Nov 5, 2004 6:20 pm


This is a time to be grateful because by rejecting appeasement, the American people strengthened the forces of good and thereby enhanced the prospects of real peace which comes when red ink replaced red blood as a way to settle differences. Just read Irshad Manji's response to the murder of Theo Van Gogh.

"Tuesday's slaying of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who criticized Islamic practices, reminds all of a nagging truth: More than 15 years after the government of Iran issued a death warrant against novelist Salman Rushdie, challenging Muslims remains a risky business.

As a Muslim dissident, I speak from experience. My book,"The Trouble with Islam," has put me on the receiving end of anger, hatred and vitriol. That's because I'm asking questions that we Muslims can no longer hide from. Why, for example, are we squandering the talents of half of God's creation, women? What's with the stubborn streak of anti-Semitism in Islam today? Above all, how can even moderate Muslims view the Koran literally when it, like every holy text, abounds in contradictions and ambiguity? The trouble with Islam today is that literalism is going mainstream.

In the same French news broadcast in which it was reported that murderer was tied to the Casablanca bombings, it showed Chirac writing a long letter of congratulations to Bush. Apparently, he wanted the French to know that he sent such a letter. Moreover, EU leaders met to discuss ways to help Iraq and later met with Alawi on the same subject. Bush is a fact of life their analysts were saying and we will have to deal with him.

Putin understood perfectly. He may have been reading Sun Tzu -

Warfare is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death, the Way (Tao) to survival or extinction. . . . .

The Tao causes the people to be fully in accord with the ruler. Thus they will die with him; they will live with him and not fear danger.

Bin Laden tried to convince the American to opt for truce and in the process he revealed to his followers both actual and potential that he was the weaker horse -

Progressive columnist Dr. Mamoun Fandy wrote an article in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram titled 'Bin Laden Votes for John Kerry: A Tape of Admission, Voting and Capitulation.' He writes:

The tape is one of capitulation and bankruptcy, and not one of threat and warning, since bin Laden appears in regular robes and not in a military uniform with a rifle on his side. Bin Laden has relinquished his military [character] and his arms. This, of course, is intentional on the part of the public relations administration within Al-Qa'ida and outside it.

In addition, bin Laden does not refer at all to Jihad in this tape. There was no [mention] of Hadiths or of Koranic verses, and not even a mention of the month of Ramadan, which we [mark] today. The tape is devoid of religious manifestations and is devoid of any [mention] of the conflict between East and West, or [the war of] the Mujahideen against the infidel Crusaders, whether Christians or Jews.

Bin Laden's speech was restricted to technical issues of U.S. foreign policy and its relations with the Middle East. In addition, it was restricted to an attempt to influence the voters in every [U.S.] state, with [bin Laden] stating that [each] state is responsible for its own security by means of its vote – and bin Laden's lack of understanding of the internal situation in the U.S. is [yet another] issue, which I will not elaborate on here.

And as Bin Laden himself said, people like to follow the stronger horse. By making Bush the stronger horse, the American people diminished Al Qaeda recruiting.

This is also the opinion of Geroge Friedman, the founder of THE GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT who spells it out:

. With Bush's victory, one of the fundamental assumptions about the United States went out the window. In spite of casualties and grievous errors, not only was there no antiwar candidate (save Ralph Nader), but Bush actually won the election.

This puts in motion two processes in the world. First, there is a major rethinking of American staying power in the war going on. The assumption of a rapid conclusion of the Iraq campaign due to U.S. withdrawal is gone -- and it is surprising just how many non-Americans believed this to be a likely scenario. The reassessment of the United States is accompanied by the realization that the United States will not only maintain its pressure in Iraq, but on the region and the globe itself.

American pressure is not insubstantial. Virtually every country in the world wants something from the United States, from a trade agreement to support on a local conflict. They can do without an accommodation with the United States for months, but there is frequently serious pain associated with being at odds with the United States for years. Throughout the world, nations that have resisted U.S. actions in the war -- both within and outside of the region -- must now consider whether they can resist for years.

