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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 8, Issue 35: August 28, 2006

  1. War Crimes Hypocrisy
  2. The Future of Cuba, Part 2
  3. History's Greatest Columnist?
  4. How to Really Win the War on Terrorism

1) War Crimes Hypocrisy

Saddam Hussein's attorneys do not deny that innocents were killed in the gassing of Kurdish villages in the 1988 "Anfal" campaign, but they argue that those deaths were not deliberate; rather, they were unintended consequences of Iraq's combat with Iranian and Kurdish belligerents during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Although this defense might not save Saddam at his war crimes trial, Israel's supporters make a similar argument in defending its invasion of and attacks on Lebanon that have left more than a thousand innocents dead, according to Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace and Liberty, writing in his latest op-ed.

Israel has caused "widespread destruction of Shi'ite neighborhoods, apartment houses, water services, electrical power stations, ports, factories, roads and bridges in Lebanon in its efforts to punish Hezbollah. Yet Saddam Hussein is on trial for war crimes and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is still in office." While some cringe at the comparison between the conduct of war by the democratic leader of Israel and an autocrat like Saddam, Eland notes that "we are not talking about the selection method for leaders here; we are comparing their specific actions during wartime." In addition to its heavy-handed tactics in Lebanon, Israel has also imposed a severe blockade and bombed civilian infrastructure "[t]o punish the people of Gaza for electing the wrong party in democratic elections last January, and for Hamas's capture of an Israeli soldier."

"To justify its ill-advised invasion of Iraq," Eland concludes, "the Bush administration regularly gripes about Saddam Hussein's war crimes, while cheering on Israel as it does the same in Lebanon and Gaza, just using different weapons."

See "Selective Prosecution of War Crimes," by Ivan Eland (8/28/06)
"Enjuiciamiento selectivo de los crímenes de guerra"

Also see:

THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK INTO U.S. DEFENSE POLICY: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)


2) The Future of Cuba, Part 2

Questions about the future of a post-Castro Cuba persist. For Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow William Ratliff, the key immediate question is whether Fidel Castro will play the "maker" and give brother Raul more discretion to reform the government -- or play the "spoiler" and make it hard for the pragmatic Raul to deviate from the "true Fidelista faith."

"If Fidel dies soon without digging in his heels, or cooperates in the succession, I would predict a relatively smooth move toward carefully orchestrated economic reforms, probably under Raul Castro's direction, but with degrees of support from other current and perhaps former leaders," Ratliff writes in a new op-ed for the Center on Global Prosperity.

Taking issue with Alvaro Vargas Llosa's prediction (see the LIGHTHOUSE of 8/7/06), Ratliff argues that Cuba's post-Fidel leaders "are likely to follow the Chinese lead in maintaining the revolutionary image of their original great leader even as they dismantle much of his economic thinking and system." Raul, in particular, "may have a good chance to conduct Chinese-style change" -- i.e., making "systematic market-oriented economic reforms identified as market-socialism under single-party direction." Fidel, a hardliner not known for flexibility, may even have hinted as such a direction. Although he has rejected implementing Chinese-style economic reforms during his own tenure, Fidel gave his blessing to the PRC's economic policies during Chinese President Hu Jintao's Cuban visit in November 2004.

See "Raul Castro, China, and Post-Fidel Cuba," by William Ratliff (8/22/06)

Also see:

"Cuba's Transition," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (8/2/06)
"La transicion cubana"

"Cuba Libre?" by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/2/06)
"¿Cuba Libre?"

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)

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


3) History's Greatest Columnist?

Who were history's greatest newspaper or magazine columnists, and what was the greatest current-affairs column? The answers depend as much on one's own subjective stylistic preferences as on objective qualities such as keen powers of observation, depth of analysis, breadth of coverage, prescience, and overall facility with the written word.

That's not to say the questions aren't worth addressing, however, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa shows in his latest piece, "The Greatest Column." Even making a provisional case for specific writers or columns can be highly instructive, especially when made by a fellow columnist, such as Vargas Llosa, who has written professionally on three continents and has several journalism awards under his belt.

Although Vargas Llosa's answers admittedly are not definitive, they nevertheless shed light on what qualifies as a great current-affairs column. His picks may not resonate with readers familiar only with living American columnists (indeed, none of his picks is alive and only one was American), but that may be because many of us suffer from historical amnesia and are cut off from columnists in other countries (although the Internet is helping to fix that imbalance). Rather than name Vargas Llosa's winners apart from the personal context he provides -- and wreck the suspense -- we think this piece is best read without the "executive summary" that busy LIGHTHOUSE readers have come to appreciate. So, please read his piece in its entirety -- your effort will be rewarded!

Do you have a candidate for history's greatest current-affairs column and columnist? Drop us a line (and a link, if you have one) by September 5, and we'll report the results in an upcoming LIGHTHOUSE.

"The Greatest Column," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (8/23/06)
"La mejor columna"

Also see, "The Bathtub, Mencken, and War," by Wendy McElroy (8/1/99)

"La Bañadera, Mencken, y la Guerra"

Richard W. Wilcke's review essay on biographies of H.L. Mencken at

LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

THE CHE GUEVARA MYTH, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)


4) How to Really Win the War on Terrorism

Charles Pena, Roger Cressey, & Joseph Cirincione (Washington, D.C., Sept. 22)

Defeating terrorism in the post-9/11 era requires more than strengthening homeland security against future attacks and dismantling the al Qaeda terrorist network, it also requires adopting a foreign policy that does not attract new terrorists.

In WINNING THE UN-WAR: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism, Charles Pena (Senior Fellow, Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy) argues that this approach requires the United States to restructure its military and end the Cold-War era commitments that distract us from defeating terrorists, as well as ameliorate the negative consequences of an interventionist U.S. foreign policy, which creates incentives and opportunities for terrorists to target the United States.

Please join us September 22 at the Independent Institute's Washington, D.C., office, as Charles Pena, Roger W. Cressey, and Joseph Cirincione discuss strategies for winning the war on terrorism.


CHARLES PENA -- Author, WINNING THE UN-WAR: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism

ROGER W. CRESSEY -- President, Good Harbor Consulting, LLC; former White House counterterrorism official; and NBC News terrorism analyst

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE -- Senior Vice President for National Security and International Policy, Center for American Progress


Friday, September 22, 2006

Forum: 3:30–5:00 PM

Reception: 5:00–6:00 PM


Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 608

Washington, D.C.

R.S.V.P to 800-927-8733 or [email protected]

Praise for WINNING THE UN-WAR: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism, by Charles Pena:

"…Not only does Charles Pena understand the nature of modern Islamic terrorism…but he understands how to tackle it…"
-- Jason Burke, chief reporter for the London Observer and author of AL QAEDA: Casting a Shadow of Terror and AL QAEDA: The True Story of Radical Islam

"Mr. Pena's book deserves to be widely read and carefully considered."
-- Amb. Edward Peck, former chief of mission in Iraq and deputy director of the Reagan cabinet's task force on terrorism

"...a great deal of research about the war against al accessible and interesting book..."
-- Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst, fellow of the New America Foundation, and author of THE OSAMA BIN LADEN I KNOW: An Oral History of Al Qaeda's Leader

"A brilliant and incisive demolition of the misguided strategy that the Bush administration concocted in the wake of 9/11."
-- Andrew J. Bacevich, author of THE NEW AMERICAN MILITARISM: How Americans Are Seduced By War

For more about this event, see


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless