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Robert Cohen: In the Seventh Year

David W. Dunlap/ NY Times

Foto: David W. Dunlap/ NY Times

And in the seventh year after the fall, the dust and debris of the towers cleared. And it became plain at last what had been wrought.

For the wreckage begat greed; and it came to pass that while America’s young men and women fought, other Americans enriched themselves. Beguiling the innocent, they did backdate options, and they did package toxic mortgage securities and they did reprice risk on the basis that it no more existed than famine in a fertile land.

Thereby did the masters of the universe prosper, with gold, with silver shekels, with land rich in cattle and fowl, with illegal manservants and maids, with jewels and silk, and with Gulfstream V business jets; yet the whole land did not prosper with them. And it came to pass, when the housing bubble burst, that Main Street had to pay for the Wall Street party.

For Bush ruled over the whole nation and so sure was he of his righteousness that he did neglect husbandry.

And he took his nation into desert wars and mountain wars, but, lo, he thought not to impose taxation, not one heifer nor sheep nor ox did Bush demand of the rich. And it came to pass that the nation fell into debt as boundless as the wickedness of Sodom. For everyone, Lehman not least, was maxed out.

So heavy was the burden of war, and of bailing out Fannie and Freddie, and of financing debt with China, that not one silver shekel remained to build bridges, nor airports, nor high-speed trains, nor even to take care of wounded vets; and the warriors returning unto their homes from distant combat thought a blight had fallen on the land.

So it was in the seventh year after the fall of the towers. And still Bush did raise his hands to the Lord and proclaim: “I will be proved right in the end!”

And around the whole earth, which had stood with America, there arose a great trouble, for it seemed to peoples abroad that a great nation, rich in flocks and herds and land and water, had been cast among thorns and Philistines; its promise betrayed, its light dimmed, its armies stretched, its budget broken, its principles compromised, its dollar diminished.

And it came to pass that this profligate nation, drinking oil with insatiable thirst, could not cure itself of this addiction, and so its wealth was transferred to other nations that did not always wish it well.

Wherefore the balance of power in the world was altered in grievous ways, and new centers of authority arose, and they were no more persuaded by democracy than was the Pharaoh.

For Bush ruled over the whole nation, and so sure was he of his righteousness that he did neglect the costs of wanton consumption. And he believed that if the Lord created fossil fuel, fossil fuel must flow without end, as surely as the grape will yield wine.

Therefore, in the seventh year after the fall, with 1,126 of the slain still unidentified, their very beings rendered unto dust, their souls inhabiting the air of New York, it seemed that one nation had become two; and loss, far from unifying the people, had sundered the nation.

For the rich, granted tax breaks more generous than any blessing, grew richer, and incomes in the middle ceased to rise, and workers saw jobs leaving the land for that region called Asia. And some fought wars while others shopped; and some got foreclosed while others got clothes. And still Bush spake but few listened.

Behold, so it was in the seventh year, and it seemed that America was doubly smitten, from without and within.

And, lo, a strange thing did come to pass. For as surely as the seasons do alternate, so the ruler and party that have brought woe to a nation must give way to others who can lead their people to plenty. How can the weary, flogged ass bear honey and balm and almonds and myrrh?

Yet many Americans believed the exhausted beast could still provide bounty. They did hold that a people called the French was to blame. They did accuse a creation called the United Nations. They did curse the ungodly sophisticates of Gotham and Hollywood and sinful Chicago; and, lo, they proclaimed God was on their side, and carried a gun, and Darwin was bunk, and truth resided in Alaska.

For Bush ruled over the whole nation and so sure was he of his righteousness that he did foster division until it raged like a plague. Each tribe sent pestilence on the other.

And in the seventh year after the fall, the dust and debris of the towers cleared. And it became plain at last what had been wrought — but not how the damage would be undone


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Roger Cohen: Real Wars and the U.S. Culture

The culture-war surge in the U.S election campaign has come at the expense of meaningful debate about the real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s dangerous because they stand at critical junctures.

We’ve had Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention setting a new low for foreign policy with her attempt to mock Barack Obama’s approach to international terrorists: “He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”

I’m sorry, Ms. Palin, but out there in Alaska, between moose shoots, did you hear about Bagram, Abu Ghraib, renditions, waterboarding, Guantánamo and the rest?

John McCain knows what happens when those rights disappear. He described his Vietnamese nightmare the next night: “They worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.”