We can expect two things from Bush in general: relentlessness and linkage. Having won the election, Bush is not going to abandon his goal of crushing al Qaeda and pacifying Iraq and, indeed, the region. That is understood. Equally understood is that Bush will reward friends. Bush's test of friendship is simple: support for the United States and, in particular, support for the policies being pursued by his administration in the war. For Bush, active support for the war was a litmus test for good relations with the United States during the first term. The second term will make the first term look gentle.

Countries that made the decision not to support Bush did so with the assumption that they could absorb the cost for a while. They must now recalculate to see if they can absorb the cost for four more years -- and even beyond, if Bush's successor pursues his policies. For many countries, what was a temporary disagreement is about to turn into a strategic misalignment with the United States. Some countries will continue on their path, others will reconsider. There will be a reshuffling of the global deck in the coming months.

The same analysis being made in the world is also being made in Iraq. There are the guerrillas, most of whom are committed to fighting the United States to the death. But the guerrillas are not a massive force, and they depend for their survival and operational capabilities on a supportive population. In Iraq, support comes from the top down. It is the tribal elders, the senior clergy and the village leaders who make the crucial decisions. They are the ones who decide whether there will be popular support or not.

There has been an assumption in Iraq -- as there has in the world -- that as the pressure builds up in Iraq, the United States will move to abandon the war. Bush's re-election clearly indicates that the United States will not be abandoning the war. They are therefore recalculating their positions in the same way that the rest of the world is. Holding out against the Americans and allowing their populations to aid the guerrillas made a great deal of sense if the United States was about to retreat from Iraq. It is quite another matter if the United States is actually going to be increasing pressure.

It is no accident that as Election Day approached, U.S. forces very publicly -- and very slowly -- massed around Al Fallujah. Al Fallujah was the town in which the United States signed its first accord with the guerrillas. As the election approached, the town went out of control. Now the election is over, the town is surrounded and Bush is president. It is a time for recalculation in Al Fallujah as well, as there can be no doubt but that Bush is free to attack and might well do it.

Throughout the Sunni areas of Iraq -- as well as Shiite regions -- elders are considering their positions, caught between the United States and the guerrillas, in light of the new permanence of the Americans. The United States will be aggressive, but in an interesting way. It will be using the threat of American power as a lever to force the Sunni leadership into reducing support for the guerrillas. Coupled with the carrot of enormous bribes, the strategy could work. It might not eliminate the guerrilla war, but could reduce it to a nuisance level.

The basic reality thus creates the strategy. The re-election of Bush creates a new reality at all levels in the international system. His intransigence, coupled with American power, forces players to think about whether they can hold their positions for at least four years, or whether they must adjust their positions in some way. As the players -- from sheikhs to prime ministers -- reconsider their positions, U.S. power increases, trying to pry them loose. It opens the possibility of negotiations and settlements in unexpected places.

It also opens the door to potential disaster. The danger is that Bush will simultaneously overestimate his power and feel unbearable pressure to act quickly. This has led some previous presidents into massive errors of judgment. Put differently, the pressures and opportunities of the second term caused them to execute policies that appeared to be solutions but that blew up in their faces. None of them knew they would blow up, but in their circumstances, no one was sufficiently cautious.

It is precisely Bush's lack of caution that now becomes his greatest bargaining chip. But his greatest strength can also become his greatest weakness. The struggle between these two poles will mark the first part of his presidency. We will find out whether the second part will be the success of this strategy or his downfall. The book on George W. Bush will now be written.

As we say in Hebrew, Kol Hakavod! the the judgement of the American people(hats off?)

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More Comments:

Charles Bellinger - 11/15/2004

while the influx of youth into the west is vital to its ability to avoid the Japanese issue of aging populations . My question is whether the eastern europeans could be a more palitable solution to this whole thing

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 11/15/2004

Yes. It is a disheartening report but, then, perhaps it will awaken the European governments and get them to develop strategies to incorporate better their much needed young Muslim populations.

