What if the next president quickly withdraws American troops from Iraq?
Paul Cruickshank is a Fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University's School of Law. He previously worked as an investigative journalist in London, reporting on al Qaeda and its European affiliates and was part of the CNN reporting team that covered the London July 7, 2005 attacks. He collaborated closely with Peter Bergen in interviewing acquaintances of Osama bin Laden for Bergen's 2006 oral history "The Osama bin Laden I Know" and worked with CNN on a two-hour Emmy-nominated documentary "In the footsteps of bin Laden." Cruickshank has written about al Qaeda and Islamist groups for a number of publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. He has provided on-air analysis to CNN, BBC, NBC, CBS, BBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera on national security issues. Cruickshank graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in history, and has a Masters degree with Honors in International Relations from the Paul. H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He has also worked in the European Parliament in Brussels and at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.
Paul Cruickshank: I think the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would be a disaster, because the success against Al Qaeda is really not a complete success so far. Two thousand and seven was the record year for suicide bombings – over 350 suicide bombings in Iraq in 2007. That’s one suicide bombing attack a day. Ten thousand civilians have been killed in Iraq, and around 900 suicide bombing attacks since the war began. And those have been almost all carried out by Al Qaeda. So this is an organization with a real track record of violence; that in recent years were able to gain control of huge . . . Well not . . . They were in recent years . . . they were able to gain control of significant amount of territory within the country, especially in areas with a mixed demographic population of Shiia and Sunni. Because they’re really able to gain recruits by saying to people in these areas, “Look. The Shiia … are massacring us. You need to join Al Qaeda because we’re the only ones who can fight back against the Shiia …. We’re the only ones who can really protect you from death; from . . . from the activities of the militias of … and other militias operating in Iraq. So that was a real tool for them to gain recruits in 2005 and 2006 and the early part of 2007. Things have been going much less well for Al Qaeda in Iraq since then. They’re not now seen as the protector of Iraqi Sunnis, but really as the oppressor of Iraqi Sunnis. But if U.S. troops would withdraw precipitously from the country, and the civil war again escalates, and you see the sorts of levels of violence you were seeing in 2006, then the real problem . . . we could have a real problem because the . . . that dynamic of Shiia… killing Sunnis might come back into play. And then Al Qaeda again would have a recruiting tool in these demographically mixed parts of Iraq to . . . to again win the support of a local population. You might see other insurgent groups and Sunni tribals again coming up with a marriage of convenience with Al Qaeda; or stop fighting against Al Qaeda in these awakening councils and again ally themselves with Al Qaeda. If you have a larger Shiia-Sunni civil war emerging . . . Because right now moving forward, the U.S. and Israeli arming these tribal groups and Sunni tribal groups around the country, they’re gaining in power. But you also have the Baghdad which is dominated by the Shiia forces of…; of other . . . of other forces in Iraq. So you could have a situation where you have two armed camps and a more organized, higher …civil war emerging with a very quick U.S. withdrawal from the country. Iraq is still like a tinder box right now which can erupt. And if it does erupt and you do have a civil war again blazing in the country, then Al Qaeda can then again be the winners out of that sort of situation because the chaos and bloodshed of 2006 might return. And if it does return, then Al Qaeda again can use that as a recruiting tool – casting themselves as the protector of the local population to gain hold of territory. And if they do gain hold of the territory, there’s a real change they’re gonna use that territory not only to plan operations within Iraq, but also in the Arab world. You saw in 2005…launching attacks in Jordan. killed 60. There are some indications that the plot in the summer of 2007 to launch attacks on a Glasgow airport and also in London had links to Al Qaeda in Iraq became they clearly have out of area ambitions. The leader of the organization, an Egyptian called …, has said he (42:36) doesn’t wanna rest in this jihad until he blows up the White House. There’s a real chance that if Al Qaeda in Iraq were allowed to regenerate a capability in Iraq because of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal, they’ll again gain strength. And they’ll be able to sort of export manpower and finances to Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We’ve seen increasing synergies between Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al Qaeda central, if you like, in the Afghan-Pakistan border area. The insurgent groups in Iraq in 2006 were raising around $200 million a year through all sorts of nefarious activities – smuggling, kidnappings, those sort of things. Al Qaeda in Iraq had some part of that pie. We don’t know how much – likely several million dollars. Even …in 2005 sent a letter to …asking for money . . . asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars. So Al Qaeda in Iraq could in the future resurface just like Al Qaeda did in the Pakistani-Afghan area.
Recorded on: Jan 14 2008
Al-Qaeda would profit from the violence following a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops, says Cruickshank.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
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With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
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