Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Schools, Not Troops

Pretty much everything this guy writes is brilliant! Nicholas D. Kristof's original article is here:

More Schools, Not Troops

Published: October 28, 2009

Dispatching more troops to Afghanistan would be a monumental bet and probably a bad one, most likely a waste of lives and resources that might simply empower the Taliban. In particular, one of the most compelling arguments against more troops rests on this stunning trade-off: For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof
On the Ground
Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.
Go to Blog » Go to Columnist Page »

Readers' Comments

Share your thoughts.
It’s hard to do the calculation precisely, but for the cost of 40,000 troops over a few years — well, we could just about turn every Afghan into a Ph.D.
The hawks respond: It’s naïve to think that you can sprinkle a bit of education on a war-torn society. It’s impossible to build schools now because the Taliban will blow them up.
In fact, it’s still quite possible to operate schools in Afghanistan — particularly when there’s a strong “buy-in” from the local community.
Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” has now built 39 schools in Afghanistan and 92 in Pakistan — and not one has been burned down or closed. The aid organization CARE has 295 schools educating 50,000 girls in Afghanistan, and not a single one has been closed or burned by the Taliban. The Afghan Institute of Learning, another aid group, has 32 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with none closed by the Taliban (although local communities have temporarily suspended three for security reasons).
In short, there is still vast scope for greater investment in education, health and agriculture in Afghanistan. These are extraordinarily cheap and have a better record at stabilizing societies than military solutions, which, in fact, have a pretty dismal record.
In Afghanistan, for example, we have already increased our troop presence by 40,000 troops since the beginning of last year, yet the result has not been the promised stability but only more casualties and a strengthened insurgency. If the last surge of 40,000 troops didn’t help, why will the next one be so different?
Matthew P. Hoh, an American military veteran who was the top civilian officer in Zabul Province, resigned over Afghan policy, as The Washington Post reported this week. Mr. Hoh argues that our military presence is feeding the insurgency, not quelling it.
Already our troops have created a backlash with Kabul University students this week burning President Obama in effigy until police dispersed them with gunshots. The heavier our military footprint, the more resentment — and perhaps the more legitimacy for the Taliban.
Schools are not a quick fix or silver bullet any more than troops are. But we have abundant evidence that they can, over time, transform countries, and in the area near Afghanistan there’s a nice natural experiment in the comparative power of educational versus military tools.
Since 9/11, the United States has spent $15 billion in Pakistan, mostly on military support, and today Pakistan is more unstable than ever. In contrast, Bangladesh, which until 1971 was a part of Pakistan, has focused on education in a way that Pakistan never did. Bangladesh now has more girls in high school than boys. (In contrast, only 3 percent of Pakistani women in the tribal areas are literate.)
Those educated Bangladeshi women joined the labor force, laying the foundation for a garment industry and working in civil society groups like BRAC and Grameen Bank. That led to a virtuous spiral of development, jobs, lower birth rates, education and stability. That’s one reason Al Qaeda is holed up in Pakistan, not in Bangladesh, and it’s a reminder that education can transform societies.
When I travel in Pakistan, I see evidence that one group — Islamic extremists — believes in the transformative power of education. They pay for madrassas that provide free schooling and often free meals for students. They then offer scholarships for the best pupils to study abroad in Wahhabi madrassas before returning to become leaders of their communities. What I don’t see on my trips is similar numbers of American-backed schools. It breaks my heart that we don’t invest in schools as much as medieval, misogynist extremists.
For roughly the same cost as stationing 40,000 troops in Afghanistan for one year, we could educate the great majority of the 75 million children worldwide who, according to Unicef, are not getting even a primary education. We won’t turn them into graduate students, but we can help them achieve literacy. Such a vast global education campaign would reduce poverty, cut birth rates, improve America’s image in the world, promote stability and chip away at extremism.
Education isn’t a panacea, and no policy in Afghanistan is a sure bet. But all in all, the evidence suggests that education can help foster a virtuous cycle that promotes stability and moderation. So instead of sending 40,000 troops more to Afghanistan, how about opening 40,000 schools?
I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Exhibit opens at Dar Al Funoon tomorrow!

After a very long summer and Ramadan holiday break, Dar Al Funoon, one of the best contemporary art galleries in Kuwait, cordially invites you to the opening of Hamzah Bounoua's exhibition on Tuesday the 27th of October 2009 at 7 pm.

Is a cartoon worth 200+ lives?


New Chapter In Flap Over 2005 Muhammad Cartoons

October 26, 2009 from WNPR

When a Danish newspaper published cartoons in 2005 depicting the Prophet Muhammad, it caused riots around the world and some 200 people were killed.

