Friday, August 31, 2007

Yeh hum naheem.

For more information, check out Gateway Pundit.

Urban cops a la James Bond and more defense...

Gobal war on terror: what's next.

President Bush gave a speech four days ago at the American Legion Convention where he basically told the American citizens what this war is all about, and where we are headed.

There has been very little discussion about this speech, but, between President Sarkozy's speech to the French Ambassador's Conference as well as French Foreign Minister's Op-Ed piece reflecting the "new" engagement of France in Iraq, and The UK Times' editorial warning Iran, we have been warned as to what is ahead.


America is engaged in a great ideological struggle -- fighting Islamic extremists across the globe. Today I want to talk to you and to the American people about a key aspect of the struggle: the fight for the future of the Middle East. I'm going to explain why defeating the extremists in this troubled region is essential to our nation's security, and why success in Iraq is vital to winning this larger ideological battle.
Many people in this country are asking whether the fight underway today is worth it. This is not the first time Americans have asked that question. We always enter wars reluctantly -- yet we have fought whenever dangers came. We fought when turmoil in Europe threatened to shroud the world in darkness. America sent its military to fight two bitter and bloody conflicts -- we did what we had to do to get the job done. We fought when powers in Asia attacked our country and our allies. We sent Americans to restore the peace -- and we did what we had to do to get the job done. And we responded when radicals and extremists attacked our homeland in the first ideological war of the 21st century. We toppled two regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq that gave harbor to terrorists, defied the international community, and threatened the security of our nation. And now we're working to help build free and secure societies in their place -- and like the past, we will do what we have to do to get the job done.

We've learned from history that dangers in other parts of the world -- such as Europe and Asia -- directly affect our security here at home. On September the 11th, 2001, we learned that there's another region of the world that directly threatens the security of the American people -- and that is the Middle East. America has enduring and vital interests in the region. Throughout our history, the American people have had strong links with this region -- through ties of commerce and education and faith. Long before oil and gas were discovered in the Middle East the region was a key source of trade. It is the home to three of the world's great religions. It remains a strategic crossroads for the world.

Yet the hope and prosperity that transformed other parts of the world in the 20th century has bypassed too many in the Middle East. For too long, the world was content to ignore forms of government in this region -- in the name of stability. The result was that a generation of young people grew up with little hope to improve their lives, and many fell under the sway of violent Islamic extremism. The terrorist movement multiplied in strength, and bitterness that had simmered for years boiled into violence across the world. The cradle of civilization became the home of the suicide bomber. And resentments that began on the streets of the Middle East are now killing innocent people in train stations and airplanes and office buildings around the world.

The murderers and beheaders are not the true face of Islam; they are the face of evil. They seek to exploit religion as a path to power and a means to dominate the Middle East. The violent Islamic radicalism that inspires them has two main strains. One is Sunni extremism, embodied by al Qaida and its terrorist allies. Their organization advances a vision that rejects tolerance, crushes all dissent, and justifies the murder of innocent men, women, and children in the pursuit of political power. We saw this vision in the brutal rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where women were publicly whipped, men were beaten for missing prayer meetings, and young girls could not go to school.

These extremists hope to impose that same dark vision across the Middle East by raising up a violent and radical caliphate that spans from Spain to Indonesia. So they kill fellow Muslims in places like Algeria and Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to undermine their governments. And they kill Americans because they know we stand in their way. And that is why they attacked U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, and killed sailors aboard the USS Cole in 2001 [sic]. And that is why they killed nearly 3,000 people on 9/11. And that is why they plot to attack us again. And that is why we must stay in the fight until the fight is won.

The other strain of radicalism in the Middle East is Shia extremism, supported and embodied by the regime that sits in Tehran. Iran has long been a source of trouble in the region. It is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran backs Hezbollah who are trying to undermine the democratic government of Lebanon. Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent, and target Israel, and destabilize the Palestinian territories. Iran is sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, which could be used to attack American and NATO troops. Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes and pose no threat to their regime. And Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.

Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late.
I want our fellow citizens to consider what would happen if these forces of radicalism and extremism are allowed to drive us out of the Middle East. The region would be dramatically transformed in a way that could imperil the civilized world. Extremists of all strains would be emboldened by the knowledge that they forced America to retreat. Terrorists could have more safe havens to conduct attacks on Americans and our friends and allies. Iran could conclude that we were weak -- and could not stop them from gaining nuclear weapons. And once Iran had nuclear weapons, it would set off a nuclear arms race in the region.

Extremists would control a key part of the world's energy supply, could blackmail and sabotage the global economy. They could use billions of dollars of oil revenues to buy weapons and pursue their deadly ambitions. Our allies in the region would be under greater siege by the enemies of freedom. Early movements toward democracy in the region would be violently reversed. This scenario would be a disaster for the people of the Middle East, a danger to our friends and allies, and a direct threat to American peace and security. This is what the extremists plan. For the sake of our own security, we'll pursue our enemies, we'll persevere and we will prevail.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gorbachev and Louis Vuitton.

Former member of the nomenklatura, and leader of the communist bastion that was the USSR, peddling luxury goods.

From the International Herald Tribune: "...Gorbachev ...[chose] the backdrop for the photo, a wall that Ronald Reagan once challenged him to tear down."

Mikhail Gorbachev and his Louis Vuitton

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Iraq is crying...

The Iraqi-American Coalition of Peace has released this poignant 3+minute

Gateway Pundit has more on the Iraqi-Americans protesting at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington DC.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Muslim 'Mafia'?

This is pretty chilling news as reported in the editorial from Investor's Business Daily:

Forget everything you've been told about "moderate" Muslim groups in America. New evidence that U.S. prosecutors have revealed at a major terror trial exposes the facade.

Exhibit No. 003-0085 is the most chilling. Translated from Arabic by federal investigators in the case against the Holy Land Foundation, an alleged Hamas front, the secret document outlines a full-blown conspiracy by the major Muslim groups in America — all of which are considered "mainstream" by the media.

In fact, they are part of the "Ikhwan," or Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas, al-Qaida and other major Islamic terror groups. They have conspired to infiltrate American society with the purpose of undermining it and turning it into an Islamic state.

Check out this quote from Page 7 of the 1991 document:

"The Ikwhan must understand that all their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging their miserable house by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah's religion is made victorious over all religions."

Sounds like the latest screed from Osama bin Laden. But it comes from the Muslim establishment in America.

The secret plan lists several Saudi-backed Muslim groups as "friends" of the conspiracy.

They include the Islamic Society of North America — the umbrella organization — and the North American Islamic Trust, which controls most of the mosques in America and is the forerunner to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, this country's most visible Muslim-rights group.

All three have been cited as unindicted co-conspirators in the case, with all three sharing membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet all have claimed, in the wake of 9/11, to be moderate, even patriotic.

Another exhibit reveals their plan to create innocuous-sounding "front groups" to hide their radical agenda.

Many in the media and politics have fallen for their deception and helped bring them into the mainstream.

Now everyone knows the truth.

The Muslim establishment that publicly decries the radical fringe — represented by Hamas and al-Qaida — may actually be a part of it. The only difference is that they use words and money instead of bombs to accomplish their subversive goals.

Over the past two decades they have constructed, with Saudi money, an elaborate infrastructure of support for the bad guys — right under our noses.

They even brag about putting "beehives" (Islamic centers) in every major city.

These exhibits — which so far have been ignored by major media outside the Dallas area, where the trial is under way — completely blow the mainstream Muslim NGOs' cover as pro-American moderates. Many, if not most, aren't.

This is their real agenda, spelled out in black and white. It should help investigators build a RICO case to dismantle the entire terror-support network in America.

Many have suspected it, but now we have proof that there is a secret underworld operating inside America under the cover of fronts with legitimate-sounding names.

It even uses charities to launder money for violent hits on enemies. It's highly organized, with its own internal bylaws and security to avoid monitoring from law enforcement.

Sounds like the Mafia.

But unlike the mob, this syndicate is religious in nature and protected by political correctness.

More evidence like this should put an end to such nonsense.

Go to NEFA Foundation to read the original documents that have been filed on the Holy Land Foundation case.

Bad Dutch press on Poland.

The US is not the only country targeted in a negative way by the European (or, for that matter, American) press.

Because of the way the Polish PM and President, the Kaczynski twins, are portrayed in the news and because of Poland's young status in the EU, Poland has been the brunt of some harsh press reports in Europe.

Check out this recent report prepared by the Center for International Relations on the negative portrayal of Poland in the Netherlands' media, during the June 2007 EU Summit in Brussels.

Anti-Americanism is deeper but not wider...

according to a Pew report released last June:

More anti-Americanism.

From a German perspective, check out David's Medienkritik.


A documentary to be aired in PBS in the US shows first the "hate" as reflected from a quote from an English woman: “Americans are the first nation to come from barbarians, skip the civilized bit and go into decline.”

The Poles counterbalance the hate with a lovefest.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Of manly men and crows covering their tails?

“When a crow flies over Kandahar, he only flaps one wing. With the other wing he covers his tail.”

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why we need to stay in Iraq.

William Shawcross has written a pellucid article on what is going on in Iraq and why the coalition must remain in place. Here's an excerpt:

Al-Qa’eda is an international criminal organisation that declared war on the West in the 1990s, and is determined to subjugate us. If we cut and run from one crucial battleground, it will be a betrayal of our allies in both America and Iraq and a victory for all Islamist extremism, Shia as well as Sunni. Moqtada al Sadr, the Shiite leader in southern Iraq, was crowing in the Independent only this week that his militia had driven the British out.

The choices are not easy. We are in the midst of a world-wide war and British forces are overstretched and underresourced, fighting as they are in both Basra and Afghanistan. With only 100,000 men and women our armed forces are fewer in number than at any time since the Victorian era. It’s a disgrace and it is the responsibility of both Conservative and Labour governments. The present crisis, however, is the result of the thoughtless cuts imposed over the past decade by the man who is now Prime Minister.
Also, check out Scott Johnson's background piece at Powerline regarding President Bush's speech to the American Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, the war in Vietnam, and Mr. Shawcross.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Knowing the "other".

Check out the review in City Journal of Ibn Warraq's new book, Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.

"Defending the West is a ringing call to acknowledge the West’s hard-won goods, now under assault by a fierce enemy marked by cultural pathologies of the sort that Edward Said promulgated. Warraq’s book will help politicians and policymakers explain the importance of our current fight—and the dangerous consequences of failure."


Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines) has a website that tells the reader that Saudi Arabia does not allow the importation of Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David.

Daniel Pipes wonders when will governments and citizens confrong such blatant "discrimination, arrogance and repression... Or which public service law firm in those eleven countries will bring local human rights suits against Saudia as an arm of the Saudi government?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Scots and Italians are committing Suicide.

...civilizations collapse not because the barbarians are so strong, but because they themselves are so morally enfeebled.
Check the rest of Darlymple's column.

Civilization at war.

In 1916 Theodore Roosevelt had this to say:

"The civilization of Europe, America, and Australia exists today at all only because of the victories of civilized man over the enemies of civilization... [including] those of Charles Martel in the 8th century [over Arab jihadists] and those of John Sobieski in the 17th century [over Ottoman Turkish jihadists]. During the thousand years that included the careers of the Frankish soldier [Martel] and the Polish king [Sobieski], the Christians of Asia and Africa proved unable to wage successful war with the Moslem conquerors; and in consequence Christianity practically vanished from the two continents; and today nobody can find in them any 'social values' whatever, in the sense in which we use the words, so far as the sphere of Mohammedan influence [is]... concerned."
Read Andrew Bostom's fascinating review of Diana West's new book, The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.

A German take on the situation in Iraq.

This is a jaw dropper! Der Spiegel has an 8-part article on Iraq, and it is actually a fairly balanced piece of journalism.

To quote: "The US military is more successful in Iraq than the world wants to believe."

Here's an excerpt:

Ramadi is an irritating contradiction of almost everything the world thinks it knows about Iraq -- it is proof that the US military is more successful than the world wants to believe. Ramadi demonstrates that large parts of Iraq -- not just Anbar Province, but also many other rural areas along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers -- are essentially pacified today. This is news the world doesn't hear: Ramadi, long a hotbed of unrest, a city that once formed the southwestern tip of the notorious "Sunni Triangle," is now telling a different story, a story of Americans who came here as liberators, became hated occupiers and are now the protectors of Iraqi reconstruction.

Sudying war.

Victor Davis Hanson tells us that:

we need to reexamine the larger forces that have devalued the very idea of military history—of war itself. We must abandon the naive faith that with enough money, education, or good intentions we can change the nature of mankind so that conflict, as if by fiat, becomes a thing of the past. In the end, the study of war reminds us that we will never be gods. We will always just be men, it tells us. Some men will always prefer war to peace; and other men, we who have learned from the past, have a moral obligation to stop them.

Check out his whole article in City Journal. He suggests how to begin the process:
Studying War: Where to Start

While Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, a chronicle of the three-decade war between Athens and Sparta, establishes the genre of military history, the best place to begin studying war is with the soldiers’ stories themselves. E. B. Sledge’s memoir of Okinawa, With the Old Breed, is nightmarish, but it reminds us that war, while it often translates to rot, filth, and carnage, can also be in the service of a noble cause. Elmer Bendiner’s tragic retelling of the annihilation of B-17s over Germany, The Fall of Fortresses: A Personal Account of the Most Daring, and Deadly, American Air Battles of World War II, is an unrecognized classic.

From a different wartime perspective—that of the generals—U. S. Grant’s Personal Memoirs is justly celebrated as a model of prose. Yet the nearly contemporaneous Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman is far more analytical in its dissection of the human follies and pretensions that lead to war. Likewise, George S. Patton’s War As I Knew It is not only a compilation of the eccentric general’s diary entries but also a candid assessment of human nature itself.

Fiction often captures the experience of war as effectively as memoir, beginning with Homer’s Iliad, in which Achilles confronts the paradox that rewards do not always go to the most deserving in war. The three most famous novels about the futility of conflict are The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, and August 1914, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. No work has better insights on the folly of war, however, than Euripides’ Trojan Women.

Although many contemporary critics find it passé to document landmark battles in history, one can find a storehouse of information in The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, by Edward S. Creasy, and A Military History of the Western World, by J. F. C. Fuller. Hans Delbrück’s History of the Art of War and Russell F. Weigley’s The Age of Battles center their sweeping histories on decisive engagements, using battles like Marathon and Waterloo as tools to illustrate larger social, political, and cultural values. A sense of high drama permeates William H. Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico and History of the Conquest of Peru, while tragedy more often characterizes Steven Runciman’s spellbinding short account The Fall of Constantinople 1453 and Donald Morris’s massive The Washing of the Spears, about the rise and fall of the Zulu Empire. The most comprehensive and accessible one-volume treatment of history’s most destructive war remains Gerhard L. Weinberg’s A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II.

Relevant histories for our current struggle with Middle East terrorism are Alistair Horne’s superb A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954–1962, Michael Oren’s Six Days of War, and Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down. Anything John Keegan writes is worth reading; The Face of Battle remains the most impressive general military history of the last 50 years.

Biography too often winds up ignored in the study of war. Plutarch’s lives of Pericles, Alcibiades, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Alexander the Great established the traditional view of these great captains as men of action, while weighing their record of near-superhuman achievement against their megalomania. Elizabeth Longford’s Wellington is a classic study of England’s greatest soldier. Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command, by Douglas Southall Freeman, has been slighted recently but is spellbinding.

If, as Carl von Clausewitz believed, “War is the continuation of politics by other means,” then study of civilian wartime leadership is critical. The classic scholarly account of the proper relationship between the military and its overseers is still Samuel P. Huntington’s The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. For a contemporary J’accuse of American military leadership during the Vietnam War, see H. R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.

Eliot A. Cohen’s Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime is purportedly a favorite read of President Bush’s. It argues that successful leaders like Ben-Gurion, Churchill, Clemenceau, and Lincoln kept a tight rein on their generals and never confused officers’ esoteric military expertise with either political sense or strategic resolution.

In The Mask of Command, Keegan examines the military competence of Alexander the Great, Wellington, Grant, and Hitler, and comes down on the side of the two who fought under consensual government. In The Soul of Battle, I took that argument further and suggested that three of the most audacious generals—Epaminondas, Sherman, and Patton—were also keen political thinkers, with strategic insight into what made their democratic armies so formidable.

How politicians lose wars is also of interest. See especially Ian Kershaw’s biography Hitler, 1936–1945: Nemesis. Mark Moyar’s first volume of a proposed two-volume reexamination of Vietnam, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965, is akin to reading Euripides’ tales of self-inflicted woe and missed chances. Horne has written a half-dozen classics, none more engrossing than his tragic To Lose a Battle: France 1940.

Few historians can weave military narrative into the contemporary political and cultural landscape. James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom does, and his volume began the recent renaissance of Civil War history. Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August describes the first month of World War I in riveting but excruciatingly sad detail. Two volumes by David McCullough, Truman and 1776, give fascinating inside accounts of the political will necessary to continue wars amid domestic depression and bad news from the front. So does Martin Gilbert’s Winston S. Churchill: Finest Hour, 1939–1941. Donald Kagan’s On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace warns against the dangers of appeasement, especially the lethal combination of tough rhetoric with no military preparedness, in a survey of wars from ancient Greece to the Cuban missile crisis. Robert Kagan’s Dangerous Nation reminds Americans that their idealism (if not self-righteousness) is nothing new but rather helps explain more than two centuries of both wise and ill-considered intervention abroad.

Any survey on military history should conclude with more abstract lessons about war. Principles of War by Clausewitz remains the cornerstone of the science. Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Art of War blends realism with classical military detail. Two indispensable works, War: Ends and Means, by Angelo Codevilla and Paul Seabury, and Makers of Modern Strategy, edited by Peter Paret, provide refreshingly honest accounts of the timeless rules and nature of war.

Monday, August 20, 2007

In Defense of Guantanamo Bay.

We have a good story to tell, and we should not be ashamed to tell it. I see in Guantanamo a clean, safe, and humane facility to detain enemy combatants and a fair process to adjudicate the guilt or innocence of those alleged to have committed crimes defined by Congress and the laws of war. To paraphrase a quote from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, there is nothing more deceitful than the contrived indignation of those intent on closing Guantanamo Bay by any means necessary. Blow away the smoke of their hyperbole, and look again through clear eyes. The picture looks much better than you were led to believe.

Read Morris D.Davis' full article in the Yale Law Journal.

"[L]ocking shut Syria's "Open Door" policy to terrorists...

I know... we all mock "American intelligence"... but, BUT, despite mistakes, we should be on top of things. Here is a revealing tidbit that we should take to heart:

Recently declassified American intelligence reveals just how much al Qaeda in Iraq is dependent for its survival on the support it receives from the broader, global al Qaeda network, and how most of that support flows into Iraq through one country--Syria. Al Qaeda in Iraq is sustained by a transnational network of facilitators and human smugglers, who replenish its supply of suicide bombers--approximately 60 to 80 Islamist extremists, recruited every month from across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and sent to meet their al Qaeda handlers in Syria, from where they are taken to Iraq to blow themselves up to kill countless others.

Read the rest of Senator Lieberman's piece here.

Insensitivity to the Nth degree.

MSNBC reports:

The father of a man killed when hijacked Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, wants his son’s name withheld from a victims memorial because of renewed concerns that its design is centered around Islamic symbolism.
Why would we pursue this angle? How insensitive can we be?

Go here and here to read more about this.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Israel, Poland and the Jews.

Poland pulls out of Israel-bashing conference hosted by the EU. Read it here and here

Saturday, August 11, 2007

World War IV: bombing Iran.

A grim assessment of what may be in store. Read Norman Podhoretz's article on Commentary Online. Here's an excerpt:

Although many persist in denying it, I continue to believe that what September 11, 2001 did was to plunge us headlong into nothing less than another world war. I call this new war World War IV, because I also believe that what is generally known as the cold war was actually World War III, and that this one bears a closer resemblance to that great conflict than it does to World War II. Like the cold war, as the military historian Eliot Cohen was the first to recognize, the one we are now in has ideological roots, pitting us against Islamofascism, yet another mutation of the totalitarian disease we defeated first in the shape of Nazism and fascism and then in the shape of Communism; it is global in scope; it is being fought with a variety of weapons, not all of them military; and it is likely to go on for decades.

What follows from this way of looking at the last five years is that the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be understood if they are regarded as self-contained wars in their own right. Instead we have to see them as fronts or theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle. The same thing is true of Iran. As the currently main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11, and as (according to the State Department’s latest annual report on the subject) the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism’s weapon of choice, Iran too is a front in World War IV. Moreover, its effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all.

The Iranians, of course, never cease denying that they intend to build a nuclear arsenal, and yet in the same breath they openly tell us what they intend to do with it. Their first priority, as repeatedly and unequivocally announced by their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is to “wipe Israel off the map”—a feat that could not be accomplished by conventional weapons alone.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A great American...

A must read story in the Smithsonian Magazine about Americans living in Prague, and the difference they have made. Jack Stack is one of them:

Behind the boom is a dramatic reform of Czech banking in which yet another American transplant, Jack Stack, has played a leading role. Like the rest of the banking system during the Communist era, Ceska Sporitelna, a savings institution founded in 1825, had fallen under state control. After the Velvet Revolution, Czech banks were expected to adapt quickly to the new market economy. Instead, corruption and chaos ensued. In the early 1990s, many businesses were privatized by shady promoters, who secretly sold off the most valuable parts of the firms. They then took out bank loans on the companies' money-losing remains, never intending to make repayments. In other cases, politicians pressured banks to make loans to large companies whose managers could deliver their employees' votes in elections. By 1999, almost half of all bank loans had failed. "The Czech economy was in bad shape, and investors were losing interest in the country," says Zdenek Tuma, governor of the Czech National Bank—the equivalent of the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States.

It was then that Stack, a lifelong New Yorker and veteran banker, decided to plunge into Prague's murky financial waters. He had spent more than two decades at Chemical Bank (now part of JP Morgan Chase) in a variety of management positions. "But I always wanted to run a bank, and I wasn't getting any further up the managerial ladder," says Stack.

Through a headhunting agency, Stack had been contacted in 1999 by Austria's Erste Bank, which was negotiating to purchase Ceska Sporitelna and was looking for a chief executive officer, a daunting assignment. According to a 2000 survey by international management consulting firm Accenture, Ceska Sporitelna ranked dead last among local banks in customer satisfaction. Though it was the most overstaffed bank in the country, its employees were the most poorly paid—and among the surliest, according to client complaints. Investments in technology were so low its ATMs failed to operate at times of greatest demand. Stack talked it over with his wife, Patricia. "She pointed out the bank was in such bad shape that I could only improve it—and the adventure began," Stack recalls.

Once installed, he decided to draw on measures that had worked well at Chemical Bank. He slowly reduced the bloated staff by a third. He offered the 10,000 who remained bonuses based on the number of new accounts they opened and the old ones they induced to stay. The interior design of branches was altered from state-era stodginess to a more relaxed free-market style. Gone are the long counters attended by clerks whose subliminal message to customers appeared to be: "Wait to be called by the authorities." In their place are curved desks set in small, open, individual spaces. Investments in new technology vastly improved the performance of ATMs, and Ceska Sporitelna's appalling 45 percent bad-loan rate has been brought down to less than 2 percent, thanks to risk-management policies that value clients' creditworthiness more than who they know in high places.

The same sorts of reforms have since spread throughout Prague's banking system. "Jack Stack played a very important role in this process," says Tuma, the Czech National Bank governor. "The turnaround he led at Ceska Sporitelna was a key milestone in the transformation of our banking system." For Stack, the secret of Czech banking's recent success has been to tap consumer demand that had been pent up for decades. Mortgages in Prague are growing at over 40 percent a year, and bank loans to small and medium-sized businesses are up by 20 percent a year. "Czechs want to make up for having lost so much time during the Communist era," says Stack. "People here and throughout Central Europe will become the engine of growth for all of Europe because they are more ambitious, harder working and are developing a real entrepreneurial spirit."

Stack won't be around to see Prague return to the lofty living standards of Paris and Vienna. At 61, he is moving back to New York this year to take some time off and catch up with old friends and family. "I'm very reluctant to leave Prague because I will miss it," he says. "But I'm also very sure it's time for somebody else to take over the bank."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Qué vergűenza...

You want to find out more about this? Check out