Think tanks wrap-up

Sept. 10, 2002 at 7:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering brief opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This special Sept. 11 wrap-up is the first of two wrap-ups for Sept. 10, 2002.

The Institute for Public Accuracy

(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)

WASHINGTON -- The United States, the world and war

-- Susan Wright, co-author of "Preventing a Biological Arms Race" and of the forthcoming "The Biological Warfare Problem: A Reappraisal for the 21st


"If Saddam Hussein has had any inclination to wage war against other Middle Eastern states, deterrence seems to have worked -- as it worked between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. On the other hand, war against Iraq would most likely generate a situation in which he would be tempted to use weapons of mass destruction..."

-- Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of "The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence: Could the U.S. War on

Terrorism Go Nuclear?"

"President Bush is exploiting the terrible human and national tragedy of September 11 in order to monger for war against Iraq at the United Nations."

-- Naseer Aruri, professor emeritus of political science at the University of

Massachusetts at Dartmouth and author of the book "The Obstruction Of

Peace: The U.S., Israel and The Palestinians."

"The hawks in the Pentagon are trying to find a way to war ... Their real agenda is to reshape the strategic landscape of the Middle East by redrawing not only the map of World War II, but that of World War I, too, not unlike what the previous imperial powers (Britain and France) did when they balkanized the Arab world and fragmented it into more than 20 weak principalities and sheikhdoms, and at the same time allocated Palestine as a state for European Jewish settlers."

The Cato Institute

WASHINGTON -- Is Iran Next on Washington's Hit List?

By Charles V. Peña

The major media are dominated by the debate over the United States taking military action against Iraq. Skeptics are more vocal. And the administration appears to have dug in and become more resolute in its goal of regime change. But lost in the rhetoric on both sides is an important question: What comes after Iraq?

President Bush has named North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as regimes that "constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world." If the administration feels so strongly about the threat posed by Iraq, certainly the rest of the axis of evil can't be given a pass.

If toppling Saddam Hussein goes as quickly and easily as advocates of war against Iraq assume, then why not take on the rest of the axis of evil (not to mention the other dozen or so countries that the Pentagon says are engaged in weapons of mass destruction programs and represent a threat to the United States)? Clearly, Iran is a logical candidate.

From an objective perspective, Iran would appear to be more dangerous than Iraq. Iran's military is larger and probably in much better condition since Saddam's forces have been degraded as a result of the Gulf War and sanctions and embargoes. Indeed, Iran's defense expenditures are more than six times those of Iraq.

Like Iraq, Iran has Scud missiles. But Iran also has longer-range Shahab-3 missiles that could reach much of the Middle East and South Asia, as well as the Persian Gulf. Also like Iraq, Iran has both chemical and biological weapons. And Iran may be closer to developing a nuclear weapon than Iraq. Finally, a better case can be made about Iran supporting terrorism than Iraq.

Let's also not forget that it was the Iranians who took 52 Americans hostage after seizing the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979. Only after 444 days, a failed hostage rescue attempt, and releasing almost $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets were the hostages freed. If there are those in America who feel there is unfinished business and old scores to be settled with Iraq, the same can be said for Iran.

Assuming the Turks are on board for military action against Iraq (it's amazing what $5 billion can buy), the United States will then have Iran more or less boxed in on multiple sides from Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. With U.S. military forces already in the neighborhood and seemingly willing allies, it appears as though it would be a whole lot easier to go to Tehran next rather than taking on, say, Pyongyang.

It may be too late in the game to stop the administration juggernaut from taking military action against Iraq to remove Hussein from power. But it's not too late to question the overall wisdom of pre-emptive strikes and regime change beyond Iraq. An unprovoked war against Iraq sets a dangerous precedent and whets the appetites of war hawks for a larger crusade against Iran.

Recently, the administration has accused Iran of harboring top-level al Qaeda leaders. This is simply the culmination of increasingly hostile rhetoric designed to bolster the case for the administration to take action against Iran after Iraq.

