"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
War 2006 Archives
January 3, 2007
BLOG: Flipping the Calendar
As usual this time of year, I'm creating new categories for the new year. This is especially important for those of you who come here directly to the baseball category page, which should now be here. Update your bookmarks accordingly. Also note that posts about the 2008 presidential race will be in the Politics 2008 category.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:37 AM | Baseball 2006 | Baseball 2007 | Blog 2006-14 | Politics 2006 | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | War 2006 | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 18, 2006
WAR/LAW: One of These Things Is Not Like The Other
Salon's Alex Koppelman has a silly article contrasting the Jose Padilla case with that of Demetrius Crocker, a right-wing Timothy McVeigh-style nutjob who was criminally prosecuted for plotting to bomb a courthouse in Tennessee and to use lethal gas against the local black population. (Via Bashman). What is silly about the article is Koppelman's thesis that the successful prosecution of Crocker through the traditional criminal justice system shows that no alternative procedures are needed to deal with Al Qaeda and other foreign-based jihadist groups.
The differences between the Crocker case and cases involving international terror organizations are so obvious that it is astounding that Koppelman never even tries to explain why they don't matter:
By then, Adams had learned a lot about Crocker's background: his previous membership in the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, his anti-government beliefs, his fascination with Adolf Hitler and idolization of Oklahoma City bomber McVeigh. . . .
Unquestionably, Crocker was a serious danger and a would-be terrorist by any definition. But note what is missing from the case: no ties to a foreign organization, no logistical support or terrorist training, no indoctrination in the methods of secrecy. Regardless of the merits of the Padilla case - a subject for another day* in itself - the fact that Crocker was prosecuted does not show that similar methods would be successful against a radically more organized threat, nor does it disprove the Bush Administration's claim that different methods would be more effective in doing so.
In fact, recall that Koppelman's own account makes clear that catching Crocker was a stroke of blind luck, precisely because Crocker - unlike foreign jihadists with the support of a foreign organization - trusted the wrong guy:
You want to take a chance that the next Mohammed Atta will be that stupid? The last one wasn't.
On the other hand, Koppelman does concede a point that undercuts much of Salon's ongoing theory that Padilla and other terror suspects were no danger because they were not all that bright:
But tapes of the conversations between Crocker and Burroughs reveal that Crocker knew what he was doing. He had made a version of Zyklon B, the gas used in the gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps, and he accurately described its manufacture. He had made nitroglycerin. He had the ingredients for a rudimentary bomb in his home, where he also kept several guns he told Burroughs he would use to kill any government agent sent to capture him.
I'm glad the government was able to take Demetrius Crocker out of circulation. But we were lucky, very lucky, just to get him - and that's one man working largely alone. Organized and well-funded terrorism is a greater threat, and we can't afford to wait to be lucky.
*I will note here that Koppelman takes everything Padilla's lawyer says at face value, including the fantastical claim that he was given a hallucinogen while being interrogated. Really.
December 14, 2006
POLITICS/WAR: Connecting the Dots
BLOG: Quick Links 12/14/06
*One of the more doleful implications of a very narrowly divided polity is the places it leads partisans to go in search of that one last vote that turns an election, a court, a majority, a presidency. So it is difficult for Republicans to resist the temptation to hope for a change in the Senate upon the news that South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson is in critical condition after what may or may not have been a stroke. The right thing to do, of course, is to wish Senator Johnson and his family well (this is especially so because Tim Johnson, whatever his ideology, is not a loathesome human being like Ted Kennedy). Thinking otherwise may be only human, but it's a reflex to resist.
All things considered, it probably would be for the better if more states had laws that require the appointment of a replacement Senator of the same party, followed by a special election, if an incumbent dies or needs to be replaced - I believe such a law is in place in Hawaii, which has a GOP Governor and two elderly Democratic Senators, and a similar law (the details of which I forget) was enacted in Massachusetts when John Kerry was running for president. That said, existing practice in the absence of such a statute is to replace the Senator however the governor wants, as happened when the Republicans lost Paul Coverdell's Senate seat in Georgia and John Heinz's seat in Pennsylvania (both of which the GOP recaptured at the next election), or when Jesse Ventura appointed an independent to fill out Paul Wellstone's term.
*Count Rudy Giuliani and John McCain with the skeptics about the Iraq Study Group. As of Sunday, Mitt Romney was ducking the issue and saying he hadn't read the report, although a commenter at RedState has a purported statement from Romney that likewise hits the right notes in rejecting consensus for its own sake and rejecting negotiations with Iran and Syria. Still, there's a worrisome pattern to Romney's delayed reactions. The GOP needs its next candidate to be someone who can roll with the punches and drive the public narrative.
On the other hand, Syria loves the ISG report:
The United States will face hatred and failure in the Middle East if the White House rejects the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Syria warned on Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Syria's ruling party's Al-Baath newspaper urged President Bush to take the group's report seriously because it would "diminish hatred for the U.S. in region," AP reported.
*Academic Elephant over at RedState notes a movement (see also here and here and here), apparently with at least tacit U.S. approval, to break up the current governing coalition in the Iraqi Parliament so as to remove the increasingly ineffectual al-Maliki as leader, build a new coalition that does not depend on the support of Muqtada al-Sadr, and set the stage for a second and hopefully final military showdown with the Sadrists. This would be a necessary step to finishing the job in Iraq.
*This is just a really cool article about turtles. It also pretty well captures the NY Times science section, which still does about the best stuff in the paper - but the headline writer couldn't resist going for an anti-people headline that is really only a small part of the article.
*Great New Republic profile of Sam Brownback, once you make allowances for Noam Scheiber's view of the Catholic Church as a secretive cult. I'm not inclined to support Brownback for president because I don't think he can win (not least of which, the man isn't exactly Mr. Charisma), but I probably agree with him on more issues than most of the other candidates. He'd make a great Senate Majority Leader someday.
*Peter King (the football writer, not Peter King the Congressman) admits error, supports Art Monk for the NFL Hall of Fame.
*I'm all for attacking terrorism at its roots, but poverty ain't it. It's political and religious extremism married to anti-American and anti-Israel ideologies.
*Eliot Spitzer under pressure from Democratic legislators to allow drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. New York moved to require more secure driver's licenses after September 11 by requiring social security number background checks before issuing a driver's license. Little faith though I have in our new Governor, you would think he won't be this indifferent to law enforcement and security concerns, let alone allowing the privileges of citizenship without its burdens.
*I'm sorry, this is just hilarious.
*Linda Greenhouse on the shrinking Supreme Court docket. This point is a useful fact:
One [reason] is the decreasing number of appeals filed on behalf of the federal government by the solicitor general’s office. Over the decades, the Supreme Court has granted cases filed by the solicitor general’s office at a high rate. In the mid-1980s, the office was filing more than 50 petitions per term. But as the lower federal courts have become more conservative and the government has lost fewer cases, the number has plummeted, opening a substantial hole in the court’s docket.
This, I'm less convinced of:
In private conversations, the justices themselves insist that nothing so profound is going on, but rather seem mystified at what they perceive as a paucity of cases that meet the court’s standard criteria. The most important of those criteria is whether a case raises a question that has produced conflicting decisions among the lower federal courts.
I can certainly attest from my own practice that I routinely encounter issues of federal law that are deeply unsettled or as to which a circuit split exists (in areas like securities law, RICO, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, class action procedure, etc.). The Court has been wise to trim its docket from the days of the 1960s-70s; the quality and care with which opinions are crafted has noticeably increased, and it's crucial for the Court to get things right because it often will not return to a particular question again for decades, if ever. But if the Court really wants to take on a few more cases it should have no problem finding appropriate vehicles to clarify unsettled issues.
