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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 9, Issue 32: August 6, 2007

  1. Turkey at the Crossroads
  2. Gerrymandering Iraq?
  3. Short Cut to Efficient Urban Roadways
  4. Nuclear Iran and North Korea

1) Turkey at the Crossroads

The recent re-election of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose sympathies seem at odds with the official secularism that has guided government policy since Kemal Ataturk founded the republic in 1923, suggests that Turkey stands at the crossroads, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa. On the one hand, Ergodan has opened up the economy and relaxed some authoritarian restrictions; on the other hand, he has attempted get his Islamist foreign minister Abdullah Gul, appointed president.

“At this stage, nobody knows if Ergodan really wants to reconcile Islam and the West, establishing a worthy precedent in a Muslim world currently caught between the rock of autocratic rule that uses fundamentalism as an excuse and the hard place of an Islamic radicalism that the masses perceive as the only effective opposition,” writes Vargas Llosa in his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group.

Vargas Llosa advises the West to give Erdogan the benefit of the doubt, since any Western interference is likely to strengthen hardcore Islamists at the expense of moderate Muslims. In addition, he argues, Erdogan’s flavor of Islam may end up taking the wind out of the sails of the militants. “That cannot possibly be to Osama bin Laden’s liking and it must make some of the Sunni despots in the region nervous,” concludes Vargas Llosa.

“Turkey’s Crescent,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (8/1/07) Spanish Translation

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)

Liberty for Latin America, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

The Che Guevara Myth, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Visit our Spanish-language website.

Visit our Spanish-language blog.

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2) Gerrymandering Iraq?

The solution to Iraq’s deadly ethnic, religious, and tribal fighting may be as “American” as gerrymandering, i.e., carving up political jurisdictions to promote a desired outcome—in this case, a politically stable and peaceful Iraq—explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland in his latest op-ed, which ran in The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper aimed at lawmakers and lobbyists.

“In Iraq, that same creative arrangement of political boundaries might be the key to cobbling together a country that’s not at war with itself,” Eland writes. “The United States should show the way, then step out of the way.”

The gerrymandering of Iraq would in many ways simply formalize existing political boundaries that separate de facto autonomous territories now governed by Sunni, Kurdish, and Shi’ite militias. To help allay the economic worries of the Sunnis, whose territories have few oil deposits, Eland proposes that oil-rich Shi’ites and Kurds give Sunnis their own oil fields. Although it may be too late to reach a decentralized, gerrymandered arrangement agreeable by all parties, “a decentralized solution may be Iraq’s best hope,” Eland writes. “And if it works, it will not be because the Iraqis adopted the best traditions of American politics, but because they utilized one of its worst.”

“Iraq Solution: Try Gerrymandering,” by Ivan Eland (The Hill, 7/31/07) Spanish Translation

Ivan Eland’s Center on Peace & Liberty        

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

“The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government,” by Ivan Eland

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3) Short Cut to Efficient Urban Roadways

Lawmakers in Albany, New York, last week agreed to study a proposal to implement congestion pricing on some of Manhattan’s clogged roadways. Although the proposal, backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, probably doesn’t go far enough to eliminate congestion completely, the lawmakers’ support for a study of congestion pricing is encouraging. While they are at it, New York’s legislators should also study the need for more overpasses and tunnels to bypass Manhattan’s congested intersections, according to the authors of an op-ed appearing in the July 15 edition of the New York Times, who cite the Independent Institute book, Street Smart. They write:

“In the book Street Smart, one contributor, Peter Samuel, makes a sensible suggestion: construct a truck-only tunnel that would take many lane-cloggers off surface streets. ‘It would feed a north-south truckway spine along the west side of Manhattan, with short east-west spurs,’ he writes.”

Samuel’s analysis, of course, goes far beyond the need for truckways in Manhattan. In his chapter, “The Way Forward in the Private Provision of Public Goods,” Samuel explains the steps necessary to create a truly first-rate system of roadways. These steps include 1) privatizing existing toll facilities; 2) converting high occupancy vehicle lanes to toll lanes; 3) contracting for the private maintenance of roads; 4) assisting property owners to own and manage local roads; 5) creating dedicated truckways; 6) providing new all-purpose toll roads; and 7) upgrading existing highways.

“Think Over the Box,” by Ted Balaker and Sam Staley (The New York Times, 7/15/07) Registration required. Ungated version.

“The Road Best Not Taken,” by Gabriel Roth (The New York Times, 5/20/07)

“HOT Lanes on I-680,” by Gabriel Roth (San Jose Mercury News, 10/3/05)

Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads, edited by Gabriel Roth.

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4) Nuclear Iran and North Korea

What should the United States do if efforts to prevent North Korea and Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons fail? “Lots of people avoid this subject, both on the left and the right, for their particular reasons, and I think we should start by thinking about it,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland said in his opening remarks at the Independent Policy Forum, “Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea,” held June 21 at the Institute’s Washington, D.C., office.

Drawing on his new policy report (linked below), Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Peña proposed that the West assist newly nuclear-armed governments in creating fail-safe systems to render their WMDs powerless in the event of radical regime change, terrorist acquisition, or an accidental launch. Nowhere is this more urgent than in Pakistan, he argued, because that country’s existing nuclear weapons could come under the control of militant Islamists quickly if General Musharraf’s regime were to collapse.

Trita Parsi, author, Treacherous Triangle: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States, stressed the urgency of bringing Iran to the nuclear bargaining table. Over the past year, he said, Iran’s inventory of uranium enrichment centrifuges has grown from 164 to 1,800—and will likely exceed 3,000 by year’s end unless a freeze is agreed to.

Turning to the Korean peninsula, Doug Bandow, Vice President, Citizen Outreach, said the U.S. must make clear to North Korea that any effort to spread nuclear weapons would have serious consequences for the regime. Bandow also proposed withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea, whose conventional forces could fight off an attack by North Korea. In addition, he argued that establishing diplomatic relations with North Korea would enable U.S. leaders to better understand how the regime of Kim Jong-Il operates.

Read the transcript of “Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea,” with Ivan Eland, Charles Peña, Trita Parsi, and Doug Bandow (6/21/07).

Listen to the audio.

“Nuclear Nonproliferation in the Post-9/11 World,” by Charles Peña.

Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism, by Charles Peña.

Putting “Defense” Back in U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post–Cold War World, by Ivan Eland.

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