Sunday, August 23, 2009
The recent revelations—first, that former FBI Acting Associate Director W Mark Felt was Bob Woodward’s Deep Throat and then, that Felt had successfully orchestrated the FBI’s investigation into the source of this leak--has dominated news coverage. Yet, rather than understand this event as the actions of a crafty and sophisticated bureaucrat, we would do well to locate it in the broader context of the FBI’s history. For Felt’s role in containing an FBI investigation of his own role as leaker, if atypical, was not unprecedented. An even more dramatic example involved a 1950 FBI investigation of a leak to Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
A first term and relatively influential first-term US senator, McCarthy catapulted to national prominence in Feb. 1950 when claiming to have evidence of “known communists in the State Department” (his cited numbers varying from 205 to 57 and, ultimately in a Senate speech of Feb. 20, to 81). Convinced that McCarthy lacked the evidence to support his 81 cases claim and intending furthermore to discredit an evolving Republican strategy of red baiting the Truman administration, the Democratic Senate leadership launched an inquiry into McCarthy’s claimed 81 cases. Chaired by Maryland Sen. Millard Tydings, the committee’s Democratic majority issued its final report on July 20, dismissing McCarthy’s charges as a “fraud and a hoax.” Because President Truman, however, had denied the committee full access to the FBI’s files on these 81 cases, his restrictions enabled Sen. McCarthy to dismiss the findings as a “whitewash” and further in a Senate speech and a follow-up press release to claim that the FBI files--which the committee had reviewed--had been “raped.” In support of this latter contention, McCarthy cited the Edward Posniak case and cited FBI developed evidence of Posniak’s communist ties summarized in a Civil Service Commission investigation report (which he then publicly released).
McCarthy’s action infuriated the Truman administration. And because McCarthy had cited a classified government report, on July 25, Attorney General J. Howard McGrath ordered the FBI to conduct an investigation into his apparent violation of Title 18 sections 641 and 2071 of the US code criminalizing the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. McGrath’s order potentially could have compromised FBI officials who had covertly leaked FBI information to the Wisconsin senator. Yet, because FBI officials had both conditioned their earlier assistance on assurances of confidentiality and had not given McCarthy FBI files (instead summarizing FBI information in “blind memorandum” form), they could expect that their assistance would not be uncovered. Indeed, the resultant FBI investigation first confirmed that McCarthy’s claimed report was not an authentic Civil Service Commission report and further focused on Civil Service Commission or State Department Loyalty Review Board employees as McCarthy’s possible sources. An unanticipated initiative of McCarthy aide Don Surine in Sept. 1950, however, threatened to undermine this containment strategy.
During a meeting that month with an agent of the FBI’s Washington field office, Surine solicited a summary memorandum on Owen Lattimore. Surine conveyed to the agent his awareness of the FBI’s investigation involving the “Posniak case,” and outlined how he would handle this to avoid compromising the FBI as a source. As in the “Posniak case,” he would disguise the source as a Civil Service Commission and not an FBI report and further, the purported report, because not a government record, would not violate Title 18.
Surine’s unanticipated and “gratuitous” offer (FBI officials’ phrasing) troubled senior FBI officials whose automatic response was to order that Surine not be interviewed relating to this admission. Yet, because the summary report of the Washington field office referred briefly to Surine’s admission, Attorney General McGrath in November 1950 ordered the FBI to interview Surine. Until then, the FBI had not interviewed any member of McCarthy’s staff ostensibly because the senator during his FBI interview had refused to disclose his source and had added that he had ordered his staff not to disclose the source. When finally questioned about the Posniak case on November 27, Surine first told the interviewing agent that he knew nothing. When the agent then responded that he had “reliable information” that Surine in fact had such knowledge, the McCarthy aide amended his response “to say that he had refused comment on the matter.” The FBI report on this interview included only Surine’s refusal to comment and not his original claim of ignorance.
The McCarthy episode both resembles and differs from Felt’s later action in precluding discovery of his own role as Deep Throat. In Felt’s case, there is no evidence that any other FBI official was aware of his role as Deep Throat. The Acting Associate Director’s purpose, moreover, had been to subvert the Nixon White House’s efforts to politicize the FBI—both by limiting the agency’s investigation into the break-in and the possibility of discovery of the role of senior White House and Committee to Re-Elect the President officials in the break-in and resultant cover-up. In contrast, the McCarthy cover-up involved senior FBI officials whose purpose was to avert the president’s (and the broader public’s) discovery of a politicized FBI and their own covert involvement ion partisan politics.
The McCarthy episode, moreover, is not without contemporary relevance. On the one hand, it confirms how secrecy enabled FBI officials to assist the Truman administration’s Republican critics and then to avert discovery of their assistance. On the other hand, in contrast to other known examples of FBI officials’ purposeful leaks extending from the 1940s through at least the 1970s (whether to Congressman Nixon, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, or conservative reporters and columnists), where FBI assistance might have been suspected, in this case FBI officials had been ordered to investigate an evident leak. Their condition of confidentiality combined with their sophisticated practice of never leaking actual FBI records enabled them to neutralize this potential problem—and the confirmation that the FBI was not a professional apolitical investigative agency. At a time of renewed anxiety, now about an omnipresent “terrorist” (rather than “subversive”) threat, we would do well to be skeptical about renewed calls for secrecy and expanded surveillance powers.
