SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2014 • THE BULLETIN
om or occu w
ars usually end only when the defeated aggressor believes it would be futile to
resume the conflict. Lasting peace
follows if the loser is then forced to change its political system into
— Ol' nBI was largely quiet. Six prior years of American blood and treasure had finally led to the end of the genocidal Saddam Hussein regime and
conniving Saddam and Operation
the establishment of a constitution-
Saddam with something better than what we had left after the first war. It is popular to think that Ameri-
al system that was working under something other than what it was. the dose supervision of American Republican Rome learned that now pull all NATO troops out of the peacekeepers. bitter lesson through three conflicts Balkans and expect Orthodox ChrisThen, for the price of a re-election with Carthage before ensuring that tians, Catholics, Muslims, Slavs, Cro- talking point - "I ended the war there was not goingto be a fourth Pu- ats and other assorted nationalities in Iraq" — Obama pulled out every nic War. and religions to live peacefully and American peacekeeper. The result is Germany fought three aggressive not involve the world again in their now the chaos of a growing Islamic wars before it was finally defeated,
brutal ancient rivalries?
occupied and reinvented. In contrast, examine what has America defeated Nazi Germany, happened when the United States fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, in- pounded an enemy, then just left. flicting such damage that they were By 1974, South Vietnam was viall unable to continue their resistance. And then, unlike its quick retreat home after World War I, America occupied — and still has bases in
able. A peace treaty with the North Vietnam was still holding. But after Watergate, the destruction of the
offs of U.S. aid and the removal of all
Richard Nixon presidency, serial cut-
Does anyone believe that Japan,
U.S. peacekeeping troops, the North Italy and Germany would now be Vietnamese easily walked in and enallies of the U.S. had the Truman ad- slaved the south. ministration removed all American It was easy to bomb Moammar militarybases fromthose countries? Gadhafiout of power — and easier The controversial Korean War
still for President Obama to boast
succeededin saving a noncommu-
that he would never send in ground
nist South Korea. The U.S. military inflicted terrible punishment on com-
troops to sort out the ensuing mess
sors. Then, America occupied South Korea to prevent another attack from
hazi attacks on our consulate and the
keepers in the Balkans after the 1999
is now more a terrorist haven than it
in Libya. What followed was a Conmunist Korean and Chinese aggres- go-like miasma, leading to the Bengkilling of four U.S. personnel. the North. The world of Samsung We can brag that U.S. ground and Kia eventually followed. troops did not follow our bombs and There are still American peace- missiles into Libya. But the country defeat of Slobodan Milosevic and his was under Gadhafi — and may come removalfrom the Serbian govern- back to haunt us still more. ment. Does anyone think that we can When Obama entered office, Iraq
Desert Fox followed. The aim of the
second Iraq war of 2003 was to end the conflict for good by replacing
ca's threats can be neutralized by occasional use of missiles, bombs and drones without much cost. But blow-
ing apart a problem for a while is different than ending it for good. The latter aim requires just the sort of unpopular occupations that calmed the
Apparently, Obama himself rec- Balkans and that had done the same ognizes his error. When our troops in Iraqby 2011. were still monitoring the Iraqi peace, Obama now promises to destroy he and Vice President Joe Biden pro- the Islamic State in Syria, solely claimed Iraq to be "stable" and their through air power. And he assures likely "greatest" achievement. But that he will safely pull nearly all U.S. when the country imploded after troops out of Afghanistan at the end they had bragged about pulling out of the year. troops, Obama blamed the decision More likely, Syria will remain a on someone else. dangerous mess like Libya, and AfThe unpopular, costly occupations ghanistan will end up like Vietnam of both Afghanistan and Iraq were orIraq. not,aschargei,neoconservative fanVictory on the ground and occupatasies about utopian democracy-build- tionscan end a problem butare uning. Instead, they were desperate, no- popular and costly. win reactions to past failedpolicies. Bombing is easy and forgettable, After we armed Islamists to force and ends up mostly as a temporary the Soviets out of Afghanistan in Band-Aid. 1989, we forgot about the chaotic If we cannot or will not solve the country. The Clinton administra- problem on the ground, end an enetion periodically blew up things with my power and then reconstitute its cruise missiles there on rumors of government, then it is probablybetter Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. to steer dear altogether than to blow An al-Qaida base for the 9/11 attacks up lots of people and things — and followed. simply go home. — Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist After expelling Saddam Hussein's and historian at the Hoover Institution, forces from Kuwait and leaving Iraq in 1991, no-fly-zones, a resurgent and Stanford University.
