"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
War 2002-03 Archives
December 31, 2003
Punch the Bag shares some thoughts on Pat Tillman, late of the Arizona Cardinals and currently serving as an Army Ranger.
December 26, 2003
WAR: Hero Miles
Al Bethke relates a reader email about a soldier returning from Iraq and points us to Operation Hero Miles, a program for donating frequent flyer miles to soldiers flying home on R&R from Iraq and Afghanistan. Check it out.
December 23, 2003
WAR: An Orange Christmas
So, we took the kids up to the top of the Empire State Building yesterday, Orange Alert or no Orange Alert. Naturally, they were thrilled to be in the tallest building in NY (we still haven't told them about the World Trade Center, and I think by now they've forgotten I worked there).
You know, I'll never carry a rifle in this war, never go to a foreign combat zone, and I don't confuse my part in this with those who do. But there is a role to play for the rest of us back home, particularly New York, the City with the Big Bullseye, and that's just to hold our ground and not let our daily business be affected by threats. It's the least we can do.
December 19, 2003
WAR: Red Dawn
Last entry for today, I promise. After Tim Noah and others complained about the US military naming the operation that captured Saddam Hussein after the cheesy 80s movie "Red Dawn" (about a ragtag band of Americans resisting a Soviet invasion), Eugene Volokh observed that the title probably was just picked by some soldiers who liked the movie without thought for the wider propaganda value, and Eugene and Sasha Volokh marshalled the evidence on the film's popularity with soldiers.
Let me add my own experience. Each summer, the US Military Academy at West Point offers an "Invitational Academic Workshop." You spend a week at the Point, get an overview of what the school has to offer academically and militarily, and generally get to see the life of the cadets up close but without too many of the hard parts. At the time, at least, I believe the main criteria for attending was a high PSAT score, which wasn't really a great predictor of interest in a career in the military, but the workshop was good propaganda for West Point (an important consideration for any public institution, especially with a population of academic high achievers who could go on to other influential positions in life), and it was a good recruiting tool for those who were so inclined. (The program still exists today, although it looks like they've changed the criteria a little).
Anyway, I attended in a brutally hot week in June 1988, the summer before my senior year of high school. It was a fun week, we had a little taste of the 'gung ho' with being roused from bed around 6am with a loudspeaker blaring, in succession, the opening monologue from Patton and the song "Danger Zone" from Top Gun. We didn't get to do too many of the outdoor activities - it was 104 degrees out, and they wouldn't even let the cadets exercise - which was fine by me, since I was about 5'9" and 110 pounds at the time and almost as nearsighted as I am today.
Getting at long last to the point here, one highlight of the week was a showing of Red Dawn. Remember, this is 1988, the last summer before the Soviet bloc unraveled, and the cadets were mostly kids who chose a military career during the Reagan years. Let me tell you: you have not seen Red Dawn until you've seen it with an audience of West Point cadets during the Cold War. There was much rejoicing at numerous points in the film when the Rooskies got their comeuppance and the homeland was defended. And who knows? Probably a few of those cadets are officers in Iraq now, probably a good ways up the chain of command by this point.
POLITICS/WAR: Quotes of the Week
Saddam Hussein, on the American GI: "Why didn't you fight?" one Governing Council member asked Hussein as their meeting ended. Hussein gestured toward the U.S. soldiers guarding him and asked his own question: "Would you fight them?"
A US official, on Saddam's capture: "We can now determine," he said, "if he is the mastermind of everything or not." The official elaborated: "Have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?"
And two from last week:
Tom Maguire, on Howard Dean: "[W]ill centrists peer in confusion at their television screens and wonder, who is this little man yelling at me, and why is his face so red?"
Tom Burka, with a little humor: "Gore To Claim He Invented Dean, Says GOP"
(Read the whole thing; link via Plum Crazy)
Posted by Baseball Crank at 05:49 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Dean Doctrine
Howard Dean's major foreign policy address on Monday was probably a mixed bag politically; while Dean's anti-war crusade was yet again upstaged by reality, he once again succeeded in framing the public debate as Dean vs. Bush, and in the primaries, that's what you need.
On the substance? Well, Dean argued that he wouldn't abandon the idea of pre-emption, but (1) would stage a preemptive attack only where an "imminent" threat existed and (2) doesn't think Iraq met that test. It's a politically clever tactic, since it wouldn't necessarily tie down his own freedom of action as President in another case as dramatically as if he rejected preemption entirely, although it does call into question his judgment and does indicate a return to pre-September 11 policy (i.e., Operation Desert Fox vs. Gulf War II as the logical response to Saddam). Of course, I disagree completely with Dean on this.
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The core of the Bush Doctrine of preemption is the idea that we don't have to wait until a threat is imminent. . . .There's actually now a couple of Bush Doctrines:
Bush Doctrine #1: States that sponsor, harbor, or encourage terrorists are as culpable as the terrorists and will be treated as enemies
Bush Doctrine #2: The United States reserves the right to launch a pre-emptive strike against our enemies when we believe they represent a serious and developing threat to our security, whether or not we have established that the threat is imminent. (As announced, I don't think this doctrine extends to threats to our interests, but more narrowly to direct threats to our physical security).
Bush Doctrine #3: The United States is pursuing a "forward strategy of freedom" by which it seeks to encourage reform and/or directly undermine or overthrow undemocratic regimes and replace them with more democratic regimes.
It's still not entirely clear to me what regimes are necessarily subject to this approach. Options: (1) Regimes that sponsor, harbor, or encourage terrorism? (2) Regimes in the region of the Middle East and/or the Islamic world, from which the terrorist threat arises? (3) Regimes that present a threat of proliferating weapons of mass destruction to terrorists? (Thus, it's not clear whether the strategy extends to North Korea). A corollary to Bush Doctrine #3 is the Administration's position that democratic reform of the Palestinian Authority must be a precondition to recognizing a Palestinian state or conducting negotiations directed towards that goal.
#3 is more a policy or strategy than a doctrine. The strategy is definitely the same as Reagan's - like Reagan, Bush has moved from containment to rollback. Like Reagan, he's realistic about the practical limits of rollback (e.g., neither tried to overthrow China). Of course, the return to an active policy of rollback is premised on the threat posed by the regimes to be rolled back. I sometimes see Left/liberal writers draw a false dichotomy between power politics and a policy of democratization. When the enemy is a group of states and non-state actors who oppose and can be opposed by freedom, then a policy of rollback serves both ends at once. But it's not at all inconsistent to stage a crusade of liberation in the Middle East while living with some useful tyrants elsewhere. My own feeling is this: the US is a permanent friend of democracies, but is and should be a faithless and fair-weather friend to useful dictators, and we should feel no remorse over double-crossing them when they no longer serve our interests.
Via Andrew Sullivan, the Washington Post captures well why Howard Dean is out of even what passes for mainstream among the Democrats these days:
[M]ost Americans understand Saddam Hussein for what he was: a brutal dictator who stockpiled and used weapons of mass destruction, who plotted to seize oil supplies on which the United States depends, who hated the United States and once sought to assassinate a former president; whose continuing hold on power forced thousands of American troops to remain in the Persian Gulf region for a decade; who even in the months before his overthrow signed a deal to buy North Korean missiles he could have aimed at U.S. bases. The argument that this tyrant was not a danger to the United States is not just unfounded but ludicrous.
(Emphasis added). Read the whole thing. I haven't paid enough attention to notice whether the Post has remained as reliably liberal as in the past on other issues, but its editorials have been very solid on the war on terror.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 05:41 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/WAR: Worse Than We Thought
I'm sure you saw this linked in many places, but if you didn't: this is just beyond the pale.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 05:14 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Threat of the Day
Michele has to go and remind me that New York is on a heightened terror watch at the moment. (Scroll up from that entry for more on the story).
December 16, 2003
BLOG/WAR: Manning The Post
I've signed on as a contributor to The Command Post; you can see my first entry here. Given my already busy schedule, I don't expect to be a regular contributor, least of all during times like this when the more regular contributors are posting breaking news at a frantic pace, but it made sense to get posting privileges over there for those times when I do see something noteworthy that hasn't been posted, especially during the slower periods in what still promises to be a very long war against terrorism and the tyrannies that support it. It's not a big part, but I'll do my bit.
December 15, 2003
WAR: Atta-Nidal-Saddam Link
Looks like that Telegraph report is getting lots of attention in the blogosphere and even some attention in the mainstream media. I'm still skeptical, but this is too important a story to let pass without investigating it thoroughly.
UPDATE 12/18: More on this to come, but Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball have done some digging and think the memo is probably, as suspected, some sort of forgery. Their evidence isn't ironclad, particularly since they haven't seen the document or investigated its provenance, but they cite FBI records showing that Atta's movements are mostly accounted for in the spring and summer of 2001 - making it unlikely, though not impossible, that he could have slipped off to Baghdad for three days - and they note that the Telegraph reporter simply says he got it from "a 'senior' member of the Iraqi Governing Council who insisted it was 'genuine,'" and the Iraqi National Congress thinks the document is bunk.
Good leg work on this by Isikoff and Hosenball; this story needed to be checked out, and it looks like they scooped everyone else in doing so. Stay tuned to see if there's anything else to this story.
December 14, 2003
I couldn't even hope to keep up with the barrage of news and commentary today, but Instapundit and The Command Post both had links galore. Just make sure you don't miss the Mohammed Atta memo story I linked to last night, which may have a terribly hard time drawing the scrutiny it deserves in the tidal wave of Saddamarama.
WAR: The Lead-In
Interesting now to look back on this article from Friday's NY Times, which was good news in itself in Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno talking about breaking up the "cycle of financing" for the insurgency in Iraq; Odierno, who's today's man of the hour, added this:
Capturing or killing Mr. Hussein would provide a huge lift toward that goal. "It's psychological," General Odierno said. "I don't think he's really directing any of the operations, but I think he has a psychological effect. They fear him. They absolutely fear him. And there's a fear he might come back and suppress them."
An elite team of Special Operations Forces and Central Intelligence Agency operatives, called Task Force 121, is leading the hunt for Mr. Hussein and other top former Iraqi officials. General Odierno said American forces believe they had at least two close calls with the former Iraqi dictator in recent months. In a raid on a safehouse in the Tikrit area this past summer, American forces said they had learned from Iraqis they detained that Mr. Hussein had been there just eight hours earlier.
"Do I think he's operating in this area? Probably," General Odierno said. "Do I know if he's in this area? I don't. What I do know are his tribal connections here and his family connections here. The tribal and family connections are binding, and it's very tough to get inside them. But one day we will."
"I think he's moving around," General Odierno said. "Look at the quality of his tapes. Any one of my soldiers could make a better tape than he does right now."
WAR: Tomorrow's Headline Today
SOLDIERS FIND ASS IN HOLE IN THE GROUND
WAR: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him"
He was found, fittingly enough, hiding in a hole in a cellar in Tikrit. Unlike so many of his victims, however, Saddam emerged from the hole alive.
The president will
WAR: Smoking Gun - Or Flaming Lie?
The London Telegraph is reporting an improbably damning find -- a memo to Saddam Hussein himself demonstrating that Mohammed Atta was training in Baghdad under Abu Nidal in the summer of 2001, and tossing in claims about uranium from Niger to boot:
Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.
In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy".
The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment", contains a report about an unspecified shipment - believed to be uranium - that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.
Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.
"We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," he said. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks."
(Link via The Corner)
This is a huge story if it has even a grain of truth to it, and a significant story (i.e, big-time fabrication) if it doesn't. Frankly, this almost seems too convenient -- it's entirely possible that all this happened, but finding a memo addressed to the dictator himself and including both the Al Qaeda connection in its strongest form (i.e., contemporaneous support of September 11) and the Niger story in the same breath makes me rather suspicious. I'm sure if there's anything bad to be known about Dr Ayad Allawi, we'll be hearing it very soon from the usual suspects (Josh Marshall, call your office). Certainly, it's not improbable that the Iraqi provisional government includes some people who are desperate to suck up to the Bush Administration and not too subtle about doing so.
The article doesn't say whether Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti is in US custody, and a cursory web search indicates he may still be at large (although I may have missed something; the best list a Google search turned up was this BBC list from October).
Either way, it's a story we need to hear more about.
December 11, 2003
WAR: These Are Not The Allies You Are Looking For
Rich Lowry was blogging the Democrats' most recent debate, and came up with this, on a statement from Howard Dean:
Dean also seems to have boned up on his Iraq policy, although he is still not making much sense. He calls for foreign troops from Iraq's neighbors to come into the country, apparently not noticing that that is exactly what the Iraqi's don't want. That's why there are no Turkish troops in Iraq now...
I was aghast at this; who are Iraq's neighbors besides Turkey?
I could be wrong, but I suspect that the Kuwaiti armed forces aren't particularly useful. And we sure as hell don't want Saudis, Syrians and Iranians patrolling the country if we're hoping to make it safe for democracy. Besides their other flaws - like the fact that none of them is really on our side in the war on terror, to put it mildly - they all have their own regional agendas. That leaves Jordan, which ain't much of a coalition if your alternative is scoffing at allies like Britian and Australia.
But I thought I'd check out the transcript, and Lowry doesn't seem to have precisely captured Dean's statement:
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KOPPEL: Governor Dean, you no doubt...
... you no doubt heard or heard about Senator Clinton's views that we will, in all probability, have to keep if not the same number, possibly even a greater number of U.S. troops in Iraq for some extended time to come.
Do you share that view?
DEAN: I don't share that view. I think we need to bring in foreign troops. I think Senator Kerry is right.
First of all, here's what has to happen. What the United States did was appoint an governing council for Vermont -- for Vermont, for Iraq.
That was -- they'd like to appoint one for Vermont these days, I'm sure.
You cannot expect the Iraqis to think that they have their own government if we're appointing their people. We need an election.
Oddly enough, one of the mullahs over there who is a conservative Shiite is right. If you don't have an election, then the Iraqis themselves are going to have no investment in their reconstruction.
KOPPEL: And if you do have an election, then the Shiites hold a significant majority.
DEAN: They may, but it doesn't -- the Shiites are not necessarily uniform. Those people -- actually, the model is Afghanistan.
Our military did a great job in Afghanistan. And I supported the war in Afghanistan because 3,000 of our people had been killed, and I thought we had a right to defend ourselves.
But the fact is, since the military did a great job, this president has made a mess of it. He's trying to turn Afghanistan into a democratic country by signing over four-fifths of the country to the warlords.
However, the thing we ought to take out of Afghanistan is their model for how they're writing their constitution. They had an elected group of people who came to meet in Kabul for quite some time. They wrote a constitution which is an Afghan version of democracy. That can work in Iraq, and that's the first prerequisite.
KOPPEL: You're talking about doing a constitution before you have an election?
DEAN: No, we're talking about doing the election first in order to have the people who write the constitution who are not seen by the Iraqi people as stooges of the Americans.
DEAN: That's the only way to get the Iraqis to buy into their own constitution.
Then we need to go to all those countries that the president insulted on his way into Iraq and get them to rethink their policy towards helping us under the auspices of both the United Nations and ourselves.
That means a new president. This president is never going to repair the damage he did to the moral leadership of this country, because he's incapable of it. He personalizes policy difference, and that is a fatal mistake when you're running anything, whether it's a business or a state or a country.
If we do that, we will be able to do what the president's father successfully did, which is bring 100,000 foreign troops into Iraq, preferably from Arabic-speaking and Muslim nations, to internationalize the reconstruction of Iraq.
Now, the reason I agree with Senator Clinton is this. We will be able to withdraw our Guard and Reserves -- who have no business being over there for a 12-month tour of duty -- we will be able to withdraw at least one of the two divisions. But we will not be able to withdraw an American presence.
The tragedy of what we did in Iraq, which I have opposed right from the beginning, is that now we're stuck there, because there was no serious threat to the United States from Saddam Hussein, but there is a threat from an Iraq with Al Qaida in it or with a fundamentalist Shiite regime which is closely allied with the Iranians.
President Bush said a few weeks ago on a Sunday night that Iraq was at the crossroads of the battle against terrorism.
DEAN: That wasn't true before we went in, but he has made it so and he has endangered the security of the United States of America by going into Iraq and that was a mistake.
That doesn't sound quite as bad, but it's still crazy. Most of the Muslim and Arab countries aren't democracies or friends of democracies, and if we complain now about the roughness of tactics sometimes needed by Americans to pacify Iraq, what happens when the Pakistani troops or somebody opens fire on a crowd? (Or the alternative; I recall from the book Black Hawk Down the unwillingness of coalition troops from Pakistan and other places to provide support to our own troops when they got in trouble). I really don't see how other countries' troops are better equipped to get this job done, or how they'd be any less targets for terror (think of the Red Cross bombing). The only benefit they provide is that somebody else does some of our job for us. In a conflict where we need to have a long-term strategy, that's incredibly small-minded short-term thinking. And it's a long, long way from a country whose president promised 40 years ago that we would "bear any burden" for the friends of freedom around the world.
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November 30, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Trading Places
Peter Beinart (in a column that's now web-accessible only to subscribers of The New Republic) suggested some weeks back that, given the GOP's skepticism about nation-building during the Clinton years and the hesitance of some Republicans to support the Clinton Administration's policy on the war in Kosovo, one might assume that if the Democrats still held the White House, the Republicans would be playing the same role of petulant anti-warriors currently filled by the Democrats. Beinart's a reasonable enough guy, and he understands national security issues well, but he clearly doesn't understand much about Republicans if he thinks we would have been calling for a President Gore to restrain his response after September 11. Did Republicans castigate Harry Truman for being too much of a hard-line anti-Communist? I think it far more likely that if Gore were in the White House on September 11, Republicans would have been calling for a much more belligerent response, full of Old Testament-style smiting and wrath.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 09:01 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 28, 2003
WAR: Longer Yards
November 27, 2003
WAR: Giving Thanks In The Right Place
Last month, I echoed Frank Gaffney's suggestion on NRO that President Bush should go to Baghdad; I suggested that Thanksgiving would be an appropriate time to go. I was dismayed to see reports that Hillary Clinton would be going (she was in Afghanistan today), not just for the partisan points but because her presence only underlined Bush's absence from what would be an important morale-boosting visit.
News came today, though, that the president did the right thing. Whatever you think of the politics of the event, that's just what it was: the right thing to do, for the sake of our soldiers who don't have the luxury of deciding where they'd like to be for Thanksgiving.
November 24, 2003
WAR: The Times' War Continues
It took a while, but on Thursday, the NY Times finally addressed the memo from Douglas Feith laying out the evidence of longstanding connections between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda; whatever you think of the credibility or novelty of the memo, it's unquestionably newsworthy to have all the evidence laid out in one place.
So, what does the Times do, but include this line:
"With the disclosure of Mr. Feith's memorandum, some conservative commentators have resurrected claims of a link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks, even though President Bush said in September that he had seen no such evidence."
Now, for the millionth time, evidence of connections to al Qaeda is not necessarily the same as evidence of connections to September 11; opponents of the Iraq war have repeatedly obscured this distinction to accuse conservatives and the Administration of making the latter charge (which is supported by only very tenuous evidence) when most have made the former, which is supported by a more substantial body of allegations. But what stinks here is the way the Times makes this assertion: it doesn't quote anyone, thus leaving the impression that it's talking about leading commentators (the Sept. 11 point is not really being pushed by any of the leading lights on the Right), and then it just dismisses those arguments without giving the unnamed commentators at least a sentence or two to say what their argument is.
November 19, 2003
WAR: Atta Guy
I haven't had time to digest this one, but don't miss conspiracy theorist Edward Jay Epstein's piece debunking the debunkers of the reports that Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague in the spring of 2001. Epstein's verdict: we still don't really know.
WAR: Not About The Money
This Andrew Sullivan item on how Bernard Lewis emphasizes the Islamist terrorists' belief that the US would be an easier foe to defeat than the Soviet Union is interesting on at least two levels (beyond the fact that these nutjobs think they were the sole or primary cause of the USSR's collapse):
1. They, like the Nazis, may be making the mistake of underestimating their enemies by equating ruthlessness with strength;
2. If true -- and Lewis knows this subject far better than I do -- Lewis' point actually underlines how little they have in common with the Western Left, which tends to see all things in economic terms. Anyone who pays attention to economics had to realize, at least in retrospect, that the US would present a far more enduring adversary than did the Sovient Union, with its doddering state-run economic system.
November 17, 2003
RELIGION/WAR: Men of Zeal
Steven den Beste makes an interesting point about al Qaeda's strategy in the war on terror: it can't be explained in rational, secular terms because "bin Laden's strategy was to get God, or Allah, involved in the war against the infidel." Moreover, the absence of a rational plan is an essential element in its success:
bin Laden could not create and follow the kind of plan which we'd think was essential. If bin Laden's plan had been based entirely on temporal power and cogent strategy and real resources, and if such a plan did not rely on miracles, it would have demonstrated lack of faith. If there were no place in the plan for God, it would prove that bin Laden didn't truly believe God would help.
And it would therefore prove that bin Laden didn't deserve any help from God, because it would prove that his faith wasn't really pure. For bin Laden to create such a plan would be a heretical act. . . . [A] rationalist post-Enlightenment Christian . . . faces no crisis of faith in a similar situation. He can make rational plans which don't rely on miracles because his faith acknowledges that God doesn't usually work that way. Such a Christian doesn't pray for victory; he prays for the wisdom to create rational plans and the strength to carry them out.
But for bin Laden and other Islamic zealots bent on jihad, even that would be heresy. The only way to truly prove your faith is to rely on miracles, and that's what I think they're doing. I think that was bin Laden's strategy.
If anything, I think den Beste (who has a fairly firm grip on Christian theology for an aethiest) underestimates the gap between fundamentalist Muslim theology and contemporary Christian theology on this point. It's true that Christians regard it as an extraordinary display of faith in some situations to put your trust completely in God, but to many Christians, such an egregiously audacious venture undertaken with no earthly hope of success isn't just overreaching into a belief in more direct divine intervention than we ordinarily believe in; it also trammels awfully close to the Biblical injunction against putting the Lord your God to the test. I'm not sure exactly where that line is, but if I jump off a bridge and ask God to save me, I've almost certainly done something wrong by trying to compel the Lord to take a specific action in a specific situation.
November 14, 2003
WAR: The Traitor
Another request by Jonathan Pollard for a modification of his sentence for spying on his own country has been denied by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. While there's an understandable urge to treat Pollard as somehow less culpable for selling us out to our friends (Israel) than those who sell us out to our enemies, the fact is that he betrayed his country, and now is not the time to go easy on those who would be tempted to do so.
WAR: Why Nation-Building?
I really shouldn't read Michael Kinsley anymore; he just gets me mad. . . Kinsley's stock in trade -- in fact, virtually the only column he ever writes -- is the one where he charges Republicans with hypocrisy by looking at what he sees as inconsistencies in rhetoric or inconsistencies between rhetoric and action -- most often, by arguing that Republicans fail to follow some principle to its logical extreme. A Kinsley drinking game would have extra points for every time he said something like "if they really mean this," or "if they were really serious about this," . . .
Jonah Goldberg diagnosed this aspect of Kinsley's work a few years ago. This post by Kevin Drum offers some specific criticisms of one of Kinsley's pieces along these lines, including a major theme: Kinsley's tendency to leave out an obvious explanation for why people make a particular distinction.
Yesterday's column, in which he accused President Bush of not meaning what he says about our commitment to democracy, was a classic of the genre. Basically, Kinsley argued that Bush can't be serious because he campaigned against "nation-building" in 2000:
One way to show your respect for democracy is to state your beliefs when running for office and then apply those same beliefs when you're elected. . . . it can be quite noble for a politician to change his or her mind. It can demonstrate courage, integrity, open-mindedness. Has Bush changed his mind on America's role in the world? Or is it all just words—was there no mind to change?
One simple test of a change of mind is whether it is acknowledged and explained. In his eloquent speech this month, Bush made a gutsy reference to "sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East." . . . there is every reason to suppose that our current Bush also supported this approach for most of those 60 years, including his entire adult life until a few months ago when Iraq started going bad. What caused the scales to fall from his eyes?
A man who sincerely has changed his mind about something important ought to hold his new views with less certainty and express them with a bit of rhetorical humility. There should be room for doubt. How can your current beliefs be so transcendentally correct if you yourself recently believed something very different? How can critics of what you say now be so obviously wrong if you yourself used to be one of them? But Bush is cocksure that active, sometimes military, promotion of American values in the world is a good idea, just as he was, or appeared to be, cocksure of the opposite not long ago.
* * *
The Comintern at the height of its powers, in the 1930s, couldn't have engineered a more impressive U-turn. If places like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page had been as enthusiastic about nation-building back in 2000 as they are now, Al Gore might be president today.
First, Kinsley's been down this road before, and I explained why he was wrong about nation-building then -- the Republican critique wasn't of nation-building per se but of interventions that sought nation-building without a connection to vital U.S. national interests.
Second, one of the dumbest things a columnist can do is to ask a rhetorical question to which there's a blindingly obvious answer. Re-read Kinsley's column and see if there's something missing (hint: an event occurring in the month of September). How can you possibly ask what changed Bush's thinking about the necessity of nation-building and its connection to vital U.S. national interests without mentioning the September 11 attacks as a watershed event? I guess for Kinsley, they weren't.
Third, as I've also pointed out before, the real problem with humanitarian peacekeeping/nation-building adventures has been our unwillingness to take sides. The problem I have isn't with going into a country to remove or eliminate evildoers and support allies; it's with going in with the idea that we're just there to help two warring factions work things out peacefully without caring which one triumphs. If you don't take sides, you've taken victory off the table; and the military should not be used when it has no hope of taking the initiative in seeking an identifiable victory.
November 10, 2003
Will the Saudi newsmagazines run covers that say “Why Do They Hate Us” – or, more accurately, “Why Do We Hate Us”? . . . And it makes me wonder: They stick the shiv in the ribs of their richest and most enthusiastic backers.
What makes them this confident?
November 07, 2003
WAR/POP CULTURE: Pop Goes Bin Laden
Just ran across this one from some months back: The Guardian reported that Osama bin Laden's 26-year-old niece, Waffa bin Laden, is trying to launch a pop music career in England. This smacks a bit of trading on one's notoriety, but you can't blame her for who her family is. Waffa is apparently an American-educated lawyer who lived near the World Trade Center (ironically enough) in downtown Manhattan until (hmm?) just around or before September 11. You can check out a picture of the very Westernized Ms. bin Laden over at the Iranian magazine Salam Worldwide.
November 03, 2003
October 31, 2003
WAR: No Plan
Classic Goldberg File yesterday on the Democrats' new charges against Bush's Iraq policy; this alone was worth reading the whole column:
Of course, the administration does have a plan. And central to that plan is, well, spending money to rebuild Iraq. The Democrats make it sound like all the U.S. Army is doing in Iraq is having one giant-sized Chinese fire drill every day. One can just imagine John Kerry going to the local garage:
Kerry: I won't pay you to fix my car until you have a plan.
October 24, 2003
WAR: The Tough Questioner
At a time when he's under fire yet again, this May 2001 New York Times profile of Don Rumsfeld is interesting, in retrospect:
Mr. Rumsfeld, now 68, is back at the Pentagon's helm. And once again he is arguing before a wary Congress that the armed forces need an expensive face-lift to counter emerging threats like terrorists with biological weapons and potentially hostile nations with long-range ballistic missiles.
In the coming weeks, Mr. Rumsfeld will begin making his case for adding billions of dollars to the current defense budget and increasing President Bush's proposed $324 billion Pentagon budget. His goal is to transform the military into a more agile, lethal and stealthy force, and to build a costly and unproven missile shield.
Though Americans may feel safer today than in decades, he asserts that "weakness is provocative," that the nation is in danger of growing complacent and that the military must remain strong enough to deter and punish aggressors in this "dangerous and untidy world."
"If things are not bad, why do you need to change anything?" Mr. Rumsfeld said in an hourlong interview this week in his Pentagon office overlooking the Potomac. "And, of course, that's exactly when institutions suffer. If they think things are good, and they relax and don't recognize the changes taking place in the world, they tend to fail."
Critics contend that Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Bush's other top advisers have exaggerated the military challenges facing the United States and that he is arguing for a missile shield at a time when, at least numerically, the missile threat has lessened.
* * *
"The weapons of mass destruction are more widely dispersed," he said. "And they are in the hands of people who are different than the people who had them 25 years ago."
* * *
Aides have become accustomed to a deluge of "snowflakes" from Mr. Rumsfeld — a seemingly endless flurry of questions, problems or assignments he dictates into a Dictaphone and has transcribed by secretaries and dispatched to all areas of the Pentagon. Responses are expected to be terse: as much information and as little prose as possible.
* * *
"It's wrong to allow people to develop a zero tolerance for risk," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We would not have airplanes if the first 20 times the Wright brothers crashed and failed we said, `Stop it, don't try it again, you're wasting money.' "
October 21, 2003
WAR: To Baghdad
I missed blogging this at the time, but Frank Gaffney had an important point on NRO two weeks ago that I'd been thinking about myself: to transform the debate on Iraq, President Bush should go to Baghdad:
By so doing, the president will have an opportunity to see for himself the facts on the ground. Having just returned myself from a trip to Iraq and meetings with most of the senior civilian and military personnel in the theater, I can attest that there is simply no better way to take stock of the conditions that exist — and those that are being brought about, thanks to ever-more-effective collaboration between U.S. and Coalition personnel and the Iraqis.
Mr. Bush's personal visit will also afford him a truly unique opportunity to convey a surpassingly important message to both our troops and the people they are helping to experience and secure freedom: We are unalterably committed to realizing that goal.
A presidential trip to Baghdad will also compel the American and international media to address the real progress being made on the ground in Iraq — not just the random attacks there and other over-reported setbacks. It should be accompanied by a call for news organizations once again to embed journalists with Coalition forces, ensuring that their success in securing the peace is as faithfully and as accurately covered as their success in winning it.
As Gaffney points out, both Powell and Rumsfeld have made the trip already, so the logistics of security should already be in place. Personally, I'd suggest that if bolstering morale is part of the mission, the president should go on a holiday to visit with troops who have spent more than a few holidays away from home -- Christmas would be best for that reason, but would probably be a non-starter (given the diplomatic sensitivities of being too overtly Christian a celebration), so I'd suggest Thanksgiving. Such a trip would hardly be unprecedented; Eisenhower went to Korea, remember. But if memory serves correctly (I could be wrong), no American president went to Vietnam.
Speaking of Vietnam, somebody needs to send a rescue party there to bring back Ted Kennedy, who's apparently stuck in a time warp; check out this hilarious fisking of his latest diatribe, which reads like something from a bad campus newspaper. (Link via Michele).
WAR: Not Free
This Reuters report on a UN study has some fairly damning conclusions about freedom of speech and thought in the Arab world, despite some fairly flimsy attempts by both Reuters and the UN to blame this on the US:
The U.S.-led war on terror has radicalized more Arabs angry both with the West and their autocratic rulers who are bent on curbing their political rights, a U.N.-commissioned study released Monday showed. . . . Arab disenchantment was deepened by autocratic rulers who were given a "spurious justification for curbing freedoms on the pretext of fighting terrorism" by Washington's war on terror.
Of course, it's "Washington's war." No mention of terror's war on the rest of the world. I don't doubt that repressive Arab regimes that have lined up on our side (like Egypt or some of the small Gulf states) have used the war on terror as yet another justification for the same old repression, but this is really a footnote to the real story:
Arab countries lagged other regions in dissemination of knowledge. Readership of books was relatively limited, education dictated submission rather than critical thought, the Arabic language was in crisis. . . . The report said even a best selling novel sold on average only 5,000 copies compared to hundreds of thousands elsewhere. . . The number of books published in the Arab world did not exceed 1.1 percent of world production though Arabs constitute 5 percent of the world population.
It cited official educational curricula in Arab countries that " bred submission, obedience, subordination and compliance rather than free critical thinking."
* * *
The U.N. also touched on the state of Arab universities, decrying lack of autonomy and the direct control of governments that ran them on political whims. . . . No more than 10,000 books were translated into Arabic over the entire millennium, equivalent to the number translated every year into Spanish.
Research and Development in the Arab world did not exceed 0.2 percent of Gross National Product (GNP). . . The number of telephone lines in Arab countries was barely one fifth of that in developed countries.
Access to digital media was also among the lowest in the world. There are 18 computers per 1,000 people compared to a global average of 78. Only 1.6 percent of over 270 million Arabs have internet access, one of the lowest ratios in the world, the report said.
It's no wonder that paranoia, delusional ideas and ridiculous propaganda can be so easily disseminated in countries that lack even the most rudimentary forms and traditions of free expression. More's the point: remember this the next time someone tries to complain about U.S. 'cultural imperialism' in the region. Arab culture is choking to death as it is, at the hands of its own leaders. Freedom can only be an improvement.
October 17, 2003
WAR: Ledeen at Work
This AP article has a fascinating angle: apparently Michael Ledeen has been trying to get the CIA to investigate possible transfers of enriched uranium from Saddam Hussein's regime into Iran five years ago, but past credibility problems with Ledeen's contact have led the CIA to be skeptical.
At this distance it's impossible to tell who's right here, but it makes for a good yarn, and it's a reminder of the uncertainties inherent in the intelligence business. How can you trust a guy who lied in the past - but how can you turn him away, with potential information like this?
October 15, 2003
WAR: International Idiocy
Tim Blair was at it again yesterday, skewering Australian columnist Margo Kingston's fatuities about the Bali bombing ("Howard knew!").
Why is it that foolishness like Kingston's columns seems to cross national and even language barriers, everywhere making the same ridiculous arguments?
October 12, 2003
WAR: We Remember
October 08, 2003
RELIGION/WAR: Idolatry Part II
Last October, I looked at the essential features of sharia courts and asked if the institution was, in strictly Islamic terms, essentially idolatrous/blasphemous by "effectively set[ting] up the sharia court itself as the object of worship, obedience and devotion, under the harshest of penalties, and in substitution for the devotion of invidual conscience directly to divine authority". Christopher Hitchens interviews the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, himself a Shiite cleric, who makes a similar point:
A sentence of death for apostasy cannot really be pronounced, or acted upon, unless there is "an infallible imam," and there is no such thing. The Shiite faithful believe in a "hidden imam" who may one day be restored to them, but they have learned to be wary of impostors or false prophets. In any event, added Khomeini, there was an important distinction between what the Quran said and what an ayatollah as head of state might say. "We cannot nowadays have executions in this form."
