Sunday, September 30, 2007

Are Religious People More Happy?

The Ennui of Saint Teresa

On average, religious people are much happer than nonreligious ones.

BY ARTHUR C. BROOKS Sunday, September 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

For more than a half century, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was revered for her service to the poorest of the poor, and inspired people by the joy she apparently derived from pure faith and charity. But earlier this year, it was revealed that her faith and happiness might not have been all they seemed. In a newly published set of letters written over the course of her adult life, she expresses terrible sorrow about her life, describing it in terms of "dryness," "darkness" and "sadness."
For some commentators, this was evidence that if we scratch the surface of religious conviction--even that of a future saint--we will tend to find unhappiness, echoing H.L. Mencken's claim that "God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable."
Does Mother Teresa's apparent misery truly expose an inconvenient truth about the happiness of religious people? A convincing answer to this question is not to be found in arguments for or against religion by believers or atheists--but rather in the abundant surveys that for years have anonymously asked people about their faith and life satisfaction. What story do the data tell?

Americans can be divided into three groups when it comes to religious practice. Surveys indicate that about 30% attend houses of worship at least once per week (I will call them "religious"), while about 20% are "secular"--never attending. The rest attend sometimes, but irregularly. These population dimensions have changed relatively little over the decades: Since the early 1970s, the religious group has not shrunk by more than two or three percentage points.
How do religious Americans compare to the secular when it comes to happiness? In 2004, the General Social Survey asked a sample of Americans, "Would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?" Religious people were more than twice as likely as the secular to say they were "very happy" (43% to 21%). Meanwhile, secular people were nearly three times as likely as the religious to say they were not too happy (21% to 8%). In the same survey, religious people were more than a third more likely than the secular to say they were optimistic about the future (34% to 24%).
The happiness gap between religious and secular people is not because of money or other personal characteristics. Imagine two people who are identical in every important way--income, education, age, sex, family status, race and political views. The only difference is that the first person is religious; the second is secular. The religious person will still be 21 percentage points more likely than the secular person to say that he or she is very happy.
Researchers have found similar results in other countries, suggesting that the connection between happiness and faith probably doesn't depend on nationality. Nor does it depend on the particular faith practiced. The 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey shows that practicing Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and people from other religions--even esoteric and New Age faiths--are all far more likely than secularists to say they are happy. Furthermore, it does not matter if we measure faith in ways other than how often people go to their house of worship. For example, people who pray every day are a third likelier to be very happy than those who never pray, whether or not they attend services.
What about the folks in the middle, who identify with a faith but practice inconsistently? They are generally happier than secular people, but not as happy as regular practitioners. There is an interesting twist here, however, when it comes to the fear of death. One recent study on a sample of older Americans finds that, by the time people are in their 70s, religious and secular people are less afraid of the grave than those in the middle, suggesting that people suffer when their religious practice is inconsistent with their faith.

Obviously, not all religious people are happy--millions are not. Researchers in one 2006 study found that what makes some religious people unhappy is an image of God as severe, unloving or distant. The study shows that regular churchgoers who feel "very close to God" are 27% more likely to be very happy than churchgoers who do not feel very close to God. This may have been the trouble for Mother Teresa.
Unhappy religious folks are the exception to the rule, however, and the percentage gaps in happiness identified here still translate into many, many more millions of contented churchgoers than nonbelievers. Based on the current American population, we can roughly estimate that about 67 million American adults are "very happy." About 25 million of these folks are religious--but only eight million are secular.
All in all, there is no good reason to doubt the claim that religion is associated with happiness for most people. Mother Teresa was atypical in her service and charity. But she was also atypical in her sadness, in spite of her religious life.
Mr. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Affairs and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Who Really Cares" (Basic Books, 2006).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Live From New York, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Unreality Show

Tuesday, September 25, 2007; Page A02

"For hundreds of years, we've lived in friendship and brotherhood with the people of Iraq," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the National Press Club yesterday.
That's true -- as long as you don't count the little unpleasantness of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when a million people died, some by poison gas. And you'd also have to overlook 500 years of fighting during the Ottoman Empire.

"Our people are the freest people in the world," Iran's president informed the National Press Club via video link.
But never mind that: Ahmadinejad was on a roll.
"Our people are the freest people in the world," said the man whose government executes dissidents, jails academics and stones people to death.
"The freest women in the world are women in Iran," he continued, neglecting to mention that Iranian law treats a woman as half of a man.
"In our country," judged the man who shuts down newspapers and imprisons journalists, "freedom is flowing at its highest level."
And if you believe that, he has a peaceful civilian nuclear program he wants to sell you.
Much of officialdom spent yesterday condemning Columbia University for hosting the Iranian leader while he visits the United Nations this week. There were similar protests outside the National Press Building in Washington, where reporters gathered to question Ahmadinejad in a videoconference. "Don't give him any press!" shouted one woman.
But that objection misses a crucial point: Without listening to Ahmadinejad, how can the world appreciate how truly nutty he is?
"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country," he informed the Columbia audience.
It takes time to come up with profound thoughts such as that, so Ahmadinejad was understandably in a hurry yesterday. His appearance at the press club was delayed 10 minutes when he didn't show up on time at the television studio in New York. Then his delegation informed the press club, mid-rant, that he would have to leave 15 minutes early so that he would have time to pray before his Columbia appearance. The prayer evidently missed the mark, for he was greeted at Columbia with a lengthy condemnation by President Lee Bollinger. He called Ahmadinejad a "petty and cruel dictator" and ended with the thought that "today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for."
The reception was rather friendlier at the press club, where the sole questioner was moderator Jerry Zremski of the Buffalo News. He introduced Ahmadinejad as "one of the most newsworthy heads of state in the world" and chose written questions submitted by the audience such as "Do you plan on running for reelection in two years?"

Ahmadinejad, wearing open collar and glasses, lost his audience at the press club almost immediately. After only one sentence of his speech, the translator stopped translating. "The president is reciting verses from the holy Koran in Arabic," she explained. Completing his verses, he launched into 20 minutes of cheap sentiment.
"I believe we all believe strongly that it is possible to create a better world for humanity, and to realize this sublime and beautiful goal, we need to take a look and revise how we view the world around us," he said, going on to mention the "sublime value of humanity" and a "walk on the sublime path."

"Our people are the freest people in the world," Iran's president informed the National Press Club via video link.
The faces on the dais -- Greta Van Susteren, Eleanor Clift and Clarence Page among them -- met the president's statement with expressions of confusion that gradually turned into boredom as Ahmadinejad eschewed talk of uranium enrichment in favor of Hallmark. "Family is the center of love and beauty," he advised.
The man who recently hosted a convention for Holocaust deniers also treated listeners to his thoughts on the truth. "Lies have nothing to do with the divine spirit of mankind," he asserted.
Then the lies began.
Zremski inquired about the Amnesty International report finding flogging and imprisonment of journalists and at least 11 Iranian newspapers closed. "I think people who prepared the report are unaware of the situation in Iran," the president answered. "I think the people who give this information should seek what is the truth and, sort of, disseminate what's correct."
Zremski then raised the specific cases of two Kurdish journalists who have been sentenced to death for enmity toward God.
"This news is fundamentally wrong," Ahmadinejad replied. "What journalist has been sentenced to death?"
Zremski supplied the names of Kurdish journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Hiva Boutimar, sentenced July 16. "I don't know people by that name," the president retorted. "You have to, sort of, rectify the information channel."
A pattern had emerged. Zremski asked about the beating and torture of women's rights leaders. "Can you again tell me where you get this report from?" Ahmadinejad asked innocently.
Zremski asked about Ahmadinejad's assertion, at a news conference last month, that Iran is "prepared to fill the gap" of power in Iraq as U.S. influence declines. "Well, again, this, too, is one of those distortions by the press," he answered.
And those Iranian weapons showing up in Iraq? "No, this doesn't exist," he said.
Who knows? In the wild and wacky mind of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that just might be true.

Ahmadinejad on Homosexuality in Iran

Does School Integration Still Matter? The Little Rock 9's 50 Year Anniversary

A Little Rock Reminder
Nine Pioneers Showed Why School Integration Matters

By Juan Williams
Tuesday, September 25, 2007; Page A19

Fifty years ago this week, President Dwight Eisenhower risked igniting the second U.S. civil war by sending 1,000 American soldiers into a Southern city. The troops, with bayonets at the end of their rifles, provided protection for nine black students trying to get into Little Rock's Central High School. Until the soldiers arrived, the black teenagers had been kept out by mobs and the Arkansas National Guard, in defiance of the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling ending school segregation.

