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Our Wars of Choice Harm our Interests

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, calls for a  doctrine of restoration that "would help the U.S. shore up the economic foundations of its power." He is basically urging more limited foreign policy engagements, which would mean that the US should act more like the European countries.

Haas wants to reduce wars of choice, like the war in Libya. He also blames Obama for turning the war of necessity in Afghanistan into a war of choice, because of targeting the Taliban rather than Al Qaeda. I understand the logic, but wasn't President Bush going after the Taliban as well?

Continue reading "Our Wars of Choice Harm our Interests"

"Afghanistan now awaits its Fulbright"

Comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam are becoming popular again. Will Senator John Kerry walk in Senator Fulbright's footsteps?

Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote in the Washington Post:

Afghanistan now awaits its Fulbright. It is time for the Senate to make an independent review of the war, and to challenge - as Sen. J.William Fulbright did during the Vietnam war - a president unwilling to end a conflict he knows will not be won. Surely, it is fate that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is Sen. John Kerry. Nearly 40 years ago, as a brave, decorated, young Navy lieutenant returning from Vietnam, he challenged senators to do their duty, saying that each day "someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn't have to admit something that the entire world already knows . . . that we have made a mistake. . . . How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
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Retired British General: UK and US Must Admit Defeat and Leave Iraq

According to The Guardian, General Sir Michael Rose, a former SAS commander and head of UN forces in Bosnia, said: "It is the soldiers who have been telling me from the frontline that the war they have been fighting is a hopeless war, that they cannot possibly win it and the sooner we start talking politics and not military solutions, the sooner they will come home and their lives will be preserved."
Asked if that meant admitting defeat, the general replied: "Of course we have to admit defeat. The British admitted defeat in north America and the catastrophes that were predicted at the time never happened. "The catastrophes that were predicted after Vietnam never happened. The same thing will occur after we leave Iraq."

New Fulbright Documentary and Fulbright Discussion on Iraq

The J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center has a new homepage and presents a new documentary highlighting Senator Fulbright's "role in the founding of the United Nations, his opposition to the McCarthy investigations, and his questioning of American policy in the Vietnam War."

And Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith questioned American policy in the Iraq war in a speech to Fulbright Alumni at Harvard last week. According to the Harvard Crimson, Galbraith predicted that Iraq would not be able to weather the ongoing civil war and would eventually split along sectarian lines:
Galbraith—who was never a member of the Fulbright program—was invited because of his support for the program during his 14 years as a senior advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The Iraq war has not served a single national security purpose,” Galbraith said. “Iraq cannot be put back together again—there is actually no way to stop the civil war in Baghdad.”
Despite the fact that most of the assembled scholars strongly backed Galbraith’s comments, one Iraqi woman took issue with his prediction that Iraq would fracture along ethnic lines. She said that the fault for Iraq’s divisions lies with politicians who are dividing people for their own ends, and that the populace is less divided than Galbraith claimed. "We are all Iraqi,” she added. But an Iraqi Kurd said that he supports autonomy from the Baghdad government for the Kurd-controlled region in the north.

40th Anniversary of Senator Fulbright's "Arrogance of Power" Speech

The liberal American Prospect wrote about an anniversary in April 2006, which the Atlantic Review missed:
Forty years ago this week, Senator J. William Fulbright delivered a speech at Johns Hopkins University on "the arrogance of power." Talk about a time bomb. "The question I find intriguing is whether a nation so extraordinarily endowed as the United States can overcome that arrogance of power which has afflicted, weakened, and, in some cases, destroyed great nations in the past," Fulbright said. "Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations -- to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image."
Many people believe the Bush administration's foreign policy is misguided, arrogant, and headed for disaster. But few were making that argument back when George W. Bush was still in college. Of course, the context of Fulbright's speech was not Bush's virtuous unilateralism or the divine summons to Iraq; it was President Lyndon Johnson's deepening engagement in Vietnam. But it's doubtful anyone in Congress today has delivered a more thoughtful critique of Bush’s foreign policy. What's even more striking from this vantage point, however, is that Fulbright delivered his broadside against a sitting president of his own party. Johnson was still a commanding and fairly popular figure in 1966 -- the Vietnam War, remember, did not lose majority support until spring 1968 -- when Fulbright rose to fulfill what he called "the patriot’s duty of dissent." The White House, Senate, and House were all controlled by one party, as they are today.
In August 2005, the Atlantic Review recommeded an article about Senator Hagel walking in Senator Fulbright's footsteps. The American Prospect writer Francis Wilkinson would like Senators Hagel and McCain to take note: "Do today what William Fulbright did 40 years ago this week, and then we'll talk":
Senator John McCain used to be good for an honest slap at the White House every now and then. But ever since he made up his mind to do whatever is necessary to win the Republican nomination in 2008, he's been a pussycat. Republican Senator Richard Lugar has been known to raise a paternal eyebrow and murmur something -- darned if I can recall what -- on a Sunday morning talk show. Senator Chuck Hagel occasionally strays from party, which is to say, White House, talking points. Arlen Specter held hearings on the NSA spying scandal -- and then refused to swear in administration witnesses. But faced with a situation not unlike Fulbright's in 1966, very few on the Republican side have dared to offer a critical public analysis of White House policy.
Mr. Wilkinson, however, does not outline what criticism and what constructive proposals regarding Iraq he expects from those Republican Senators. There seems to be a shortage of suggestions to improve the Bush administration's Iraq policy, while there certainly isn't a shortage of criticism.

