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Think tanks wrap-up

Feb. 28, 2003 at 2:04 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the first of several wrap-ups for Feb. 28.


The Reason Foundation

LOS ANGELES -- Trilogy of error? Unsatisfying media spectacles from Bush, Saddam, and a virtual march.

By Nick Gillespie

In a world with a gargantuan appetite for political theater, no fewer than three separate media events vied for our attention on Wednesday: the anti-war group MoveOn's "Virtual March" on Washington; Dan Rather's televised interview with Saddam Hussein; and President George W. Bush's "major speech" on post-war Iraq.

That all three were ultimately unsatisfying spectacles is perhaps not surprising, but is troubling all the same, especially as each adds to a growing sense that we're stuck in a great, anxious historical pause.

The Virtual March against invading Iraq apparently succeeded in its primary goals of tying up Capitol Hill switchboards and providing workfare for virtual actors such as Mike Farrell. Organizers claim that motivated crank-yankers placed over one million calls to the president, senators, and congressmen. Callers were encouraged to choose any or all of seven eminently defensible "talking points," ranging from "We can disarm Saddam Hussein without invading Iraq" to "What happens after war?" to "Young Americans will die in battle."

MoveOn wisely counseled the antiwar crowd to steer clear of unconvincing tropes such as "no blood for oil" or Amiri Baraka's insistence that somehow Israel is the real enemy here.

Whether MoveOn's act of telephonic terrorism will help or hurt antiwar efforts is anybody's guess. "It's a useful tool for people to express (protesters') views," said a White House flack who admitted that the president's phone rang "a lot" due to the protest. Still, sniffed the spokeswoman, "it's not objective or scientific or a way to measure public sentiments."

One of the Virtual March's organizers, Tom Andrews, told the press that none of pols' offices "expressed annoyance," which may well be a greater sign of defeat than having one of TV's first female cops, Cagney (or is it Lacey?), working the phone tree.

At least this much is clear, based on Wednesday night's 60 Minutes II kid-gloves chat with Saddam Hussein: The "Arab Avenger" is not helping his own cause, unless his goal is committing suicide by U.N. resolution.

Dan Rather certainly seemed dedicated to burying his own Q rating every bit as deep into the ground as Saddam's reputed cache of chemical and biological weapons. The newsman's lengthy follow-up on the details of the absurd Saddam-Bush debate burned valuable time that might have been better spent asking questions about torture, starvation, and repression.

And his bizarre request that Saddam utter some pidgin English for the camera -- "would you speak some English for me? Anything you choose" -- stopped just short of "What's the frequency" weirdness. One needn't invoke the good old days when high-hat hacks such as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite bestrode the Earth to realize something's seriously wrong when Martin Bashir's Q&A with Michael Jackson is harder-hitting and more revelatory than a "serious" journalist's talk with the dictator du jour.

For his part, Saddam's jesuitical lies regarding his obvious non-compliance with United Nations resolutions, his insistence that Iraq evacuated Kuwait as the victors in the Gulf War, and the legitimacy he invested in being chosen "unanimously" to lead Iraq's terrorized population all helped put an inhuman, sociopathic face on a tyrant that even the most ardent anti-war activists don't defend.

Other offhand comments (e.g., "Jealousy is for women ... men are not supposed to be jealous of one another" and his self-described "funny anecdote" about only calling the first President Bush Mr. after he'd left office) merely cemented the image of Saddam as someone whose reality principle vanished a long, long time ago.

The best case for not attacking Iraq -- that, as U.S. intelligence has held all along, Saddam was not involved with Sept. 11 and that he can be contained with force short of an invasion -- is still wholly legitimate. But Saddam's every utterance speaks directly to the hawk in every dove.

More important to most anti-war protesters, who typically invoke the United Nations as the ultimate arbiter on action in Iraq, is this: If even Saddam agrees with the letter and law of the current U.N. resolutions -- "We have committed ourselves to Resolution (sic)"; "No violation has been made by Iraq to anything decided by the United Nations," -- he has legitimated an international strike against his regime, even if the United Nations itself watches from the sidelines.