Yale University Press has published a new book about the controversy, called The Cartoons That Shook the World. But the book has sparked a controversy of its own.

About a dozen Yale University students recently protested a visit by Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew the now-iconic image of Muhammad wearing a lit bomb in his turban with the creed of Islam written in Arabic on the wrappings.

Westergaard says the right to free speech includes expressing ideas that people may not want to hear.

"For some people, I am a kind of provocation, but I can live with that," said Westergaard. "I go for the dialogue, but it is not very easy. I have tried to speak with many Muslims, and often the conversation has ended up a curse. You know, 'go to hell and burn up.' And I have asked, 'Perhaps we could talk in hell?'"

Committee Deems Cartoons Inappropriate

Jytte Klausen is a politics professor at Brandeis University. She was in the Middle East at the time of the cartoon controversy, interviewing Muslim leaders for another project. She signed a deal with Yale University Press to write an academic book unraveling the events that led to the violence.

In doing her research, Klausen found out that imams and activists in Denmark exploited the cartoons to incite Muslims around the world. She also learned that the demonstrations which followed were sponsored in part by radical Islamists, and in part by governments, including those of Iran and Syria.

"The Egyptian government and the Turkish government were extremely instrumental in pushing forward the conflict," said Klausen. "They primarily wanted to put on record with the United Nations that Europeans and Westerners discriminate against Muslims and are Islamophobic."

Klausen, who's Danish, spent three years researching the book. The manuscript went through the usual academic peer review process.

Then, just a few weeks before publication, Yale University, which owns the Yale Press, mounted a second review. The university asked some 20 scholars, counterterrorism officials and national security experts to asses the risk of more violence if copies of the cartoons were included in the book.

"It was fairly overwhelming that the people who knew the most about this kind of situation said 'Don't do it,' that this was likely to provoke violence," Yale Press director John Donatich said.

One of the experts giving the book a second review was former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

"I felt that there was a considerable risk that more violence, possibly even resulting in serious injury or death, could occur as a result of the publication of these images," said Negroponte.

The university told Yale Press to eliminate the cartoons from the book, along with all other images of Muhammad. And Klausen was told she'd have to sign a nondisclosure agreement if she wanted to read the experts' comments. She declined to do so. But she says she was even more dismayed to learn that the panel had not read her book.

People don't see this the same way they would see a swastika or they would see the N-word. They see bigotry against Muslims in a separate category as they see bigotry against other races or religions.

"My first reaction was that it was stunningly similar to what happened during the conflict itself," said Klausen. "I disagreed with the experts' advice. I felt that had the experts read my book, they would not have given the advice they produced."

Even so, Klausen decided to publish with Yale Press.

Mixed Opinions

Tarek Masoud, of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, says both sides were grappling with sensitivity to Muslims and Islamic culture. On one hand, Yale didn't want to offend Muslims by reprinting the images.

"But I would also argue that Professor Klausen is coming from a similar place as well, and her belief that you can publish the cartoons without inciting violence," said Masoud. "That Muslims are not really these excitable people who are irrationally given over to violence and anger."

Back on campus, Yale student Fatima Ghani says she's glad Yale Press took the cartoons out of the book. She says they're not an expression of free speech, but of hate speech.

"People don't see this the same way they would see a swastika or they would see the N-word," said Ghani. "They see bigotry against Muslims in a separate category as they see bigotry against other races or religions."

But critics from the American Association of University Professors to the PEN American Center have opposed Yale's decision to publish a scholarly book without including images of the very subject the book covers. Some people charge that the University is concerned with its image in the Middle East and future fundraising prospects.

Klausen says Yale overreacted.

"I cannot recall any similar instance where anticipatory fear of adverse consequences to Yale University private interests or perhaps more general public interests have ever influenced how a book is presented and how a scholarly debate can proceed," said Klausen.

Klausen hopes that a later edition of the book may include the cartoons. In the meantime, she's begun thinking about another project, a look at the impact of national security on the world of academic publishing.

Original article can be found here:

New Chapter In Flap Over 2005 Muhammad Cartoons

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

China's fierce publicity campaign backfires...

Leader of China’s Uighur Minority Builds a Stage Across the Globe

Published: October 20, 2009

BEIJING — In what has become a familiar vocal pas de deux, Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled Uighur leader, stepped off a plane in Tokyo on Tuesday and immediately began accusing the Chinese government of secretly executing members of the Uighur minority and illegally detaining hundreds of others.