Michigan State University presents a copy of Senator Fulbright's 1966 speech (HT: Phronesisaical).
Amazon.com and Amazon.de sell Senator Fulbright's book The Arrogance of Power that followed after the speech.

Senator Fulbright on Free Speech

Harriet Mayor Fulbright talked about her husband's legacy and relevance today at the University of Oslo in February 2005:
As Fulbright said, "In a democracy dissent is an act of faith.  Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste but its effects."  In fact, democracy flourishes when its citizens feel free to dream and discuss the impossible.
"We must dare to think 'unthinkable thoughts,'" he wrote.  "We must learn to explore all of the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world. We must learn to welcome rather than fear the voices of dissent. We must dare to think about 'unthinkable things,' because when things become 'unthinkable,' thinking stops and actions become mindless.  If we are to disabuse ourselves of old myths, and to act wisely and creatively upon the new realities of our time, we must think and talk about our problems with perfect freedom, remembering, as Woodrow Wilson said, that 'The greatest freedom of speech is the greatest safety because, if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.'"
Senator Fulbright not only thought unthinkable thoughts but felt compelled to make them public when his country’s policies were in his view seriously flawed.  In the mid-1960’s, for instance, Fulbright tried to convince President Johnson that the war in Vietnam was not in the interests of the Unites States for many reasons.  As long as the discussion was in private, Johnson remained cordial, but as soon as Fulbright made his views public, Johnson's intense hostility toward him was perhaps the greatest trial of his political life.  President Johnson lashed out at him in many ways, including engineering a cut in the Fulbright Program funds of 70%.  As we all know the Program survived the attack and grew considerably afterward, but the two men, who were close friends until that time, never spoke again, and this hurt Fulbright deeply.
Senator Fulbright made these comments in his book "Old Myths and New Realities", which is based on a speech he delivered in the Senate in 1964. Harriet Mayor Fulbright quotes from the book in her speech to the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Conference in 2002.

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Iraq and Vietnam and the "State of Denial" and Krepinevich's "Oil-Spot Strategy"

Bob Woodward, who has been known for his incredible access to classified reports and close contacts to members of the Bush administration, has just published a new book State of Denial (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) and writes in the Washington Post article "Secret Reports Dispute White House Optimism":
There was a vast difference between what the White House and Pentagon knew about the situation in Iraq and what they were saying publicly. But the discrepancy was not surprising. In memos, reports and internal debates, high-level officials of the Bush administration have voiced their concern about the United States' ability to bring peace and stability to Iraq since early in the occupation.
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U.S. government is urged to talk to Iran

In early April, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on his visit to the U.S:
Based on reports that there are apparently talks taking place arranged by the American ambassador in Baghdad with the Iranian leadership about the situation in Iraq, I advised that the topics should not be limited just to Iraq but expanded to include one of the most urgent problems confronting us all: the suspicion that Iran, the Iranian leadership, is pursuing secret atomic weapons programs.
Following are new calls for direct U.S.-Iranian negotiations by a high-ranking German parliamentarian, six former foreign ministers, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and some criticism of these suggestions by the Wall Street Journal: Continue reading "U.S. government is urged to talk to Iran"