The black children involved became the leading edge of a social experiment. Their lives offer answers to the question of what happens to black children who attend integrated schools, a question underscored by the recent Supreme Court ruling that voluntary school integration plans in Louisville and Seattle are unconstitutional.

The June decision said a focus on mixing students based on their skin color violates every student's right to be judged as an individual without regard to race. The ruling confirmed a political reality: America long ago lost its appetite for doing whatever it takes -- busing, magnet schools, court orders -- to integrate schools. The level of segregation in U.S. public schools has been growing since 1988, reversing the trend toward integration triggered by Brown v. Board of Education.

The movement away from school integration is glaring. The Civil Rights Project found in 2003 that the nation's 27 biggest school districts were "overwhelmingly" segregated with black and Latino students. Nationwide today, almost half of black and Latino children are in schools where less than 10 percent of the students are white. Those essentially segregated schools have a large percentage of low-income families and, according to researchers, "difficulty retaining highly qualified teachers." Meanwhile, the average white student attends a school that is 80 percent white and far more affluent than the schools for minority students.

This trend toward isolation of poor and minority students has consequences -- half of black and Latino students now drop out of high school.

Integrated schools benefit students, especially minorities. Research on the long-term outcomes of black and Latino students attending integrated schools indicates that those students "complete more years of education, earn higher degrees and major in more varied occupations than graduates of all-black schools."

That conclusion is reflected in the lives of the Little Rock Nine, who represent the black middle class that grew rapidly as better schools became open to black people during the 1960s and '70s.

Ernest Green, 65, who became the first black student to graduate from Central High, is the most prominent of the nine. He earned a master's degree in sociology and worked in the Carter and Clinton administrations. He is director of public finance in Washington for Lehman Brothers.

Melba Pattillo Beals, 65, chairs the African American history department at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and wrote an award-winning book about her experiences at Central High; Elizabeth Eckford, 65, is a probation officer in Arkansas; Gloria Ray Karlmark, 64, moved to Sweden to work for IBM and later founded and edited the magazine Computers in Industry; Carlotta Walls LaNier, 64, started a real estate company in Colorado; Terrence Roberts, 65, is a psychologist in California; Jefferson Thomas, 64, fought in Vietnam and worked in government in Ohio for nearly 30 years; Minniejean Brown Trickey, 66, worked in the Clinton administration and is a visiting writer at Arkansas State University; and Thelma Mothershed Wair, 66, became a teacher.

Part of their success comes from their ability to mix easily with black and white people and to comfortably join the social and professional networks that segregation kept from black people. In fact, most of the nine worked in mostly white organizations. And four of the nine married white people (three black women married white men, and one black man married a white woman).

In her book "Turn Away Thy Son," Arkansas native Elizabeth Jacoway notes that the nine never take a group picture with white spouses or mixed-race children. Jacoway believes they don't want to take away from black pride in their achievement or reignite segregationist fears about interracial sex.

Terrence Roberts, who went on to become a psychology professor, thinks "fear of black people in the family" is still a driving force pulling Americans away from integrated schools. Ernest Green, whose first wife was white, calls it the "zipper issue . . . sex and race are highly combustible."

The interracial daughter of Minniejean Brown Trickey, Spirit Trickey, works as a Park Service tour guide at a memorial to the events at Central High. She says visitors regularly ask why so many of the nine broke the taboo against interracial marriage.

"My answer is that the Little Rock Nine followed the principles of nonviolence," she said. "They married who they fell in love with. But it is telling that so many people ask about it. It tells me where we are today."

Juan Williams is a political analyst for National Public Radio and Fox News and the author of "Enough" and "Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Value of Work and Welfare

By Arthur C. Brooks

Work is not a necessary evil. It is, instead, an intrinsic source of pleasure and value. ARTHUR C. BROOKS explains.
Marienthal is a small Austrian village about half an hour from Vienna by train. In the 1920s, it was dominated by one textile factory, which employed the majority of the town’s residents. As the firm fell on hard economic times, it pulled the fortunes of Marienthalers down with it: by the time the factory closed in 1929, three-quarters of the town’s 478 families had lost their income.

The Marienthalers were not starving—Austria in those years had unemployment insurance that covered most of a factory worker’s wages. But the townspeople languished nonetheless. There were no regular jobs to replace their old positions, and to qualify for unemployment support workers were strictly prohibited from taking any part-time work. One poor soul lost his benefits after he was discovered playing the harmonica on the street for money. Economic circumstance and government policy conspired to guarantee that the Marienthalers had nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Marienthal had previously been an active community with social clubs and political organizations. The paradox is that, after the factory closed and people had abundant leisure, these activities withered. Villagers could not seem to find the time and energy to do much of anything. In the two years after the factory closed, the average number of volumes loaned out by the town library dropped by half. Said one woman, “It used to be magnificent in Marienthal before—just going to the factory made a change. During the summer we used to go for walks, and all those dances! Now I don’t feel like going out anymore.”

Time seemed to warp. Men stopped wearing watches, and wives complained that their husbands were chronically late for meals—even though they were not coming from anything. Outsiders observed that it took villagers longer and longer just to walk down the street. People slept for hours more each night than they ever had. They could not recall how they spent their days, and they whittled away far more time sitting at home or standing around in the street than doing any other activity.

After the factory closed, time seemed to warp. Men stopped wearing watches, and wives complained that their husbands were chronically late for meals—even though they were not coming from anything. A group of sociologists who had come to interview the townspeople as part of a study on the importance of work determined that what destroyed life in Marienthal was not the loss of wages, but the loss of ability to earn them. When the researchers left the village, their prognosis was grim: “As conditions deteriorate, forces may emerge in the community ushering in totally new events, such as revolt or migration. It is, however, also possible that the feeling of solidarity that binds the people of Marienthal together in the face of adversity will one day dissolve, leaving each individual to scramble after his own salvation.”

The lesson of Marienthal is clear. Work is not just a means to an end. Work has enormous intrinsic value.

We are, however, bombarded with messages to the contrary. Bestsellers like Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, which documents the hardships of working-class employment in America, aim to show us how bad it really is for the working stiffs of this country. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards asserts that there is “one America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward.” This posture is not merely political. Standard economic theory makes the assumption that time spent in leisure gives us pleasure, while time spent in labor gives us pain—and that we only work because it is necessary to earn money, which we want in order to meet other desires. And our policymakers generally believe that the good life in a wealthy society means shorter workweeks, longer vacations, and earlier retirements. Why? Because when we’re rich we can afford these things. What else are we working for, after all?

In short, when it comes to work, we have a conflict of visions. One vision says that work is a source of happiness, the other that it is a necessary evil. Which view is the more accurate for most Americans? The answer to this question is fundamental to understanding whether our public policies and labor practices are pushing us toward greater happiness as a society—or away from it.

Ask yourself this: What proportion of Americans do you think are satisfied with their jobs? Twenty percent? Thirty? In fact, according to the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, among adults who worked 10 hours a week or more in 2002, a surprising 89 percent said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. Only 11 percent said they were not too satisfied or not at all satisfied.

Of course, this statistic might be hiding big differences between people with “good” jobs and those with “bad” jobs. What about the people with low incomes and little education? They must be less satisfied with their jobs than we are, right? Wrong. Precisely the same share of Americans with above-average and below-average incomes are satisfied: 89 percent. Similarly, 88 percent of people without a college education are satisfied, as well as 87 percent of people who specifically call themselves “working class.” What about the middle class, who we hear from television pundits and politicians are so dispirited? Ninety-three percent are satisfied. Also, the proportion is almost exactly the same—around 90 percent—among people working for private companies, for nonprofit organizations, and for governments.

These figures don’t disprove the notion that, all things being equal, people who work less than others are happier. The data just prove that most people like their jobs. Even if I am satisfied with my work, I might still prefer leisure. So let’s look closer….

The 1998 GSS shows that only 11 percent of American workers say they wish they could spend much less time on their paid work—versus 12 percent who say they wish they could spend much more time on it. Similarly, the University of Michigan’s 2001 Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) indicates that people who say they felt inconsolably sad over the past month take, on average, only one day of vacation less per year than people who aren’t so sad. Obviously, vacation itself has nothing to do with the happiness difference between the groups.

Nor does an actual lifestyle of leisure tempt many Americans. In 2002, the GSS asked, “If you were to get enough money to live as comfortably as you would like for the rest of your life, would you continue to work or would you stop working?” The number answering that they would stop working was just 31 percent. Sixty-nine percent of American adults said that they would continue to work even if they did not need to. And there is no difference at all between those with below- and above-average incomes. Similarly, 66 percent of people without a college education would keep working.