*Consumer fraud statutes as a remedy for descendants of slaves? (See p. 14). (H/T). I know at least under New York's consumer fraud law, you need to show some loss beyond than just having bought something you would not otherwise have bought, and Justice Breyer has worried about the free speech implications of such lawsuits, which I guess puts him to the right of Judges Posner and Easterbrook on this one.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:08 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Football | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2006 | Politics 2008 | War 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
December 8, 2006
WAR: The Model ISG
I have not had time yet to plow through the entire Iraq Study Group report, although I've been digesting a lot of the reaction. The above is from the front page of yesterday's New York Post, under the headline "Surrender Monkeys," which seems apt.
After thinking about it a few days, though, it occurred to me what the ISG reminds me of: the Model UN from high school. Now, for those of you who did not attend a Model UN conference, the idea was that each school's delegation represented a country and you were supposed to be like the real UN, sitting down to hammer out compromises on an array of international issues. In fact, a lot of people were there to get away from their parents for a few days, party and pick up girls . . . which maybe isn't so different from the real UN after all, when you think about it.
That said, the emphasis at the Model UN was all on reaching compromises and consensuses, but it quickly became obvious to me, even as a teenager, that this was an absolute sham because everybody wanted to make a deal and nobody actually had any real interests at stake or real leverage other than the hollow threat to not make a deal.
This is essentially what the ISG is: Model UN for retired public servants, a bunch of people sitting around reaching meaningless compromises. There are two ways to make decisions: do what you think is right, or reach a compromise that represents a middle ground between what two or more people think is right. But consensus-based decisionmaking only has a chance at working when the people reaching the consensus actually represent the contending interests and can compel them to accept the deal.
And on that score, the ISG is no more representative of the contending parties than I was of Botswana back in high school. Not only are the members of the ISG representative of nobody, elected by nobody and answerable to nobody, but their composition includes nobody from the military, no real left-wingers, no libertarians, only one conservative (Ed Meese, who has little foreign affairs experience), no Israelis, no Iraqi Shi'ites, no Iraqi Sunnis, no Kurds, no Saudis (unless you count Jim Baker), no Iranians, no Syrians, etc. They're making deals with Monopoly money, but they can't make anybody accept the whole deal, which means they ended up proposing an unprincipled compromise as the starting point for negotiations.
They probably didn't even get any decent parties out of it.
December 5, 2006
WAR: That 80s Show?
Apparently Bananarama is staging a coup in Fiji.
December 4, 2006
BLOG: Quick Links 12/4/06
*This essay on the Democrats' coming move to strip funding from missile defense programs is one of the best I have read on the subject of SDI. This is an especially good point about the Democrats' insistence that the program be shown to be 100% effective before money is spent improving or deploying it (a rather different tack than they take when dealing with, say, medical research or alternative energy sources - or global warming, for that matter, even though unlike the battle against combustible fuels money spent on missile defense is a single, transparent cost and imposes no burdens on individual liberty):
[L]ike software, most successful weapons systems are best debugged after being deployed. And some weapons systems were never tested at all before deployment.
Yes, missile defense is expensive and unlikely to ever be 100% foolproof, and yes, we have other means of deterrence. But especially if we are unwilling or unable to act militarily to stop nations like Iran from getting nuclear weapons, the reduction in the potential threat to the U.S. and its key allies is enormous, and well worth the money. But then, it's never really been about the money but about guys like Carl Levin having an ideological fixation on stopping missile defense no matter the underlying facts. The Democrats' move will also break faith with and alienate one of our key allies, Japan. As usual, when they get on one of their left-leaning foreign policy jags, the Democrats treat the actual commitments of our allies as a worthless trifle.
*This December 2005 Iraq analysis from Steven den Beste looks prescient now. I'm still deeply alarmed by the mounting indications that Maliki is taking orders from Sadr and Sadr is taking orders from Iran. We are now locked in a battle for regional supremacy to see if the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Taliban-Al Qaeda axis can strangle democracy in its crib in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon - a battle that looks more and more everyday like the battles we fought in Central America in the 80s and Southeast Asia in the 70s against Communism.
*Patterico catches the LA Times consistently telling only part of the story of a discrimination lawsuit against the LAFD. This is one of those stories I had seen and thought there was something missing from it - Patterico fills in the blanks, which make the whole episode sound more like a sophmoric prank than racism.
What galls me is this, from an LAT editorial:
Scathing audits have outlined the LAFD's erratic disciplinary policies, poor leadership and hostile work environment, yet those reports have failed to dislodge the frat-boy culture. Maybe a public airing of its dirty laundry will.
Now, fixing a bad disciplinary system is fine, and stamping out racism is a noble cause. But a "frat-boy culture" is the concern of the law, why? These are firemen. They run into buildings that are on fire for a living, buildings that have a nasty habit of collapsing on or under them or otherwise acting in a highly dangerous and unstable fashion. Fire departments, like military organizations and police departments, are sustained in their dangerous mission by their unique institutional cultures. People who haven't walked a mile in their boots should be very hesitant to tamper with that culture.
*Speaking of employment law, the Democrats are also poised to add homosexuals to the list of protected classes who can raise the shield of federal litigation to prevent them from being fired or passed over for promotions. Via Bashman. Now, in theory, private businesses (as opposed to, say, religious organizations) should not be able to fire people because they are gay. But anyone with even passing familiarity with the three-ring circus of employment law can tell you that these statutes do not exist in theory - they are, instead, a practical weapon reached for by the kinds of people who get fired from jobs, and usually deservedly so, or to force companies to go through all sorts of contortions in figuring out the proper demographic composition of layoffs rather than just running the best business case.
What is more, what is often an issue is whether a person is perceived as being a member of a protected class, or what the employer knew about their membership in that class. Now, it's usually not hard to figure out who is black, or a woman, or in a wheelchair, but after that things get complicated, and with sexual orientation we enter unchated ground. Do we really want to create a whole cat-and-mouse industry over employers' knowledge of their employees' sex lives? A federal gaydar jurisprudence? ("The court finds that the company's awareness that the plaintiff enjoyed men's figure skating. Summary judgment denied.") If there's one thing the Democrats are experts at enacting, it's the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Or maybe, for their backers in the plaintiffs' bar, not so unintended.
*Good RCP Blog look at Barack H. Obama. I'm split on whether, as a matter of practical politics, this really is Obama's moment to run at the top of the ticket. On the one hand, his liberal record will only grow the longer he is in the Senate, especially now with a Democratic majority, blunting the appeal of his rhetorical moderation. The usual rule is that you run when people want you to run - that's the moment. On the other hand, it seems awfully presumptuous to run after one unfinished term in the Senate, when he has manifestly not accomplished anything. My guess is that moreso than John Edwards in 2004, Obama would be well served by running for VP even if on a losing ticket.
*Speaking of finding the right moment, the GOP field seems to be attracting people whose moments would appear to have passed - like Tommy Thompson and Frank Keating, two star GOP governors from the 1990s.
*Matt Welch takes a harsh look at John McCain from his perspective as a left-leaning libertarian. I loved the subtitle.
*Via Instapundit, Eugene Volokh notes a decision from the Washington Supreme Court recognizing an individual right to bear arms. This only sharpens the conflict I noted three years ago with a Ninth Circuit decision holding that California could impose tort liability on legal sales of firearms within Washington State.
