SUNDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2006 LAREDO MORNING TIMES | 3D EDITORIAL OTHER VIEWS Difficult choices face United States in Iraq THE SACRAMENTO BEE resident Bush has delayed until after the holidays a planned speech to the country about Iraq. In it, he is expected to lay out a plan to change course in a way that will enable U.S. troops to begin pulling out without leaving Iraqis to face what could be an even worse bloodbath than what’s happening now. Various ideas are being talked about, none of which has yet led to any apparent consensus. The one most discussed is to send tens of thousands more U.S. troops into Baghdad, where there are 17,000 now. More Americans would be embedded with Iraqi units and a program to train Iraqi units would be expanded and accelerated in the hope that Iraqis can assume control eventually. We’d like to believe a U.S. change of course could at least help lower the level of violence. But even modest progress presupposes not only rapid improvement in the performance of Iraqi security units, but also an equally rapid purging of their ranks of death squads whose actions are, as much as anything, responsible for the carnage. And that would require decisive action by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to rein in militias run by fellow Shiites, something he has shown no sign of being able or willing to do. In Washington, there is a mood of widespread pessimism, expressed most recently by Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, during Bush’s first term, secretary of state. He sees a “surge” of U.S. troops into Iraq as making little difference. So do American commanders on the ground, as well as Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, who said last week that the Army “will break” unless P augmented by already stretched National Guard and Reserve units. Powell echoed that view over the weekend. This grim outlook appears to strengthen the argument of those who favor an early U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, whether or not Iraq’s sectarian-ridden government overcomes its internal differences and Iraqi security forces start performing better. But the downside of that is that, as most analysts predict, even a gradual U.S. withdrawal would provoke a simultaneous surge in violence by all militant Iraqi factions. How desperate is the search for a workable option? Here’s one measure: The New York Times reports that one proposal floating around Washington (so ill-considered that no one seems willing to claim authorship) is to side with Iraqi Shiites out of sheer expediency. The Shiites control much of Iraq’s oil, and, because they outnumber Sunnis three to one, would likely win a civil war. But apart from its staggering cynicism, such a plan ignores the fact that, while Shiites are a majority in Iraq (and in Iran), Sunnis are dominant in most Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two key U.S. allies. Indeed, Saudi officials have warned that in the event of a U.S. pullout and intensified fighting in Iraq, they would provide support on the side of the Sunnis, raising ominous implications for the entire Middle East. If there’s a silver lining anywhere in all of this, we don’t know what it might be. Nor, more critically, does Bush. Whichever course he chooses in the hope of extricating this country — and millions of Iraqis — from this calamity, it’s hard to be optimistic about the outcome. We can only hope we’re wrong. COLUMN President criticized for Iraq occupation By ORLANDO PATTERSON NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE ne of the more disquieting aspects of the Iraqi occupation is that the president’s final rationale for it is a cherished, though groundless, liberal belief about freedom. As we now know, the war was motivated less by any real evidence of Iraqi involvement with terrorism than by the neoconservatives’ belief that they could stabilize the Middle East by spreading freedom there. Their erroneous assumption was a relic from the liberal past: The doctrine that freedom is a natural part of the human condition. A disastrously simple-minded argument followed from this: that because freedom is instinctively “written in the hearts” of all peoples, all that is required for its spontaneous flowering in a country that has known only tyranny is the forceful removal of the tyrant and his party. Once President Bush was beguiled by this argument he began to sound like a late-blooming schoolboy who had just discovered John Locke, the 17th-century founder of liberalism. In his second inaugural speech, Bush declared “complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul.” Later an Arab-American audience was told, “No matter what your faith, freedom is God’s gift to every person in every nation.” Another speech more explicitly laid out the neoconservative agenda: “We believe that freedom can advance and change lives in the greater Middle East.” A basic flaw in the approach of the president and his neoliberal (aka neoconservative) advisers was their failure to distinguish Western beliefs about freedom from those critical features of it that non-Western peoples were likely to embrace. Those of us who cherish liberty hold as part of the rhetoric that it is “written in our heart,” an essential part of our humanity. It is among the first civic lessons that we teach our children. But such legitimizing rhetoric should not blind us to the fact that O freedom is neither instinctive nor universally desired, and that most of the world’s peoples have found so little need to express it that their indigenous languages did not even have a word for it before Western contact. It is, instead, a distinctive product of Western civilization, crafted through the centuries from its contingent social and political struggles and secular reflections, as well as its religious doctrines and conflicts. Acknowledging the Western social origins of freedom in no way implies that we abandon the effort to make it universal. We do so, however, not at the point of a gun but by persuasion — through diplomacy, intercultural conversation and public reason, encouraged, where necessary, with material incentives. From this can emerge a global regime wherein freedom is embraced as the best norm and practice for private life and government. Just such a conversation has been under way since the first signing, in 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations. Several Asian nations — some, like China, rather cynically, and others, like Singapore, with more robust reasoning — have vigorously contested elements of the culture of freedom, especially its individualism, on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the more communal focus of their own cultures. The doctrine of freedom, however, with its own rich communitarian heritage, can easily disarm and even co-opt such arguments. The good news is that freedom has been steadily carrying the day: Nearly all nations now at least proclaim universal human rights as an ideal, though many are yet to put their constitutional commitments to practice. Freedom House’s data show the share of the world’s genuinely free countries increasing from 25 to 46 percent between 1975 and 2005. The bad news is Iraq. Apart from the horrible toll in American and Iraqi lives, two disastrous consequences seem likely to follow from this debacle. One is the possibility that, by the time America extricates itself, most Iraqis and other Middle Easterners will have come to identify freedom with chaos, deprivation and national humiliation. COLUMN Let us all broadcast a message of peace BY DAN RATHER KING FEATURES SYNDICATE was the night before Christmas, 1906, when something happened that stirred the world and stirs it still. On that dark evening, radio operators aboard ships off the northern Atlantic coast heard a whoosh of static issue from their sets, followed by something altogether new: a human voice. Until that moment 100 years ago, all that had been heard coming out of “the wireless” were the dots and dashes of Morse code. Radio was simply a way for ships at sea to use the telegraph technology that had revolutionized land-based communications. It was considered a utilitarian invention, a tool with very specific applications. A man named Reginald Fessenden changed all that. Few are familiar with the name today, but his was the voice that came crackling over those shipboard radios on that long-ago Christ- T mas Eve, transmitted from a small tower on Brant Rock, Mass. To the wonder of his small group of listeners, he played “O Holy Night” on violin and read some biblical passages as part of a short holiday program. It was the first radio broadcast, the first use of voice and music to entertain, inform and inspire listeners far away. And, despite its novelty, that history-making broadcast was soon all but forgotten. The technology that made it possible endured, though it wasn’t until the 1920s that commercial radio as we know it truly got under way. By the end of that decade, television was in its earliest infancy, though it would be another decade before it even approached a form we would recognize today. The rest of the story, it seems safe to say, is one with which we are all well familiar. Looking back over a century of such unprecedented innova- tion, from the unlocking of the atom to journeys into space, it is hard if not foolhardy to try to identify one that stands above the rest. The emergence of broadcast media might not deserve pride of place among the century’s momentous developments, but none other has been in so many places, at so many times. Broadcasts from virtually every spot on Earth to the surfaces of the moon and Mars have taken us there, too. Radio and the media that have followed in its wake have not only remade our world; they have also fundamentally changed the ways in which we humans relate to one another. For better and for worse, Reginald Fessenden’s lone voice has been multiplied into a seemingly infinite array of voices reaching us from all over the world. At their best, these voices can teach, illuminate and even enlighten us, to paraphrase Edward R. Murrow, the father of broad- cast journalism. And at their worst, they can spread thoughts of intolerance and even murderous hatred. They can convey news of a moon landing or the fall of the Berlin Wall, and they carry incitements to commit genocide, as they did in Rwanda in 1994. The media voices have become all but ubiquitous, and for some, unfortunately, they can seem more real than the voices of the living, breathing people around them. There are places in America where one is more likely to be familiar with the Thursday night TV lineup than the names of one’s neighbors. What started out as a simple tool is still, 100 years later, only as good or as bad as the uses to which we put it. But as we mark a century linked to one another through broadcasting, we might remember that it all began with a solitary voice in the night, transmitting a message of peace on Earth, good will toward men. COLUMN ‘The future is yours’ isn’t for children BY JOAN VENNOCHI THE BOSTON GLOBE erry Christmas from Manulife, a cutting-edge child-care center run by John Hancock Financial Services - now owned by Manulife Financial Corp. of Toronto - could be out of business in the new year. Manulife bought Bostonbased John Hancock in 2003. Now the new corporate owner is reviewing several options for the child-care center at 370 Stuart St., including shutting it down. A decision is expected sometime in 2007. A company spokesman said that declining enrollment prompted this review. Bottom line: it’s a way to cut costs, as well as