Standard economic theory makes the assumption that time spent in leisure gives us pleasure, while time spent in labor gives us pain—and that we only work because it is necessary to earn money, which we want in order to meet other desires.For most Americans, job satisfaction is a reliable source of happiness—more so than leisure. Among those who say they are very happy in their lives, 95 percent are also satisfied with their jobs. Imagine two workers who are identical in every way—same income, education, age, sex, family situation, religion, and politics—but the first worker is satisfied with his job and the second worker is not. Surveys show that the first worker will be more likely, by 28 percentage points, to say he is very happy in life.

In short, most people like their jobs, and would work even if they did not have to. Obviously, there is a point beyond which excessive hours of work will lower health and quality of living. But within the bounds of normal work life, the data are overwhelmingly clear that for the vast majority of Americans, our work in and of itself gives us happiness.

How? There are several plausible explanations. Chief among them, according to many authors, is meaning.

Viennese psychiatrist Victor Frankl, a concentration-camp survivor, believed that a search for meaning motivated people’s entire lives, and that a lack of meaning was the root of much mental illness. He built an entire school of psychotherapy around the concept, which he called logotherapy. Work plays a major role in his aptly titled memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, published in 1946.

For a worker to achieve 'flow'—the zone where she feels at one with her task—the challenge of the work must be matched with her ability.The notion of meaning as a guiding principle for happiness explains some interesting facts about what actually compensates workers in their jobs. There is a vast literature on this subject, and it is typical to find that money and time off matter far less to people than less tangible rewards, such as recognition and evidence that their work is valuable. For example, people who think their work allows them to be productive are about five times more likely to be very satisfied with their jobs than people who do not feel they can be productive. And those who are proud to work for their employers are more than ten times as likely to be very satisfied with their jobs as those who are not proud. In contrast, money matters relatively little, and the amount of leisure time a job allows has no significant effect on satisfaction at all.

Indeed, there is strong evidence that compensation such as pay and vacation—the “extrinsic rewards” for working—can actually have a negative effect on job satisfaction by degrading the “intrinsic rewards” that people care about so much. The reason for this is that people stop seeing a task as fun when pay is involved. Many studies have illustrated this conclusion, including a famous academic experiment in which college students were given puzzles to solve. Some of the students were paid, and others were not. The researchers observed that the unpaid participants tended to continue working on the puzzles after the experiment was finished, whereas the paid participants abandoned the task as soon as the experiment ended.

Another route from work to happiness is control. According to psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, in some of the most authoritative psychological research on the subject, people have an “intrinsic need to be self-determining.” This means that, to the extent that work gives people a sense that they are in charge of their lives, it will bring them joy. As Aristotle put it, “Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient.” Control is the reason that job security is so important for predicting job satisfaction for many workers. Nothing lowers our sense of control as much as insecurity about our ability to make a living.

Work brings happiness. What happens when we don’t have work?

In 2002, the GSS asked, “At any time during the last ten years, have you been unemployed and looking for work for as long as a month?” The answers to even this fairly mild question predicted enormous happiness differences among people. Middle-aged adults who had experienced unemployment in the past decade were one-third less likely to say they were very happy than those who had not been unemployed. A single bout of unemployment predicts happiness differences even after correcting for income, education, race, religion, and many other demographic characteristics. According to the PSID in 2001, people who had missed any work at all during the past year because of involuntary unemployment were two-thirds more likely than other people to say they felt “hopeless,” and more than 50 percent more likely to say they felt “worthless.”

There is strong evidence that compensation such as pay and vacation—the so-called 'extrinsic rewards' for working—can actually have a negative effect on job satisfaction Economists have found that unemployment in a country even lowers the happiness of people who are working because the prospect of unemployment—even when benefits are generous—is so dire. People hate the very idea of being out of work. In fact, people who say their job security is not good are more than six times likelier to be unsatisfied with their jobs than those who say their security is good.

What about retirement? Does voluntarily separating from work at an appropriate age have the same negative influence on happiness? It appears not. In 2002, retired people were two percentage points less likely than non-retired people to say they were very happy.

What is the most common policy solution when people cannot find work and support themselves? In Western countries, it is public support—“welfare,” in the vernacular—to meet their economic needs. A sensible response on its face, financial support combats part of the material deprivation that comes with unemployment. But this approach does nothing to combat the unhappiness problem. The PSID shows that, in 2001, people receiving public assistance were more than twice as likely as those not receiving welfare to feel hopeless or worthless.

Receiving government assistance appears to have special unhappiness-provoking properties, even apart from the fact that people on welfare are generally not earning their living through work. Holding constant all of one’s personal characteristics, including whether or not one is employed, we find that receipt of public assistance by itself pushes up the chances of saying you have been inconsolably sad over the past month by about 16 percentage points. No other single factor—not income, age, education, or anything else—comes close to predicting this much of one’s unhappiness.

Work is a fault line between happy and unhappy America, but not in the way we are often led to think. The happy are not those who enjoy lots of leisure, but rather the majority of Americans who enjoy satisfying work. The unhappy among us are more likely to be unemployed, on public assistance, or members of the small minority with unsatisfying jobs. When it comes to work, if happiness is our goal, we have no apologies to make for working hard.

Obviously, not every job brings satisfaction and happiness in life: remember the 11 percent of American workers who are unsatisfied with their jobs, and disproportionately unhappy in their lives as a result. It is hard to say whether they experience an inadequate amount of “flow”—the zone where workers feel at one with their task, where challenge is matched with ability. But what we do know is that they tend to find little meaning in their jobs—a concept clearly understood by the Catholic organization Opus Dei, whose founder, Saint Josemaría Escrivá, said, “Put a supernatural meaning behind your ordinary work, and you will have sanctified your work.” Here lie some modest lessons for improving the satisfaction and life happiness of workers. The implications of getting these lessons right are more than just ethical—they actually mean lots of money, too. American firms have been bemoaning the costs of high employee turnover for years, and nothing predicts attrition better than job satisfaction: people who are not satisfied with their jobs are about seven times more likely to quit within a year than those who are very satisfied.

First, workers need to work for something meaningful. Believing in a job and employer is critical to satisfaction. Second, extrinsic rewards must not crowd out the intrinsic rewards of work; that is, we have to be careful that pay and benefits not take the joy out of productive activity. How to do this? Not with a national program to drive down pay and benefits—that would be absurd—but with an effort to find ways to give people a personal sense of control in their jobs.

In the words of Opus Dei founder Saint Josemaría Escrivá,'Put a supernatural meaning behind your ordinary work, and you will have sanctified your work.'What about job security? Knowing what we do about the misery of idleness, would raising job security across the board somehow lead to greater workplace (and life) happiness? Not necessarily. Work-loving Americans face a tension between jobs that are a good match for their skills and interests and ones that are secure. Secure jobs can be less meaningful and absorbing than those involving more risk—think of the difference between doing bureaucratic work and operating a start-up business. The right mix of job adventure and security depends on the individual.

Fortunately, free markets are good at producing an assortment of jobs that appeal to our varied tastes and needs. If you have an especially strong desire for freedom and adventure, America provides entrepreneurship opportunities that are risky but also offer the possibility of explosive returns. If you prefer lots of security, there are jobs (such as university teaching under the tenure system) in which, once established, you can hold your position until you retire or die.

The key for policy is not to impose the same level of risk and security on everyone, but—aside from obvious cases such as racial discrimination—to protect free markets so that people can find and choose the types of employment that suit each of us best. Our imagination should not be devoted to protecting the jobs of the privileged, but to finding better ways to give all Americans willing to work—including the disaffected 11 percent—the job market choices the rest of us enjoy.

These are modest recommendations, intended as a starting point for a conversation about how our jobs can continue to bring Americans a high quality of life. The key point for public and private policy, however, is a simple one: For the overwhelming majority of Americans, work is a great source of joy, and not a necessary evil. It is the consummate “win-win” of American culture that what makes us rich also makes us happy.

Arthur C. Brooks is Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is also a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His latest book, about philanthropy, is titled “Who Really Cares” (Basic Books).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Anbar Awakens: Hell is over Part II

This is a very interesting article that discusses the successes of the military in Anbar Province. The capital of Anbar is Ramadi. Part I of the article is about the fight for Anbar and Part II is the result. Lots of cool pictures! Enjoy!

For The Article Click HERE!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We Must Always Remember

We must always remember

Terror attacks were an act of war, not simply a tragedy to be mourned


Tuesday, September 11th 2007, 4:00 AM

Six years ago, I turned on my television and saw the sickening image of an airplane flying directly into the south tower of the World Trade Center. I did not know that at precisely that moment, somewhere in the skies over the Ohio-Kentucky border, my brother was fighting for his life in the cockpit of his commercial airliner. It would be another 35 minutes before his plane crashed into the Pentagon's west side.