*TV sictom/romantic comedy comes to the factory floor. I will be more than a little surprised if Hollywood gets this one right and is entertaining in the process.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:34 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2006 | Politics 2008 | War 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 27, 2006
POLITICS/WAR: So You Say John Kerry Was Only Joking?
I want to make it abundantly clear: if there's anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.
Sure, some people join the military because the best way of advancement available to them, and maybe that's particularly true in Rangel's Harlem district - it was true of Rangel himself, by his own account (though I somehow doubt that that is the only motivator even for soldiers from Harlem, either). But the incoming Chairman of one of the House's most powerful committees has been in Congress for 36 years, and has no excuse for his ignorance about the nature of the all-volunteer military.
UPDATE: A commenter at RedState linked to this November 2005 Heritage Foundation study of the economic background of military enlistees (it also quotes Rangel making the same point four years ago):
Put simply, the current makeup of the all-voluntary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average soldier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area. We found that the military (and Army specifically) included a higher proportion of blacks and lower proportions of other minorities but a proportionate number of whites. More important, we found that recruiting was not drawing disproportionately from racially concentrated areas.
Notably, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the data shows a distinct shift away from lower-income, less-educated recruits after September 11 - which is unsurprising. People who join the Army mainly to get job training and education, after all, are the ones who are less likely to enlist during a war.
November 25, 2006
POLITICS: Now, Why Did He Do That?
An article in the New York Times, discussing the fact that nothing has changed on the NSA wiretapping front - the program to listen to international al Qaeda phone calls (even ones entering or exiting the U.S.) continues with no Congressional action to give it clearer legal authority and no resolution to the court cases - begins oddly:
When President Bush went on national television one Saturday morning last December to acknowledge the existence of a secret wiretapping program outside the courts, the fallout was fierce and immediate.
If you didn't know the history, you'd almost believe that the President up and spilled the beans on this secret program on his own initiative - curiously absent is the role of the Times itself in revealing the program, an essential part of the news story (as well as of the political controversy) that the Times can't bring itself to mention.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:50 AM | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2006 | War 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 15, 2006
WAR: The Way Forward In Iraq
It is a truism that war is unpredictable, and as a result it is necessary from time to time to reconsider tactics, strategy and even the overall mission. Changing facts on the ground, the changing of the guard at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, and the imminent arrival of the Iraq Study Group report (the leaked potential contents of which are discussed here, h/t), all make it necessary that we revisit yet again first principles about why we are in Iraq, what we hope to accomplish there and what should be the conditions of our ultimate departure.
I have been a supporter of the Iraq War from the beginning, for reasons I explained at length in this February 2003 post, this June 2004 post examining where we then stood on our objectives, and this August 2006 post on democratization in Iraq (I also heartily endorse the global strategic vision laid out by Steven den Beste in this July 2003 "Strategic Overview of the War on Terror"). The short summary is that (1) Saddam Hussein's regime presented a multifaceted threat to the U.S. and its allies and had a history of irrational aggressiveness that was inconsistent with any prospect of reliable deterrence, (2) there was simply no way we were ever going to win the War on Terror with Saddam Hussein's regime still in place, and (3) Saddam Hussein's regime openly cheered the September 11 attacks, which I regard as intolerable. Nothing that has happened in the three and a half years since has convinced me that leaving a regime of that nature in power would have been a good idea.
But regardless of the rightness of the original decision, the question remains: what now? I'm not an expert on military tactics, so all I can do is go back to first principles. Here are the principles that should remain our guides in the months and years to come:
I. Identify and Defeat the Enemy
As a general principle, as I have explained many times before (see here, for example), the essential condition for sending American troops anywhere is that you identify an enemy or enemies and gear all of your efforts to defeating the enemy, by destroying his capacity and/or willingness to fight. That, in a nutshell, is the difference between war and armed social work, the difference between rebuilding a conquered foe into an ally and nation-building for its own sake. Military organizations are designed to destroy the enemy; that gives them purpose and direction and enables them to determine whether or not they have achieved victory. Don't talk to me about "securing" this or "stabilizing" that or "guarding" some other thing - all those may be important parts of the mission, they may even be things that need to be done on the way out the door before handing over the keys, but they are not the mission itself, and the moment they become the mission you have lost your way.
Who is the enemy? There are three main enemies that, to my mind, must be substantially defeated before we can leave, although once Iraqi forces are up to the task of finishing the job we can leave the mop-up work to them.
A. Saddam's Regime
The original enemy we entered Iraq to defeat was the regime of Saddam Hussein. That regime was broken and dispersed by May 2003; its leader was captured in December 2003 and sentenced to death in November 2006; its heirs apparent were gunned down in July 2003.
There is a fair question as to whether some part of the Sunni forces still fighting at this stage represent a genuine hard core of Ba'athist refuseniks, and to the extent that we can so identify such a force it is appropriate to stay and crush it. But I am not inclined to automatically assume that every problem in the Sunni Triangle is necessarily a sign of an organized guerilla campaign, or that US troops should have a permanent job putting down every uprising in the area. Iraqi-vs-Iraqi violence is fundamentally a matter of the new government exercising sovereign authority, and in that regard our role should, at most, be training and handing over the reins (as we have in the two least problematic of Iraq's 18 provinces) rather than trying to insert ourselves in between warring internal factions.
B. Foreign Jihadis
You have heard the President say it often enough: Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. From the summer of 2003 through the summer of 2006, this was indisputably true. Foreign extremists poured into Iraq, mostly congregating around Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ) organization, which was at a minimum affiliated with, modeled on and financially supported by al Qaeda itself. As I have said before, this "flypaper" strategy, in which we would attract terrorists and Islamic extremists to Iraq and kill them in battle, was always a silver lining to the insurgency, not an affirmative reason to want an insurgency to fight. But once an openly declared enemy enters territory you hold, you fight.
Leaving Iraq to the mercy of Zarqawi, as the Howard Dean faction would have done in 2004 or 2005, would have been foolish, irresponsible madness. America can not be seen to run from these guys. But all that changed starting in June 2006, when a U.S. airstrike killed Zarqawi, and our capture of the dying Zarqawi and his bodyguards, paperwork and computers yielded an intelligence bonanza that led to rolling up much of his network.
Today, there are still foreign extremists in Iraq - but are they still a significant threat? It is hard for us to declare victory over these guys, since that seems an invitation for more to come in just to prove us wrong. But if ever there is a situation where we ought to have been able to say "Mission Accomplished" about the insurgency, it is the destruction of Zarqawi and his network. The extent to which our leaders in the field feel comfortable declaring Iraq reasonably free of foreign extremist organizations, and its military capable of dealing with the remainder, is perhaps the most important goalpost in determining when our job is done.
C. Sadr and the Iranian Threat
I have always thought, and have written before, that Muqtada al-Sadr reminded me uncomfortably of the early careers of Saddam, Khomeini, Hitler, Lenin, Castro, and other obstreperous and charismatic troublemakers whose sheer ability to survive eventually helped nourish their arrogance, hate and extremism into full-blown megalomania when they finally seized power. All were frequently underestimated and counted out, exiled, imprisoned, even sentenced to death, but never actually finished off, to the great later grief of millions.
In another way, I will admit I was wrong about this one: after U.S. forces routed Sadr in Najaf in the spring of 2004, I thought it was enough that we destroyed his forces and left to the Iraqis the decision what to do with him (See here and here).
While I don't agree with all of his diagnoses of the Iraq situation, Ralph Peters is dead on the money (also here and here) that Sadr must be killed and it is up to us to do it, because Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is clearly afraid of Sadr and accedes to his demands. If we do not kill Sadr now, we will live to regret the decision.