October 07, 2003
WAR: Gas up the Whackmobile!
If you believe that the Bush Administration is engaged in a grand strategy to overthrow hostile and dangerous tyrannies, particularly in the Middle East, you have to assume that an important component of that strategy is the building of public support, at home and abroad, for targeting specific enemies. Certainly, in Iraq, that part worked, as the war was backed by Congress, a large percentage of the public, and several key allies (and parts of the case for war, such as Saddam's violation of UN resolutions, were validated by the UN and even many of the war's critics).
A tougher nut to crack will be Saudi Arabia, which (1) casts itself as an ally, (2) never engages in openly hostile acts towards its neighbors, (3) has no weapons of mass destruction, (4) has no identifiable dictator so much as a diffuse class of feudal lords, (5) is seen as a symbolic leader of the Muslim world, and (6) has all sorts of people on its payroll, from bipartisan former government officials at home to Islamic movements all over the world.
But the Administration, if it set out to build public support for a confrontation with the Saudis, has one thing on its side: even the nuttiest of the nutty Left has now started calling on Bush to take a tougher line with Riyadh. When you can get Michael Moore demanding that you be thrown in the briar patch . . .
October 04, 2003
WAR: Where Are The Weapons of Mass Destruction?
As I noted last night, you must check out Andrew Sullivan's summary of David Kay's report on Iraq's WMD programs. Sullivan suggests that we should read the whole report, which I intend to do myself shortly.
In fairness, of course, you should also check out Gregg Easterbrook's take. Easterbrook focuses on the absence of a continuing nuclear program, and takes it as evidence that Bill Clinton's missile strikes on Iraq were more successful than a lot of (particularly conservative) observers thought:
Set aside the question of whether the United States should have invaded Iraq in 2003; history may still judge this decision favorably, as a liberation of the oppressed. But if most of the Iraq atomic weapons program stopped in 1998, as Kay concludes, then Clinton administration policy on Iraq was far more effective than once assumed; then the WMD case for invasion this year was even weaker than now assumed; and then the case for airstrikes to halt the North Korean nuclear-weapons program may be stronger than now assumed.
Unlike, say, Josh Marshall, I never bought the idea that the entire case for war depended on whether or not Saddam had an active nuclear program; on top of the many other reasons for war, biological and chemical weapons looked plenty bad enough. But Easterbrook's probably right that Clinton is owed an apology on this point, up to a point (it would still have been better if he'd moved more aggressively against both Saddam and bin Laden; maybe if he'd been threatened with impeachment more often . . . )
October 03, 2003
WAR: Back to the UN
One of the loopier tropes we keep hearing from critics of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy is how Bush had to change direction and go crawling back to the UN for help. Um . . . no. Asking for UN help was in no way a flip-flop or admission of failure. Let's review:
1. Fall 2002: We ask the UN (i.e., France/Germany/Russia) to agree with us about the problem with the Iraqi regime. The UN agrees.
2. Early Spring 2003: We ask the UN to help us solve the problem. We make clear that we're not asking permission; we're going to fix the problem, we've got some allies, but we want more help. The UN refuses.
3. Late Spring 2003: We take care of the problem without the UN's help, but with the help of a number of allies.
4. Fall 2003: We come back to the UN, even after it pissed in our face, and ask for help again with the aftermath. This time, at least some of the nations involved appear more conciliatory.
How exactly have we admitted failure? We said we could and would do this with whatever allies we could get, but we always wanted more allies and more help than we got. This is like asking out the same girl who stood you up once before; if anything, it shows the Administration's humility in being willing to ask again rather than say, "they didn't get on the boat when it sailed, screw them."
October 02, 2003
WAR: Al Qaeda in Iraq
This story ought to be getting more attention: The Weekly Standard on captured foreign terrorists, including Al Qaeda operatives, in Iraq.
October 01, 2003
POLITICS/WAR: More from the Plame Wars
I don't have the ambition to do a big post on this yet -- but Sparkey over at Sgt. Stryker noted something vurrrry interesting: Joseph Wilson is employed by the Middle East Institute, a think tank funded by my friend and yours, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (He's also apparently an advisor to a lobbying firm for the Turkish government).
Now, let's assume for the sake of argument that Valerie Plame really was a covert operative -- or even an analyst with access to sensitive information and responsibility for interpreting it -- working on sensitive WMD intelligence issues. Am I the only one who finds it scary that, at the very same time, her husband is on the payroll of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is (to put it mildly) at least an arguably unfriendly government? At the risk of sounding like Tailgunner Joe here, how many other people on the CIA's Middle East/terrorism/WMD beat are financially supported by the Wahabbis or other hostile/fanatical foreign powers? And if there isn't a law against this, shouldn't there be?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:37 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 29, 2003
WAR: But Did They Find Any African Yellowcake?
September 26, 2003
LAW/WAR: Silverstein Loses
The Second Circuit today affirmed summary judgment against Larry Silverstein and his related real estate companies, holding that the September 11 attacks on One and Two World Trade Center were a single "occurrence" rather than two "occurrences" within the meaning of the insurance policies on the World Trade Center, and thus that Silverstein is entitled to $3.5 billion rather than $7 billion in insurance proceeds. I mostly just skimmed the 62-page opinion (link opens in PDF form), which appears to be rather dusty reading relating to the negotiation of the various insurance policies; probably the most interesting part looks to be the court's decision that the Port Authority is a citizen of both New York and New Jersey for purposes of federal diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction.
Of course, if I'd just won a case saving my client $3.5 billion, I'd find that pretty interesting. Congratulations to the 47 lawyers listed as appearing on the appellees' various briefs, including my Constitutional Law professor, Charles Fried, and my college classmate and fellow Harvard Law grad John C. Demers.
September 23, 2003
WAR: Just For The Record
It's probably not going to happen. But if the Bush Administration has anything new that could be aired about ties between Saddam Hussein and terrorist groups, or about WMD, today's speech before the U.N. -- just after the end of summer, with guaranteed worldwide attention, just at a time when the Administration is getting jittery about polls again -- would be an awfully good time.
September 19, 2003
WAR: Iraq Page
I'm going to use this page as a reference, a holding place for collecting internal and external links of enduring interest on the Iraq war, its justifications and its critics (for now, I'm still filling in the blanks here; I'll add in more links and categories when I have more time):
Iraq and Terrorism
Hayes again, from the November 3, 2003 issue, on Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim a/k/a Abu Hajer al Iraqi, a close confidant of bin Laden's who may have acted as a critical go-between with Saddam Hussein; this article also rehashes a good deal of the prior article.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
September 11, 2003
WAR: Two Years Gone
Two years. . . . if you're looking for a remembrance of the day, you can start with my column written two days later, and Jeff Jarvis' account, and then you can head on over to Michele Catalano's Voices project for more individual narratives.
Two years . . . the good news is, I'm still here, and so are you -- and so are more Americans than we'd dreamed. The visible parts of the war on terror have been a success: no major attacks in the U.S. (the biggest ones being freelance operations like the DC snipers and the LA airport shooter), and really only one large-scale attack (in Bali) outside of what we would think of as 'hotspots' like Israel, Iraq and the Chechen war with Russia. (The hotspots are part of the war too, but they are more expected forms of trouble). Two regimes toppled that were part of the problem, and major efforts underway to remake those countries in a more positive direction. Numerous bad guys killed or captured, including several who are believed to be key figures.
There is yet more to be done, and there are ways in which the hidden part of the war -- the plots against us, the movement of dangerous weapons -- could be going badly and we might not know it for years. But there's more time to plan and to celebrate victory. Today, just remembering where we were, and being thankful for where we have not yet gone, is enough.
September 08, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Hall of Mirrors
The president's speech last night contained few surprises. Bush said what he needed to say:
Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front. Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there -- and there they must be defeated. This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure.
All the key concepts in what has been called the neoconservative battle plan were on full display: the idea that the struggle against terrorism is a single, multi-front war; the idea that the fight in Iraq is part of "a systematic campaign against terrorism" that began after September 11; the idea that "[t]he Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations . . . Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat"; the analogy to the rebuilding of Germany and Japan after World War II; and the repeated references to democracy as the goal of our rebuilding in Iraq.
Then the president finishes up, and (on NBC, where I was watching this), Joe Biden gets on, says he likes the speech but characterizes it as a 180 degree reversal from what "the neoconservatives," who he identifies as "Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz" have been telling Bush. Huh? I mean, Biden does identify some conflicts: he notes that some of the difficulties and troop requirements had been prefigured by hearings held by Richard Lugar and Biden before the war, as opposed to some administration sources. But the core message here is the "neocon" strategy 101.
As for the request for UN help . . . as I noted, I'm not a fan of letting the UN decide anything here, but as more attentive commentators have noted, Bush is just asking for UN auspices to add additional troops from other nations that would remain under US/UK command. Which is what the UN was supposed to be about anyway. This isn't new ground . . . the whole idea of the UN was that it was supposed to be more effective than the League of Nations in stopping aggressive tyrannies, in part because it would abandon the League's pretenses at imposing rules on the great powers (which were a big reason why the US refused to join in 1919) and would instead serve primarily as a vehicle for concerted action. In short, the UN was established with the intent of eliminating barriers to collective action, so long as such action didn't infringe on the interests of any of the permanent members of the Security Council.
Thus, the idea that it is the UN's role to arbitrate the international legitimacy of war with Iraq was always misguided, and remains so now; the only proper question for the UN is whether it is in the interests of enough members of the international community to justify using the UN as a vehicle to organize a division to participate in rebuilding Iraq. Period.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:59 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 04, 2003
WAR: Rescue 9/11
From last week's barrage of news on September 11, a story worth remembering: two Port Authority employees who gave their lives to save others at the World Trade Center.
WAR: Real Allies
Polish troops take over administration of southern Iraq, including the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
For the record, count me among those concerned that the U.S. is considering handing over more control to the same U.N. that shamefully rejected U.S. offers of security assistance at the headquarters that was bombed and that continued to employ Baathist sympathizers as guards. I'd have no problem with getting U.N. help if that would make Iraq more secure -- but I see nothing in the U.N.'s record to suggest that it will do so.
August 27, 2003
WAR: On The Same Bus
Nice gesture for Mayor Bloomberg to ride the Jerusalem No. 2 bus in solidarity with the victims of the latest suicide bombing, even if it does mean a little foreign policy grandstanding that takes him from his real job.
I have to ask: why does anybody in Israel still ride the bus? I mean, I'm being serious and not critical of the Israelis, who presumably know what they are doing with regard to terrorists; there must be good reasons why, given the fact that suicide bombers have relentlessly targeted buses. I assume part of the problem is a lack of car ownership and the need to navigate narrows streets that aren't well suited to heavy traffic.
Hey, maybe this is the elusive market for the Segway: you can't sneak a suicide bomber onto a Segway, after all.
UPDATE: Yeah, I know the Segway is pretty useless for anything beyond a few blocks because it's so slow. Still, this is the kind of outside-the-box transit solution that may have to be considered to make commuters and tourists in Israel less vulnerable (Low Occupancy Vehicle lanes?)
August 24, 2003
WAR: A Hero Returns
Just another soldier doin' his job, I know. But really, they've been there, and you and I haven't. A warm welcome home to Lt. Smash.
August 15, 2003
BLOG/WAR: That Old Feeling
Major flashback to September 11 yesterday, as the lights went out and this time I was inside the building, and had to descend 24 floors to ground level (while wondering if another shoe was about to drop) and then repeat my September 11 experience of toting my briefcase through Midtown and Central Park before locating what may have been the last empty cab in the city. I wasn't taking any chances; the guy balked at leaving Manhattan, so I told him I'd give him $100 (for once, I had some cash on me) to get me to Queens. 2 1/2 hours later, I was home, grilling some burgers before they went bad.
We got power back this morning, but only just got the internet and TV back about 15 minutes ago (#^*!!@ Time Warner). Spent today at home doing some work; as with after September 11, I was calling in to a 1-800 hotline my firm set up to get status updates on when we'd be able to return to work. I would have preferred not to repeat the feeling.
If you want some good blogging on the blackout and its ramifications, check out Jane Galt and Mindles Dreck.
I'm here and then I'm gone, off on vacation. Blogging will resume some time Wednesday or Thursday.
August 11, 2003
WAR: Liberian Blahs
So Liberia's president is stepping down, and blaming America for his problems after the fashion of tyrants and murderers everywhere. I love this detail: his successor, for now, is Liberia's Vice President Blah. Shouldn't the vice president always be named "Blah"?
August 08, 2003
WAR: More From Michael Kelly
It's a rare treat to hear more from a writer you thought you'd heard the last of. I just stumbled across this fascinating pre-war interview with the late Michael Kelly in The Atlantic Online. Chills-inducing line: "I don't think it will be that dangerous for me." Prediction: "I do think that you will see an honest-to-God picture of people in Iraq and Baghdad cheering America." Read the whole thing; there's more on the East Germans' role in Saddam's Iraq, the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war, and Kelly's exploits in Gulf 1. A classic story, from his broadside against CNN's corrupt relationship with Saddam:
[An Australian reporter] and I had gone up to CNN's suite [in the Al-Rashid hotel] at dawn and knocked on the door. They had locked the door so nobody could get into their suite, because they had the only working phone line and they wanted to protect it, of course. I knocked on the door and slipped them a note asking them if they would, not file our stories for us, but if we could give them a list of phone numbers of wives and others that they would call and tell everybody we were okay. They pushed the note back under the door and said, "Haven't you ever heard of competition?" So a lot of people who were there have never forgiven them for that.
More choice quotes:
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When you have the feeling that if you get an eensy bit too drunk the Mukhabarat are going to come and remove your fingernails for making a little Saddam joke at the bar, it puts a stifling effect on an evening out with the boys. Iraqis are big bar-goers. There's a lot of drinking in Iraq. But it's the grimmest drinking environment you could ever imagine. They could give lessons to the Scots on grimness in drinking. . . . It's just grim drinking to relieve the misery of life there. They drink until they've had enough, which is when they slip silently under the table and have to be carted out by the Mukhabarat.
What do you say when you're drinking in Iraq?
Nothing. That's the thing. Everything's too dangerous. You never know what might be taken the wrong way. . . It's a bad place, and when you get in trouble, it's real trouble. Here it's like, oh, you're in trouble, you're on John Ashcroft's not nice list for a week. There, they remove your tongue. It's hard to get your tongue back. You might get the wrong tongue or none at all.
« Close It
August 02, 2003
WAR: Don't Read This While Eating
Mark Steyn on Liberia; Steyn's unerring instinct for the telling detail is on display here; read the whole thing, since I'm afraid to even quote any of this column here.
As I've said before, we shouldn't send our troops to Liberia if we don't intend to take sides and commit to escalate our presence to protect our forces if things get hairy. The major point Steyn makes is that we really don't want to side with any of the rebels, and President Charles Taylor hasn't been shown to be quite bad enough to take the tack we did in Afghanistan of prioritizing destroying the current regime and then letting the chips fall where they may in the aftermath.
For many of the reasons that co-blogger The Mad Hibernian has set out in some detail, I still remain open to persuasion that we have a strategic interest in Liberia that could justify intervening, in terms of Taylor's possible Al Qaeda connections and in terms of the growing strategic importance (yes, including oil) of the region as a whole. James Robbins has also made a fairly persuasive argument for intervention in explicitly imperialist terms. But I haven't been sold on that case yet. I don't buy for an instant the idea that we should just go in on the blithe assumption that it will be easy enough that we won't have to kill anybody; if we go in, we should expect war, and be prepared to stay a very long time. The question -- one that Robbins faces up to directly -- is whether West Africa is a place we want to be for a very long time.
July 31, 2003
WAR: Another Take on Niger
See, the basic divide right now is this: the Administration's defenders say it was perfectly reasonable for the president to rely on British intelligence about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Africa, although the Administration itself now admits that it shouldn't have included this item in the State of the Union Address due to the conflicting reports coming from the CIA. The critics say, basically, that if American intelligence doubts that it happened, then we should not rely on intelligence provided by our closest ally; if it's not blessed by American intelligence, it must be no good, right?
Now, who's being the arrogant unilateralists?
(Of course, as the left-leaning site The Daily Howler has noted, it appears that the British were talking about the Congo, while our analysis was about Niger; apples and oranges).
WAR: Last One Out The Door . . .
I'm all in favor of using one of America's most unique weapons -- its willingness to accept as immigrants the refugees who flee from tyrannies -- against North Korea. It looks as if this may happen. (Link via Drudge)
Now, if we'd just stop turning back Cuban refugees.
WAR: The Last Rubber
If you think about it, the contents of Uday's briefcase are symbolic: the regime that was screwing Iraq was down to its last condom.
July 30, 2003
I was going to write something about the Pentagon's proposal for a market in predicting terror targets, but as usual I really can't top Jane Galt's discussion of the subject; I share her enthusiasm for the concept in the abstract, as well as her reservations about perverse incentives. What amazed me, though, was the sheer political incompetence of announcing this program without the willingness to stick out criticisms that were completely inevitable and predictable; if you didn't want to take that heat, why make the proposal?
July 23, 2003
POLITICS/WAR: Big Bag of Magnanimity
Sometimes, Bill Clinton's need to be a part of every story has some good results; Clinton tells Larry King that he feels George W.'s pain over the Niger issue:
"I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying 'we probably shouldn't have said that,'" Clinton told CNN's Larry King in a phone interview Tuesday evening.
"You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. You can't make as many calls as you have to make without messing up. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:59 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Better Than They Deserved
There are only a few people on this earth whose deaths I would celebrate without any remorse. Uday and Qusay are two.
Lileks: "Yes, I hope they suffered, and yes, I want heads on pikes."
John from Iberian Notes (who just added us to his blogroll): "In case you haven't seen it yet, Qusay and Oday look like they're well on their way to their 72 virgin sheep, goats, and donkeys in hell."
OK. But just for laughs, let's check out the reaction from famously anti-American journalist Robert Fisk:
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So they are dead. Or are they?
Conspiracy theorists, get out your tinfoil hats.
A 14-year-old child killed by the Americans - one of the four dead - might be one of Saddam's grandsons.
A, yes, a child. Reared on the blood of how many other Iraqi children?
The two men obviously fought fiercely against the 200 American troops who surrounded the house.
Must . . . portray . . . legendary sadists as brave underdogs . . .
[T]his is the same Task Force 20 that blasted to death the occupants of a convoy heading for the Syrian border earlier this month, a convoy whose travellers were meant to include Saddam himself and even the two sons supposedly killed yesterday. The victims turned out to be only smugglers.
And smugglers headed to Syria must be doers of good, no?
And American intelligence - the organisation that failed to predict events of 11 September, 2001 -
Note that he doesn't say our intel was bad before the Iraq war, since it's fashionable to say our intel then was good, at least when it said its prior conclusions were bad.
[I]n a family obsessed, with good reason, with their own personal security, would Uday and Qusay really be together?
Perhaps they were running out of places to hide? But to Fisk, they must be all-knowing and wise, and we the fools.
If [Saddam] and his sons are dead, the chances are that the opposition to the American-led occupation will grow rather than diminish - on the grounds that with Saddam gone, Iraqis will have nothing to lose by fighting the Americans.
Um, well, except that we will kill anyone who fights us, and plus they would lose the only chance they're likely soon to get to build a free society.
But Fisk's dreams die hard.
« Close It
WAR: A Soldier's Return
In a way, it was refreshing to see other news overshadow Pfc. Jessica Lynch's return to her hometown yesterday (she's now the most famous thing in West Virginia not named after Robert C. Byrd); she's a great story, but the media has overdone it at times. Lynch seemed normal -- neither overwhelmed by the attention nor unduly taken by it. Good for her; she's been through a lot. (For a taste of why Americans were so worried about how she'd be treated by Iraq, check out this recent judicial opinion, in PDF form, with some graphic detail of how our POWs were treated in the last Iraq war).
July 22, 2003
WAR: Den Beste Notes
Steven Den Beste has a lengthy (but you knew that already) outline of the case for the war on terror generally and why it settled in Iraq; it need hardly be added that I agree with nearly everything in here.
Looks like Den Beste is over his illness, I'd say.
WAR: May on Niger
From the conservative side of the aisle, the absolute best coverage of the African uranium story has been from Clifford May on NRO; you can read his analyses here and here. He asks a very pertinent question:
Early in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney had questions about reports of Saddam buying uranium from Niger. So he asked the Central Intelligence Agency to find out the truth. Consider: Here's a request from the White House on a vital national-security issue. Does the CIA put their top spies on the case? No. Who do they put on the case? No one. Instead, they apparently decided to give the assignment to a diplomat.
I assume they contacted the State Department. Even so, they didn't get the Foreign Service's most talented ambassador, someone with investigative skills and broad experience in nuclear proliferation and related issues. No, the assignment went to a retiree who is far to the left of the Bush administration. Why?
That retiree was Joseph C. Wilson IV, former ambassador to Gabon, and one-time deputy to ambassador April Glaspie in Iraq. (You'll recall she was the U.S. official who reportedly told Saddam: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.")
Wilson's investigation, according to his recent New York Times op-ed, consisted of his spending "eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people." He added: "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction [sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq] had ever taken place."
Wilson's conclusion was probably correct. It's likely that no such transaction occurred — which begs the question of whether Saddam attempted to complete such a transaction, as the British believe and as Bush said in his SOTU.
But let's imagine for just a moment that one of the officials with whom Wilson met had accepted a million-dollar bribe for facilitating the transfer of uranium to Saddam's agents. What is the likelihood that that information would have been disclosed to Wilson over sips of sweet mint tea? Not huge, I'd wager.
When did the vice president learn that this was the manner in which his orders had been carried out? Is there an explanation for such dereliction of duty by CIA and, possibly, by State as well? Was anyone held accountable?
WAR: Connecting the Dots
Kevin Drum was at it again on Saturday, knocking Lileks for writing, about Tony Blair, that "[w]e can argue about the shape and direction of Western Civ after we’ve made sure that such a thing will endure." Drum's response:
I take terrorism seriously, and I also take seriously the threat of terrorists and unstable states getting hold of weapons of mass destruction. But what can you say about this kind of talk? Do Lileks and the rest of the prowar crowd seriously think that Osama and his ilk have made it doubtful whether western civilization will endure?
To me that just sounds crazy, and I guess maybe that's at the core of the schism in America today. Lileks and his compatriots think the terrorists have the power to bring western civilization to its knees, whereas I think of them as simply a threat that we will rather quickly and efficiently dispatch. They may be scary, but in terms of actual power they are the merest flea on the back of the United States and the rest of the western democracies.
I wonder what it is that causes such vast gulfs in instinctive reaction between people who probably more or less agree on the actual nature of the threat itself?
Naturally, Drum's comment boards lit up with various personal attacks on Lileks specifically and conservatives in general. To some extent, of course, Lileks is exaggerating: Western Civilization as a whole is a very good bet to squash its enemies. Me, I'm plenty enough worried about whether my corner of that civilization (New York City) will survive, and from reading Lileks I know that's his sort of worry as well: not the total destruction of our way of life but a catastrophic attack, or series of attacks, that blow big holes in the nation's fabric and change forever the way we live.
But the really big gulf right now -- and one that's getting wider -- is between those of us, mostly on the Right, who see the states and organizations that declare themselves to be the enemies of our civilization and start with the assumption that they are all part of the same basic problem (particularly when their rhetoric partakes of the same cocktail of pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and old Soviet rhetorical tropes) until proven otherwise, and those (almost exclusively on the Left) who insist on a very high burden of proof before they will see, say, the mullahs in Iran or the regime of Saddam Hussein as being part of the same threat as Al Qaeda.
In the end, that's what this whole Niger thing is about. In the war on terror, it's not hard to know who our enemies are: most of them are quite plain in meaning us ill. The hawks in this war have taken a clear position: Never Again will we underestimate our enemies as we did before September 11, and if the cost of that is that we sometimes act too soon, well, that's the price we pay for the world we live in; if that attitude drives up the cost of being an enemy of the United States, so be it. The goal, after all, is not just to intercede to stop attacks on us the day before they happen, but to stop threats in the bud, before they go too far. While we could use to have better intelligence, we must accept that we will always have to make some decisions about those enemies based on a patchwork of glimpses into their shadowy world.
To the pro-war camp, Saddam's regime was bad and dangerous in many ways, and in that light, the fact that some intelligence reports indicated that he was looking to buy uranium in one of several African states was not a straight up-or-down item of "evidence" but yet another cause for potential concern. The fact that this particular rumor couldn't be verified (it still hasn't been disproved, so much as its bases have been called into question) was no reason to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it; indeed, the very fact that it was possible that Saddam could do such a thing without us being able to conclusively prove it was done is alarming in itself.
We're not talking about moving against innocent lambs here; if we act on imperfect intelligence, our targets will still be those who hate us and yearn for ways to destroy us. They'd kill me if they could, and you too, and they'll likely kill more of us before this is all done. The magnitude of the potential threat is just too great to sit around finding excuses to discredit this or that dot, and ignore the looming outline.
July 21, 2003
WAR: Good Morning
July 19, 2003
WAR: Jaw Jaw
Kevin Drum, echoing many of the Bush Administration's critics, complains that
The unwillingness of the administration to do anything — even talk — with North Korea really does seem to be based more on personal pique than on a sober assessment of what's best for the United States.
Why has Bush gotten a pass on this from the conservative establishment? Hell, even Clinton did something, while Bush has literally done almost nothing for nine months now, seemingly happy to let the situation fester away until eventually we will be backed into a corner with no options left.
This desperation for some showy display of negotiation is badly mistaken. Really, there's nothing worse in negotiations than showing up just for the sake of talking. That leads to being afraid to walk away, which leads to bad deals, which is what happened to Clinton.
It's clear that Bush recognizes that, unlike in Iraq, our freedom of both military action and diplomatic pressure is hampered by a neighboring great power (China). But getting China to do anything requires two preconditions:
1. The situation gets so bad they can't ignore it.
2. We not be seen as leading the way, so that China not be seen as doing our bidding.
Moreover, any action on our part encourages the North Koreans to think that they are succeeding in inducing panic. In short, for any Bush policy on North Korea -- short of a direct military assault -- to be effective, we must appear to be doing nothing.
Is that really what Bush is doing? We can't know. But I would think that critics of the Administration would at least deal with the reality of the situation rather than making the facile assumption that we're doing nothing simply because we're not doing the same thing we did with Iraq.
WAR: Steyn on Niger
You know Mark Steyn's got a good one when different excerpts are quoted on every site linking to him. This column on Niger is a good one; this passage cracked me up:
Who knows what really happened in Africa? Maybe the CIA guy in Niamey (assuming they have one) filed a report on uranium in Niger and back at head office the assistant deputy paper-shuffler looked at it upside-down and said, ‘There’s something here about Saddam getting nigerium from Uranus,’ and the deputy assistant paper shuffler said, ‘Jeez, we need to go into full ass-covering mode.’ Either way, you could ask a million folks and never find one whose view on the war was determined by anything to do with Niger, which, insofar as anybody’s ever heard of it, is mostly assumed to be either an abbreviation of Nigeria or a breakaway republic thereof, leaving the rump statelet of Ia to go it alone.
July 14, 2003
WAR: The Niger Trap
Kevin Drum says that despite the relative insignificance of the Niger story itself, it's a "smoking gun" because
Bush's problem is not that a single 16-word sentence of dubious provenance made it into his State of the Union address. His problem is that he promised us that Saddam was connected to al-Qaeda, he promised thousands of liters of chemical and biological weapons, he promised that Saddam had a nuclear bomb program, and he promised that the Iraqis would greet us as liberators. But that wasn't all. He also asked us to trust him: he couldn't reveal all his evidence on national TV, but once we invaded Iraq and had unfettered access to the entire country everything would become clear.
But it didn't. We've had control of the country for three months, we've had access to millions of pages of Iraqi records, and we've captured and interrogated dozens of high ranking officials. And it's obvious now that there were no WMDs, no bomb programs of any serious nature, and no al-Qaeda connections. . .
In the end, we went to war because a majority of the population trusted George Bush when he presented his case that Iraq posed an imminent danger to the United States and the world.
Uranium-Gate is a symbol of that misplaced trust. If George Bush's judgment had been vindicated in Iraq, a single sentence in the State of the Union address wouldn't matter. But it hasn't, and he deserves to be held accountable for his poor judgment by everybody who believed him.
This sounds reasonable, but it's also why the Democrats are walking into a trap here. They're hoping to convince people that this story symbolizes the failure of the Iraq war, that the case for war in its totality was all a hoax. But more evidence about what was really going on in Iraq contiunues to seep in -- and when WMD capabilities are eventually found and more links to terror groups are laid out (I'm increasingly confident we'll find both) -- it's the Democrats who will find egg on their faces.
Remember: hawkish Democrats in the 1960s and hawkish Republicans in the 1970s and 1980s turned out to be wrong about some important particulars of the Soviet Union's nuclear and military capabilities. But did the public condemn them for seeing through the campaign against communism to victory?
WAR: Up The Niger River Without A Paddle?
Critics of the Bush Administration's foreign policy, primarily the anti-war Democrats, have leaped all over the story that the president said, in the State of the Union address, that British intelligence reports showed that Saddam had recently tried to buy uranium from Africa, at a time when U.S. intelligence reports were highly doubtful that the specific charge (a transaction in Niger) had happened. Of course, it became public very shortly after the SOTU speech (i.e., before the war) that the British report was based on forged documents.
It's true, of course, that what the president said was literally true -- this is what British intelligence was reporting. If the statement was made in, say, a Pentagon briefing and placed in context ("we've received a number of other potentially disturbing reports . . . "), that would be the end of the matter. But when the President puts it in a national address, the message is that we believe these reports.
On the other hand, consider the passage in its full, actual context:
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Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons -- not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.
Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct -- were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.
The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.
The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses.
Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.
Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.
With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes. (Applause.)
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)
The overall message of this passage is, "the burden's on Saddam to explain anything that looks suspicious." It's pretty clear that we were not suggesting that the evidence of a nuclear program was as strong as that for chemical or biological weapons. Indeed, some critics, like Josh Marshall, argued at the time that only nuclear weapons and not chem or bio would be grounds for war.
Personally, what amazes me about this whole thing is that I listened to the speech, and I don't remember anything about the uranium stuff either from the speech or from the postmortem commentary. At the time, it just wasn't a big deal.
« Close It
July 13, 2003
WAR: None Dare Call It War
Charles Krauthammer skewers the liberals/Democrats who favor military intervention in Liberia after having opposed war in Iraq (Howard Dean's name is mentioned):
The only conclusion one can draw is that for liberal Democrats, America's strategic interests are not just an irrelevance, but a deterrent to intervention. For liberals, foreign policy is social work. National interest - i.e., national selfishness - is a taint. The only justified interventions, therefore, are those that are morally pristine, namely, those that are uncorrupted by any suggestion of national interest. Hence the central axiom of left-liberal foreign policy: The use of American force is always wrong, unless deployed in a region of no strategic significance to the United States.
This point has been made before, and as a debating point it's a fair indictment of the perversity of the results of the Democrats' reasoning. But I don't think it gets to the core of how the Howard Deans of the world think. In many ways, I suspect that the real problem is that they take the flip side of the position I set out here: they disdain any "intervention" that requires us to actively take sides between foreign parties, and they call for us to withdraw (as in Somalia) once the inevitable provocations require us to do so. (I believe it was Mark Steyn who termed this attitude "confusing the sidelines with the moral high ground").
Playing schoolmarm breaking up the fight: good. Actually taking time to figure out who started it: bad. And as anybody who's been beaten up by a schoolyard bully can tell you, an authority figure who refuses to take sides is ultimately giving in to the law of the jungle. But it's the militant nonjudgementalism that ties the pro-"intervention"/anti-"war" crowd's foreign policy to its cultural liberalism; in either case, there's an abdication of the need to make moral distinctions. That's no way to run a home or a schoolyard, and it's no way to run a military superpower, either.
WAR: Move Over, Indiana Jones
Sent along by one of our faithful readers: an archaeology professor from SUNY-Stony Brook is calling for looters of antiquities to be shot on sight in Iraq.
WAR: Scott Speicher
July 11, 2003
WAR: Both Barrels Smoking?
Two potentially huge stories from Iraq today. First, Instapundit picks up a dispatch from respected Sixth Circuit judge Gilbert Merritt, in Iraq on a judicial-assistance mission, claiming to have found documentary proof (in an Iraqi newspaper, of all places, from last fall) that Saddam's regime employed someone tasked with maintaining ties to "the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan."
I'd suggest you read Merritt's whole article, and read it closely. It may be possible that he's being had, and that the newspaper is a fake of some kind. And assuming it's genuine, that may not prove everything; "the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan" could, I suppose, just be a group of intelligence agents assigned to keeping tabs on al Qaeda -- even if Saddam worked closely with bin Laden, I doubt very much that he would trust him enough not to have spies watching him, and the embassy in Pakistan is where you would expect those spies to be.
Either way, you can bet we'll be looking for this guy (if he's not in custody already) and perhaps more importantly, rounding up everyone who worked at Saddam's embassy in Pakistan. And if the connection to bin Laden is established -- well, even some of the loopier anti-war types regularly admitted before the war that ties between Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda would be sufficient for a casus belli.
Then there's the other story: a timid, cautious report (remember how many false alarms we've had) from Australian media -- citing Undersecretary of State John Bolton but relying heavily on unnamed sources -- that the U.S. has found suspected chemical weapons in Iraq that are presently being tested.
Could turn out to be a good day for finally cracking the case on both ends of the Iraq puzzle.
July 07, 2003
WAR: Liberia, Liberia, You Border On . . .
The debate over purely "humanitarian" military interventions has been restarted again with the rising international (i.e., French) pressure for the U.S. to intervene in the civil war in the West African nation of Liberia, an unusual African country that was founded by the United States in 1821 (gaining independence in 1847) as a home for repatriated slaves (typically, the French view this as our responsibility out of a sense that Africa is still governed by the agreement of partition made by the European powers at Berlin in 1884).