Though the term "9/11 family member" had not yet become part of the Sept. 11 lexicon, my first thought upon seeing the plane turn and slam into the World Trade Center was of the pilots in the flight deck and the added sorrow that their families would have to live with for the rest of their lives, seeing this video.

Until I was notified of my brother's fate, I was no different from everyone else that morning, horrified and overwhelmed by the shocking scene unfolding in lower Manhattan. After learning that people were jumping from the towers, I believe I began to depersonalize what I was seeing.

The human psyche can absorb only so much. Anyone who had been inside the World Trade Center towers or seen them upclose knew that jumping from that height was like leaping from the clouds. The day was only beginning.

A recent newspaper article suggested that the 9/11 commemoration "decibel level" should be "scaled back." Mourning the dead too loud and too long impinges on the living, the article said. Life goes on. I wouldn't disagree. But it is extremely important to distinguish between public mourning and public remembering; otherwise, the phrase that was as ubiquitous as the American flag six years ago, "Never Forget," and invoked with tearful or angry rectitude, is rendered hollow. We all meant it, whether the cause was revenge, retribution or simple recognition of our common humanity.

None of us wants this to happen again, but as time goes by, why can't we all agree, as we did then, about what took place that day?

There is a disturbing phenomenon creeping into the public debate about all things 9/11. Increasingly, Sept. 11 is compared to hurricanes, bridge collapses and other mechanical disasters or criminal acts that result in loss of life, with "body count" being the primary factor that keeps it in the top spot of "worst in the nation's history."

Misremembering is as dangerous as forgetting. If we must know one thing, it is that the Sept. 11 attacks were neither a natural disaster, nor the unfortunate result of human error. 9/11 wasn't the catastrophic equivalent of a 3,000-car pileup.

The attacks were not a random actof violence or insanity. They were a deliberate and brutal act ofwar committed by religious fanatics engaged in Islamic jihad against the United States, all non-Muslim people and any Muslim who wishes to live in a secular society. Worse, the people who perpetrated the attacks have explicitly told us that they are not done.

Sept. 11 is a date that comes and goes once a year, but "9/11" is with us every day. The body count keeps rising - Bali, Riyadh, Istanbul, Madrid, Beslan, London, Amman.

We now clearly know that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was part of the holy war against America. When we previously dismissed this as a random attack by crazy men and declared ourselves lucky that "only six lives were lost," we effectively disarmed ourselves. Eight years later, six became 3,000. While the comparison to other "tragedies" may help us cope with what has befallen us, we must resist being glib and intellectually careless.

Our fellow human beings were not "lost" in 1993 or on 9/11. They were torn to pieces. We must not give the enemy any quarter. We must confront the reality of their acts.

We must refuse to be fooled by their propaganda, which is meant to appeal to our own moral vanity - the belief that we can appease them by responding to their outrageous demands for accommodation, their open threats and their hateful rhetoric with even more forbearance.

Several months after the Sept. 11 attacks, I was asked to look through a thick, three-ring binder put together by the FBI, a catalogue of objects - photographed and numbered - that were the unclaimed personal effects of the 184 victims who perished at the Pentagon. They included things such as buttons, uniform insignia, house and car keys, wedding rings, shoes, personalized coffee mugs and, saddest of all, a miniature, hot-pink luggage tag with a flowery design meant for a little girl's travel bag.

These mundane objects, the commonplace detritus of lives cut short, were deeply moving to see, perhaps because they were not some grand eulogy or noble tribute, but simple reminders of the fact that people like you and me went to work or boarded those planes on that lovely Tuesday morning, never dreaming that this was the last clear blue sky they would ever see.

Perhaps it is human instinct to turn away from suffering that goes on too long. We should celebrate life rather than wallow in grief. But we should vigilantly guard against self-delusion and denial as a means of coping with the terrible reality that we all lived through six years ago. There was a reason that we felt unified then.

The horror of what we experienced, individually and together, stripped away all the things that divide us today. We clung to each other, forgave each other, and were kind to each other, knowing that, in the end, we would only persevere together. Today of all days, that is something we should never forget.

Burlingame is the sister of Capt. Charles F. (Chic) Burlingame 3rd, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Still Criticizing the War on Terror?

September 10, 2007
Still Criticizing the War on Terror?
By Mark Davis

I won't be at Ground Zero on Tuesday. Nor will most of the crowds of media types who joined me in that neighborhood last year.

We attach big anniversaries to roundish numbers: five, 10, 20, 50 and so on. It will be 2011 before another grand reassessment of the dark day that supposedly changed everything.

I say "supposedly" because what strikes me the most as 9/11's sixth anniversary approaches is how little really has changed.

It changed for a while. For a few precious months stretching into early 2002, our nation's differences really did stop at the water's edge, a concept coined 60 years ago by U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan.

America's status as a superpower was cemented in the 1940s with victories in a second global war. At that time, Republicans like Mr. Vandenberg and his Democratic colleagues knew that in such a perilous age, politics must be superseded by national interest.

Mr. Vandenberg described an atmosphere that would have been a great boon to post-9/11 America if we were capable of it. "To me," he said, "bipartisan foreign policy means a mutual effort, under our indispensable, two-party system, to unite our official voice at the water's edge so that America speaks with one voice to those who would divide and conquer us and the free world."

Is there anyone who believes such nobility is possible today?

We have not been attacked by al-Qaeda for six years, yet there have been nearly five years of political attacks on every level of our war effort.

Of course, it has been a war pockmarked by many flaws and the attendant debates over strategy. But now we hear debates over withdrawal, which are an enormous boost to an enemy that already seemed exponentially more motivated to win than we are.

But as war debates rage, it is worth measuring where we are on the home front as we observe six years since the day that sparked a new era in world history.

I restrained myself for five years from sharing a belief that the absence of further attacks meant we are doing something right. From 2002 through 2006, I held open the possibility that maybe we were just lucky, or al-Qaeda wasn't as big a deal as we thought, or maybe the terrorists just didn't want to hit us again.

Well, we're not, they are and they do. We are doing something right.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff left me cold a few weeks back by blowing off my suggestion that our borders exist to keep out both terrorists and those seeking to take illegal advantage of America's economy. His tone said "don't bother me with people trying to take our jobs; I'm trying to keep out the next Mohamed Atta."

Greedy soul that I am, I want both. But if it's been hard to get serious about the "economic immigrants" (his term), at least we seem to have made it sufficiently difficult for terrorists to fly that next armada of planes into a major city skyline.

Part of that success is a story told within our borders. At our airports, the Transportation Security Administration makes us do some things that make sense and some things that fill Jay Leno monologues. But I'm not in the mood to sneeze at something that has worked.

The rest of our success story is to the credit of the hundreds of thousands of troops from the U.S. and our allies who have taken the fight straight into the gaping maw of the terrorist world.

Yes, al-Qaeda still exists. Yes, there is still an active insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. That may take a long time to change.

But one question trumps all others. Have we been attacked again on our shores since Sept. 11, 2001? That answer is no, and it is a testament to the honor and sacrifice of all involved in our war effort.

That effort itself is still under constant attack from the portion of America that has grown war-weary. Since we are faced with an enemy that will not tire, one wonders how long we will observe 9/11 anniversaries without a new date arising to share its infamy.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is

General Petraeus' Report to Congress

Reporting to Congress
By David Petraeus

General David H. Petraeus
Commander, Multi-National Force-Iraq

Mr. Chairmen, Ranking Members, Members of the Committees, thank you for the opportunity to provide my assessment of the security situation in Iraq and to discuss the recommendations I recently provided to my chain of command for the way forward.

At the outset, I would like to note that this is my testimony. Although I have briefed my assessment and recommendations to my chain of command, I wrote this testimony myself. It has not been cleared by, nor shared with, anyone in the Pentagon, the White House, or Congress.

As a bottom line up front, the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met. In recent months, in the face of tough enemies and the brutal summer heat of Iraq, Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces have achieved progress in the security arena. Though the improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents in Iraq has declined in 8 of the past 12 weeks, with the numbers of incidents in the last two weeks at the lowest levels seen since June 2006.

One reason for the decline in incidents is that Coalition and Iraqi forces have dealt significant blows to Al Qaeda-Iraq. Though Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq remain dangerous, we have taken away a number of their sanctuaries and gained the initiative in many areas.

We have also disrupted Shia militia extremists, capturing the head and numerous other leaders of the Iranian-supported Special Groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative supporting Iran's activities in Iraq.