If Saddam's table talk with Dan Rather gave pro-United Nations antiwar activists something to think long and hard about, President's Bush's speech at the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner, tried to focus attention away from fighting and toward the sort of rosy, best-case scenario usually directed at economic activity rather than the re-sculpting of an entire world region. Deposing Saddam by force if necessary could, said Bush, lead to a flourishing of democracy in the Middle East, the end of global terrorism, and a final settling of the Palestinian issue.

Bush, who came to power articulating a "humble" foreign policy that explicitly eschewed nation building and what are generally called humanitarian interventions, has patched together themes that, however at odds with his earlier stance, combine something for liberals and conservatives alike (in his phrase, "liberty for an oppressed people, and security for the American people").

While this has been to date Bush's sharpest articulation of his administration's aims in Iraq, to call his scenario simply overly optimistic borders on Saddam-like delusions.

"Old patterns of conflict in the Middle East can be broken, if all concerned will let go of bitterness, hatred, and violence, and get on with the serious work of economic development, and political reform, and reconciliation," proclaims Bush, as if there was something original or magical in articulating such an obvious conditional statement.

Indeed, recent adventures in nation building have been less than smashing successes; rebuilding an entire region will only vastly multiply the degree of difficulty of such a task. It is also not at all clear that such efforts will help bring al Qaida to justice or secure American borders and people against further terrorist attacks. As important, when Bush declared that "we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more," he may have been setting us up for the sort of essentially permanent camping trips U.S. armed forces have been on in Europe and the Korean Peninsula.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Wednesday night's speech is that the once-controversial assumption at the core of Bush's foreign policy -- the doctrine of preventive war, of striking enemies who are not posing immediate threats -- has now become taken for granted as a starting point for action, even as it conceivably justifies an endless repetition of military interventions all around the globe.

That night, Bush spoke of a post-war Iraq in the most flattering and attractive terms Americans could hope for. But if we're to ponder such a potential reality even before the first shot has been fired in this first preventive war, we're also all left to wonder where the next such conflict will take U.S. troops.

(Nick Gillespie is Reason magazine's editor-in-chief.)


The Center for Strategic and International Studies

WASHINGTON -- Combating HIV/AIDS in Africa, Caribbean

President Bush's announcement of a $15 billion initiative to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean is a bold, historic step, but implementation will require sustained, high-level attention by both the Executive Branch and Congress, according to a statement by the CSIS Task Force on HIV/AIDS, presented Thursday to Task Force co-chair Sen. Bill Frist, R, Tenn. The task force statement offers the following recommendations:

-- Make the proposed appointment of an HIV/AIDS "czar" an early priority and give him or her a global profile, a robust clear mandate, and direct access to the secretaries of State and Health and Human Services;

-- Ensure robust and sustained support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria to expedite delivery of substantial assistance to acutely affected countries;

-- Significantly enlarge bilateral cooperation with China to pre-empt a full-scale HIV/AIDS pandemic in that country, and forge a coherent, forward-looking strategy to address the second wave of HIV/AIDS, which is beginning to strike large, populous states -- Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Russia, and China -- that are of key strategic importance;

-- Formulate an integrated strategy to reduce the acute vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS, expanding opportunities for economic empowerment, strengthening access to justice, and increasing their treatment and prevention options;

-- Revise the U.S. food relief and development strategy to mitigate the crushing impact of HIV/AIDS on rural household economies and worsening food insecurity.

The task force statement draws on four more detailed analyses outlining pragmatic policy steps:

-- "Averting a Full-Blown HIV/AIDS Pandemic in China," the report of a CSIS delegation to China co-chaired by former Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan and former U.S. Ambassador to China Stapleton Roy, which calls for a sustained leadership dialogue between top-level U.S. cabinet officials and their Chinese counterparts and expanded operational collaboration between the two countries.

-- "Fatal Vulnerabilities: Reducing the Acute Risk of HIV/AIDS among Women and Girls," authored by Janet Fleischman of Human Rights Watch, chair of the Task Force committee on women and girls, which urges integration of a gender component into HIV/AIDS programming to mitigate the increasing "feminization" of the global pandemic.

-- "The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria: Progress Report," authored by Todd Summers, chair of the Task Force Committee on Resource Mobilization and Coordination, which calls on Congress to substantially increase pledges to the Global Fund as part of the president's new global AIDS initiative.