In one sense, the debate is a misnomer, given the longstanding concern that Liberian President Charles Taylor may be giving aid and comfort to (or at least doing business with) Al Qaeda, which would make an intervention that much more urgent.
But let's step back a bit, because before you even get to the moral and strategic issues of "should we go to war," I believe there's a basic and non-negotiable requirement before we send American soldiers into harm's way:
We have to take sides.
It sounds simple enough, but if you think about it, the willingness to take sides and put America's vast resources and prestige behind victory for one side (or, at least, defeat for another side) is not only a pretty good proxy for whether the conflict is important enough to get involved, but it's precisely the organizing principle that's needed to prevent the paralysis of determining proportional responses to inevitable provocations that ultimately did in the American effort to stabilize the situation in Somalia. When you've taken sides, you don't think about an eye for an eye in disputes, and you don't announce "stabilization" as your end; you think about victory. If you haven't identified an enemy, you'll never be able to defeat it; and the mission ultimately, if carried to its logical conclusion, then becomes one of permanent colonial occupation -- or failure.
The reason for this is inherent in the nature of the military and its limitations, and it perfectly explains why Candidate George W. Bush was so hesitant about "nation-building," while as president, Bush has used American forces extensively in nation-building in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines, where clearly defined enemies are in the field. Our military is designed to fight, and its effectiveness declines if it's being asked simply to insert itself as human shields between two warring factions. The situation in Iraq is difficult enough, but at least we went in, and have stayed there, with a clearly defined sense of whose side we're on, and who we're against, and that gives direction to everything we do, as well as greatly increasing the latitude for commanders on the ground to know when they can give orders to fight back, or to head off in pursuit of hostile forces without worrying about overstepping a mandate. The alternative is being walled up behind a barracks waiting for a suicide bomb attack, as at Beirut in 1983.
A corollary: you never put soldiers into a country unless you are willing to live with one of two outcomes:
1. You lose them all.
Now, there may be some situations where it's reasonable to live with the potential for the first outcome; this is an assumption, if unstated, of the decision to use covert operations: if the soldiers you insert get cornered, you will try to get them out, but at a certain point you cut your losses.
This is the real wisdom in the so-called Powell Doctrine, which calls for the use of force only when overwhelming force is applied. The Powell Doctrine, if wisely applied, doesn't mean you go nowhere if you're not willing to start with half a million troops. But it does mean you don't go in without determining that you're willing to go to that kind of force if necessary to win.
These basic rules weren't met in Somalia, but they were met in Kosovo, which is one reason a lot of conservatives found it possible to support that war (I'll admit that at the time I didn't pay close enough attention to the conflict to come to a firm conclusion on the matter).
Although President Bush has issued calls for Taylor to step down, talk of "intervention" has thus far not turned to talk of us making war to remove Taylor's regime from power (possibly in part because we're not too fond of the rebels, either). As a result, this smells like the kind of situation where we'd be walking in blindfolded. I don't want our soldiers, who've risked quite enough lately on more urgent errands, being subjected to this.
June 21, 2003
WAR: The Famous Process
The first step on the "road map" to peace in Israel and Palestine is supposed to be stopping terrorism. This is a bad idea. I'm not opposed to a "peace process." But the key to understanding the uses and limitations of such a process is that you can't negotiate about terrorism.
Some people say that you can't negotiate with terrorists. Not so; sometimes, there's nobody else to talk to. Once you've decided not to kill them, talking always has to be an option.
But you can't put terrorism on a negotiating table, for three interrelated reasons:
1. Negotiations require parties who can be held responsible.
First, you have to find someone willing to take responsibility for having ordered or at least permitted terror attacks in the past. But even if you get there, who will be willing to admit to responsibility for more attacks in the future? It's the easiest thing in the world to let attacks happen, blame them on "extremist militants," and then complain about a "cycle of violence" when the other side backs out of the agreement.
2. Successful negotiations require that proportional consequences for violations be set out in advance.
The core of a negotiating process isn't just concession and agreement to the current deal; it's also agreement to what happens if part or all of the deal breaks down. But negotiating responses to terrorism is problematic in the extreme. Anything that's subject to negotiation is legitimized, and the responding party may find its freedom of action restricted. And how do you negotiate meaningful provisions that put an acceptable price on this? "Could you stop sending teenagers to blow up restaurants, please? What do you want in return? What do you want for blowing up just a few less civilians? How about just not blowing up any little children for a few weeks? Our lawyers have drafted some reps and warranties, and even an arbitration clause in case there's any disputes over whether you've exceeded your quota . . . Take a look at the language and get back to me in the morning."
3. Negotiating over terror gives independent terrorists and outside agitators an incentive to wreck the deal.
If terrorism is part of the contract, then somebody who's cut out of the deal can break it by sponsoring attacks. This relates back to problem #1, but it's a distinct problem -- there are the separate issues of one side creating "deniable" terror attacks and that side negotiating in good faith but actually being undercut by extremists.
The way to make any peace process work is, instead, to just take terrorism off the table. You don't have to say, "no negotiations until it stops," although you can reserve the right to respond to attacks outside the process. Instead, the process should be not a peace process (the very phrase assumes that there's a legitimate military conflict going on, which there isn't) but an independence process, with steps on both sides building towards the creation of meaningful Palestinian institutions. Israel has to deal in hope: a carrot to give ordinary Palestinians hope that peace will produce positive results, and a stick to remove any hope that terror will accomplish anything. De-linking terrorism from negotiations to the greatest extent possible is the only way to make use of both carrot and stick.
Which doesn't mean you can't put things on the table that aid in Israel's security; but they have to be concrete positive steps or steps tied directly to responsible parties (conficating a certain amount of weapons, ceasing the use of hate-inspiring textbooks in schools, etc.) rather than negative promises about terror attacks. That's the only way to make a process function in a contructive way.
WAR: Military Transformation
I don't have time here to analyze it, but Trent Telenko has a long and fascinating post on the transformation of the military's role in both war-fighting and nation-building. (Link via Sergeant Stryker).
June 20, 2003
WAR: McCain on WMD
This is why I still love John McCain, even after all the other crap: McCain tears apart the idea that Saddam had no WMD. Jed Babbin at NRO has more on this theme, from a highly-placed British military source. Don't forget that Saddam's army in the field had gas masks -- ever wonder why?
If McCain decides to leave the Senate (or as long as Arizona has a Republican governor), Bush should keep McCain on the short list to replace Powell or Rumsfeld if either ever steps down (the current leader of that list is Condi Rice; I could see Rice at State and McCain at Defense if the incumbents leave, and both would sail through the Senate, whereas Paul Wolfowitz would not).
WAR: One Year Later
Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of President Bush's landmark June 24, 2002 speech on the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Here's what I wrote at the time, with more recent comments in brackets:
Bush: Mr. Arafat, tear down yourself!
"If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence."
Beautiful touch: a nice reminder that the Israelis aren't the only ones the Palestinians threaten or the only ones they need to make peace with. [Now, there's signs that Egypt is getting involved again in the "road map," but little has been resolved with the Palestinians' Arab neighbors]
"A Palestinian state can only serve its citizens with a new constitution which separates the powers of government . . .Local officials and government ministers need authority of their own and the independence to govern effectively."
Lord, if that's the standard, England doesn't meet it - no constitution, no separation of executive and legislative powers, little local authority. [We're not there yet -- the new institutions haven't even wrested power from Arafat, let alone created multiple sources of authority]
"The security system must have clear lines of authority and accountability and a unified chain of command."
Wow, Tom Ridge can't meet that one. [Well, Ridge has more authority now. But Mahmoud Abbas a/k/a Abu Mazen doesn't] Seriously, though.
"Every leader actually committed to peace will end incitement to violence in official media, and publicly denounce homicide bombings."
That means you, Saudi Arabia & Egypt. [I haven't checked MEMRI enough lately - while the English-language Arab News has made noises of reasonableness lately and there seems to be less vocal support for 'martyrdom' out there, I'm not sure how close we are to ending the international glorification of suicide bombers]
"Every nation actually committed to peace will stop the flow of money, equipment and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel -- including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah."
This is directed at the EU. [Not much progress on the EU front, but we have stopped the flow from Iraq, and if the Iranian regime falls, Hezbollah will be SOL pretty quickly]
"Every nation actually committed to peace must block the shipment of Iranian supplies to these groups, and oppose regimes that promote terror, like Iraq. And Syria must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist camps and expelling terrorist organizations."
Hey, Syria: you are on the waiting list for the axis of evil. [Well, there's an opening, and Assad is still being auditioned. But we did close terror training grounds in Iraq.]
"With intensive effort by all, this agreement could be reached within three years from now."
Are you listening? I didn't promise it would be done by November 2004. [The 'road map' tried to stop the violence by last month, so so much for timetables. Bush won't be blamed for failure to get peace on the West Bank, though; voters understand that this is an intractable problem, so there's only upside in getting involved]
"The Bible says, "I have set before you life and death; therefore, choose life." The time has arrived for everyone in this conflict to choose peace, and hope, and life."
This is reminiscent of the U.S. diplomat in the Sixties who told the Arabs & Israelis to settle their differences "like good Christians."
June 19, 2003
WAR: Love of Country
June 18, 2003
WAR: Where Are The WMD?
There's been an awful lot of talk lately, including demands for a response from the left side of the aisle, about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, leading to two types of charges. Some critics argue that there never were any WMD, and further that the Bush Administration and the Blair Government either had bad intelligence, exaggerated the intelligence they had, or outright lied to justify the war. Others argue that the inability to find WMD means that the WMD got away somehow, and that this is an indictment of the allies in general and the Bush Administration in particular on the theory that they failed to put enough troops on the ground to secure all the sites ASAP. Right now, there are still more questions than answers, but I think it's worth going through the questions to focus on which ones need an answer:
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1. Was WMD the only or even the main reason for war?
No, at least not for me. I'm not going through it all again here; you can look here and here and here and here and here for a sampling of my thoughts before the war, as well as here for a summary of the types of justifications after the war.
The Middle East for decades has been a disaster. Taking out the worst of the region's dictators was always an essential next step after September 11. We know from numerous sources that Saddam wanted WMD programs and had had them in the past, even if we haven't figured out yet whether he got them or if not, why not. We know he was a menace to his neighbors, promoted hatred and violence against us and against our allies (including the Israelis). I personally feel safer with his regime gone and others in the region worried about where the U.S. goes next.
The fact that, in the process, we demonstrated our willingness to use force against the region's worst dictator and most egregious example of a regime that made a show of anti-Americanism and non-cooperation with even the rudiments of international norms of behavior is also key. We knocked off the biggest bully on the block; that has to help keep the neighborhood in order. And - don't overlook this - we wound up finding more evidence of Saddam's ties to terror groups (from Abu Abbas to the Al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Islam operating in the north of Iraq) than a lot of people had predicted. Consider these details, from Deroy Murdock:
A terrorist camp at Salman Pak housed a passenger jet fuselage that defectors insist was used to train Islamic extremists to hijack airliners. Some 120 suspected, al Qaeda-associated, Ansar al-Islam terrorists were killed at a base in Khurmal, where traces of toxic ricin were discovered.
In an article in the June 30 National Review, Mansoor Ijaz, a terrorism expert and chairman of New York-based Crescent Investment Management, chillingly connects the dots between Iraq and international terrorism. He recalls that Abu Abbas, architect of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking recently was found living in Iraq, as was Khala Khadr al-Salahat, the alleged designer of the radio-bomb that demolished Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, killing all 259 on board and 11 on the ground.
Ijaz cites an Iraqi intelligence document in which the secret Mukhabarat invited a senior al Qaeda operative to Baghdad from the Sudan. The correspondence said: "We may find in this envoy a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden." The al Qaeda representative indeed visited Baghdad in March 1998, five months before the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania exploded, killing 224 people, 12 of them American, and wounding some 5,000 others, many of them Africans and Muslims.
One of the ironies is that, before the war, most people (supporters and opponents of the war alike) seemed to agree that finding WMDs was more likely than not, but that we might not find links to terrorists. As it turns out, we've been surprised by the number of links to terrorist groups that have been found, which was always the more important of the charges against Saddam.
Bottom line: Saddam cheered the September 11 attacks; he glorified them in his newspapers and painted wall frescoes in their honor. May he rot in hell. I only hope the Administration isn't done toppling regimes like his.
2. Was WMD part of the grounds for war?
For me? Absolutely, as you can see from the links above. And as Sergeant Stryker detailed in the posts I linked to here, and as you can see from Tony Blair's war message here, WMD was definitely the leading theme -- of several -- in explaining why Saddam was a threat.
3. Were the Bush Administration's, and Tony Blair's, arguments for war dependent on WMD?
Yes and no. First of all, our leaders were quite clear that their arguments were always premised on the idea that any uncertainty had to be resolved in favor of suspecting Saddam -- we knew what he had in the past, he wouldn't show us what he had now or how he disposed of what he had in the past. So, the arguments were only secondarily dependent on claims that our intelligence showed what he had.
The idea that WMD was the critical issue as opposed to being part of an interconnected calculus of threats and hatreds was really something that sprang out of the legal process at the UN. But this NRO comment by Amir Taheri is a useful reminder that even the legal case against Saddam had more to it than WMD.
4. Did the Administration and the Blair Government make statements about WMD that have been proven untrue?
Well, there have been a few details, most notably the inclusion of a document on purchases of uranium in Africa that turned out (before the war) to be bogus. But for the most part, all we can say is that we haven't yet proven a lot of our strong suspicions one way or the other.
The truth will out, and I still suspect we'll find more WMD evidence and that the debate will come down to a qualitative debate over how far Bush and Blair should have pushed a threat that couldn't be 100% substantiated and that could have ended in catastrophe if we'd ignored it and been wrong. I'll take those odds on those stakes.
5. Did WMD get away?
We don't know. And we need to.
« Close It
June 17, 2003
WAR: Bad Intelligence?
The finger-pointing dynamic is now in full swing in the intelligence community, with these front page pieces here and here in USAToday seeking to explain the hazards of gathering intelligence in Iraq:
Saddam Hussein would say, 'If we've got a spy on the 5th floor of the building, take everyone on that floor out and chop them up into little pieces'
WAR: Private Lynch, Revisited
The Washington Post's revised account of the tale of Jessica Lynch is a bit less spectacular than its earlier story. But, really, if you forget the earlier version and read this with an open mind, you come away tremendously impressed with what she and her comrades in the 507th Maintenance Company went through, with the daring and devotion of the rescue team, and with the heroism of the Iraqi who passed the word that freed her.
The story is, essentially, Mogadishu all over again (although contrary to predictions, we only had one Mogadishu in this war). It's worth remembering again the sacrifices that entails.
The most important news these days is the news from Iran; the Revolution may be nigh, with unrest growing rapidly and visibly in the run-up to another year of general strikes planned for July 9.
Instapundit notes a statement from Iranian academics that charges that the theocrats aren't just tyrants, they're heretics too:
More than 250 university lecturers and writers in Iran signed a statement calling on supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search) to abandon the idea that he is God's representative on Earth. . . . Khamenei has the final say on all matters. The ruling clerics regard him as God's representative and say his word cannot be challenged. "Considering individuals to be in the position of a divinity and absolute power ... is open polytheism [in contradiction to] almighty God . . . " the statement said.
I guess this answers the question I raised in October:
"maybe I just don't understand Islam well enough, but to my ears, the whole sharia-courts phenomenon thoughout Islamist societies seems to be blasphemous and idolatrous by its very nature . . . Can somebody who knows more about Islam explain to me how this arrangement doesn't effectively set up the sharia court itself as the object of worship, obedience and devotion, under the harshest of penalties, and in substitution for the devotion of invidual conscience directly to divine authority?"
WAR: WMD Revisionism
John Stryker at Sergeant Stryker has been performing an important public service for the pro-war camp in laying out the record of charges made by the Bush Administration detailing the dangers of Saddam's WMD (mostly chem- and bio-weapons) programs before the war; check it out here, here and here.
We may never learn the whole truth about Saddam's weapons. But it does bear examining how we knew what we thought we knew.
June 16, 2003
WAR: Neglecting Iraq?
I'm hesitant to push too hard in either direction on the quality of the occupation in Iraq; what we really know is pretty sparse. Phil Carter gave the Army's perspective, and one I respect, that more troops are needed; Carter was particularly concerned about the looting of an Iraqi nuclear facility, which is the one thing in the whole post-war period that genuinely concerns me. Even recognizing that we couldn't shift gears overnight from war-fighting to securing every site in sight, I have yet to hear a good answer on why the nuclear facility was left unguarded.
Daniel Drezner opined a few weeks back that the Bush Administration in general
focuses like a laser beam on a key priority for several months, ignoring any criticism from outsiders. It then achieves its priority, earning plaudits for gutsiness and discipline. Immediately afterwards, however, drift sets in, unexpected complications arise, events beyond the Bush team's control create new obstacles to policy implementation, and things appear to fall apart.
I had a couple of different thoughts on this:
1. It's Perception: Bush's opponents are better able to selectively pick out details that go awry when they criticize his day-to-day management. War with Iraq or the passage of a tax bill is an up-or-down thing, so it's hard to spin his victories as defeats. Rebuilding Iraq will inevitably have both successes and failures, and we'll still be arguing a decade from now which was which. In the interim, small details (even bogus ones like the supposed massive looting of the Baghdad Museum) can be touted to a public that has little reliable first-hand information from which to weigh the evidence.
2. It's Bush's Way: Bush functions best when he can set clear goals and get everyone on his team pushing in the same direction. He functions less well in situations that demand less leadership and more hands-on detail-oriented management. In other words, he has the virtues of a good chief executive rather than a middle manager.
3. It's the Nature of the Presidency: Presidents -- indeed, governments as a whole -- tend to be more successful when they can bend the vast resources of the government to a single, measurable objective, and tend to do less well in managing complex situations. Indeed, I'd argue that this is one of the basic insights of conservatism: governments are good at "linear" objectives like fighting wars and moonshots and less so at things that involve a lot of small daily adjustments to react to changing circumstances. (Charles Krauthammer has made this point repeatedly).
June 13, 2003
WAR: Special Forces
Cool story in today's Washington Post about the exploits of "Task Force 20," a Special Forces/Delta Force team that operated in Iraq over the last several months, including its reputed discovery of land mines rigged for use with bioweapons, its rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, and "a bloody battle behind Iraqi lines to prevent a catastrophic release of floodwaters from the Haditha Dam."
June 12, 2003
A scathing editorial at AllAfrica.com about Zimbabwe's current government and its complete denial of the economic havoc it has wrought. As ridiculous and mean-spirited as the 'reparations' movement is in the United States, there's a fair question as to whether it would have been proper to order more extensive reparations in the 1860s, when slaves and slaveholders still walked the earth; I tend to think "yes."
But Zimbabwe offers a counter-example; granted, the draconian assaults on white landowners are based on group-responsibility theories for recent race discrimination, rather than individual responsibility for slaveholding, but the end result is a country careening deeper into famine, tyranny and desperation as the nation's most productive farms are destroyed.
Winds of Change.Net has lots more from Africa, via AfricaPundit and other sources.
June 10, 2003
WAR: Dogs, Not Barking
WAR: No Iraqaeda?
You know, the interesting thing about the NY Times' report that Al Qaeda captives deny working with Iraq is that they claim that bin Laden didn't want to work with Saddam, rather than the other way around. This hardly supports the "Saddam would never work with terrorists" school of thought.
June 08, 2003
WAR: WMD Lies?
Neither of these is news, since Instapundit and others have linked to both, but this Robert Kagan op-ed in the Washington Post and Rich Lowry's recent syndicated column both point out the widespread nature of intelligence estimates showing that Saddam had biological and chemical weapons and was working on a nuclear program. These estimates were, to one extent or another, pushed or believed by the Clinton Administration, the Blair Government in England, the UN (including Hans Blix), the French and the Germans, and as Kagan points out, they were based in part on admissions dragged out of Saddam's own regime.
There are still serious unanswered questions about the quality of our intelligence, and I suppose it's a fair enough point to question whether the Bush Administration too often gave the benefit of the doubt to intelligence that possibly showed risks or that came from questionable sources. But remember:
1. That's a far less damning charge than inventing the whole thing.
2. More importantly: do the Democrats really want to run against Bush on the platform of "we need a president who will give the benefit of the doubt to complacency about threats to the U.S."? The Bush Administration, when given the chance, chose to connect the dots rather than run the risk of being catastrophically wrong. Given the nature of intelligence, sometimes those are the only available choices: believe, or disbelieve, and act accordingly. Who will say that it was wrong to choose to believe that the evidence we were getting was consistent with everything that the international community had learned over 12 years, when the alternative was believing in a regime that had never shown the slightest commitment to truth or human decency?
June 07, 2003
WAR/LAW: War Profits For HLS?
I meant to blog about this when I got it a couple of months ago: of all the examples I've seen of shameless attempts to profit from the war in Iraq, few of them irritated me more than a letter I received that used the war as an excuse to ask for money for Harvard Law School. Of course, just asking for money's not enough; HLS has to use the occasion to ask for $1000 donation. The text of the letter is scanned below:
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Word comes in that the head of the U.S. Naval Academy has resigned after what seems like a fairly minor run-in with a subordinate . . . how different is the military from the rest of the world when you can be forced to resign for ''general failure to promote good morale''?
Then again, the Weekly Standard has a great take on morale at the New York Times after the fall of the old regime.
June 02, 2003
WAR: Not All WMD Are Equal
Josh Marshall has one good point: while all "weapons of mass destruction" are bad and dangerous, there are real differences between chemical, biological, and the big daddy, nuclear, weapons, and the three really shouldn't be routinely lumped together.
HISTORY/WAR: History of Israel
The folks over at Setting the World to Rights are still going strong with their pro-Israel but warts-and-all history-of-Israel series; the first chapter covered 70AD-1921, and chapters 2-5 cover 1923-56. There was some interesting stuff there I hadn't known, including some vivid accounts of the 1948 war. I'm sure some of their accounts are controversial -- in Israel, everything's controversial -- but it reads like a good primer if you're unfamiliar with the history.
Another source that looks worth an exploration (if a bit popup-infested) is the online Encyclopedia of the Orient (so-called, but focusing on the Middle East and North Africa). I've no idea if this is a fair or reliable source, but it does appear to have some pretensions to comprehensiveness.
WAR: Getting There
One little milestone today: a replacement law school diploma came in the mail, finally taking the place of the one I lost at the Trade Center. Like so many things about the road back from September 11, it's a small step back towards the old normal; who knows when we'll finally get there?
May 30, 2003
WAR: WMD or Not WMD?
The conservative/pro-war side of the commentariat and the blogosphere has been disappointingly silent in dealing with the absence of findings of weapons of mass destruction. It's understandable; the allies haven't found what we expected them to find, and nobody wants to concede anything yet if we might learn a more favorable truth later.
I feel a long post on this coming on. For now, Kathleen Parker, one of the wisest and most temperate of conservative pundits, has some thoughts on the subject.
May 29, 2003
WAR: Cool Story
May 25, 2003
WAR: The African Front
AfricaPundit's been blogging lately on the war on terror in Africa, and the need for more focus on the activities of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other terror groups in the region. Sadly, his links are broken (^#!$#%! Blogspot), but check out the stories he links to, including this WaPo article on U.S. Marine operations in Kenya, this one on Al Qaeda's ties to the Liberian regime.
May 23, 2003
WAR: Um, Yeah.
What Meryl said. Of course, assassinating Arafat isn't necessarily the most practical option; we could always arrest him, since the U.S. has evidence of Arafat ordering the murder of U.S. diplomats in the early 1970s, when (I could be wrong about this) the U.S. didn't grant him any special diplomatic status.
The Bush Administration, of course, will do no such thing, and for reasons of the larger picture, that's probably for the best. But for Israel, not so much.
WAR: Iran and Al Qaeda
This report may be just one of those non-events that gets leaked periodically from our intermittent talks with the mullahs. Or, maybe, something more.
WAR: Alfonse D'Chirac
If you think about it, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder are the Al D'Amato and Gray Davis of Europe. Chirac, like D'Amato, is a machine politician who's gotten away with being a little bit cheesy and a little bit sleazy by dint of boatloads of chutzpah and a talent for finding opponents who self-destruct in divisive battles with extremists and third-party candidates.
Schroeder, like Davis, is a hack with no redeeming virtues, neither liked nor respected even by his supporters; like Davis, his main skills are demonizing foreign opponents (Bush, Enron) and lying about the budget.
(Link via Samizdata)
May 22, 2003
WAR: Be Vewwy Qwiet, We'we Hunting Canawds
Stuff like this is why newspaper people hate the internet. Or at least, why lazy, nitwit columnists do.
May 17, 2003
WAR: GROMs Away!
News coverage of GROM, the Polish Special Forces, is interesting because it suggests that the Poles understand the idea of niche marketing. Look at it this way: leaving aside defending one's own soil, which everyone has to do and for which everyone in Europe depends to some extent on the United States, the question you have to ask about international influence is this: how does a country exert influence if it has modern skills and technology but doesn't have the resources to be an independent military power? How do you get bang from a limited military buck?
The answer chosen by Poland is to develop a useful segment of military capability -- elite Special Forces -- that can be drawn on by the U.S. and/or the broader international community in larger operations, or can exert behind-the-scenes influence on developing situations. Special Forces units are smaller, cheaper and less visible than, say, infantry divisions, so it's easier to build them without a big public presence, a strain on the budget, or a huge recruiting drive. But modern war has grown very dependent on Special Forces, because of the shift in emphasis to defeating shadowy forces and the need to forestall invaded countries from destroying themselves (e.g., the threat of Iraq firing its own oil wells). And countries like the U.S., with no matter how big their militaries, may thus find it very helpful to be able to call in allied Special Forces units during times of crisis, especially crisis on multiple fronts. That gives the Poles a chip to get in the game, and as we've seen, it has made them a bigger player in Iraq's reconstruction.
May 14, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: National Disgrace
From a review of Sid Blumenthal's new book by Joseph Lelyveld in the New York Review of Books, hardly a conservative source, on Blumenthal's account of Kosovo:
Even after the staff has been shaken up and Clinton is supposedly master in his own house, speechwriters stick a line promising not to use ground troops in Kosovo in his speech to the nation and Sandy Berger, his national security adviser, fails to take it out. Clinton, we are told, is furious because his options have been limited (though it then takes him more than two months to allow other options to be prepared). Berger is "snookered" by the Pentagon when it forces the NATO commander who had been too blunt in his demand for ground troops, General Wesley Clark, into retirement. "I'd like to kill somebody," Clinton tells Blumenthal.
Um, shouldn't the President of the United States read his own policy speeches before he gives them? Or was he too busy on other parts of the speech to care about the national defense parts? You know, the boring stuff? (And remember, this is an account by one of Clinton's friends).
You never know where the buck will stop. Clinton, it seems, is a prisoner of his own administration, in addition to having to face a baying press and savage opposition. Nowhere is this more the case than in the President's "intense battle with terrorism, a mostly secret war that was largely screened from the public." FBI director Louis Freeh, a Clinton appointee, becomes "a prime mover of scandal promotion against the Clinton administration," to the point that "Freeh's hostility to the White House dictated his lack of cooperation with the war against bin Laden." Clinton wants to do more than fire a few cruise missiles at the al-Qaeda leader; he wants to drop special ops troops into the mountains of Afghanistan in a surprise attack. Powell's successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Henry Shelton, recoils from his commander in chief's idea, saying such an attack would be too risky.
Clinton could always have fired Freeh, if he really believed this and thought the war on terrorism was as important as the battle for high approval ratings. Obviously, he didn't.
And who says a president can't overrule his military commanders? Nobody told George W. Bush that.
(Link via The American Scene)
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:19 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 13, 2003
WAR: Intermission Over, Return to Your Seats
The suicide bombings in Riyadh mark the resumption of hostilities and the return, apparently, of Al Qaeda. Although this attack is reminiscent of the Khobar Towers attack, the choice of targets is hugely significant; as far as I can recall, nothing like this has happened in the Saudi capital before. Reports indicate that this may actually be a sign that we are getting real cooperation from the Saudi government. That has to be good news; the failure to confront terrorists is not the only failing of the Saudis, but given how few options we have for replacing them, the collapse of the mutual understanding between the Saudi regime and terror groups like Al Qaeda has to be a good thing.
May 10, 2003
WAR: History of Israel
I found these guys through Den Beste: Setting the World to Rights has the first installment of a basic history of Israel. Looks like a good read if you are sketchy on some of the history.
May 09, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: AWOL Bush? Not Exactly
Back before I decided that it was mostly a waste of my time to read the most popular far-left blogs, I used to be bothered by the incessant accusation that George W. Bush had been AWOL from his service in the Texas National Guard and had thus essentially gotten away with avoiding his commitment to serve. This bothered me for two reasons:
1. I considered the charge a serious one, if true. Military commitments must be kept. Maybe it doesn't evince the sort of anti-military cast of mind as Clinton's adventures in draft avoidance and protest on foreign soil, but it doesn't speak well of a commitment to keep the most important sorts of promises to soldiers.
2. Nobody who I viewed as having any credibility ever addressed the accusations (positively or negatively), which makes it hard to get a fix on whether it has any substance (although that's usually a clue).
The issue came to life again recently following Bush's much-ballyhooed jet flight to the USS Abraham Lincoln; Bush made references to having been a pilot, and The Krug (who's often indistinguishable from the anonymous far-left bloggers in terms of venom and disregard for the facts), sprang into action with a column repeating the charge.
Now, spurred on by an item on Andrew Sullivan, Bill Hobbs has looked into the question in some detail, reviewing the major media reports as well as some of the purported primary sources, and come up with a pair of posts here and here that fairly well lay to rest the idea that there's anything to the charges but, at best, wild speculation and conjecture premised on a lack of good recordkeeping on the part of the Texas National Guard. You've probably read Hobbs' posts already - they've been linked to all over the blogosphere - but if you haven't, I'd suggest you do. Some things I hadn't known:
1. Gore was discharged early, leaving his and Bush's service time basically the same. Wonder why he didn't press this issue? He made vague references to Bush's service record, but never openly made the charge.
2. When Bush volunteered for the TX Guard, they were actually being sent to combat in Vietnam. He joined what looked, at the time, like potentially a combat unit. (It was still a better deal than getting drafted into the infantry, to be sure).
There are two other sources that are worth reading on this point, and I'll quote from them at length here because they didn't appear on the front pages of these sites and you might have missed them:
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First, Sparkey over at Sergeant Stryker (all the bloggers there are military veterans), had a post following up on Hobbs. Beyond the post itself, Sparkey also had some lengthy followups responding to leftist trolls in the comments section that are worth reading:
Because he had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract. And that, tbogg, is the reason why the story got no traction from the NYT, Globe, George, etc., and why the insulting and insipidly brainless little ad you link to is so useless. With Bush being "Non-Obligatory" what does it matter if he was there or not? BTW: I spent a year on a similar list/unit for the exact same reason. There is no shame in meeting or exceeding your contractual obligations. That's why I find this whole smear campaign so insulting, especially since the lies come mostly from those who never served and who generally look down on those who do.
By the way, don't you find it funny that you can use the New York Times to back up your arguments, but when I do, I'm ridiculed as using an "unbiased" source.
No I don't, it's rather sad and disturbing. Note that George Mag, the Boston Globe, and the NYT were looking to spin the story as negatively as possible. It's also not funny when some of the leading newspapers in the country begrudgingly admit that the facts don't measure up to their expectations. Plus, what you have to understand is this: it's one thing to quote statements of fact out of a news article (from a source that you consider to be traditionally hostile) that bolsters your case, it's quite another to quote editorials which are in fact opinions and therefore by definition, biased; from sources which you consider to be traditionally friendly.
As to the poor records well, all I can say is welcome to the world of the United States Guard & Reserves. Everyone must realize that being at the bottom of the DoD food chain, the Guard/Reserves have had, and still have massive paperwork and record keeping problems. It was bad when I was in the Navy Reserves in the late 80's. And everyone who'd been there agreed that things had greatly improved from the 70's!
The Navy Reserve officers I drilled with spent 75% of their drill time on paperwork - and never caught up. What would happen is this, if someone didn't squawk for something, it got put on the back burner until forgotten. So gaps and other problems with Bush's record don't surprise me in the least. Look at it from the unit's perspective, being non-Obligatory, why go to the effort to keep accurate records when he (Bush) wasn't worried about the year counting for retirement? If Bush wasn't going to push, the unit certainly wouldn't. As to the Cornel not remembering Bush, well why would he? With Lt. Bush being Non-Obligatory, he wasn't someone he (the Col.) really needed to keep track of. Bush would have simply dropped off the Colonels radar screen.
Also, I don't blame Bush one bit for not wanting his records released, I wouldn't either. We have no dea what's really in those records. There are portions of a service member's records one never gets to see. I don't want to know.
* * *
Bush was suspended for not going to a physical he was not "Obligated" by the contract he signed with the United States Government.
If I refused to go to the DMV for an eye test my drivers license would be suspended.
Once Bush had completed his compulsory duty days, (which he did more than required as the Globe admitted in earlier reports but conveniently left out of their op/ed - isn't that special?) The government could not force or otherwise punish him for not doing something he wasn't obligated. And even if that were not the case, the kinds of records needed are frequently lost in the Guard Reserves - deal with it. And If those records were not with the Units, you can bet your next paycheck they are not in his records. The most reliable location for record protection would be the unit's files, not the service record.
* * *
From the 5/23/2000 Boston Globe:
Those who trained and flew with Bush, until he gave up flying in April 1972, said he was among the best pilots in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In the 22-month period between the end of his flight training and his move to Alabama, Bush logged numerous hours of duty, well above the minimum requirements for so-called "weekend warriors."
Indeed, in the first four years of his six-year commitment, Bush spent the equivalent of 21 months on active duty, including 18 months in flight school. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, who enlisted in the Army for two years and spent five months in Vietnam, logged only about a month more active service, since he won an early release from service.
Hey, and guess what, under the contracts written at that time, the servicemember were obligated to attend X number of duty days, after that you could transfer into the inactive guard/reserve which is what he did.
Address the contract issue, please, or shut up. I'm tired of dealing with people who won't face facts. Like martin posting that Globe piece, yet he still doesn't address what Bush's contractural obligations were.
BTW: I have at least three "not been observed" entries in my record, no doubt. Even after I received notification of my IRR (Inactive Ready REserve) status, every three months I'd get a very polite letter from the local drill center (they had to be polite because they knew I was non - obligatory). They weren't even in my chain of command anymore. I still have my good conduct pin from my reserve time and my honorable discharge.
Second, an anonymous letter-writer at Andrew Sullivan's site (4th letter down; all letters to Sullivan are posted anonymously, but take this for what it's worth) adds some valuable insights into the context the Guard was operating in in 1972-73:
ON BUSH'S GOLDBRICKING:
It should also be recalled that, by 1972, the F-102 that Bush's unit operated was a frightfully obsolescent, maintenance-intensive aircraft and weapons platform powered by a fuel-gobbling old-tech turbojet. Designed in the early 50's to intercept, by flying in a beeline at supersonic speed, Soviet bombers arcing ponderously over the North Pole to attack the U.S.A., the turn and roll rates of the delta-winged F-102 were terrifyingly inadequate: F-102 pilots shuddered at the notion of dogfighting in the beast, especially after the Vietnam air war had shown that America's unmaneuverable 1950's-era jets got routinely outmaneuvered by the VPAF's nimble MiG-21's.
Okay, obsolescent, gas-guzzling, MiG-fodder F-102's in a post-Vietnam scarcity of defense spending, right? Vital then to know what came next: the Great Oil Crisis of 1973. Suddenly the cost of operating and maintaining this single-mission, fuel-craving aircraft of dubious effectiveness went through the stratosphere, at the same time as the cost of keeping thousands of discharged-from-active-duty reservists and guardsmen was already straining the constrained fiscal capacity of the Pentagon. F-102 units had become nearly superfluous to America's defense, especially since the nuclear threat from Soviet bombers had taken a distant back seat to the threat from ICBM's and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Nobody wanted to know; nobody cared. America's war weary polity wanted to not see, to not think about anything military, and to continue slashing defense spending ruthlessly. And this was before Saigon fell in 1975; but Congress had already slashed defense spending so drastically that reserve and guard units, already and always in those days the low men on the funding totem pole, had to "get creative": they had to allow lots of sailors and soldiers and airmen to "get lost in plain sight." It was an unspoken policy, but it was necessary because the traditional mindset of the military could not shift itself to granting thousands of unnecessary, superfluous, badly trained, poorly equipped, scarcely funded reservists and guardsmen early releases from their reserve commissions and enlistments. So people like me and George Bush muddled through our time in badly managed, dreafully underfunded, flabbily overmanned reserve and guard units.
I don't blame President Bush one bit if he'd gone with the flow that was sweeping away and eroding America's reserve and guard serviceability and readiness. It's easy nowadays - now that our military is again efficient, effective, respected, and honored - to point fingers at what post-Vietnam reservists and guardsmen "got away with". But in those days Americans just wanted the war, and anything and anybody that had anything to do with the war, to just go away. Indeed, funding parsimony made much of the old military go away: this experience gave a huge impetus to the Pentagon's subsequent, breathtaking improvement of the reserves and the guard to augment active duty units - the very system that guaranteed American victory in the 1991 and 2003 mideast campaigns. Thus no one should imagine that President Bush didn't learn valuable lessons from his service in an underfunded, underequipped, undertrained Air National Guard unit.
So what if President Bush didn't volunteer for the regular Air Force? Compared with what Bill Clinton did not do, George Bush did alright by me and by the standards that applied in reserve and guard units of that period. In a time of widespread ingratitudeand hostility toward the services and their men and women, George Bush paid his service dues as the powers-that-were in that time saw fit to exact, or inexact, those dues. From his guard experience President Bush learned the value of keeping the reserves and the guard up to snuff. Just ask whatzisnameitz...oh yeah: Saddam.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:47 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 08, 2003
WAR: In The Details
This Howard Kurtz story about the Jayson Blair fiasco contains an interesting detail about how the family of PFC Jessica Lynch coped with the media onslaught: her father kept a log of which reporters the family talked to (Blair wasn't on it, and misdescribed the family's home in Palestine, West Virginia).
May 07, 2003
WAR: "Principles that I have made clear to all."
Maybe it's just me, but I'm surprised that more attention hasn't been paid to the line in Bush's speech on the aircraft carrier where he said, "Our war against terror is proceeding according to the principles that I have made clear to all."
That sounded, to me at least, like a direct slap at the people, like Josh Marshall, who have argued that there is some sort of deception or secret in the President's overarching strategy simply because, at different times, the Administration's emphasis has shifted to subjects like WMD or human rights, each of which is only a facet of the larger struggle.
May 05, 2003
WAR: The Road To Oslo
Speaking of Dr. Manhattan, he's also got a long post on the 'road map' for peace between Israel and Yassirstan. He hopes it's a sham and a fraud, but he isn't encouraged by the early signs.
WAR: Following Up on Ashleigh Banfield
The Crank had a provocative post back on April 27 regarding Ashleigh Banfield's comments about the media's coverage of the war. The NY Times provides an update here about her now-struggling career (registration required). In typical Times fashion, however, their references to her April 25 speech are entirely slanted. "Angered top NBC management April 25 by giving a speech it believed was critical of its war coverage"?? Is it even possible to interpret her comments any other way? Moreover, the representative quote used by the Times article is probably the most vanilla statement in Banfield's entire speech. Go back to The Crank's post to see just a sampling of quotes the Times could have used in order to give their readers a better sense of her statements and the problems they caused for NBC management. Clearly, this is an individual who was rushed to the big leagues too quickly.
May 04, 2003
WAR: Candidate for the Medal of Honor
Here is an amazing story of a solider in the Iraqi war who is a candidate for the Medal of Honor. Reading this further brings home the horror that war can be and that our soldiers endure, even when a war goes well. God bless his wife and kids.
WAR: In a Year's Time
How far have we come in a year? It can be hard to tell. But re-reading this memorable blog post from last May underlines the extent to which, emotionally, we've moved from rage to a more modulated determination. The interesting question is whether this emotional healing process is wisdom or self-deception.
May 03, 2003
May 02, 2003
WAR: The Flyboy
Some people (including some very, very pro-war folks) are criticizing the whole fighter-jet entrance last night by the president as overdoing it; Instapundit has a roundup of the criticisms; David Brooks is vicious in response to the critics.
I can see their point, but you have to love the extent to which it seems calculated to (1) drive all the right people nuts (Maureen Dowd should be able to squeeze three months of columns out of last night) and (2) as Howard Fineman put it, quoting Osama, show unsubtle, non-English speaking Arabs, in the most visual sense, who the "strong horse" is.
Glenn Reynolds' dis of the entrance as too Third Worldish overlooks the fact that Third World dictators fire Kalashnikovs. They don't fly jets onto aircraft carriers because Third World dictatorships could never develop the technical expertise and discipline required to run anything as complicated as an aircraft carrier. Plus, a Saddam-type dictator wouldn't trust his own men enough to get in a jet with any old pilots.
Of course, for all that and all the good campaign pictures, I think Bush was mostly just having fun and allowing himself an overdue victory lap. I was immediately reminded of Dave Barry, on Bush's father and his speedboat (from Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys:
You'd see him on the TV news, zooming across the water, the president of the United States, with an expression identical to that of a three-year-old boy pushing a little metal Tonka truck and making a motor sound with his lips, the way little boys instinctively do, like this: BRRRRMMMMM.
Looking at him, you knew for a fact that he was not thinking about the unemployment rate, or the status of his proposed federal budget, or problems in the Middle East. You knew exactly what he was thinking, because it was the same thing that every guy is thinking when he is driving a motorized vehicle very fast. George Bush, the Most Powerful Man in the Most Powerful Nation on Earth, the Leader of the Free World, was thinking: BRRRRMMMMM.
WAR: SLAP!! Hey, that hurts!
Interesting choice by Rumsfeld for the next Secretary of the Army. The Army has never been thrilled with Rumseld (with his emphasis on lighter, more technological forces benefitting the Air Force and the Marines). This won't help matters. Not that he cares. And not that he necessarily should.
May 01, 2003
WAR: "America is grateful for a job well done."
"[W]e have witnessed the arrival of a new era . . . [I]t is a great advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent. . . . Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear. . . . Our war against terror is proceeding according to the principles that I have made clear to all. . . anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America."
WAR: Kerry v. Dean, Part 2
You may recall that Howard Dean recently kicked up controversy with the following remarks (as reported by TIME magazine):
[T]wo weeks ago, while campaigning at a Stonyfield yogurt factory in New Hampshire, the would-be Commander-in-Chief suggested that America should be planning for a time when it is not the world's greatest superpower : "We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military."
Much of the resulting controversy has focused on the idea that Dean could even contemplate allowing our military power to be overtaken. Now, I agree that we need a president whose gut reaction to this concept would be "over my dead body," but on the whole, there's nothing wrong with a candidate who can think strategically 50 or 100 years down the road.
I was immediately reminded, by Dean's comments, that Bill Clinton had said something very much like this a long time ago (well, actually six weeks ago, but it seems like a long time). Mickey Kaus remembers too. Here's what Clinton said:
The U.S. should be strengthening the UN and other "mechanisms of cooperation," Clinton said. "We need to be creating a world that we would like to live in when we're not the biggest power on the block."
The bigger problem I have is not with Dean and Clinton thinking the unthinkable, but with their proposed solution.
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Their idea is, we should plan for a rainy day by making sure that everyone lives under the UN and international law, so that we can be assured that we won't get attacked, and can get cooperation in our international endeavors, when we are no longer the biggest dog in the fight. We should be nice to people now, so they'll remember us well seven or eight decades down the road.
This is crazy. If China, Russia or India some day rises to supersede our military might, what power will the UN have to restrain them? Only their own restraint, just as is true of the U.S. today. And what of the gratitude of, say, the French and the Germans in standing by us then? Well, I haven't noticed a lot of gratitude-driven foreign policy lately in those parts. Nations mostly have policies based on national interest, not sentimental nostalgia.
I worry too about a world where Fortune's Wheel has turned against us. But the simple fact is, our best long-term interest lies in seeing to it that as many nations as possible live then in freedom and democracy. In the end, this was the British solution. They didn't turn the world into a big multinational bureaucracy; instead, they succeeded in training a successor who cares as much (or more) about the same things they do. The Anglo-American alliance is affected not a whit by British arrogance at the height of the Victorian empire - and oh, what arrogance it was.
The nature of our allies will matter more than the strength of our alliances. That is the path to long-term protection of our interests if we ourselves falter.
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April 30, 2003
WAR: Mailer's Masculinity
The always-marvelous Jane Galt just nails the problem with Norman Mailer's claim that war with Iraq was all about the threatened masculinity of that vile and unpopular creature, the American white male:
This . . . is metaphor abused, used as if a metaphor could itself create a link between two things, rather than illuminating one that already exists in the phenomenal world. This is war described as if the most important thing about it were the description.
In other words, it's idiotic. And it's symptomatic. There is something about our literary culture that has caused its prominent members to believe that words are the same thing as facts, more important than the objects they describe. They seem to think that one can make up any theory, no matter how ridiculous, and unless it is dramatically falsifiable, it's just as valid as a theory that starts with known facts and basic truisms about human behavior and builds from them. They think style is more important than substance.
And for some reason, they're mad because the rest of us don't take them seriously.
WAR: Outta Saudi
This report on the U.S. military withdrawal from Saudi Arabia seems to confirm precisely what the more ambitious conservative commentators have argued all along: that the U.S. presence in the country was having an impact on domestic Saudi politics, and a bad effect at that because the military presence supported inertia in favor of the status quo. In the end, better to leave the Saudis to stew in their own juices - it's the only way the regime will gain enough sense of responsibility to start dealing with domestic conditions.
WAR: The Truth About Syria
April 29, 2003
WAR: On towards Paris?
Well, if the French can't apologize for consistently appeasing a ruthless dictator, at least they have a bit of a sense of humor.
WAR/FOOTBALL: Pat Tillman Update
Remember Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal who walked away from a multi-million dollar contract shortly after 9/11 in order to enlist in the Army? Such an admirable act requires the occasional update. Read about him here. I wish him and his brother luck in rendering their service to our country.
April 28, 2003
WAR: And They Complain of Media Bias in Favor of the U.S.??!
I've read this article a few times now, and I'm still struggling with its implications. (1) Why isn't this a much bigger story??; (2) Why does Howard Kurtz lamely limit his conclusion to "we in the media are brave"??; (3) If these reporters reported the truth (admittedly at great risk to themselves), would we have gone to war sooner and would the war effort have even more support (I can be optimistic, can't I?)?; (4) What is the NYTimes' obligations regarding an apology for past articles now that this has come to light?; and (5) Isn't it time for Tim Robbins et. al to shut up now that we can point them towards actual, meaningful restrictions on free speech? An excerpt:
Burns says plenty of correspondents didn't report everything they knew. In a lengthy Times piece eight days ago, he says many visiting journalists had "a tacit understanding . . . that there were aspects of Mr. Hussein's Iraq that could be mentioned only obliquely." These included the fact that Hussein "was widely despised and feared by Iraqis. . . . The terror that was the most pervasive aspect of society under Mr. Hussein was another topic that was largely taboo."
Its worth a full read. Kurtz' column also interestingly points out that the recent Rick Santorum story was first broken by a reporter who happens to be the wife of Sen. John Kerry's campaign manager.
WAR: Banfield's Folly
The Ombudsgod has a report on a speech by NBC News correspondent Ashleigh Banfield, criticizing cable news war coverage:
"We didn't see what happen when Marines fired M-16s," Banfield said during a Landon lecture appearance today at Kansas State University. "We didn't see what happened after mortars landed, only the puff of smoke. There were horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism? Or was this coverage?"
On the other hand, she said, many U.S. television viewers were treated to a non-stop flow of images presented by "cable news operators who wrap themselves in the American flag and go after a certain target demographic."
"It was a grand and glorious picture that had a lot of people watching," Banfield said, "and a lot of advertisers excited about cable TV news. But it wasn't journalism, because I'm not sure Americans are hesitant to do this again -- to fight another war, because it looked to them like a courageous and terrific endeavor."
Um, doesn't Banfield work for one of those cable networks? And didn't the network's point man for the coverage of Iraq from the front give his life to bring that coverage into America's living rooms? I mean, leave aside the substance; this is just tacky, and doubly tacky coming from an MSNBC darling who got shoved aside as the war coverage heated up. Can you say, "sour grapes?"
WAR: Terrorist Caught Smuggling Anthrax
It sounds like a preliminary report with all the usual caveats, but shouldn't this be a really big story if it pans out?
WAR: Times Denounces Tarring, Feathering of Tories
Well, something like that.
April 27, 2003
WAR: Smoking Yet?
A direct link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Stay tuned.
April 26, 2003
WAR/RELIGION: The Holy Father Gets His Backbone Back
Sadly, precious little good has come from the Vatican in the past 2-3 years or so; while Pope John Paul II has been admirably steadfast in some of his longstanding convictions, there's been every sign in recent years -- with the Vatican's failure to meaningfully address the sex abuse scandals and its shameful failure to recognize the moral realities in Iraq and Palestine as prominent examples -- that the Holy Father has lost the ability to absorb new information or take a fresh look at problems whose moral outlines have become starkly clearer in recent times. But this report carries a little of the Pope that many Catholics still know and love: a rebuke to Fidel Castro's latest brutal crackdown. Here's the letter in Spanish; I'll post the English translation if I can find one.
April 25, 2003
WAR: 'Confusing News With Wishful Thinking'
For those of us who supported the war against Iraq, there were four types of reasons for war - Tactical, Strategic, Humanitarian, and Legal.
The Tactical reasons were the most pressing: get weapons out of Saddam's hands and prevent him from sharing them with terrorists. It has been somewhat surprising how long (and with how many false alarms) it has taken to gather evidence of those weapons and terrorist contacts; it is yet possible that Saddam actually did destroy them (yet oburately refused to share the evidence of that destruction with us), and there is also the worrisome possibility that he disposed of them. The capture of Farouk Hijzai, long identified as a critical link between Saddam's regime and international terrorists, will hopefully provide useful information about all this.
The Humanitarian case has now been totally vindicated, although it was never, by itself, a sufficient case for war. The Legal case was in some ways tied in to the tactical case, although I still believe that we were justified in using force to remedy repeated violations of the terms on which we ended the last war.
But the Strategic case was always, to me, the most important: the need to put an end to 'business as usual' in the Middle East, with business including the acceptance of terrorism as a routine tool of foreign policy and the incitement of hatred against the U.S.
Steven Den Beste, one of the most eloquent proponents of the grand strategy, is declaring a partial victory. More evidence now comes from this April 26 editorial in the Saudi-based Arab News, long a bastion of anti-American and anti-Israel conventional wisdom in the region:
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Editorial: ‘It’s All Israel’s Fault!’
As the dust settles over Iraq and the cacophony of excited voices on our television screens dies down, the Arab world has begun to stir from the confusion into which the swift fall of Baghdad had thrown it, to take a good look at itself and take stock.
The political repercussions, as ever in the Arab world, are not easy to ascertain, but the fallout for the media is all too evident. To put it bluntly: A great many journalists and media outlets have been left with egg on their face. From accepting the wild claims of Iraqi minister of information Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf, to wildly predicting a jihad among the Iraqi people, very little the Arab media speculated on had when push came to shove anything to do with reality.
* * *
During the war, everyone in the Arab world agreed that US news networks such as Fox TV and CNN had dangerously — and not infrequently ridiculously — confused patriotism with reportage; and they were right. After the war, however, most Arabs have come to recognize that they were throwing stones while sitting in glass houses.
In the Arab media, it wasn’t so much a question of confusing patriotism with reportage as confusing news with wishful thinking. In a word, what was lacking was objectivity and critical self-analysis.
This, of course, is nothing new. For decades it has been difficult to find anything in the opinion pages of the Arabic language press that did not concern Israel. Every problem faced by Arab societies was blamed, in however obscure or far-fetched a way, on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. The issue served as a sort of lowest common denominator, satisfying many journalists who were not equipped to write about anything else as well as many of those who rule the Arab world and who would prefer Israel — rather than their own shortcomings —to be the subject of heated discussion in the “Arab street.”
* * *
The days when the Arab world could just scream “Israel”, as if that one word were sufficient answer to every question about every problem that came its way — as though saying that one word could deflect all further inquiry — are over. The time for peaceful coexistence, internal reflection and healthy, progressive thinking has now arrived.
To those of us who have accepted the big-picture Strategic case for regional reform, this sort of reaction is beyond what we had hoped from the first war in the Arab heartland. To the Arab world, Afghanistan is like the Balkans to Europeans: a crazy outpost on the frontier. Iraq is like France (no snickering). Its occupation is traumatic, and is apparently seen as a radical break of a sort that the war against the Taliban was not. We in the West saw nothing revolutionary in the idea that the U.S. military would swiftly crush any opposition, but we have been exposed to reality; readers of the Arab media have not, and they have reacted with shock and shame.
The fact that even the Arab News is treating anti-Israel rhetoric with scorn (not recanting it, granted, but recognizing it as a diversion from the larger issues) - that is more progress than money alone could ever buy.
And, in Glenn Reynolds' wonderful phrase, the Arab News "doesn't look neoconish."
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WAR: The Reality of Governing
Who said we don't have a plan for Iraq?
WAR: The Color Of The Sky In Ted Rall's World
I'm almost afraid to make fun of this Ted Rall column - once you start, where do you stop? With the part where he weeps for the OPEC cartel, maybe? But I had to note this one: his assertion that the Bechtel Group must be up to no good because the company's "Republican-oriented board includes such Reagan-era GOP luminaries as CIA director William Casey."
If Bechtel's board includes a guy who's been dead for 15 years, the company has bigger problems.
April 23, 2003
WAR: More on the Fraudis
Matt Welch has a tough column on "Bandar Bush," the Saudi ambassador.
WAR: Nigerian Elections
The recent elections in Nigeria, leading to a victory for incumbent president Olusegun Obasanjo, are being disputed by the opposition, although it's not immediately clear how serious that is. Africapundit (permalinks broken) seems pretty pessimistic about the willingness of the international community to force Obasanjo to take some of the more significant complaints seriously. I'm sort of personally interested in this story, because the opposition vice presidential candidate, Chuba Okadigbo, is the father of one of my roommates from law school. Nigeria, of course, is an important country in many ways: Africa's most populous nation, rich and growing richer in natural resources (especially oil), centrally located in West/Central Africa, and divided among booming Catholic and Muslim populations. I can only wish them well.
WAR: The French
Den Beste has yet another theory about the behavior of the French. I still have my own theory as well: if a country's behavior is a reflection of its population, the fear of confrontation exhibited by France and Germany may be symptomatic of an increasingly elderly population.
I'll say this: as is usually true of these things, there's probably truth in all the competing theories. But the most worrisome is the notion that France is on its way to becoming a radical Islamist state some years in the future.
April 22, 2003
Way cool graphic. (Link via N.Z. Bear). The use of the deck of cards to symbolize the Iraqi regime is brilliantly simple political iconography, and has generated lots of guaranteed press interest. Somebody at the Pentagon really scored with this idea.
April 21, 2003
WAR: How We See Iraq
In my continuing quest to find more reasonable, non-crazy liberal/left bloggers to spar with (i.e., people to actually debate with rather than just sneer past each other; more on this later), I've been checking up on CalPundit, who a number of people have referred me to. His site actually started around the same time as mine and also made the leap to Movable Type just this week, although of course he's got a good deal more traffic and links than I do.
Anyway, he's got a post arguing that Americans' tendency to see everyone else through American perspectives leaves us blind to the reality of tension between wanting a democratic Iraq and a pro-American one. I think he's too pessimistic, although I also tend to agree with Josh Marshall that a pro-Israel Iraq is just too much to expect just yet. Although we obviously would prefer to establish military bases in Iraq (due to its strategic importance and so we can get out of Saudi Arabia), the main goal of installing democracy isn't a pro-America Iraq so much as one that's not actively anti-American. Same with Israel: if Iraq treats Israel the way Kuwait does, fine. That's better than financing suicide bombers by the score.
But it's not just pro-war conservatives who are likely to view Iraq through an American lens. Let's say we succeed in establishing a government with at least some democratic elements. And let's say that that government, consistent with Iraqi public opinion, takes on a number of characteristics that some or all Americans find offensive: an absence of rights for women and gays, a close relationship between mosque and state, draconian criminal punishments, etc. Won't it be the case that people here who opposed the war will cite these shortcomings (to our Western eyes) to argue that we have failed in Iraq? Don't you expect a Maureen Dowd column on why "Dubya let Rummy and the neos tell him things would be peaches and cream, and gosh golly lookee here, we threw a war and the women still can't drive and have to stay home barefoot and pregnant?"
WAR: The Ambassador Bridge
This story is a reminder of the long vigil our border guards need to keep, and a reminder as well of the dangers posed by our Canadian frontier -- the last thing anyone would have worried about before September 11.
WAR: Kinsley Continued
To continue on the Michael Kinsley column I noted a few days ago, Kinsley spends much of the column griping about the fact that a few big, well-connected American companies will get contracts in Iraq. Perhaps the best rejoinder to this is from ScrappleFace. Kinsley, perhaps reverting to form, never suggests that the companies at issue are not the best-qualified to do the jobs; he's just looking for the handiest mud.
That being said, there is a legitimate point at the end of the column, if you can last to read that far: that, because the U.S. is footing much of the bill for rebuilding Iraq, we should hire the best contractors regardless of their nationality (even if that means French companies), and that principles of free trade and international trade conventions prohibit us in any event from discriminating against foreign companies. A weighty question is implicated: should the U.S. retaliate at all against the nations that opposed the war? I hope to get into that in more detail later.
April 19, 2003
WAR: Kinsley Overboard
Jonah Goldberg wrote a memorable column a few years ago arguing that Michael Kinsley tended to write columns in which he raised a bunch of questions, implied various things or attacked the form of arguments without really saying anything on the substance of a point. Goldberg had Kinsley's usual style dead-on, but Kinsley's writings on the war have been much more vibrant and direct. Unfortunately, they've also been over-the-top rants chock full of all the popular leftist tropes.
In his latest, Kinsley starts off with a laughably deceptive but common argument:
President Bush, who was oh-so-sneery about the idea of "nation-building" during the 2000 campaign, is now nation-building with a vengeance. He plans to spend $60 billion or more over the next three years rebuilding Iraq. The agenda includes everything from repairing the oil fields to rewriting the elementary-school textbooks. Like the Clinton administration he ridiculed, he now realizes that you cannot pour soldiers and bombs into a country, declare it liberated, and come home.
If you remember correctly, the conservative critique of Clinton's foreign policy, to which Bush subscribed, was precisely that we should not "pour soldiers and bombs into a country" in the first place if we did not have the kind of goals and objectives that justified things like occupations and nation-building. But remember, also: the "nation-building" argument was an argument, not against removing and replacing dangerous dictators, but against getting involved in what were essentially civil wars, where a nation's basic structure had already crumbled beyond repair.
More to the point, Bush never said we should never do nation-building, just that we should not engage in it unless our vital national interests were at stake. And you'd really have to have been living in a cave the last two years to think that the Bush Administration doesn't believe that Afghanistan and Iraq were situations that implicated our vital national interests.
WAR: PARANOIA RUNS DEEP
BASEBALL/WAR: Infidel Zionist Red Sox
Jim Caple has an amusing take on what it would sound like if the Hated Yankees hired Iraq's former Disinformation Minister as a broadcaster.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:24 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 18, 2003
WAR: Smarts and Valor
WAR: Evil Moron
Slate's Chris Suellentrop explains why Syria's Bashir Assad is an "evil moron."
WAR: France's Dotage
Guy Milliere, writing in Front Page Magazine, has some grim thoughts about the future of France.
WAR: Iranian Demographics
Noah Millman has an interesting analysis (no permalinks; scroll down to the first entry under April 10) on demographic changes in Iran:
According to the CIA World Factbook, Iran's fertility rate is right at replacement: 2.01 children per woman. This is, to say the least, not typical of the region. Here are some comparisons to neighboring countries:
The only country in the vicinity with a lower fertility rate is Christian and post-Soviet Armenia. Iran, a fundamentalist Muslim theocracy, has roughly the same fertility rate as secular Turkey (or, for that matter, the USA).
When did this transition to lower fertility happen? It can't have happened that long ago, because 31% of the population is under 14 (versus 21% in the US and 24% in China). Could we just be dealing with the after-effects of economic development under the Shah?
WAR: Clash of Cultures
See, there's countries that survive on subsistence farming or hire people to drill their oil for them, and then there are countries where an ordinary farmer can do this.
WAR: The First Sign of Civilization
May you be in Kabul half an hour before the Taliban knows you're there.
April 17, 2003
WAR: Iraq's Oil
The Bush Administration has promised (see also here, with remarks from Colin Powell) that Iraq's oil (presently the property of a government-run oil company, if I recall correctly) should be 'held in trust for the Iraqi people'. Commentators on the Left have now joined a battery of those on the Right (last link for Wall Street Journal subscribers only) calling for such an outcome and fretting over the possibility that it will be undermined, perhaps by the State Department.
George Melloan, in the Wall Street Journal, asks the first threshold question - why should we even be the ones to make that decision, rather than leave the distribution of the country's resources to the Iraqi people's elected representatives, if we're serious about democracy? After all, distribution of the otherwise poor country's vast oil wealth is a huge question about the shape of Iraqi society. I think Melloan's right, though, that we're in Iraq to help build institutions that support democracy, not just democracy itself, and spreading the oil wealth around is a good way to encourage less government corruption and more entrepeneurship (particularly since a broad distribution will ensure that people get income but not necessariy enough that they won't want to work for more). That may sound like redistribution, but most conservatives have no trouble redistributing wealth away from centralized government control.
But what of the structure of such a project? I know little enough about how the Alaskan model (which most everyone cites) works, but it seems to me that we need to make sure that, while the resulting structure passes on the benefits of the oil rights, someone with a profit motive remains in charge as the administrator of such rights, if we really want to make sure that the beneficiaries get full value from this. For example: will Iraqis actually be shareholders in a state oil company, with shares freely transferable? (Upside: people can cash out. Downside, as we saw in Russia: people can get swindled or extorted out of their shares). Will the oil industry remain Iraqi-operated, or will we just be distributing the proceeds from selling the businesses to foreign companies, who may be able to operate the wells more efficiently? I don't have good answers, except that we should not leave operation of the oil industry in the hands of some big government monopoly (like the Mexican model, for example) that will wind up as a big, sluggish jobs program with undue influence over the country's politics. And we also have to recognize that there will be tensions, at this level, between our interests in giving Iraqis the blessings of oil wealth and our own interests in maximizing the efficient production of low-cost oil.
WAR: Dr. Germ
My younger brother points out that Dr. Germ, like Chemical Ali, sounds like someone we should be looking for on Dr. Evil's Secret Volcano Island.
WAR: Kuttner's Folly
Robert Kuttner's latest op-ed ignores his history (the recent outbreak of looting in Iraq is unremarkable compared to past countries suddenly liberated; even the Tories did not fare so well after the American Revolution - tarring and feathering, anyone?). More absurdly, he suggests that the U.S. military is letting rioters wreck the country so as to increase the size of Halliburton's construction contracts. Amazing.
Hey, where's the 'root causes' crowd when you need them?
WAR: North Korean Recriminations
WAR: Anglos Not?
April 16, 2003
WAR: The Times and the Facts
Eugene Volokh (starting at this post and scrollling down) tears apart a NY Times op-ed that's just rife with factual errors.
WAR/LAW: Who Shall Make No Law?
The Boston Globe yesterday (registration required) ran this exceptionally fatuous piece complaining about the treatment of anti-war celebrities:
It's been a good long while since I've had a sit-down with the US Constitution, but if my junior high school memories serve me correctly, I don't recall the Bill of Rights guaranteeing free speech only to those who espouse one particular opinion.
Um, you might try reading the first five words of the First Amendment; in fact, reading the first word alone might have spared us from reading this column . . .
WAR: Rest in Peace, Leon Klinghoffer
The capture of Abu Abbas is a big story for a variety of reasons. For one, if bin Laden or any other senior Al Qaeda leaders are still alive (such as the 7 guys who escaped in Yemen the other day), they should be reminded: Abbas' big attack killed one American, 18 years ago. And we did not forget him.
Second, of course, it disproves yet again all the people who argued that Saddam could have nothing to do with terrorists, nothing to see here, please move on, etc.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, it's a reminder of the benefits of military occupation. We want to get out of Iraq fairly quickly, and there will be increasing reasons to want to do so as the months roll by; we need to hand over control sooner than later to Iraqi civilian institutions. But for now, there are many benefits to having American boots on the ground, in terms of human intellligence, capture of terrorists and Ba'ath party officials, seizure of documents that will incriminate terror groupps, Arab leaders and their aiders and abettors in the West, and of course the confiscation of weapons of mass destruction.
This ought to be a bigger story, except for the fact that everyone remotely involved has a strong interest in not making it one. (Registration required)
April 11, 2003
WAR: REMEMBER THE CONGO
One of the great overlooked stories of late has been the discovery of a massacre in the war in the Congo. The left-leaning site Common Dreams claims that the war "has killed more people than any conflict since World War II." Good for them for noticing; of course, they'd change their tune if the U.S. proposed to do something to stop it . . .
WAR: Biting The Apple
If Jack Shafer is trying to mock R.W. Apple into retirement, he's doing a real good job. (Link via Andrew Sullivan)
WAR: "[T]imes when peace must be made"
"[T]here are times when peace must be made before it can be kept; and Europe as a whole has seen such moments as none of its business, relying on the US, and then usually blaming it for carrying the can." (Link via Tim Blair).
WAR: Kemp On The Peace
Jack Kemp has a history lesson about the Marshall Plan. (Shockingly, Kemp raises the importance of a stable currency).
WAR: The Big Story: CNN Confesses!
Today's biggest story, clearly, was the colossal bombshell of an admission by CNN exec Eason Jordan that CNN's pre-war coverage from inside Iraq was hopelessly compromised by fear of reprisals by the Iraqi regime. This was certainly widely suspected, but such a blunt admission of the truth is rare. NRO's Corner had a battery of good posts on this; check here, then here, then here, then here (citing Eugene Volokh).
But it's the American media that's biased in favor of us, right?
WAR: Fear of Inspectors
Agree or disagree with the Administration's tack in Iraq, but one result is clear: this report from North Korea indicates that admitting UN inspectors is now seen by unstable dictators as a path to war rather than an alternative.
How ironic. But just as well. Inspectors will still be useful for what they were originally intended for: verifying the compliance of cooperative states like Ukraine or South Africa (and even there, all they can do is say, "we saw them do what they said they did," not "they've got nothing left"). They're like auditors, and Lord knows we've been reminded that auditors are only as good as what their clients are willing to show them. Neither one should ever have been confused with investigators.
Of course, Harkin ignores the fact that Iraq's conventional military was never the reason for the war (the first one, yes, but not this war).
WAR: Next stop, Yemen?
Next stop, Yemen?
WAR: Steyn & Other Highlights
I shouldn't need to tell you this, but Mark Steyn has been on fire lately, with too many good columns to link to them all. This one, on why a victor's peace like that imposed on Europe after World War II would be preferable to the kind of UN 'peace' the Palestinian refugees were given at about the same time, is a classic. More good stuff from the past week: Michael Barone on the peace, Ralph Peters on the critical role of our Special Forces and intelligence in keeping many of Saddam's weapons on the sidelines, and new details on the deaths of Michael Kelly (which was apparently more directly combat-related than it first appeared) and David Bloom (who apparently ignored warnings about blood clots).