A man remembers getting broken: that’s why McCain fought the use of torture by the Bush administration. His condoning of those words from his vice-presidential candidate is appalling. Foreign policy be damned if you can score a God-fearing-macho-versus-liberal-constitutionalist point.

But the bloody wars, seven years after 9/11, have not paused for this sterile U.S. cultural battle. With some 180,000 troops in the two theaters, U.S. reserve capacity is stretched to the limit — something Iran knows when it keeps the centrifuges turning and Russia knows when it grabs Georgia.

In Afghanistan, a Taliban-led insurgency is growing in reach and effectiveness. There’s talk of a mini-surge in U.S. troops there — now about 34,000 — to counter the threat, but little serious reflection on what precise end perhaps 12,000 additional forces would serve. Until that’s clarified, I’m against the mini-surge.

France, which just mini-surged in Afghanistan, is now embroiled in an agonizing debate over the slaying of 10 soldiers, mostly paratroopers, east of Kabul on Aug. 18. At least one had his throat slit. Photos in Paris Match of Taliban forces with uniforms of the Frenchmen have enflamed the national mood.

Hervé Morin, the Defense Minister, has called for “national unity” in fighting a threat “from the Middle Ages.” But polls suggest a majority of the French favor withdrawal. A furor is building over suggestions the paratroopers were abandoned.

These French rumblings are a reminder that the NATO coalition in Afghanistan is fragile and that sending more forces is no remedy in itself.

Obama has been right to say Iraq exacted a price on the Afghan campaign — something McCain airily denies. But his calls to send “at least two additional combat brigades” to Afghanistan and his promise in Denver to “finish the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan” are rash.

After 30 years of war, the Afghan struggle won’t be finished for another 30. It’s a weak country, sandwiched between Iran and Pakistan, two far stronger ones that do not wish it well. The Afghan-Pakistani border cannot be sealed, although it can be better policed; the jihadi traffic across it will continue.

None of this means the United States is condemned to having tens of thousands of troops there for decades — although I’d say that’s more likely than victory in four years.

On the day the French were attacked, a large American military base — Camp Salerno in eastern Khost province — came under sustained Taliban assault. I spoke to a U.S. official who’s just ended an 18-month assignment in Khost.

He sees the exclusive focus on more troops as wrong-headed. The priority must be “an Afghan surge.” Get the Afghan national army to 120,000 troops as a priority, from about half that level today. If more U.S. troops do go, training Afghans should be their first task. Only Afghans can win this.

Pour money into Afghan army salaries (now about $100 a month). Keep buying loyalty with US cash in the provinces, where it counts. Make a big push on human capital — “engineering minds is becoming far more important these days than engineering more roads.” If the best brains leave, the country’s lost.

Rethink policy toward schools. Getting madrassahs registered with the government — and so gaining some control over curricula — is smarter than stigmatizing them and pushing students over the border into Waziri zealotry. Get serious about the national reconciliation program, designed to bring ex-Taliban moderates into politics. Focus on Pakistan.

Absent such cornerstones of a strategy — and absent realistic expectations — surging in Afghanistan is a mistake.

As for Iraq, gains are real but fragile. I don’t see how Obama’s “responsible” withdrawal squares with his 16-month time frame for it. If we don’t want Sunni Iraq to remarry Al Qaeda — and that’s a paramount strategic aim — we’re going to have to play buffer against the dominant Shia for several years. That won’t require the current 146,000 troops, but will require many tens of thousands through the next presidency.

Two intractable wars should preclude the culture war McCain has just so shamelessly embraced. He loves the word “fight.” So fight on the issues — and let the people decide.

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Immanuel Wallerstein: El informe de inteligencia de EU sobre Irán, ¿una reversión importante?

El director de Inteligencia Nacional de Estados Unidos publicó el 3 de diciembre una versión desclasificada de un informe conocido como National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), una evaluación nacional de inteligencia sobre Irán y las armas nucleares. El periódico The New York Times la llamó en un titular “reversión importante”. “Revirtió” una NIE realizada en 2005. Y dio la señal de un viraje en la política oficial de Estados Unidos. En 2005, la NIE “evaluó con gran confianza que Irán está decidido a desarrollar armas nucleares”. En 2007, la NIE “juzgó con gran confianza que en el otoño de 2003, Teherán puso un alto a su programa de armas nucleares”.