Until 1975 few people outside the government knew that the United States had ever plotted the assasination of foreign leaders. Even many high officials inside the government did not know, including Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state, and President Gerald Ford. All that changed, however, as the result of a series of exposes published in the New York Times by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
The story came out as the result of a disclosure by the president himself. In late 1974 Hersh had stumbled upon evidence that the CIA had been engaged in domestic spying, in express violation of its 1947 charter. After he had assembled his evidence he went to the head of the CIA, William Colby, for an explanation. Colby promptly warned the White House, which wanted to know what other skeletons lurked in the CIA closet. Colby, complying, sent over a copy of a document known as the Family Jewels, which had been prepared at the direction of the previous director, James Schlesinger, near the end of his term. The Family Jewels listed every underhanded operation in which the CIA had ever been engaged, including plots to assassinate foreign leaders. When Colby after the Christmas holiday briefed the president he emphasized the assasination plots.
In January the Senate, alarmed by the disclosures concerning domestic spying, established the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Frank Church. Colby, called to testify, revealed that the CIA had indeed spied on antiwar protesters. Kissinger moaned: "Every time Bill Colby gets near Capital Hill, the damn fool feels an irresistible urge to confess to some horrible crime."
But as historian Christopher Andrew relates, "it was Ford himself" who "inadvertently revealed the most sensational crimes of all."
At a White House lunch for the publisher and editors of the New York Times on January 16  the president revealed that the intelligence files contained material that it was against the national interest to reveal because it would "blacken the reputation of every President since Truman." "Like what?" asked one of the editors. "Like assassinations!" replied Ford, adding hastily, "That's off the record! " It was, by any standards, an astonishingly ill-judged remark. Colby was told what Ford had said the next day. "I was stunned," he recalls. "I just couldn't figure out how it had happened. My conclusion is that it was just Ford being the straightforward guy he is. He's not a Machiavellian, ... and he was being pressed."
In fact, as Andrew relates, "all the CIA's assassination plots had either failed or been abandoned," but Ford's remark eventually got around, though the editors of the Times had decided not to publish it. Eventually CBS's Daniel Schorr got wind of the story and made it national news. "President Ford," Schorr reported, "has warned associates that if current investigations go too far they could uncover several assassinations of foreign officials involving the CIA."
In the months that followed the pressure grew on Ford to renounce assassinations. Determined to restore the integrity of the presidency in the wake of Watergate, he pinned the blame on rogue officials at the CIA. In March Ford announced at a press conference, "I will not condone-in fact I condemn-any CIA involvement in any assassination planning or action. ... I am personally looking at, analyzing all of the more recent charges of any assassination attempts by the CIA or actual assassinations from its inception to the present."
In early 1976, following a year of disclosures, investigations and public revulsion, President Ford issued an executive order banning the assassinations. Senator Church praised the president's action. "It is," said Church, "simply intolerable that any agency of the government of the United States may engage in murder."
In the course of an urgent search for the sources who were
providing classified information to journalist Jack Anderson in
1971, the Nixon Administration discovered a surprising culprit.
A Navy yeoman in the National Security Council named Charles
Radford was not only the "almost certain source" of the Jack
Anderson leaks, but he was also in the habit of routinely copying
classified documents in the briefcases of Henry Kissinger,
Alexander Haig, and other senior Administration officials, and
forwarding the documents to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In effect, the Joint Chiefs were spying on the Nixon White House.
"The P[resident] was quite shocked, naturally, by the whole
situation," according to the diary of Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman.
The whole episode, which has been previously described in various memoirs and historical studies, was recalled in a recent edition of Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), which also published some newly transcribed Presidential discussions of the case.
Admiral Welander, yeoman Radford's boss, said that the yeoman
should be put in jail for his actions, Haldeman wrote.
Admiral Moorer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that Admiral Welander should be put in jail.
Kissinger said, "I think Moorer should be in jail."
In the end, nobody went to jail.
"Our best interests are served by not, you know, raising holy
hell," concluded President Nixon.
President Bush, Congress and anyone else upset over the Spanish translation of the national anthem might be interested to know that the U.S. government gave its blessing to a different version 87 years ago.
That translation of "The Star-Spangled Banner," prepared by the Bureau of Education in 1919, has been available on the Library of Congress Web site for two years without so much as a sniff of disapproval.
Besides Spanish, the library has vintage translations in Polish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Armenian, among others. A little Googling will turn up versions in Samoan and Yiddish, too.
"What's sort of surprising for us here who've lived with 'The Star-Spangled Banner' is that everyone has their shorts in a bunch about it," said Loras Schissel, a musicologist at the Library of Congress. "It's old news."
Until last week, that is, when some Latino pop stars released a Spanish version with somewhat different lyrics ("The time has come to break the chains") called "Nuestro Himno," or "Our Anthem."
It landed in the middle of a heated debate over immigration. The song's producer and singers hoped to fire up the immigrant community. To critics, they might as well have torched a flag on the Capitol steps.
Musically speaking, the reaction was fortissimo. Once Spanish-language radio aired the song, talk radio, blogs and cable, along with members of Congress, reacted with outrage.
In contrast, the 1919 government-sponsored Spanish translation evoked a collective yawn, if anyone was paying attention.
"National airs and anthems were popular music at the time," Schissel said. "You bought them on 78 [rpm] records, and people sang them around the piano."
The current controversy over hordes of Hispanics coming over the border singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Spanish is only the latest rise of a tide that ebbs and flows in the United States at regular intervals.
The debate over whether those who come from "out there" to "in here" are to be welcomed or repelled illustrates a paradox at the heart of this national enterprise - at once America is a country of immigrants and a country threatened by immigrants.
"There is nothing new about the issue of immigration becoming a hot political topic," says Gary Gerstle, a historian at the University of Maryland, College Park. "There are points historically when it becomes a major issue and grabs the attention of the polity in a major way.
