Tuesday, July 31, 2007

If The Surge Is Working, Why Are We Still Losing Iraq?

By many accounts, the surge of US troops in Iraq is beginning to pay dividends. Admiral Michael Mullen, the pick to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at his confirmation hearing that the security situation is "better, not great, but better." Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two vocal critics of the handling of the Iraq occupation (although Pollack was a strong supporter of the invasion itself) wrote a piece in the New York Times arguing that the situation is improving: "We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with." In a long interview with Hugh Hewitt, New York Times reporter John Burns argued much the same point:

I think there’s no doubt that those extra 30,000 American troops are making a difference. They’re definitely making a difference in Baghdad. Some of the crucial indicators of the war, metrics as the American command calls them, have moved in a positive direction from the American, and dare I say the Iraqi point of view, fewer car bombs, fewer bombs in general, lower levels of civilian casualties, quite remarkably lower levels of civilian casualties. And add in what they call the Baghdad belts, that’s to say the approaches to Baghdad, particularly in Diyala Province to the northeast, to in the area south of Baghdad in Babil Province, and to the west of Baghdad in Anbar Province, there’s no doubt that al Qaeda has taken something of a beating.

[Shia on Sunni violence since the surge] is reduced, and it’s reduced primarily, as far as we can see, because of the increment, and I’m talking here of a virtual doubling of American troop strength in Baghdad, to speak only the neighborhood in which the New York Times operates here, the Rusafa neighborhood on the east side of the Tigris River, we here now have American troops quartered about a half a mile away from us for the first time in three years. So when you put American boots on the ground, you definitely have an inhibiting effect on this, and we’ve seen that in falling levels of sectarian violence. Where you don’t have American boots on the ground inside Baghdad, you see higher levels of sectarian violence. So I would that on the whole, the situation is somewhat better than it was, which is exactly what you would have expected by introducing a significant increase of American combat troops.
Peter Beaumont of The Guardian, no fan of the invasion or Bush's policies, remains critical, but also notes progress:

And while in Iraq it has usually been the best policy to deal with officials with a strong dose of scepticism following the years of pronouncements of victory around the corner, for now at least there appears to be corroborating evidence that in the north, the war may be drawing, ever so slowly, towards some kind of close.

In Mosul, which once hosted 21,000 US soldiers in the city, now only a single battalion, in the mid-hundreds, remains inside the city, matched by an equivalent drop in attacks. And it is not only in Mosul that security is improving. The sense that things are getting better is reflected in Nineveh Province. In two years US troop levels around Tal Afar, once the heartland of al-Qaeda, have been reduced from 6,000 to 1,200.

The general trend for acts of violence - despite some spikes - also has been steadily decreasing. Indeed, until Jamil Salem Jamil detonated his human bomb there had not been a suicide vest attack in Tal Afar since 14 January.

And there are other striking indicators. The last time that I flew across this area, two years ago, what agriculture there was was sporadic. Now it has turned golden with a vast expanse of freshly cut wheat fields that have turned the flat plains that touch the Kurdish foothills into a vast prairie, using almost every patch of viable land.

At this point, we are still only few months into the surge, with most analysts agreeing that we won't know much for sure until September, at the earliest. But if early signs are trending positive, why is there still so much cynicism and pessimism?

The problem is that the military component is but one aspect of the overall solution, and is not even the most important solution. The only way to succeed in Iraq is for the political process to develop in such a way that the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds all believe that their interests will best be protected by the government and through participation in that process. The surge is intended not to pacify the country, but rather to provide sufficient security to create breathing room in which the government can pass needed laws and stabilize the political situation.

But while the surge may be working, the political process is not. All of the people cited above for their optimism on the military aspect of the surge also voiced their pessimism about the political side. Admiral Mullen stated that "there does not appear to be much political progress" in resolving the critical issues that might ease sectarian violence. O'Hanlon and Pollack note that Iraq "still faces huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines" and that "Iraqi high-level politics remains completely log-jammed, we saw zero evidence of progress there." According to Burns, the political situation is:
probably the most depressing or discouraging aspect of the entire situation. I think it’s probably fair to say that the Iraqi political leaders, Sunni, Shiia, Kurd in the main, are somewhat further apart now than they were six months ago. In other words, the Bush administration’s hope that the military surge would be accompanied by what they called a political surge, a movement towards some sort of national reconciliation, uniting around a kind of national compact, that has simply not occurred. Indeed, the gulf between the Shiite and Sunni leaders in the government is probably wider than it has ever been. There’s a great deal of recrimination. There’s hardly a day when the Sunnis do not, as they did again today, threaten to withdraw from the government altogether. There’s virtually no progress on the key benchmarks, as the Bush administration calls them, matters like a comprehensive oil law that will settle the issue of how oil revenues, which account for 90% of government revenues here, will in future be divided and spent between the various communities, and many other issues, eighteen of them, benchmarks identified by the Congress, there’s very little progress on those benchmarks. Where there is some progress is at the grass roots level, some progress, though we’re beginning to see tribal leaders, in particular, in some of the most heavily congested war areas, beginning to stand up and say they’ve had enough of it, and to volunteer to put forth their young men, either to join the Iraqi police or army, or to join in tribal auxiliaries, or levees if you will. That’s probably the most encouraging political sign. But at the Baghdad level, unfortunately, the United States still does not have an effective political partner.
Meanwhile, amidst these reports of political failures, the Iraqi parliament prepares to adjourn for the entire month of August, since it had not been presented any laws on which to vote.

The political stalemate is unquestionably undermining the military progress. But what can be done? The problem is that, as I blogged about more than a year ago, the US has been too quick to hand the reins of power over to the Iraqi government, which is not up to the task (nor should be expected to be). It is simply not realistic to expect a brand-new democracy to be capable of dealing with such difficult and contentious issues while setting aside years of ethnic hatred and desires for vengeance. It is time to recognize that the Iraqi government is failing in what must be done.

To that end, I strongly agree with Senator Barack Obama's proposal (found in his recent Foreign Affairs article outlining his presidential foreign policy) to institute a soft deadline for a US troop withdrawal. A soft deadline would contain a solid date (Obama proposes March 31, 2008; I would defer to military analyses of how long the surge needs to be truly effective) by which US troops would be pulled from Iraq; however, that deadline could be waived if the Iraqi government meets certain benchmarks on its political progress. The deadline would put serious pressure on the government to make progress; not even the Sunnis in the government want the process to collapse. But the waivers take away the possibility of the insurgents lying low until US troops leave. If progress occurs, the US military will remain as long as needed to ensure security and train Iraqi forces to handle matter on their own. If no progress occurs, then what's the point (other than preventing a massive civil war and genocide, which at that point would likely become unavoidable as US troops certainly won't remain in Iraq indefinitely in the absence of political progress) in keeping the troops there?

Something must be done. Strong steps must be taken to prevent the weaknesses of the Iraqi government from squandering the sacrifices of our soldiers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Trade Trade?

The Washington Post reports that congressional Democrats are seeking to expand the role, scope and power of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. The TAA was implemented to help workers adjust to the impact of globalization, by providing funds for re-training, relocation, and job searching to those "whose hours of work or wages are reduced as a result of increased imports." Currently, TAA assistance is limited to those in the manufacturing sectors, whom had been the hardest hit by globalization; the Democrats are trying to expand TAA to jobs in the service industries, such as computer programmers and call-center staffers. According to the Post:

Last year, the Labor Department approved 1,400 petitions covering about 400,000 workers, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office, though fewer than 100,000 workers sought and received benefits. The agency denied 800 petitions, mainly because the workers did not produce "an article" and hence fulfill the basic definition of a manufacturing worker. Most of the denials involved two industries, the GAO said: business services such as computer programming and airport-related services such as aircraft maintenance.

The TAA is a grand political compromise that helps make globalization possible. While globalization produces massive net benefits, those benefits tend to be spread across the entire population, while the costs of globalization are typically localized in inefficient industries that suffer as jobs move abroad. Those that lose their jobs have a larger incentive to lobby their congressmen than the vast majority that benefit from lower prices and increased quality; thus, globalization contains the seeds of its own defeat. The TAA helps reduce the cost of economic dislocation, making it easier for the public and politicians alike to "do the right thing" by advancing the cause of globalization. The TAA has typically enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and the current bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).

Why is this effort from the Democrats problematic then? In the past, TAA has been part of a grand trade deal: Republicans would support TAA and in return Democrats would support free trade deals. But the current Congress doesn't seem as willing to give that quid pro quo. The extension of Trade Promotion Authority (formerly known as Fast Track, TPA means that Congress can only vote up-or-down on trade bills, rather than amending, adding, and subtracting to the deal. Without TPA, it is exceedingly difficult to conclude trade agreements, as other states are loathe to make concessions knowing that Congress may very well undo whatever US concessions are given in return.) is in danger, and Congress has delayed consideration, let alone approval, of the previously signed trade deals with Peru, Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, despite a deal in May to bring the agreements to a vote. Protectionism was a major theme of many of the Democrats who won office in last year's election, and passing TAA in the absence of a commensurate expansion of global trade will only further retard the global and domestic economy.

Hopefully, Senate Republicans will insist that the Democrats acquiesce on trade in exchange for expanding protection for those who suffer from globalization. If they don't, and the growing anti-trend continues, economic promise will grow dim.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shame on the Senate

Last night, the US Senate held an all-night debate on a proposal to force a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 120 days. The fact that a bunch of middle-aged (and older) millionaires would be staying up all night was irresistible to the New York Times, which ran a front-page picture of the cots that the tired legislators would be using (doesn't that defeat the purpose of an all-night debate? Just shows just how useless big government is...it can't even get an all-nighter right). The Times thought the even so important to run a page 7 article that described the idiotic theater that went on: Pizza boxes (one would hope that the Senate has good enough taste to order from Pizzeria Paradiso, but I doubt it), the photo shoots of the cots (in which the Times obviously participated) and the gift bags sent to the Republicans by the majority leader Harry Reid which were tied with yellow ribbons and bore a note reading “A few supplies for your sleepless night — help us bring an end to this war.” (And Reid insists this all-night debate wasn't about political theater.)

I don't quite understand the oohing and aahing about the Senate doing what many of my students do on a routine basis. So a bunch of rich people who only work half the year (true, I only work half the year, but I don't make $165,000 a year) stayed up all night once? So what? Are we supposed to be awed by how seriously the Senate is taking the question of withdrawing troops? Only a group as self-congratulatory and narcissistic as the Senate could believe that such a transparent and empty gesture as an all-nighter could substitute for intelligent and informed discourse.

But the shame of the Senate goes even farther. What was the point of the debate? To pass a law requiring the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 120 days; a law which would undoubtedly be vetoed or simply ignored as unconstitutional (as I have argued several time, unless the power of the purse is used, Congress may not tell the president how to use the armed forces). The time to oppose the surge, or even the entire mission, is not now; it was months ago when Congress voted on the appropriations bill to fund the war in Iraq. The Senate didn't have the guts then to do what it would take to end the war, so the surge went forward and the war continued. It's now only a few months into the surge, so why give up now? Not that the Republicans are any better. Several prominent GOP Senators, like Richard Lugar (R-IN) or Pete Domenici (R-NM) have backed away from the Iraq mission publicly but failed to back the Democrat's bill. So why have they distanced themselves from the larger mission?

For the Senate to behave this way is shameful. Iraq demands and deserves serious political discussion. It demands politicians who have the spine to do what they believe is right, even if it may be politically damaging to them. But to put on political theater to convince us that they're serious is utterly disgraceful.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Losing Afghanistan

As if the situation in Iraq wasn't bad enough, things in Afghanistan are looking dire. Unfortunately, due to the obsession with Iraq of our political leaders (both Republican and Democrat) and the myopia of our national media, Afghanistan doesn't get much press here.

Not so in Great Britain, where the UK's most senior generals have told the prime minister that NATO is facing a catastrophic failure in Afghanistan, one that even threatens the stability of Pakistan. The Guardian reports that "Lord Inge, the former chief of the defence staff, highlighted [the generals'] fears in public last week when he warned of a 'strategic failure' in Afghanistan." According to the report:

'The situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise,' Inge told peers. 'We need to face up to that issue, the consequence of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for Nato... We need to recognise that the situation - in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan - is much, much more serious than people want to recognise.'

Inge's remarks reflect the fears of serving generals that the government is so overwhelmed by Iraq that it is in danger of losing sight of the threat of failure in Afghanistan. One source, who is familiar with the fears of the senior officers, told The Observer: 'If you talk privately to the generals they are very very worried. You heard it in Inge's speech. Inge said we are failing and remember Inge speaks for the generals.'

Inge made a point in the Lords of endorsing a speech by Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, who painted a bleak picture during the debate. Ashdown told The Observer that Afghanistan presented a graver threat than Iraq.

'The consequences of failure in Afghanistan are far greater than in Iraq,' he said. 'If we fail in Afghanistan then Pakistan goes down. The security problems for Britain would be massively multiplied. I think you could not then stop a widening regional war that would start off in warlordism but it would become essentially a war in the end between Sunni and Shia right across the Middle East.'


Ashdown said two mistakes were being made: a lack of a co-ordinated military command because of the multinational 'hearts and minds' Nato campaign and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom offensive campaign against the Taliban. There was also insufficient civic support on, for example, providing clean water.

'There is a very short shelf life for an occupation force. Once that begins to shift against you it is very very difficult to turn it round.'

The warnings from Ashdown and the generals on Afghanistan will be echoed in a report this week by the all-party Commons defence select committee. MPs will say that the combination of civilian casualties, war damage and US-led efforts to eradicate lucrative poppy crops risk turning ordinary people towards the Taliban.

The immediate impulse here is to blame President Bush and the war in Iraq from diverting focus and resources away from Afghanistan, and such criticism would most definitely be valid. But it would also not be complete. NATO as an institution has had problems before with its military command: Read General Wesley Clark's or Robert Kagan's account of the intervention in Kosovo for excellent descriptions of this. Divided command and competing national interests have hamstrung NATO, making it difficult to conduct military operations in a coherent, unified manner. Furthermore, many NATO members have not been willing to provide sufficient troops or materiel for the Afghan campaign.

These are some of the critical problems with multilateral military action, and it is not surprising that they are present in Afghanistan. If the situation is to be saved, two things, neither of which is likely to occur must happen. First, the US must increase the number of ground forces in Afghanistan. The all-too-frequent air strikes with high civilian casualties are undermining the "hearts-and-minds" campaign, undoing all the good work being done in other areas. More troops are needed to secure villages and hunt down the Taliban units. Second, NATO needs to develop a more unitary command structure, in which member states provide troops to be used at the discretion of the NATO commander. If NATO is to remain a serious and competent military force, it cannot continue to be incapable of sustaining military operations.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Losing the War on Terror

Picking up from my previous post, today's news is filled with intelligence reports that al Qaeda has rebuilt its operational capacity. A National Intelligence Estimate entitled "Al-Qaeda Better Positioned to Strike the West" to be released soon asserts that al Qaeda is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago," has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," and "[is] showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States." Furthermore, al Qaeda has succeeded in creating"the most robust training program since 2001, with an interest in using European operatives" while the US is suffering from"significant gaps in intelligence" so U.S. authorities may be ignorant of potential or planned attacks.

One of the main successes so far in the War on Terror was the destruction of al Qaeda's formal institutionalized command structure that existed in Afghanistan pre-9/11. It was the organized nature of the group that enabled it to carry out such sophisticated attacks like 9/11, the bombing of the USS Cole, and the double bombings of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. However, since the loss of the organizational structure, al Qaeda has been largely incapable of mounting attacks of high sophistication, and has largely relied on suicide bombs on soft targets, like buses, trains, and discos. While deadly, such attacks are not what al Qaeda wants to be doing, as they don't raise its operational profile or seriously threaten the target states.

If al Qaeda is in fact reorganizing itself as it was before 9/11, that is very bad news. The new al Qaeda may be decentralized and dispersed, making it harder to find the leaders, but it is also less dangerous. While it should be easier to locate al Qaeda if it has rebuilt its organizational capacity and training camps, the US hasn't exactly demonstrated the will to go after those new organizational structures.

The failure by the US to deal with a regrouping al Qaeda calls into question all of the gains and sacrifices this country and its soldiers have made to date. It is disgraceful. It is one thing to be sensitive to Pakistan's precarious position and not press too hard for democratization for fear of undermining Musharraf or emboldening the radical Islamists. It's another thing entirely to allow al Qaeda to recreate itself as a serious threat to this country.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Questioning the Nature of the Threat

Since 9/11, I have been in an intellectual debate with myself about the nature of the threat posed by global terrorists to the United States. On the one hand, I look at the low numbers of people killed by terrorists, even in hot spots like Israel, and question how this problem could truly threaten the stability of the free world. The arguments of people like John Mueller make an convincing argument that the threat is overblown, largely because the government reacts to the irrational fears of a skittish public, and that scarce resources would be better spent protecting the nation from more serious threats.

On the other hand, I understand the ultimately fragile foundation on which liberal democracies rest: belief in the ability of government to provide security and order. If citizens do not believe that the government is in charge and can protect society, the social order unravels as people do what they can to protect themselves. No free society can exist if people lose faith in their government. Now, the case of Israel demonstrates that that faith can be sustained even in the face of a sustained campaign of suicide bombings; it's not the amount of risk that matters, but whether citizens believe the government is doing what it can to deal with the threat.

I go back and forth on this issue and find myself perhaps more conflicted on this than on any other question in international politics.

Which is why I found a story in yesterday's New York Times so disturbing. The Times reported that, in 2005, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld aborted a raid on a meeting of al Qaeda chiefs in Pakistan, a meeting at which Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number 2 in the terrorist organization, was believed to be attending. According to the article, "Mr. Rumsfeld decided that the operation, which had ballooned from a small number of military personnel and C.I.A. operatives to several hundred, was cumbersome and put too many American lives at risk, the current and former officials said. He was also concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas, the officials said."


the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.
Officials said one reason Mr. Rumsfeld called off the 2005 operation was that the number of troops involved in the mission had grown to several hundred, including Army Rangers, members of the Navy Seals and C.I.A. operatives, and he determined that the United States could no longer carry out the mission without General Musharraf’s permission. It is unlikely that the Pakistani president would have approved an operation of that size, officials said.

Some outside experts said American counterterrorism operations had been hamstrung because of concerns about General Musharraf’s shaky government.

“The reluctance to take risk or jeopardize our political relationship with Musharraf may well account for the fact that five and half years after 9/11 we are still trying to run bin Laden and Zawahri to ground,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University.

In and of itself, there is nothing particularly surprising or troubling about the decision to cancel the raid. Politics is a messy business, and goals always need to be considered in the larger picture. Given the uncertainty about Zawahiri's presence, given the risk to US personnel, given the risk to the stability of the Pakistani government, a plausible case for canceling the raid isn't hard to grasp.

However, the decision can't even be examined solely in those lights. It was made in the context of a "War on Terror" in which this country is being asked to place extraordinary trust in our government. We are being asked to permit our government to listen in to our phone calls without warrants, to use coercive interrogation techniques, to suspend habeas corpus for those suspected of terrorism, to spend billions of dollars on protecting this country (not to mention impose idiotic regulations like the restrictions of liquids on planes), to sacrifice thousands of our soldiers, and many other leaps of faith.

I do not support all of the policies that the Bush Administration has implemented, but I have tried to view all of them in the context of the nature of the threat. I believed that the Administration believed terror to be a primary threat to this country and that the policies represented honest attempts to do what would best protect the US.

But how can the Bush Administration justify these requests when it won't take risks to apprehend or kill one of the two most important global terrorists? If the threat from terrorism has been overblown and isn't really that serious, then the decision to abort the raid makes sense: Why take all those risks to deal with something that isn't all that threatening? But in the context of the policies that the Bush Administration has implemented, the decision cannot be justified. If terror is the primary threat, or at least one of the primary threats, if combating terror requires the encroaching on civil liberties, then shouldn't the potential risks of the mission been outweighed of neutralizing Zawahiri?

This one instance does not resolve the argument in my head, but it certainly tips the scales.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dissent Is Patriotic (Isn't It?)

I find it interesting that so many people who take pride in dissent, especially when President Bush or the war in Iraq is concerned, are among those who try to stifle discussion of global warming by asserting that the science is settled. When I blogged a while back about this, I was greeted by the predictable dismay that I wasn't toeing the party line, with incredulity that I could possibly consider that global warming might not be the problem that Al Gore tells me it is, and with disbelief that I have accepted that the science is settled.

The whole tenor of the global warming activists is evident in the very title of Gore's slide-show cum documentary An Inconvienent Truth, with emphasis on the word "truth." Things are rarely, if ever, true, especially when science and politics are concerned, and even more so when they meet. Clearly the title is an effort to squash any dissent, for how can one argue against the truth (not the idiotic anti-smoking campaign that runs those awful TV commercials where people pretend to die in front of tobacco companies' offices is also called the "truth")? Gore clearly believes that the science surrounding global warming is settled; all that's left to argue about is how dire the consequences will be and how much the world should spend to forestall those consequences.

And yet, Gore's movie is riddled with inaccuracies -- large ones -- that belie the title. Many of the examples he uses to illustrate the devastating impact of global warming are simply false. An op-ed in the Chicago Sun Times lays out some of these inaccuracies:
Gore claims that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking and global warming is to blame. Yet the September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate reported, "Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame."

Gore claims the snowcap atop Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro is shrinking and that global warming is to blame. Yet according to the November 23, 2003, issue of Nature magazine, "Although it's tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain's foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests' humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine."

Gore claims global warming is causing more tornadoes. Yet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes.

Gore claims global warming is causing more frequent and severe hurricanes. However, hurricane expert Chris Landsea published a study on May 1 documenting that hurricane activity is no higher now than in decades past. Hurricane expert William Gray reported just a few days earlier, on April 27, that the number of major hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast has declined in the past 40 years. Hurricane scientists reported in the April 18 Geophysical Research Letters that global warming enhances wind shear, which will prevent a significant increase in future hurricane activity.

Gore claims global warming is causing an expansion of African deserts. However, the Sept. 16, 2002, issue of New Scientist reports, "Africa's deserts are in 'spectacular' retreat . . . making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa."

Gore argues Greenland is in rapid meltdown, and that this threatens to raise sea levels by 20 feet. But according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Glaciology, "the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins and growing inland, with a small overall mass gain." In late 2006, researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute reported that the past two decades were the coldest for Greenland since the 1910s.

Gore claims the Antarctic ice sheet is melting because of global warming. Yet the Jan. 14, 2002, issue of Nature magazine reported Antarctica as a whole has been dramatically cooling for decades. More recently, scientists reported in the September 2006 issue of the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A: Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, that satellite measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet showed significant growth between 1992 and 2003. And the U.N. Climate Change panel reported in February 2007 that Antarctica is unlikely to lose any ice mass during the remainder of the century.

None of these inaccuracies mean that global warming isn't happening. But they do call in to question to what degree Gore is providing us with the "truth." They highlight the difficulties inherent in ever knowing the "truth."

Again, I do not know whether global warming is occurring, whether humans are to blame, and what the results of that warming may be. But I certainly don't trust Al Gore to tell me the "truth" about it and to provide solutions as to what should be done.