Holder failed to hold banks accountable By Joe Nocera New York Times News Service
few weeks ago, A t torney General Eric Holder gave a speech at the New York Uni-
versity School of Law on the subject of white-collar prosecutions. In it, he offered afull-throated defense of his department's efforts in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. With his res-
ignation announcement coming eight days later, one can't help but view his speech as a kind of valedictory. The Justice Department, he said, had stood vigilant against financial fraud "wherever it is uncovered" — and prosecuted "criminal conduct to the fullest extent of the law." He took credit for
negotiating huge fines against financial firms and for forcing several big banks to accept guilty pleas. As for the prosecution of individuals involved in the financial crisis, he daimed that the Justice Department
had "takenaggressiveaction, nearly doubling the number of mortgage fraud indictments and criminal convictions between 2009and 2010,then increasing
them even further the following year." Actually, Holder's Justice Department has been notoriously laggard in prosecuting crimes that stemmed from the financial crisis, and much of what it
has doneamounts toan exerciseinpublic relations. Take, for instance, those guilty pleas extracted from Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas. In March, Holder said that he
U.S. infant mortality rate a rich-poor situation By Christopher lngraham The Washington Post
he United States has a higher infant mortality rate than any
of the other 27 wealthy countries, according to a new reportfrom
U.S. infant mortality disadvantage relative to Austria and Finland. This
as wealthy ones. In the U.S. that is
avowed. No wonder he was eager to
starkly not the case: "There is tre-
is somewhat heartening.
mendous inequality in the U.S., with
have some firms plead guilty! Yet, as Peter Henning notes in a New York
But what about that other 60
lower education groups, unmarried
Times DealBook artide, the Justice De-
percent? "Most striking," they write, "the
and African-American women hav-
partment made sure those guilty pleas
ing much higher infant mortality rates," the authors conclude.
didn't inflict too much pain. In the case
the Centers for Disease Control. A
U.S. has similar neonatal mortality
baby born in the U.S. is nearly three times as likely to die during her first year of life as one born in Finland or Japan. That same American baby is
but a substantial disadvantage in I
feared that prosecuting large financial institutions could hurt the economy. This became known as his "too big to jail" remark — which he quickly dis-
post-neonatal mortality" compared with Austria and Finland. In other
One way t o
u n derstand these
numbers is by noting that most American babies, regardless of
words, mortality rates among in- socioeconomic status, are born in about twice as likely to die in her first fants in their first days and weeks of hospitals. And while in the hospital, life are similar across all three coun- American infants receive exceedyear as a Spanish or Korean one. Despite U.S. health care spending tries. But as infants get older, a mor- ingly good care — our neonatal levels that are significantly high- of South California, Emily Oster of tality gap opens between the U.S. intensive care units are among the er than in any other country in the the University of Chicago and Heidi and the other countries and widens best in the world. This may explain world, a baby born in the U.S. is less Williams of MIT, offers clues. They considerably. why mortality rates in the first few likely to see his first birthday than note that the infant mortality gap Digging deeper into these num- weeks of life are similar in the U.S., one born in Hungary, Poland or Slo- between the U.S. and other wealthy bers, Oster and her colleagues found Finland and Austria. vakia. Or in Belarus. Or in Cuba, for nations has been persistent — and is that the higher U.S. mortality rates But the differences arise after inthat matter. poorly understood. are due "entirely, or almost entirely, fants are sent home. Poor American The U.S. rate of 6.1 infant deaths One factor, according to the pa- to high mortality among less advan- families have considerably less acper 1,000 live births masks consid- per: "Extremely preterm births re- taged groups." To put it bluntly, ba- cess to quality health care than their erable state-level variation. If Ala- corded in some places may be con- bies born to poor moms in the U.S. wealthier counterparts. bama were a country, its rate of 8.7 sidered a miscarriage or still birth in are significantly more likely to die One measure of the Affordable infant deaths per 1,000 would place other countries. Since survival be- in