Sadr is an enemy for three reasons. First, of course, he has from the outset been virulently anti-American and made open war against our troops. Second, he is the chief progenitor of Shi'ite violence, especially in Baghdad, and the chief rival to the elected government for the allegiance of Shi'ites. And third, it is increasingly clear that his resources come from Iranian support, and therefore he cannot be regarded solely as a domestic Iraqi problem. And if we allow an Iranian proxy to make war on us without consequence, this does become like Vietnam, where the nation that landed at Normandy, Okinawa and Inchon was never willing, even after smashing the North Vietnamese military in the Tet offensive, to land a major force up the coast, seize Hanoi and force the enemy to its knees.
It may be that we don't actually need to invade Iran, even in "hot pursuit" of Iranian agents and suppliers entering Iraq, but if we are to contain Iran, we need to make clear to Ahmadenijad that we will decapitate his armed proxies, starting with Sadr and eventually Nasrallah as well.
I won't repeat here everything I said in the prior posts linked above, but I continue to believe that the attempt at democratization in Iraq was and is a worthy strategy. It is not the chief goal of the mission, never was. It is unfortunate that the way things played out on the WMD front, it has been difficult to sell the mission publicly since the invasion as anything but a democratization project, thus placing more of our prestige behind Iraqi democracy than we should have preferred.
But I also said from the very outset in February 2003 that the models for Iraq should not be New Hampshire and Wisconsin or even Germany and Japan, but rather the new democracies that arose in the aftermath of the collapse of the Communist empire in Eastern Europe, Russia, Central and Southeast Asia, Central America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Many of those democracies have had a rough go of it since then; Benjamin Franklin said that our own democracy was "a republic, if you can keep it," and not everyone who received the opportunity for democracy in the 1986-93 period kept it. Some, like Vladimir Putin's Russia, maintain the forms of democracy (elections, term limits) but the actual practice is on life support, with no free press, massive organized crime, spotty and politically driven law enforcement, and an economy in shambles outside of the oil business.
But nearly all of the post-Communist states, even ones that elect people like Daniel Ortega to public office, are better off now than they were before, and less dangerous to the United States. We should continue to offer what support we can, of the non-military variety, to Iraq's democrats. And as in Eastern Europe and other post-Communist areas, we should continue to encourage democratization throughout the Muslim and Arab worlds - it won't work everywhere, and will backfire in some places, but the places it takes root will be long-term potential allies or at least stabilizing forces in the region.
But our military forces in Iraq are there to defeat enemies, not to force democracy to work. As with the Cold War, the battle for Iraqi democracy will be waged in Iraq by Iraqi democrats and their foes long after we have won the victory we came for and gone home.
The proposals from the ISG that have been leaked thus far appear to involve the Mother of All Sellouts, a negotiated peace with Iran and Syria that not only validates their interference in Iraq but simultaneously compels Israel to hand over land to the Syrians. This is foolish and reckless.
I have made this point before, more times than I can count (see here for a sampling and more links): negotiations are war by other means, and will fail if not backed by a credible threat of new or continuing hostilities to the disadvantage of the other side. Treaties are contracts, and contracts only work if the remedies for violation are clear and credible. Iran and Syria are now meddling in Iraq, and have been for quite some time. The Bush Administration has not been willing to visit any adverse consequences on them for this, at least not publicly, and will not admit that we are at war with them. Their proxies make war on us and our allies without the consequence of the proxies' destruction.
How can we make credible peace with them when we will not even admit we are at war? How are they now suffering from U.S. involvement in Iraq, and if not, what incentive do they have to make concessions? And what conditions will bring us back to the field - Iran has been careful to avoid an open casus belli by using proxies rather than an open invasion. If Sadr's militia acts up again, the Iranians won't be falling over themselves to admit complicity, and how will an American president then rally the nation to fight?
Never make peace with anyone who can't be held directly responsible if war resumes.
IV. Other Issues
There are other issues I don't have time and space to deal with here. I regard partition of Iraq as a thinkable but unfortunate last resort, and one that is really more up to the Iraqis and to us, though we do at a minimum owe our support to the Kurds, who remain the most advanced and pro-American faction in the country. McQ has some useful thoughts about oil revenues and moving forces into Kurdistan, both of which I file under the same general heading.
Winning the War on Terror will be a long, hard struggle. We can't lose heart or will, but we also can't allow a loss of clarity about the mission in Iraq to destroy public support for the long war. Keeping focused on the main goals is essential. I close with the full version Churchill quote I use as my tagline; his message about Germany then applies as aptly today, but also as a cautionary tale, since Churchill spoke these words during the First World War, the one that did not end the battle with German militarism:
So it is today.
November 11, 2006
WAR/POLITICS: The Last Don
In many ways the summary announcement Wednesday that Don Rumsfeld would be stepping down in favor of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense was more distressing than the elections themselves. It's not entirely clear exactly how much Rumsfeld was fired as opposed to quitting, but at a minimum it's obvious that he wasn't begging to leave and Bush wasn't begging him to stay, so given the timing immediately following a bad election the public is reasonably interpreting this as Rumsfeld being sacked.
Was it time for Rumsfeld to go? Maybe. Certainly Rumsfeld had his characteristic flaws, specifically that as a former Navy pilot his zeal for flexibility and mobility in warfare sometimes seemed to give short shrift to the value of infantry. Equally certainly, his critics were often motivated by the most parochial of interests, as his quest for modernizing the military made many enemies among those wedded to the status quo. An outsider to the Pentagon can never truly assess the value of each of his initiatives, though it seems unfortunate that a man of his energy and institutional knowledge will not be around to see to the end his program of reform.
In the specific case of Iraq, while the Bush Administration is losing a man with tremendous faith in the mission and unmatched determination, at the end of the day the importance of Robert Gates is secondary; Gates is, whatever his other virtues and vices, the classic professional manager. If President Bush keeps faith with the mission, I have no doubt that Gates will carry it out; if he doesn't, it would take more than Don Rumsfeld to set him straight.
What is dismaying is the timing and handling of the announcement. It came too late to help embattled Republican moderates in districts and states unhappy with the Iraq war, yet too soon after the elections to be read as anything but a show of weakness and capitulation to Bush's political enemies. Perhaps it is true that the Democratic takeover of the House made it necessary that Rumsfeld dedicate himself full time to appearing at investigative hearings while someone else takes the reins of the war, but concessions to a party more interested in score-settling than in winning the war do not inspire confidence in President Bush's steadiness in the final two years of his term.
Then again, like it or not, Rumsfeld himself would be the first to admit that you can't win wars without the support of the public and the Congress and a decent effort at media relations. With all three now having turned decisively against Rumsfeld, his ability to do his job going forward was probably fatally compromised anyway.
Despite the shabby treatment he received from the president, I can't weep too much for Rumsfeld himself, for two reasons. First, Rumsfeld is a veteran bureaucratic infighter who has himself been the moving force behind more purges and palace coups than you could count; just to name a few, he has variously been suspected of engineering the 1965 overthrow of House Minority Leader Charles Halleck by Gerald Ford, the 1970 purge of the notorious Terry Lenzer from the Office of Economic Opportunity, the 1975-76 purge of moderates and "realists" (including Henry Kissinger and Nelson Rockefeller) from the Ford Administration, leading to promotions for Rumsfeld to Secretary of Defense and Dick Cheney to White House Chief of Staff, as well as numerous power plays within the Bush Administration, resulting in Rumsfeld outlasting Colin Powell, Jay Garner, Paul Bremer, Andrew Card, and a constellation of generals, among others. He's the ultimate grownup, he knows how the game is played, and his turn was due to come eventually. Hs will retire to a position of great prominence and personal wealth and with the respect and loyalty of many in Washington, the military, and the GOP.