presence in the Back Bay. Manulife - which continues to market the John Hancock brand in the United States - contends that fewer employees with young children work for it in Boston. Meanwhile, the Boston-based operation is now split between two sites: some 1,500 Hancock employees were relocated to Manulife’s new headquarters on Congress Street in South Boston. Only a few floors in the iconic Hancock Tower are occupied by Hancock employees, who now number about 2,500. The cloudy future that now M looms for a much-praised childcare center signals a major shift in what management believes is necessary to attract long-term, quality workers. The center, which opened in 1990, helped Hancock promote itself as a family-friendly workplace, and a company that works for women. It won the company national recognition in publications such as Working Mother Magazine. Back when I was a business page columnist, then-chairman Stephen L. Brown invited me to lunch in his Hancock Tower aerie. Afterward, he took me on a tour of the day-care center. Message to the media: this is an important piece of Hancock’s appeal as a career destination for working mothers and fathers. Hancock spokesman Roy V. Anderson denied that the center will shut down by August 2007. No final decision has been made, he said, but added that, “Declining interest among our employees in using the child-care center gives us an opportunity to consider changes in how this benefit is offered to our employees.” Manulife executives are considering opening the center to other companies; outsourcing the business; or closing it entirely. If the center closes, it would be a sign of changing times on two fronts: demographic and corporate. Back when they were juggling jobs and toddlers, baby boomers pushed the workplace day-care issue with mixed results. Many companies shied away from the cost and liability. But in Boston, a few corporate leaders at Stride Rite, Hill Holiday Connors Cosmopulos and John Hancock, took on the challenge. Today, the women who once prodded companies to provide day care are thinking more about elder care than kinder care. Today, the idea of expecting an employer to add benefits rather than subtract them is a quaint vestige of 20th century corporate values. Generally speaking, today’s employees are grateful to receive a paycheck instead of a pink slip. Today, out of town owners are much less concerned about employee happiness. Also today, a young, transient work force is less concerned about what is necessary in the future for an optimum work-family balance. Hancock has some 200 job openings listed on its Web site. But the company is finding it more difficult to attract employees beyond the pool of recent college graduates — in other words, mothers and fathers of young children. The high cost of living in the Boston metropolitan area is one factor. But perhaps the John Han- cock of the 21st century is a less welcome environment for that age and family demographic? The John Hancock acquisition turned out to be a good business deal for Manulife. Since the merger, the Toronto insurance giant has enjoyed record earnings. It recently announced plans to spend $25 million to $35 million on an ad campaign by Hill Holiday to reshape its image among baby boomers, called “The Future is Yours.” Obviously, cost-trimming is not a dire necessity; and in this instance, the expense to be trimmed is nominal in the large scheme of Manulife’s financial health. It reportedly cost John Hancock between $500,000 and $1 million annually to operate the center, which can handle 200 children. Fees are calculated based on employee income. Enrollment now is around 100. Children of Hill Holiday employees already have access to the day-care center. It’s hard to believe outreach to other companies in the Back Bay could not yield 100 more children whose parents would welcome entree to this facility. Tis the season to trim trees, not employee benefits, especially at the expense of those who still believe in Santa Claus — the children. COLUMN Eau de TO: Coming to a store near you By JOHN KELSO COX NEWS SERVICE allas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens sure jacked up the value of spit this week when he got fined $35,000 by the NFL for spitting in the face of Atlanta Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall during a game. I’ve got a bottle of Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio cologne in my bathroom that says it has 17 fluid ounces in it. D I’m no expert on this, because I rarely use the stuff unless I’m going someplace fancy, like a Bastrop County chicken fight or the Poodle Dog Lounge. But from eyeballing the size of this bottle, I’d estimate you would have to hawk about five good loogies to fill up one-17th of this bottle. Which would amount to one ounce of spit. Do the math. What this means is that Owens’ bad behavior has raised the value of spit to right at $175,000 per fluid ounce. Which makes the expression “ain’t worth spit” quaintly outdated. The most expensive perfume in the world that I could find through my research is a fragrance called Imperial Majesty, a limited edition Clive Christian signature scent that goes for $2,150 an ounce. That’s a mere pittance (maybe I should say spittance) of what Owens’ spit would go for, even without markup. Of course, Imperial Majesty, which runs $215,000 a bottle, comes in a Baccarat crystal container with a five-carat diamond. I suppose it’s time to get a bit serious here and point out that Terrell Owens’ behavior is childish. What do you do with a grown man who behaves like a 4-yearold in a sandbox? Hey, they have time out in football, right? Put Terrell Owens in time out. Right there on national TV, have him go stand with his head in the corner and think about what he’s done.
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