Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Changing course in Iraq

by Frank Kaufmann

December 19, 2006

The Bush campaign in Iraq was defeated on November 7, 2006. At the end of the day 17% per cent of Americans stand with the president in pursuit of an imaginary "victory in Iraq" (see whitehouse.gov). On November 7, 2006 Republicans garnered not one Senate, House or gubernatorial seat from Democrats. Not even one, suffering massive, nationwide losses despite the fact that Republicans broke all of their fund raising and voter contact records this year. Analyses of these election results range in imagination and defensiveness, but the obvious problem Republicans faced was being registered in the same political party as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, and William Kristol.

Odd things happened during and since the election. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was fired on November 8 (I don't think anyone has been able to make sense of that), the 10 wise (and bipartisan) men (and lady) descended from on high with the Iraq Study Group, ... er ... uh, I mean the Hamilton-Baker report. Iraq president Talibani beat president Bush to rejecting it, while Iran nosed in at 3rd accepting it. Newsweek's poll has 68% of Americans in agreement at least with the the report's now best known line: "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating."

The need for a course change in Iraq is obvious, but the president depressingly seems to have re-emerged with old rhetoric ("we'll succeed unless we quit"), a new Iraq review group of his own, and Rumsfeld still whispers from the shadows. The odd optimism on which politicians and their chroniclers forever sup now directs a dreamy gaze at a next friend of Dad, Robert Gates, who if anyone was listening said point blank, "There are no new ideas on Iraq." The partisan character of American political society (including the 4th estate) has burdened us all with maddening and scurrilous semantic folly, - 50 ways to not say "stay the course," (stay on the bus Gus, keep he same plan Stan), nor "civil war" ... er ... uh I mean sectarian strife.

The only hope for genuine progress away from the Iraq debacle requires reflection at two points so far not addressed by major figures in political and media industrial complex. The search for a course change has not been conducted at deep enough levels. Two things must change before we will see better analysis and sound new policy direction. We must be willing to examine at the most basic and foundational levels the following:

1. The thinking that allowed invading Iraq to seem reasonable to some.

And related to that,

2. Our present goals in Iraq

What made invading Iraq seem reasonable to some?

In short it is the obsolete and antediluvian notion that one can, in this day and age "defeat an enemy" militarily.

There are countless ways to come to the conclusion that sanity and good old fashioned military campaigns parted ways quite some time ago. Spiritual people know that political, social, economic instruments designed for the systematic and substantial dissolution of resentment, and the resulting curative of reconciliation is the only path to lasting peace and genuine freedom. But thankfully even military-minded people (who somehow retain operative categories that include things like "defeating" other human beings) have equal access to the fact that an army cannot "defeat" a global network of ideologically driven opponents who do not value their own lives nor those of civilians. By the grace of God both the tree-hugger and the weapons procurement specialist can easily come to the same conclusion that should be obvious to all. Sending in an army to "defeat enemies" in the 21st century is like rubbing two wet sticks together to bring the dawn.

What do we want now?

The second area that must be reformed fundamentally before we can have hope to move past our current tragedy in Iraq requires a deeper examination of our present response, our present goal.

Current rhetoric revolves around the question, "how soon can US troops withdraw from Iraq" without creating an unacceptable level of regional destabilization.

This is the wrong question and wrong set of goals. The current debate over increasing or decreasing troop strength in the short term occurs in this invalid context of seeking a way out of Iraq.

The real question should be "How can we bring about the good we meant for Iraq that in part contributed to our harebrained and calamitous decision to invade Iraq?"

All the reasons we erred as we did are still in place. We still should want a wonderful and bounteous life for all Iraqis and all people in the region. Americans properly are not on anybody's side in particular, that's the whole original point of America.

For this reason, the only cure or repair for the horrible missteps and imbroglio over which we now stew as a nation, is NOT how to we get out of Iraq, but how do we STAY IN IRAQ.

We know only too well that militarily is surely NOT the way to stay in Iraq. Hopefully we know or will soon know soon that the freedoms we enjoy in an American and Western style way must surely be possible in other cultural types of ways as well. And we should know that the blessedness of America must carry some obligations as a nation and a people to help create opportunity for others far and wide.

Just how to stay in Iraq is the right starting point and starting question to find the path America and the whole world is looking for in these days. As soon as we embrace a positive response and a truly American purpose at the ground of reflecting on our current difficulties, answers and visionary policy will begin to flow.

Frank Kaufmann is the executive director of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace. The opinions here are his own.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

How to Win this Election

By Frank Kaufmann

Americans are coming up to an extremely important election for many reasons.

No matter what anyone says, this election is about three things, in this order:
1. The Iraq War
2. Political power in the entrenched 2 party system in the US
3. Long term spoils and domestic national direction, especially as it affects the judiciary.
In a great many ways, America's two parties have become indistinguishable
(so much so that having two parties is now expensive and detrimental to
our nation's well-being). Republicans no longer represent limited and
non-intrusive government nor lower government spending, and Democrats
no longer represent concern for the working class, and seek in all ways
to be identified with strong national defense.

Thus the strong winners and losers in the upcoming elections will have far less to do with who comes into office, than it will in how candidates run and how
their campaigns are conducted.