A fourth report, "HIV Testing Requirement for Immigrants and Visitors to the United States: Time to Reconsider?" calls for a reopening of debate on mandatory HIV-testing for prospective immigrants to the United States.

"U.S. global leadership has been dramatically enlarged by the President's initiative. It is now critically important that Congress take quick bipartisan action to commit substantial new funds towards HIV/AIDS and to expedite the authorities and appointment of an empowered AIDS Coordinator," said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the CSIS Africa Program and the CSIS HIV/AIDS Task Force.


The Heartland Institute

(The goal of the libertarian Heartland Institute is to help build social movements in support of ideas including parental choice in education, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services, and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets do a better job than government bureaucracies.

Supported by contributions from private individuals, foundations, and corporations, Heartland does not accept government funds and does not conduct "contract" research for special interest groups.)

CHICAGO, Ill. -- A state global warming policy could destroy the economy

By Dr. Roy Cordato

There is a little-known provision in North Carolina's "clean smokestacks" bill that could cost the state billions of dollars annually and devastate the economy. The provision establishes a commission to make recommendations for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and combat the "problem" of global warming.

In setting up the commission, North Carolina is joining a number of other states in an attempt to implement the U.N. treaty on global climate change known as the Kyoto Protocol. President Bill Clinton signed the protocol, but because of its high costs the Senate declared its opposition in a near-unanimous vote. In 2001 the Bush administration withdrew the United States as a signatory to the treaty. The treaty would have forced drastic reductions in energy usage in order to achieve the required goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels.

It was clear from the beginning the treaty would have a chilling effect on the nation's economy. In a 1998 study conducted by WEFA Inc., it was found that the treaty would increase the price of electricity by more than 86 percent and the price of gasoline by more than 50 percent. GDP would be reduced by nearly $400 billion and four million jobs would be lost. More than 100,000 of those jobs would be lost in North Carolina.

But what would happen if North Carolina tried to pursue the Kyoto requirements on its own? Given the influence that environmental pressure groups have with Gov. Mike Easley's administration, this scenario is quite plausible. According to a new study by The Heartland Institute, a national free-market think tank based in Chicago, Illinois, a statewide program to reduce greenhouse gases to levels required by the U.N. treaty would cost North Carolina tens of billions of dollars a year.

In particular, the study concludes that such a program would cost the average household in the state $7,249 annually and the total in higher energy costs and lost wages for consumers and businesses combined would be a devastating $22.7 billion.

In its study, Heartland looked at 37 states to determine the costs if each state pursued the Kyoto targets separately. The reason for this is that many state governments, influenced by radical environmentalists, are embracing the treaty on their own. And it looks as though North Carolina soon may jump on the bandwagon.

The Heartland study also predicts severe consequences for North Carolina's budget. The study, based in part on the U.S. Energy Information Agency study cited above, concludes that the state would have to spend $552 million a year to achieve the Kyoto reductions and would lose $3.7 billion in revenues from reduced economic growth.

But isn't all of this worth it to save the planet from the melting ice caps and rising sea levels supposedly brought on by global warming? The fact is that North Carolina could do all that the Kyoto Protocol requires and more, and it would have no perceptible effect on global climate. Any action that North Carolina could take would involve all costs and no benefits.

In a prominent study by Dr. Thomas Wigley, himself an advocate of the idea that human induced global warming is occurring, it was concluded that if the Kyoto Protocol were adopted and adhered to with 100 percent compliance, the effect would be to cool the planet by an imperceptible 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 50 years. Furthermore, the best evidence suggests that global warming is not occurring. The two most accurate measures of global temperatures, satellite and weather balloon data, show no warming for the past 24 years.

North Carolina should not adopt any policies meant to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but a naturally occurring gas that is essential for all life on Earth. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are likely to induce longer growing seasons, increased crop yields, and lower food prices.

During this session, the General Assembly should revisit the "clean smokestacks" bill and repeal that portion of the legislation establishing the "greenhouse gas" commission, whose recommendations can only be harmful to the state and its citizens.

(Dr. Roy Cordato is vice president for research and resident scholar of the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.)

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