Saturday, December 16, 2006

Time for more troops

By William Rusher
The Washington Times
Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hitherto, I have refrained from wading into the argument over whether we need more troops in Iraq because I am not a military expert and felt obliged to defer to what President Bush has consistently said was the stated belief of the generals in charge that no more were needed. But the report of the Baker-Hamilton commission, and other reports yet to come from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council and the State Department, are loosening up the thinking on this and related matters, and the generals (who can't enjoy the present state of affairs in Iraq any more than the rest of us) may share the contagion.

In any event, it seems to me that the case for more troops is now just about overwhelming. Give Rumsfeld credit for wanting to wage the war with a relatively small force, and salute Gen. Tommy Franks for toppling Hussein with one. There is nothing wrong with frugality where soldiers' lives are concerned, and Hussein's government was overthrown with remarkably few American casualties. But what ensued was not peace, but 3-1/2 years of a very different kind of war, waged against us by insurgents who realize that they do not have to win, but merely keep killing a few American soldiers every week until the American public tires of the process and forces Washington to pull the plug.

It is true that combat fatalities in Iraq, after nearly four years, are still less than half of the 6,000 we sustained, on average, every month for 40 months in World War II. But at least we were winning that war, and ultimately won it. In Iraq, the fanatical Islamic insurgency, far from diminishing, has actually grown, and has recently been supplemented by savage battles between Sunnis and Shiites in the general Iraqi population, which the president's critics are eager to call a "civil war." In these circumstances, it is not unreasonable for Americans to wonder just how a stable, democratic and pro-American Iraq is supposed to emerge.

The answer, it seems increasingly clear, is by committing more American troops. Wherever they have been used, in Iraq to date, our forces have prevailed; they are incomparably the most formidable fighters in the area. It is when they turn matters over to insufficiently trained and equipped Iraqi forces that the ground gained has been lost again to the insurgents. We must make up our minds to commit enough additional troops not only to clear Baghdad and other key cities, but to hold them until properly trained and equipped Iraqi forces can take over.

It isn't fair to insist that the Iraqis are fatally incompetent, or corrupt or whathaveyou. They have just emerged from a bloody 30-year dictatorship. Understandably, they trust their religious and tribal ties more than the vision of a unified democratic state. But even The New York Times recently reported that the parties are close to agreement on an equitable division of the oil revenues that are Iraq's only resource. Once that crucial issue is resolved, much else may follow in its wake.

It is often protested that, even if more troops are needed, America simply doesn't have any more to send. It beggars belief that a nation of 300 million could not find 20,000, or even 50,000, more soldiers if necessary. It is probably true that in the short run rotations will have to be extended, and some units will have to be sent back to Iraq for a third time. But in National Review's luminous formulation, "if there is any cause that calls for straining the military, it is an attempt to keep from losing a war."

The United States is getting a dangerous reputation for losing its wars. The last time we won one was more than half a century ago. Since then, we have settled for a stalemate in Korea, abandoned an ally and fled the field in Vietnam, and pulled our forces out of Somalia. Osama bin Laden has cited both of the latter as proof of our cowardice. What will he (and the world) conclude if we turn tail in Iraq?

As Winston Churchill warned after Munich, "This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless, by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time."

William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .

Shiite? Sunni? Some in US learn who's who.

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Friday, December 15, 2006

Some in Congress may need a primer on Islamic extremists. Five years after 9/11, three members of the House Intelligence Committee in recent interviews couldn't answer basic questions about who's Sunni and who's Shiite in the Muslim world. But other American institutions are already boning up - especially when they have a stake in doing so. For example:

*Law-enforcement agencies, from the FBI to the New York Police Department are learning Muslim customs in attempts to do their jobs more effectively.

*Major hospitals, including one in Tampa, Fla., are training staff to honor Muslim beliefs about the body.

*Business groups are studying Islamic law in order to raise capital among Muslims, who aren't allowed to charge interest.