The catastrophic Iraq imbroglio is not "Republican" by nature, other than for the coincidence that the small group of folk who deemed the adventure reasonable happen to be Republicans. Apart from that, there is nothing in conservative thinking per se that results inexorably in the notion that one can or
should impose one culture upon another. Republicans running for office
should consider themselves perfectly free in principle to disassociate
themselves from that notion and that commitment. Their bondage to Iraq
derives entirely from the dynamic of power politics, not from rigorously applied conservativism. Smart Republicans in this season should establish their independence from this particular folly in advance of getting elected. This is one way the two parties can begin to recover their genuine and distinctive differences.

Secondly, those running and those voting should flat out reject dirty politics.

Even though we will never successfully hatch a mature democracy in present
day Iraq (like dropping a compressed sponge toy in a glass of water), it is very important that OUR elections at least appear to make democracy look attractive and honorable. This election should show us at our best.

Both U.S. power, and U.S. moral stature is at an all time low under the present administration , and not just in the Muslim world. The very last thing we need at this juncture is for our own democracy to show a vile face to the world. And this danger is far too possible given the very high stakes in this present election.

Professional political leeches lack the depth or breadth of vision to think in such
terms. This depraved industry simply behaves the only way it knows how,
namely in cynical, win-at-any-cost degeneracy. This is the dregs of power-seeking, and there is simply too much money in the game.

The only hope for the future of our country in the short term lies in the
hands of the voters. We must look for and reward character, humanity,
and dignity in our candidates, and punish candidates who allow base and
shameful tactics to obtain in their campaigns and in their name.

Our nation desperately needs a moment of dignity and beauty in the eyes of
the world and an opportunity to display the fine principles and virtuous roots that underly an honorable democracy.

It is in how we run, and how we vote that we can begin to recover a place in world leadership that is America's obligation and responsibility. Currently
that role has suffered via a panicked and chaotic reaction to 9/11. It has been scatter-shot through misfiring artillery, and has been imprisoned in facilities that compromise those truths we hold to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.

Let us run and let us vote in ways that recover our true power and our true, irresistible beauty.

Frank Kaufmann is the director of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace. These opinions are his own.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

What to do with the Amish schoolhouse?

by Frank Kaufmann

Jeff Gammange and his colleagues in The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote fairly in the article "Tragedy scene: What to do? Some Amish would burn the school. It's a familiar issue."

The ways of the Amish are perhaps the only shining light in the phenomenally horrid spate of news of the moment, nuclear tests, poisoning of Iraqi police at Iftar, Foley's tragic immorality, and more.

What is known to most by intuition but often forgotten is that all horror is attended by probably equal measure of human goodness and sacrifice. The stories of the Amish in response to the acted out torment of Charles Carl Roberts, from its leaders right to the young innocents murdered at point blank range are towering light in our time. Among those who were shot, the oldest came forward to die first to protect the younger girls, the Amish community attending the services of Roberts, and countless other not acts but ways of life seen during these tragic days!

We are moved and grateful beyond words for the glowing manifestation of these Amish traditions and virtues.

As the Amish, presently acting as our moral leaders and brothers and sisters ponder what to do with the West Nickel Mines Amish School, may I offer my thoughts and recommendations.

After the full implementation of all actions called for by Amish traditions, please consider erecting a humble but dignified shrine to the glory of those who have blessed the world with such exemplary courage and virtue, calling us aspire to such character. The glory of God, as seen in the humility and strength of his faithful, and the prayers that will gather there are the surest means to cleanse the scene of the evil that paused there.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Holy Father Should Apologize. Muslims Should Refrain from Protest
By Frank Kaufmann

The problem arising from Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg speech is deeply serious, perhaps far more than people grasp on the face of what we know through the news.

The present situation is this:
  1. The academic address of The Holy Father Benedict XVI to the faculty at his alma mater in Regensburg is tragic beyond measure. It represents an unconscionable provocation of religious tensions in a world already blistering under the scourge of religious division.
    1. Muslim rage against this speech is intuitive, technically misdirected, and self-defeating.
    2. The non-apology of the Holy Father is ill-advised and makes matters worse.
While begging for calm in all quarters of the Muslim world, this writer stands firmly on the side of those who condemn the remarks of the Pontiff, and with even greater ire decry the folly behind deciding to issue a condescending non-apology ("''The Holy Father is extremely sorry that certain passages of his speech appeared offensive to Muslim believers and were interpreted in a way that does not correspond in any way to his intentions''." An apology goes like this: “I am sorry for what I said. I should not have done that and I will not do that again.” An apology is NOT “I am sorry that you do not know how to read.”).

A Misunderstanding?

The Vatican itself, as well as a number of careful readers, most notably Melanie McDonagh of the London Daily Telegraph recommend that Muslims have misinterpreted the remarks of HH Benedict XVI. The non-apology of His Holiness also implies that he has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, his remarks taken out of context. This is true but irrelevant.

Why irrelevant?
  1. In the current world environment there is absolutely NO valid reason for ''any'' public person to introduce so repulsive a quote about ''any'' world religion, other than to use the quote as an example of something abhorrent and unconscionable as a point of view. His Holiness does no such thing. There is nothing in the Regensburg speech that causes us to disdain Emperor Paleologus. If anything the Emperor is shaded toward admirable by references to his intellectual acuity and even scriptural knowledge of a tradition not his own. His Holiness fails perfectly to distance himself from the speaker of so horrible a viewpoint. Why on earth would the Holy Father allow these sentences even fall from his lips other than to express utter disdain for every word in such an utterance?
  2. The Holy Father is utterly without excuse for many reasons
    1. This is a prepared text, and further one written in German, delivered in German, by a German in Germany.
    2. He is the single most authoritative religious figure in human history. NO other tradition is unified under a so rock-hard heirarchy concluding with a single soul at its pinnacle. To give you an idea of what it means to be the Pope this is his job description: ''The Pope exercises supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power over the Holy See and the State of the Vatican City.''
    3. No tradition in history has an operative concept of infallibility adhering to a single priestly representative.
    4. The RCC tradition preserved as it is through the most rigorous semantics in history (namely Canon Law) is a tradition of perfect care for the precise meaning of every word ever uttered. Not a sentence is uttered that is not tended by any one or more of 9 congregations, 3 tribunals, 11 Pontifical Councils, 12 Offices, or 4 Pontifical commissions. No one, let alone the most authoritative voice in the religious world (AND a Head of State!), with resources of this magnitude at his disposal can excuse Himself marking an oversight, mistake, or misunderstanding.
Is the Speech Offensive?

