Think tanks wrap-up V

April 17, 2003 at 4:45 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter

WASHINGTON, April 17 (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 fifth of several wrap-ups for April 17.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies

WASHINGTON -- Tension with Syria: harbinger for region

CSIS analysts made the following statements regarding recent diplomatic tension between the United States and Syria and how it will affect regional politics:

-- Anthony Cordesman, CSIS Burke Chair in Strategy:

"America's tensions with Syria over Iraq are likely to be only the first step in a series of problems with Iraq's neighbors as each tries to advance its own interests. Syria sees Iraq's defeat as a victory for Israel and the loss of a fellow Arab and Baath state that has resulted in a U.S. presence on its border. Iran both fears the U.S. presence on its borders and wants a Shiite-dominated Iraq with links to Iran. Turkey fears the creation of a kind of Kurdish autonomy that rejects Turkey's efforts to turn its own Kurds into Turks. Other Arab states see America's victory as a partial Israeli victory, and as leading to the loss of Sunni Arab dominance over Iraq. In short, the 'new' Middle East is more likely to exacerbate old tensions than aid in bringing regional stability, development, and democracy."

(Two recently released reports by Cordesman, "Victory in Iraq and the Not So New Middle East," available at and "If It's Syria: Syrian Military Forces and Capabilities," available at, highlight regional tensions and Syrian military capabilities.)

-- Jon Alterman, director, CSIS Middle East Program:

"The administration's intense and coordinated attention to Syria did not represent the first salvo of a new U.S. policy in the Middle East. That so many administration figures came out on the same day with the same message suggests an urgent need to respond to specific intelligence information. If this were the first signs of a new policy, it would not have been nearly so sudden, nor so coordinated. The fact that administration comment tailed off so quickly suggests that the Syrians backed down. We do not have many tools to use in our relationship with Syria. Their status on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism limits U.S. government and private sector activities in Syria, and the absence of a vibrant economy in Syria limits our ties still further. The pattern often is that the United States threatens the Syrians, and the Syrians back off."

CSIS notes that these are the views of the individuals cited, not of CSIS, which does not take policy positions.

The Cato Institute

WASHINGTON -- Kyoto: the hidden cost of victory in Iraq

By Patrick J. Michaels

You've got to hand it to Tony Blair. When polls showed 80 percent of the British citizenry against America's military position, Blair stood fast with President Bush. And, as has happened here, his overall popularity (and support for his Iraq policy) has soared since hostilities began and the outrageous nature of Saddam's regime and tactics became common knowledge.

But selfless political sacrifice is as foreign as chastity in Washington. After the dust settles, Blair wants Bush to drop his steadfast opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

The Kyoto Protocol is wildly popular in Britain largely because the country seems to lack scientists courageous enough to point out that the government's alarmist view of climate change is without merit. That's not the case here. And as everyone in the Bush administration knows, warming in the next 100 years, given a very small range of error, is likely to mirror what has happened in the last 40 years. Further, the administration knows that the Kyoto Protocol, while enormously expensive, would stop less than one-tenth of a degree (Celsius) of warming in the next half-century, an amount too small to be reliably measured.

Soon after Bush took office and National Security Agency head Condoleezza Rice said "Kyoto is dead," the BBC reported that Blair was under considerable pressure to oppose Bush. In April 2001, Blair's deputy prime minister, John Prescott, "want(ed) to end cooperation (with the United States) on global trade, national missile defense, and even British support for the U.S. stand against China."

Others in Blair's Cabinet agreed, including International Development Secretary Clare Short and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. When he came to Washington three months later, Blair made plain his differences with Bush on the protocol.

Fast forward to the radically changed world after Sept. 11. Speaking before the U.N. Earth Summit in Johannesburg in September 2002, the London Guardian reported that "Tony Blair launched into an unexpected broadside against George Bush on climate change," and added that "what makes it more surprising is that his (Blair's) aides appeared to be emphasizing the split with Washington ... In what aides said was a direct message to the White House, Mr. Blair said that Kyoto was not enough."

Going even further than the Europe's radical greens, Blair said, "Kyoto is not radical enough."

Blair shares more with the discredited Hans Blix than he does with George Bush on global warming. Last month, Blix said, "I'm more worried about global warming than I am of any major military conflict." On Feb. 25, just three weeks before the start of war, Environmental News Network reported that Blair "said world leaders must not let the crisis in Iraq and the fight against terrorism distract them from long term but equally important environmental problems."

Blair said: "The only answer is to construct a common agenda that recognizes that both sets of issues have to be confronted for the world's security and prosperity to be guaranteed." Further, sounding more radical than Al Gore, he continued: "There will be no genuine security if the planet is ravaged by climate change. We will continue to make the case to the U.S. and to others that climate change is a serious threat that we must address together as an international community."

It is doubtless that Blair has told Bush the price of military alliance in Iraq: Drop U.S. opposition to Kyoto.

