Thursday, March 02, 2006

25 People who are NOT screwing up America

I just Read Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America:and Al Franken is 37 . Both on target and hysterically funny it lists Goldberg's chosen worst American's. Esentially it's an anti-leftist work, although Golberg skewers a few ultra conservative nitwits too. He also invites us to share our own lists. While I agree that all his candidates are boneheads, as a NYer I would have included Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer over let's say Courtney Love and Michael Jackson. Of course it wouldn't have been as funny that way.

But we can turn from negativity. It's hardly exhaustive, but here's my off the cuff list of 25 American's who are giving it all to keep America from being screwed up. I don't necessarily agree with everyone of these people. But they all have three things going for them: Service, Integrity, and Common sense. Even when I disagree with them it's not because they are slaves to hysterical ideology. Anyway here are 25 of my favorite Americans, in no particular order.

1. General Peter Pace
2. Sen. John McCain
3. Chief Justice John Roberts
4. Bill O’Reilly
5. George Will
6. Tony Blankly
7. Christopher Hitchens
8. Matt Drudge
9. Col. H R McMaster
10. Joseph Lieberman
11. NYPD Commisioner Ray Kelly
12. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NY
13. Lt Gen. David Petraeus
14. Vincent Heintz (Manhattan ADA and Army National Guard Officer)
15. Brig. Gen. Daniel Bolger
16. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger
17. John Hawkins
18. Thomas Friedman
19. William Kristol
20. Condoleeza Rice
21. Robert Kaplan
22. Bernard Goldberg
23. Ralph Peters
24. Zalmay Khalilzad
25. Greg Kehoe

As seen on The Mudville Gazette

The Defense of Mario Lozano


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Iraq's Army at Work

Since last week’s destruction of the Askariya shrine in Samarra the doomsayers of the American media have stepped up their predictions of imminent Iraqi civil war. They immediately focused their attention on the spike in sectarian violence that followed the act. Violence and reporting that played into the hands of the terrorists who planted the bomb.

Going back at least to this past summer, America’s liberal punditry, and their media allies have thrown the words “Iraqi civil war” with an almost gleeful sense of hope. Yet in spite of serious stresses on the emerging Iraqi government, and the sectarian strife, even after this bombing, civil war has yet to occur.

There are several factors that have contributed to managing the crisis. The desire of most Iraqi’s to avoid a civil war, the leadership of both Sunni and Shiite clerics who prefer a peaceful settlement, the ongoing attempts by both parties to form a fair and representative government have all helped avert a worst case scenario so far.

But one reason, for that, one that much of the press would prefer to avoid reporting, is the increasing effectiveness of Iraq’s armed forces. While US forces still patrol many cities in Iraq the burden has been shifting to the Iraqis. And they have been in the lead over the last week.

A fair amount of attention has been focused on the number of battalions and where they fall on the 4 level scale of effectiveness. With most battalions in the level 2 and 3 categories, they were still in the forefront on this mission. That’s because while these troops still need some US support in terms of planning and logistics, they can conduct security missions fairly effectively.

In Dujail, the city at the center of Saddam’s trial, the Soldiers of Delta Company of the 203rd Battalion an Iraqi National Guard unit see safeguarding the citizens of their city as their top priority. I recently received an email forwarded by a friend still in touch with the officers of Delta Company. Written last weekend in broken English, Lt. Abbas, describes how his commander went about safeguarding this Shiite enclave in the Sunni heartland.

“it is big problem in our country the fighting between sunni and shia, we dont know what is gonna happen the next few days about dujail, the iraqi army, dalta co .and Captain mohameed hussein make good plan to safe our city we close all the road in city we dont let any people from out side going in to the city we keep talking with people in city about the situation in iraq we try to making it quiet ....”.

I helped train Cpt Hussein and Lt. Abbas in 2004, where as simple jundi or privates, they so stood out during a leadership development course, they were selected to replace the ineffective officers over them. So far they’ve been successful in Dujail. All over Iraq, the Iraqi security forces have been in the lead on this mission. This crisis has been an opportunity for these forces to demonstrate their growing competence.

This isn’t to say that the threat to Iraq is not grave. Or that the Iraqi armed forces are ready to stand on their own. There are still deep ethnic and sectarian divisions in Iraq, that can be exploited. The terrorists behind the Mosque bombing sought to use the divisions to further their own evil ends. Some soldiers and police in Iraq have abandoned their national duty to sectarian loyalty.