The speech offends in a number of ways.
  1. The Paleologus quote could not be more perfectly offensive to Muslim sensibilities.
    1. The Holy Father failed to sufficiently distance himself from this egregous quote.
  2. The speech of the Holy Father subjects Muslim traditons to historical critical analysis in ways not embraced by Islam. He notes that different Surat derive from different parts of the Prophet's (PBUH) personal biography. This is irrelevant to how the Qu'ran is embraced by the vast majority of Muslims.
    1. How can such a mistake be made by a man who has an entire Congregation for Muslim relations at his disposal?
    2. This horrible descent into matters of a religion not his own DOES in fact paint Islam in a negative light. He concludes ''with'' Khoury and even with the insulting voice of Paleologus in noting that Muslim theology has a God (Allah) that is excessively transcendent and eludes the need for immanence by which reason might be made divine (the main thrust of his speech). He further quotes Muslims to describe a God "not bound even by his own Word."
Why So Horrendous a Section if it is Not Central to the Thrust of the Speech?

There are two reasons: Hubris, parochialism, and politicization of faith.

Hubris and unthinking miscalculation: One reason for this ill-advised foray into unwelcome territory in unwelcome ways is the notion that one can, with a brief aside presume and guide and lecture and entire world faith. This assumption is arrogant. No one puts up with these sorts of barbs from the sidelines. In all cases this style of presuming to lecture others is rejected and resented.
  1. Parochial politicization. No one who reads the newspapers can be blind to the fact that Benedict XVI is committing the horrible sin of re-introducing the efforts of the Vatican to insert its influence over efforts toward European Union. Here again, Muslim offense is NOT based on misunderstanding or misinterpretation. The decision of the Holy Father to include such passages in his speech is clearly wrong-headed triumphalism dropped in the heart of Europe. This is nothing other than divisive.
What Now?
  1. Muslim leaders PLEASE call off demonstrations, and calm the family of believers. The speech of the Holy Father has served to create sympathy worldwide toward Muslims who suffer from prejudice, and from the misdeeds of Islamist militants. If Muslim protests become violent and disruptive, this sympathy toward Islam will dissipate and give fuel and comfort to the detractors of Islam.
  2. The Holy Father and Enlightened Catholics should apologize and continue in all loving ways to heal this horrible misstep by the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
Frank Kaufmann is the Director of the Interreligious Federation for World Peace. The opinions in this article are his own.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Religions as Conscience: The Interfaith Imperative

by Frank Kaufmann

This essay was delivered at the

The Convergence of Science and Spirituality Conference
Great Hall, Iliff School of Theology - September 09, 2006


The evolution of interfaith consciousness in the modern period is rapid and promising. Progress notwithstanding, pioneers in the field have yet to intuit an endgame sufficient to bring world traditions to full and enduring harmony. At present even the best interfaith relations remain bound as lateral wanting for a transcendent, unifying principle. This brief presentation offers for consideration a telos-based analogy, comparing harmonized world religions to the conscience of a saintly and wholesome person.

(A slide show of this paper is available upon request from the author)


This paper proceeds on the assumption that a correct or insightful grasp of the essential elements and dynamics of conflict is:
1. Necessary
2. Applicable

This, despite the insistence by many that real-world conflict is too complex and nuanced to admit of or benefit from attempts to generate applicable meta-phors.

This paper treats 1 concept but (due to the brevity of the speaking assignment) only cursorily.

The concept is:
The human being as a model provides an ideal and a purpose for interreligious relations.


Every era or occasion of positive interreligious relations is different. Human existence as we know it has evolved from extremely few people (some say 2) to 6.7 billion earth inhabitants at present. Even though in earlier eras social and political patterns would hold for far greater lengths of time, there still has not been (to the best of my knowledge) two distinct and separate occasions of interreligious collaboration inside of a single pattern of human social and political evolution. I point this out to say that the history of interfaith in the modern period is distinct and different from all prior occasions in which one can find fleeting semblance of interreligious collaboration or cooperation. Students of peace note times such as 12th century Spain, or the occasional 16th or 17th century Mughal who allowed a time of Hindu flourishing. Hopefully these occasions have lessons or insights for us, but our time is different both in religion and in the social and political context in which religion functions. Population and technology have a great deal to do with this difference.

It can be argued that religious behavior and evolution of religious consciousness parallels political, international, and inter-cultural consciousness. Said otherwise, it can be argued that human beings simply evolve in the sweep of our growing species-wide enlightenment and potential regardless of any one person’s or group’s particular bent or vocation.