"From that viewpoint, it is not surprising that something like this is happening today," he says. "The United States has long insisted, on the one hand, with having a relatively open border but, on the other hand, with being concerned about the volume, manner and character of those coming across it."
It is hard to find a point in American history when this was not an issue.
"This goes all the way back to the beginning of the country," says Matthew Crenson, a political scientist at the Johns Hopkins University.
"There was a debate, in fact, between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson in the early part of the 19th century," he says. "Jefferson argued that immigration was a good thing because it would bring people who would contribute to the economy of the new country, while Hamilton argued that it was a bad thing since it would threaten the distinctive Anglo-American culture of the country."
The immigrants Jefferson was backing were the so-called Scotch-Irish, the Protestants who ended up populating much of the South.
But Jefferson also had his problems with immigrants, an early example of the recurring issue of language.
"Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were worried about German speakers," says Aristide Zolberg, director of the International Center for Migration, Ethnicity and Citizenship at the New School University in New York. "They thought the German language was different and would bring with it cultural antagonisms to what they were trying to establish as an American outlook."...
Nearly every immigrant group has been caught at that crossroads for a time, wanted for work but unwelcome as citizens, especially when the economy slumps. But Mexicans have been summoned and sent back in cycles for four generations, repeatedly losing the ground they had gained.
During the Depression, as many as a million Mexicans, and even Mexican-Americans, were ousted, along with their American-born children, to spare relief costs or discourage efforts to unionize. They were welcome again during World War II and cast as heroic "braceros." But in the 1950's, Mexicans were re-branded as dangerous, welfare-seeking "wetbacks."
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Gen. Joseph Swing to "secure the border" with farm raids and summary deportations that drove out at least a million people. At the same time, growers were assured of a new supply of temporary workers through the "braceros" program, which soon doubled to 400,000 a year.
The pattern grew during the years between the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the quotas of 1929, as rising legal barriers drastically narrowed the nation's front door. The goal was to preserve the country's "Nordic character" against Italians and Eastern European Jews who had begun arriving in large numbers.
Yet Congress refused to close the back entrance to a growing flow of Mexicans, even though by the lawmakers' own racial standards, Mexicans were even more objectionable than the "degraded races" of Asians and Southern Europeans whom they were increasingly replacing in fields, factories and railroad work.
Albuquerque closed its Tricentennial celebration last October. While the attempt to entertain by lighting the Sandia Mountains met with mixed reviews, the final event shouldn’t diminish appreciation of an eighteenth-month long festival that saw many reminders of Spain’s pivotal role 300 years ago.
But it’s not simply by looking back to 1706 that we glean meaning from the Tricentennial. Contemporary Spain should be part of what we know about, too. Doing so gives us perspective on issues by seeing them through another society’s experiences.
In particular, attention is due our sister city in Spain. The one with the “extra R”—Alburquerque— located 15 miles from of the border with Portugal in the region of Extremadura (now one of 17 Autonomous Communities in Spain).
On the surface, the differences in our two municipalities are numerous: Alburquerque is over 825 years old; its current population is just under 5,800; towering above the community is a castle dating from the thirteenth century; and the economy is overwhelmingly agricultural, with a special, and historic, reliance on pork and cork.
But there are similarities as well. Each town is led by a popular and self-described progressive mayor. Each community encompasses a large communal green belt—the bosque here and there the dehesa, or a sparsely wooded pasture primarily of cork oak grazed by livestock. Each community also has an Old Town drawing in tourists.
In 1706 it took at least 10 months to travel between New Mexico and Spain. Today it’s a 10 hour flight to Spain, ample time to read the bestselling book The World Is Flat.
Its author Thomas Friedman shows how technology, especially the web, has shrunk the world, put us all in proximity, and thrust up a common set of problems. Taking our cue from Friedman’s book, we might ask: “How has the transformative power of globalization impacted the two Albu[r]querques?”
One set of answers emerge from a review of on-line newspapers covering Alburquerque and the region of Extremadura. Such a survey shows numerous parallels in the social, political, and economic issues the two Albu[r]querques address.
News stories common to the two communities during this past spring and summer include: drought and wild fires; environmental disputes over land use; smoking bans to improve public health; economic development to compete in a global economy; and efforts to cut the school drop-out rate. But at least one issue—immigration—merits a closer examination because how it plays out in each community, and in each nation, suggests lessons for all involved.
Immigration—no issue more roils Spanish politics. Charges of racism and xenophobia are parried by reminders about terrorism and threats to national identity.
The debates in Spain have two parts. First is legal immigration. Spain’s declining birth rate and aging citizenry means it has a net population loss. This is offset by legal immigration.
Since 1998, more than 2.5 million foreigners legally entered Spain. They provide needed workers and also pay taxes and contribute to the national social security pension system. Today immigrants are 8.5 percent of Spain’s total population of 44 million, up from 2.1 percent in 1998.
Illegal immigration is on the rise, too, especially over the past several years. Today an estimated 1 million illegal immigrants have come to Spain from, in order of their numbers, Latin America, Africa, former countries of Eastern Europe and republics of the old Soviet Union, and the Middle East.
Municipalities, including Alburquerque, regularly grapple with public concerns about immigration. An exchange between Mayor Ángel Vadillo and his chief political opponent at a May meeting of the city council illustrates tensions.
The mayor’s opponent wanted to know the city’s policy for providing “housing, social integration, and employment” for immigrants. He proposed creation of a commission to study such matters. He also reportedly wanted to know the number of Arab immigrants in Alburquerque.
The mayor replied that recent immigrants to Alburquerque had “not caused any problems” for the city or its services. In rejecting the call for a special commission, the mayor instead drew attention to the newly created Municipal Institute of Conflict Resolution.