And second, of course, he has had a tremendous run. He started once upon a time as the youngest Defense Secretary in the nation's history and ends as the oldest, and he will leave office having held the job for the longest continuous tenure as well as the longest total tenure, having been the only man to serve in the post twice. He has been hugely influential in many ways within Washington since his arrival as a congressional staffer in 1957, and his protege remains as the Vice President. His legion of aphorisms have entered the popular consciousness, from "known unknowns" to "you go to war with the army you have," to of course the sneering phrase "Old Europe" and the stir it created within Europe itself. And in the end, the fate of the Iraq project will guarantee Rumsfeld's place in history for good or ill, regardless of the circumstances of his departure, just as MacArthur is judged today mainly on his conduct of the war in the Pacific, the occupation of Japan and the landing at Inchon rather than his losing battle with Harry Truman.
There are tough decisions ahead about Iraq, as the reality on the ground has changed over time and the strategies needed to meet that reality will have to be adjusted just as they have been adjusted in the past. It is unfortunate that a man as gifted, energetic and knowing in the ways of the Pentagon as Don Rumsfeld will not have a place at the table to make those decisions. But then, the genius of the American system of war-making is that no one man is indispensable.
November 6, 2006
WAR: See No Evil, Hear No Evil
As we head into the voting booth it's worth considering one of the most crucial elements of the War on Terror: gathering intelligence. Both parties agree, in theory, that the gathering and analysis of intelligence is hugely important. In a word of shadowy threats that dare not confront us openly, of secret trade in weapons and the infiltration of open societies by terror cells, we must use every means at our disposal to make sure we stay a step ahead of the bad guys - and don't shoot the innocent along the way. Indeed, few Democratic criticisms of the war effort in general and the Iraq War in particular have been given more prominence than the charge that we failed to get the truth about weapons programs that were a closely held secret within a police state.
Yet, at every turn, howls of outrage have been raised on the Left at efforts to gather intelligence. Just think - how do you learn what extremists and hostile states are up to, here and abroad?
*Electronic surveillance? President Bush has sought to expand the use of surveillance both by legislation (the Patriot Act) and through clandestine programs (the NSA program to track Al Qaeda phone calls into the U.S. and the SWIFT program to track international banking transfers). For this he has taken years of intense carping and the media and disgruntled critics within the government have responded by leaking the details of secret surveillance programs on the front pages of the NY Times.
*Questioning captives? Again, the Bush Administration has been subjected to a continuous storm of abuse from its opponents for taking an aggressive tack in questioning detainees, even those at the very top of the Al Qaeda organization or on the tip of the spear of the insurgency in Iraq.
*Informants and turncoats? Democrats in the 1990s, led by NJ Senator Bob Torricelli, sought restrictions on our ability to work with undercover infiltrators of extremist organizations. And, of course, critics of the Iraq War have been arguing for years that we should give no credence to defectors.
*Boots on the ground? The very best intelligence comes from having a continuous military presence in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. The air strike on
True, not every Democrat has been willing to vote against these measures, much as their base and the media have egged them on. But many of the worst of the Democrats on these issues, especially in the House, will ascend to leadership positions if they regain the majority. And the pressure to close our eyes and ears comes from their side, a side that will be ever emboldened by victory tomorrow. Which is why we do well to bear in mind the words of President Bush (h/t Geraghty):
If anybody has any doubts about the differences of opinion in Washington, D.C. between Republicans and Democrats, I want them to analyze the recent votes that took place on these important programs. When it came time to renew the Patriot Act, more than 75 percent of the House Democrats voted against it.
October 31, 2006
WAR: Back to the Table
While any kind of talks with North Korea are unlikely to accomplish very much, the Bush Administration has long taken the postion - with which I agree - that the North Korean problem is a regional problem and really more the responsibility of North Korea's neighbor and sometime patron and protector, China. Thus, while Democrats have loudly and frequently demanded unilateral U.S. talks with North Korea, the Bush Administration has held fast to the idea that six-party regional talks are the only way to reach any sensible and workable diplomatic solution.
Patience and persistence have paid off again, however incrementally, this morning: the North Koreans have told China that they are willing to return to the six-party table this month for the first time in a year, news that the Chinese government announced on its website.
October 27, 2006
WAR: Jackboot-Licking Lackeys
How else would one describe businessmen cozying up to the North Korean regime by attending its golf tournament?
October 25, 2006
WAR: A McGovernite Plan for Iraq
Actually, not just McGovernite - it's old George McGovern himself, calling - surprise! - for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. What is would be funny if it wasn't sad and dangerous is McGovern and his co-author's proposed solutions:
The authors say the Iraqi government should request the presence of an international force, including Arab and Muslim troops, to help keep order after the departure of the Americans.
Yeah, international forces have just been lining up around the block looking to go in there. And which Arab and Muslim states are we talking about here - Syria? Iran? Besides, sectarian strife is not likely to be pacified by people who belong to one of the denominations involved.
Which, without U.S. troops around, will last how long without being blown up? And they make it sound like we have not been doing precisely that for three years now.
Well, you talk to tired old liberals, you get tired old liberal tropes. This completely ignores the fact that most of the violence these days is targeted by Iraqis at fellow Iraqis, not at the U.S. McGovern all but concedes later in the article that his plan, in a forthcoming book, is already somewhat dated due to this change in the nature of the strife in Iraq.
Of course, even McGovern has to admit that "by and large, the Democrats seem to have been intimidated into silence or kind of a mushy policy on foreign questions."
October 12, 2006
Not metaphorical here, but actual treason charges. While the term gets thrown around far too loosely, there is such a thing as giving aid, comfort and material support to our enemies in wartime, and we should not fear using the treason charge where it is appropriate.
WAR: Denying Denial
France passes a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915, straining relations with Turkey. As an American I'm instinctively uncomfortable with speech-banning of any type, and I'm not sure if this is really the fight France needs to pick just now, but I have to sympathize with the sentiment. A little backbone is not a bad thing, coming from the French.
October 10, 2006
WAR/POLITICS: McCain on Korea
Ed Morrissey runs a guest post from none other than John McCain. It reads more like a speech than an op-ed, let alone a blog post, but when a potential presidential candidate puts out his position on an international crisis, a conversational tone isn't his chief priority.
China has staked its prestige as an emerging great power on its ability to reason with North Korea, keep them engaged with the six party negotiations, and make progress toward a diplomatic resolution of this crisis. North Korea has now challenged them as directly as they challenge South Korea, Japan, Russia and the U.S. It is not in China's interest or our interest to have a nuclear arms race in Asia, but that is where we're headed. If China intends to be a force for stability in Asia, then it must do more than rebuke North Korea. It must show Pyongyang that it cannot sustain itself as a viable state with aggressive actions and in isolation from the entire world.
On this point, of course, he's right - there's a fair debate about how best to do it, but making this China's responsibility should be the goal here. Nothing happens in North Korea unless the Chinese let it happen.
North Korea also has a record of transferring weapons technology to other rogue nations, such as Iran and Syria.
I personally think North Korea can probably be contained, given its lack of expansionist tendencies and despite the paranoia, desperation and irrationality of its leaders, but the proliferation issue is another one entirely - we can't tolerate proliferation of nuclear technology to any of the trouble spots in the Arab or Muslim world.
I would remind Senator Hillary Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush Administration policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure. The Koreans received millions in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to their military. And what did they do? They secretly enriched uranium.
