Sunday, August 28, 2005

To The People of New Orleans

I hope and pray you will make it through this terrible night. As this "perfect storm" heads toward you I can not help but remember all the great times I have had in your wonderful city over the years. Once, on a road trip to Texas, we took a little detour to your city just so I can show my two friends the city. We did not know untill we drove into the city that it was Mardi Gras. What followed was a wonderful experience that I will take with me for all time.

I wish you all the luck in the world to get through this!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Winning the Islamic Battle of Hearts and Minds...Why We Lose

This battle is the most important one in my opinion, and its more important then the Iraq conflict or the war against Bin Laden and his allies. This is a battle that I feel we are losing, and losing big.

The day will come when we will be out of Iraq but what happens then? I have had a continuing dialog with some Islamic friends in the gulf states of Oman and U.A.E. and it has become clear that going forward we are going to have an almost impossible task of convincing these people that we are not the enemy if we do not change the way we speak to them.

First off they have told me to not confuse the issue of democracy with friendship. Sure they want more freedom overall but they do not these days want to use those freedoms to get closer to the West. They do not trust our motives one bit and see the spread of our culture as a cancer. Any money donated to homegrown causes in those states that comes from western sources comes under attack right away. If we are going to promote democracy abroad (we should) we should not be promoting the western concept of a secular democracy. I am not saying that they will never get to what we define as democracy but this process has to be a natural evolution and not forced or pressured upon them by the West.

Next its clear that the culture gap is significant. We do not even know how to talk to these people in a language they understand. We have done a terrible job explaining the "war on terror" and how its not a war on Islam. The majority of the populations of the Arab countries think in those terms. They do not trust the exremists because they know the extemists want to impose their views upon them, but they also do not trust us and this makes it very hard to aid them.

All the people I have spoken to from that region are not terribly surprised over Sept 11. The reaction is always "Its too bad, BUT....." The BUT includes all the complaints they have against the West going back decades. The exploitation of their resources, the support for Israel that never waivers, the support for corrupt dictatorships, and the spread of a western culture that they view as oppressive.

If our political leaders do not learn the history of the region, gain an understanding of Islam, and an understanding of the culture of these people how can they expect to talk to them? It seems all the actions we take these days only HELPS to spread the extremist message and thats sad.

This has been a subject that has bothered me since 9/11 and watching our media you get the idea that everything is black and white, when in fact there are large shades of grey. The questions I never seem to see asked in our media: "Does the Islamic world have legitimate gripes against the west?" and "Is whats happening today partly a result of the legacy of our policies toward the Islamic world going back decades?" An ever bigger Taboo question is how our friendship with Israel possibly hurts us in the Islamic World. For a variety of reasons any action Israel takes against the Palestinians, the Islamic world sees us as complicit in those actions. These questions and more seem to be Taboo and until we really start asking them we are going to get nowhere.

The Bush administration is the worst possible type of leadership for these times. Everything is black and white, western cowboy style. No room for discussion, no room for compromise, no room for admitting mistakes and no room for anything but victory, military style. Until they stop looking at this as a military problem and not a political and cultural problem we are not going to get anywhere!All this has troubled me for a long while and what triggered this is that I learned from a friend in Oman yesterday that Fox News wants to open there to spread their "message" and I saw that as bad news as its not the "message" we need to be spreading....

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sadness for Robert Novak

Sounds strange huh? A left leaning blogger expressing sadness for a conservative icon? Well yes and let me explain

Before I went to law school I met Novak in New York City where I was attending a conference on the law and politics. At the time I did not really know if I would go to law school. Novak was on the panel and afterwards he spoke to a few of us about Iran-Contra. After the others left it was just us and we proceeded to go to a bar not far from his Hotel and have a drink. Well we wound up having several and he explained to me the ins and outs of journalism and politics. I sat there wide eyed the whole time listening to this fountain of knowledge talk to me about elections he covered dating back to the Truman years.

He told me to Go to law school and to make a difference no matter what my politics left or right. He told me its not being on the left or the right that's important, those are just silly labels. Being involved is what counts, getting involved and staying involved matters most.

His words stayed with me long after we parted ways and on my law school graduation years later he sent me a nice gift with some kind words.

Novak is a genuine person and I hate more then anything to see such a long and storied career tarnished by one long, hot summer. It pains me to think he may be remembered for walking off the set and for the scandal that caused him to lose his cool.

I just hope that his image does not suffer too much this affair and I wish him well