Toshifumi Kitamura/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled Uighur leader, made accusations about China to journalists waiting at Narita Airport, near Tokyo.

“I wish the killing would stop,” she said, her braided gray hair topped by a distinctive square hat. Her words, spoken in the Uighur language, were instantly picked up by international news agencies and broadcast by the Japanese media.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry immediately fired back, condemning Japan for granting Ms. Kadeer, 62, a visa for her weeklong visit, much of which will be devoted to giving speeches on what she says is China’s suppression of the country’s Uighurs, who make up the largest ethnic group in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

To China, she is a terrorist and the unseen hand behind rioting in Xinjiang last July between Uighurs and Han Chinese that killed 197 people — most of them Han — and injured 1,600.

“Some forces in Japan have planned for Kadeer to go to Japan to engage in separatist activities aimed at China,” Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said during a regularly scheduled news conference on Tuesday. “The Japanese side has ignored China’s staunch objections and allowed Rebiya to enter, and China expresses its strong dissatisfaction.”

Since the unrest last summer, Ms. Kadeer has become the internationally recognized face of the Uighur people, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority who have long had a contentious relationship with China’s Han majority. Wherever she goes — from Germany to New Zealand — she handily draws attention.

A year ago, however, Ms. Kadeer was hardly noticed and her cause — greater autonomy for China’s Uighurs — largely unknown beyond a small, lonely band of rights advocates. “Until this year, I think a lot of Chinese would have had trouble identifying Rebiya Kadeer,” said Michael Davis, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studies China’s relationship with its national minorities.

Ms. Kadeer has China to thank for her notoriety, which seems to increase each time she leaves Washington, her home since being freed from a Chinese prison in 2005 on the condition she go into exile.

In August, Chinese officials unleashed a fierce publicity campaign against her after the Melbourne International Film Festival invited her to attend a screening of a documentary about her life. Diplomats and Chinese citizens tried, and failed, to persuade festival organizers to rescind their invitation and pull the film. Last week, she barnstormed New Zealand for a few days and then flew to Germany, where she spoke at the Frankfurt Book Fair, infuriating China, which was the guest of honor.

“It is just not right to welcome a country where executions are a daily occurrence and human rights are treated with disrespect,” she said in a speech there.

For the most part, China’s efforts to convince the world that she is a terrorist have failed. To bolster its contentions, the government released transcripts of a phone conversation in which she warned her brother to stay off the streets of Urumqi, the regional capital, on the day of an illegal rally by Uighur students. The demonstration, aimed at drawing attention to the death of two Uighurs 10 days earlier, gave way to the worst rioting in years.

Ms. Kadeer, who leads the World Uighur Congress, has denied any hand in the unrest, saying Chinese security forces provoked the murderous rampage by Uighur mobs and the retaliatory violence by Han in the days that followed.

So far, Chinese courts have handed down 12 death sentences to those convicted of taking part in the riots. She says that others have been quietly executed without trial.

China’s eight million Uighurs have long yearned for a standard-bearer like the Dalai Lama, whose beatific mien is associated with the aspirations of the Tibetan people. Although she does not have his stature, his fluency in English or his aura of holiness, Ms. Kadeer, a wealthy businesswoman before her imprisonment, has mastered public relations and the well-honed sound bite.

“The Chinese government took a grandmother with 11 children and gave her an international image,” said J. Bruce Jacobs, who teaches Asian Studies at Monash University in Australia. “I think their plan totally backfired.”

Here in China, few question the official description of Ms. Kadeer as a terrorist and find the positive attention she garners abroad confounding and hurtful. Su Hao, director of the Center for Strategic and Conflict Management at China Foreign Affairs University, blamed the foreign media, which he said had purposely played down evidence of Ms. Kadeer’s role in organizing the riots. “The West uses figures like Rebiya Kadeer to hold China back,” he said.

Dong Guanpeng, director of the Global Journalism Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing, teaches Chinese officials how to grapple with local crises and says that China has to do a better job getting its message out to foreign audiences. “We’ve already proven domestically that she is the enemy of the Chinese people,” he said from Chongqing, where he was conducting a training session for local officials. “We just have to find a way to make the truth more acceptable to everyone else,” he said.

Original article here:

Leader of China's Uighur Minority Builds a Stage Across the Globe ...