WAR: Athens and Sparta
So Maureen Dowd doesn't want the U.S. to turn into a state organized around the making of war, like ancient Sparta . . . funny, aren't liberals the ones who keep saying we should all share more pain in this war, i.e., a draft and no tax cuts? Isn't that the way to be less Athens and more Sparta?
April 10, 2003
WAR: TOPPLING STALIN?
Probably the simplest way to describe the war today is this: the war against the regime is over, but there's still a war to be fought against organized resistance, and that war will be dangerous and just as important: a war to ensure that Iraq does not become Lebanon, and that the bitter-enders are reduced to nothing. Our focus will now shift from loosening the regime's grip (with as little loss of life as necessary) to something more like the Afghan war - killing people who are likely to ever want to fight us.
Maybe somebody can answer this . . . my wife and I were discussing how little that huge statute looked like Saddam, and I seem to recall reading that he had bought some used statuary from the Soviet Union in its dotage (presumably at a discount). Was that actually a statue of Josef Stalin?
Lileks, on the liberated Iraqis: "All of a sudden, in a day, a guy can look at a car battery without crossing his legs."
Boy, is this ever a rapid advance to the next journalistic meme, from (who else?) Reuters: "After Saddam 'Nightmare' Baghdad Wants U.S. Out Soon . . . Baghdad residents expressed relief on Thursday at the collapse of Saddam Hussein's 24-year rule but said U.S. forces should restore order quickly and leave, or face the wrath of an emboldened population."
April 09, 2003
WAR: WCHC and The Berlin Wall
My first semester of freshman year of college, I did news updates on WCHC, the campus radio station. The audience was probably pretty negligible and almost certainly uninterested in news, and I quickly decided it wasn't going to do anything for me. But there was one high point I'll never forget from that otherwise unenlightening experience: the night I got the report coming off the newswire that the Berlin Wall had come down, and I got to go on the air with the news.
Today was like that.
WAR: Moscow Times Report
This Moscow Times piece is more disturbing than the one below, reporting that "The Russian diplomatic convoy that came under fire as it evacuated Baghdad might have been carrying secret Iraqi files that U.S. intelligence officers wanted to seize." Hmmmm . . .
WAR: The Sign
April 07, 2003
WAR: Josh Marshall and the Secret Plan
I just don't buy the premise of Josh Marshall's long attack in the Washington Monthly, on the Bush Administration's alleged failure to disclose the scope of its ambitions in the war on terror. What's more than a little incoherent here is that Marshall says that the Bush Administration has a grand master plan it's not disclosing, but at the same time he continues to argue on his blog that the Administration has no policy at all.
Anyway, the core of his argument is that the American people haven't been told how long and how far the war may be expected to go:
[T]he great majority of the American people have no concept of what kind of conflict the president is leading them into. The White House has presented this as a war to depose Saddam Hussein in order to keep him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--a goal that the majority of Americans support. But the White House really has in mind an enterprise of a scale, cost, and scope that would be almost impossible to sell to the American public. The White House knows that. So it hasn't even tried. Instead, it's focused on getting us into Iraq with the hope of setting off a sequence of events that will draw us inexorably towards the agenda they have in mind.
But this isn't true. First, polls consistently show that the American people recognize that the war with Saddam is part of the larger war on terror, which suggests an understanding from the outset that this is bigger than just conducting a criminal investigation into the direct September 11 plotters. Second, the real public launch of a war effort beyond just the Al Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan was the 'axis of evil' speech -- and the Iraq war will leave two of the three axis members still standing. Third, President Bush has made clear that he has an ambitious plan to force some level of reform on the Palestinian Authority as a condition of negotiating, which certainly signals an intent to get into the most intractable problems of the region.
As for the rest of the agenda, how far does the other hawks' view actually constitute the Administration's policy? Marshall is right that the details are mysterious, but that may be a sign that the Administration's options are still open, and it's certainly the result of the need to build a new and different international coalition for each step of the plan. Marshall avoids this issue by pretending that we have no allies at all ("Luck, fortitude, deft management, and help from allies could bring about very different results. But we can probably only rely on the first three because we are starting this enterprise over the expressed objections of almost every other country in the world."), which is frankly false.
By the way, if it seems like I'm picking on Masrhall, it's actually because he's one of the few liberal writers who has a sufficient base of intellectual honesty to be worth engaging rather than just mocking. If you read Paul Krugman, to give an obvious counter-example, you'd think that everything Bush-related is nothing but avarice and malice. Krugman is constitutionally incapable of honestly stating a conservative position and conceding it even the slightest bit of truth or sincerity.
WAR: Gas Masks
We're still waiting on most of the news about what the troops find in Iraq, and I still hope to see somebody pull together a final analysis after the fact of how evidence found in Iraq ties the regime both to terrorism and WMD. The clues we've been given so far are intriguing, at least. To me, as damning as anything is the fact that all of Saddam's soldiers had gas masks. The regime must have known the coalition wouldn't be bringing chemical weapons. Why spend all that money on gas masks, why hand them out to every soldier? It's possible, I suppose, that it was all an elaborate ruse to scare the soldiers. But apply Occam's Razor (the simplest explanation is correct) here: the simplest explanation is that Saddam had his troops outfitted with chemical gear because he expected to use chemical weapons.
WAR: Kelly and Bloom
The news of the deaths of Michael Kelly and David Bloom have overshadowed the actual fighting a bit over the weekend; maybe it was just the fact that I was away from the TV. He'd never made an impression on me before the war, but Bloom had really become the face of the "embedded journalist" program, yelling off the top of a rolling tank with goggles on and sand in his hair.
I'm still stunned by the loss of Kelly, a guy whose columns I read pretty regularly; as you can see below, I'd posted a link to his last column just hours before the news of his death was announced. Jonah Goldberg hit the right note: "the fact that Kelly's death is so heartbreaking for many of us in the journalism business is a sobering reminder, for me at least, of the real pain caused by every death in this war." And there's Peggy Noonan's must-read, rapid-reaction obit from Friday; nobody writes a eulogy like Peggy Noonan.
One more, for nostalgia's sake: a link to a posting of the full text of Kelly's famous "I believe" column.
April 04, 2003
WAR: Sullivan v. Marshall
Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall have been sparring lately about whether or not Marshall's critiques of the war will be discredited if the war ends with a swift victory in the near future. Marshall's latest posts are here and here; Sullivan's are here and here.
Marshall had been hammering Rumsfeld, in particular, with charges that the war was bogging down due to inadequate troop strength, citing the various anonymous 'Pentagon sources' and retired generals like Barry McCaffery, and of course he's argued all along that the 'neocon' vision of a democratic Iraq as the first domino in the Middle East was unrealistically optimistic; Sullivan accuses Marshall of 'moving the goal posts' now that the war has started going better, by saying this about whether he was going to be embarrassed if the war turned out well:
Presumably, I'll be haunted one or two months from now when we're off on an easy occupation of Baghdad, governing a peaceful nation of thankful Iraqis, and resting easier since we've cowed Syria, Iran and the Palestinians into quiescence.
I think Sullivan has the better of this argument, although Marshall isn't so much moving the goal posts (he's announcing the same objectives he's always set to measure the success of war in Iraq) as he is performing a classic bait-and-switch. What Marshall has been doing is symptomatic of recent war criticisms, starting with the New York Times barrage of 'Baghmire' stories; here's why. Marshall has, as I noted, long argued that the Bush Administration's postwar strategy was not going to work. This is a political argument, and it is an essentially dovish position, since it argues for the status quo. But that just distinguishes Marshall as a critic of the Administration from the left, a position which has not gained much traction. Thus, he opened a second front in the opinion war by arguing that Bush and Rumsfeld screwed up the conduct of the war itself; this is a military argument, and it is on some level a hawkish position, since it assumes the use of force and argues for applying even more force. The critique is enormously attractive to the Administration's critics, because it enables them to look more hawkish than they are and to argue that only they truly have the interests of our soldiers at heart, while arguing that while Republicans get all this credit for being serious about national security, they will even screw up militarily because of their political ideology. It also permits a 'threefer' argument, since the lack of troops strength can be tied directly to the failure to get Turkey's permission to run the 4th Infantry Division through Turkey into northern Iraq.
If correct, this would be a devastating critique; if American troops really faced disaster in the field because the war plan supplied too few troops and too little armor on the ground, Rumsfeld and probably Bush would be finished. But the military argument now appears to be in tatters, as Coalition forces have encircled the few remaining urban centers the regime still holds, and the feared weakness of our supply lines hasn't been tested again after the initial disaster with the 507th Maintenance Company. If the war goes badly from here, it will more likely be only because of the inherent risks of urban combat, not because too few boots were on the ground.
In response, Marshall says, in effect, that my critiques are not misguided because I still expect the war to fail to achieve its political objectives. He could still be proven correct -- but that doesn't validate the military critique, which was always the more damaging argument. Marshall gambled that that argument could blow a big hole in the Administration; now that it's failing, he's switching back to his initial tack and trying to squeeze residual credit from the military critique by claiming that it was valid if the political critique holds up.
Sorry. We're not buying it.
WAR: England and France
As much as it will be important to decide what type of relationship the U.S. will have with Continental Europe after the war, it seems obvious that this is first of all Tony Blair's problem. The US-France alliance is not critical to either party. But the Anglo-French alliance is hugely important to both (and the recent defacing of a WWI monument was a much deeper blow to the Brits, who lost a generation defending French soil in that war). In that sense, it's the British we need to work with to build a strategy for keeping the US-UK-Spain-Italy-Denmark-Eastern Europe coalition together after the war and bringing Germany and Turkey back to the fold, and isolating the French & Belgians, as the first step to bring them at least partially in line with our interests.
WAR/POLITICS: Kerry 2000
Isn't it a little silly for John Kerry to make an issue of Bush's pre-presidential foreign policy experience? The guy's presided over unprecdented crises, two wars, made multiple speeches to the UN, met with innumerable foreign leaders. Whatever you think his relevant experience was, that's not an issue. But in the Democratic primaries, you have to remember that 2000 (and September 2001) never happened.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:40 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly's not taking chances on being called a 'chickenhawk.' He's easily the most prominent print journalist in the embed program (the star TV journos have not done as well; Geraldo and Peter Arnett will be lucky to reenter the US without being prosecuted for treason), and he's obviously traveling pretty close to the tip of the spear. Most guys give this sort of thing up once they've reached the status of magazine editor.
I'd bet he's working on, or planning, a book; his dispatches read like it. I'd pre-order it now, myself.
MID-DAY UPDATE: Man, did I speak too soon. They just announced that Kelly was killed in a Humvee accident, the first 'embedded' journalist to die in the war. He was really a great writer, and his loss will be felt. Here's Kelly, writing last October, on the 'chickenhawk' slur.
Remember the protests about how sanctions were 'killing Iraqi children' because Iraq couldn't get medicine? Never mind.
WAR: De Genova Gets Worse
So, the story of the Columbia professor calling for "a million Mogadishus" gets even worse - turns out he also had praise for the soldier who killed two of his officers in Kuwait.
April 03, 2003
WAR: The Coalition
Under the Operation Enduring Freedom heading, CENTCOM has a page graphically listing all the members of the coalition in the war on terror (this includes coalition members like France who have not been so helpful lately, to put it mildly), with links to discuss their specific contributions. I love the page listing Saudi Arabia's contributions.
Today's CENTCOM briefing is here.
WAR: Lileks Squared
A double-barreled dose of Lileks today. From the Backfence: "A few days into the war, an Iraqi official gathers all the Saddam impersonators into a room. 'All right, men: I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the boss is still alive, so you all have jobs. The bad news is that he lost a leg.'" From The Bleat: "[H]ow do you know a Ba’athist is lying? His mustache is moving. And we curse it!"
Read the whole thing. Lileks also asks why we haven't obliterated all of Saddam's presidential palaces. Sergeant Stryker has the answer: We're raiding them to get documents. This has been one of my perverse fears about the 'shock and awe' aerial bombardment: that we would wind up destroying a lot of evidence of Saddam's ties to unsavory groups like Al Qaeda and Hamas as well as to purportedly respectable folks like Jacques Chirac. Not that we should pull our punches for this purpose, but it could be a cost of the war. Good to see we are still looking out for some of this stuff.
WAR: Private Lynch
You may be, as I am, ambivalent about women on the front lines. More on that some other day. But this is still proof of how tough even the non-combatant female supply clerks in our Army really are, and how badly our enemies misread Americans' willingness to fight when forced to:
Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday. Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting March 23, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy, supporting the advancing 3rd Infantry Division, took a wrong turn near the southern city of Nasiriyah. "She was fighting to the death," the official said. "She did not want to be taken alive." Lynch was also stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position, the official said, noting that initial intelligence reports indicated that she had been stabbed to death. No official gave any indication yesterday, however, that Lynch's wounds had been life-threatening.
This is, by the way, rather a different picture of Private Lynch than the initial, soft-focus media accounts of the country girl who just joined the Army to get a decent job. But a much more flattering one. It's also evidence of how the brutality of the Iraqi regime works against its troops in the field: can you blame her for not wanting to surrender and be taken prisoner by these thugs?
WAR: Like Iraq
How's this for a vivid description of war? Remind me not to drive a pickup truck into battle any time soon:
Question: The U.S. Army, including the 3rd Infantry Division, has been using depleted-uranium ammunition against Iraqi troops. Have you witnessed this ammunition being used?
(Link via The Command Post)
WAR: This Just In!
Isn't it a little late for this gloom-and-doom assessment of the march to Baghdad, posted yesterday on MSNBC after the last obstacles to encircling the city were removed? I mean, if you want to argue that the urban battle or the following peace will go badly, go ahead, but by all indications, the march on Baghdad from several directions is nearly complete at this point.
WAR: Ralph Peters
Ralph Peters, in yesterday's NY Post, refers to The New Yorker as "a minor magazine loosely affiliated with the Baghdad regime." He also notes with irony that Saladin, one of Saddam's role models (along with Stalin), was a Kurd.
April 02, 2003
WAR: The Command Post
OK, I'm off to work. Don't forget to check The Command Post all day and night for the latest war news.
WAR: Now They Tell Us
MSNBC is describing the latest battle outside Baghdad as "what military officials indicated was the beginning of the ground offensive in Iraq." Uh, hasn't the ground offensive already seen a lot of action, captured a lot of territory, cost us a bunch of lives and the Iraqis hundreds or thousands of lives?
WAR: Are The Fedayeen Terrorists?
One of the hot issues du jour is whether the varied attacks by the Saddam Fedayeen (DOD now aptly calls them 'Death Squads') can fairly be called 'terrorism,' as the Pentagon's people seem to be doing. Suicide bombings and ambushes may be traditional terror tactics, but they are not terrorism on the field of battle, because they are aimed at combatants. We should be very careful about how we use the term 'terrorism', because maintaining a clear definition is hugely important in a war where (1) we have chosen to define 'terrorism' as the enemy and (2) irresponsible critics love nothing better than to misuse the term to describe anything America does that they find distasteful.
But: two points. First, disguising combatants as civilians does cross the line -- not to terrorism, perhaps, but to unlawful combatant status. This violates every accepted norm of the laws of war, precisely because it makes the shooting or bombing of civilians more likely to happen. International law can be pretty malleable, but some basics (don't harm diplomats or surrendering soldiers and don't dress soldiers as civilians) long predate the existence of any international institutions.
Second, as Slate's Will Saletan -- no hawk -- has pointed out, the ease and rapidity with which the Iraqi regime has embraced terror tactics goes a long way to show its coziness with terrorism all along.
WAR: Our Guys
This story about two US soldiers surviving after being lost in the desert doesn't seem to have gotten much play.
April 01, 2003
WAR: An Important Clarification
Finally, the UN does something useful!
WAR: Just Right?
Oxblog carries an interesting letter contending that the current rapid advance on Baghdad, rather than being impeded by not having 'enough' troops, would not have been possible if the 4th Infantry Division was in tow.
WAR: Kinsley Loses It
Certainly an award for rhetorical overstatement could go to this Michael Kinsley passage: "George W. Bush is now the closest thing in a long time to dictator of the world"
Let's look at Kinsley's main point:
[S]ince the end of World War II, the United States has at least formally agreed to international constraints on the right of any nation, including itself, to start a war. These constraints were often evaded, but rarely just ignored. And evasion has its limits, enforced by the sanction of embarrassment. This gave these international rules at least some real bite.
First, this is semantics -- and if ever someone has "evaded" rather than "ignored" UN sanction, it's Bush, who claims authority to act under the UN resolutions that ended Gulf War 1 and who obtained yet another resolution promising the now-famous "serious consequences" if it was not complied with. And can I just ask -- I don't know the exact answer -- how many times since 1946 the UN Security Council has been asked to authorize the use of force, and how many times it has given that authority? I'm guessing that it's a much smaller number than the number of military actions taken during the last five decades, or even the actions taken by the US. Did I miss LBJ going to the Security Council after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution? Did we have UN sanction for Grenada? Kosovo? Bombing Libya? Trying to spring the hostages from Iran? And when was US policy ever subjected to the "bite" of international law, other than when we got bit by leaving Saddam in power?
WAR: POWerful Story
A gripping POW story about the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, from John McCain.
WAR: Loose Lips
For the record, Andrew Jackson would have had Geraldo hanged on the spot.
March 31, 2003
WAR: NOTES OF CAUTION
Conservative pundits have had a lot of fun with the media's panic over the first whiff of grapshot in the present war. The refrain has been a series of wise remonstrances: war has ever been thus; nothing ever goes entirely according to plan; and, in any event, by any reasonable standard, we are succeeding faster and at more lopsided casualty rates than any military invasion of a country of anywhere near comparable size in history.
That's all true, and I agree that -- while there's certainly plenty of good to say about some of the war coverage -- the media is being ridiculous in a number of ways. But in determining whether this war was a good idea in the first place, the question of whether the war is going to involve the sacrifice of a substantial number of American lives and the wreaking of a substantial amount of damage on Iraq (including killing some Iraqi civilians) is not a ridiculous question. Why? There are a couple of reasons worth remembering, but one is that the advocates of war, myself included, explicitly argued and continue to argue that war is just here because the harm caused by war is outweighed by the harm in doing nothing. Obviously, if the harm caused by the war were to be much more substantial than people may have thought, they wouldn't be crazy to rethink their positions.
There's a corollary here for the other side of the domestic debate, though. We should also remember that every sign that Americans are flinching at the casualty reports is something that will help the enemy. The Baathists' strategy is entirely premised on being bailed out if the American public turns against continuing the war. I'm not a fan of branding people unpartiotic simply for saying this war is a bad idea and will be costly, but you can't just ignore that political opposition to the war is the critical element of the Iraqi regime's strategy. The Republican Guard can't save them; Tom Daschle, R.W. Apple and their British counterparts could, if things go a certain way. Critics of the war should, before they criticize, ask two questions:
1. What will be the result if we throw in the towel as a result of my criticism?
2. Will it be worse than continuing to fight?
If the answer to #2 is "yes," that doesn't mean no criticism, ever. There will be plenty of time for criticism after the war, especially with Bush up for re-election next year and a very high likelihood that the war will be over well before then even if it doesn't go particularly well. The question during wartime is, who will be helped by this criticism? You can call me a McCarthyite for pointing this out, but the balance of rights and responsibilities in the area of free speech does change in wartime.
Unfortunately, most of the war's critics have a rather unrealistic view of the balance of dangers here; I'd hazard a guess that many of them think #2 is so bad that nothing could be worse. But now that the war's started, the cost of backing down has escalated tremendously. Remember, even from the beginning, there was an element of national face-saving (not Bush family face, but the nation's) in refocusing on Saddam's continued defiance of the U.S. after September 11. It was obvious that the U.S. could no longer to tolerate, smack in the middle of the Middle East, a nation that broke treaties with us, fired at our aircraft, spread anti-American propaganda, and generally gave us the finger, all while abusing everybody within reach of the regime and financing the region's open sore on the West Bank. Even without WMD and without ties to international terror, there was a certain logic to confronting Saddam to make an example of him to people who "back the strong horse," in bin Laden's terms, and to those who expected Americans to fear conflict after the bad examples of the Iranian hostage crisis, Somalia, even our retreat from Beirut after Hezbollah opened a score with the United States Marine Corps that has yet to be settled. Maybe that justified the war by itself and maybe it didn't, but it was always a subtext of the run-up to war, and one that I think is reflected in deep public support for the war as an anti-terror effort despite controversy over whether we had enough evidence to support a search warrant of the billionaire dictator's palaces. If we turned back now without deposing the Iraqi regime, it's not just a handful of Republicans who would permanently lose credibility; it's the whole country, and all our enemies would be hugely emboldened.
Bearing those costs in mind, maybe the war's critics can ask themselves: Is my criticism of the war plan now -- before we've even seen the whole thing play out, or close to it -- really necessary? If your goal is to stop the war with the defeat of America's policy of regime change (which has been our national policy since 1998), and you've thought through everything that means, OK, go ahead, but be prepared for entirely fair criticism in response that you have chosen to advocate a policy of defeat for your nation at the hands of a bloody tyrant. But if your goal is to inflict political damage on the president for what you believe is his mishandling of this or that issue in the conduct of the war - please, please, can't it wait?
WAR: WHO'S NEXT?
The Command Post has the latest on tough words from Colin Powell to Iran and Syria in a speech to AIPAC, from the Jerusalem Post. And here's a revealing interview with Bashar Assad, from MEMRI. The Syrian regime is clearly one of the 8 rogue regimes that needed to be changed, one way or another, after September 11:
1. The Taliban
WAR: THE FORGOTTEN ANGLOS
We've heard much these last few months from commentators about Jim Bennett's "Anglosphere" concept: how the US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and to some extent Ireland and South Africa are bound together by a common language, common traditions of culture, government and the business climate. It seems to me that most of the formulations, though, have omitted one very important country that shares strong cultural bonds to the US in particular; that has a parliamentary democracy and similar legal system; that shares in the modern drive to an information-based economy; and where English is widely spoken (if not necessarily as a first language) and connections to English-speaking media, opinion and culture are deep and run in both directions: Israel.
Of course, the Israelis are hardly Anglo-Saxons, ethnically, but proponents of the concept have consistently stressed that it is common language and culture, not ethnicity, that unifies the Anglosphere and gives it the dynamism to incorporate immigrants of all colors. And the emotional bonds betwen Israel and Britain or Australia are, to put it mildly, not strong. But the core notions of the Anglosphere are the free flow of information -- through mass media, the internet and personal interactions -- and a common set of cultural experiences, both of which are plenty true of Israelis. In the world of opinion journalism, the ubiquity of Israeli pundits and columnists here -- and vice versa -- is an important indicator of ties between the US and Israel in a way we just don't see with, say, Germany or France. Opinion polls and other popular measures in the US reflect this: Americans increasingly recognize in Israel a mirror image of ourselves, except more beleaguered and beset by hostile neighbors. (I suspect that history will show September 11 to be a watershed here, when Americans started to feel like Israel). As a result, the alliance with Israel, like that with the other Anglosphere nations, runs much thicker than temporary self-interests.
March 30, 2003
WAR: Ralph Peters
Plenty of links to this elsewhere, but another reminder that one of this war's must-read commentators is Ralph Peters, now writing in the NY Post.
WAR: Quote From the Front
Quote from the front: "Frankly, Marines only watch Fox News anyhow."
March 29, 2003
WAR: Hegemonists For War
Note that Bush has recently received statements of support for the war from Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods & Lance Armstrong. (Of course, Armstrong is effectively a federal employee, given that his cycling team is sponsored by the US Postal Service; you have to love a guy who wears the USPS American Eagle logo while cycling across France).
My thesis? Each of these guys is used to being disliked for being totally dominant. Thus, they sympathize with the need for the US to go about its business no matter how many people hate us for our successes.
A couple of refreshers: This Lileks column is worth re-reading for a reminder of who the bad guys are, and this Instapundit post is a useful reminder of why one man's terrorist is not necessarily another man's freedom fighter.
March 28, 2003
WAR/BASEBALL: A Familiar Pattern
David Pinto has an item from Edward Cossette at Bambino's Curse noting that the emotional roller-coaster coverage of the war has followed a pattern familiar to anyone who's followed the Boston media's coverage of the Red Sox over the years.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:46 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 27, 2003
WAR: OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF TYRANTS
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, on relations between Syria and the United States: "On positions where interests meet, the Americans are well with us, but on positions where interests differ, they want us to go along with them and we do not."
That's our relationship with everybody, folks.
Left/liberal blogger Atrios calls American soldiers, including the 101st Airborne, "Morons" in this and the following post.
WAR: Talking Up The Enemy
Every time Bush talks about how tough the war with Iraq is, I keep thinking he sounds like Lou Holtz before the Notre Dame-Navy game.
WAR: Anarchists Are Coming To Town
WAR: Same Old Song
Prediction: the same people who are now saying "I told you that the Iraqis will make this fight tougher than we expected" will, when victory arrives, tell us that the Iraqi regime was so weak, outgunned and bound to collapse from within that we should never have considered it any kind of threat meriting war.
So remember what they say now.
March 26, 2003
I have to say, one ordinarily doesn't think of dolphins as being important to a war in the desert.
March 24, 2003
Axis? What axis?
UPDATE: I haven't seen this reported anywhere else, so I'm not sure it's really all that credible.
WAR: The Willing
WAR: Lileks on the Beeb
"While driving around on Saturday, the Beeb ran a clip from a Brit spokesman describing a battle, then ran the Iraqi blabberjaw insisting that Iraqi forces were still engaged in battle, killing the enemy, and that the Loser Zionist Rumsfeld tongue should be accursed and struck with shoes, and we should all hope that monkeys defecate in his moustache, etc. Then came a guest from Warshington, and the presenter said “so who should we believe, then?” A charitable listener would ascribe the brief, stunned pause that followed to the natural lapse in transatlantic communications."
Read the whole thing.
WAR: Where We Are Today
I have only limited patience with punditry at present; it is plenty hard enough just to find out what is happening out there, let alone figure out what it all means. Like the song says, theyr'll be time enough for counting when the dealin's done. That said, here are a few of my very un-expert thoughts:
*Those of us who advocated this war argued that the great mass of the Iraqi people would welcome us and gladly throw off their chains, and that at least very large parts of the Iraqi military would not fight. Events so far have neither confirmed nor denied this conclusively -- certainly there have been many surrenders and there were warm welcomes in some of the liberated towns -- but we should not be surprised that there are some bitter-enders who fight on, and perhaps some pockets of the civilan population that resent our coming. In any totalitarian system, there are those who benefit from the regime's depradations, and who rightly fear the coming of the dawn. But the passage of time and opportunities for others to surrender should have a clarifying effect on our willingness to unleash immense violence on those who choose to fight on.
*I would very much not want to be in the shoes of those Iraqi armored columns that are rumored to be assembled to the southwest of Baghdad, unconcealed by mountainous terrain and unsheided by civilian populations. Barring a surrender, like Napoleon's vaunted and battle-hardened Old Guard at Waterloo, they are likely to be shredded by artillery nearly to the last man. I wonder if they are essentially sitting-duck decoys designed to maneuver the Allied forces into fixed coordinates so as to prepare for a chemical or biological attack that will be unleashed on Allied and Iraqi positions alike.
*As far as war-fighting strategy, the world will very much be watching the approach to Baghdad; although American troops have proven highly effective in urban warfare (see Panama), nobody wants to have to resort to street fighting unless absolutely necessary, and Baghdad is a much larger city than Mogadishu or Panama City (I believe it is even larger than Stalingrad circa 1942-43).
*The apparent mistreatment of American POWs and the use of fake surrenders to ambush Allied troops only underscores the ridiculousness of the 'Saddam can be deterred' school of thought. Of course, a regime such as this will violate international norms -- even those, like conventions on the treatment of POWs and the traditional rules of surrender, that are norms defined more by self-interest than by morals or high ideals -- because it cares little for the consequences to its people. The Iraqi regime is willing to encourage such steps for two reasons:
1. It knows that the limits of U.S. reprisal are bounded by our own internal norms, regardless of how badly our enemies behave. We don't use chemical weapons on civilian populations and would not do so even if the same was done to our civilians. The same applies to maltreating POWs.
2. We should expect that it is a critical element of any strategy by the Iraqi regime to make it more difficult and dangerous for Iraqi soldiers to surrender peacefully. Mass surrenders are the worst that can happen to the regime if it wants to go down in a blaze of glory and discredit the invading forces.
March 21, 2003
WAR: Tush Hour
I have to say that reports that "anti-war" protestors were holding up traffic in the evening rush hour (to say nothing of the rest of their antics). . . that just staggered me. I mean, nobody who has both a job and a family could ever consider doing such a thing. Keep hard-working people from their families? By definition, such a protest reveals its complete unfamiliarity with the lives of people who work for a living. Which is unsurprising. Of course, a lot of the protestors are just that -- protestors, professional malcontents or mentally incurious college students, people whose interest in protesting far exceeds their concern for whatever it is they happen to be protesting for or against.
Maybe I'm overreacting here because I work long hours and would hate like hell to be prevented by these goons from seeing my children before their bedtime . . . but, well, I should be indignant. This is wrong. And it's proof that the protests are basically just a way of lashing out at the whole world of jobs, families, and yes, responsibilities. The world of people who don't take a dump in the street.
March 20, 2003
WAR: SADDAM DISARMED!
SADDAM DISARMED! (Link via Instapundit)
WAR: San Francisco
Apparently, we didn't get Saddam last night, but we got his contact lenses.
WAR: Change Follows Rumsfeld Suggestion
Mark Steyn's mantra for the post-September 11 world: Change Follows Rumsfeld Suggestion.
WAR: Here's The Flip
Rich Lowry has a great column on the trap the Democrats are walking into in North Korea, one they are constitutionally incapable of recognizing and from which the only escape is shameless flip-flopping and perhaps some very careful parsing of prior statements. Stuff like this keeps Tim Russert in business.
March 19, 2003
WAR: Can You Tell The Difference?
A friend who listens to Howard Stern wrote me this a few days ago:
Howard Stern had a contest where listeners had to call up and answer questions to win a prize. The questions? Howard would read a quote and the listener would have to guess whether it was from a terrorist or from a Hollywood celebrity. Outstanding stuff, and truly bashing the Hollywood fools. Just imagine this: Howard reads some quote extraordinarily critical of the US and predicting long-term demise of the US. Listener says "Terrorist!" Howard responds, "NO!!!......I'm sorry, that was a quote from Sean Penn!"
WAR: What To Do
Worried about terrorism at home? Click here for an explanation of all you need to know about homeland security.
WAR: Day One Buzzwords
Buzzwords of the night: "target of opportunity," "package," "shock and awe," "decaptitation." Tom Brokaw says the war in Iraq will be perhaps the most televised event in world history. (Gee Tom, there was this thing that happened in broad daylight in lower Manhattan about a year and a half ago -- it was on all the news . . . )
WAR: Stark Raving Loony
With our troops in harm's way, San Francisco Democrat Fortney 'Pete' Stark picks today to declare that any U.S. bombing in or around Baghdad would be "an act of extreme terrorism.". I first saw this report early today and the online poll was running 49-48% in favor of Stark's sentiments, but after a link from Drudge, it's now 67-32 against.
WAR: Blair's War Message
Finally, war. Time to rip the scab off -- painful, but necessary. Tony Blair neatly explains why:
"Just consider the position we are asked to adopt. Those on the security council opposed to us say they want Saddam to disarm but will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their position. No to any ultimatum; no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action.
"Looking back over 12 years, we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil. Now the very length of time counts against us. You've waited 12 years. Why not wait a little longer?"
"Our fault has not been impatience. The truth is our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and years ago. Even now, when if the world united and gave him an ultimatum: comply or face forcible disarmament, he might just do it, the world hesitates and in that hesitation he senses the weakness and therefore continues to defy. What would any tyrannical regime possessing WMD think viewing the history of the world's diplomatic dance with Saddam? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions is only matched by our feebleness in implementing them. That is why this indulgence has to stop. Because it is dangerous. It is dangerous if such regimes disbelieve us. Dangerous if they think they can use our weakness, our hesitation, even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace, against us. Dangerous because one day they will mistake our innate revulsion against war for permanent incapacity; when in fact, pushed to the limit, we will act. But then when we act, after years of pretence, the action will have to be harder, bigger, more total in its impact. Iraq is not the only regime with WMD. But back away now from this confrontation and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating."
"11 September has changed the psychology of America. It should have changed the psychology of the world. Of course Iraq is not the only part of this threat. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously."
"To fall back into the lassitude of the last 12 years, to talk, to discuss, to debate but never act; to declare our will but not enforce it; to combine strong language with weak intentions, a worse outcome than never speaking at all. And then, when the threat returns from Iraq or elsewhere, who will believe us? What price our credibility with the next tyrant? No wonder Japan and South Korea, next to North Korea, has issued such strong statements of support."
"What will Saddam feel? Strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states who tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, what will they take from that? That the will confronting them is decaying and feeble. Who will celebrate and who will weep? And if our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make them multilateralist? Or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism there could ever be. And what of the UN and the future of Iraq and the Middle East peace plan, devoid of our influence, stripped of our insistence? This house wanted this decision. Well it has it. Those are the choices. And in this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no cause ideal."
"Tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination that Britain faltered. I will not be party to such a course. This is not the time to falter. This is the time for this house, not just this government or indeed this prime minister, but for this house to give a lead, to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right, to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk, to show at the moment of decision that we have the courage to do the right thing."
Read the whole thing.
March 11, 2003
POLITICS/WAR: Jim Moron
I can't resist the temptation to pile on Jim Moran, the idiot Democrat congressman from Virginia and (I am embarrassed to add) alumnus of my own Holy Cross College, who had a Trent Lott/Cynthia McKinney moment last Monday:
"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," Moran said, in comments first reported by the Reston Connection and confirmed by Moran. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should."