Coalition and Iraqi operations have helped reduce ethno-sectarian violence, as well, bringing down the number of ethno-sectarian deaths substantially in Baghdad and across Iraq since the height of the sectarian violence last December. The number of overall civilian deaths has also declined during this period, although the numbers in each area are still at troubling levels.

Iraqi Security Forces have also continued to grow and to shoulder more of the load, albeit slowly and amid continuing concerns about the sectarian tendencies of some elements in their ranks. In general, however, Iraqi elements have been standing and fighting and sustaining tough losses, and they have taken the lead in operations in many areas.

Additionally, in what may be the most significant development of the past 8 months, the tribal rejection of Al Qaeda that started in Anbar Province and helped produce such significant change there has now spread to a number of other locations as well.

Based on all this and on the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve.

Beyond that, while noting that the situation in Iraq remains complex, difficult, and sometimes downright frustrating, I also believe that it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, though doing so will be neither quick nor easy.

Having provided that summary, I would like to review the nature of the conflict in Iraq, recall the situation before the surge, describe the current situation, and explain the recommendations I have provided to my chain of command for the way ahead in Iraq.

The Nature of the Conflict

The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian communities for power and resources. This competition will take place, and its resolution is key to producing long-term stability in the new Iraq. The question is whether the competition takes place more - or less - violently. This chart shows the security challenges in Iraq. Foreign and home-grown terrorists, insurgents, militia extremists, and criminals all push the ethno-sectarian competition toward violence. Malign actions by Syria and, especially, by Iran fuel that violence. Lack of adequate governmental capacity, lingering sectarian mistrust, and various forms of corruption add to Iraq's challenges.

The Situation in December 2006 and the Surge

In our recent efforts to look to the future, we found it useful to revisit the past. In December 2006, during the height of the ethno-sectarian violence that escalated in the wake of the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, the leaders in Iraq at that time - General George Casey and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad - concluded that the coalition was failing to achieve its objectives. Their review underscored the need to protect the population and reduce sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad. As a result, General Casey requested additional forces to enable the Coalition to accomplish these tasks, and those forces began to flow in January.

In the ensuing months, our forces and our Iraqi counterparts have focused on improving security, especially in Baghdad and the areas around it, wresting sanctuaries from Al Qaeda control, and disrupting the efforts of the Iranian-supported militia extremists. We have employed counterinsurgency practices that underscore the importance of units living among the people they are securing, and accordingly, our forces have established dozens of joint security stations and patrol bases manned by Coalition and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and in other areas across Iraq.

In mid-June, with all the surge brigades in place, we launched a series of offensive operations focused on: expanding the gains achieved in the preceding months in Anbar Province; clearing Baqubah, several key Baghdad neighborhoods, the remaining sanctuaries in Anbar Province, and important areas in the so-called "belts" around Baghdad; and pursuing Al Qaeda in the Diyala River Valley and several other areas.

Throughout this period, as well, we engaged in dialogue with insurgent groups and tribes, and this led to additional elements standing up to oppose Al Qaeda and other extremists. We also continued to emphasize the development of the Iraqi Security Forces and we employed non-kinetic means to exploit the opportunities provided by the conduct of our kinetic operations - aided in this effort by the arrival of additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

Current Situation and Trends

The progress our forces have achieved with our Iraqi counterparts has, as I noted at the outset, been substantial. While there have been setbacks as well as successes and tough losses along the way, overall, our tactical commanders and I see improvements in the security environment. We do not, however, just rely on gut feel or personal observations; we also conduct considerable data collection and analysis to gauge progress and determine trends. We do this by gathering and refining data from coalition and Iraqi operations centers, using a methodology that has been in place for well over a year and that has benefited over the past seven months from the increased presence of our forces living among the Iraqi people. We endeavor to ensure our analysis of that data is conducted with rigor and consistency, as our ability to achieve a nuanced understanding of the security environment is dependent on collecting and analyzing data in a consistent way over time. Two US intelligence agencies recently reviewed our methodology, and they concluded that the data we produce is the most accurate and authoritative in Iraq.

As I mentioned up front, and as the chart before you reflects, the level of security incidents has decreased significantly since the start of the surge of offensive operations in mid-June, declining in 8 of the past 12 weeks, with the level of incidents in the past two weeks the lowest since June 2006 and with the number of attacks this past week the lowest since April 2006.

Civilian deaths of all categories, less natural causes, have also declined considerably, by over 45% Iraq-wide since the height of the sectarian violence in December. This is shown by the top line on this chart, and the decline by some 70% in Baghdad is shown by the bottom line. Periodic mass casualty attacks by Al Qaeda have tragically added to the numbers outside Baghdad, in particular. Even without the sensational attacks, however, the level of civilian deaths is clearly still too high and continues to be of serious concern.

As the next chart shows, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths, an important subset of the overall civilian casualty figures, has also declined significantly since the height of the sectarian violence in December. Iraq-wide, as shown by the top line on this chart, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths has come down by over 55%, and it would have come down much further were it not for the casualties inflicted by barbaric Al Qaeda bombings attempting to reignite sectarian violence. In Baghdad, as the bottom line shows, the number of ethno-sectarian deaths has come down by some 80% since December. This chart also displays the density of sectarian incidents in various Baghdad neighborhoods and it both reflects the progress made in reducing ethno-sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital and identifies the areas that remain the most challenging.

As we have gone on the offensive in former Al Qaeda and insurgent sanctuaries, and as locals have increasingly supported our efforts, we have found a substantially increased number of arms, ammunition, and explosives caches. As this chart shows, we have, so far this year, already found and cleared over 4,400 caches, nearly 1,700 more than we discovered in all of last year. This may be a factor in the reduction in the number of overall improvised explosive device attacks in recent months, which as this chart shows, has declined sharply, by about one-third, since June.

The change in the security situation in Anbar Province has, of course, been particularly dramatic. As this chart shows, monthly attack levels in Anbar have declined from some 1,350 in October 2006 to a bit over 200 in August of this year. This dramatic decrease reflects the significance of the local rejection of Al Qaeda and the newfound willingness of local Anbaris to volunteer to serve in the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police Service. As I noted earlier, we are seeing similar actions in other locations, as well.

To be sure, trends have not been uniformly positive across Iraq, as is shown by this chart depicting violence levels in several key Iraqi provinces. The trend in Ninevah Province, for example, has been much more up and down, until a recent decline, and the same is true in Sala ad Din Province, though recent trends there and in Baghdad have been in the right direction. In any event, the overall trajectory in Iraq - a steady decline of incidents in the past three months - is still quite significant.

The number of car bombings and suicide attacks has also declined in each of the past 5 months, from a high of some 175 in March, as this chart shows, to about 90 this past month. While this trend in recent months has been heartening, the number of high profile attacks is still too high, and we continue to work hard to destroy the networks that carry out these barbaric attacks.

Our operations have, in fact, produced substantial progress against Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq. As this chart shows, in the past 8 months, we have considerably reduced the areas in which Al Qaeda enjoyed sanctuary. We have also neutralized 5 media cells, detained the senior Iraqi leader of Al Qaeda-Iraq, and killed or captured nearly 100 other key leaders and some 2,500 rank-and-file fighters. Al Qaeda is certainly not defeated; however, it is off balance and we are pursuing its leaders and operators aggressively. Of note, as the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq explained, these gains against Al Qaeda are a result of the synergy of actions by: conventional forces to deny the terrorists sanctuary; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to find the enemy; and special operations elements to conduct targeted raids. A combination of these assets is necessary to prevent the creation of a terrorist safe haven in Iraq.

In the past six months we have also targeted Shia militia extremists, capturing a number of senior leaders and fighters, as well as the deputy commander of Lebanese Hezbollah Department 2800, the organization created to support the training, arming, funding, and, in some cases, direction of the militia extremists by the Iranian Republican Guard Corps' Qods Force. These elements have assassinated and kidnapped Iraqi governmental leaders, killed and wounded our soldiers with advanced explosive devices provided by Iran, and indiscriminately rocketed civilians in the International Zone and elsewhere. It is increasingly apparent to both Coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Qods Force, seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.

