An Iraqi boy ponders American troops setting up a defensive cordon in Baghdad. While the Bush administration's decision to launch a war in Iraq has changed life in the Middle East, it may eventually have an even greater impact at home.
IS THE PRESIDENT GROWING COLD ON ISRAEL?
The news conference George Bush and Ariel Sharon held at the U.S. president's ranch felt like there was something a little off. Instead of conveying friendship and partnership, the two leaders exposed their disagreements. The tremendous effort invested in flying the prime minister here, in staging a fabulous photo op, and in tedious preparatory talks by aides, was overshadowed by arguments over construction in the settlements and the way to get the peace process moving after the withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria...The Americans are fed up with the mutual complaining and foot-dragging.(Aluf Benn, Haaretz,April 12, 2005)
CAN ISRAEL SURVIVE TO 100?
Benjamin Schwarz, writing in the Atlantic, notes that Israel's determination to hold on to settlements in the West Bank has raised the specter of demographics. As the Arab population outnumbers the Jewish population, the choice will either be to opt for apartheid, in which a powerful minority disenfranchises an oppressed segment of its own citizenry, or risk being overwhelmed. (Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic Monthly, May 2005)
Schwarz discusses his essay on WBUR's on point
Israel's future discussed by
John Anderson, Jerusalem correspondent for the Washington Post, Benjamin Schwarz, literary editor and national editor of The Atlantic Monthly,
Anatol Lieven, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former correspondent for the Times of London.(Broadcast April 6, 2005-Real Audio or Windows Media)
LEBANON FORESHADOWS THE FUTURE
Max Rodenbeck writes in The New York Review of Books: "
Lebanon is smaller than Connecticut and scarcely more populous. Its economy, still struggling to recoup the losses of the 1975–1990 civil war, hardly amounts to the annual turnover at McDonald's. What is so special about the country? The immediate answer is that this statelet, which was subtracted by French imperialists from greater Syria, has suddenly found itself to be the fine point upon which the fate of a much wider region balances..."(Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books, April 28, 2005)
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN PLAY CATCH UP WITH THE VIETNAM WAR
Well over 1 million U.S. troops have fought in the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Pentagon data released to Salon. As of Jan. 31, 2005, the exact figure was 1,048,884, approximately one-third the number of troops ever stationed in or around Vietnam during 15 years of that conflict.
More surprising is the number of troops who have gone to war since 9/11, come back home, and then were redeployed to the battle zone. Of all the troops ever sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, one-third have gone more than once, according to the Pentagon. In the regular Army, 63 percent of the soldiers have been to war at least one time, and almost 40 percent of those soldiers have gone back. The highest rate of first-time deployments belongs to the Marine Corps Reserve: Almost 90 percent have fought. An increasing number of military experts believe those forces -- the Army and Marines -- are months away from being overtaxed to the point of serious dysfunction. The situation in Iraq must continue to stabilize. If it doesn't, and the Bush administration continues to both reject the idea of a draft and rebuff efforts to permanently increase the size of the Army and Marines, U.S. ground forces will break down to a point not seen since just after Vietnam. (Mark Benjamin, Salon, April 12, 2005)
WOUNDED IN ABSTRACTION
Salon's Mark Benjamin notes on WNYC's On the Media that the Pentagon has used a number of ruses to hide the true U.S. casualty figure, which is closer to 25,000 (Brooke Gladstone and Mark Benjamin, On the Media, April 1, 2005-transcript and audio)
A CHEAPER FORM OF IMPERIAL REACH
Clearly stressed for manpower, the U.S. will begin pulling garrison troops away from traditional deployments in Europe and Asia. Instead of traditional bases, the new trend is to a slimmed-down, temporary presence. Michael Klare writes in the Nation that the new facilities will contain no amenities, house no dependents and not be tied to a formal security arrangement. This distinction is necessary, the Pentagon explains, to avoid giving the impression that the United States is seeking a permanent, colonial-like presence in the countries it views as possible hosts for such installations. (Michael Klare, The Nation, April 7, 2005)
RUNNING ON EMPTY
U.S. fiscal responsibility has the rest of the world worried--most lately the World Bank and the I.M.F.. The Economist points out that the administration is hemorrhaging money at both ends of the economy: "Part of the reason this spending is so hard to get a grip on is that it is happening on multiple levels. With interest rates low, consumers have been tapping into their home equity and taking on credit-card debt... Meanwhile, even after massive tax cuts, the Bush administration has forged ahead with ambitious spending programmes. Thus, in 2004 the federal government’s budget deficit hit $412 billion, a worrying 3.6% of GDP. It is projected to fall only to $365 billion, or 3% of GDP, in 2005..." (Economist, April 12, 2005)
Don't look now, but the
trade deficit just did it again
The U.S. trade deficit, exacerbated by surging imports of oil and textiles, soared to an all-time high of $61.04 billion in February. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the February imbalance was up 4.3 percent from a $58.5 billion trade gap in January as a small $50 million rise in U.S. exports of goods and services was swamped by a $2.58 billion increase in imports.The surging trade deficit is leading to an increase in protectionist pressures as American textile and clothing manufacturers are lobbying the administration to limit imports of Chinese textile and clothing goods to ward off a flood of products now that global quotas have expired. (Martin Crutsinger, AP, April 12, 2005)