The widespread notion that religions either can or should get along, or at least live and let live is very new and very young (about 110 years old). It occupies a tiny percentage of the time in which people have lived religiously. Additionally part of the impulse to soften or temper religion’s inclination toward imperialism derives from the post-enlightenment impulse to dismiss religion as primitive superstition, and anachronistic. Death of God theology rightly identified this, what is called “functional atheism.”

The Emerging Recognition of Cooperation as a Positive and Mutually Beneficial Value, and the Unique Aspect of Religion

Insight into the fact that cooperation yields personal gain has always existed to a greater or lesser degree at various times in history, but only to a limited degree, and almost always in the service of its contrary impulse, namely gain at the expense of the other. Primitive, utilitarian forms of cooperation function in the pursuit of alliances. Alliances are formed to attain the necessary strength and power to pursue gain for self at the expense of the other. The impulse to form alliances even for non-noble purposes, nevertheless has the positive outcome of incrementally enlightening even the scheming actor. “We” comes to describes ever broader realms diversity.

Religion in this scheme of things ideally should be the star student in this path toward increasing enlightenment derived from cooperation. The irony however is that in across religions there is no incentive to form alliances. To the extent that religions are expansionist and acquisitive they believe that their power resides in the unalloyed force of their respective ideologies, metaphysics, and lifestyle systems. Religion manifests the human propensity to dominate in exactly the opposite manner than the material and secular insights. Religious imperialists if they form alliances with anyone, they do so with secular power in pursuit of their expansionist designs. And this is always done to their peril. Spirituality flees, and ugly institutions arise bearing the name of this religion or that.

The ONLY thing that can lead religions in the direction of cooperation is their best side.

This fact is at once the very thing that makes the modern interfaith movement such a rare thing of beauty on the one hand, and so excruciatingly slow, so wheel-spinning, and often superficial to the point of near disingenuous on the other.

Harmony Comes in 3’s, and the Unique Aspect of Religion

Conflict arises when neither partner is able to acknowledge the inherent or insuperable “superiority” of its “partner,” and when the “superior” “partner” does not use his or her advantage for the welfare and upliftment of the one less blessed. If the more blessed lives to uplift the lesser no conflict will arise, even if superior strength of one or the other is not cut and dried, namely even if there is near parity.

When relations degenerate into conflict there is no way out for the involved partners save exhaustion or the intervention of a “3rd.” Exhaustion is always only temporary anyway. The “3rd” by definition is “transcendent,” it transcends the parochial concerns of both embattled parties, seeking the welfare of something greater than the benefit or interests of only one side or the other. Peacemakers should proudly own participation in transcendence.

The 3rd can be embodied in a person or an institution (like George Mitchell, or the United Nations), it can be something that both sides recognize as a “higher power,” or it can be an ideal or a purpose recognized by both as worthy. This 3rd must, by whatever art and science find the way to move the players to embrace something other than an obsession with their own cause or designs.

Again, as with the previous section, Religion is least well suited to benefit from the harmonizing influence of the 3rd (for at least 2 reasons):
1. Each religion already regards itself to be singularly preeminent vis a vis anything to do with the transcendent, and
2. As systems traditionally and predominantly hierarchical, it is nearly impossible for someone outside that system to have sufficient authority to mediate or guide.

Religions are built around the very stuff that they would need to surrender to in order to be led away from conflict and strife and toward harmony. It might be compared to the alcoholic who is ever more intelligent and knowledgeable than the best therapist hoping to help.

Religion and Global Conflict

The nature of global conflict and the relationship of religion’s to war anc conflict has changed radically and dramatically inside of most of our lifetimes. Prior to 1989, even though religions did not work harmoniously together to any significant degree, no one thought of war and global instability as lying in anyway at the feet of religion’s primitive habit of seeing other religions as foes or inferior. In the 20th Century (until 1989) the good guys and bad guys were understood in the context of what was dubbed “the cold war.” The dominant military players were Russia, the United States, and China to a lesser degree. The belief systems that fueled enmity were rendered in economic and political differences, terms such as “Democracy,” and “Communism.” The interfaith efforts that transpired in those years were rarely characterized as central to the pursuit of a peaceful world. (The notable exception was Ireland, and to a lesser degree Israel and Palestine.)

This changed radically with the fall of the Soviet Union. The first frightening and horrifying sign of the power of religion to animate genuine hostilities indeed war, was seen in wake of the fall of what was called Yugoslavia. The complex cauldron of conflict transpired along battle lines that took on the eerie hue of religiously identity for the first time in centuries, Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim. From the war in the Balkans to this day things have never been the same.

Now in the mind of most people in the world, almost all war, conflict, and global instability is directly related to religion in some way or another. This creates a huge demand on interfaith activity, but the enterprise has found itself flat footed in the ability to change quickly enough to bring its wisdom, benefits, and insights from a different age of dialogue, one with different habits and different assumptions.

Religions as Conscience: The Interfaith Imperative

The role of religion has always been to function as the origin of a peaceful world. The three qualities of found uniquely in religion that make this so (namely, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation) are presented and developed in an earlier paper from me. But in a world in which war was not felt nor defined primarily in religious terms, most people did not know this. Now everyone knows religion can not be overlooked. 9/11 and beyond happened to leaders and to a world in a stupor, not about terrorism or Islam, but about religion and religious belief per se.

Every human individual has good impulses and bad impulses (good both for the self and the other, and/or bad both for the self and for the other). Consequently all human institutions including political ones such as states and nations are characterized by this pair of impulses. Just as a human being can behave well or poorly, so can a block association, so can a corporation, and so can a nation.

In the case of an individual, that faculty that seeks to keep him or her on a path that is good, wholesome, healthy, even loving, is the conscience. As infinitely complex as being human is, and human behavior is, the entire (and all important matter) of behaving well or behaving poorly rests entire in relation to the conscience. The conscience is quiet, non-aggressive, yet relentless and long-suffering. It tries until our last breath to guide us in the direction of goodness.

On larger scales, religion is meant to function in the same way, but now that the world is irreversibly sewn together as one, the fractured condition of world religious relations obstructs the capacity of religion to function in the way of its proper role in human affairs.

This mission to be the wellspring of goodness, and keep the organism of our human family healthy, wholesome and whole, is the mission of all world religions in a world that is now one. This shared mission is the “transcendent 3rd” that can finally shatter the lateral relations in which religions are locked.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Deficiency of UNSC Resolution 1701

People of conscience, good will, and humane sensibilities stood aghast to see our race drawn into full scale war lasting over a month in July and August of this year! The excruciatingly slow to write and pass UNSC Resolution 1701 is insular in its premise, cosmetic in its intention, and fragile in its design. It is built on self-interest, namely the very cause of conflict now adorned in the raiment of peace. This deceit notwithstanding, we still desperately hope that its provisions succeed at least to hold back any further outbreak of hostilities at such unthinkable levels of destruction and death. We are grateful to sincere peace seekers in the UN and elsewhere who gave their days and nights desperately searching for ways to end military aggression.

The United Nations remains an indispensable institution at present as it is the only established forum for conversation at a formal level among representatives of nations. Nevertheless UNSC Resolution 1701 is deficient in two important aspects. The resolution is myopic and shortsighted as a document primarily in that it that fails to incorporate the spiritual aspects of human life on equal status and footing with our physical, social, and political aspects. Further it lacks applicability in rigorous ways as it treats human life as transpiring only within the institutions of the individual and the state while fully overlooking key and dominant units of social organization, most especially the family, and also the tribe. Finally the document, like all UN work at present is anachronistic insofar as it fails to rise to the present reality in which human existence functions as a transnational social reality, not the clunky, militarized nation states of the 19th century.

The outbreak of war between Israel and Hezbollah derives from spiritual, religious, historical, cultural, social, political, economic, and military causes. The negative condition that results in the outbreak of war is enmity, not water, not religion, not blue lines nor green lines. It is enmity. Enmity has distinct manifestations in each of the causal factors just listed. From among these causal factors listed above those that most naturally disesteem enmity are the spiritual, the religious, and the economic; the spiritual more purely, the religious more tentatively, and the economic more cynically. The spiritual intuits unequivocally that true freedom is possible only in the absence of enmity. The religious has explicit admonitions against indulging in actions that extend enmity, but also as political institutions fully employ enmity when parochial avarice overtakes its representatives. The economic preference for positive conditions for trade is offset by those whose profits derive from war. Thus profit as a motive for cooperation is always for sale.

The 33 days war through which we have just been dragged sadly has been done, at least in part under the banner of so-called “religion.” Thus a facile call for the intervention and investment of religious leaders in the peacemaking effort is not easily digested by serious minded parties, observers, and by war victims. The religious world itself must be analyzed and its peace elements identified, strengthened, and supported. This is the unequivocal starting point for even a remote possibility for enduring peace. Until some international body takes this understanding deadly seriously, shunning all seduction for symbolism, cheap fixes, and gimmicks no peace is on our horizon. A serious, repentant, skilled, community of leaders willing to truly commit to a long term investment of personnel and resources in a program that recognizes the lifeline between the spiritual and the religious as the starting point for Godly human relations on all levels of social organization is the only chance we have for peace. Without that, let us simply rebuild our roads, replenish our hospital supplies, and keep our fingers crossed that nobody’s uncle is getting too too rich in so doing.

Frank Kaufmann is the Executive Director of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace

Monday, July 31, 2006

Israel, Lebanon, and the Middle East: Problem of Intelligence

Frank Kaufmann, July 30, 2006

The situation in the Middle East has spun out of control. Analysts and so –called experts cannot see a way beyond the ever intensifying horrors. William Kristol, our generation’s most eloquent and greatest lover of war, said this morning “Iran and Hezbollah have won this battle…” Lost and morose, Kristol despairingly allowed, “It has been a bad two months [for the “good guys].”

When it looks as though things cannot get worse (The United Nations has said that its top officials in New York and its officers on the ground in Lebanon made numerous calls to the Israeli mission and the Israeli military to protest repeated firing on its outpost in Lebanon where four unarmed observers later ended up being killed – IHT), they do (An Israeli official said the bomb that killed 54 refugees in Qana, Lebanon, including 37 children, early Sunday hit the wrong building - reuters).

The US in 5 short years has forfeited its once elegant and glorious role as a peacemaker (only the US and the UK stood out against an immediate ceasefire at the recent Rome summit - reuters). Sunday morning news analysts even on the perfectly pro-Administration, Fox News referred to Rice’s time at the Middle East crisis summit in Rome “a flame-out,” not just once, but as the term of record throughout the Chris Wallace hour. (The Rome talks broke up after failing to reach agreement, according to CNN television. – Bloomberg) (Ms. Rice lost the public relations war. Reports of the Rome meeting uniformly painted her as isolated in one corner- NYT).