Moran's a fool, and should be shown the door in 2004, like Earl Hilliard and McKinney before him; hopefully his largely white constituency will have the same good sense that Hilliard's and McKinney's African-American constitutents showed, and will dump him in the primaries. In the meantime, the Democratic party could use to have at least someone prominent denounce the guy (John Kerry, as a former Irishman, might take a whack).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:03 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 10, 2003
WAR: Kinsley's Smear
Michael Kinsley, who should know better, argues that the Iraq war is all about oooooooiiiiiiiiiilllllllllllllll. Oh, he claims he's not saying that, but this is as close as Kinsley ever gets to saying anything directly. What's breathtaking, as usual with glib and simplistic critiques of the Bush Administration's Iraq policies, is the failure to address so many key points, including: (1) the roots of terror in the despotisms of the region, and the need to revolutionize the area; (2) the whole 12-year history with Saddam; and (3) the substantial differences between Saddam and North Korea.
WAR: The North Korean Standoff
Steven den Beste continues to argue with regard to North Korea, as Michael Ledeen does in the case of Iran, that the regime is tottering on the edge and could implode if we make the right moves. Unlike Ledeen, who has extensive (if murky) sources in Iran, den Beste is working principally from an analysis of the regime's own behavior. Charles Krauthammer seems less optimistic, although he agrees with the basic strategy of trying to buy some time at least until the Iraq crisis has passed. Both theses, hinging on North Korea's need to create a sense of crisis to wrangle new concessions, are supported by the latest report of the test-firing of a missile at Japan. Of course, what's bizarre about the whole spectacle is the North Koreans repeatedly taking aggressive acts towards its neighbors, who -- locked in a sort of international battered-wife syndrome -- keep insisting that the North is no threat. As Krauthammer aptly notes, this is a rational strategy if their goal (much like that of our European 'friends') is to delay until the North is able to threaten the U.S. directly, in hopes that this will lessen the threat to its neighbors.
March 06, 2003
Liberal blogger Atrios is outraged, rightly, at vicious anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler statements made by the Reverend Moon. This is nasty, nasty stuff, and totally inexcusable.
Atrios has another point in mind: discrediting the crusading conservative newspaper Moon owns, the Washington Times. Like a lot of bloggers on the left, he wants to analogize this to the crucial organizational role played in annti-war protests by ANSWER and other groups run by Communists.
I don't buy the analogies, for two reasons:
1. The anti-war movement pretends to be a popular mass movement; much of its efforts have been directed at getting publicity for the size of the crowds it draws, etc. Thus, it's exceptionally relevant to show that such a movement is being directed by Stalinists.
2. The anti-war movement has invested a huge amount of emotional capital in criticizing and demonizing the motives and financial backing of those who support war, usually as a way of avoiding the merits. Turnabout is always fair play.
Again, I'm not disagreeing with Atrios' condemnation of Moon, just his preferred use of the information.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:04 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Tuesday's Lileks
Tuesday's Lileks on the kidgitprop being pushed on his 2 1/2 year old daughter (i.e., "root causes," multilateralism, etc.) is another classic. For my part, I've told the kids (3 and 5) that our soldiers will be going to fight a war soon, that Saddam is a very bad man who killed a lot of people, and that they will have to kill him or put him in jail. My son understood, although he did need reassurance that nothing would happen to him. I'm not gonna hide the truth (as opposed to September 11, which we had to hide from the kids because they knew where I worked).
WAR: Kurtz Follow-Up
Once again, don't miss Stanley Kurtz's followup on North Korea, including some links to a few people who criticized his earlier analysis.
WAR/POLITICS: Liquid Resolve
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:49 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Howard Stern at War
A friend who listens to Howard Stern notes that Stern had praise yesterday morning for Bush's foreign policy. Basically: (1) he's doing what needs to be done, and if you had half a brain, you could see that; (2) it fell into his lap because "previous presidents" didn't have the nerve to do anything about it; and (3) he's clearly not doing this just to be re-elected, since there's a big risk that events in North Korea and/or Iraq could result in him not being elected.
Guys like Stern can be pretty conservative on foreign policy and crime issues, much like a lot of non-political people, and as a result can be a good barometer of public opinion on that stuff. Just listen to this recent analysis on Slate:
The No. 1 morning radio show in most big cities has more listeners-way more-than The Tonight Show has viewers. And that morning show, in most cases, is a talk show. But it's not Rush or even Dr. Laura and her pinched morality. No, it's the guys liberals and conservatives alike deride as "shock jocks": frivolous, foul-mouthed, fabulously popular-Howard Stern, Chicago's Mancow, and their more overtly political cousins, Don Imus and the morning mayor of black America, Tom Joyner. . . . AM talk-Rush, Dr. Laura, Hannity-targets middle-aged white guys. Surprise: They tend to be conservative. But FM talk-Stern, Joyner, Mancow, Don and Mike in Washington, Tom Leykis in Los Angeles-scores with young men, guys who like their radio on the risqué side, with a bulging menu of sex jokes and a powerful message that this is America and you can do whatever you want. Hint to Democrats: You may not like to admit this, but these are your voters.
WAR: More Enemies
Add Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami party to the enemies list, if they weren't already; the group's spokesman praises bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Muhammad as heros.
Martin Kramer notes that America's academic experts on Iraq have been useless in explaining the current conflict because none of them have studied the current regime.
Ron Rosenbaum has a penetrating look at Michael Ledeen's hero, CIA mole-hunter James Jesus Angleton, including his role in the Cold War and his relevance today.
March 05, 2003
WAR: Ted Sez
Ted Kennedy says "inspections are working." Gee, I feel much better now.
Let's think about what this means. If you buy the idea that disarming Saddam is enough (which I don't -- I'm for regime change anyway), presumably you mean removing all his WMD and disarming him of such weapons permanently. Let's look at just two problems with this:
1. Most of the weapons involved can be moved around pretty easily . . . hell, if the inspectors are so good that a handful of them can spot any weapon the size of a toaster oven in a country the size of California, we should hire them to replace the whole damn DEA. I mean, just tons of cocaine comes into this country every year, and we still don't have enough cops, DEA agents, etc. to find it all. And we run this $^!$#^! country. In the real world, as opposed to the short-term world of a single news cycle, I can't see how you can realistically certify permanent compliance with less than a permanent occupation of Iraq by an army of inspectors.
Two examples. First, ask Ted K. what would happen if Roe v Wade was overturned - I gar-on-tee he'd launch into tales of back-alley abortions to come by the thousands. I'm sorry, a functioning abortion clinic is a heck of a lot harder to hide than a couple dozen cannisters of mustard gas that are being saved up for a rainy day. Ted tells us, we could never stop all the abortionists (I'm actually skeptical of this, but let's accept it for the sake of argument). Yet, this tiny band of inspectors will find all the weapons?
Second, did Ted K. support the Brady Bill, and does he support 'ballistic fingerprinting'? Why do we need a bunch of bureaucratic requirements to track guns when we could just hire five hundred gun inspectors to locate all the guns in the United States, now and forever?
You see my point. In domestic law enforcement, we don't pretend that a quick look by a tiny coterie of inspectors is a guarantee that we can find everything we're looking for. Why should we buy the same argument for a foreign country?
2. So, we let's say disarm Saddam. Then we leave, with him still in power, sanctions lifted, his germ/chem/nuke scientists still in the country . . . does anyone really think he would never try to get the same weapons again???
WAR: A "nonthreatening message"
So, let me get this straight: we are sending North Korea "a nonthreatening message" by . . . moving a bunch of bombers into their neighborhood??? Boy, is that ever a masterpiece of diplomatic doubletalk.
March 04, 2003
WAR: Kurtz: The Horror
This Stanley Kurtz piece on the inevitability of war with North Korea is a chilling must-read; Kurtz makes a very good argument that this is, militarily speaking, a case for a tactical nuclear first strike, because (1) we need to hit the Yongbyon reactor now, before NK's nukes become portable; (2) the immediate response would be an artillery barrage that would level Seoul; and (3) the only way to preempt that barrage is a nuclear first strike on the hardened bunker positions of the NK army along the DMZ. Still, even the most hardedned of hawks have to recognize that the ramifications of such a decision would be horrifying, in terms of international opinion and perhaps domestic opinion as well. More on this later.
WAR: Khalid Shaikh Muhammad
The capture of serial killer Khalid Shaikh Muhammad is rightly hailed as proof that the United States can, in fact, "walk and chew gum at the same time" in fighting Al Qaeda while preparing to invade Iraq, regardless of what you hear from Democratic politicians and lefty bloggers who claim that supporters of war with Iraq are "OBJECTIVELY PRO BIN-LADEN." Some people (like Ross Douthat and Mickey Kaus) have argued that we should not have publicized Muhammad's arrest, since the announcement gives terror operatives whose identities he (or his laptop) might reveal time to run for cover. But personally, I tend to see it another way: announcing his capture will make it harder to catch these guys, yes, but in the short run it should ruin their operational capacity -- which is more important, really. We know who they are, we'll find them eventually. In the meantime, they are back on their heels at just the moment when they'd love to strike us and may have been planning things.
Also, how completely tone-deaf to US and non-Arab opinion generally are these guys if they think it's a good idea to hit Pearl Harbor?
Finally, the NY Times points out that Muhammad's governing obsession is with Israel. More proof that the security of the U.S. and eradication of anti-Israel terrorism are really not separate issues.
WAR: The Careerists
Although he spins it in the opposite direction, Josh Marshall has great news in the Bush Administration drumming out career employees in the national security apparatus whose opposition to Administration policy makes them part of the problem.
WAR: Iranian Election Results
Iranian election results, showing a setback for 'reformers' amidst plunging voter turnout, suggests growing dissatisfaction with the reformers' empty promises. Of course, the mere fact of free elections makes Iran more complicated than your typical totalitarian country. The questionn is whether this is another sign that only revolution, not reform, will change the regime.
WAR: My Point Is
Slate's Will Saletan with a column that says . . . nothing, as far as I can tell.
March 01, 2003
WAR/POP CULTURE: Sonic Jihad
John Hawkins of Right Wing News catches up on an appalling pro-terrorist album cover (for the album "Sonic Jihad") and matching lyrics by rapper Paris.
February 28, 2003
WAR: International Legitimacy
Mickey Kaus, teasing out the meaning from a characteristically inconclusive Michael Kinsley piece, suggests that respect for international institutions like the U.N. requires us to abide by their decisions even when we believe they are morally wrong. (Note that Kaus' blog has no permalinks because he works for such a low-tech outfit):
that's what the international rules mean -- that we sometimes have to do things that are worse for us, including things that increase the risks we face. That's the price of having an international structure of law -- a New World Order, someone once called it -- which will be a handy thing to have when we're combatting terrorism (which we'll be doing for the rest of our lives). . . . Democracy, which we hope to bring to the Middle East, is basically a bunch of formal procedural rules too, no? We don't ignore them when we don't like the outcome. [Insert cheap shot about Bush actually losing the election?--ed. No! He won by the rules, with the Supreme Court playing the role of France.]
Uh, well, no. First of all, the issue isn't abiding by international laws generally; the Administration is quite comfortable, as am I, that war here would not only be consistent with international law but is required to vindicate international law. The issue is, who gets to decide? I don't think, for example, that the U.S. routinely condemns other countries for making war without U.N. approval (France's intervention in the Ivory Coast being the most obvious example, or our own Kosovo campaign) -- we condemn them if we think the wars themselves violate international law. But "international law," like "natural law," is not a body of juridprudence constructed by a legitimate authority, so much as it is a set of principles and precepts, which various sovereigns by agreement have made workable in at least some particulars, for reasons of self-interest.
The contrast to the rules of democracy ought to be obvious: those rules are not just general precepts but are, by agreement, a nearly irrevocable commitment to allow certain issues to be decided by certain people, who are in turn selected in specific ways. The "who gets to decide" question might get sticky sometimes in separation of powers disputes, but in no case are a group of people (such as the American people) forced to submit to a final decision made by unelected foreign powers. Kaus treats the U.N. as if it actually wielded legitimate sovereignty, when it's more like just another alliance, which will go with us or not on a case-by-case basis but retains no sovereign authority to compel us to stop. Nor would it be consistent with any of our governing principles to give such powers to the U.N. that we denied to King George III. Such authority would be inherently illegitimate, not least for all the reasons you already know: because representation in the U.N. is neither proportional nor representative.
So, we respect international law, and endeavor to act within it -- but we do not respect the ability of an unrepresentative body to decide what that law is. I think that's quite consistent and defensible.
(For the record, the role of France in the recount was played by the Florida Supreme Court, which ignored or rejected the various rules, rulings and factfindings of the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress, the Florida Legislature, the Florida Secretary of State, and the trial court).
February 27, 2003
WAR: Threat Levels
MEMRI translates a threat, apparently from an Al Qaeda-linked group, of a terror attack within the next week or so. (It says "ten days or less," and was posted February 24, so the threat would extend to about March 6) The website cited by MEMRI is registered to an address in Paris, France. (Link via NRO's James Robbins). Is it serious? This is always unknowable until it's too late. Meanwhile, the Department of Easily Mocked Initiatives has lowered the threat level from 'Orange' to 'Yellow'; presumably, DEMI has decided that this particular threat is not worth losing sleep over.
February 26, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Grab Bag
Lord knows I'm no Noam Chomsky fan, but it still shocked me to read Chomsky's visceral contempt for Vaclav Havel and his gratitude to America at the collapse of the tyranny that ran Havel's country. (link via Instapundit)
Joshua Micah Marshall has an interesting argument on why he thinks Dick Cheney is incompetent.
A great Goldberg File today, in defense of McCarthyism, then and now.
The Economist sums it up for all those who are reluctant supporters of war with Iraq:
"it would be wise [for the United States] to secure support for its threat through the UN, both to make the war less risky and to make the post-war peace more likely to be durable. But, in the end, the reality remains: if Mr Hussein refuses to disarm, it would be right to go to war. Saddamned, perhaps, if you do; but Saddamned, also, if you don't."
Count the uses of "I" by Bill Clinton in this item. Clinton even manages to make the death of Richard Nixon's press secretary about himself, saying that Ron Zeigler was "wise in the ways of Washington, and battle-scarred as I am."
Why am I not surprised that the mere existence in office of Jennifer Granholm has already pushed liberal writers to stump for abolishing the constitutional prohibition on foreign-born presidents?
Andrew Sullivan carries a reminder (second item) that it was also France who killed the League of Nations, in part by refusing to respect an oil embargo against Italy.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 09:23 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Buchanan on The Sick Bear
Pat Buchanan, who is nothing if not a believer in demographics as destiny, has some provocative insights about the toll of abortion on Russia's population.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:27 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 22, 2003
WAR: Al Qaeda's Choices
Newsweek has a fascinating profile of the malfunctioning of an overly complicated plot by Al Qaeda to blow up a U.S. warship on September 11. I'm convinced that these guys would be much more effective at spreading fear and chaos and economic disruption if they weren't so ambitious -- but then, that assumes that they really do, as advertised, have thousands of operatives. Their disinterest in staging a large-scale campaign of the type of attacks that we see in Israel suggests that they are much shorter on manpower than we think.
WAR: Iraq and Al Qaeda
WAR: Same Old Song and Dance
Vodkapundit says it all about the news rut we're in right now, with everyone just saying the same $^%!$# thing over and over . . .
February 21, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Grab Bag
As if I even have to tell you, don't miss Mark Steyn on that unilateralist cowboy Jacques Chirac, Jonah Goldberg on why liberal talk radio can't be funny, and James Lileks on sword-wielding Iraqi imams and the idiotarians who love them ("When [Tony] Blair shows up in the pulpit cleaving the air with a scimitar, let me know. . . It takes a particularly rarified variety of idiot to look at a Jew-hating fascist with a small mustache - and decide that his opponent is the Nazi.").
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:10 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 20, 2003
WAR: The Belly of the Eagle
The Weekly Standard carries a scary analysis of the latest bin Laden audiotape, asking (on the assumption that it's actually bin Laden, which is at least open to debate), where and how he means to strike when he refers to the "belly of the Eagle." Perhaps this is undermined by the argument that bin Laden would target harbors, but let's assume that the message is a coded order. Picture the typical icon of the American Eagle superimposed on a map of the continental 48 states, and ask where the belly is. I'd say somewhere in Texas, no? A symbolic place to target, given the Texan who has scattered bin Laden and his organization to the four winds.
WAR: Chicken Doves
Which way is the wind blowing? When even Colin Powell is basically calling the French cowards, you know that the rift with France has gotten pretty bad. Of course, like Chirac, Powell's motive here may be mostly a feeling of personal betrayal.
WAR/POLITICS: 10% Solution
When a federal program finds that some 90% of applications are fraudulent, that's usually a sign that it was not well thought-out, no?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:56 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Poor Kim Jong Il
WAR: Reality Bites
Mark Steyn had a great column the other day comparing the anti-war crowd to Hitler, and not entirely unfairly: his point (read the whole thing!) was that Hitler was consumed by the delusions required to sustain his world view, and wound up believing his own BS, like that Churchill was just a pawn of the International Zionist Conspiracy. We see examples of this all the time among the people who insist that Bush is worse than Saddam, or that the UN losing face would be worse than a WMD attack (see yesterday's Lileks on that one), and it's even become all too common among people who ought to know better, like Jimmy Carter saying that American policy depends entirely on "'white skin or oil [being] involved,'" or Carl Levin insisting that Saddam's noncompliance with inspections is the fault of sabotage by the all-powerful CIA, or, worst of all, Paul Krugman claiming that Fox News has essentially brainwashed the American people into agitating for war. Krugman talks about TV news in general, but even he can't believe that CBS News is a Bush Administration propaganda outlet, which leaves him relying on the sliver of Americans who get news from Fox and CNN but not from the print media or the internet. Of course, by explicitly excluding the print media, Krugman is again able to write a column on media bias without mentioning his own newspaper, which is the 800-pound gorilla of any examination of media bias. David Adesnik of Oxblog summed up this rant the best: "If I hadn't spent two minutes reading his column, I could've re-brushed my teeth instead."
WAR: True New York
I'm still partial to this World Trade Center redesign.
WAR: The Next Logical Step
Asking "Why Iraq?" and "Why not somewhere else?" is like asking "Why France?" and "Why not somewhere else?" in 1944. Lots of reasons, and meanwhile: be patient. They'll get there. Basically, Iraq is the next big step that makes the most sense.
(Link via Instapundit)
WAR: Can This Dictator Be Deterred?
Eugene Volokh has a post dissecting the claim that Saddam is a rational guy and therefore subject to deterrence even if he has or obtains weapons of mass destruction. He doesn't cover every possible argument -- like the possibility that Saddam could believe that he could get away with using terrorists to deliver WMD because he wouldn't get tied to the attack -- but the professor has the basic point that Saddam's goals may not necessarily be all about sheer survival, and that a WMD attack might at some point play into a desire for historic glory on his part. Also, remember that Saddam is not a young man; if he grows sick or weak, he may see going down in a blaze of glory as preferable to steadily losing his grip and being removed quietly.
WAR: Logical Disconnect
Daniel Pipes uses opinion polls to argue that the Palestinians can't be negotiated with because the Palestinian people want Israel destroyed, not relations normalized. But one of his suggested solutions, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, doesn't solve the problem he identifies. While I'm sympathetic to the idea on an emotional level, I don't see the benefit of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Pipes' own analysis suggests that the issue is Israel, not the West Bank -- and an embassy in Tel Aviv is plenty to support a permanent Israel, while an embassy in Jerusalem would align us more closely with Israel's claims to disputed areas of the West Bank, and be seen on the Palestinian side as support for Israel holding title to all of what is now Israel and the PA territory.
February 19, 2003
WAR: Not Another Panama
Oxblog reminds us that the New York Times even predicted a Vietnam-style quagmire when the United States invaded Panama.
WAR: Plane Crash in Iran
Should I file this under WAR? The plane crash in Iran, which apparently killed between 250 and 300 people, gets curiouser and curiouser, inasmuch as many on board were apparently "members of the elite Revolutionary Guards," the jackboot on the throats of the Iranian people. I sympathize, as always, with the families of those who died, but the Revolutionary Guards are hardly innocents in the brutality of the Iranian police state. Coming at a time of internal unrest in Iran and just on the heels of Iranian-backed Shia rebels entering Iraq (see below), you have to wonder if there is more to this story, and if the truth will ever come out.
WAR: READY OR NOT
Expect an announcement tomorrow of a new "READY Campaign" from the Department of Homeland Survivalism, advising Americans "to make supply kits that include flashlights, batteries, water and other necessities." I'm half expecting Tom Ridge to hold a press conference from a basement bomb shelter stocked with canned goods.
WAR: Iranian-Backed Shia Rebels
Heavily armed Iranian-backed Shia rebel troops have crossed the border from Iran into Iraq, in what can only be the prelude to armed conflict in the very near future. This bears watching. (Link via Drudge)
February 16, 2003
WAR: Cross-Blog Iraq Debate
N.Z. Bear is hosting a Cross-Blog Iraq Debate; he's got 5 questions for pro-war bloggers and 5 for anti-war bloggers. As I'm in the "pro" camp, I thought I'd take on the challenge. If you're new to the site, full disclosure: I'm not a military veteran or a national security expert; I'm a lawyer. But I was there on the front lines when this war started, a few blocks from my office in the World Trade Center. It's an experience I hope not to re-live.
I've put my answers out of order, but they're numbered as the Bear has them numbered:
4. As a basis for war, the Bush Administration accuses Iraq of trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, nuclear), supporting terrorism, and brutalizing their own people. Since Iraq is not the only country engaged in these actions, under what circumstances should the US go to war with other such nations, in addition to going to war with Iraq?
This is the main question at hand. I think the question has, in one sense, too many parts, and too few. But to give you the short answer of "where does this take us?," I think there are a number of other states we may need to go to war with, but none others that clearly demand war yet as Iraq does.
The test for whether we should seek regime change should be whether a regime has (1) the desire to attack civilian targets outside the context of an openly declared war and (2) has or is working on the means to do so, or to give aid and comfort to those who do so. Number (1) is the key, and it’s not always susceptible to hard proof, but the best evidence of a regime’s desire to attack American or other civilians is the level of anti-American vitriol in its official statements. It amazes me that people debating the merits of these things always tell us to ignore what the other guy says. Evidence of past complicity in terrorism, or past aggressive wars by the same basic regime (by which I mean the guy in power or predecessors in the same unelected junta, not ancient history) are also key. Try a little common sense, and it's not hard to figure out who our enemies really are. There are a million little ways that a regime shows itself to be unwilling to abide by the basic norms of international behavior (by which I mean standards other nations actually live by, not pie-in-the-sky ideals like Kyoto), and when you add them up it's easy to discern the difference between countries with weapons of mass destruction ("WMD") that merely disdain us but would never do violence to us (i.e., France) and places like Iraq and North Korea and Cuba and Syria and Iran that don't respect the rights of their own people or anyone else's in the day-to-day commerce of nations. Look for countries that don't allow free foreign press, just as a sample.
The fact that a country brutalizes its own people is obviously one of the measuring sticks, and it always adds weight to the scales in judging the morality of force. But it's not an essential factor.
But that doesn't answer the core question: once we've committed to a policy of regime change -- which to me means at a minimum the removal of the heads of state and either democratic elections or some reckoning with past sins by the regime -- we have to ask whether (1) war is likely to accomplish our goals, (2) at a price we can bear compared to the harm we seek to avoid, and (3) we have a reasonable prospect of getting what we need by other means. Iraq satisfies all three: we can easily overpower Saddam's conventional military (don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise, although I recognize that "easily" can still include substantial American/Allied casualties), the risk of WMD attacks is easier to deal with now while we're at a hightened state of alert and dictating our own timetables, and there's no realistic chance that Saddam will step down, be forced out by diplomacy with his neighbors, or be overthrown internally. The calculations in the case of, say, North Korea or Iran or Saudi Arabia is different -- the Iranians and Saudis may be vulnerable from within, and our options with North Korea are limited by its nuclear capacity, its quick-strike ability to hit Seoul, and most of all by China, the 1 billion pound gorilla in the North Korean situation that has to have a role in any diplomatic resolution.
1. Attacking Iraq has been publicly called a "pre-emption" of a threat from Saddam Hussein's regime, whose sins include launching regional wars of aggression. Do you think there is a clear and reliable difference between pre-emptive and aggressive warfare, and if so, what is it?
Clear and reliable, yes; easy to summarize in a pithy slogan that can be chanted in the streets, no. Ultimately, much of the difference depends on whether or not you believe the attacking party’s argument. Which is part of the problem: people keep demanding that we reduce the rules of international law to maxims that even dope-addled peaceniks can understand, and – more importantly – that can be evaluated at face value by “the international community” without any attempt to figure out who is right and who is wrong, or to distinguish between democratic regimes that are bound domestically by the rule of law and respect for basic human rights, and those that rule their own people unilaterally and by force. The real distinction requires actually making sense of the facts of individual situations.
The core of the difference is that a preemptive war is premised upon the assumption that, sooner or later, the other guy intends to attack you. In Saddam’s case, we know he has the motive – he hates us and sees us as the prime obstacle to his ambitions – we know he has been pursuing the means, the types of weapons of mass destruction that are our sole true vulnerability – and we know that the existence of international terrorists who would have no qualms about using such weapons gives him the opportunity. We don’t have to see where the threat is coming from to know it’s coming. (You could even say, we don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing).
3. How successful do you think the military operations and "regime change" in Afghanistan have been in achieving their stated objectives? Does this example affect your feelings about war in Iraq in any way?
The prime objectives of the operations in Afghanistan were to (1) destroy the infrastructure of Al Qaeda staging grounds; (2) kill as many America-hating terrorists as possible; (3) make an example of the Taliban regime for its support of America-hating terrorists; and (4) deny safe haven in Afghanistan for terrorists in the foreseeable future. We have accomplished all of these. In addition, we exposed the fraud that is Islamist theocracy, by showing the joy of its subjects when loosed from its grasp. We also obtained lots of useful intelligence by getting in on the ground to places where terror attacks had been planned and terror networks coordinated.
Long-term, we would like to establish a secure government in Afghanistan that will consolidate the victory over theocracy and prevent re-establishment of havens for terror. But if we fail in that aim, as we still may, the war will no more be a failure than it is a failure to weed your garden in spring and, the following year, discover new weeds. The task is never done so long as the hatred that breeds our foes is loose in the world.
Does this influence my view of war with Iraq? Yes. War with Iraq will likewise break the back of the threat, and (at worst) long delay its reemergence. And, of critical importance, it will again make an example of how we treat our enemies, and why it is wise not to choose to become one.
2. What do you feel are the prospects that an invasion of Iraq will succeed in a) maintaining it as a stable entity and b) in turning it into a democracy? Are there any precedents in the past 50 years that influence your answer?
Hmm, “past 50 years” seems designed to take Japan and Germany out of the picture, no? I think the most useful lessons will be those of Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Philippines, and Nicaragua, with the former Soviet and South-Eastern European states – longest under tyranny and with the least tradition of self-rule – as the best models. The record in each of those places is mixed – but in all but a few cases, obviously better for our own interests than the aggressive despotism that preceded it.
Democracy? It’s worth trying, as long as we’re not expecting it to look like New Hampshire overnight. The upside of establishing a state like Poland or Russia or Albania in Iraq would be huge, and an American presence in the country ought to help in that project. But the odds on success . . . well, the jury’s still out on democracy in Russia, too, isn’t it? I’d at least say there’s a very substantial chance of failure.
Stability? Not a prayer, in the short run – there will be huge dislocations, which is why we need the U.S. military around. The forces of democracy may well tear the country into shreds, but maybe that’s as it should be. But what I don’t foresee is a descent into the Balkans. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to be from Tikrit when Saddam's regime is gone.
5. The Bush Administration has issued numerous allegations about the threat represented by Iraq, many of which have been criticized in some quarters as hearsay, speculation or misstatements. Which of the Administration's allegations do you feel stand up best to those criticisms?
First of all, I’m a litigator, so I see an awful lot of hearsay and speculation, and I’ve got some idea of the difference. Hearsay is a rule of evidence that gets bent, misshapen and disregarded all the time, most notably in the area of conspiracy, which is mostly what we’re talking about here. But it would be foolish to treat this dispute as a court case subject to rules of evidence, some of which, after all, are prophylactic rules (i.e., designed to prevent future misconduct in gathering evidence) that have little to do with the search for truth.
Speculation, similarly, is suspect in the court system because we do not wish it to be too easy to impose criminal or civil liability without hard evidence. The social cost is that wrongdoers sometimes go free.
Here, the stakes are much higher; if we have good reason to believe, as I’ve set out above, that Saddam wishes ill of us and has the motive and means to carry out attacks that can’t easily be traced to him, then we ought to deal with him now.
That said, let’s look at just a few of the facts that are hard to argue with:
(A) Saddam is working on weapons of mass destruction. I find the evidence of this to be fairly overwhelming; we have the testimony of defectors and other intelligence to show that Saddam has pursued these avenues.
(B) Saddam has not revealed everything about his WMD programs to the UN inspectors. Again, I find the evidence of this overwhelming. Just look at the discrepancies noted in the State of the Union Address, between large known stocks of weapons developed in the past and the paltry disclosures he’s provided of what happened to them.
(C) Saddam supports terrorism. Let’s start with the obvious: Saddam supports terrorism against Israel. I know some people think that’s different – it’s “only” Jews, y’know – but it shows the willingness to advance his objectives through groups that share membership, tactics and ideology with anti-American terrorists and are often the same groups.
(D) Saddam hates us. Q.E.D.
(E) Saddam has violated innumerable U.N. resolutions and the terms of the cease-fire that ended the last war. I won't quote chapter and verse on the public record, but he still shoots at our planes, doesn't he?
(F) Saddam is not subject to conventional deterrence. I buy this argument because conventional deterrence assumes that we can prove who attacked us. Saddam won't launch ICBMs at our cities -- but the anthrax investigation shoulbe be proof enough for anyone that a terror campaign can remain unsolved, and unavenged, for a very long time.
Is Saddam connected to Al Qaeda? Here, I'd agree that the evidence remains speculative. But we are at war with an enemy whose ideology is fiercely anti-American, as is Saddam's. With an enemy unafraid to use weapons and methods that most civilized nations have abjured, as is Saddam. Saddam cheers on our enemies, and they cheer on him.
Here's the bottom line: We are at war with an enemy, and that enemy was created by and prospers in a region of the world where tyranny breeds desperate men, where states oppress their own people, breed hatred, suspicion and paranoia, and can not be trusted to cooperate in the international law enforcement apparatus that is needed to make terrorism just a law enforcement problem. To the contrary, they use terror as an instrument of policy, and glorify it in their culture, and state sponsorship is necessary for terror networks to thrive as they have. The result is a nest of hornets who will continue to target us. We can't stand back on our heels forever, wrapping our houses in Hefty bags. Before we can again be safe, and can again make free people safe the world over, we must go on the offensive, undermining and if necessary forcibly removing the regimes that create these conditions. Iraq is the logical place to start for many reasons, some of them related to unfinished business from other conflicts.
Does that mean I support removing another nation's government for reasons of American national interest, rather than in satisfaction of some transnational legal rule that would apply equally to the foreign policy of Zambia or Luxembourg as it does to America? You bet I do. We do play by our own rules; we must. Might may not make right, but it makes responsibility. We alone have the power to drain this swamp, to the short-term benefit of ourselves and the civilized world and the long-term benefit of its inhabitants, which -- like our allies in Eastern Europe -- will someday be happy to join that world. Woe betide us if we fail.
February 14, 2003
WAR: No Nukes is Good Nukes
Did you ever think it would be seen as good news that the US was "unlikely" to use nuclear weapons in the next month or two??
WAR: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DUCT TAPE!
Heard on the radio this morning: duct tape is manufactured by a company based in . . . Germany.
Quote of the day, from David Letterman: "France wants more evidence. The last time France wanted more evidence, it rolled right through France with a German flag."
February 13, 2003
Japan says it may launch a preemptive strike against North Korea if it feels sufficiently threatened. The Japanese, of course, have done this sort of thing before (and, it should be noted, they have a firm grasp of the risks involved). Is it wise or moral of them to launch such an attack? That will depend on the circumstances. But it's good to see someone else acting like adults and recognizing that there could be situations where a preemptive attack could be necessary.
Repeat after me, fellow New Yorkers: a zero degree day keeps the chem/bio attacks away. Seriously, I think the extreme cold may help put off the day of reckoning when somebody tries it. This article, which Rod Dreher linked to at The Corner, is reassuring.
WAR: Real World Powers
More and more people are questioning why the French deserve a permanent seat and veto on the UN Security Council and the world's largest democracy, nuclear-armed India, doesn't. Thomas Friedman made this point in his Sunday column in the NY Times.
Frankly, an honest accounting targeted at dividing between the real major powers and the lesser ones would throw the Brits off as well, and make it a Permanent Four, at least for now. (The next century could tell us whether places like Brazil or Indonesia will ever grow into their populations, or Australia or Canada into their land masses, or whether the EU swallows up the whole continent, but none of these things seems likely in the near future). Only the reasonableness of the British keeps Americans from questioning them as a major power.
On the other hand, is permanent Security Council membership about the strength of a country as a regional power -- or its willingness to act globally? I suppose both Britain and France are among the few nations with at least some military capacity to project force (by which I mean troops and substantial air power, not just missiles) outside their immediate region and the willingness to use it. The Germans can't do it, and in fact the Indians and Chinese have never tried (I assume the Chinese have the capability), while you still see the British and French going to places like the Ivory Coast and the Falklands. Other small fry who have done so (like Cuba) either travelled on the backs of bigger powers or went only with UN contingents. Maybe Australia qualifies under this definition as well, I'm not sure. It's at least a question worth asking if we're trying to figure out who really counts as a "world" power.
WAR: Passing The Buck
Here's what burns me up about the French and the Germans: they know we're going to war. They know their help isn't needed. What they're doing is, they're trying to make sure we look like the bad guys here. And that will have real repercussions, in terms of helping our enemies build hatred of us. They may be on our side, in the law enforcement part of the war, but this is also a war of ideas, and they are not on our side in that fight.
WAR: Chicken Argument
We still hear it . . . From the people who blather about 'chickenhawks' (i.e., those who advocate war but have not served in the military and do not intend to) being somehow cowards and hypocrites, I've still never heard an answer to the question: if you've never been a fireman but you call the fire department when your house is on fire . . . doesn't that equally make you a coward and a hypocrite? If you don't own a gun, and you expect the cops to fight crime . . . doesn't that equally make you a coward and a hypocrite?