But the big story here isn’t that Iraq is once again on the precipice of civil war. The big story here is how in spite of the desperate attempts of a violent minority, it hasn’t happened. Iraq however narrowly is holding together. The government is still negotiating its future. Most clerics are appealing for calm, not for vengeance. And the soldiers of Iraq’s fledgling armed forces have worked hard and in many cities successfully to avert further bloodshed.

Thanks To The Mudville Gazette

The Defense of Mario Lozano


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Listen up Mr. President, I'm on your side!

President Bush has a serious problem. He seems to have lost his way. This is of course a typical second term affliction for US presidents. I hope it’s temporary. In Bush’s case his natural inclinations have served to aggravate the situation. He needs to do something and he needs to do it fast.

Now I’ve been a staunch supporter of Bush since he defeated McCain in the 2000 primaries. I certainly have no beef with the president over being at war with Iraq, over his general strategy for the war on terror, or over wiretapping American phone calls to Karachi. These are issues for his ideological enemies, and obviously that’s not my problem.

Nor am I going to take the president to task from the right for immigration issues, overspending on social programs, etc., although these are serious issues. They are a problem for his “conservative base” to deal with. No I am more worried about a problem Bush is having with his real base. The American people as a whole; who are looking to him for leadership.

Leadership is complicated function of human interaction. Different leaders have different styles. Some styles are more persuasive, some are more imperative. Different styles work better in different circumstances. Great leaders are able to adjust as the situation requires, good ones make the effort.

Bush as a leader seems to tend toward the imperative. Notice I said imperative not imperial. Bush tends to lean on his closest advisers, and then make decisions and charge ahead, without much in the way of broader consultations. This can be a very effective strategy for wartime leadership, and in some ways it as served Bush fairly well.

Among the leadership qualities that support Bush’s style of leadership are loyalty, decisiveness, moral courage and certitude. Bush has these in spades. But there are leadership skills more associated with persuasive leadership that even imperative leaders need: communication skills, the ability to listen, to persuade, empathy and compassion. I’m not saying that the President lacks empathy or compassion, but he and his administration are struggling with the need to be more persuasive in their leadership style.

The evidence is everywhere. The Dubai port deal, shows his deaf ear. Once Bush understood the arguments for allowing an Arab owned company to run port facility functions, he saw no need to prep the Congress or the American public, he announced it as virtual fait accompli, allowing Democratic opposition in congress to make public hay by pandering to fear and prejudice. And he allowed them to enlist Republicans in Congress to help. I understand Bush’s arguments for the deal, and I buy them. What I can’t understand is why he didn’t coordinate a better press campaign before announcing it.

With the country at war for the last four and a half years and with the military and it’s National Guard units operating under enormous strain, Bush allowed the Pentagon to promote a budget plan that would cut seventeen thousand troops from the Guard. This without consulting the nations fifty governors who share supervisory authority over the Guard, and rely on them to respond to natural disasters, terrorism and other home state emergency. I am not protesting Bush’s use of the Guard in the war, nor the long lasting deployment of Guard assets overseas. But I’m distressed that Bush, and his Defense Department have failed to see the importance of sharing decision making with leaders who share responsibility. Again a deaf ear.

The total number of wounded in Iraq so far has been nearly 17,000. More have been wounded in Afghanistan. More will be wounded before withdrawal. Many of these veterans will need long term medical care. Other vets will develop health care issues due to participating in the long war. Some will develop as yet undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depleted uranium and other toxic materials in the Iraqi environment will affect the health of others. These numbers will stream into the hundred thousand range eventually. Yet Bush has issued budget projections indicating a decrease in Veteran’s benefit spending by fiscal 2008. A deaf ear for the warriors fighting this war.

Soldiers: active, reserve, and guard; veterans, and the families of all the above. We have been the Bush administration’s base. We have borne the brunt of this war. We have stood with him for the most part. We have done our duty. We have trusted him, followed his lead. But now, somehow, the president and his team have lost touch with us. In the aftermath of 9/11, the president had the confidence of the American people. The president is the kind of leader to charge ahead, but every once and a while when you lead from the front, you have to look over your shoulder and make sure that you are actually leading. That your followers are following.

The challenges that we are facing: terrorism and the need to reorganize our security apparatus, Iran, budget challenges in this new environment. These all require a national consensus. This requires consultation and explanation. It requires communication. The American people want to be led, but they need to know where, how and even why. Bush needs to shake up his team now,immediately, and he needs to start with his political strategy and communication teams. Because I Am his base. And right now I no longer no where or why he’s heading.

Thanks again to the folks in Mudville