The Institute is a citizen’s group mediating “conflictos de convivencia.” Convivencia is a pivotal concept in modern Spain. It means a willingness to live together in respect and tolerance. Mayor Vadillo announced that the Institute “will look at how all persons are accorded respect regardless of their country of origin.”
The two Alburquerques have gone their separate directions for 300 years. Yet today each community looks more alike than dissimilar when comparing issues they face.
Alburquerque’s mayor and 18 others from the town visited our city during this summer’s Fourth of July and Tricentennial celebrations. Regrettably, local media gave them scant notice. Had a public dialogue occurred, it would have highlighted that our two communities, and our respective nations, face many identical public policy issues. Realizing we all grapple with a common set of problems reminds us of what binds us—and challenges us—as people.
At a time when the phrases “culture wars” and “wedge issues” are used to describe a widening fracture line within our society, especially over immigration, it is worth remembering Alburquerque and convivencia. A commitment to living together with mutual respect and tolerance provides an invaluable model and an enduring lesson from the Tricentennia
Picking beets, cherries and cotton and shoveling manure on farms across the United States as a Mexican guest worker in the 1940s and 1950s, Cecilio Santillana was glad to earn a few dollars a day.
He didn't complain about living in horse stalls without bathrooms or doing stoop work for 12 hours a day without breaks for fear he would be sent back to Chihuahua and lose the steady work that allowed him to support his family in Mexico.
But the 78-year-old San Jose man opposes a temporary worker proposal in the immigration bill the Senate passed last week.
Some immigrant advocates say the new plan remedies shortcomings of the old Bracero Program, through which the United States recruited Mexican workers to toil at 4.5 million mostly agricultural jobs from 1942 to 1964. And they say it's a crucial alternative to the current state of affairs where migrant workers risk their lives crossing the border illegally.
But others say the new arrangement probably will replicate the pitfalls of the Bracero Program and two present-day guest worker programs. They also fear new worker protections in the Senate bill will vanish when lawmakers seek to reconcile the legislation with the enforcement-only bill the House passed in December.
In the early years of the Bracero Program, 10 percent of workers' wages was withheld to be deposited in savings accounts they could claim when they returned to Mexico.
Somewhere between the payroll deductions and bank transfers, the money vanished. In the United States, a class-action lawsuit filed four years ago on behalf of defrauded braceros is inching through the federal courts; last year, the Mexican government announced it would pay roughly $3,800 to former braceros who could prove their claim to the deducted pay. Former braceros dismiss the one-time payments as inadequate.
From 1942 to 1964, Mexicans filled 4.5 million mostly agricultural U.S. jobs in exchange for food, housing, transportation and the prevailing wage. About 10 percent of the wages of these workers were withheld as an incentive for them to return home, but most of the money was never repaid. A similar program for British West Indians ran from 1943 to 1952.
Although President Bush has long denied that the Vietnam and Iraq wars are in anyway comparable, his mid-November visit to Vietnam forced him to confront the issue anew. While Press Secretary Tony Snow and Secretary of State Condolezza Rice were busy deflecting questions about the relevance of the U.S.’s experiences in the Vietnam War to the one in Iraq, the President told reporters that there was “one lesson.” We Americans, the President said, “tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while.... We'll succeed unless we quit.”
Sadly, the President is a poor student of history. To date the war in Vietnam is the U.S.’s longest. Clearly the desire for instant gratification was not an issue in America’s defeat there. More important, however, are the depressing similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. Iraq has become another American Vietnam–a tragic, unnecessary, and divisive failure in counter-insurgency and nation-building.
Historians and other commentators in these pages have suggested many parallels and analogies between the U.S.’s war in Iraq and other conflicts (see HNN’s Hot Topics: Iraq Analogies: It's Vietnam. It's Lebanon ...). While there are many significant differences between the wars in 1960s and 1970s Vietnam and Iraq today, the closest relevant American experience to the war in Iraq is the Vietnam War. As Dale Andrade and Lt. Col. James H. Willbanks (ret.) point out in the U.S. Army journal, Military Review: “Vietnam is the most prominent historical example of American counter-insurgency–and the longest.” The U.S. should, they urge, “apply the lessons learned” there “to Iraq and Afghanistan.” The wars in Vietnam and Iraq, as Andrade and Willbanks, suggest are very similar in several fundamental aspects. 
Both of these wars began as attempts to preserve American “security” through nation-building–the creation of pro-American, “democratic,” capitalist client states in Vietnam and Iraq. As these two conflicts developed, they came to stand as the central front in the broader global ideological conflicts the United States government was fighting–the Cold War in Vietnam’s case; the war on terror in Iraq’s.
In these two conflicts the U.S. government’s top policymakers were terribly ignorant of the political, social, cultural, religious, and historical realities of the countries that they were making war in. This led them to colossal errors of judgment regarding the prospects for success in using military force to export American-style democracy and economic freedom to Vietnam and Iraq. They compounded this error by making military force their primary instrument in nation-building. This is a task for which the U.S. military was and still is ill-suited.
Tragically, both wars were unnecessary. Neither communism in South Vietnam in 1965 nor Baathism in Iraq in 2003 threatened American national security or any fundamental U.S. interests.
The two wars were also undeclared. Neither Presidents Johnson nor Bush bothered to follow the Constitution and ask Congress to declare war–something that might have resulted in a careful and reasoned public debate about what was at stake and whether American lives and treasure should be risked in pursuit of it. And, the congressional resolutions authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Vietnam and Iraq were obtained by Presidents Johnson and Bush through deception. Although they denied it at the time, the two Presidents were determined to go to war when they requested congressional action.