WAR: Fischer's Rap Sheet
February 12, 2003
I mentioned, earlier this week, the CIA officer killed in Afghanistan. The leftists over at SF Indymedia are celebrating his death. That just says it all about them, doesn't it?
WAR/POLITICS: Sullivan on Bin Laden & Alterman
Andrew Sullivan thinks Osama's trash talking is giving the U.S. military some good locker-room material before the big game (second item).
He's also got a quote from Eric Alterman wishing Rush Limbaugh had gone deaf, as well as a link to Rush's justifiably smug response. Put aside the politics and the radio here: Alterman is a big music buff (specifically, a Springsteen fanatic, which as far as I know is Alterman's only redeeming quality), and if he's ever actually listened to Limbaugh he'd know that Rush is a big music lover himself. And he wishes that Rush would have lost that joy forever in his life?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 09:30 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Mark Steyn: The Right Wing News Interview
Right Wing News has an interview with Mark Steyn. (Link from Instapundit) Steyn on bin Laden still being dead:
It's also clear that the Bush Administration is in no great hurry to pronounce bin Laden dead: true, the Dems keep teasing them about the fact that he's still running around out there, but that's less of a problem than declaring him deceased and having Chirac, Schroder and the rest of the gang saying, "Congratulations, you got your man. War's over. Everybody go home."
To those cynical Europeans who say, "Oh, it's absurd to think Arabs can ever be functioning members of a democrat state", I'd say, in that case why are you allowing virtually unrestricted Muslim immigration into your own countries?
WAR: Dell of a Guy
Lileks reminds us that the "Dude, you're getting a Dell" guy -- recently busted for possession of marijuana (as Bill Simmons would say, WATFO?) -- was one of the many lesser-sung heroes in Manhattan on September 11.
POLITICS/WAR: GREAT MOMENTS IN FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY
Two INS employees in California have been indicted on charges that they "shredded as many as 90,000 applications in an effort to reduce the backlog of pending cases" last spring.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:11 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 11, 2003
WAR: The Iran Contacts Story
Here's the Washington Post article that broke the story I addressed yesterday: the Administration's contacts with Iran. The Post piece doesn't sound quite as bad -- we did give 'humanitarian assistance' to the Taliban before we started fighting back against them -- and I understand that keeping channels open to de facto governments can be useful, even when they are evil and on our hit list. I still don't like the idea of making them any promises, though.
WAR: Tootsie On War
So, if I read this right, Dustin Hoffman is qualified to talk about war because he was in 'Wag the Dog'?
Look, if celebrities have something interesting and intelligent to say, let them say it. But if they get up on a soapbox with nothing but stupid canned slogans and ill-thought-out preconceived notions, they should expect particular scorn from pundits who have much more to say and much less ability to be heard.
WAR: Reap As Ye Sow
I just love the fact that Gerhardt Schroder's plan to have the UN gum up the plans for war in Iraq by sending in more inspectors could cause Schroder's government to topple -- on charges that he's being too hawkish!
WAR: Lileks on the UN
I very much liked this Lileks Newhouse column on the UN - a useful antidote to the mental house of mirrors we keep being cast into by the Europeans and the media.
WAR: McCain's Clarity
Read John McCain's masterful speech to a European audience on the recent shenanigans of France and Germany. McCain warms 'em up with the kind of stuff an audience of European intellectuals wants to hear: quotes from Hegel and paens to multilateralism. But then he goes in for the kill, attacking "Obstacles of prejudice, ethnic stereotype, and bureaucratic gamesmanship that block Turkey's path to Europe." He reminds the audience that the former Soviet Republics in Europe include a dangerous tyranny (Belarus) and a state in great crisis (Ukraine):
Sixty million people in Belarus and Ukraine press against six EU and NATO allies and demarcate a new, hard border across Europe stretching from Odessa to Kaliningrad. Soviet-style dictatorship in Belarus and weak institutions in Ukraine raise the prospect of millions of political and economic refugees on the borders of the European Union should these states collapse or Russia seek their integration.
Next, he accuses the French and Germans of "sneering" and "calulated self-interest," and diagnoses the choice at hand:
Western civilization in the modern era, cannot have a future worthy of its past if such threats are seen as things to be managed with an eye to process rather than confronted with a determination to meet evil at its source; and if Alliance decision-making on matters of war and peace is determined more by narrow calculations of domestic and European politics than by transcendent security interests of trans-Atlantic partners.
This warms up to the guts of the speech:
Those who deign to speak for Europe, notwithstanding the objections of elected governments across Europe, confuse consensus with effectiveness and appear to give priority to achieving a lowest-common-denominator result that preserves the illusion of unity at the expense of action to protect our security. Many Americans who support the historic project of European integration worry that rather than enhancing Europe's power in the world, the rush to integrate, and a cynical desire to define differences with America rather than meet common challenges together, reduces Europe's influence by turning the attention of European leaders inward, away from grave challenges to European security itself, and channeling their hostility toward the United States rather than our common enemies.
Foreign Minister Fischer recently warned against "primitive anti-Americanism." I thank and commend him for his statement. But I am concerned, we should all be concerned, not only with the "primitive" anti-Americanism of the street that resents America's successes, exults in our misfortunes, and ascribes to us motives that one must be a fool or delusional to believe. We should also be concerned with the "sophisticated" anti-Americanism, or perhaps more aptly, the "cynical" anti-Americanism of political leaders who exploit for their own ends the disinformed, "primitive" hostility to America voiced in some quarters of their societies; to further their ambitions to govern or to inflate perceptions of their international influence.
Just as some Arab governments fuel anti-American sentiment among their people to divert them from problems at home, so a distinct minority of Western European leaders appears to engage in America-bashing to rally their people and other European elites to the call of European unity. Some European politicians speak of pressure from their "street" for peaceful solutions to international conflict and for resisting American power regardless of its purpose. But statements emanating from Europe that seem to endorse pacifism in the face of evil, and anti-Semitic recidivism in some quarters, provoke an equal and opposite reaction in America.
There is an American "street," too, and it strongly supports disarming Iraq, accepts the necessity of an expansive American role in the world to ensure we never wake up to another September 11th, is perplexed that nations with whom we have long enjoyed common cause do not share our urgency and sense of threat in time of war, and that considers reflexive hostility toward Israel as the root of all problems in the Middle East as irrational as it is morally offensive.
I loved the stuff about the 'American street', and his comparison of the French & Germans to Arab dictators. I voted for McCain in the 2000 primaries; I wouldn't today, because he's really left the conservative movement entirely. But on foreign affairs, he's still a powerful voice. McCain, today, is in many ways the true heir to the party of Truman and JFK, a guy who believes that the federal government of the United States can do noble things at home and abroad. It's more a sad comment on the Democrats' longstanding aversion to serious foreign policy than an indictment of McCain that he's still a Republican.
February 10, 2003
WAR: Helge Boes, American Hero
Helge Boes, a CIA officer who was a year behind me in law school, was killed last week in Afghanistan in a live fire training mishap. I didn't know Boes but knew others who did. He died in a noble cause, in service to his country; say a prayer for him.
WAR: Are We In Bed With The Mullahs?
This article suggests that the Bush Administration is offering aid to the Iranian mullahs to buy, at best, neutrality in the war with Iraq. Now, I can see threatening these guys to keep them sidelined, and I can't speak to the accuracy of the report. But if this isn't the apogee of "multilateral" lunacy, I don't know what is -- these are precisely the guys we should be targeting for destruction, along with Saddam, not trying to shoehorn them into a coalition. In fact, recent intelligence connects the Iranians directly to Al Qaeda, and now they are plotting to go nuclear (as with Iraq and North Korea, there is no economic reason why Iran would be interested in nuclear power). Any commitments made to get them to sit still while the world's most powerful military zeroes in on Iraq would be both unnecessary and incredibly short-sighted, as well as contrary to the stated policies of this administration in supporting the aspirations of the Iranian people to live in freedom.
February 06, 2003
WAR: Steyn on the UN
Mark Steyn has a typically incisive and entertaining column on the follies of the UN, where "one man one vote" remains the rule - one vote for Saddam, one for Fidel, one for Qaddafi . . . I just can't figure out, though, whether the conclusion to this column recommends sending the UN into outer space or incinerating it in a ball of fire over Texas . . .
BASEBALL/WAR/POLITICS: Bill James, Sabermetrics, Conservatives, and Bloggers
Dr. Manhattan has a great post - with links aplenty -- discussing the influence of Bill James on the thinking of 'warbloggers' including yours truly. I can't agree more - when I first read the 1983 Abstract (I was 11), James taught me how to think critically, a skill I regularly employ in my baseball columns, my blogging on war and politics, and my day job as a litigator. No one outside my immediate family has had a more profound impact on my life.
1. Dr. Manhattan argues that "When you consider his methodology and the amount of BS he hacked through, Bill James has a valid claim to be the first “anti-idiotarian.”" I'd agree that he fits the profile, but no way is James the first - while it depends how far back you want to go in your intellectual histories, George Orwell would fit that description to a T, and would probably also be cited as a direct inspiration by many in the blogosphere, most notably Andrew Sullivan. Not only did Orwell take a buzzsaw to cant of all types, but he often used the 'Fisking' modus operandi, quoting and methodically demolishing the foolish notions of even the highest and mightiest (read his assault on Leo Tolstoy's pamphlet on Shakespeare, where he starts off picking apart Tolstoy's reading of King Lear and winds up indicting Tolstoy's entire life).
2. I've long wanted to expand on the parallels between sabermetric baseball analysts and political conservative media:
+Both distrust and despise mainstream media, especially the NY Times and network talking heads and their tendencies to echo each others' smug assumptions.
+Both often refer derisively to "conventional wisdom".
+Both took to the Web early, seeking to connect with like-minded people alienated by the mainstream media.
+Both have a near-unshakeable faith in logic, a suspicion of emotional decisionmaking, and a belief that their ideas will ultimately triumph.
+Both tend to rely heavily on principles of basic economics and statistics, with a little Social Darwinism (not the racial type, but the basic idea that better ideas will invariably prevail) thrown in.
+Both are heavily populated by males age 25-40, who were heavily influenced by ideas that have a long pedigree (ask John McGraw or Bill Buckley) but that came of age in the 1980s.
+Both rely heavily on sarcasm, wit and other sometimes impolitic but entertaining methods common to 'outsiders,' due in part to a lack of connections with those on the 'inside.'
+Both are often denounced by the 'mainstream' on charges of being disconnected from reality.
+The ideas of either are rarely confronted on the merits by mainstream analysts who take them seriously.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Blog | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (2)
WAR: Case Closed, Again
I said this when Bush went to the UN in September but . . . case closed. Secretary Powell's closing argument was entirely compelling. It's still possible, for some, to continue to oppose the war on principle, if your principles put little or no value on the UN, the Iraqi people, or anything but the shortest-term interests of the United States and Iraq's neighbors, or if you just don't believe in war ever against anyone. But I don't see how anyone can possibly still say that the Administration "hasn't made the case," if they mean that a case could ever be made.
Powell's public turn from dove to hawk on this issue should give cover to any Democrats who want to play it safe and support the war now, while maintaining that they didn't roll over easily for Bush. The ones who are running for president and still want to sound grumpy about war to impress the peaceniks or to position themselves in case our nation stumbles (ahem, John Kerry) are in much bigger trouble -- Powell's a tough guy to take on, and the evidence is hard to argue with.
February 03, 2003
WAR: MEDIA BIAS ALERT
The normally reliable UPI runs what amounts to a CAIR press release, describing Daniel Pipes as "a right-wing commentator who many American Muslims regard as the nation's leading Islamophobe."
WAR: Marine at Ground Zero
If you missed it, Slate had a fascinating account last fall of the Marine who rushed down from Connecticut to Ground Zero on September 11. The story even shows that there can, in some circumstances, be very good reasons to own a Porsche.
WAR: All One War
If you're wondering (1) what goes on in the narrow mind of an Islamofascist terrorist and (2) why Judge Young was so harsh in his words for Richard Reid at his sentencing, check out this Washington Post report from last Tuesday about Reid's defense:
Richard Reid's lawyers said Tuesday he didn't try to blow up a jetliner with explosives in his shoes because he hated the United States, but instead was trying to defend Islam from U.S. aggression. . . When he pleaded guilty in October, Reid said he was a member of the terrorist group al-Qaida and declared his hatred for the United States. But in their sentencing memo, Reid's lawyers say he did not do it to wage war against America. They say he "took no pleasure" in trying to blow up the plane, but did it to defend Islam, which he believes has been under attack by the United States. Reid, a British citizen who converted to Islam, claims in letters he wrote from prison that the United States, through sanctions on Iraq, is responsible for the deaths of 2 million Iraqi children.
What was that, again, about Saddam and the war on terror being two different things?
POLITICS/WAR: Lame Duck Norman
Bob Novak reports that President Bush would have fired Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta - the Cabinet's token Democrat - months ago, except that Mineta has been ill and essentially left management of the department to underlings.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:36 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
It's periodically helpful to remind us all of the costs of war, but one thing I take very serious issue with is the sense that we all blog in safety, far from violence and danger. I was four blocks from my office in the World Trade Center when I saw the second plane hit; I could easily have been inside, with my co-workers who escaped death by minutes. Everyone in New York saw more horrors than we care to recall. My city is still in the bullseye of every fanatic with access to chem/bio/nuke WMD. I want war now because I want peace later, and I want me and my children to live to see it. And I'm greatful for those who volunteer to the front lines.
Are we hypocrites, we who call for a war we will not fight? No more than we who call 911 but decline to wear the uniforms of the police and firefighters who rush to danger to save us. No more than we who send money (or vote to send others' tax money) to overseas charities, but decline to live in squalor and disease to tend to the neediest, or who attend churches but decline to live the calling of the religious, or who drive over bridges men died to build.
Nobody ever says the mayor can't tell the firefighters to run into burning buildings because he never did so himself. Some people take on more of life's risks than others; it's not fair, but it's the way of the world.
WAR/BLOG: Good News From Israel
It's the Good News From Israel blog!
February 01, 2003
WAR: Mark Steyn on the French
Mark Steyn explains why the French are crafty SOBs, not cowards.
WAR: BLIX POWER!
January 29, 2003
WAR: Not Good News
We are officially engaged now in an Afghan civil war. Under the circumstances, however, I prefer this to just letting the place go back to hell.
POLITICS/WAR: Fisking Gary Locke
Man, the Democrat who did the response was a weenie. I mean, the response to the State of the Union is always miserable - I've felt sorry in years past for the pitiable responses the Democrats do, and I was incensed during the Clinton years at the weakness of Republican responses. It's not a partisan thing; it's just impossible to compete with the president on his big night. But the Dems picked a small state governor who's in serious political hot water back home. The response itself is an awful mishmosh; let's walk through it, skipping a phrase here and there:
Good evening. I'm Gary Locke, the governor of Washington state. It's an honor to give the response to President Bush on behalf of my family, my state, my fellow Democratic governors and the Democratic Party.
Note who comes last on the list. ("Mr. President, the Locke family has a bone to pick with you!")
My grandfather came to this country from China nearly a century ago and worked as a servant. Now I serve as governor just one mile from where my grandfather worked. It took our family 100 years to travel that mile. It was a voyage we could only make in America.
Yup, still talking about the Locke family.
Many of the young Americans who fought in Afghanistan, and who tonight are still defending our freedom, were trained in Washington state.
If Rick Perry said something like this, it would come off as, "Texas can kick Afghanistan's ass all by itself." Coming from Locke, it adds to the overall impression that the speech is more about "hey look at me, ma!" than anything the rest of the country cares about. Joe Sixpack just got up to get a beer.
But the war against terror is not over. Al Qaida still targets Americans. Osama bin Laden is still at large. As we rise to the many challenges around the globe, let us never lose sight of who attacked our people here at home.
Meaning, presumably, NOT IRAQ. And since when do we know for a fact that bin Laden is at large, as opposed to MIA/KIA? Who knows? GARY LOCKE KNOWS!
We also support the president in working with our allies and the United Nations to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Make no mistake: Saddam Hussein is a ruthless tyrant, and he must give up his weapons of mass destruction.
Unless the French say we shouldn't do anything about it. Then, we would be making a mistake. But I get ahead of myself.
We support the president in the course he has followed so far: working with Congress, working with the United Nations, insisting on strong and unfettered inspections.
I suppose the "We" is now the Democrats, as opposed to the Locke family, but I could be wrong. Some of them sure didn't sound like they supported the course President Bush followed throughout 2002. But then, "yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone . . . "
Implied here, of course, is that when the going gets tough, "we" won't be so supportive.
We need allies today in 2003, just as much as we needed them in Desert Storm and just as we needed them on D-Day in 1944, when American soldiers, including my father, fought to vanquish the Nazi threat.
Back to the Locke family's need for international cooperation. As Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, the allies were a little more militarily important on D-Day than they are now.
He must convince the world that Saddam Hussein is not America's problem alone; he's the world's problem. And we urge President Bush to stay this course, for we are far stronger when we stand with other nations than when we stand alone.
"He," I guess, is the President (either that, or it's Locke's dad again). More seriously, it's amazing that the Democrats are still speaking in the future tense about this. The case has been made to the point of being a dead horse; granted, the president laid out some new allegations last night that will need to be backed by evidence before the Security Council, but anybody who's not listening by now is never going to. There's the same false dichotomy again between standing "with other nations" and "alone," ignoring the real possibility of standing with many nations but not all of them.
I have no doubt that together, we can meet these global challenges.
Except that we won't be behind you when the crap hits the fan, Georgie Boy. Then, you're on your own. Brave, brave Sir Gary!
Democrats have a positive, specific plan to turn our nation around.
To be fair, this is where I turned the radio off and read the rest this morning. If you read on, you will note that unlike the president's tax plan, the Democrats' is too "specific" to explain the specifics so the average American can understand what they actually plan to do. Just a general commitment to some undefined tax credits.
Some say it's a recovery, but for far too Americans, there's no recovery in our states and cities.
At this point, I get the sneaking suspicion he's talking about state and city governments.
There's no recovery for working Americans and for those searching for jobs to feed and clothe their families.
Ah, those "working Americans" again, as opposed to people who pay taxes on the income they make from . . . doing what?
States and cities now face our worst budget crises since World War II. We're being forced to cut vital services from police to fire to health care, and many are being forced to raise taxes.
Now, we've got the real gripe here, and the real reason they picked a governor. After all, when the Democrats in Congress vote to raise taxes, they can't well say that Bush is "forcing" them to do it. Of course, I assume that none of these states and cities spend money on anything less vital than police, fire and emergency health care.
Our plan provides over $100 billion in tax relief and investments, right now. Tax relief for middle class and working families immediately.
But we think that it's reckless for the president to ask for tax cuts to be accelerated. If the president's plan is too expensive, why boast about the size of your own? Me-too-ism stinks no matter which side of the aisle it comes from.
Substantial help for cities and states like yours and mine now. Extended unemployment benefits without delay for nearly a million American workers who have already exhausted their benefits.
More relief for governments! And we can't get the economy moving again if we've got a bunch of people around who want to work, can we?
President Bush has a very different plan. We think it's upside down economics; it does too little to stimulate the economy now and does too much to weaken our economic future. It will create huge, permanent deficits that will raise interest rates, stifle growth, hinder home ownership and cut off the avenues of opportunity that have let so many work themselves up from poverty.
Like the "permanent" deficits from the Reagan years, remember them?
We believe every American should get a tax cut.
Well, except that we're against any plans for tax cuts for some of those people, plus we were against the president's last plan to give everyone a tax cut. But other than that.
In 1999, an Al Qaida operative tried to enter my state with a trunk full of explosives. Thankfully, he was caught in time.
If only Gary Locke had been governor of New York, September 11 would never have happened!
Now, a year and a half after September 11th, America is still far too vulnerable. Last year Congress authorized $2.5 billion in vital new resources to protect our citizens: for equipment for firefighters and police, to protect ports, to guard against bioterrorism, to secure nuclear power plants and more. It's hard to believe, but President Bush actually refused to release the money. Republicans now say we can't afford it. The Democrats say: ``If we're serious about protecting our homeland, we can and we must.''
This sounds like a valid criticism, although there's more than this to many of the disputes over the routing of funds. But note that distributing some earmarked appropriations to Governors Like Gary Locke! is absolutely the only deficiency he identifies in our homeland security. Bold new ideas, this party has!
In my state we have raised test scores, cut class sizes, trained teachers, launched innovative reading programs, offered college scholarships, even as the federal government cut its aid to deserving students. Democrats worked with President Bush to pass a law that demands more of our students and invests more in our schools. But his budget fails to give communities the help they need to meet these new, high standards.
Same basic theme here: all would be peaches and cream, if only the president would send Gary Locke more money!
On this issue, the contrast is clear. Democrats insist on a Medicare prescription drug benefit for all seniors. President Bush says he supports a prescription drug benefit, but let's read the fine print. His plan only helps seniors who leave traditional Medicare. Our parents shouldn't be forced to give up their doctor or join an HMO to get the medicine they need. That wouldn't save Medicare; it would privatize it. And it would put too many seniors at too much risk just when they need the security of Medicare.
As usual, no proposal by Democrats to "save" Medicare, just load more freight on a sinking ship.
Environmental protection has been a tremendous bipartisan success story over three decades. Our air and water are cleaner.
Gee, now they tell us. Back in the Reagan years, there was nothing but bipartisan success on this issue! Says the Democratic Response! And they even admit that the sky is not falling!
But the administration is determined to roll back much of this progress.
[I]nstead of opening up Alaska's wilderness to oil drilling, we should be committed to a national policy to reduce our dependence on oil by promoting American technology and sustainability.
I guess he missed the stuff about hydrogen cars; to be fair, I've always hated the fact that the "response" by either party just ignores whatever the president just said. Lawyers have to wing it on some details their closing arguments; can't politicians add a few things off the cuff? Just turn off the teleprompter for 30 seconds and talk turkey?
We will fight to protect a woman's right to choose, and we will fight for affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity in our schools and our workplaces. Above all, we will demand that this government advance our common purpose and not pander to narrow special interests.
Do I even need to point out the contradiction in those two sentences?
This is not an easy time. But I often think about my grandfather, arriving by steamship 100 years ago. He had no family here. He spoke no English. I can only imagine how he must have felt as he looked out at his new country. There are millions of families like mine, people whose ancestors dreamed the American dream and worked hard to make it come true. They transformed adversity into opportunity. Yes, these are challenging times, but the American family, the American dream, has prevailed before. That's the character of our people and the hallmark of our country. The lesson of our legacy is, if we work together and make the right choices, we will become a stronger, more united and more prosperous nation.
Besides finishing the speech back under the shade of the Locke Family Tree, this closing stinks because it contradicts the gloom-and-doom substance of the speech. Locke wasn't selling hope here, he was selling Hard Times. If he was going to be consistent, he could at least mention how the McKinley Administration helped out his grandfather by giving block grants to the governor of Washington . . .
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:46 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Violence In Prime Time
If Bill Clinton's presidency was X-rated for explicit sexual content, last night's State of the Union Address had to be at least PG-13 for graphic violence:
The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages — leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained — by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.
Sometimes, the truth hurts. I'm obviously familiar with all this, but for a good number of viewers at home, it must've been jarring stuff; it was good to hear it all laid out.
On Iraq, Bush made it very plain that -- unlike Ted Kennedy, who fatuously insisted in post-speech comments that inspections were working and should be given more time -- the inspections game is over, and no more stock need be put in it:
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them — despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them. . . . The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses. . . . Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.
Saddam might be given a little more time to have a "Scrooge on Christmas morning" type conversion between now and when the Security Council, following next week's meeting, comes to a resolution (I expect it will take 2-3 weeks). But Bush finally gave away his assumption that war is coming, despite his repeated recent protests that his mind wasn't made up yet:
[A]s we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies — and freedom.
Granted, this is qualified by the prior sentence's "if war is forced upon us," but it sure sounded like the president knows this is coming now.
Other thoughts on the speech:
Read More »
+Bush's delivery (I was listening on the radio) was pretty flat until he got out of the country and started talking about AIDS in Africa, blackmail in North Korea, torture chambers in Iraq and missing drums of anthrax. I didn't sense the same level of intensity when we was talking about hydrogen cars and Healthy Forests. I think the main Dem tactic - apparent in the early press reaction - will be to paint him as George H.W. II, too wrapped up in foreign affairs. That may not work, given that foreign affairs aren't so foreign anymore, but I'd have to agree that the domestic parts of the speech were clear but not that strong.
+I'm all in favor of the goals of building non-oil-powered cars and fighting AIDS in Africa, but the traditional Democratic solutions on those issues tend to be either too expensive, too burdensome on business, or just a big corporate welfare boondoggle (sometimes all three at once). I'd like to hear more on the details, like how we ensure that R&D funds on electric cars don't just wind up as a subsidy to GM, how we fight AIDS without committing to solve every disease and every problem in Africa, and what we intend to do to protect the intellectual property of US drug companies who are the Arsenal of Modern Medicine.
+No new members in the Axis, but he did spend serious time on each of the three - the Iranians were not forgotten.
+The commentators should just shut their traps; immediately after the speech, the radio people on 1010 WINS were debating the furrowment of the president's brow. Give it up.
« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:41 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 27, 2003
WAR: The UN and Mediation
So Bush may have to leave the UN behind, and go with a "coalition of the willing." Let's admit the obvious Texas analogy -"coalition of the willing" is basically another term for "posse." Jacques, Gerhard, the marshal's got six or seven armed men and a couple guys carrying provisions, and he's leavin' town with or without y'all.
Still, in spite of its many flaws, the UN continues to have its uses. When it does act collectively, however rare that may be, it adds an additional layer of legitimacy, like when the Senate votes unanimously on something. But the President doesn't stop governing when the Senate isn't unanimous. The UN also facilitates the habit of diplomacy and multilateral agreements, each of which have their uses.
It's like mediation. Any litigator will tell you that mediation is a useful tool in resolving some disputes. Mandatory mediation is a waste, because some disputes won't settle that way. And making mediation the only method of dispute resolution would be absurd, because sometimes you can't get agreement and often the lack of agreement works to benefit a wrongdoer, who is never held to account. Besides, mediation with no threat of litigation is toothless.
None of the presidential candidates should understand this better than John Edwards; what would he say if we told him that lawsuits were illegal, injured people have to just mediate. He'd blow his stack, that's what. The US should have the same view when people say that UN dispute resolution is the only way to go.
Nikolas Gvosdev of the National Interest argues, on NRO, that Saddam wants us to go to war with him now.
I agree with most of what Gvosdev says: (1) inspections are bad PR for Saddam and (2) Saddam's natural instinct and the culture of Arab despotism is driving him in the direction of preferring war. I also think that preference is being accelerated as it becomes obvious that the alternative strategy of delay is a dead end.
But I disagree on Gvosdev's critical unstated assumptions: (1) what Saddam wants may still be what we want. If our national interest supports war, why care what Saddam wants? (2) Saddam's regime is built on fear, not respect; he lost the respect of his people when he lost the Gulf War, possibly earlier due to the Iran-Iraq war. The inspectors don't threaten Saddam's ability to inspire fear; the key thing that the inspectors did the other day to underline that was turn over a defector to Saddam's "authorities." Thus, prolonged
WAR: READ THIS
Trent Telenko has some serious doubts about the loyalty and effectiveness of the vaunted North Korean military, and Steven Den Beste argues that the North Koreans' aggressiveness is the by-product of desperation. President Bush, of course, has vowed to stay on top of this one.
There is MAJOR oil to be had in Africa. This could be a big plus in breaking the grip of the terror masters, particularly the Saudis, who depend heavily on the scarcity of oil to finance their radical agenda. As Fareed Zakaria points out, "if oil goes to $10 a barrel, the Saudi monarchy goes to Majorca."
WAR: After The Fall
Jonah Goldberg has some great points about how, after the U.S. liberates Iraq and reveals the full horror of life under Saddam, everyone will act like "the US did the only moral thing." And will get no credit, of course.
January 22, 2003
WAR: "[T]his looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching it."
Call me an optimist, but I've been surprised that the conservative commentariat and the blogosphere have not had more to say about President Bush's press conference yesterday, at which he gave the clearest signals yet that he is out of patience with the inspections farce and is ready to go to war to "disarm" Iraq:
Q Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. The French are saying they would block a U.N. resolution authorizing force on Iraq. Are you frustrated by these comments? Can you still reach a consensus?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Adam, first of all, it's important for the American citizens and the citizens around the world to understand that Saddam Hussein possesses some of the world's deadliest weapons. He poses a serious threat to America and our friends and allies. The world came together, including the French, to say he must disarm. He's not disarming. As a matter of fact, it appears to be a rerun of a bad movie. He is delaying, he is deceiving, he is asking for time. He's playing hide-and-seek with inspectors.
One thing is for certain, he's not disarming. So the United States of America, in the name of peace, will continue to insist he does disarm, and we will keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.
Q Mr. President, when do you intend to make a decision about whether or not the inspection process is -- actually has any hope of really disarming Saddam?
THE PRESIDENT: It's clear to me now that he is not disarming. And, surely, our friends have learned lessons from the past. Surely we have learned how this man deceives and delays. He's giving people the run-around. And as many of my advisors said on TV this week, time is running out. I believe in the name of peace he must disarm. And we will lead a coalition of willing nations to disarm him. Make no mistake about that, he will be disarmed.
Q When -- how do you decide when that moment comes that you need to make a judgment?
THE PRESIDENT: I will let you know when the moment has come. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, who is in that coalition of the willing now? Are France, Germany out?
THE PRESIDENT: You will find out who is in the coalition of the willing. It is very much like what happened prior to our getting a resolution out of the United Nations. Many of the punditry -- of course, not you -- (laughter) -- but other punditry were quick to say, no one is going to follow the United States of America. And we got a unanimous resolution out of the United Nations.
The United States has made it clear our intention, and our intention is to work with the world for Saddam to disarm. He's been given ample time to disarm. We have had ample time now to see that the tricks of the past -- he's employing the tricks of the past today. He's giving people the run-around. He wants to play hide-and-seek. He's got a vast country.
He wants to focus the attention of the world on inspectors. This is not about inspectors; this is about a disarmed Iraq. He has weapons of mass destruction -- the world's deadliest weapons -- which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens and our friends and allies. He has been told to disarm for 11 long years. He's not disarming.
This business about, you know, more time -- you know, how much time do we need to see clearly that he's not disarming? As I said, this looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching it.
WAR: France and Germany are Together
This "France and Germany are Together" headline gave me the creeps, but I guess the Axis of Weenie was inevitable, like two blind old coots in a nursing home swapping stories about how they gouged each other's eyes out, back in the day.
January 20, 2003
WAR: Finally, People Oliver Stone Trusts!
Idiotarian, thy name is Oliver Stone. Stone is apparently planning films glossing over the innumerable crimes and human rights abuses perpetrated by Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat. (Link via Drudge.)
January 19, 2003
WAR: Ritter Compromised
Turns out that former UN inspector Scott Ritter, a formerly tough critic of Saddam who performed an abrupt about-face a few years ago to become an apologist for the Iraqi regime, was busted by upstate New York police in June 2001 for "ha[ving] a sexual discussion on the Internet with an undercover investigator he thought was an underage girl." This explains volumes. Has Ritter been blackmailed by the Iraqis? Have his own sins made him squeamish about judging even mass murderers, or eager to be reassured of his own moral refinement by declaring himself a Man of Peace?
January 16, 2003
WAR: The Gulag
MSNBC has a chilling take on a North Korean gulag - and even calls it one! The North Korean regime is so bad that nobody even tries to put a happy face on it.
WAR: Lileks Fisks LeCarre
Some days, Lileks is preoccupied with his toddler daughter or some piece of pop culture. I enjoy those columns. But he's always at his can't-miss best when some fool decides to spew the whole tired litany of anti-American agitprop, in this case an op-ed piece in the London Times, by the spy novel writer who uses the pseudonym "John LeCarre," which is helpfully titled -- for the subtlety-impaired - "The United States of America has gone mad." As usual, Lileks v. LeCarre is such a lopsided battle it isn't even fair, but it is funny.
January 14, 2003
WAR: Why Not North Korea?
I'm not exactly breaking news here, since Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan have already linked to this, but Orson Scott Card's analysis of the North Korea situation is the best I've seen. If you want three reasons why we're not at war with North Korea, they would be, in order:
Card nails the China question. John McCain also has a fine piece in the Weekly Standard, with less emphasis on China and calling for some of the more aggressive moves that Card seems skeptical of. McCain is right that negotiating with the North Koreans is nonsense, but he doesn't really address the issue of whether we should be negotiating with China.
WAR: The Korea Trap
As has been often remarked, Bush's genius the past year and a half has been in maneuvering his critics into calling for precisely what he intends to do. Is he up to the same tricks in North Korea? Listen to the peace crowd -- they're suddenly all hawkish on Korea, albeit only because they think they can score points in the Iraq debate by showing how Bush is using a double standard that shows that his motives in Iraq are related to (1) the oil bidness, (2) anti-Arab bias, or (3) a personal vendetta inherited from Dad. The case for confrontation with Korea is stronger, they argue. Why isn't the Bush Administration taking a tougher line?
But their focus, as always, is only on today. Is Bush a step ahead of them again? Because when the war with Iraq is over, and Bush announces that he is taking a tougher line with Korea and that the case for confrontation with Korea is stronger even than with Iraq, what will they say?
January 13, 2003
WAR: Department of Fiskings
Columnist Matt Welch proposes that the United States of America start acting like a blogger -- or a litigator or a sabermetrician, for that matter -- and have people on the government payroll around the world start pointing out the web of lies that emanates daily from anti-American idiotarians the world over. (Link via Tim Blair). Somebody tell the Bear!
