- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 25, 2005

Politics trumps Iraq achievement

With regards to Sen. Carl Levin’s statement in Monday’s “History lessons” (Editorial): Several years ago, I wrote to Mr. Levin, and, as a reminder, included an autograph of Arthur Vandenberg with the comment that with the partisanship being displayed in the United States Senate today having reached an historical and disturbing level, I regretted that the former Michigan senator was not around today. Mr. Levin responded that “Vandenberg has been a real role model, and like you, I wish he were around today to help create a level of bipartisanship.”

I am reminded of this concern each time I watch Mr. Levin head for the television cameras, with Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Durbin, and condemn the Bush administration for its conduct of the war and national security. Rather than concurring with President Bush that the Iraqi constitution is an historical event, the senators chastised Mr. Bush for not presenting a clear path forward in Iraq. Apparently Mr. Levin is oblivious to the difficulties that our nation experienced before adopting its Constitution. A draft document emerged in 1787, but only after intense debate and six years of experience with an earlier federal union.

HOUSTON SMITH

LaQuinta, Calif.

Wiretaps: Essential for national security

The Democrats, and, from time to time, the Republicans, should not be so hasty to accuse an administration of nefarious deeds without first doing a Lexis-Nexis search to see if perhaps the incident(s) in question are a first or just deja vu (“‘Warrantless’ searches not unprecedented,” Page 1, Thursday).

The cries here in the land on the subject of National Security Agency spying by the Bush White House are beginning to sound silly now that news is coming out of the prior uses of signal intelligence over the last few decades. One only needs to type in the word “Echelon” into Google and spend a few hours reading about the extensive and popular use of secret government spying in administrations back to President Johnson in the mid-1960s.

“60 Minutes” did a show on NSA’s astounding Eschelon project several years ago that told of what the United States was able to do in collecting and analyzing electronic communications. While estimates may differ as to the extent of its capabilities, there seems little debate that presidents have authorized surveillance of not just persons, but also foreign companies, to gain commercial advantage for domestic firms. And all without court order. You could ask Bill Clinton.

This administration is hardly the first to listen in on a phone call without a judge’s OK, but it is the first to do so in trying to stop another September 11. Seems worth it.

JACK WEBB

Springfield

Kudos to President Bush for demanding renewal of the Patriot Act while defending his authorization of warrantless NSA wiretaps under certain limited conditions (“Bush calls leak ‘shameful,’” Page 1, Tuesday).

As America’s constitutionally empowered commander in chief, he cannot responsibly risk our national security by indulging the political opposition — a clumsy coalition of civil-liberties ideologues, far-left fanatics, embittered Democrat partisans, frustrated liberal/internationalist Republicans,”mainstream media” types and assorted inside-the-Beltway bureaucrats and academic policy wonks — in their attempts to resurrect the politics-as-usual world of Sept. 10.

This is not to suggest that in the post-September 11 “new normal,” internal threats to traditional American civil liberties and the rule of law do not exist. Rather, it is to argue that our civil liberties are far more broadly and immediately menaced by the Kelo v. New London trampling of private property rights and McCain-Feingold “campaign finance reform” muzzling of political speech than by a few dozen wiretaps of suspected terrorists in wartime.

As for preserving the rule of law, we need a prosecutor to investigate leaks of genuine national secrets like NSA electronic surveillance and CIA interrogation of terrorists instead of ballyhooed noncrimes like the nonouting of the noncovert Valerie Plame.

TOM MANGIERI

Long Valley, N.J.

Is there no depth of stupidity to which some Democrats will stoop to bring down this president? In a time of war the president has the executive power as the commander in chief to direct the NSA to conduct covert activities necessary to defeat our enemies.

Any suggestion that directing the NSA to intercept domestic communications against suspicious targets is an impeachable offense is beyond the pale. That same head-in-the-sand mentality is the reason the intelligence agencies could not share intelligence with the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies, contributing to our inability to prevent the events of September 11.

There was much criticism by some that we did not connect the dots before September 11, and now there is criticism by those same narrow-minded people when we are taking positive action to connect the dots to help prevent another terrorist attack.

THAD W. POSEY

Warrenton

An Islamist state in Europe

I congratulate Jeffrey T. Kuhner for drawing attention to the risk of Bosnia — with State Department assistance becoming an “Islamist State in Europe” (“Islamist state in Europe?” Commentary, Dec. 18). This worry isn’t limited to Bosnia. Washington is creating similar risks in Kosovo. The State Department’s Balkanists should realize, post-September 11,2001, that both Kosovo and Bosnia must be viewed through the prism of the global war on terror.”

Like Bosnia, Kosovo sits squarely on the fault line that for centuries has marked the frontier between Christianity and Islam. The province’s two million people belong mostly to two main groups: Serbs and Albanians. The Christian Orthodox Serbs, today, number about 120,000. Kosovo’s Albanians are 90 percent Islamic, almost entirely Sunni Muslim.

Kosovo today is desperate. Planning for post-war reconstruction just like Iraq has been shambolic. Uncertainty over Kosovo’s future has scared off investment. The major economic activities appear to be either narcotics or people-smuggling.

So, whither Kosovo? Choices are limited. Governance from Belgrade, once more, hardly reassures: Where is the advantage for Serbs in (again) having to ensure the welfare of an unhappy Islamic Albanian population in Kosovo, which will shortly exceed 2 million? More worryingly, the West seems happy to discuss independence for Kosovo. This risks creating another Sunni Muslim failed state with scant respect for minorities. This time it would be in Europe.

Less ambitious approaches stand more chance of success. A Cyprus-style trial partition or cantonization like Bosnia may at least allow both Kosovo’s Serbian and Albanian moderates to gain the strength to outflank each side’s more rejectionist elements. It may buy 10 years of relative peace before we can discuss issues more calmly.

But notions of engineering a “final status” answer to a problem that is over 600 years old are daft. Independence for Kosovo, certainly, would push Islam’s frontier with Christian Europe far beyond the present-day Muslim settlement boundary. Al Qaeda, among others, would be triumphant with such an imposed settlement.

It is imperative that we achieve progress in Kosovo that is acceptable to enough people on each side. Do nothing or get it wrong and there is every chance that both sides will declare an intifada simultaneously. Into such a void would step those adept at exploiting such tensions: Al Qaeda would watch developments closely. It behooves all of us including the State Department to consider both Bosnia and Kosovo in a way that is in keeping with our post-September 2001 age.

RICHARD GRIFFITHS

London

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