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Between the Lines

October 20, 2003

This isn’t a war against Islam. Is it?

You have to wonder, given the religious slurs cast about so freely by the Pentagon’s new deputy undersecretary for intelligence, Lt. Gen. William Boykin. He’s the guy in charge of finding Osama bin Laden and other international evil-doers. He’s also the guy who said:

“I knew that my God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

“Why is this man [George Bush] in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. I tell you this morning that he’s in the White House because God put him there.” Bill Clinton, too, benefitted from divine intervention, according to the general.

But Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek wonders how effective Boykin will be in dealing with Muslims, which will be a central responsibility of his position.

“The position Boykin holds … is one in which he would have to interact routinely with Pakistanis, Egyptians, Afghans, Indonesians; Muslims from all over the world. Will he be effective in establishing close working relationships with these officials, who have all watched him slur their religion? Is this a man who will be able to objectively sift through intelligence and analysis about the state of Muslim societies, the difference between moderates and extremists, the distinctions among various fundamentalist groups? Or does he look at them all and see ... Satan?

How are things going in Iraq?

Now there’s a good, muddy question. And here are some thoughts on putting it in perspective.

First, from Dr. George Friedman of Strategic Forecasting Inc., a private intelligence outfit that sells its services to businesses. In a recent newsletter, Friedman wrote that, “For the United States, the most significant failure in this war has been the length of time it took to recognize that the reality on the ground in Iraq was not the reality Washington had expected -- and worse, the length of time it took U.S. leaders to think through their strategy.”

The muddled followup to a dramatically successful war does not mean all is lost, Friedman argues. In fact, the administration’s willingness to change plans to confront unexpected circumstances shows a flexibility that is essential to success in warfare. But neither does the administration’s tardy response to the postwar realities of Iraq ensure success.

“The issue is not to deal with the guerrillas in Iraq,” Friedman says, “but to redefine the entire strategy of the war against al Qaeda -- to revive the link
between the Iraq campaign and the effort to destroy the primary adversary. It appears to us that the United States now has begun to do that. However, it is unclear whether it will succeed. The first crisis of the war that began Sept. 11 is being addressed, but it is unclear whether it will be solved.”

At Calpundit, Kevin Drum takes a more tactical view: to understand how the administration believes things are going in Iraq, watch what they do, not what they say. The two posts are here and here.

Here’s a Rush

Should Rush Limbaugh’s little drug problem be a satire-free topic? Harry Shearer of “Spinal Tap” fame certainly doesn't think so and takes up the challenge here.

Posted by tbrown at 01:38 PM




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