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The Tally Ho

Sunday, July 25, 2004

NY Times Sunday Op-Ed Page

Two Opinion pieces today of interest. First, Richard A. Clarke's comments on the 9/11 Commissions recommendations title, Honorable Commission, Toothless Report. Clarke writes (and I will post much of the article):
So what now? News coverage of the commission's recommendations has focused on the organizational improvements: a new cabinet-level national intelligence director and a new National Counterterrorism Center to ensure that our 15 or so intelligence agencies play well together. Both are good ideas, but they are purely incremental. Had these changes been made six years ago, they would not have significantly altered the way we dealt with Al Qaeda; they certainly would not have prevented 9/11. Putting these recommendations in place will marginally improve our ability to crush the new, decentralized Al Qaeda, but there are other changes that would help more.

First, we need not only a more powerful person at the top of the intelligence community, but also more capable people throughout the agencies - especially the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency. In other branches of the government, employees can and do join on as mid- and senior-level managers after beginning their careers and gaining experience elsewhere. But at the F.B.I. and C.I.A., the key posts are held almost exclusively by those who joined young and worked their way up. This has created uniformity, insularity, risk-aversion, torpidity and often mediocrity.

The only way to infuse these key agencies with creative new blood is to overhaul their hiring and promotion practices to attract workers who don't suffer the "failures of imagination" that the 9/11 commissioners repeatedly blame for past failures.

Second, in addition to separating the job of C.I.A. director from the overall head of American intelligence, we must also place the C.I.A.'s analysts in an agency that is independent from the one that collects the intelligence. This is the only way to avoid the "groupthink" that hampered the agency's ability to report accurately on Iraq. It is no accident that the only intelligence agency that got it right on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department - a small, elite group of analysts encouraged to be independent thinkers rather than spies or policy makers.

Analysts aren't the only ones who should be reconstituted in small, elite groups. Either the C.I.A. or the military must create a larger and more capable commando force for covert antiterrorism work, along with a network of agents and front companies working under "nonofficial cover'' - that is, without diplomatic protection - to support the commandos.

Even more important than any bureaucratic suggestions is the report's cogent discussion of who the enemy is and what strategies we need in the fight. The commission properly identified the threat not as terrorism (which is a tactic, not an enemy), but as Islamic jihadism, which must be defeated in a battle of ideas as well as in armed conflict.

We need to expose the Islamic world to values that are more attractive than those of the jihadists. This means aiding economic development and political openness in Muslim countries, and efforts to stabilize places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Restarting the Israel-Palestinian peace process is also vital.

Also, we can't do this alone. In addition to "hearts and minds" television and radio programming by the American government, we would be greatly helped by a pan-Islamic council of respected spiritual and secular leaders to coordinate (without United States involvement) the Islamic world's own ideological effort against the new Al Qaeda.

Unfortunately, because of America's low standing in the Islamic world, we are now at a great disadvantage in the battle of ideas. This is primarily because of the unnecessary and counterproductive invasion of Iraq. In pulling its bipartisan punches, the commission failed to admit the obvious: we are less capable of defeating the jihadists because of the Iraq war.

There are several other paragraphs, but read the whole Op-Ed. Also in today's time is Maureen Dowd's Spinning Our Safety, and Barbara Ehrenreich's Wal-Mars Invades Earth. In her piece, she writes:
In my own brief stint at the company in 2000, I worked with a woman for whom a $7 Wal-Mart polo shirt, of the kind we had been ordered to wear, was an impossible dream: It took us an hour to earn that much. Some stores encourage their employees to apply for food stamps and welfare; many take second jobs. Critics point out that Wal-Mart has consumed $1 billion in public subsidies, but that doesn't count the government expenditures required to keep its associates alive. Apparently the Wal-Martians, before landing, failed to check on the biological requirements for human life.

But a creature afflicted with the appetite of a starved hyena doesn't have time for niceties. Wal-Mart is facing class-action suits for sex discrimination and nonpayment for overtime work (meaning no payment at all), as well as accusations that employees have been locked into stores overnight, unable to get help even in medical emergencies. These are the kinds of conditions we associate with third world sweatshops, and in fact Wal-Mart fails at least five out of 10 criteria set by the Worker Rights Consortium, which monitors universities' sources of logoed apparel - making it the world's largest sweatshop.

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