Wednesday, September 27, 2006

War on Terror: Do We Need To Mobilize?

By John E. Carey
September 28, 2006

The United States never mobilized to fight the war against terror. That means our full industrial might, our full economic might, and the focus of many of our government departments is not thoroughly embracing the war effort.

Additionally, some other issues like human rights and democracy in Southeast Asia may be suffering.

Since September 11, 2001, many great changes have helped transform America to fight the war on terror, as we have noted, as recently as on the anniversary of 9/11 in The Washington Times: “Since September 11, the damaged section of the Pentagon has been rebuilt, a plan is in place in New York….By carrying the battle to the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan, with our professional military forces and not our women and children and other innocents, we, as a nation, have already achieved a significant advantage over the enemy…..We reformed our government and created the Department of Homeland Security. We energized and reformed our intelligence services and created the director of national intelligence (John Negroponte) above the Central Intelligence Agency director. We monitored the terrorists' communications, computer networks, financing and banking. We commenced a war like no other war ever on Earth. We, the United States, redefined war.”

But we never mobilized.

Do we need to?

On September 25, 2006, more than five years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste told Senators during his appearance before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, "We must mobilize our country for a protracted challenge."

General Batiste was joined by two others in agreement: retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, and retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Paul X. Hammes.

O.K. that is only three gentlemen. But three experienced warriors who served in Iraq and who say their conclusions are supported by many others on active duty. The testimony was the most riveting I have heard since I first came to the halls of Congress in 1974. My impression of this hearing was that these three military men are tired of seeing men die and suffer tremendous wounds in a conflict they feel is poorly managed and under funded. I thought, "These guys feel honor bound to be here."

There is also the voice of James K. Kallstrom. The former FBI Assistant Director and the man who was in charge of the criminal investigation in the crash of TWA Flight 800, Mr. Kallstrom is now Advisor to the Governor of New York for Counter –Terrorism. On the Fox News Channel on September 27, Mr. Kallstrom said, “We haven’t yet done a lot of common sense things here at home” to fight the war on terror. He added, “We are in a massive war and I am afraid most Americans have no idea….”

We know for a fact that Mr. Kallstrom believes, as we do, that the United States has totally failed in its “war of hearts and minds” against the terrorists. When asked about the "hearts and minds" effort in the war on terror on September 11, 2006, he said, "Quite frankly I don't think we are doing that great a job."

Then there is the other side.

The other side says: no need to mobilize because we’ll just pull out. As David Ignatius noted in the Washington Post on Wednesday, September 27, 2006, “There is not a single government in the Middle East, with the possible exceptions of Iran and Syria, that favors a rapid U.S. pullout from Iraq. Why? The consensus in the region is that a retreat now would have disastrous consequences for America and its allies. Yet withdrawal is the Iraq strategy you hear from most congressional Democrats, whether they call it ‘strategic redeployment’ or something else.”

This is a pretty wide gap; in fact an abyss. Do we need to just get out of Iraq now or mobilize the nation? Or perhaps a third path: stay the course.

General Batiste would probably liken “stay the course” to a cat hanging by its claws on a sheer curtain.

So, shouldn’t we get to the bottom of this? Are we expected to vote in November with no additional information, no clue as to who holds the position closest to the truth?

Are American men and women expected to fight and die while many know there is more we, as a nation, can do to make and keep them safer?

There are some other indicators that mobilization may be in order because maybe our government is not totally and completely able to handle all its responsibilities during the added weight of the war on terror. Am I crazy or did a democratically elected government in Asia fall during a coup a week or so ago?

The new man in Thailand is a Muslim general in charge of the army. He says he’ll name a civilian leadership corps, get the King’s approval, and hold elections again….in a year or so.

The last time this happened Pervez Musharraf became the General/President in Pakistan. He is also still the Army Chief of Staff. He promised elections too. That was just after a bloodless coup d'état on 12 October 1999. That’s seven years ago.

Granted that Thailand is not much of a threat to anybody and this was the 18th coup in Thailand since it became a constitutional democracy in 1932. One still has to wonder if there might be strategic implications from this coup d'état later on.

Even though President Bush has said over and over that spreading democracy is part of his doctrine, and that “democracies don’t attack other democracies,” he seemed to give the Thai military a “pass” on this. Just as he has given Musharraf a pass on his democracy, apparently.

Tony Snow, the White House Press Spokesman, at first said, “we’re disappointed at the coup [in Thailand].” A few days later, Snow said, the United States is “committed to democracy and in no way do we countenance military coups.”