The most significant development in the past six months likely has been the increasing emergence of tribes and local citizens rejecting Al Qaeda and other extremists. This has, of course, been most visible in Anbar Province. A year ago the province was assessed as "lost" politically. Today, it is a model of what happens when local leaders and citizens decide to oppose Al Qaeda and reject its Taliban-like ideology. While Anbar is unique and the model it provides cannot be replicated everywhere in Iraq, it does demonstrate the dramatic change in security that is possible with the support and participation of local citizens. As this chart shows, other tribes have been inspired by the actions of those in Anbar and have volunteered to fight extremists as well. We have, in coordination with the Iraqi government's National Reconciliation Committee, been engaging these tribes and groups of local citizens who want to oppose extremists and to contribute to local security. Some 20,000 such individuals are already being hired for the Iraqi Police, thousands of others are being assimilated into the Iraqi Army, and thousands more are vying for a spot in Iraq's Security Forces.

Iraqi Security Forces

As I noted earlier, Iraqi Security Forces have continued to grow, to develop their capabilities, and to shoulder more of the burden of providing security for their country. Despite concerns about sectarian influence, inadequate logistics and supporting institutions, and an insufficient number of qualified commissioned and non-commissioned officers, Iraqi units are engaged around the country.

As this chart shows, there are now nearly 140 Iraqi Army, National Police, and Special Operations Forces Battalions in the fight, with about 95 of those capable of taking the lead in operations, albeit with some coalition support. Beyond that, all of Iraq's battalions have been heavily involved in combat operations that often result in the loss of leaders, soldiers, and equipment. These losses are among the shortcomings identified by operational readiness assessments, but we should not take from these assessments the impression that Iraqi forces are not in the fight and contributing. Indeed, despite their shortages, many Iraqi units across Iraq now operate with minimal coalition assistance.

As counterinsurgency operations require substantial numbers of boots on the ground, we are helping the Iraqis expand the size of their security forces. Currently, there are some 445,000 individuals on the payrolls of Iraq's Interior and Defense Ministries. Based on recent decisions by Prime Minister Maliki, the number of Iraq's security forces will grow further by the end of this year, possibly by as much as 40,000. Given the security challenges Iraq faces, we support this decision, and we will work with the two security ministries as they continue their efforts to expand their basic training capacity, leader development programs, logistical structures and elements, and various other institutional capabilities to support the substantial growth in Iraqi forces.

Significantly, in 2007, Iraq will, as in 2006, spend more on its security forces than it will receive in security assistance from the United States. In fact, Iraq is becoming one of the United States' larger foreign military sales customers, committing some $1.6 billion to FMS already, with the possibility of up to $1.8 billion more being committed before the end of this year. And I appreciate the attention that some members of Congress have recently given to speeding up the FMS process for Iraq.

To summarize, the security situation in Iraq is improving, and Iraqis elements are slowly taking on more of the responsibility for protecting their citizens. Innumerable challenges lie ahead; however, Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces have made progress toward achieving sustainable security. As a result, the United States will be in a position to reduce its forces in Iraq in the months ahead.


Two weeks ago I provided recommendations for the way ahead in Iraq to the members of my chain of command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The essence of the approach I recommended is captured in its title: "Security While Transitioning: From Leading to Partnering to Overwatch." This approach seeks to build on the security improvements our troopers and our Iraqi counterparts have fought so hard to achieve in recent months. It reflects recognition of the importance of securing the population and the imperative of transitioning responsibilities to Iraqi institutions and Iraqi forces as quickly as possible, but without rushing to failure. It includes substantial support for the continuing development of Iraqi Security Forces. It also stresses the need to continue the counterinsurgency strategy that we have been employing, but with Iraqis gradually shouldering more of the load. And it highlights the importance of regional and global diplomatic approaches. Finally, in recognition of the fact that this war is not only being fought on the ground in Iraq but also in cyberspace, it also notes the need to contest the enemy's growing use of that important medium to spread extremism.

The recommendations I provided were informed by operational and strategic considerations. The operational considerations include recognition that:

• military aspects of the surge have achieved progress and generated momentum;
• Iraqi Security Forces have continued to grow and have slowly been shouldering more of the security burden in Iraq;

• a mission focus on either population security or transition alone will not be adequate to achieve our objectives;

• success against Al Qaeda-Iraq and Iranian-supported militia extremists requires conventional forces as well as special operations forces; and

• the security and local political situations will enable us to draw down the surge forces.

My recommendations also took into account a number of strategic considerations:

• political progress will take place only if sufficient security exists;
• long-term US ground force viability will benefit from force reductions as the surge runs its course;

• regional, global, and cyberspace initiatives are critical to success; and

• Iraqi leaders understandably want to assume greater sovereignty in their country, although, as they recently announced, they do desire continued presence of coalition forces in Iraq in 2008 under a new UN Security Council Resolution and, following that, they want to negotiate a long term security agreement with the United States and other nations.

Based on these considerations, and having worked the battlefield geometry with Lieutenant General Ray Odierno to ensure that we retain and build on the gains for which our troopers have fought, I have recommended a drawdown of the surge forces from Iraq. In fact, later this month, the Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed as part of the surge will depart Iraq. Beyond that, if my recommendations are approved, that unit's departure will be followed by the withdrawal of a brigade combat team without replacement in mid-December and the further redeployment without replacement of four other brigade combat teams and the two surge Marine battalions in the first 7 months of 2008, until we reach the pre-surge level of 15 brigade combat teams by mid-July 2008.

I would also like to discuss the period beyond next summer. Force reductions will continue beyond the pre-surge levels of brigade combat teams that we will reach by mid-July 2008; however, in my professional judgment, it would be premature to make recommendations on the pace of such reductions at this time. In fact, our experience in Iraq has repeatedly shown that projecting too far into the future is not just difficult, it can be misleading and even hazardous. The events of the past six months underscore that point. When I testified in January, for example, no one would have dared to forecast that Anbar Province would have been transformed the way it has in the past 6 months. Nor would anyone have predicted that volunteers in one-time Al Qaeda strongholds like Ghazaliyah in western Baghdad or in Adamiya in eastern Baghdad would seek to join the fight against Al Qaeda. Nor would we have anticipated that a Shia-led government would accept significant numbers of Sunni volunteers into the ranks of the local police force in Abu Ghraib. Beyond that, on a less encouraging note, none of us earlier this year appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq's leaders all now have greater concern.

In view of this, I do not believe it is reasonable to have an adequate appreciation for the pace of further reductions and mission adjustments beyond the summer of 2008 until about mid-March of next year. We will, no later than that time, consider factors similar to those on which I based the current recommendations, having by then, of course, a better feel for the security situation, the improvements in the capabilities of our Iraqi counterparts, and the enemy situation. I will then, as I did in developing the recommendations I have explained here today, also take into consideration the demands on our Nation's ground forces, although I believe that that consideration should once again inform, not drive, the recommendations I make.

This chart captures the recommendations I have described, showing the recommended reduction of brigade combat teams as the surge runs its course and illustrating the concept of our units adjusting their missions and transitioning responsibilities to Iraqis, as the situation and Iraqi capabilities permit. It also reflects the no-later-than date for recommendations on force adjustments beyond next summer and provides a possible approach we have considered for the future force structure and mission set in Iraq.

One may argue that the best way to speed the process in Iraq is to change the MNF-I mission from one that emphasizes population security, counter-terrorism, and transition, to one that is strictly focused on transition and counter-terrorism. Making that change now would, in our view, be premature. We have learned before that there is a real danger in handing over tasks to the Iraqi Security Forces before their capacity and local conditions warrant. In fact, the drafters of the recently released National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq recognized this danger when they wrote, and I quote, "We assess that changing the mission of Coalition forces from a primarily counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent AQI from establishing a safe haven would erode security gains achieved thus far."

In describing the recommendations I have made, I should note again that, like Ambassador Crocker, I believe Iraq's problems will require a long-term effort. There are no easy answers or quick solutions. And though we both believe this effort can succeed, it will take time. Our assessments underscore, in fact, the importance of recognizing that a premature drawdown of our forces would likely have devastating consequences.

That assessment is supported by the findings of a 16 August Defense Intelligence Agency report on the implications of a rapid withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Summarizing it in an unclassified fashion, it concludes that a rapid withdrawal would result in the further release of the strong centrifugal forces in Iraq and produce a number of dangerous results, including a high risk of disintegration of the Iraqi Security Forces; rapid deterioration of local security initiatives; Al Qaeda-Iraq regaining lost ground and freedom of maneuver; a marked increase in violence and further ethno-sectarian displacement and refugee flows; alliances of convenience by Iraqi groups with internal and external forces to gain advantages over their rivals; and exacerbation of already challenging regional dynamics, especially with respect to Iran.

Lieutenant General Odierno and I share this assessment and believe that the best way to secure our national interests and avoid an unfavorable outcome in Iraq is to continue to focus our operations on securing the Iraqi people while targeting terrorist groups and militia extremists and, as quickly as conditions are met, transitioning security tasks to Iraqi elements.