In the midst of it all President Bush was caught on an open mike in front of the world’s most powerful leaders, with a mouth full of shrimp swearing about Syria, and complaining about Kofi Annan. Bad enough? A week later President Bush was forced to apologize publicly for not notifying Tony Blair that the US was transporting bunker busters through Scotland to Israel (Israel's Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Israel was given a green light to continue attacks after the United States convinced Arab and European ministers not to call for an immediate truce at a Rome - reuters ) The news of US bomb shipments to Israel broke on the same day four UN peacekeepers were killed in Israeli air strikes on Lebanon.

Bad enough? After 17 days of Israeli sorties over southern Lebanon, Hezbollah rather than being decimated showed up by complete surprise firing Khalibar 1’s into Israel (Israel said the newer rockets have four times the range of the Katyushas, possibly putting northern Tel Aviv in range. – CBC.CA)

The magnitude, implications, and irresolvable conundrums of this ever escalating Israel-Hezbollah conflict have kept from the front pages and from proper analysis matters of enormous significance regarding the region. The July 29 deaths of 3 Marines brings the number of US military war deaths in Iraq to 2573 since the US led invasion of 2003. The day before that, 3,700 troops about to go home were stopped and held back (3,700 troops who had been planning to return home over the next two weeks probably will remain for at least the next six weeks and possibly as long as four months, this time in the most violent area of the country – Washington Post). Just weeks earlier, every public figure including President Bush spoke enthusiastically about beginning the process of troop withdrawal from Iraq. This rhetoric met a sudden and complete about face as the U.S. Central Command said that 5,000 additional troops in armored vehicles will patrol Baghdad streets, where nearly 100 civilians die each day, many of them victims of reprisal killings by death squads. In Iraq nearly 100 civilians die EVERY DAY!

The most significant matter about this horrific Israel-Hezbollah war has yet to
dominate the attention of analysts. It has to do with intelligence. Here are three invaluable observations from Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post:

1. Israel has been forced to improvise furiously on the battlefield after discovering how much it did not know about the forces Hezbollah had amassed in southern Lebanon… Israelis take intelligence deadly seriously. For them, it is a tool of survival.

2. The intelligence failures by the Israelis in Lebanon and by the Americans in Iraq are related.

3. American intelligence has done no better at predicting the course or strength of Iraq’s insurgency and the sectarian warfare that the insurgents have deliberately fanned between Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis. Months of Bush administration happy talk about a government of national unity based on Sunni inclusion did not lead to the reduction of violence that was predicted, but to a sharp spike in Iraqi deaths and destruction instead.

Intelligence (like everything) has two dimensions, an interior impulse and an exterior manifestation. The public and political figures tend to focus on the exterior aspects of intelligence gathering even though they are of lesser importance. The exterior aspects of intelligence, (what information you gather, how, and how accurately) are only valuable if guided well by insightfulness. In fact the term “intelligence” in common parlance does NOT refer to how much you know or how accurate your information, rather to how well you think.

The fact that two of the finest militaries in history (and the nations attached to them) find themselves up to their elbows in tar babies with no end in sight, after days for one and years for the other, and countless billions poured into shocking and awe-ing, is not for the lack “a big right hand,” but for not thinking straight.

A person or state with the following views might be considered intelligent (and thier "intelligence gathering" could proceed more fruitfully):

1. Iran, Syria, and over 50 major, independent and state sponsored Islamist, and anti-Israel/US militias and “terrorist” organizations do not like the United States and do not like Israel. Bombing them will not make them change their minds.

2. The term “democracy” is not regarded as representing a virtuous social order to the intelligentsia, leaders, and rank and file of these states and these groups. Bombing them will not make them change their minds.

3. These states and groups do not uphold Christian and European conventions on how properly and “justly” to conduct war. Bombing them will not make them change their minds.

4. There are too many of them to bomb until they are all gone. Many argue that attacks on them strengthen them politically and strengthen their recruitment efforts.

It would be pleasant if we could bomb people into seeing things our way, and failing that bomb the recalcitrant ones until they are all gone. But we cannot. Good and effective strategies cannot arise from foolish and anachronistic starting points. That is bad intelligence.

Strong and effective intelligence gathering should be based in clear understanding. Better understanding as the ground of “intelligence” would help to avert occasions in which powerful and economically and militarily advanced countries make big and costly mistakes with dire and enduring repercussions.

Frank Kaufmann is the Executive Director of the Interreligious Federation for World Peace

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

ISRAEL, LEBANON: The Escalation of Conflict in a New World

Frank Kaufmann
July 19, 2006

Israel bombing Lebanon is serious. (Many argue Israel was left with no choice.) Incursion into Gaza and the West Bank is a sovereignty-oddity that withstands the ascription international war. Bombing Lebanon does not.

Military engagement in both Gaza and Lebanon purportedly stemmed from the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by (technically) non-State actors. In keeping with the art and core designs of asymmetric warfare, Hamas and Hezbollah can be seen as realizing strategic purposes remarkably well! The capture of just three young men has succeeded in drawing Israel into large scale military commitment on three fronts (two points of fighting in Gaza And one so far in Lebanon). Israel will not give numbers, but most counts have at least 10 Israeli soldiers dead in combat. Israel’s finance minister reports the cost to Israel for its Lebanon campaign alone at 1.1 billion dollars. By all accounts this can be regarded as expensive and stretched. The work of eleven men with box cutters, using other people’s hardware, drew the United States into over $300 billion worth of war on two fronts. Again, by most accounts expensive and stretched. Bombing a single building bankrupted US economic surpluses replacing it with debt now totaling $8.3 trillion, a level that could force Congress this week to raise the debt ceiling for the fourth time in George W. Bush's presidency. National debt has continued to increase an average of $1.63 billion per day since September 30, 2005).