Charles Bellinger - 11/15/2004 dr. k this might be of interest to you regarding our discussions last week

Charles Bellinger - 11/14/2004

note that shortly after the election islamist militancy erupted in the netherlands;dt=20041113184700&w=RTR&coview=

heres an interesting article on the ongoing situation. it seems that the VanGogh murder as but the tip of the ice berg.......Bush gets it putin gets europe going to HAVE to get it? my question is what implication does this have on their activities in the EU as a larger whole?

but then again i might just be rambling its late and ive had too much wine

Jonathan Dresner - 11/9/2004

They are not accusations: they are facts. Repeated surveys have shown that, in this election, those who described themselves as Republicans, as conservatives or as Bush supporters had a weaker grasp on facts about the world, on facts about the candidates and on facts about the central issues.

That doesn't describe you, but it does describe a huge portion of the Bush-supporting electorate. Any triumphalism you may feel about this victory needs to be tempered by that understanding. Your guy won because he obscured and distorted the facts, not because the arguments you approve of were convincing.

Maarja Krusten - 11/8/2004

I have only read two of your blog entries and so I know little about you, other than what it says at the top of your blog. Perhaps I have been spoiled by reading Ralph Luker at Cliopatria, as he presents opposing viewpoints. Is your blog different, that is, is it a point of view blog, an advocacy blog--one where you give your views on things? I read very few blogs and do not know all their conventions. I mostly read only the articles on HNN. Perhaps I misunderstood what your blog is about, if it is an advocacy blog, and not one such as Dr. Luker’s, then please do pardon my sarcasm.

Now that I have some time, let me take a few minutes to explain my reaction. The first point reflects my views as an historian, the others as a voter.

(1) You use the term appeasement in your opening paragraph. For most historians, use of that term conjures up the run up to World War II. You then mention the tragic murder in the Netherlands, then Chirac after which you inexplicably, without antecedent or link to your prior narrative, refer to Putin, which I took to mean the Vladmir Putin, the Russian leader. You write, "Putin understood perfectly. He may have been reading Sun Tzu - Warfare is the greatest affair of state." I don’t know what you believe Putin understood. You have no antecedent and the sentence is murky. But, if I may offer some words of advice, as an historian, I would not mix appeasement and Putin in such a blog entry.

To me, the juxtaposition of the run up to World War II and Russia conjured up images of
the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which doomed thousands of Europeans who previously had lived in freedom in several sovereign nations to a life of pain and repression which did not end until 1991. Not the best image for you to bring to mind in an op ed extolling the effort to bring democracy to Iraq! I know most Americans don't know about the tragic consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, a sellout which took freedom away from innocent people who had no say over their future. They were doomed to a life of repression under Soviet occupation, suffering summary executions, sentencing to Gulags, etc. While those Europeans mostly appear as a tiny footnote in history, and Americans probably never learn about them in high school or even college, those people felt pain and suffering and certainly deserved freedom as much as you, or I, or the Iraqis. Suffering is not more acceptable for some people, however forgotten, than for others. So, if I were you, I would avoid making a case for Iraqi freedom by conjuring up images which remind educated readers, however inadvertently, of people who lost their freedom for half a century. It's an unnecessary distraction.

(2) As to "name calling," there are several HNN readers, Dave Livingston among them, who gripe that academics are out of touch with reality and know nothing about real life and real people. I tried to warn you Sunday on one of your earlier blog entries that when you use the term appeasement, you lose ground and lose effectiveness as a writer. It creates the impression that you ignore the genuine concerns of many American voters. I don't see why you think it is effective to act as if those people do not exist. Consequently, I see little point in your writing a congratulatory article for the 51% of those voting who voted for Bush. (Hence my dismissive, “whatever” in reply.) By my standards, it would have been more courageous to write an article that acknowleged what the exit polls showed, but also acknowledged the valid concerns of the 48% who voted for Kerry. Perhaps I am simply tired of pundits and experts telling the American people what we should be thinking and how we should see things, rather than seeking to understand what we believe. We’ve had too much of that during the past year. Also, we are not monolithic and stereotyping us or oversimplifying our reactions is not an effective way to communicate with us.

