90 minutes gave way to a rutted dirt trail. It finally ended at a forlorn village named al Faa. Its only school, built of uneven rocks scrounged from a nearby mountain, had no running water, electricity or desks. The town had run out of money to finish the roof.

Doug, a 44-year-old sergeant first class and engineer, sat on a rock with the school principal, who was armed with a pistol and a knife, and sketched out a proposal to finish the school. When they were done, the principal speculated on why the U.S. team had traveled so far. "You are building here and demolishing there," he said, referring to the fighting in Lebanon and Iraq. "You want us to forget the destruction."

Amer Blame, the mayor, adjusted the AK-47 slung over his shoulder and offered a different take. "America is intent on dominating the world, and this is a part of it. So why not come here?" he said. Eventually, the Marib minister of education ended the guessing. "Don't say anything bad or you won't get the project," he warned.

In its remaining days, the team visited a crumbling one-room health clinic at a desert crossroads that treats Bedouins. It needed to be replaced with a larger facility. When a yelling fight broke out among armed men over the where to put a new clinic, the team, worried that the men might begin shooting, sought refuge behind their armored car.

They received a heroes' welcome in a town called al Agaa, where all the males formed a receiving line and treated them to a lavish lunch. Al Agaa needed a new school, and the U.S. soldiers offered to finance one. Later they laid plans to dig a well for a village that was running out of water. The five projects, recently approved by the team's commanders in Djibouti, will cost about $600,000, paid for by the U.S. Central Command.

Team members in Yemen often wondered, despite their recent run of success in Marib, if their effort was too small to make a real difference in a region where the needs are huge and anti-American sentiment entrenched. "This could be a model," says Mike, the senior sergeant. "But it is not working right now."

Compared with other missions in the Horn of Africa, the Americans' experience in Yemen stands as a big success. At times, the command's meticulous plans, laid out over the course of months, have been undone by unexpected regional conflicts or mercurial local leaders.

Earlier this year the Horn of Africa mission's commander, Adm. Hunt, decided to focus on containing a radical Islamic government taking root in southern Somalia. U.S. policy didn't permit sending troops into Somalia, so Adm. Hunt tried seeding border areas with projects that would ease desperate local living conditions.


Post a Comment

<< Home