How pleasant it must be to conduct hostilities against countries like this, especially so for “martyrdom”-affirming groups for whom getting killed is just fine if not actually good.

From the days of the militant and militarized left analysts always knew that an important goal and function of asymmetric warfare now commonly (errantly) called terrorism, is to intensify the militancy and “oppression” by the State that reacts and seeks to maintain control and curb disorder. The theory is that the State in its effort to curb dissidents reaches levels of totalitarianism that suffice to trigger revolution among the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the poor. Traditionally these doctrines were established and designed during the era of the Nation State. What is now called terrorism was designed in part to destabilize “capitalist” States through the intensification of state “oppression.”

Though Nation States persist they do so anachronistically. Two phases of territorialism have evolved since the European invention of the Nation-State. These include the period of “blocs,” which reached its zenith in the Cold War, and the emerging era of “globalization.” Though neither Nation-States, nor “blocs” have utterly dissolved during the emerging “global reality,” it would do well for leaders to extend and apply traditional analysis of asymmetric warfare to the present more creatively than seems to have been done so far.

Lebanon’s finance minister said on Tuesday, Israel’s military offensive in Lebanon had caused up to $2bn in infrastructure damage so far. Israel’s response to the kidnapping of its young boys is not unlike the initial campaign of the 3-years-and-counting US military involvement in Iraq. These results can be seen as the realization of asymmetric warfare design, originally conceived to destabilize States, applied on a global level.

The real problem that leads us to this insane-by-any-standards state of the world today is the persistence of the primitive concept “conquest” as an operative category. Of course a greater power despoils the lesser power during periods of aggression. The lunacy however lies in the belief that “winning” is a possibility therefrom. “Winning” lasts only as long as the aggression lasts. Israel and Hezbollah are both bombing one another. Israel is simply better, better at bombing people and things. The US was also better at battering the pathetic Iraqi army as it took control of Baghdad between March 27 and April 9, 2003. (But Baghdad Bob (Comical Ali) would have a far less buffoonish a job if he remained to report events day by day since the May 1, 2003 speech of President Bush on the USS Lincoln.)
Sticking to the metaphor of communist-era asymmetric warfare design, the military superiority of the US or Israeli armies can be compared to the fact that police with horses and clubs are better equipped to batter and imprison protestors in shorts and sandals, than protesters are to trouble the police. The problem is that getting battered and imprisoned was precisely the response desired by the organizers and agitators working behind the scenes during the era of leftist protests.

The fact is that “vanquishing” is a chimera, a delusion, and like all deceptions a costly one. The twinned mission of diplomacy and aggression when dealing with those who would harm you must be waged in the arena of ideology, not military might. The latter is wasteful, tragic, primitive, and futile.

Frank Kaufmann
July 19, 2006

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Beyond Gilad Shalit

Frank Kaufmann
July 5, 2006

The abduction of Gilad Shalit has as much to do with Palestinian rivalries as it does to do with the Palestinian struggle against Israel. The Hamas – Fatah clash is linked in ways to the thankless marriage of Abbas with a Hamas Cabinet. Added to that is the fact that substantial disunity exists within both Fatah and Hamas in Gaza (each embracing spectra that range from militant to diplomatic).

In addition to this Hamas in Gaza has the added complication of being related to a Syrian counterpart. It is known that the Syrian figures in Hamas naturally lean toward greater militancy due to the fact of their distance from the day to day realities and needs of the good and simple people of Gaza who want nothing more than peace and a hopeful environment in which to raise their families

There is no doubt that Israel is guided in its actions first and foremost by concerns for the safety and welfare Israeli citizens and Israeli families. Beyond this however it is inevitable domestic and international politics arise around such incidents, and decisions and actions take on political calculation. The intensity of Israeli actions, while genuinely designed around seeking safety for Shalit, may well also reflect calculations that seek to drive a wedge between the more militant Syrian Hamas leaders, and the Hamas cabinet elected in Gaza.

Two other important facts should be noted in this fragile situation. The first is obvious. Both sides have painted themselves into a corner, a corner constructed of pride, perhaps hatred, and ideological rigidity. The second important fact to know is that each side operates out of cultural, religious, and ideological foundations that so differ, that true communication toward resolution is gravely hampered. Ironically, where the two communities are similar culturally, religiously, and ideologically, is precisely in those ways that also hurt good communications and negotiations… that glistening line between stoically persevering and childishly stubborn.

Fortunately there is a good deal of quiet diplomacy going on surrounding this issue. We sincerely pray for God’s blessings on those involved in these private and quiet negotiations. Furthermore, the major powers are behaving quite well this time. These include Russia, China and India. These and others have much they can do to help. We pray for the leaders of these powers as well, most importantly that their calculations not be too heavily tainted by short-sighted national self interest. In addition to the public pronouncements coming from some of these important powers, one can only hope that these major powers continue to work behind the scenes in quiet conversation encouraging both sides to seek a positive resolution of this tense and fragile confrontation, and not to break down further.

Players in the region have allowed this horrible incident to escalate to the point at which only great suffering awaits both sides barring some resolution. They have postured and committed to the extent that yield or compromise necessary for resolution is no longer possible. A very good thing would be if Shalit “escaped.” A dramatic, miraculous escape, the stuff story books and spy stories are made of. NOT a rescue, not a release. An escape. The Israelis could walk away from military overkill (fuel on the fires of rage), Gaza Hamas can protect themselves from the unforgiving, militant vultures shrieking over softening, or “impurity” of Gaza Hamas’ commitment to the resistance.