This part is as interesting for its partisan implications as on the merits: McCain is starting to realize that his interests in both the Republican primaries and in the 2008 general election (if he gets that far) will be served by going hard after Hillary.
October 6, 2006
September 27, 2006
WAR: Pardoning Terrorists
The Clinton legacy. As the author notes, this isn't a question of what wasn't done, but what Clinton went out of his way to do to buy votes.
UPDATE: This link should work.
September 24, 2006
WAR: Clinton and bin Laden
I'm really not so interested in rehashing, yet again, what Clinton did or did not do to get bin Laden. I've said my piece on that, and I still think blaming Americans in either party for September 11 is deeply misguided. (Although for those who want to head down memory lane, Jake Tapper has a great roundup on Clinton's efforts to blame 1990s Republicans for making the "Wag the Dog" argument, and Patterico looks at Chris Wallace's record asking Don Rumsfeld about this sort of thing).
If Clinton really wants to go on the offensive on this question, all that needs be said is that he didn't get bin Laden and he didn't stop what was coming; history will regard the rest as details.
WAR/BASEBALL: Now This Means War
Could Hugo Chavez' unhinged diatribe at the UN jeopardize Boston's landmark Citgo sign? I sympathize with the sentiment, and frankly I'm avoiding Citgo stations whenever possible, but at this point the sign is a Boston landmark.
September 23, 2006
WAR: OBL RIH?
I want you to get this **** where he breathes! ...I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES!
- Al Capone, "The Untouchables"
Well, the rumors have been swirling that Osama bin Laden may have shuffled off this mortal coil recently at the tender age of 49 (the age George W. Bush was in his first year as Texas governor), dead of typhoid fever, an illness rarely seen these days in the civilized West but harder to evade or treat when one is cowering in a cave surrounded by primitives and religious fanatics.
Is this true? We have heard such rumors before, and have as yet no confirmation, though Ace considers several reasons why a flurry of recent events would make more sense if bin Laden had died. If it is true, I would have preferred a more violent or more protracted and agonizing death - sorry folks, I take this one very personally - but this will do. Bin Laden has, after September 11, seen his movements restricted, his men decimated, his income throttled, his open allies smashed or cowed, his bases destroyed - and he has never again emerged with a victory to crow about. His one functional ally against the U.S., Zarqawi's organization in Iraq, has been beheaded and essentially run to ground. It is altogether fitting if he has died in obscurity, uncelebrated and unmartyred, felled by an adversary that is microscopic and no threat to his enemies, yet utterly uninterested in fame or ideology, regarding the would-be caliph merely as food.
If it's not true, well, a bin Laden in hiding in a primitive region of the Pakistani-Afghan border isn't all that immediately dangerous, and pursuing him shouldn't be regarded as a substitute for crushing his organization and tearing up his ideology by the roots, but we should be after him implacably nonetheless for the same reason why the Israelis executed Eichmann and pursued Mengele decades after the fall of the Third Reich. If poor hygeine did not get bin Laden, American justice will, sooner or later. We will not forget. And we will laugh last.
September 21, 2006
WAR: Bombs Away, George
Will the U.S. send troops to Pakistan if we can pinpoint bin Laden's location there? Of course, the question assumes we're not already fighting there and don't already at least strongly suspect what general region he's in.
Going openly into Waziristan is diplomatically sensitive, so it's not surprising that it's taken a long time and a protracted dance of demonstrated futility before we go there. But sooner or later it's going to be necessary, and the past few months' events there seem to say sooner.
Tom Elia wants to know why Florida Democrats tried to sponsor a screening of a 9/11 conspiracy film. And I didn't know that Rahm Emanuel's brother was Michael Moore's agent.
WAR/POLITICS: Democrats Finally Identify Iraq Policy: Hold Hearings
Because, you know, the one thing we haven't had is a debate about the war.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
"Three years into war, the American people still don't have a clear picture of what's gone wrong in Iraq -- or how to set it right," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
"We've been going backward for too long," he said.
Democrats said they had invited Republicans to attend the hearings, which will start in Washington on Monday and move across the country in October and November -- before and after the November 7 congressional elections in which control of both houses are at stake.
Reid and other top Democrats told a news conference the current Congress had conducted fewer oversight hearings than previous wartime Congresses. They said lawmakers held 152 days of hearings on the Korean War and 328 days on Vietnam.
A moment of silence, please, for all those who courageously held hearings in past wars. History may little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that chairs a hearing now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
WAR: Sometimes A Hot Dog Is Just A Hot Dog
September 20, 2006
WAR: Hugo Chavez Joins the Jihad
As always: the best guide to our enemies' intentions is their own words. Take them seriously. Like when Saddam cheered the September 11 attacks. Chavez has the means to cause us great harm, and he has declared himself aligned with those who actively seek to do so. He bears very close watching.
BLOG: Quick Links 9/20/06
Yeah, another bunch of links and quick hits, heavy on politics and war.
*First of all, for my own purposes I should note here that as of this week I have been at my law firm for 10 years. A milestone, of a sort.
*This putatively hostile profile of Mitch McConnell makes him sound like the ideal leader for a legislative majority - a guy who's a brilliant master of parliamentary rules and techniques, a workhorse rather than a showhorse who has a keen understanding of how to hold his caucus together and has been an instrumental player in some of Bill Frist's biggest successes. The authors criticize him for not writing "landmark legislation" or taking to the airwaves, but they have to concede that McConnell has done, in his fight against campaign finance regulation, the very thing the Framers most hoped a a Senator would do - wage an unpopular one-man battle against landmark legislation that is simultaneously self-interested (by protecting incumbents) and hostile to our constitutional guarantees of free speech. And as for his partisanship, (1) the authors don't really even pretend that Tom Daschle wasn't an arch-partisan and (2) "bipartisan" legislation is usually a warning to watch your wallet anyway.
*While I share David Frum's frustration that Bush didn't spend more of his UN speech pressing the case against Iran, I thought this passage in the speech was one of the best articulations yet of why the battle against tyranny in the region is so important to the battle against terrorism - as Bush's predecessor would say to himself, "it's the propaganda, stupid":
Imagine what it's like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You're 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government. While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country's shortcomings. And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom. For many across the broader Middle East, this is the dismal choice presented every day.
This is, by the way, a signal difference from the Cold War - the Communist bloc may have fed its citizens propaganda, but at least they were literate and educated, and thus easier to reach with a contrary message. Illiteracy is a particular problem in Egypt and one of the reasons why Egyptian society presents a greater danger than, say, Iraq or Iran of the populace embracing Islamist nutcases if given the vote.
*Links on the continuing saga of the threats of violence against the Pope for implying that Islam preaches violence: was Pope Benedict trying to build pressure for Christians to receive the treatment in Muslim lands that Muslims receive in Christian lands?; the archbishop of Sydney isn't backing down; David Warren on the BBC; and Fr. Neuhaus at First Things has some reflections. More detail on the violence and threats of violence here, here, here and here. Josh Trevino offers trenchant analysis, especially this parallel:
There's an illuminating historical incident from the tenth century that deserves wider dissemination, and that the Pope might have used in lieu of Manuel II Paleologue's quote. That Emperor was the last to enjoy a full reign in a free Empire; but nearly four hundred years before, the Empire was enjoying a resurgence. Manuel II Paleologue ruled barely more than Constantinople itself - but Nikephoros II Fokas ruled from Italy to the Caucasus, and from Bulgaria to Syria. He was a longtime foe of the Muslim Caliphate, and he observed that a signal advantage of the Muslims was their jihad doctrine. The Orthodox Church then - as now - regarded war as a regrettable necessity, with emphasis on the regrettable part, and soldiers returning from war would be made to perform some manner of penance before again receiving communion. By contrast, Nikephoros II Fokas observed that the Muslims who went to war were directly fulfilling the commandments of their faith, and were accordingly more motivated, violent, and relentless. The Emperor decided that the Christians needed a similar spiritual edge, and so he asked the Patriarch Polyeuktos in Constantinople to declare that any Christian who fell in battle was automatically a martyr. In effect, he requested a Christian version of jihad. The Patriarch and the entire Church hierarchy, so often in that era mere tools of Imperial policy, refused. The Emperor was forced to back down, and within a few short centuries, the Empire was overrun by the Muslims.