their first year than babies born Care Act's success, then, will be it slightly behind Lebanon in the fore 22 weeks or under 500 grams is to wealthier moms. whether it leads to improvements in world rankings. Mississippi, with its very rare, categorizing these births In fact, infant mortality r ates the infant mortality rate. Oster and 9.6 deaths, would be somewhere be- as live births will inflate reported among wealthy Americans are sim- her colleagues note that ACA contween Botswana and Bahrain. infant mortality rates (which are re- ilar to the mortality rates among tains provisions to expand postnatal We're the wealthiest nation in the ported as a share of live births)." wealthy Fins and Austrians. The home nurse visits, which are fairly world. How did we end up like this? Oster and her colleagues found difference is that in Finland and common in Europe. New research, in a draft paper that this reporting difference ac- Austria, poor babies are nearly as — ChistopherIgraham wrote this from Alice Chen of the University counts for up to 40 percent of the likely to survive their first years for The Washington Post.
of BNP Paribas, prosecutors secured agreements from state banking regulators that they wouldn't pull the bank's
license to do business. Or take the claim that the Justice
Department has been rigorously rooting out mortgage fraud. In fact, after a grand announcement that the depart-
ment was putting together a mortgage fraud task force, U.S. attorneys around
the country began aiming their fire at easy prey: small-time mortgage brokers, or homeowners who had lied on
"liar loans." None of the top executives from any of the major firms were indicted. Indeed, according to an article in The New York Times Magazine in M ay, onl y oneexecutiveofanykind has gone to prison as a result of his actions during the financial crisis. As for those big fines against Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, not only did they come very late, but their terms also were such that it was impossible to know for sure
the extent of their wrongdoing. And, of course, despite fines that went into the billions, no actual human was prosecut-
ed for any wrongdoing. So the question worth asking, as
Union's first stage could be a model for Mideast
Holder plans to step down, is not what his department did but why it did so little. Why was it so reluctant to pursue the
financial crimes connected to the 2008 crisis? One answer is that these are hard
By Joseph J. Ellis Los Angeles Times
As transitory as the confederation
became in America, it provides the e year that the American war proper model for Iraq and, in fact, for for independence ended, 1781, other currently combustible countries
the United States adopted the Articles of Confederation as its pre-
in the Middle East. Our fundamental mistake in Iraq
ferred form of government. Even a also has its origins in America's cursory glance at the Artides reveals founding era. Thomas Jefferson bethat the first clause in the most fa- lieved there was a natural law govmous speech in American history is erning societies that tyrannical rulers mcorrect. (King George III) violated. Once you At Gettysburg in 1863 Lincoln be- removed such rulers, such as Saddam gan as follows: "Four score and seven Hussein, the natural order of peace yearsago ourfathersbroughtforth on and harmonywouldbe restored. this continent a new nation." No, they
If there is any place on Earth de-
did not. Theyestablished a confedera- signedto expose Jefferson's utopian tion of sovereign states, loosely bound vision as an illusion, it is the Middle together in a diplomatic alliance that East today, where the removal of an vested only limited power in the cen- autocratic government produces sectral government. No American nation tarian chaos, civil wars and horrific was possible at the time because alle- bloodletting. All the national borders giances remained local and regional in the Middle East are arbitrary lines at best, so a confederation acknowl- in the sand drawn by European powedging that political reality offered ers after World War I, in effect an Euthe only kind of union acceptable to rocentric grid imposed on a Muslim all its constituents. mosaic of Sunni, Shiite and minority We all knowthat the confederation sects, along with Kurds, Turkmens model was short-lived, replaced by and other ethnic minorities. the nation-state in 1788 with the ratAs a result, the very idea of such a ification of the Constitution. But the thing as "the Iraqi people" is a WestArtides of Confederation served the ern delusion and a geographic fiction. useful purpose of sustaining some Once the United Stated toppled Hussemblance of political unity for seven sein, it lifted the lid on Pandora's Box, years after the Revolutionary War.