The Iraq war, like Vietnam before it, is a guerrilla war and a civil war. The U.S. military today, like its predecessor in the 1960s, is designed to fight conventional (army-to-army) wars; this was despite its failure in Vietnam. Consequently, both wars found American officers and troops unprepared for combat with an enemy indistinguishable from the civilian population. With little knowledge of Vietnam, Iraq, or how to fight guerrilla war, American officers and soldiers adopted strategy, tactics, and behaviors that oppressed and humiliated the civilian population and thereby provided the insurgents with a steady stream of recruits and popular support. Adding more American troops in Vietnam simply stimulated more opposition and escalated the level of violence. The same holds true for Iraq today.
In South Vietnam the United States built up a weak, ineffectual, and corrupt client state that could not win popular support. The failure of the South Vietnamese state meant that the American strategy to Vietnamize the war was doomed. Corruption and incompetence pervaded the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN)’s officer corps, while its soldiers were undisciplined and often unwilling to fight with the same fervor as their opponents. Sadly, the current Iraqi government and army show the very same traits as their South Vietnamese counter-parts.
In both conflicts yawning credibility gaps opened between optimistic pronouncements of the presidents and their civilian and military spokespeople on the one hand, and the bloody realities of the war on the ground in Vietnam and Iraq on the other. The deceptions by the Johnson (and Nixon) and Bush administrations, the obvious political and military failures in the field, and the tragic waste of life and treasure made the Vietnam and Iraq wars unpopular among the American people.
The beginning of the end of the U.S.’s war in Vietnam came with the Tet offensive in January, 1968. Tet made it abundantly clear that the Johnson administration’s claims of winning the war were wrong. It also showed that all too many South Vietnamese did not want U.S. troops in their country and that they did not support the American vision for it. After Tet increasing numbers of Americans saw the war as unwinnable, and turned against it. By August of 1968 a Gallup poll reported that over half of the Americans it surveyed (53.46 percent) believed “the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam.”  A year and a half after the offensive 60 percent of Americans told Gallup’s pollsters that they wanted either to end the war or U.S. involvement in it.  Without popular support in South Vietnam or the U.S., the U.S. government lost the Vietnam War.
The U.S. was defeated in Vietnam, not because, as President Bush suggests–the American people were quitters without the necessary will to go the long haul, but because the war could not be won on terms that policymakers sold it to the American people–bringing democracy and economic freedom to South Vietnam. The then Lieutenant John Kerry aptly summarized these sentiments in his 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.
We found most people didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy.... They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace....
This history is being repeated in Iraq today. Iraqi Army units have mutinied rather than join U.S. forces a fight to end the sectarian violence in Bagdad. A recent poll by the University of Maryland reveals that 78 percent of Iraqis believe the U.S. presence is "provoking more conflict than it is preventing," and 71 percent want the U.S. to withdraw in a one year. The last six months of Washington Post/ABC News polls show that nearly 60 percent of Americans believe the Iraq war is not worth fighting.
The comments of President Bush, Secretary Rice, and other top officials regarding the lessons of the Vietnam War for Iraq suggest that America’s political and military leaders have long been in a state of denial regarding the Vietnam War and its relevance to the conflict in Iraq. Their refusal to seriously and openly engage the historical experience of America’s Vietnam War and ask what went wrong with the U.S.’s war effort in Vietnam helped lay the foundation for the current debacle in Iraq. The Vietnam War highlighted the great difficulties in nation-building and the limits of American power, particularly military power, to export American-style democracy and freedom. The U.S. military could not compel the Vietnamese to support the government Americans sponsored and helped setup in South Vietnam. The U.S. government’s civilian arm proved incapable in getting its Vietnamese clients to construct a government and economic system that won widespread support among the South Vietnamese people. The result was the U.S.’s defeat in Vietnam. Tragically, the U.S. government is losing in Iraq for many of the same reasons.
Although the final chapter on the Iraq War is yet to be written, the Vietnam experience suggests that exiting the Iraq quagmire poses serious challenges. The decisions taken in 1969 by President Richard Nixon and his National Secretary Adviser, Henry Kissinger (now one of President Bush’s trusted foreign policy advisers on Iraq), resulted in a widening of the war. The rise of the Khmer Rouge and the conversion of Cambodia into killing fields was one horrific consequences of this decision. Nixon (and Ford) and Kissinger’s failure to negotiate a sustainable peaceful settlement left the region ablaze. Shortly after U.S. forces left (1973), its client state in South Vietnam fell to the Vietnamese communists in 1975. It would take nearly 15 years of successive wars involving Vietnam, Cambodia, and China before relative peace was restored to this part South East Asia in the early 1990s.
Americans would do well to avoid a repeat of the bungled Vietnam War exit in Iraq. Unlike South East Asia, U.S. prosperity and security depend on the free flow of Middle Eastern oil. A series of wars following the U.S.’s withdrawal from Iraq would cost Americans dearly. There is also the possibility, however remote, of the creation of an Islamist jihadist regime in Iraq, or in the Sunni part if the country fragments, that could sponsor terrorist attacks against the U.S.