In general, Americans don't know much about Muslims, surveys show. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that the share of those saying they knew "not very much" or "nothing at all" about Islam actually grew from 61 percent in 2001 to 66 percent in 2005. In another 2005 Pew finding, 62 percent failed to identify Allah and the Koran as the terms Muslims use for God and sacred scripture.

Certain key sectors of US society also display a dangerous ignorance, Muslim advocates say.

Topping the list this month is Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D) of Texas, the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. In an interview with Congressional Quarterly last week, he could identify the historic Sunni-Shiite split but didn't know that Al Qaeda is Sunni or that Hizbullah, which fought Israel this summer in Lebanon, is Shiite.

GOP Reps. Jo Ann Davis and Terry Everett, also on the intelligence committee, fared worse when the Congressional Quarterly interviewed them last summer.

But even on Capitol Hill, there are pockets of hope, Muslim advocates say. Congressmen tend to know more about Islamic culture when their own futures depend on working well with Muslims.

"In areas where there are large Muslim populations, you tend to see that members of Congress are more in tune with the thinking of the Muslim community," says Corey Saylor, national legislative director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group in Washington. Among those with few Muslim constituents, he says, knowledge of Islamic culture is "better than it was five years ago, but we still have a long way to go."

That same trend shows up in other sectors of society. Where the stakes are high, Americans are doing their homework.

p Muslim culture trainingThe Federal Bureau of Investigation, for instance, will emphasize Muslim culture when it expands introductory training for new agents from 18 to 21 weeks next month. In upcoming sessions, trainees will "drill down deeper" than they have in the past, for instance, into differences between radical Shiite cultures and radical Sunni ones, says Keith Slotter, assistant director of the FBI's training division. For the first time, new agent training will also cover dynamics surrounding suicide bombing.

"When a person from another culture says something, the meaning behind the words may not be the literal translation that an agent might want to jump to," Mr. Slotter says. "There are so many different nuances and aspects [that] to be an effective interviewer ... you're going to need those cultural skills."

Urban police are taking similar steps. About 100 members of the New York Police Department's hostage negotiating team, for instance, earlier this year spent a day learning to foster cooperation by honoring Muslim customs. For example, when entering a home, leave dogs outside and don't step on prayer rugs. In San Jose, Police Chief Rob Davis is a Mormon, but he has in the past fasted each day during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in order to foster understanding and closer ties with Muslims in his city.

Sometimes, the passion for knowledge has proved fleeting. When the Houston Police Department first offered a monthly continuing education course on Muslim culture at a local mosque in 2003, every class was near capacity with about 30 officers in attendance. But the department discontinued the course last year because not enough officers were signing up. The sharp decline in numbers coincided with a department policy shift.

"We used to have classes on city time, but now that you have to go on your own time, the majority of officers don't want to take this class," says Muzaffar Siddiqi, the department's liaison to Muslims. They're taking other courses online because "they can just sit at home and do it."

Some business people are also trying to learn more. Earlier this year, managers at East

Cameron Partners, an energy development firm in Houston, studied Islamic finance in order to raise funds in the Middle East for oil and gas exploration. The result was the first-ever US issue of sukuk, an Islamic bond that generates revenue from sales, profits, or leases rather than interest. In September, International Swaps and Derivatives Association in New York began studying Islamic law requirements in order to craft international standards for more cross-cultural deals.

Focus on healthcare concernsIn healthcare, Tampa General Hospital has emphasized Muslim culture in its two-year-old diversity training program, which counts as continuing education for many of the hospital's 5,000 staffers. In March, Muslims will make their fourth presentation - more than any other group - to an expected crowd of about 150.

The education has had immediate on-the-job value for medical staff, according to the Rev. William Baugh, director of pastoral care at Tampa General. They now try to have women physicians visit Muslim female patients "because of the tremendous modesty," he says. And when a patient dies, nurses now accommodate family members who insist on taking the body to wash it.