LOBBYISTS SPEND $13 BILLION TO INFLUENCE CONGRESS AND REGULATORY AGENCIES
Special interests routinely spend far more on lobbying each election cycle than they do contributing to politicians and political parties. In the 2002 election cycle, the most recent for which complete data exists, the Federal Election Commission reported that $1.6 billion was raised. In that same time period, lobbyists received in payment $4 billion to press their case before the government. In 2000, the last presidential election for which complete data exist, those numbers were $2.3 billion for elections compared to $3.5 billion for lobbying. Yet the resources devoted to tracking Washington's political mercenaries and the billions they are paid to influence the decisions of members of Congress and executive branch officials is minimal. The Senate Office of Public Records employs 11 people, and the equivalent House office employs fewer than 35. By contrast, the FEC, which has authority to enforce campaign finance laws, has 391 employees and an annual budget of $52 million. That may explain why one in five of the companies lobbying the federal government have failed to file one or more disclosure forms required by law. In all, there are 14,000 missing lobbying documents that should have been filed with Congress since 1998, including documents disclosing the activities of 49 of the top 50 lobbying firms. (Center for Public Integrity, April 7, 2005)
GENERAL MOTORS IN DENIAL
After years of management blunders, strategic missteps and lack of consumer appeal resulting in near financial catastrophe, General Motors decided to cancel its advertising with the Los Angeles times, last week, claiming that its local dealers had complained about a series of news stories. Incredibly, GM's management, in what appeared to be a plea for socialized medicine, claimed that at least part of its problems stemmed from its commitment to pay health insurance for employees. (David Colker reports in the Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2005)
-LA Times reports on GM's problems(Daniel Neil, April 6)
-Warren Olney interviews automobile experts on GM's debacle on "To The Point" on KCRW(April 12, 2005)
FIGHTING TERRORISM IN SAUDI ARABIA
Anthony Cordesman notes that the last few weeks seem to have confirmed that Saudi counterterrorism
forces are becoming steadily more effective, and that many of the leaders of Al Qa’ida in Saudi Arabia have been captured. In just the last week, Saudi security forces have killed three major Al Qa’ida leaders --
Kareem Altohami al-Mojati, a Moroccan, and Saud Homood Obaid al-Otaibi and Abdul-Rahman Mohammed Yazji, both Saudis. At this point in time, the Saudi government has killed or captured 25 out of the 26 leaders of Al Qa’ida that the government identified after Al Qa’ida launched its major offensive in Saudi Arabia in May 2003...That said, there is no reliable count of how many active Al Qa’ida members are still in Saudi Arabia, or how many it has in reserve in countries like Yemen. There is no way to know how many new recruits and leaders it can develop inside
the Kingdom, or how many Saudi young men will return from Islamic extremist causes in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and India. (Anthony Cordesman, CSIS, April 12, 2005)
THE U.S. ARMY WAR COLLEGE'S SHERIFA ZUHUR ON ISLAM, SAUDI ARABIA AND G.W.O.T.
Saudi Arabia has been condemned for its Wahhabist version of Islam, and linked to the growth of salafist extremism operating locally, regionally, and internationally. Continuing counter- and anti-terrorist measures are necessary, but so is political reform and development. (Dr. Sherifa Zuhur, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, March 2005-71 pages pdf)
John Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the U.N., an organization he clearly despises, is either a stroke of genius or another step down the road to disaster.
The choice of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations could be the most controversial diplomatic misstep since radical isolationists refused to ratify the League of Nations, a political blunder that arguably helped clear the way for the outbreak of World War II. Closer to a bull in a china shop than a diplomat, Bolton (the man Jesse Helms said he'd most like to have at his side at Armageddon) does have the advantage of having the president's ear. The difficulty is that after the President tried to reassure former European allies that the administration really does believe in international cooperation, the choice of a paleolithic unilateralist to represent the United States in the world's greatest multilateral organization, spreads confusion about America's true intentions. On a broader plain, it is less than clear what signal is really being sent. Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz were chief cheerleaders for launching a dubious war with Iraq based on faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. Both men have been nudged away from any direct policy making authority by being placed in charge of internationalist organizations that the administration gives every sign of disdaining--but in light of the magnitude of their failures, they are still being rewarded handsomely in the wake of policy misjudgments and a war that has resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 American servicemen and women. Jefferson Morely looks at Bolton's bad press in the Washington Post.com's World Opinion roundup (Jefferson Morely, WashingtonPost.com, April 12, 2005)
-Former U.S. State Department Intelligence Chief blasts Bolton(Washington Post)
-The turbulent confirmation hearings via C-Span
-The debate on Jim Lehrer's NewsHour
-Joseph Nye and John Fund discuss the ramifications on WBUR's On Point
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