The U.S.’s government’s repetition of the Vietnam War in Iraq makes its Middle Eastern war doubly tragic. A detailed historical understanding of America’s Vietnam War on the part of the President and other U.S. policymakers could have helped the nation avoid the current debacle in Iraq. Instead this history was denied, or at best received extremely superficial attention, as President Bush’s “instant success” comment indicates. This enabled the Bush administration and large majorities in Congress to launch the U.S. on another mistaken nation-building venture that had little prospect for success. The result is a war in Iraq like the one in Vietnam–another losing war effort with American and Iraqi blood and treasure being freely squandered in the process. Iraq in short, has become Arabic for Vietnam
By K. Gonzalez | Kaplan College Guide
In the spring of 2008, I sat at my high-school graduation ceremony, wearing my navy-blue robes, with every stole and honorary pin achievable, looking every bit like the overachiever that I am. My enthusiasm surely made me look like a typical graduate. But my future appeared very different from that of my classmates. I am an undocumented person. Six months after I was born, my family emigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles illegally—with little more than one suitcase but great hopes for the future. My parents wanted to give their two daughters opportunities that weren't available back home.
Still, for most of high school, one opportunity seemed like a farfetched dream. Though I had a great deal of support from many different people, nobody seemed sure how I could navigate the system to gain a college education. Information on all aspects of that process was sketchy, so I was stepping onto an unmarked path. It was difficult to live without any assurance that high school would lead, as it would for most of my classmates, to the next stage. I found solace in my studies. I took seven AP classes to test my abilities as a student and delighted in the fact that I could walk into AP English ready to dissect a Shakespeare play. I played the cello to calm my soul, dreaming of a place where music filled the air. I joined my school's leadership ranks and took pride in my ability to motivate people. And I joined clubs that enabled me to give back to a place I loved, organizing two toy drives and devoting more than 300 hours to community service.
Every activity allowed me to cling to some sense of normalcy in a life that was changing. My parents' marriage had begun to crumble, slowly and painfully. I had to learn to stand on my own, to be accountable to myself. School felt safe, and I was fortunate to have a support system in a special program for economically disadvantaged students who hoped to attend college. Every student in the program had a story of hardship, so I no longer felt quite so alone and isolated in my struggle.
I eventually came up with a small list of possible colleges—state schools that I might be able to afford or schools that offered scholarships for undocumented students. That April, I received my acceptance to UC Berkeley, and soon after, a few small scholarships. It was a bittersweet triumph. Though I was qualified to attend the best public university in the nation, I couldn't afford it. My funds barely totaled $5,000, only about one semester's tuition. Still, I wanted to attend my dream school for at least that first semester. So after graduation I hopped on a Greyhound bus with two suitcases and headed to Berkeley.
I found a tiny room near the campus, enrolled in classes, and landed a job selling jewelry in a San Francisco mall. From Friday through Monday, I worked full-time, waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get to work by 9. I couldn't spend the weekends like other students, lazing in the sun or exploring neighborhoods. Still, for two glorious days each week, Tuesday and Thursday, I had classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and was taught by some amazing professors. I would run from one class to the next, using my breaks to stop by the library. I slept odd hours, many days finishing homework at the crack of dawn. I was very well organized. Wednesday was the day I took care of business—everything from food shopping to laundry to paying bills.
Surprisingly, I found time to make friends and, perhaps more surprisingly, mostly with political conservatives. They proved to be remarkably open-minded, and I loved their outlandish conversations and unabashed candor. They never questioned my odd hours, nor did I offer to explain. They apparently believed that I was simply another workaholic. Perhaps not so "simply," but I was a workaholic for sure. I had no choice.
As expected, my funds ran out right after that first semester, forcing me to leave that very special school. I am back home now and attending community college. And I am back on the same taxing schedule—two days of classes and four days of work. My goal is to save some money while finishing up my associate's degree. I still enjoy school, but dream about someday attending Berkeley again.
Mike Huckabee, a longtime Christian Zionist wrapping up a trip to Israel, tells CBN that he was struck by firmer support for Israel — as he sees it — from American Christians than from American Jews.
"One of the things I find most interesting is that generally Evangelicals are so much more supportive of Israel than the American Jewish community," Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, said.
His words help explain the large role debates over Israel and Jewish politics played in the general election campaign, as Israel is a focus for a large piece of the electorate and, at times, a proxy for broader security questions.
"There's great division within the American Jewish Community about the level of support for Israel," he went on. "I think they all support Israel, want to see it succeed. But you'll find people all over the board about whether they think ii ought to have ... absolute control over its border and whether they should give up land for peace and just how many countries can oversee Jerusalem at one time."
"I don't find that kind of dichotomy generally within the Evangelical community," Huckabee said. "It's pretty adamant: There ought to be one city. It ought to be a Jewish state. And it ought to be secure. So maybe one of the hard things is to convince some of our Jewish friends that Evangelicals are the best friends they've got — because I think generally, that's the case."
And this is surprising... why? American Jews are better educated than their evangelical counterparts; they realize (apart from a small fringe), as Huckabee apparently doesn't, that the Palestinians aren't going anywhere, and that despite how hard one prays, they are not going to simply disappear or move to Jordan. They also don't believe in Huckabee's Rapture fairy tales, so they remain somewhat concerned that any mess made in the Middle East will be permanent, will have devastating consequences for the Israeli people, and will not be swept aside by the return of Jebus and the damnation of sinners (including, ironically, Jews) to hell. And finally: most American Jews are American first, Jews second; thus there is a wide spectrum of opinion about Israel, not that one could glean that from the American news media.
Evangelicals support Israel more because it fits into their warped "end of days" mindset. "There ought to be one city. It ought to be a Jewish state. And it ought tot be secure" this is an inflammatory statement at best. Evangelicals wish for the book of Revelations to come true asap.
Eighteen years after the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia became independent, outsiders continue to jockey for position in the traditional contest for influence in the region.
The great powers -- Russia, the United States, China, and Europe -- follow two main strategies to gain or hold sway in the region: the provision of mutual security, and the use of financial measures and trade incentives in exchange for access to enormous energy reserves.