Casi todos los análisis públicos y de prensa de este informe suponen que la evaluación fue realizada por el director de Inteligencia Nacional y que está siendo leída por el gobierno de Bush y por el Congreso, quienes apenas ahora la toman en cuenta. Algunos incluso la llamaron “golpe de Estado” contra Bush y/o Cheney y los neoconservadores. No creo esta secuencia ni por un momento. Asumo que esta evaluación fue discutida previamente dentro del gobierno de Bush. Después de todo, se dice que el informe fue escrito hace como un año. Creo que este informe es el resultado de una discusión al interior del gobierno, que tomó la decisión con el conocimiento y la aprobación de George W. Bush para que el informe fuera dado a conocer al público. Este informe no conducirá a una reversión. Da señales de que la reversión ya ocurrió.

¿Qué podemos inferir de esto? Podemos inferir que el largo debate en curso entre la facción que favorece la acción militar inmediata contra Irán (Cheney y sus amigos, el gobierno israelí y sus amigos) ha perdido ante la facción, mucho más grande, que por varias razones piensa que esa acción militar no es sabia. No me sorprende el resultado, puesto que he estado argumentando por algún tiempo que la facción contraria a una acción bélica inmediata era mucho más fuerte dentro del gobierno estadunidense que la facción de Cheney, particularmente dado que la facción contraria a la guerra inmediata incluye al Estado Mayor Conjunto.

¿Qué ocurrirá ahora en relación con Irán? Probablemente no mucho. Rusia, China y Alemania ya arrastraban los pies con mucha obviedad en relación a las futuras sanciones contra Irán. Es muy poco probable que haya sanciones ulteriores, Irán ha persistido en su argumento de que tiene el derecho a continuar con el desarrollo de su programa de enriquecimiento de uranio, mientras que al mismo tiempo congela su programa de desarrollo de armas nucleares. Y continuará con esto por ahora.

El hecho básico que debemos siempre tener en cuenta es que el actual gobierno estadunidense tiene lleno su plato —mantiene su presencia en Irak, en Afganistán, y se preocupa acerca de la muy real posibilidad de que haya un quiebre del orden en Pakistán. Aun Bush puede darse cuenta que el posible desarrollo de armas nucleares por parte de Irán de aquí a 10 años no puede desplazar estas otras preocupaciones en el orden de prioridades.

Sin duda Estados Unidos buscará una fachada verbal de crítica contra Irán. Vean los comentarios públicos del presidente hacia el informe. La retórica es muy similar a la fachada verbal de favorecer la creación de un Estado palestino hacia finales de 2008. Pero nadie presta mucha atención –ni siquiera los candidatos presidenciales en Estados Unidos (de alguno de los dos partidos). Esas afirmaciones son sólo eso –fachadas verbales. Bush comienza a caer en una tendencia al fastidio de intentar salvar la cara mientras sobrevive lo que sin duda será su año más infeliz en el puesto.

Entretanto, todo el resto del mundo está pensando en lo que deberá hacer en Medio Oriente después de 2009, con la gran probabilidad de que un presidente demócrata asuma el cargo en Estados Unidos. Debería ser obvio para ellos que, por el momento, el único Estado estable en Medio Oriente es Irán. Por supuesto, Irán tiene sus conflictos internos y la facción de Ahmadinejad bien puede perder las próximas elecciones. Pero Irán –poder petrolero, poder de la Shía, poder militar y demográfico en la región– es un actor importante que debe tomarse en cuenta. Los países preferirán tener a Irán de su lado que en contra suya. Irán no va a desaparecer.

A lo largo de los años, Irán le ha hecho muchas ofertas a Estados Unidos de hacer un trato, proponiéndole trabajar juntos respecto de Irak y otros asuntos. Y el gobierno de Bush ni siquiera reconocía el gesto. Tal vez ahora sea muy tarde para que Estados Unidos haga un trato así –pero no es tarde para China o Rusia o aun Europa occidental. Tampoco es muy tarde para Pakistán o Arabia Saudita, dos países cuyo colapso desestabilizaría la región en modos que harían que el fiasco de Irak pareciera una molestia mediocre.

De hecho, en este punto siento que Condoleezza Rice y Robert Gates entienden mejor que Hillary Clinton o Barack Obama, pero tal vez no. En cualquier caso, tengo la sensación de que la evaluación de la NIE es una forma elegante de decir la doctrina Bush ¡requiescat in pace!

* © Immanuel Wallerstein
* Traducción: Ramón Vera Herrera
* La Jornada
* http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2007/12/22/index.php?section=opinion&article=022a1mun

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