Monday, October 5, 2009

“war on terrorists” vs. “war on terrorism”

Interesting article by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, not the best - I always find he takes too long to get to the point and/or buries it among a lot of other stuff, but I like his distinction between “war on terrorists” vs. “war on terrorism” as well as his statement, "winning requires partnering with Arab and Muslim societies to help them build thriving countries, integrated with the world economy, where young people don’t grow up in a soil poisoned by religious extremists and choked by petro-dictators so they can never realize their aspirations."

Op-Ed Columnist
Still Not Tired


Published: October 3, 2009

He didn’t want to wear earplugs. Apparently, he wanted to enjoy the blast.

That is what The Dallas Morning News reported about Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, the 19-year-old Jordanian accused of trying to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper. He was caught by an F.B.I. sting operation that culminated in his arrest nearly two weeks ago — after Smadi parked a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac, supplied by the F.B.I., in the garage of a Dallas office tower.

“Inside the S.U.V. was a fake bomb, designed to appear similar to one used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing,” The News wrote. “Authorities say Smadi thought he could detonate it with a cellphone. After parking the vehicle, he got into another vehicle with one of the agents, and they drove several blocks away. An agent offered Smadi earplugs, but he declined, ‘indicating that he wanted to hear the blast,’ authorities said. He then dialed the phone, thinking it would trigger the bomb. ... Instead, the agents took him into custody.”

If that doesn’t send a little shiver down your spine, how about this one? reported that “it has emerged that an Al Qaeda bomber who died last month while trying to blow up a Saudi prince in Jeddah had hidden the explosives inside his body.” He reportedly inserted the bomb and detonator in his rectum to elude metal detectors. My God.

Or how about this? Two weeks ago in Denver, the F.B.I. arrested Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan immigrant, and indicted him on charges of planning to set off a bomb made of the same home-brewed explosives used in the 2005 London transit bombings. He allegedly learned how to do so on a training visit to Pakistan. The Times reported that Zazi “had bought some bomb ingredients in beauty supply stores, the authorities said, after viewing instructions on his laptop on how to build such a bomb. When an employee of the Beauty Supply Warehouse asked about the volume of materials he was buying, he remembered Mr. Zazi answering, ‘I have a lot of girlfriends.’ ”

These incidents are worth reflecting on. They tell us some important things. First, we may be tired of this “war on terrorism,” but the bad guys are not. They are getting even more “creative.”

Second, in this war on terrorism, there is no “good war” or “bad war.” There is one war with many fronts, including Europe and our own backyard, requiring many different tactics. It is a war within Islam, between an often too-silent Muslim mainstream and a violent, motivated, often nihilistic jihadist minority. Theirs is a war over how and whether Islam should embrace modernity. It is a war fueled by humiliation — humiliation particularly among young Muslim males who sense that their faith community has fallen behind others, in terms of both economic opportunity and military clout. This humiliation has spawned various jihadists cults, including Al Qaeda, which believe they have the God-given right to kill infidels, their own secular leaders and less pious Muslims to purify Islam and Islamic lands and thereby restore Muslim grandeur.

Third, the newest and maybe most active front in this war is not Afghanistan, but the “virtual Afghanistan” — the loose network of thousands of jihadist Web sites, mosques and prayer groups that recruit, inspire and train young Muslims to kill without any formal orders from Al Qaeda. The young man in Dallas came to F.B.I. attention after espousing war on the U.S. on jihadist Web sites.

Fourth, in the short run, winning this war requires effective police/intelligence action, to kill or capture the jihadists. I call that “the war on terrorists.” In the long run, though, winning requires partnering with Arab and Muslim societies to help them build thriving countries, integrated with the world economy, where young people don’t grow up in a soil poisoned by religious extremists and choked by petro-dictators so they can never realize their aspirations. I call this “the war on terrorism.” It takes a long time.

Our operation in Afghanistan after 9/11 was, for me, only about “the war on terrorists.” It was about getting bin Laden. Iraq was “the war on terrorism” — trying to build a decent, pluralistic, consensual government in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. Despite all we’ve paid, the outcome in Iraq remains uncertain. But it was at least encouraging to see last week’s decision by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to run in the next election with a nonsectarian, multireligious coalition — a rare thing in the Arab world.

So, what President Obama is actually considering in Afghanistan is shifting from a “war on terrorists” there to a “war on terrorism,” including nation-building. I still have serious doubts that we have a real Afghan government partner for that. But if Mr. Obama decides to send more troops, the most important thing is not the number. It is his commitment to see it through. If he seems ambivalent, no one there will stand with us and we’ll have no chance. If he seems committed, maybe — maybe — we’ll find enough allies. Remember, the bad guys are totally committed — and they are not tired.

original article here: Thomas L. Friedman: Still Not Tired