Closing Comments

Before closing, I want to thank you and your colleagues for your support of our men and women in uniform in Iraq. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen with whom I'm honored to serve are the best equipped and, very likely, the most professional force in our nation's history. Impressively, despite all that has been asked of them in recent years, they continue to raise their right hands and volunteer to stay in uniform. With three weeks to go in this fiscal year, in fact, the Army elements in Iraq, for example, have achieved well over 130% of the reenlistment goals in the initial term and careerist categories and nearly 115% in the mid-career category. All of us appreciate what you have done to ensure that these great troopers have had what they've needed to accomplish their mission, just as we appreciate what you have done to take care of their families, as they, too, have made significant sacrifices in recent years.

The advances you have underwritten in weapons systems and individual equipment; in munitions; in command, control, and communications systems; in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; in vehicles and counter-IED systems and programs; and in manned and unmanned aircraft have proven invaluable in Iraq. The capabilities that you have funded most recently - especially the vehicles that will provide greater protection against improvised explosive devices - are also of enormous importance. Additionally, your funding of the Commander's Emergency Response Program has given our leaders a critical tool with which to prosecute the counterinsurgency campaign. Finally, we appreciate as well your funding of our new detention programs and rule of law initiatives in Iraq.

In closing, it remains an enormous privilege to soldier again in Iraq with America's new "Greatest Generation." Our country's men and women in uniform have done a magnificent job in the most complex and challenging environment imaginable. All Americans should be very proud of their sons and daughters serving in Iraq today.

Thank you very much.

Ann Coulter Slams Democrats on War

Sunday, September 9, 2007

John Edwards - A New Strategy Against Terrorism

CIA agent says we're letting Bin Laden win


Sunday, September 9th 2007, 4:00 AM

On the sixth 9/11 anniversary, Americans can see that Osama Bin Laden has taught them a valuable lesson about the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the U.S.bipartisan governing elite. In 1989, Bin Laden famously told the mujahedeen that beating the U.S. would be easier than defeating the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan because Americans are soft, impatient, risk averse and afraid to offend their effete European role models by fully using U.S. military power.

Osama was wrong about our military's courage — it is fighting superbly against long odds — but dead right regarding our elected and high-ranking appointed officials, Republicans and Democrats alike.

The moral cowards governing us today have handed Afghanistan to Bin Laden. Instead of sending a half-million troops to that country, sealing its border with Pakistan, annihilating anyone who fought us, and then coming home, President Bush listened to then-CIA director George Tenet's promise that bribery and a few CIA and U.S.Special Forces officers would win the war. Tenet's recipe let about 60,000 Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters go home with their guns and missed Bin Laden at Tora Bora.

And as for those now aspiring to the presidency, I don't hear a single voice — Democrat or Republican — claiming we should have wielded far more force there.

As a result of this cowardice, today we are fighting a more numerous and better trained and armed foe. Meanwhile, Bin Laden and his boys sit unmolested on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, planning more attacks in America because our bipartisan elite long ago delegated America's protection to a beleaguered Third World dictator.

On balance, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are more threatening today than on 9/11. As the July National Intelligence Estimate reported, the core of Al Qaeda is rebuilt, aiding Iraqi and Afghan insurgents, and preparing attacks in the United States. Worse, the proliferation of Al Qaeda-inspired, homegrown groups in the West is accelerating, as we saw last week in Germany and Denmark.

Bin Laden is doing well militarily: He commands a potent organization, and is instigating a new worldwide threat that is nearly impossible to detect, let alone preempt. The lies of U.S. political leaders do not help us face down our foe. They say Bin Laden, et. al are primarily motivated by their hatred of America's freedoms. Not so. The impact of our policy is the Islamists' core motivation and a glue of unity for that ethnically and linguistically diverse crowd.

The second oft-heard lie is that America is safer than on 9/11. But our governing elite has knowingly failed to accomplish its two most vital post-9/11 tasks: controlling U.S. borders and fully securing the former Soviet Union's nuclear weapons.

Because of this criminal neglect, no level of American law enforcement has a fighting chance to stop the next attack, unless an obviously deranged guy, wearing a Bin Laden T-shirt and carrying a clearly labeled Soviet nuke, comes through an official entry point.

So on this 9/11, we must accept this sad and infuriating reality: Bin Laden is winning. He has defied us, attacked us, eluded us and inspired new threats we cannot begin to enumerate.

To be victorious in this long war, we must get smarter and more ruthless. That means reducing U.S. intervention in the Muslim world, keeping policies essential to U.S. security and unloading those that undermine it — like energy dependence on the Saudi and other Gulf regimes. This will start to deflect Islamist and Muslim ire onto their main enemy, the Arab world's Islamofascist rulers.

Second, we must ignore international opinion and apply overwhelming military force on Islamists and their abettors whenever necessary to defend America. This will cost Bin Laden much of the popular support generated by some current U.S. policies.

As this support erodes, the Islamists can be destroyed by men and women descended from those who delivered catastrophe to America's German and Japanese enemies.

Scheuer served in the CIA for 22 years, and was chief of the Bin Laden unit at the agency's counterterrorist center from 1996 to 1999. He is the author of "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror."

6 Years Later - Are We Safer?

Are we safer today?
Six Years After 9/11 and Three Years After the 9/11 Report, Is the U.S. Ready to Get Serious About Terrorism?
Sunday, September 9, 2007; Page B01

Are we safer today?

Two years ago, we and our colleagues issued a report card assessing the U.S. government's progress on the bipartisan recommendations in the 9/11 commission report. We concluded that the nation was not safe enough. Our judgment remains the same today: We still lack a sense of urgency in the face of grave danger.

The U.S. homeland confronts a "persistent and evolving terrorist threat," especially from al-Qaeda, according to a National Intelligence Estimate issued in July. Six years after the attacks, following a series of ambitious reforms carried out by dedicated officials, how is it possible that the threat remains so dire?

The answer stems from a mixed record of reform, a lack of focus and a resilient foe. Progress at home -- in our ability to detect, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks -- has been difficult, incomplete and slow, but

it has been real. Outside our borders, however, the threat of failure looms. We face a rising tide of radicalization and rage in the Muslim world -- a trend to which our own actions have contributed. The enduring threat is not Osama bin Laden but young Muslims with no jobs and no hope, who are angry with their own governments and increasingly see the United States as an enemy of Islam.

Four years ago, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld famously asked his advisers: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

The answer is no.

U.S. foreign policy has not stemmed the rising tide of extremism in the Muslim world. In July 2004, the 9/11 commission recommended putting foreign policy at the center of our counterterrorism efforts. Instead, we have lost ground.

Our report warned that it was imperative to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries. But inside Pakistan, al-Qaeda "has protected or regenerated key elements of its homeland attack capability," according to the National Intelligence Estimate. The chief threat to Afghanistan's young democracy comes from across the Pakistani border, from the resurgent Taliban. Pakistan should take the lead in closing Taliban camps and rooting out al-Qaeda. But the United States must act if Pakistan will not.

We are also failing in the struggle of ideas. We have not been persuasive in enlisting the energy and sympathy of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims against the extremist threat. That is not because of who we are: Polling data consistently show strong support in the Muslim world for American values, including our political system and respect for human rights, liberty and equality. Rather, U.S. policy choices have undermined support.

No word is more poisonous to the reputation of the United States than Guantanamo. Fundamental justice requires a fair legal process before the U.S. government detains people for significant periods of time, and the president and Congress have not provided one. Guantanamo Bay should be closed now. The 9/11 commission recommended developing a "coalition approach" for the detention and treatment of terrorists -- a policy that would be legally sustainable, internationally viable and far better for U.S. credibility.

Moreover, no question inflames public opinion in the Muslim world more than the Arab-Israeli dispute. To empower Muslim moderates, we must take away the extremists' most potent grievance: the charge that the United States does not care about the Palestinians. A vigorous diplomatic effort, with the visible, active support of the president, would bolster America's prestige and influence -- and offer the best prospect for Israel's long-term security.
And finally, no conflict drains more time, attention, blood, treasure and support from our worldwide counterterrorism efforts than the war in Iraq. It has become a powerful recruiting and training tool for al-Qaeda.

Beyond all our problems in the Muslim world, we must not neglect the most dangerous threat of all. The 9/11 commission urged a "maximum effort" to prevent the nightmare scenario: a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists. The recent National Intelligence Estimate says that al-Qaeda will continue to try to acquire weapons of mass destruction and that it would not hesitate to use them. But our response to the threat of nuclear terrorism has been lip service and little action. The fiscal 2008 budget request for programs to control nuclear warheads, materials and expertise is a 15 percent real cut from the levels two years ago. We are in dire need of leadership, resources and sustained diplomacy to secure the world's loose nuclear materials. President Bush needs to knock heads and force action.

