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Commentary Week In Review

Friday, Jan. 5, 2007

Saddam Hussein hangs, the U.S. military shifts left, Lebanon's Democracy is so fragile, and Somalia is on the brink. . . . The World Politics Review Commentary Week in Review is posted by noon every Friday. Drawing from more than two dozen English-language news outlets worldwide, the column highlights one op-ed for each day of the past week and aggregates other noteworthy pieces from the week.

Jan. 1 through Jan. 5 was dominated by analysis of Saddam's execution. Mark Bowden led the way, arguing in the Jan. 2 Wall Street Journal that one of the better allies in promoting the idea of a unified Iraqi state "was none other than Saddam, who may have died the last true believer in a multiethnic, nonsectarian Iraq."

In "So, Saddam Is Dead . . . But the way of the world remains Saddam's," Bowden quoted a hand-written letter Saddam purportedly released from prison in the days before his hanging. Saddam "addressed the Iraqi people as one, and encouraged them to rise up against the American occupiers. 'Do not trust those who speak of Shias and Sunnis,' he wrote. Except for the part about attacking Americans, it might have been written by one of the Pentagon's propaganda contractors."

"Despite Saddam's Death, Iraq Is No Closer To Unity," Shlomo Avineri's piece in the Jan. 3 Daily Star of Beirut, argued that for Iraq's "Shiite majority, long brutally oppressed by the Baathist regime and all previous Sunni-dominated Iraqi regimes, Saddam's death symbolizes their attainment of political hegemony."

"To the Sunni minority, pushed from power by the American invasion and giving vent to their frustration with daily attacks on the Shiite population and their holy sites, Saddam will remain a hero for a long time to come," Avineri wrote. "The Kurds - who, like the Shiites, were victimized by Saddam for decades - quietly cling to their de facto independence in the north, making sure that they will never again come under Arab rule."

"A Crucial Time for Saving Lebanon's Fragile Democracy," Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) piece in the Jan. 4 Boston Globe, explained that "In Lebanon, Iran has seized the opportunity to win over the population by channeling some $500 million in reconstruction funds through Hezbollah -- over twice as much as we have. In fact, Iran is doing more in rebuilding Lebanon than Washington is doing in rebuilding New Orleans."

"We must change this dynamic by dramatically increasing economic assistance -- and pressing others in the international community to do the same," Kerry wrote. "We must redouble our efforts to strengthen the Lebanese military, which has earned the trust of the people but lacks the strength to confront Hezbollah."

"Weaning The Military From The GOP," Rosa's Brooks' Jan. 5 piece in the Los Angeles Times drew attention to "one of the most potentially significant stories of recent years."

"The Military Times released its annual poll of active-duty service members, and the results showed something virtually unprecedented: a one-year decline of 10 percentage points in the number of military personnel identifying themselves as Republicans. In the 2004 poll, the percentage of military respondents who characterized themselves as Republicans stood at 60%. By the end of 2005, that had dropped to 56%. And by the end of 2006, the percentage of military Republicans plummeted to 46%."

According to Brooks, "The drop in Republican Party identification among active-duty personnel is a sharp reversal of a 30-year trend toward the "Republicanization" of the U.S. military, and it could mark a sea change in the nature of the military — and the nature of public debates about national security issues."

Other noteworthy Op-Eds from the first week of 2007:

Somalia's New Conflict Rooted In Old Ties
By: H.D.S. Greenway | The Boston Globe | Jan. 2

These Shameful Events Have Humiliated The Arab World
By: Ghada Karmi | The Guardian | Jan. 2

A New Beginning For Turkmenistan

By: Nurmuhammet Hanamov | The Washington Post | Jan. 3

Western Intervention in Middle East a Lost Cause
By: Ammar Abdulhamid | The Times of India | Jan. 3

After Saddam, Sunni-Shiite Thirty Years' War?
By: Iason Athanasiadis | World Politics Review | Jan. 4

Bolstering U.S.-Russia Ties
By: Edward Lozansky | The Washington Times | Jan. 5

Thailand's Year of Living Dangerously
By: Thitinan Pongsudhirak | Asia Times | Jan. 5

For more visit the World Politics Review roundup archives.