By September 26, the U.S. Secretary of State was on the record with a well thought out response to the Thailand coup.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, she said, "It's not a good thing and we are terribly displeased to have had a military coup.”

"They need to get a civilian government and they need to get to elections and get back on a democratic path very, very quickly,” said Secretary Rice.

OK: did we lose a little focus?


In July 2006 the U.S. Secretary of State was scheduled to go to Vietnam. We care about Vietnam for many reasons; not the least of which is that the Communist government has been holding an American citizen, Mrs. Thuong N. "Cuc" Foshee, without charges, medical care or legal council for over a year. The president is supposed to go to Vietnam in November and Vietnam is awaiting word on entry into the World Trade Organization and receipt of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the U.S.

All that is important and we know there are issues of still grater importance. But Secretary of State Rice cancelled her mission to Vietnam last July because of the pressing business of the war between Israel and Hezbollah – even though she made it all the way to Malaysia at just about the same time she was supposed to be in Vietnam.

This is a U.S. State Department press release dated July 14, 2006 which was still on the official State Department web site on September 27, 2006:

“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Asia July 24-29, visiting Japan (July 24-25), China (July 25-26), the Republic of Korea (July 26-27), Malaysia (July 27-28) and Vietnam (July 28-29) for discussions with senior government officials on bilateral, regional, and global issues of concern including North Korea, Iraq and Iran; and to participate in ASEAN-related meetings in Kuala Lumpur on July 27-28. These are the Secretary's first visits to Malaysia and Vietnam, and her first meeting with the new Vietnamese leadership.”

All this diplomacy never happened, save the Malaysia piece.

Again, according to the State Department’s official web site: “Secretary Rice traveled to Malaysia to meet with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on July 27 and sign the Framework Agreement for the Plan of Action to implement the ASEAN-U.S. Enhanced Partnership. She participated in the 13th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting July 28.”

And finally this from the State Department’s official web site: “At the Gala Dinner held each year at ASEAN's Ministerial Meeting, each country's Foreign Minister traditionally performs a skit. Secretary Rice, a classically trained and accomplished pianist, played a selection from Brahms. She was accompanied by famed Malaysian violinist Mustafa Fuzer Nawi, conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, for her interpretation.”

The Secretary of State, unfortunately, could not make it to Vietnam, Japan, China, or South Korea due to the war in Lebanon. But she did make it all the way to Malaysia to play the piano (Brahms' Sonata in D Minor, 2nd Movement).

So, because our nation did not have a special envoy to the Middle East, and the Secretary of State tried (and failed) to meet all her diplomatic responsibilities, Mrs. Foshee remains in jail in Vietnam. And who knows what else the United States left on or under the table unattended to.

On May 21, 2001, at the outset of this president’s administration, with the “Israelis and Palestinians, locked in a dangerous new spiral of violence,” Ambassador Dennis Ross was asked on CNN, “Has it been a mistake for the new Bush administration to be as disengaged as it has been in the Middle East?”

He answered, “I think that what we have seen is, at this point, a low visibility American approach is not sufficient to prevent a slide into much worse violence.”

Ambassador Dennis Ross, a former U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East wrote later that , “And, with the U.S. preoccupied with Iraq, there is no ongoing diplomacy.”

Ambassador Ross wrote those words in the Wall Street Journal on November 5, 2003.

In August 2005, after Secretary Powell was already gone and Secretary of State Rice was in his chair, Ambassador Ross was asked about a “Special Envoy” again. He said, the Secretary of State has “got a lot of things going on around the world, and to do what is necessary for what I'm talking about….I think you need to have one person in charge. Do they have to be called an envoy? No. But they have to be in charge…. So, you're going to have to have somebody who's in charge, someone who's on the scene, someone who's energetic, who understands the intensity of the effort that's required…..empower him. Give him the mandate.”

China has a Special Envoy to the Middle East. The United States does not.

Before the President of the United States goes to Vietnam in November, we would hope that the U.S. government takes all necessary action to secure the release of Mrs. Thuong N. "Cuc" Foshee, a citizen of the United States, who is now held without charges in Vietnam.

And the larger question is this: are we losing “focus” in our government of all our international responsibilities due to the war against terror? Because if we are then General Batiste and his group, and others, including, we believe, Mr. James Kallstrom, are correct: we need to mobilize our government more completely.

Or otherwise make some changes.

Other reading:

Our Comments on 9/11/06:

On the retired military officers that recommended mobilization:

On Thailand's Coup:

On Mrs. Foshee and Vietnam:


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