and we are now witnessing the polit-
ical chaos that has inevitably ensued. The only way to salvage any semblance of honor from our misguided policy is to recognize that primal allegiances in Iraq remain sectarian, tribal and ethnic rather than national, thereby making our goal of a democratic Iraqi nation inherently impossible. Recent statements by President Obama and SecretaryofStateJohn F.
Kerryclaimingthat an"indusive government" is taking shape in Baghdad are almostcertainlywishfulthinking. Which brings us back to the confederation model. In postrevolution-
tremists, and the Sunnis will join
cases to prosecute. Early on, the Justice
such an effort onlyif they can foresee a securehomeland forthemselves in
Department tried two Bear Stearns
a reconfigured Iraq. Without Sunni
portfolio managers whose hedge fund collapsed. The two men were found in-
participation, the deployment of U.S.
nocent. That verdict seems to have sent
air power will mean that we are tak-
a chill through prosecutors, making them reluctant to go after others.
ing sides in what is, in effect, a civil war between Shiite and Sunni factions. We do not want to do that.
It seems dear that in the foreseeable future (within the next several
decades), the map of the Middle East is goingtoberedrawn. Thisis likelyto be a messy and often bloody business that all Western countries, including
Jesse Eisinger, the author of that
Times Magazine article, wrote that, over the years, the Justice Department
saw "an erosion of the department's actual trial skills," as well as a drop in resources. In the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara focused-
ary America, it performed the essen- the United States, would be wise to tial task of providing a measure of po- avoid, thereby allowing the Islamic litical coherence that bridged the gap world to fashionits own fate. between state sovereignty and a naNo matter how i n genious the tion-sized republic. In Iraq, confedera- future architects of the new Midtionwould allow Shiites, Sunni Arabs dle Eastern geography prove to be, and Kurds to live in separate prov- crisscrossing sectarian and tribal alinces, each with some political and legiances will make it impossible to religious autonomy. Unlike what hap- align national borders with one prepened in the United States, an Iraqi ferred version of Islam. As a result, Confederation wouldprobablylead to the confederation model, rather than
with great success — on insider-trading cases, where he had wiretaps that made
partition rather than nationhood, but in the current context, it remains the
the nation-state, could serve a useful
negative side, he subpoenaed journal-
purpose until that distant day when
ists and went after their sources.
bestoutcome we canhope for.
Islam embraces Jefferson's version of
No matter how he tries to spin it, Holder's inability — or unwillingnessto prosecute financial crimes is on the negative side of the ledger.
It is also the only way for the pres-
ident's strategy against Islamic State to work. That strategy requires Iraq to provide the ground troops in the campaign against the Islamic ex-
a secular society. — Joseph L Ellis' book on the era of the Articles of Confederation, "The Quartet: OrchestratingtheSecond American Revolution," publishes this spring.
prosecutions relatively easy, instead of
difficult-to-try financial crisis cases. Holder's legacy is a mixed bag. As the Times' Matt Apuzzo wrote last week,
he "succeeded in reducing lengthy prison sentences, opened civil rights inves-
tigations against police departments in recordnumbers and challenged identification requirements for voters." On the
— Joe Nocera is a columnist for The New York Times.