Trevino also points out something else. While the founder of Christianity was martyred by the State and the Church endured three centuries of persecution from its founding, Islam began as, and has for most of its existence been, the religion of power and the powerful, united with the State. There are examples of Muslims living under both the culturally light yoke of colonialism (in British India and the brief Western mandates over the former Ottoman territories from 1918 until just after WW2) and Communist opression (mainly in Kazakhstan and the other southern republics that left Russia at the collapse of the Soviet Union), but Islam for the most part does not share the heritage of other faiths in surviving separate from and in opposition to the State. None of this suggests that Islam is necessarily or by nature bad or dangerous, but it does underline why Islamic doctrines have been such potent and hard-to-defuse weapons in the hands of actual and would-be tyrants.
*I had hoped to get to the issue of the Senate Intelligence Committee reports on pre-Iraq-War intelligence sooner and in more detail, but I have only thus far had the chance to read parts of the reports. Critics of the reports have been out in full force on the Right - Stephen Hayes says the report glosses over Saddam's history with jihadist extremists, as does Deroy Murdock, Byron York looks at the fact that Chuck Hagel, a Republican on the committee, had a former Kerry campaign staffer on the committee staff, Wizbang has a link here to a piece that appears to rehash some of Hayes' reporting, and here to a CNN report from 1999 (quoted by Hayes in his book) claiming that Saddam offered asylum to bin Laden. Read and judge for yourself - like I said, I haven't had time to digest all of this yet.
"There are some stand-out cases and each of them will test whether this is a 'restrained' Court," said constitutional law scholar Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine University School of Law, referring to the abortion, affirmative action and punitive damages challenges.
Kmiec concedes that it is "very difficult at first blush" to see why a conservative, restrained court would take the [partial-birth] abortion challenges, since there is no circuit split and there is a recent precedent.
Um, the Executive Branch has asked the Court to reverse lower court rulings that struck down an Act of Congress. I don't care what your judicial philosophy is in deciding a case like that, the Court is almost always going to take a case in those circumstances; it would be a serious dereliction of its institutional role not to.
*A female Supreme Court justice in Yemen? Baby steps.
*Lawrence of India: funny how this statute didn't get mentioned in Justice Kennedy's discussion of international precedents in Lawrence v Texas. Remember, foreign law only counts if it helps one side.
*Correction: Hekmyatar wasn't actually captured.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2006 | Religion | War 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 19, 2006
WAR: Two Down, Sixteen to Go
The second of Iraq's 18 provinces is ready for the full transfer of responsibility for security, the last step in the process that began with the transfer of civil sovereignty in June 2004 and has continued through two elections, a new constitution and the formation of a representative government:
With all its history in tow, Dhi Qar province in southern Iraq is looking toward the future. It's scheduled later this month to become the second of Iraq's 18 provinces to be transferred to provincial Iraqi control.
Note, by the way, that the Coalition and the al-Maliki government do have an aspirational timetable for this process; it's just not a cast-in-stone deadline for the removal of Coalition forces. This is the result of the "unilateral" effort in Iraq:
The responsibility for getting Dhi Qar ready to transfer has been shouldered mostly by members of the Italian contingent there, led by Brig. Gen. Carmine De Pascale, commander of the Italian Joint Task Force – Iraq.
Naturally, and logically, the two provinces selected to go first are the easiest nuts to crack, the rural equivalent of our "red states" - Baghdad, conspicuously, remains in need of pacification - but as has been true of Iraq all along, the further we get down the road, the more momentum works in our favor.
September 18, 2006
WAR: Isikoff Tortured Meaning of Gonzales Memo on Detainees
Patterico has the goods. Oh, does he ever.
September 15, 2006
WAR: Pictures Lie - Frank Rich Helps
Slate has the details. Of course, Frank Rich being wrong about everything is the classic dog-bites-man story.
WAR/RELIGION: The Pope and the Jihadis
Everyone who complains about the Pope's quotation should first be asked: is it, or is it not true, that Islam commands that the faith be spread by the sword? Anyone who doesn't explicitly and unequivocally renounce that doctine should not be listened to.
A couple more random thoughts:
*Frankly, if it is controversial for the Pope to speak negatively about another faith, we're in trouble. As a matter of earthly politics, we expect our religious leaders to espouse tolerance; as a political strategy, it is sometimes prudent for people of many faiths to form alliances within free societies against secularists. But as a matter of propagating the faith - the first duty of the clergy - of course, the Pope is entitled to explain why another faith is false prophecy and leads to ill.
*If these guys take a shot at the Pope, they will have enemies they have not previously dreamt of.
POLITICS/WAR: Staying in the Back Seat
Now, I'm not one to put a lot of stock in anonymous quotes that are against the speaker's interest and fit perfectly into the reporter's storyline (much less declare myself a member of a movement built around such a quote), but Chuck Todd in the Atlantic Monthly ($), in explaining why some strategists in each party are hoping not to win a majority in the Congress in 2006, has a quote from "[o]ne Democratic Senate staffer" that so perfectly captures the Democratic attitude that it hardly matters if it's a real quote or not:
(Emphasis in original). Yes, and it's easier to be "tough and strong" or "tough but smart" or "strong at home and respected abroad" or whatever the latest slogan is, than to take responsibility for getting the job done.
WAR: Japan is Serious
One of the more surprising allies to stick by the U.S. through thick and thin since September 11 and to take its own increasingly tough stance on terrorism is Japan under Prime Minister Koziumi. We see another sign of that toughness as Japan's Supreme Court rejects the last appeal of Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara, who masterminded the nerve gas attack on Japan's subways in 1995, and Japan prepares to hang him.
September 14, 2006
WAR: Hamo, Hamas, Hamat
Fatah - corrupt and terrorist-friendly - regaining the upper hand isn't good news either, but if nothing else the Palestinians have been focused more on going at each other lately instead of Israelis.
September 13, 2006
BLOG: Quick Links 9/13/06
Sorry I've been a little short on baseball content the past week. That was certainly one crushing loss for the Marlins last night. Anyway, on to some links:
*My initial reaction to the news that Pakistan was effectively conceding its lack of sovereignty over the mountainous, tribal, Taliban/Al Qaeda-infested Waziristan region on the Afghan border (more here and here) was that the last grounds for pretending that Pakistan, and not the U.S., was responsible for cleaning out this hornet's nest was gone, and that we would need to brace for a bloody invasion that would inevitably (given the terrain and hostile locals) require heavy U.S. casualties and massive civilian deaths, given that the only really feasible approaches to the warren of hills and valleys are (1) go in single file like sitting ducks or (2) bomb the place back to the Stone Age, Curtis LeMay style. Ed Morrissey and McQ were more guardedly optimistic - after all, Musharraf was also simultaneously working out an agreement with Hamid Karzai to take a joint approach to rooting out the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the border regions, and if there's one thing we know about Pakistan it's that an awful lot has gone on there the past five years that has never been made public. I remain skeptical, but as Bill Roggio reports that the Taliban has already violated the agreements with Pakistan (surprise!) while the accord with Karzai was followed very rapidly by the capture of troublesome Afghan warlord and sometime Taliban ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, it is possible that progress is actually being made in the region that is still the most likely haven of bin Laden and Zawahiri. Stay tuned.