WAR: Out, Out, Damn Oil
Andrew Sullivan notes the cover of the latest issue of the German magazine Der Spiegel. I don't read German, but you don't need to to get this point. Here's a question: why is it that the people in Europe who love to yak on about "blood for oil" when Americans take on murderous dictators of oil-rich countries are the same people who will argue, often explicitly, that it is foolish to take sides with Israel for fear of offending . . . murderous dictators of oil-rich countries? I mean, who's really trading blood for oil here? If the Saudis, the Iraqis and the Iranians decided to re-enact the Holocaust -- and they mostly lack the means rather than the will to do so -- most of Europe would look the other way and keep on buying their oil. Hey, what's that on your hands? "Just oil, really, . . . but it won't come out, out, damn oil!"
January 12, 2003
WAR: What Won't Work
Zev Chafets explains why neither you nor he needs to know much about North Korea to know that more of the Clinton-era policies won't work.
January 10, 2003
WAR: VDH on NK
I'd explain why North Korea is different from Iraq, but I can't possibly hope to do better than this pure, undiluted stream of common sense from Victor Davis Hanson. Better yet, John Derbyshire reports that "I am very reliably informed (judging from the sender's e-mail address) that someone in the Administration does indeed read" Hanson's columns.
Our North Korea policy, or lack thereof, deserves re-examination; I get the sense that the Bush Administration is mostly stalling while trying to decide what to do next. I nonetheless agree wholeheartedly with Hanson's overarching theme, in support of the Administration's current approach, that it makes sense to be done with Iraq first before we devote our full attentions to the North Koreans. I just hope that, in explaining the difference between the two, the Administration doesn't unduly downplay our willingness to take a very hard line with Pyongyang, thus painting us into a rhetorical corner if we later need to marshall public and international support for such an initiative.
The paradox: at the end of the day, the North Koreans are only a threat to their neighbors if we confront them and they do something crazy, which is very possible. But if we do nothing, they are a huge threat to us. Why? North Korea has shown little appetite, unlike Saddam, for regional wars and territorial expansion; the regime seems content to asphixyate the people already subject to its stark tyranny. So nukes in their hands are not so dangerous, for now. The bigger threat is nukes passing from their hands into the hands of terrorists who are even harder to deter and who are explicitly aggressive and suicidal in their intentions. And under present circumstances, it seems impossible to prevent the latter as long as the regime (1) retains its present character and (2) shares a long border with China over which we have no control and a seacoast that we have not blockaded.
WAR: Throw Me In The Briar Patch!
Martin Kramer has the hilarious tale of a mediocre academic who has falsely claimed to be "one of the main targets of Campus Watch," Daniel Pipes' website devoted to exposing anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda masquerading as scholarship, apparently in the hopes of boosting his profile. I also wonder why this guy is smoking a cigarette in his official campus photo. There are two possibilities: (1) he's such a nicotine addict he couldn't be bothered to put his smoke down long enough to be photographed or (2) there's some radical chic thing going on with showing him having a smoke against the backdrop of a concrete wall, like he's about to face a firing squad.
WAR: Go Read Lileks
Lileks rips Martin Scorsese a new one over his comments on Iraq. Too many good lines to excerpt.
January 08, 2003
WAR: Who Hate Who?
So, let me get this straight; saying that you don't lose much sleep over collateral damage when Israel is forced to retaliate for terrorist attacks is hate speech (If so, this devastating essay by Lileks, making essentially the same point with more style, is too). Mocking people who were murdered on September 11 is just entertainment. War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery.
January 03, 2003
WAR: Krauthammer on NK
Charles Krauthammer's column on North Korea ruined my day. If you're having a good day, wait until you are having a bad one, then read this. Krauthammer outlines well our problem in North Korea, and offers only a relatively unconvincing solution (giving nuclear weapons to the Japanese, assuming they would want them). Bush is right to downplay this crisis for the moment; this is another reason we need to get the war on Iraq done with, so we aren't hamstrung in dealing with the North Koreans by the need to placate 'allies' in the anti-Saddam coalition. Iraq is a more urgent problem only because we've already laid the groundwork to finish off Saddam's regime, and we should collect the payoff for that groundwork now, and turn to the next problem.
The core of the North Korea problem is China; there's little doubt that none of this would have happened if the Chinese were dead-set against it happening, and as in Iran in 1980, we are limited in how we respond to a rogue nation that borders on a hostile superpower.
January 02, 2003
WAR: No Absence of Blood For Oil
I just noticed this early-December post by Bill "Daily Pundit' Quick, who theorizes that the absence of war is all about oil. (Link via the Bear of Considerable Brain).
WAR: Gulf War II
December 30, 2002
WAR: Unfinished Tales in Louisiana
December 29, 2002
WAR/POLITICS: Rangel's Grandstand
Charles Rangel calls for a return to mandatory military service. Now, I don't dismiss out of hand the possibility that this may be necessary at some point, although it doesn't seem at the moment that a lack of manpower is our primary national security problem. But Rangel doesn't even pretend to be talking about national security needs:
The Korean War veteran has accused the Bush administration and some fellow lawmakers of being too willing to go to war with Iraq. . . . "When you talk about a war, you're talking about ground troops, you're talking about enlisted people, and they don't come from the kids and members of Congress," he said. "I think, if we went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war, there would be more cautiousness and a more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.'"
This captures perfectly why people don't trust the Democrats, as a party, to deal seriously with wartime issues. Rangel wants to make a political point, and in many ways a racial point (he 'explained' his vote against war with Iraq as being based on the fact that there were too many African-Americans in the military) - and to do it at the expense of having a serious policy on national security. Disgraceful. And, of course, a racially charged argument like this is a hand grenade thrown into the foxholes of the various Democratic political contenders, most of whom will likely show the courage of their convictions by trying to ignore it.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:04 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 23, 2002
WAR: W Farda
I hope you didn't miss President Bush's latest statement directly to the captive people of Iran in an address on "Radio Farda." Bush's words are too few in this fight, but the message has nonetheless been unmistakable. The Iranian people know he stands for freedom and against their brutal government. Meanwhile, good to see Newsweek running an anti-mullah piece by Fareed Zakaria.
December 16, 2002
WAR: The Glorious Clinton Legacy
More from the Institute for Revisionist History. The more stuff like this Clinton says, the more it makes sense why his Vice President doesn't want to run on the Clinton/Gore record on the war on terror. Bottom line: it does no good to say you had a plan and didn't do much about it, when you were the top dog.
December 12, 2002
WAR: Five US Soldiers Killed
Five US soldiers killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Honduras. Take a moment of silent prayer in their memory and in thanks for their service.
December 10, 2002
WAR: But Does He Have The Kung Fu Grip?
You can't make this stuff up: the Osama bin Laden action figure! Actually, I bet he'd sell well in the US, but not for the same reasons.
WAR: More Evil
More news from the Axis of Evil: US finds cache of scud missles on ship from North Korea stopped off Yemeni coast.
WAR: Road Signs
WAR: BLOGGER DOES ITS PART
Blogger yesterday announced the winners of its competition of best Persian-language weblogs - a small step, perhaps, but a step that gives freedom a little more breathing space in Iran's struggle against theocracy. Three cheers.
December 04, 2002
WAR: PAGING JOHN McCAIN
Daniel Pipes has a suggestion for political-corruption reform that is long overdue and vital to national security: prohibit anyone representing the US government from going on the payroll - directly or indirectly - of Saudi Arabia after leaving government service. If McCain drops the ball on this one, it's a golden opportunity for Lieberman or one of the other Democratic presidential contenders to start making his bones as a crusader [word choice intentional] against the nefarious influence of the Saudi regime.
WAR/POLITICS: Giving Away The Game
Maureen Dowd can't help but admit that Bill Clinton's "preoccupation with the Monica threat to his future might have diluted his focus on the Qaeda threat to our future."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:38 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 03, 2002
WAR: I'm With Stupid
Call George W. a moron? Mark Steyn's on the case! "Calling America the Great Moron, by contrast [to 'Great Satan'], is just feeble. I happen to like moral clarity myself, but I can appreciate that for some tastes Bush's habit of dividing the world into "good" and "evil" and using these terms non-ironically might seem a little simplistic. But it's nowhere near as simplistic as dividing the world into "I'm right" and "you're stupid"."
Steyn also turns a perfect descriptive phrase, noting that Canada, in the showdown with Iraq, is "doing its usual routine of insisting the sidelines are the moral high ground."
WAR: Victory and Human Rights
Eugene Volokh points out what we should already know: that the best defense against human rights violators is victory, sometimes even when the winners are unsavory characters themselves.
WAR: Newsweek Loves The Mullahs
Geoffrey Gagnon of Newsweek has a puff piece on Iranian president Khatami, in which Gagnon falls hook, line and sinker for the mullahs' claims that Iran was "cooperative last fall as American troops forced the ouster of the Islamic Taliban regime in Afghanistan," and that "War between American troops and Saddam Hussein could badly set back reform efforts in Iran." Of course, we don't really know how many terrorists and Talibs fled across the border to Iran, and if war undermines 'reform,' it's only because it will hasten confrontation and revolution against one of the world's most brutal and repressive regimes. But if Khatami actually wants true 'reform' and if such a thing is possible without revolution, it will only be because reformers get leverage - which can only come either from popular protests or from the wolf at the door in Iraq.
December 02, 2002
WAR: Bite The Big Apple
What's the difference between the IRA and other international terrorists? Well, they're Irish. Other than that, as this trial in Colombia of IRA operatives caught training Marxist FARC guerillas suggests, not much. I used to be somewhat agnostic about the IRA, given the emotional freight that was always carried by the Irish cause, but the more I looked into the issue, the nastier these guys looked. After September 11, I just don't know how anyone could be in their corner.
POLITICS/WAR: Vietnam Veteran Kerry The Vietnam Veteran
Way to launch a presidential campaign - the New Republic savages John Kerry, while David Frum calls him a 'Wahhabi Democrat.' Mickey Kaus is even running a contest to get to "the root of Kerry's loathsomeness." Personally, I saw the clip of Kerry telling Russert about the 1991 Iraq vote, and there was so much weaselling involved that he might as well have just said, "Tim, that's how I voted, but I didn't inhale."
Problem: he puts EVERYTHING in terms of Vietnam. Guess what, JFK minor? See that guy going into the voting booth who will be 40 years old in 2004? He wasn't paying attention to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution when it passed because he was too busy playing with his chew toys and learning to walk. He was nine years old when Nixon abolished the draft. He wasn't even a teenager when Saigon fell. The first news story he heard from Southeast Asia as an adult probably included the words "Pol Pot" and maybe "genocide." If he had a kid when he was 21, his kid's old enough to vote too, and the kid doesn't even remember "Platoon," let alone the real thing.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:19 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Front Lines
To the United States, Israel, and India, add Australia to the list of countries that are taking their own initiatives to track down terrorists outside their borders. I suppose there are a few others, but the list is still too short.
WAR: BETTER THAN NOTHING
CAIR gives a brief writeup of a book, "The Place of Tolerance In Islam, that leads off with an essay describing bin Laden and his sympathizers as "theologically illiterate Muslims," and then provides a variety of reactions from other commentators. The roster listed (including former Holy Cross professor John Esposito, who continues to contend that Islamic terrorism is not a threat) suggests that this is hardly a polemic against Islamofascism, but at least if CAIR is getting its members thinking long and hard about the place of violence against non-Muslims in their faith, some progress is being made.
November 29, 2002
WAR: All About Oil
Jonah Goldberg made fun of the UN Security Council a few weeks back by noting the likelihood that countries like Cameroon were just selling us their votes in return for whatever concession they happened to be looking for. Turns out that, in the specific case of Cameroon, that would be - surprise! - oil. Cameroon and Nigeria are locked in a dispute over oil-rich territory just off their coastlines, are appealing to international organizations to settle the issue.
November 28, 2002
POLITICS/WAR: Steyn Is Online
I had planned not to blog today, but some news is too big to wait: Mark Steyn now has his own website, marksteyn.com ("The One Man Global Content Provider"), with links to his commentary in outlets the world over. including his latest, on George W. Bush's Achilles heel: his refusal to recognize the Saudis as our sworn enemies. The sun truly never sets on Steyn's empire of warmongering good sense. (Thanks to Tim Blair for pointing this out).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 08:37 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 27, 2002
WAR: Sharia in Nigeria
The Sunday Washington Post with more on sharia law in Nigeria.
Looks like the truth is seeping in after all. The three main articles on the New York Times editorial page today - and the three most e-mailed by readers - are columns by Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd and an op-ed by Salman Rushdie, all denouncing in uncompromising terms the evils of radical islamism and its Saudi benefactors. Dowd's is somewhat incoherent as usual, but if she sticks to her theme and does at least one Saudi-bashing column a week (a la Michael Ledeen's drumbeat on Iran), she'll be doing the nation a valuable service.
The Islamic world today is being held prisoner, not by Western but by Islamic captors, who are fighting to keep closed a world that a badly outnumbered few are trying to open. As long as the majority remains silent, this will be a tough war to win. But in the end, or so we must hope, someone will kick down that prison door.
Over to you, George.
WAR: Why They Hate Us
Terror on a flight from Italy to France. Were the French targeted for their strident pro-Americanism?
WAR: The Truth Comes Out
As usual in controversies between Israel and the UN, evidence supports the Israeli view of the shooting death of a UN official by Israeli troops.
WAR: News From Germany, and Turkey
Good news, and so much for worries about 'unilateralism'? Germany will cooperate with the war on Iraq after all. But Reuters takes a more negative view.
WAR: Kathleen Parker on the Miss World Riots
The wise and always even-tempered Kathleen Parker (she's the anti-Coulter) perfectly captures the Miss World riots in Nigeria. The lunacy gripping northern Nigeria at the moment is fairly persuasive evidence for those who argue that the real problem we face is not principally one of Arab culture but of Islam, and it likewise supports Ralph Peters' theory that we should be most concerned about attacking radical Islam from the outside in, i.e., starting with non-Arab Muslims in places like Indonesia, Nigeria, etc.
Of course, Nigeria is a hugely strategically important place in its own right, partially because it has massive reserves of oil, partially because it is making fitful steps towards restoring a fully functioning democracy, partially because it's nearly the only sub-Saharan African nation (other than South Africa) with any chance of both modest prosperity and democracy, and that's something we should encourage. The central government has been critical of the Islamic extremists, and I believe that the nation as a whole is more Catholic than Muslim. It's one place the United States should be watching carefully.
November 25, 2002
WAR: Moore Idiocy
The most breathtakingly idiotic segment of his show came toward the end, when he turned to the subject of the September 11 hijackings. Mr. Moore had already let us know that he had doubts as to whether Osama Bin Laden actually organized the attacks. If that were not bizarre enough, he went a step further. Brandishing a box-cutter, he wondered how the terrorists managed to subdue the passengers on the airliners using such modest weapons.
I would have thought the answer was obvious. Yet you can rely on Mr. Moore's fertile imagination to come up with a different response: The people on the airplanes allowed themselves to be intimidated because they belonged to a pampered, privileged class which had grown used to allowing other people to do the dirty work for them. What is more, Mr. Moore would have us believe that if the planes had been carrying 90 poor people or 90 black people or 90 skinheads, the outcome would have been very different. I am glad to report that even Mr. Moore's loyal audience fell silent at that point. There are, it seems, limits even to their gullibility.
UPDATE: Our good friend Larry points out that mocking Americans for being too soft and pampered to defend themselves is a particularly ridiculous argument coming from a guy who's promoting a movie that claims that Americans are too violent and trigger-happy and too in love with their guns: "The NRA, a target of Moore's idiocy, is the epitome of a group that believes, if necessary, people might have to do their own dirty work."
WAR: Ledeen and Steyn on Iran and Islam
[T]his is the Islamists' great innovation -- an essentially political project piggybacking on an ancient religion. In the last year, we've seen the advantages of such a strategy: You can't even identify your enemy without being accused of bigotry and intolerance. What we still can only guess at is the overlap between the ideology and the religion. It seems unlikely that many Muslims in, say, Newark or Calgary or Singapore would wish to be suicide bombers themselves, but what seems clear is that in these and other places there is -- to put it at its most delicate -- a widespread lack of revulsion at the things done in Islam's name. On the one hand, Muslims deny it's anything to do with them: A year ago, in The Ottawa Citizen's coast-to-coast survey of Canadian imams, all but two refused to accept Muslims had been involved in the September 11th attacks. On the other hand, even though it's nothing to do with them, they party: In Copenhagen as in Ramallah, Muslims cheered 9/11; in Keighley, Yorkshire, you couldn't get a taxi that night because the drivers were whooping it up.
November 21, 2002
WAR: Give Him Back
The Saudis better give this guy back.
November 20, 2002
WAR: Tough On Iran
WAR: Two Hands and a Flashlight
Ambrose Bierce once said that "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." Check out this CNN report on the dismal grasp of geography on the part of a sampling of American 18-to-24-year-olds, and you may doubt that even war can accomplish this Herculean task. In a way, the scariest one is that half of all 18-24 year olds can't find New York on a map with both hands and a flashlight. New York has been, you know, in the news and stuff. More importantly, MTV is based here. Granted its where we live, but my son knows where New York is, and he's five.
Am I the only one who's disturbed that Hans Blix sounds exactly like Herbert Lom's Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies?
November 19, 2002
WAR/LAW: Ivy League Follies
I guess it's Ivy League Day here . . . if you went to Yale, OxBlog has links and info on how to sign a petition opposing a petition calling for divestment of the university's interests in the State of Israel (I signed the Harvard anti-divestment petition myself some months back). Meanwhile, Stuart Buck, Instapundit, Eugene Volokh, and Howard Bashman all have links and commentary on the Harvard Law School race-speech controversy, including a battle between Dershowitz and proponents of a speech code.
November 18, 2002
WAR: North Korea, in a Nutshell
Reams of Serious Newsmagazine Profiles could be written about North Korea, and none would capture the regime quite like this ScrappleFace dispatch.
WAR: Theocrats or Just Theocons?
The threat of Islamists seizing power is never anything to dismiss lightly, but so far at least, the heads of Turkey's new governing party sound mostly like nothing more menacing than American Republicans. Now, if you're Bill Moyers, that may be enough to convict them of attempted theocracy, but I'm willing to reserve judgment for now.
WAR: "'Gotta take Saddam out and figure it out afterwards!"
Tim Blair notes an item in Tina Brown's latest column, quoting Robert De Niro, yet another liberal Manhattanite who gets it after September 11:
"Robert De Niro, a Democrat like most of his Hollywood brethren, suddenly broke his usual mordant reserve at a dinner party this week to declare: 'Gotta take Saddam out and figure it out afterwards! Saddam is history and the world will have America to thank for it!'" Picture this in your head being delivered in the style of your favorite De Niro line for a little entertainment. ("I want this guy dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burned to the ground! I want to go there in the middle of the night and piss on his ashes!")
WAR: Fair Weather Warmongers
One of the New York Times' big crusades of late has been to bash Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Pakistan, among others, to suggest (1) that the theory of war against Iraq is too broad because it leads us to conflict with all these other states or (2) that America is hypocritical for having friends like the Pakistanis and Saudis and then criticizing Iraq for the same things. Maureeen Dowd's latest, on Saudi Arabia, and Nicholas Kristof's solumn on Pakistan are classics of the genre. All I ask is, when the time comes to confront that North Koreans and the Saudis - and if we ever reach the point where we need to take a harder line with Islamabad - will these columnists still be in the trenches with us? I doubt it. Suddenly, all the "we can live with Saddam" cliches will be transmuted to the Saudis or whoever. In fact, the proof of Bush's sober approach and willingness to work with our allies is in the fact that he is taking on one fight at a time, and starting with the clearest case for international cooperation. Why is that so hard to understand?
November 15, 2002
WAR: Iran? Never Heard Of It
As Iran boils, only America and Canada speak out; the rest of the West stays silent. Worse, even, than the failure to offer material support is Europe's abdication of the field of ideas. The situation in Iran is as critical as anything in the war on terror right now, and the Europeans are home with their heads in the sand.
WAR/POLITICS: The Democrats' Blind Spot
Instapundit had the link to this devastating critique of Democratic apathy about military and defense policy, from Washington Monthly:
"[T]here's been plenty of hand-wringing among the leadership and rank-and-file Democrats about how politically inept the party appeared in the face of Bush's saber rattling. But that's the problem. Democrats are in this position precisely because we respond to matters of war politically, tactically. We worry about how to position ourselves so as not to look weak, rather than thinking through realistic, sensible Democratic principles on how and when to employ military force, and arguing particular cases, such as Iraq, from those principles."
Among the problems: Democrats don't have think tanks and opinion magazines devoted to serious thought on these issues (although the omission of the New Republic from the list is curious). Telling detail:
"When it comes to military service, Democratic lawmakers have nothing to be embarrassed about; of the Senate's 38 veterans, 17 are Democrats (including Daschle). Still, one indication that Democratic lawmakers spend relatively less time focused on military affairs is the people they hire: Two-thirds of veterans on the Senate Armed Services Committee staff are Republicans."
I'm less convinced than the author about whether there is or can be a military policy that Democrats can line up behind (remember the "peace dividend"?), but at least she's trying.
The comparison to Republican approaches to race and inner-city issues is a bit off, I think - a better comparison would be health care or the environment, both of which are complex issues that many Republicans (myself included) have tended to treat as an annoyance or worse. The GOP has grown much savvier on health care over the last 5 or 6 years, and Republicans from Western states often bring a zeal to land-use issues that carries with it a comprehensive outlook on the environment. But the enthusiasm gap is still there. (Incidentally, that's one reason I think the GOP will benefit so greatly from enacting a prescription drug plan for Medicare, along its own reformist model, with little help from the Democrats - it will establish credibility and start to burrow the conservative imprint into the functioning of government on healthcare policy).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:23 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 14, 2002
POP CULTURE/WAR: George W. Potter
Instapundit thinks Harry Potter is like George W. Bush - which explains why Slate's staff hates Potter as much as it hates and hates Bush.
Andrew Sullivan on Saddam Hussein's letter 'accepting' UN inspections: "If you got a letter like this in the mail, you'd call the cops."
November 13, 2002
WAR: Justice Delayed
I was starting to suspect that Saddam had his legislature defy the UN resolution precisely so that he could make the magnanimous theatrical gesture of accepting. We all know this is a trap and a fraud, but we will be obliged to play along for a decent interval . . .
Is war with Saddam a Just War? It seems to me that if a war is Just, and it is settled by treaties, and one party violates those treaties in important ways . . . I mean, if that doesn't make a renewal of hostilities itself a Just War, then the Church has essentially accepted a doctrine that tells nations that the only rational and moral way to end a Just War is by a Carthaginian peace. I think this is not what the theologians who initially expounded the theory had in mind, although the inspections charade may yet prove that this is precisely the answer. Clearly, it should be a very long time before we again agree to put a misbehaving tyrant on probation - the occupation of Japan didn't take as long as, and probably cost less money and certainly fewer lives than, the post-Gulf War stalemate with Saddam.
WAR: The Dissident
I picked this up from NRO: Reuters calls Osama bin Laden a "Saudi-born dissident." Yeah, and Jeffrey Dahmer was a Milwaukee-based gourmand. I'm not sure whether Reuters pulls this kind of crap because it wants to suck up to the authorities in Muslim/Arab dictatorships to get news, or because it is actually run and staffed by people who are blinded by their hatred of Western Civilization. Vegas isn't even taking odds that James Taranto at Best of the Web will be all over this one.
November 12, 2002
WAR: The Legacy of Versailles
Mark Steyn's Veterans Day remembrance has it right, as usual - we are still living with the residue of World War I. I spent a good deal of my high school and college career (I was a history major) poring over the manifold disasters and missed opportunities that followed the Great War. There's hardly been a conflict in the world these last 84 years that can't be traced to the botched peace treaties and other follies of that era - in Russia, in Germany, in Yugoslavia, in Palestine/Israel, in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Ireland.
WAR: Sunlight On The Arab News
The Sun also has a pointed piece on a panel discussion featuring the editor of the Arab News:
The editor of the Saudi-based Arab News, . . . Khaled Al-Maeena, was a speaker. He defended his newspaper’s publishing of a recent article that referred to the “subhuman Zionist lobby.”
“The Zionist lobby is a lobby that is working against the interest of peace in the Middle East. It is working against the interests of Israel and against the interests of Palestinians,” Mr. Al-Maeena told The New York Sun. “The Zionist lobby is negating all the good characteristics of the Israeli people.”
When the Sun asked if that makes them “subhuman,” he said: “as a human being, your interests should be peace and prosperity in Israel and in all the lands…I believe there should be peace in the Middle East, but to go on and create problems and trouble is really upsetting me…Israel was made so that the Jews would live in peace. Jews everywhere around the world are living in peace except in Israel.”
WAR: World Media
And reporters think American politicians are tough on them . . . (Link via Drudge)
WAR: The News Knows
The NY Daily News gets what some of the wire services don't. Headline on the deliberations of Iraq's "Parliament": "Saddam stooges dithering"
November 11, 2002
WAR: Permits for Terror
Meryl Yourish blows her stack over a report noting that EU officials are in talks with Hamas about restricting terrorist attacks to areas where the zoning ordinances permit the wanton slaughter of civilians.
WAR: Going To The Roots
Christopher Hitchens argues that Saddam is going to topple sooner or later anyway, so we might as well be around to hasten the end and stanch the bleeding. This is part of Hitchens' continuing campaign to prove that, right now, we are all objectively either pro-war or pro-fascism; as he also notes, the really radical thing post-September 11 has been the fact that conservatives have been the ones looking for root causes of terrorism, tracing the money and the ideology back to regimes that support terror as well as those whose repression breeds hatreds, while the crowd that blathers on about "root causes" is actually uninterested in looking that deep.
WAR: Bad News
WAR: Before Christmas
WAR: Fisk Faces Facts
Robert Fisk reports from the League of Impotent Arabs. Even Fisk has to call the Iraqi parliament "only slightly less democratic than the Roman Senate during the reign of the Emperor Nero."
November 09, 2002
How would the Jimmy Carters of the world handle Saddam? And, for that matter, how do they intend to react to the outrage of the U.N. Security Council pursuing a 'unilateral' confrontation with Saddam?
I think this sums it up pretty well:
"Fletcher: You scratched my car!!!
Motorpool Guy: Where?
Fletcher: (indicating with his hands) Right there!
Motorpool Guy: That was already there.
Fletcher: You---LIAR! You know what I am going to do about this?
Motorpool Guy: what?
Fletcher: Absolutely nothing. Because if I take it to court, it will just drain 8 hours out of my life; you probably won't show up and once I do get the judgment, you'll just stiff me anyway; so what I am going to do is piss and moan like an impotent jerk, then bend over and take it up the tailpipe!!"
November 08, 2002
WAR: No Oil For Blood?
This post on nowarblog, making the blood-for-oil argument, misses an important distinction: there's no inconsistency in saying we're not going to war over oil, but at the same time arguing that we can use some of Iraq's oil revenues to defray the cost of a post-war occupation. Rumsfeld isn't suggesting that the war be a profit-making enterprise, just that unlike the dirt-poor Afghanis, Iraq has some sources of wealth that we can partially tap to help offset the extensive cost to us of liberating its people. I don't see anything so terribly wrong with that. We pay policemen, don't we?
WAR: BE IT RESOLVED, LET'S ROLL
The UN Security Council unanimously approves this resolution. Note that the Security Council finds that "the Government of Iraq has failed to comply with its commitments pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) with regard to terrorism," that it "demands that Iraq confirm within seven days . . . its intention to comply fully with this resolution; and demands further that Iraq cooperate immediately, unconditionally, and actively with UNMOVIC and the IAEA," and that "the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations." (emphasis added). The only question is whether Saddam will try to agree to this whole thing now, with the hope of lying and delay later; if he agrees, he may suffer a fatal loss of face with his people; if he doesn't agree, war will probably follow by the end of November. All things considered, the latter is probably better for the U.S., since it will clearly and unequivocally give the green light to end this charade, kill the SOB, and set his people free.
November 07, 2002
WAR: ScrappleFace Does It Again
WAR: Has Rall Made A Point?
If I read this cartoon right, it's a spoof of the knee-jerk reactions all around to stories in the war on terror. If so, it marks a milestone: a Ted Rall cartoon that's actually perceptive and mildly funny.
WAR/LAW: Closer than a blade!!!
Closer than a blade!!! Of course, one moral of this story may be, if you find a mechanical or electronic device in a McDonald's bathroom, don't bring it home and plug it in.
November 06, 2002
WAR/POLITICS: What The Election Means Abroad
Unsurprisingly, the limited anecdotal evidence marshalled by the Washington Post (the Post talked to a "Saudi political analyst," who I assume must have a day job) suggests the election is being interpreted by overseas observers solely as a referendum on Iraq. With distance, they may be seeing more clearly than we do. If I were Colin Powell, I'd call up the French foreign minister today and politely point out that President Bush will be huddling with legislators to hammer out the agenda for the next 4 or 5 days, and that once he's done with that, the train will be leaving the station for Baghdad, with or without France and the UN Security Council.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:14 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 05, 2002
WAR: UN Tea Leaves
It certainly seems that the UN will be either brought into line or shoved aside as soon as the election's out of the way. This does seem suspicious in the timing, although it's really the decision of the French that has kept us hung up. One possibility: Bush told the "allies" that if they don't fall into line by Election Day, he'll go it alone afterwords and brave the short-term political storm.
Don't mess with our troops, THEY'VE GOT SANDWICHES OLDER THAN AL QAEDA'S COMMAND STRUCTURE!
WAR: The New Turks
I haven't absorbed it all yet, but clearly the biggest news of the last few days is the victory of an Islamist party in Turkish elections. This could be awful news, if it fractures our critical military alliance with Turkey, and alliance that is far more strategically important than our alliances with France or Germany, or if it leads the Turkish army - by tradition, the guardians of secular order in modern Turkey - to stage a military coup and oust nearly the only democratically elected government in the Muslim world. But it could also be wonderful news, if the Turks set an example of how a party that is faithful to Islam can be integrated into a secular democracy, after the fashion of the American "Religious Right."
WAR: Marking The Time
I went to measure the kids over the weekend, which was long overdue. How overdue? I noticed that the last entry on each of their growth charts was Sunday, September 9, 2001. If things had worked out just a little differently - if I didn't vote, if I got in to work just a few minutes earlier and was in the lobby of the Trade Center with the fireballs instead of a few blocks away - that could have been the last thing I wrote down in our house. It makes you think . . .
November 04, 2002
WAR: Where's The Glory?
I love this picture of what little remains of the car carrying an Al Qaeda operative that was blasted by a CIA drone in Yemen. It looks like the Jawas' camp after it was vaporized by the stormtroopers in Star Wars. I forget now who wrote it, but it reminds me of a point one commentator made months ago - that it must be particularly dispiriting to our enemies, but is particularly just, that they be put to death in the most impersonal manner possible, preferably by some guy operating a drone from a comfortable office somewhere, making mock of their pretensions to glory.
WAR: ROOT CAUSES?
President Bush on how to stop the terrorists: "I've come to the conclusion, and I hope you have, that therapy is not going to work. So we're chasing them down."
WAR: Selective CAIRing
CAIR is targeting Jonah Goldberg again. This time, at least, once you click on the link (as opposed to the headline) they didn't quote him out of context (although this action alert repeats the quote-out-of-context on the whole nuking-Mecca-in-retaliation-for-a-nuclear-attack-on-an-American city flap from March). What the alert doesn't say is precisely what is wrong with defiling the corpses of terrorists. It's not as if they argue that Goldberg is calling people terrorists who aren't terrorists - there's nothing there to argue that point. The assumption seems to be that it's "incitement" to suggest that terrorists' corpses not be treated with reverence. Not all Muslims, by any means: just terrorists.
Hey, CAIR: it's a free country. You can exercise your freedom of speech here. C'mon, join the fray. Explain why terrorists who take civilian hostages and blow up innocent civilians deserve a decent burial.
November 02, 2002
WAR: The Centers Of The Civilized World
Thought for the day: the most frustrating nations to deal with are those that have a self-image as the center, or natural leader, of the civilzed world (which can vary based on what you think defines civilzation). Obviously, the U.S. is one: Americans call their president, without irony, the "Leader of the Free World," and are justly proud of operating under the world's oldest continuous constitutional government, to say nothing of many other forms of world leadership. The Chinese are another - the "Middle Kingdom," vast in people, ancient in civilization. So, too, the French, who see themselves as the epitome of culture and who continue to judge all other nations by their adherence to French notions, which these days run to bureaucratic multilateralism; and the Saudis, who view themselves as the natural center of the Muslim world, its bithplace and home to its holiest shrines.
November 01, 2002
WAR: Not Imminent?
Is war against Iraq 'no longer imminent,' or are the Israelis spreading strategic disinformation?
POLITICS/WAR: Mondale, Fisked
"I found the text of an upcoming Mondale ad. It accused Norm Coleman of giving public money to two companies that had laid off 750 workers last year.
Oh, that’s rich. Coleman did indeed lend public money to Lawson Software to lure them to build a big new office building in St. Paul - an $84 million loan made possible by tax-increment financing. I abhor outright gifts to companies just to convince them to build pretty buildings, but using TIF to revitalize downtown St. Paul is a defensible position. Reasonable people can argue about it. And when they’re tired of arguing about it, because it’s boring, they can chew on this:
Northwest Airlines received $230 million from the Federal Government in bailout money after 9/11.
Northwest has cut 10,000 jobs since 9/11.
Walter Mondale is on the Board of Directors of Northwest Airlines.
Oh: and Walter Mondale gets 24K in free airline travel a year from NWA.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? Mechanics, laid off! Flight attendants, laid off! Baggage handlers, sent into the snow and forced to sell matches to buy a withered beet for supper, while Mondale sits in first class and has steak and pays nothing! Nothing!"
It gets better, as he takes apart Mondale's speech:
"'Iraq is dangerous, but going it alone is dangerous, too.'
Here he equates a nuke-armed Saddam with the consequences of deposing Saddam without a hall pass from France. They’re both ”Dangerous.” The first part, yes. That’s dangerous. The second part is “Dangerous” in the sense that Michael Jackson was “Bad.”"
I'll be quiet here for a while (check back later to see if my latest Projo column gets posted today). Go read Lileks' whole column, there's lots more there.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:47 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 31, 2002