This won't happen in a very public fashion. Instead, watch the legislation. The current Senate energy bill contains three provisions that come pretty close to enacting Kyoto. If the administration lets them slide through, the deal has been done.

One creates a permanent Office of Climate Policy in the White House, which gives radical environmentalists direct access to the president. The legislation also requires a national strategy to cut carbon dioxide emissions, which is a complete surrender by the administration to the nonexistent science propping up a hypothesis of dramatic and disastrous warming.

Finally, the bill creates an "early credit" for industries that cut emissions now. These credits only have value if some type of legal limit on emissions is imposed, so expect all these creditors to lobby for that limit. That is precisely what Enron pleaded for from the Clinton administration in a well-publicized letter from dethroned CEO Ken Lay.

Bush I and Bush II are men of their word. In the first Gulf War, Bush I promised the Saudis that we would not dethrone Saddam Hussein as the price for usage of their airbases. He kept it, inadvertently creating today's war. His son's word is equally his bond, which will become evident if the White House rolls over on Kyoto in the next month.

(Patrick J. Michaels is a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and the author of "The Satanic Gases.")

WASHINGTON -- What are they smoking at the Justice Department?

By Robert A. Levy

Ten months after tobacco companies and 46 state attorneys general settled their differences for a skimpy $250 billion, the federal government decided that it wanted a piece of the pie. So the Clinton Justice Department filed suit, alleging that industry executives conspired to lie about the dangers of their product, manipulate nicotine content, and aim ads at kids.

According to the complaint, those practices continue today. Shortly after the Republicans took over, Attorney General John Ashcroft, who opposed the suit when he was in the Senate, decided not to fund the litigation because it was too weak for trial.

Apparently there's been a change of heart: No explanation, no new legal claims, just an astonishing demand for $289 billion in damages -- with a trial planned for September 2004 if the industry doesn't cave.

Never mind that the multistate tobacco settlement already punished those same transgressions and forbid any future misbehavior. Never mind that the targeted kiddie ads -- in adult magazines like Sports Illustrated and People -- are protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, the ads promote brand allegiance, the antithesis of a collusive industry scheme.

In September 2000, federal Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed most of the lawsuit out of hand. But she allowed a claim to go forward under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, act, despite expressing some reservations about the government's ability to prove damages. RICO was designed to be invoked against organized crime, but nowadays it's a standard bullying tactic by plaintiffs' attorneys. This time, however, the Justice Department had to deal with an embarrassing admission, tucked away in the final sentence of the press release that announced its lawsuit: "There are no pending Criminal Division investigations of the tobacco industry."

After a five-year, multimillion-dollar inquiry by two dozen prosecutors and FBI agents, the government came up with one misdemeanor plea against an obscure biotechnology company. The government dissected allegations that tobacco executives perjured themselves when testifying before Congress. Prosecutors plowed through documents for evidence that cigarette makers manipulated nicotine levels. Whistle-blowers and company scientists testified before grand juries.

The outcome: not a single indictment of a tobacco company or industry executive.

Nonetheless, President Clinton collared his attorney general and she, somehow, conjured up a RICO complaint that accused the industry of the same infractions for which grand juries could not find probable cause. Among 116 counts against the industry, Janet Reno and her minions included all sorts of foolishness to ratchet up the pressure for an exorbitant financial settlement.

Here's one example, count No. 3: In November 1959, the industry "did knowingly cause a press release to be sent and delivered by the U.S. mails to newspapers and news outlets. This press release contained statements attacking an article written by then-U.S. Surgeon General Leroy Burney about the hazards of smoking." There you have it -- racketeering, in all its sordid detail.

Clinton insiders knew the charges were trumped up. Former Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel put it this way: "If the White House hadn't asked (Reno, she) would never have looked at it again." So it is politics and money, not law, which is driving this litigation. The federal lawsuit is part of an all-out strategy to plunder big tobacco -- while keeping it alive for future plundering, of course.

Even prior to the November 1998 settlement, for every pack of cigarettes sold domestically, the industry earned about 23 cents, the feds got 34 cents, and the states averaged 37 cents. Thus, government got 71 of each 94 cents of pre-tax profits. In effect, the feds and the states were 76 percent stockholders in an enterprise that, according to government reports, kills 400,000 Americans every year. If indeed there's been a RICO conspiracy, government has been the major co-conspirator.

The American public -- voters and jurors -- need to know that our legal system is rapidly becoming a tool for extortion. Sometimes the politicians seek money; sometimes they pursue a policy agenda; often they abuse their power. When Clinton was unable to persuade Congress to enact another tax on smokers, he simply bypassed the legislature and asked a federal court to impose damages in lieu of taxes.

Bush can do better. Yes, he's absorbed with establishing the rule of law around the globe, but the president needs to remind his Justice Department that the campaign begins at home. It's time to call off the government's anti-tobacco crusade.

(Robert A. Levy is senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute.)

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories