Saturday, February 17, 2007

The current (March 2007) issue of The Atlantic has two especially especially insightful, and especially topical, stories. One, by Mark Bowden, is on the successful rescue of American hostages from the Islamist terror group known as Abu Sayyaf. In an early paragraph, Bowden suggests this operation as a model for combating such groups around the world.
Over the next year and a half, Aldam Tilao would in fact be hunted down and cornered, in a Philippine military operation that involved the CIA and the American military. Eliminating him was a small, early success in what the Bush administration calls the “global war on terror”; but in the shadow of efforts like the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it went largely unnoticed. As a model for the long-term fight against militant Islam, however, the hunt for Tilao is better than either of those larger engagements. Because the enemy consists of small cells operating independently all over the globe, success depends on local intelligence and American assistance subtle enough to avoid charges of imperialism or meddling, charges that often provoke a backlash and feed the movement.
The other story is on Tim Gill. A gay, multi-millionaire software developer-turned-philanthropist, Gill is using his money and influence with other young, wealthy philanthropists to coordinate an innovative strategy to fight anti-gay politics at state and local levels.
Even as he has shied from the spotlight, Gill has become one of the most generous and widest-reaching political benefactors in the country, and emblematic of a new breed of business-minded donor that is rapidly changing American politics. A surge of new wealth has created a generation of givers eager to influence politics but barred from the traditional channels of participation by recent campaign-finance laws designed to limit large gifts to candidates and political parties. Like Gill, many of these figures are entrepreneurs who have made fortunes in technology. And like Gill, many turned first to philanthropy, revolutionizing the field by importing strategies from the business world and largely abandoning the old dispositions toward moneyed dilettantism and gifts to large foundations in favor of creating independent charitable enterprises that emphasize innovation and accountability.
If anyone wants to read and discuss either of these articles, I can email them to you.

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