The five states of Central Asia -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- are majority Muslim states that mark the northern limits of the Islamic world. To the south are Afghanistan and Iran, countries that outside actors and the Central Asian countries themselves view as potential sources of security problems.
Neighboring Russia and China, meanwhile, see Central Asia as a hotbed of movements linked with opposition elements within their own borders.
Central Asia's vast deposits of oil, natural gas, and uranium are the modern-day lures of a region that has an ancient history as a crossroads for trade between the East and the West. And the five nations are showing an increased readiness to play that role again, but are finding they can now demand security and trade partnerships in exchange.
Russian Influence Waning
Russia has traditionally been the biggest regional player, having controlled Central Asia for more than 100 years, and more than 200 years in some areas.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan became independent republics, but their longstanding ties to Moscow left them bound to Russia throughout the 1990s and into this decade.
But this is changing, as James Nixey, manager and research fellow for the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House, points out.
"It's not just Russia as the key player in the region,” Nixey said. “The fact of the matter is this is a contested land, it's a fought-over land, and the other people of interest are, of course: China; India to a lesser extent; the EU to a lesser extent; and the U.S. to a considerable extent, in political, cultural, technological, military and of course energy spheres."
This interest from outsiders suits the Central Asian states, who understand that Russia will always be a key regional factor, but seek leverage to counter Moscow's traditional dominance.
The model of Central Asia's balancing act is Kazakhstan, which has long borders with China and Russia. During President Nursultan Nazarbaev's rule, Kazakhstan has managed to develop strong political and economic ties with both Western and East Asian nations, while maintaining excellent relations with Moscow and Beijing.
Matthew Clements, a country risk analyst for Eurasia at the London-based IHS Jane's analytical group, says that when it comes to gaining economic leverage, the other Central Asian states have learned from Kazakhstan.
"I think that the other states in the region are perhaps taking some notes from [Kazakhstan's foreign policy] and seeing that they also have some things to offer the West and China that can give them economic benefits.... Only having Russia as a customer, only having Russia as a partner, is limiting their ability to get the most from these deals," Clements said.
Security And Oil
A relative newcomer on the scene, the United States was among the first countries to open embassies in all five Central Asian states after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and U.S. companies quickly descended on the region. Chevron, for example, signed a joint partnership in 1993 with Kazakhstan to develop the enormous Tengiz oil field, among the top 10 producing fields in the world.
With a wary eye on fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Central Asian states have also established new security partnerships, primarily involving the Russia-dominated Collective Treaty Security Organization (CSTO), as well as the United States.
Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington's primary interest in Central Asia has been cooperation in ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban and extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda.
The Central Asians were eager allies, remembering that Afghanistan's problems spilled into Central Asia several times in the 1990s. The U.S-led coalition was allowed to use bases in Kyrgyzstan (Manas), Tajikistan (Dushanbe), and Uzbekistan (Khanabad).
A weakened Moscow grudgingly accepted the U.S. military presence in what it considered its backyard. But as Russia gained strength, it worked to remove, or at least curtail, U.S. influence in the region.
Playing The Powers
An opportunity arose as some of the states of Central Asia began to test their abilities to play Moscow and Washington, and sometimes Beijing and Brussels, off each other to serve their individual needs.
In 2005, for example, after the U.S. joined Western criticism of the Uzbek government's handling of unrest in the eastern city of Andijon, Uzbek President Islam Karimov called for U.S. forces in Uzbekistan to depart, and quickly received the backing of Russia and China.
After a stalemate, the Uzbek president was invited to attend a 2008 NATO summit. By the end of the meeting Uzbekistan agreed to allow NATO forces to use Uzbekistan's roads to bring nonlethal supplies to Afghanistan, and those shipments started a few weeks ago.
Additionally, a German-run base at the Uzbek border town of Termez was expanded, and U.S. military cargo planes now appear cleared to use the Navoi airport in northern Uzbekistan.
As the Kyrgyz government faced growing discontent over the social and economic situation earlier this year, President Kurmanbek Bakiev announced during a trip to Moscow that U.S. forces had six months to vacate Manas International Airport, a key part of Washington's war effort in Afghanistan.
At the same time, the Kyrgyz president announced that Russia had pledged to provide a $2 billion aid package for cash-strapped Kyrgyzstan.
After months of wrangling, the United States announced in June that it was prolonging its contract for using Manas. Under the new deal, Washington agreed to triple its annual lease payment (to $60 million) and to spend some $100 million more for airport improvements and programs to combat narcotics trafficking and terrorism.
Later that month, the Russian newspaper "RBK Daily" wrote that "despite $2 billion Moscow promised it, Kyrgyzstan never ordered the U.S. Air Force base in Bishkek shut down."
Beyond help with training, however, the United States is not in Central Asia to guarantee security against terrorism or extremism within the states' borders. That remains Russia's role, primarily through the CSTO, to which all the Central Asian states except Turkmenistan belong. Armenia and Belarus are the remaining members.
Russia currently has one military base in Tajikistan and operates an air base in northern Kyrgyzstan, specifically designated for counterterrorism operations. On August 1, Russia signed an agreement to open a new military base in Kyrgyzstan during an informal CSTO summit.
"In essence, this is not a Russian base. These are efforts in line with CSTO plans to set up a joint rapid reaction force," high-ranking Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko announced just days ahead of the July 31-August 1 meeting.
The summit has been dubbed informal, apparently due to uncertainty over whether Uzbekistan would attend the meeting. Uzbekistan and Belarus each declined to sign crucial documents on creating a CSTO rapid-reaction force earlier this year.
