Friday, February 02, 2007

Wilmington's Dick Vague on our National Interest

Steve Clemons is plugged into Washington’s pragmatic foreign policy mainstream: the folks who were shunted aside in the rush to war in Iraq. Clemons effortlessly drops all the big names in the (now dispossessed) U.S. foreign policy establishment. Yesterday, I was surprised to see a familiar name from Wilmington’s business community featured in his blog, The Washington Note.
Dick Vague made his mark in the credit card business with First USA and Juniper Financial. Now he has turned his attention to righting our ship of state:
Vague, in my view, is an extraordinary guy, too extraordinary as I wish there were many more CEOs like him -- because he has invested a lot of his time and funds in trying to get fellow Americans to understand that the Iraq War and America's current vector in foreign policy is not only boneheaded but actually undermining the economic fundamentals of the country.
Vague is no liberal. He's a tough minded economic conservative who believes that America has a much better face and soul than it has been showing the world.
He thinks that we are creating conditions that are cultivating terrorism and terrorists and are doing little to actually help others in the world get ahead, particularly economically.
Clemons highlighted a remarkable report that Vague produced (with help from Clemons) that takes a thorough look at the botched fight against terrorism, the reasons for the Iraq debacle, and how to restore America’s security as we sort out the mess that is our foreign policy.
The report is called
“Terrorism: A Brief for Americans.” Here is an excerpt from the introduction:
On November 7, 2006 Americans went to the polls and registered a deep concern on the course of the war in Iraq. For months ahead of the mid-term elections, they understood what leaders in the White House refused to acknowledge: A region spiraling downward in violence and bloodshed. American troops with no exit strategy. Most horrific of all, U.S. soldiers—America’s finest—tortured, killed and mutilated in a war making no observable progress in achieving the promised reduction in terrorism. We hold the view that there is a better plan for exiting Iraq, one that is based on a clearer understanding of both that country’s history and the civil war underway there now. We also hold the view that there is a better path to reducing terrorism that is very different than the one currently being pursued. This new path adheres to the values that have made this country great—justice and strength combined with respect, humility and inclusiveness—and, if followed, can reaffirm this greatness. Unlike the current course, this plan is built upon a recognition and understanding of the causes and nature of terrorism.
Simply put, U.S. policies and actions in Iraq and throughout the world have increased world terrorism. The predictions made by our administration regarding the war have been badly wrong—predictions regarding how quickly it would end, how much it would cost, how we would be greeted as liberators, and how terrorism would decline as a result. Now predictions are no longer even offered.
The predictions have been wrong because their view of the cause of terrorism is wrong. Therefore the plan for defeating terrorism also has been wrong. By leading our finest into the wrong war, and leaving them there too long, we have put them in an untenable situation. Haditha and Abu Ghraib are the failure of our leadership in Washington, not our soldiers on the front lines.
Tragically, the Administration’s policies, founded on misunderstanding, will most probably lead to the ascendance of yet another repressive regime or regimes in Iraq as the only way to restore “order” to the country. But the damage will not be limited to that country alone. Our mistakes in Iraq will haunt us throughout the region and beyond. Violent terrorism has accelerated and spread. More lives—military and civilian—certainly will be lost.
Our thesis is this: extremists who commit acts of terror exist in virtually all religions and societies, including our own. The most serious problems with terrorism occur in countries or regions where extremists have gained the sympathy and support of a broad population. Generally, that receptive population is enduring oppression or occupation. The most effective way to eliminate that support, to isolate—and thus neutralize—extremists, is to overcome occupation or oppression. And the most effective way to achieve that is through truly a decentralized and representative government. Opportunity must replace despair.
The story here is not that Dick Vague has joined the growing majority of Americans opposed to our continuing misadventure in Iraq, but that he would invest the time and study to offer a alternative way of viewing our place in the world and concrete thoughts on how we can restore rationality to our foreign policy. Dick Vague has done his homework; his report is worth careful study.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice to hear from you again.

Remember the "White Hats"? Remember when the little girl was shot down by Big Willies? Remember how we all went out and faced the drug dealers on their own turf? Remember what the police said: "If you weren't here there wouldn't be a problem." I still can see that sargeant. Us being there made the problem worse!

Iraq was a mistake, but terrorism is just as complex a problem as community drug dealing. I don't think it helps at all to blame America for making terrorism worse and say the solution is "justice and strength combined with respect, humility, and inclusiveness".

Like the little girl that got shot, terrorism will come to a neighborhood near us and I want to see how much "respect, humility, and inclusiveness" arises as a natural reaction.

We need to spend more time counting all the aid we've given Germany, France, Japan, Africa, the UN....., that's respect and inclusiveness. There is nothing wrong with, after 10-15 years of getting blown up around the world and then here (before we "made terrorism worse"), getting pissed off and defending ourselves. Okay, Iraq was a fumble, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water and blame America.

So when you post exerpts like the guy who said America is the cause of increased terriorism, remember the cop who told you 'in the emergency room' that you were making drug dealing in Hilltop worse.

The war on terror is just as complex and the guy in your quote blaming someone trying to confront it is just as simple-minded.

Ken Finlayson

9:59 AM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

First, it's great to hear from you Ken. I'd love to know what you're up to. If you go to my profile there's an email link; please use it.

Of course, I remember our white hats crusade (well, most of it at any rate).

As for our place in the world: I see Dick Vague's study as anything but reflexively anti-American. Instead I interpret his report as a study in enlightened self-interest.

You could say the same about a war critic like Wes Clark: Here's a guy who spent a lifetime in uniform saying there are ways of protecting and advancing our national interest without marching off to war in every instance.

11:27 AM, February 03, 2007  

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