I, who have mostly voted Republican since 1972, was cautiously optimistic when the Iraq war started, but had my doubts about its timing and necessity. As events unfolded, I became appalled at the lack of planning and the consequent chaos. I know other people who were adamantly opposed to the war from the beginning. I live in one of the cities struck on 9/11, and there are many in my city who believe that the Iraq war has increased the chance that the U.S. will be struck again. For those people, the American "horse" seems "weaker" not "stronger." You may disagree, but you're not living in one of the 9/11 cities, it appears, and it does not help your advocacy of the Iraq war if you do not acknowlege the genuine, heartfelt concerns of many people who do.

As to the Bin Laden video, we didn't simply reject it, Bush and Kerry voters ALIKE--we ignored it. Polls taken after its release showed most people said it would not affect their vote. You vastly over-rate it and its influence. I heard NO conversation in my city about it. Personally, I saw a mention of it on the news, but never read any of the transcripts of it. None of my friends or colleagues discussed it, there was a collective shrug of "oh yeah, that guy is still alive." If that is what happened among Washington area voters, in a circle of highly educated intellectuals, most of whom work for the government, imagine what happened in areas where people are not as likely targets of attack, read fewer newspapers and mostly concentrate on the day to day routine of their daily lives! You know, there actually are many US voters who never read a newspaper, never watch a news broadcast. (I’m stating the obvious, if you specialize in political science, you already know that.) I'm not one of them, I'm a news junkie, LOL, but I've talked to enough people to know there are folks who just don't follow the news closely.

(3) Speaking of which, I am not the one who said Bush voters were more ignorant than Kerry voters. An independent study came to that conclusion. BTW, you don't even know whether I voted for Bush or Kerry. That's the great thing about America, we have a long tradition of political dissent and citizens can gripe about Presidents and their policies as much as they want! It was Bob Herbert who said Bush voters were more ignorant in his column in the NYT today. If you want the source document, which I read when the poll was released in October, go to Pres_Election_04/Report10_21_04.pdf This states that "majorities of Bush supporters misperceive his positions" on a range of foreign policy issues. The poll showed that most Bush supporters believe most of the world supported the US going in to Iraq, 57% believe that the Duelfer report said that the U.S. found WMD in Iraq, etc.. Check out the link, well worth reading.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 11/8/2004

First, name calling and accusations that Bush supporters are less informed foriegn policy analysts do not an argument make. Second, George Friedman whom I quoted in my posting is a democrat but also a serious geostrtegist. He did not express these views until the elections were over.

Maarja Krusten - 11/8/2004

I would find the arguments of the strong supporters of the President's foreign policy more credible if they addressed the hard issues as well as the easy ones. Hence my reference to cherry picking. Want tough questions? Look elsewhere. Speaking of which, why do we moderates have to look for Dems to ask 'em, come on Republicans, don't let me down here. I used to be one of you, remember, and I still listen to reasonable arguments.

Check out Bob Herbert's column in today's NYT at

"A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.

This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won.

The survey, and an accompanying report, showed that there's a fair amount of cluelessness in the ranks of the values crowd. The report said, "It is clear that supporters of the president are more likely to have misperceptions than those who oppose him."

Posted on personal time during lunch break.

Maarja Krusten - 11/8/2004

The usual cherry picking. Another example of courage in academia. (Gee, am I starting to channel Dave Livingston, LOL?)

Putin understood what perfectly?? He's hardly a role model for those who want freedom to be on the march. Relativism rules these days. Please.

As we say in English, "whatever."

Posted during personal time on lunch break.