It would be folly for the United States to wage another war against another Muslim nation after Afghanistan and Iraq. Such action would be interpreted as a war against Islam by the rest of the Muslim world. If anything, the United States needs to avoid turning the war on terrorism against al Qaeda into a larger holy war against Islam and the more than one billion Muslims around the world. Yet this seems to be the course the administration is steering by putting Iraq and Iran in its sights.

It's important to consider one other potential unintended consequence of the administration taking a hard line with Iran and having engaged in increasingly heated rhetoric against that country. The Iranian government might not support al Qaeda at present, but it could find a use for it under certain circumstances. If Iran is the next target after Iraq, then -- much as Hussein might have nothing to lose by using chemical or biological weapons if we attack Iraq -- perhaps the Iranian government would have nothing to lose by employing al Qaeda operatives to engage in terrorist acts against the America in response to U.S. military action.

There are always risks and consequences to U.S. actions. The United States ought to think twice about pursuing a policy of pre-emptive military action that might lead to even more terrorism and the creation of more enemies. That is especially pertinent when the job of taking down al Qaeda -- the group responsible for killing thousands of innocent people on Sept. 11 -- remains largely unfinished.

(Charles V. Peña is senior defense policy analyst at the Cato Institute.)

The Resason Foundation

LOS ANGELES -- Singing the Praises of Privatization

By Michael LaFaive

As senior managing editor of the Michigan Privatization Report, sometimes I think that I have "seen it all" with respect to privatization. Now, I have heard it all. An English language, African-based band named "Afrigo" from Uganda has released a song entitled, "Today for Tomorrow," which celebrates the benefits of privatization.

It's not Jimmy Buffet, but it's not half bad. Here is a sample of the lyrics:

Privatization, the surer route to economic emancipation

Yeah, businessmen run businesses/

Government govern the nation/

You and I didn't create the situation/

Let's unite/

Check the economy/

A better future for our children/

Make a hard decision today/

And it will pay off in the future

According to, where this track can be found, Afrigo's album has been downloaded more than 25,000 times. Playtime is 4:55. You can find it at Today for Tomorrow (The Privatization Song)

This one little song may seem insignificant to most people but for me it carries enormous implications for Uganda and maybe even the United States and Michigan. No, I don't expect it to be No. 1 on the African hit parade (although who would have expected someone to put out a song about privatization?). But when public policy strategies become so well known that they are celebrated in pop music, it means the idea itself has infused the culture.

Infusing the culture with a particular idea is no small occurrence since ideas, however benign or controversial, often take decades to percolate before reaching a "tipping point," where paradigms shift on a grand scale and with alacrity. The phrase tipping point comes from a book by the same name, whose jacket describes a tipping point as "that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire."

Unfortunately, some of the most amazing advances in privatization have consistently come from units of government where there was simply no other choice but to privatize. Chile, parts of Africa, and Estonia are good examples. The good news is that, regardless of the motivation, the word "privatization" has been identified as more than just a word. It has become a rallying cry against corruption, and for greater economic freedom.

Indeed, in my office is a photograph, taken outside the airport in Kagali, Rwanda. The sign in the photograph is written in Swahili and reads: "Privatization fights laziness, privatization fights poverty, privatization fights smuggling, and privatization fights unemployment."

I have always been heartened by such shows of faith in market forces, particularly by cultures that have been so oppressed by government-sponsored central planning.

The good news is that apparently there is a culture of privatization developing around the globe. As it gains momentum, let us hope that American policy-makers have the foresight to look at privatization as a policy option.

Why? Because it is the good-government thing to do, and its benefits promise more freedom and prosperity to millions who are poorly served by their governments. And who knows? It could catch on so well, even Britney Spears might sing about it.

(Michael LaFaive is the senior managing editor of Michigan Privatization Report, published by the Mackinac Center of Public Policy.)

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