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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 9, Issue 9: February 26, 2007

  1. U.S. Troop Surge in Afghanistan?
  2. Al-Qaeda on Trial
  3. Managing Terrorism Risk
  4. William Wilberforce and the Roots of Freedom

1) U.S. Troop Surge in Afghanistan?

A Pentagon insider has indicated that the Joint Chiefs of Staff is planning to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in response to increased attacks by Taliban forces, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. The Department of Defense Comptroller “has been asked to budget money” for the troop surge, Eland writes in his latest op-ed.

The continued presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan—as well as the redeployment of key U.S. intelligence assets and Special Forces troops from Afghanistan to Iraq—has contributed to the Taliban’s resurgence, Eland argues. “This winter, despite weather in Afghanistan that is not usually conducive for fighting, Taliban attacks have increased dramatically and promise to spike even more as the mountain snows melt and the spring campaigning season begins.”

In addition, U.S. and NATO efforts to reduce the cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan have increased support for Taliban fighters from the country’s drug warlords, Eland notes. “Thus, another U.S. escalation in Afghanistan, even in the unlikely event that it could be sustained simultaneously with the U.S. surge in Iraq, will fail because U.S. policy is fueling the very Taliban insurgency that the larger U.S. force is there to combat and because the U.S. government has lost sight of the original mission—to neutralize the top leadership of al Qaeda.”

“Another U.S. Escalation in Afghanistan?” by Ivan Eland (2/26/07) Spanish Translation

The Emperor Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)

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2) Al-Qaeda on Trial

Spain’s trial of 29 suspects in the Madrid terrorist attacks represents a watershed in the West’s war against al-Qaeda, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa. Not only does it attempt to bring to justice those suspected of taking part in an atrocity that killed 191 people and injured 1,824 others, the trial may also yield actionable intelligence about the structure and modus operandi of an organization that shows signs of renewal, argues Vargas Llosa in a new op-ed.

“The Madrid trials are bringing to justice Islamic terrorist suspects who are part of the European network and answer to al-Qaeda’s bosses in the Afghan/Pakistani region,” writes Vargas Llosa. “The connection with other European cells is undeniable. Soon after planning the attacks, The Egyptian [i.e., al-Qaeda operative Rabei Osman El Sayed] left Spain and established himself in Italy, where, luckily, he was imprudent enough to tell one of his contacts over a bugged telephone that he had masterminded the Madrid massacre.”

Trying terrorist suspects in a standard court of law helps to undermine al-Qaeda’s strength in ways that American authorities, with their detention centers, renditions, and secret military tribunals don’t seem to appreciate, Vargas Llosa further argues: “Keeping the fight semi-secret ultimately helps the enemy, because that is precisely one of its objectives—to show that liberal democracy is a farce and that notions such as Western civilization constitute a smokescreen to hide the forces of imperialism and Christian Crusaders. The Madrid trials will help undermine that case, at least in the eyes of those who are not under the fanatics’ spell.”

“Al-Qaeda On Trial,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (2/21/07) Spanish Translation

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)

El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute

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3) Managing Terrorism Risk

The $747 million Urban Areas Security Initiative allocates less funding to anti-terrorism projects in New York City and Washington, D.C. than last year. Understandably, this upsets many New Yorkers and Washingtonians, who worry that terrorists will target their city as they did on 9/11. But according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Pena, rather than defending against the last attack, which will not necessarily be the next one, we should “focus on those threats which pose the most catastrophic consequences and against which cost-effective defense can be deployed or developed.”

“For example, an airliner attacked by a shoulder-fired missile would not result in the same loss of life as the September 11 attacks,” writes Pena in a recent op-ed, “but the terror spread by such an attack could be just as profound by potentially shutting down commercial airline travel with subsequent ripple effects throughout the economy.” Thus, programs to protect commercial airlines, or to secure Russia’s loose nukes, are vital.

“The paradox of homeland security is that the government must make every effort to reduce risk by building defenses against terrorist attacks, but doing so creates a Maginot line, because eventually a determined terrorist will find a way to circumvent defenses and security measures—which is exactly what the 9/11 hijackers did,” Pena writes. “Ultimately, the greatest risk is that posed by U.S. foreign policy. The longer we refuse to recognize that U.S. interventionist policies—especially in the Muslim world—are a root cause of the virulent anti–Americanism that is the basis for terrorism, it won’t matter how well DHS [Department of Homeland Security] is able to assess and manage risk.”

“Learning to Live with Risk,” by Charles Pena (2/20/07) Spanish Translation

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4) William Wilberforce and the Roots of Freedom

“Amazing Grace”—the new movie about anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce—depicts an important episode in the history of the West. Not only does it portray Wilberforce’s successful campaign to end the British slave trade (in 1807) and the abolition of slavery throughout the British empire (in 1833), but the film also illuminates the role of religion in establishing freedom of the West, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Jonathan J. Bean.

“For better or worse, Americans inherited both slavery and Christianity from the British,” Bean writes in a new op-ed. “While slavery mocked the rhetoric of our Declaration of Independence (‘all men are created equal’), a few people in Britain and America felt passionate about ending slavery because it violated the moral teachings of Jesus Christ and also the spirit of the Declaration: each of us ‘endowed by our Creator’ with the rights of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ The fervor of abolitionism came from the New Testament, a body of literature providing the universal principles of natural law to attack slavery.”

Unfortunately, the battle to end slavery is not over: about 27 million people still live under some form of slavery, according to Amnesty International. Writes Bean: “Inspired by Wilberforce’s example, the producers of ‘Amazing Grace’ hope to stir public opinion against the slave trade through a web site, www.amazinggracemovie.com, which sponsors ‘The Amazing Change’ to launch ‘a campaign to abolish modern day slavery and allow children and adults around the world to live in freedom.’ Motivated by Christianity or not, this is one example of ‘religion in politics’ that liberals and conservatives might do well to agree upon.”

“Wilberforce and the Roots of Freedom,” by Jonathan J. Bean (2/22/07) Spanish Translation

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