Military power is essential to our security, but if the only tool is a hammer, pretty soon every problem looks like a nail. We must use all the tools of U.S. power -- including foreign aid, educational assistance and vigorous public diplomacy that emphasizes scholarship, libraries and exchange programs -- to shape a Middle East and a Muslim world that are less hostile to our interests and values. America's long-term security relies on being viewed not as a threat but as a source of opportunity and hope.

At home, the situation is less dire, but progress has been limited.

Some badly needed structures have been built. In 2004, Congress created a director of national intelligence to unify the efforts of the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community. The new DNI, Mike McConnell, must now take charge and become the dynamic, bold leader the commission envisioned, rather than just another bureaucratic layer. He has recognized the importance of sharing intelligence, of moving from a culture based on the "need to know" to one based on the need to share, as we recommended in our report. But he is still struggling to gain control of budgets and personnel. No DNI will be able to make reform last without significant time in the job and strong support from the president.

Congress also created the National Counterterrorism Center, where CIA analysts, FBI agents and other experts from across the government sit side by side and share intelligence continuously. This is a clear improvement over the pre-9/11 way of doing business, but those inside the center still face restrictions on what they can share with their home agency -- a disturbing echo of failed practices. State and local officials also complain that they are not getting the information they need.

In 2004, George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, testified that it would take five years to fix the CIA. Three years later, we have seen signs of progress, but it is not fixed yet. Flush with resources, the CIA is investing heavily in training intelligence analysts and improving its ability to collect information on terrorist targets, particularly by agents on the ground. Disappointingly, despite recruitment drives, only 8 percent of the CIA's new hires have the ethnic backgrounds and language skills most needed for counterterrorism.

A wider problem is that, because of intelligence failures (notably involving Iraq and 9/11) and controversial policies (notably about abuse and interrogation), the public lacks confidence in the CIA. That is not good for the agency or the country. We recognize that intelligence agencies must keep many secrets, but more candor and openness are the only ways to win sustained public support for the reforms we still need.

The FBI, the agency responsible for domestic intelligence, also has much more to do. The number of bureau intelligence analysts has more than doubled since 9/11 (to about 2,100), but they are still second-class citizens in the FBI's law-enforcement culture. Modern 21st-century information systems are not yet in place, and top positions are turning over too often. Six years after 9/11, the FBI's essential unit on weapons of mass destruction is just beginning its work.

When it comes to transportation security -- the failure so basic to 9/11 -- we have seen some successes. For example, the Terrorist Screening Center has a football-field-size room filled with a giant electronic board and dozens of experts who track the flight manifests of 2,500 international flights arriving in the United States each day. But the prescreening of passengers is still left to the airlines, which lack access to complete watch lists of suspected terrorists. Congress mandated national standards for secure driver's licenses but has not given states the money to make it happen. Moreover, technological improvement has been far too slow. A pilot program of high-tech explosive-detecting "puffer devices" at airports is of doubtful effectiveness and has been delayed indefinitely. Advanced baggage-screening systems will not be in place until 2024. That timeline may work for our grandchildren, but it won't work for us.

Nor will the pace of efforts to prepare the country to respond to future attacks. Congress passed a better formula for distributing federal homeland-security grants to the states on the basis of risk and vulnerability, rather than pork and politics. But the new law still allows the broadcast industry until February 2009 to hand over the prime slice of the broadcast spectrum that police and firefighters need to beam radio messages through concrete and steel. Disaster could well strike before then.

We also lack a legal framework for fighting terrorism without sacrificing civil liberties. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board created in response to our recommendations has been missing in action. The board has raised no objections to wiretaps without warrants and to troubling detention and interrogation practices. It even let the White House edit its annual report. Now strengthened by a new law, the board must become a firm public voice in support of civil liberties.

Finally, there's the question of Congress. Three years ago, we said that strengthening congressional oversight of counterterrorism was among the most difficult and important of our recommendations. Congressional oversight of homeland security and intelligence must be robust and effective. It is not. Three years ago, the 9/11 commission noted that the Department of Homeland Security reported to 88 congressional committees and subcommittees -- a major drain on senior management and a source of contradictory guidance. After halfhearted reforms followed by steps backward, that number is now 86.

Those are just the main items on our list of concerns. Six years later, we are safer in a narrow sense: We have not been attacked, and our defenses are better. But we have become distracted and complacent. We call on the presidential candidates to spell out how they would organize their administrations and act urgently to address the threat. And we call on ordinary citizens to demand more leadership from our elected representatives. The terrible losses our country suffered on 9/11 should have catalyzed efforts to create an America that is safer, stronger and wiser. We still have a long way to go.

Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton are the former chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 commission.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fred Thompson Presidential Announcement on Tonight Show

Rudy On His Commitment To End Illegal Immigration

Paul vs. Huckabee on the surge.

How to Change Iraq

How To Change Iraq
Bush Should Start By Admitting Fault

By Madeleine K. Albright
Thursday, September 6, 2007; Page A21

The threshold question in any war is: What are we fighting for? Our troops, especially, deserve a convincing answer.

In Iraq, the list of missions that were tried on but didn't fit includes: protection from weapons of mass destruction, creating a model democracy in the Arab world, punishing those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and stopping terrorists from catching the next plane to New York. The latest mission, linked to the "surge" of troops this year, was to give Iraqi leaders the security and maneuvering room needed to make stabilizing political arrangements -- which they have thus far shown little interest in doing.

A cynic might suggest that the military's real mission is to enable President Bush to continue denying that his invasion has evolved into disaster. A less jaded view might identify three goals: to prevent Iraq from becoming a haven for al-Qaeda, a client state of Iran or a spark that inflames regionwide war. These goals respond not to dangers that prompted the invasion but to those that resulted from it. Our troops are being asked to risk their lives to solve problems our civilian leaders created. The president is beseeching us to fear failure, but he has yet to explain how our military can succeed given Iraq's tangled politics and his administration's lack of credibility.

This disconnect between mission and capabilities should be at the center of debate as Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker report on the war's status and congressional leaders prepare their fall strategies. Despite the hopes of many, this debate is unlikely to end the war soon; nor will it produce fresh support for our present dismal course. Although U.S. troop levels will surely start to come down, big decisions about whether and under what circumstances to complete the withdrawal seem certain to remain for the next president, when he or she takes office. Yet this should not preclude Democrats and Republicans from trying to agree on ways to minimize the damage before then.

According to the National Intelligence Estimate released last month, the recent modest but extremely hard-won military gains will mean little "unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments."

Given the depth of the sectarian divisions within Iraq, such a fundamental shift will not occur through Iraqi actions alone. Given America's lack of leverage, it will not result from our patrols, benchmarks, speeches or "surprise" presidential visits to Anbar province. That leaves coordinated international assistance as the only option.

The Balkans are at peace today through the joint efforts of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations -- all of which worked to help moderate leaders inside the region. A similar strategy should have been part of our Iraq policy from the outset but has never been seriously attempted.

Is such an initiative still viable? Perhaps. The United Nations has pledged to become more involved. Europe's new leaders -- led by Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown -- understand their region's stake in Iraq's future and seem willing to assist. The Saudi, Jordanian and Syrian governments all view Iraqi instability as a profound security threat. Turkish and Kurdish representatives recently signed an agreement to cooperate along their troubled border. Iran is the wildest of cards, but it would be unlikely to isolate itself from a broad international program aimed at reconciliation. If it does, it would only hand a political victory to us and to the many Iraqi leaders, Shiite and Sunni alike, who would prefer to minimize Iranian influence.

President Bush could do his part by admitting what the world knows -- that many prewar criticisms of the invasion were on target. Such an admission would be just the shock a serious diplomatic project would need. It would make it easier for European and Arab leaders to help, as their constituents are reluctant to bail out a president who still insists that he was right and they were wrong. Our troops face death every day; the least the president can do is face the truth.

A coordinated international effort could help Iraq by patrolling borders, aiding reconstruction, further training its army and police, and strengthening legislative and judicial institutions. It could also send a unified message to Iraq's sectarian leaders that a political power-sharing arrangement that recognizes majority rule and protects minority rights is the only solution and is also attainable.

If there is a chance to avoid deeper disaster in Iraq, it depends on a psychological transformation so people begin preparing to compete for power peacefully instead of plotting how to survive amid anarchy. The international community cannot ensure such a shift, but we can and should do more to encourage it.

The writer was secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. She is principal of theAlbright Group LLC.