Tashkent's interest in the CSTO has waned noticeably since last November, when Russia refused to side with Uzbekistan in Central Asia's ongoing debate on regional water use.
Although Russia and the United States are most often mentioned as the contestants of the "new Great Game" that began after the fall of the Soviet Union, other players have also entered the arena.
Central Asia, possessing billions of barrels of recoverable oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas, is located fortuitously between Europe and China -- two massive consumers of energy resources. The region also sits on the frontier of the Islamic world, and Beijing and Brussels are among those who see Central Asia as a potential bulwark against potential security threats emanating from Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
China has multiple motives in Central Asia, and has adopted an ingenious policy for dealing with the region, according to James Nixey, manager and research fellow for the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House.
"I would assess it as being a considerable degree of genius,” Nixey said. “Chinese foreign policy is very long-term and they're much happier as they were -- just to give an example of Hong Kong -- to sit back and wait for things to come their way, as they know it will."
As for security concerns, Beijing has found success in exerting its influence through a regional alliance.
China, Russia, and four of the Central Asian states -- Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan -- compose the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), formed in 2001 after Uzbekistan joined a grouping known as the Shanghai Five.
Matthew Clements, a country risk analyst for Eurasia at London-based IHS Jane's, says the SCO is China's means of preventing threats from Afghanistan and Pakistan from spilling into Central Asia and into its own Muslim regions.
China is “also in a position where it is able to, to a degree, enable the security of the region, the stability of the region,” Clements said. “China doesn't want any instability in the region, especially as it is very sensitive about the Uyghur separatism in the region."
After riots broke out between Muslim Uyghurs and Han Chinese in China's western Xinjiang Province in July, Beijing's Central Asian partners in the SCO were noticeably silent, even those countries are also home to hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs.
A statement issued by the SCO after the violence simply offered sympathies with the family members of those killed, and said that the SCO's member states regarded the situation in Xinjiang as a Chinese internal affair.
Nixey says China uses the SCO for political leverage in the region, at the expense of fellow member Russia, which also wields influence through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). He notes that at the 2008 SCO summit, the grouping rejected Russia's proposal for independence for Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to Russia's chagrin.
“The SCO is effectively China's method for influence and persuasion and power projection in Central Asia,” Nixey said. “And the Chinese SCO is far more powerful than the Russian-led CSTO, which is essentially the same sort of thing -- Russia's method or instrument of influence in Central Asia. So the Chinese are playing a multilateral, clever, and long-term game."
Although security issues often make the headlines, China's main interest is gaining access to its neighbors' energy resources, and there too it enjoys a number of advantages over regional player Russia, and outsiders such as the United States and the European Union.
Central Asian states see neighboring China as a potential consumer of their own exports, and Beijing never seems to be short of money. China also refrains from criticizing the internal politics of Central Asian governments, something that can't be said of the West.
Chinese companies have been active in building the pipelines, roads, and railways needed to carry the resources back to China. Chinese companies, which enjoy a reputation for completing projects on time, train and employ local workers as well as bringing in their own labor.
The approach is bearing fruit, Clements explains. China is “starting to receive oil and gas and also uranium and other minerals, so natural resources are coming from the region," he said.
Russian companies had a near monopoly over the export of Central Asia's energy resources in the 1990s, but much has been done to even the playing field.
China has helped build an oil pipeline from western Kazakhstan that is already in operation, and a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan that is expected to go online at the end of this year.
EU In The Game
The European Union, too, is looking to break Russia's monopoly over Central Asian energy resources.
Europe receives Central Asian oil and gas via Russia, and some in the EU have raised concerns about a heavy reliance on Russia for energy supplies. Incidents such as the suspension of Russian gas supplies at the start of this year, owing to a dispute between Ukraine and Russia, reinforce the view that the EU needs urgently to diversify its energy import sources.
To help offset such fears, the EU is supporting the 3,300-kilometer Nabucco pipeline project to bring gas from Azerbaijan and some Central Asian nations to the heart of Europe.
This year, the EU unveiled its "Southern Corridor-New Silk Route" strategy that aims to greatly develop and enhance road and rail links and pipelines between the Caspian area and Europe.
The EU strategy is having some success, Clements said, but “they're still limited in the progress they've made in terms of trying to engage Turkmenistan into a trans-Caspian pipeline deal. We have seen some progress there. We've seen states that previously turned away from the West, especially Uzbekistan, again maybe altering its course into a sort of middle path between the West and Russia."
The recent signing of an agreement between Nabucco transit countries brings the project closer to realization.
The EU will pay the cost of construction so that the Central Asians have a new export route to one of the most valued energy customers in the world -- the EU.
The EU's strategy also serves to strengthen Central Asia's hand in dealing with Russia.
A pipeline explosion that cut off Turkmenistan's gas exports to Russia in April is one example. Turkmen officials blamed Russia, and Moscow rejected the blame. But the events may have helped lead Turkmenistan to pursue other energy partners.
Turkmenistan has since signed a deal with Germany's RWE for rights to explore a bloc on the Turkmen Caspian shelf. In July, Turkmenistan's foreign minister went to Brussels and Washington for energy talks. The same month, Turkmenistan said it would sell gas to Nabucco.
"If you look at the trends I tend to think there's a bit of ebb and flow,” says Nixey of Chatham House. “At the moment [the EU is] on a bit of a high so they may be feeling quite pleased with themselves.”
“The fact that the Kyrgyz have reversed their decision on Manas air base or that the Uzbeks are making more overtures toward the EU right now is a good thing in so many ways,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is what is given can just as easily be taken away."