Israel could draw back away from the border, Shalit can be restored to his family and his nation, both sides can resume inching at their glacier-like pace toward peace, and simple home-makers and citizens in the region can breathe out.

Frank Kaufmann
Inter Religious Federation for World Peace

Friday, March 24, 2006

Karzai Must Take a Stand
Frank Kaufmann

President Karzai is in a terrible situation. He has no easy way out of the looming beheading of Christian convert Abdul Rahman. Karzai's decision will affect not just Afghanistan and his own political future. It also will have huge impact on the exorbitant foreign policy gamble perpetrated by the Bush administration.

Our 200 Billion dollar effort at militarily exporting democracy has given us Hamas and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, leading even the devout to wonder. In such a climate the possibility of formally putting a Christian to death in Afghanistan is the last thing we need.

Unthinkable cartoon wars, Iraq's death count ringing like winning slot machine, and France burning down from the inside out might all be less harmful to relations between Islam and “the West,” than what now will happen to this otherwise quite insignificant 40 year old who turned to Christ at the young age of 24. Why? Because the fate of this solitary fellow lies not in the hands of the mob, but in the hands of a modern Bush built democracy and a US favored elected representative.

It is good and proper that the international community do everything in its power to stay the execution of Rahman. It is good that places like Germany and France stumble on to the right side of religious freedom for a change. It is also good that people in the West begin to learn about Islam, and its schools of interpretation. So what if it took us 3 years of war and 200 billion dollars trying to build irresistible democratic utopias to discover that Islam has apostasy laws. But these are not the important point.

The most important thing is that now is the time to help and support President Karzai. He is in a horrible dilemma and he needs support from the whole world including Muslims everywhere.

This is the situation:

1. Karzai is damned if he does damned if he doesn't

2. The dilemma is created by the tension between the modern concept of the State, and the social reality of clan and tribal norms and conventions

3. The insufficiently debated Muslim doctrines on apostasy must be settled in favor of the humane and visionary side of Islamic interpretation

Why is Karzai's situation so difficult?
1. It is almost impossible to rule a Muslim society when at odds with the Mullahs (who are behind the pro-execution stand on Rahman). Karzai's domestic political base and power are tied to these Mullahs. If Karzai acts to protect Rahman he will be seen to controvert Islam and he will lose his power to govern, lose his political base, and very possibly even become an assassination target by extremists.

2. On the other hand, If he fails to protect Rahman he will be seen to uphold a version of Islam deemed unacceptable to the “West,” and he will stand in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The chasm over which Karzai dangles stretches from Afghanistan's modern, constitutionally guaranteed, human rights on the one hand, and the traditional practices of the tribal society over which he attempts to govern on the other.

He has NO political out. He canNOT win. WhatEVER he decides, he fails absolutely by the measure of one side or another. Thus is the first thing Karzai must do is come to grips with the fact that there is no political solution. The only thing that remains is conscience. Karzai finds himself on the stage in which the bizarre situation sparked by the conversion of a 24 year old, in another country long ago has become the single point at which Huntington gets to write his epilogue.

The sooner Karzai recognizes he has no solution, the freer and truer he can be. The Beatles accurately described it as a magic feeling, “nowhere to go.” Only at such a point can Karzai finally make his choice. Such moments create statesmen and women and historical figures. When history checkmates us, only conscience remains. This is why greatness always lies in personal decision.

Now is not the time to pressure Karzai. Now is the time to help him. We already know what he as a person believes about the situation. OF COURSE he is not of the opinion that a human being should be beheaded for looking at Jesus a touch differently from his fellows. The problem for Karzai is that acting on his beliefs threatens everything in his life, including the possibility of losing his very life itself. The US and the world, including all Muslims must give Karzai every possible chance to make his quiet inner, personal decision, that final, greatest act of courage when a man or woman decide with their conscience at the risk of their life.

What must Muslims do to help? Current (widespread) apostasy laws throughout the Muslim world are built on shady and tenuous interpretation and faltering standards for the establishment of Hadith. Any Muslim who can read knows Suratan Nisa', Ayah 48 (there is no compulsion in religion). Every Muslim who can read knows Surah An-Nisa', 4:137 that warns against multiple apostasies (how can the Qu'ran speak of multiple apostasies if even one is punishable by death?). There is no reference to the death penalty in any of the 20 instances (!) of apostasy mentioned in the Qur'an (S.A. Rahman). The Hadith upon which these apostasy laws are built is weak (This hadith was only transmitted by one individual. It was not confirmed by a second person, and lacking such corroboration should not be sufficient to contradict law grounded in the Qu'ran itself.)

What President Karzai must do is give Rahman safe passage out of Afghanistan. If Rahman remains in Afghanistan he will probably be killed anyway. If Rahman insists on remaining in Afghanistan to pursue the child custody case that caused his troubles in the first place, then his life or death is his own business. Nobody blames Bush or Christian jurisprudence because people get shot on the streets of Los Angeles.

President Karzai did not ask to be put in this terrible situation. He does not need a bunch of hot headed ranting from the so-called “civilized” world. He needs the support of Muslims who want to show the beauty of Islam, and he needs the support of his friends in Europe and America with whom he has labored mightily to try to build up his nation, under horrible and adverse circumstances.

Frank Kaufmann
March 24, 2006