*Here in NY, the dominant story in the media lately has been the illnesses (mainly respiratory problems, although class action lawyers have been trying to squeeze the square peg of unrelated ailments into the same hole) suffered by Ground Zero rescue/cleanup workers. The Daily News on Saturday had an interesting article on how dogs at the rescue site have not suffered comparable illnesses despite working long hours at the site without any protective gear. The obvious physiological differences between people and dogs are noted, but it seems to me there are two further issues that probably exacerbate the difference. One is behavioral: some of the people who labored long and hard at Ground Zero may be smokers, and smokers are always at greater risk for other respiratory problems (a fact examined at exhaustive length in studies of asbestos). The other is psychological: if people expect to get sick, they may be more vulnerable. Dogs didn't expect to get sick. (I'm not trying to blame people who got sick, mind you; just saying that the interaction between the mind and illnesses of the body remains poorly understood).
*Excellent point by Orin Kerr (via Instapundit): despite the great hue and cry over the NSA surveillance program, the actual footprint of War on Terror legislation and executive actions on civil liberties has been much narrower than a lot of people expected five years ago.
*John Hawkins runs down the GOP's best chances to gain Democrat-held House seats. Many of them are not great pickup odds right now, but are still within striking distance. As in the Senate, I think Republicans will have to make a few gains to hold the chamber given the likelihood of losing Republican-held seats.
*Of course, Democrats oppose voter ID that would make fraud more difficult. I wonder, given the specific issue discussed here, whether there is some sovereignty-based grounds for exempting the Navajo.
*Make Afghanistan the new Iowa? Can you really grow good corn crops there?
*I've been stunned to see recent reports that Dunkin Donuts wants to expand nationally - I always thought they were every bit as national and synonymous with donuts as McDonalds with burgers and Kentucky Fried Chicken with fast food chicken.
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*Peggy Noonan in 1998 (via Instapundit):
Something's up. And deep down, where the body meets the soul, we are fearful. We fear, down so deep it hasn't even risen to the point of articulation, that with all our comforts and amusements, with all our toys and bells and whistles . . . we wonder if what we really have is . . . a first-class stateroom on the Titanic. Everything's wonderful, but a world is ending and we sense it.
We must take the time to do some things. We must press government officials to face the big, terrible thing. They know it could happen tomorrow; they just haven't focused on it because there's no Armageddon constituency. We should press for more from our foreign intelligence and our defense systems, and press local, state, and federal leaders to become more serious about civil defense and emergency management.
Prescient, but like so many others in our politics and punditry who looked at the terrorism issue in that age, Noonan didn't act as if she thought it was coming, didn't make this her sole issue and pound the table until something was done. Hey, I didn't either. Some were more at fault than others, yes, but we all failed.
« Close It
September 11, 2006
UPDATE: This April 2002 Megan McArdle post revisits the early weeks of the Ground Zero cleanup effort.
September 8, 2006
WAR: Repressing the Ladies
WAR/POLITICS: Questioning the Questioners, Part I
Jeff Goldstein discusses why it's a good thing that President Bush's Tuesday speech laying out the Administration's past successes in interrogating Al Qaeda detainees in CIA custody and proposing a new strategy for dealing with detainees in light of the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision represents a political strategy to put Democrats on the defensive and force them to take responsibility for either agreeing with the new policy or advocating a less aggressive approach to collecting intelligence from detainees. (Via Instapundit). (Ironically, of course, getting less information from detainees would only make us more reliant on our other best source of information, that being electronic surveillance). Goldstein focuses on the hypocrisy of critics like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald (and they're not the only ones) who have been beating Bush over the head with the detainee issue for at least two and a half years now and have suddenly decided that it's not fair play for Bush to make a political issue of the standards for holding, questioning and trying detainees. Of course, Bush would have been perfectly happy to stick with the prior detainee-interrogation standards and keep them from the public eye, so it's absurd in the extreme to suggest that he chose to politicize this issue; all he's doing is taking an issue that's been used against him and making the best of it.
In fact, Bush is trying to replicate two of his signal accomplishments from four years ago. First, he's replicating his strategy in dealing with the Department of Homeland Security. You will recall that Bush initially opposed the creation of a massive, labrynthian new bureaucracy as part of the response to September 11. The Democrats thought they had the perfect strategy: advocating the new bureaucracy could, in one fell swoop, (1) put them to Bush's right, (2) without having to support more aggressive policies or give more power to their old foes the Defense Department, NSA and CIA, and potentially set up a countervailing power base to those agencies and (3) create lots of new job opportunities for their core constituency (government employees). But when Bush realized that opposing the new leviathan was politically untenable, he instead made demands (removing civil-service protections from DHS employees, a position anathema to the Democrats' union backers) that placed him once again on the side of greater emphasis on security, and in a way the Democrats couldn't support. The issue ended up helping sink a number of Democratic incumbents who put the interests of the unions first, most notably Max Cleland in Georgia. In short, Bush took up a battle he never wanted and found a way to turn it to his advantage.
Second, Bush is doing here what he did with the Iraq War vote in the fall of 2002: more than using national security for political purposes, Bush used partisan politics for national security purposes, counting on the fact that Democrats' principles were sufficiently pliable that they would vote for the war out of fear of being held accountable by the electorate for opposing it. And it's the Democrats whose partisan calculations are exposed by this maneuver, as Goldstein notes:
Sullivan characterizes this as a gambit to "legalize torture" and despairs that those who secretly wish they could vote against such legalization won't be able to now, because politically they would see doing so as a liability.
WAR: The Clinton Terror Record
As Dean Barnett points out, the Clinton record on fighting terrorism is pitiable enough that ABC shouldn't need to "dramatize" it with fictional scenes of incompetence.
Now, I think I have been consistent in saying that I'm not that interested in pinning blame on Americans for the September 11 attacks; there's way too much 20/20 hindsight out there. Nonetheless, it's important to keep the historical record straight - not least as a reminder that those who want to return to the pre-September 11 policies are horrifically and dangerously mistaken, and also as a curative against recurring agitprop that seeks to blame President Bush for the problem. In that light, it's important to keep the Clinton legacy on terrorism in perspective and understand why, with the benefit of that hindsight, it was such a disaster and should not be repeated. I've got a post up over at RedState (slightly updated from one I ran here two years ago) examining the timeline of Clinton's responses to Al Qaeda and Iraq in the period from August 1998-January 2001.
September 6, 2006
WAR: Star Wars for RPGs
McQ blows a gasket - justifiably, if I read this story correctly - over the Pentagon dragging its feet due to Army opposition on a system to track and destroy incoming RPGs. I don't put a lot of stock in a lot of the stories complaining about this or that procurement issue amounting to 'sending the troops into battle without adequate armor/etc.' but this does sound like the Pentagon behaving very much like the gigantic government bureaucracy it is.
POLITICS/WAR: Valerie Plame Wilson Revealed
David Corn, the Nation writer who launched the Plame story with an interview with Joe Wilson back in July 2003 and now has a book out (with Michael Isikoff) in which he tells the tale as if he were a disinterested observer rather than a prime mover in the story, has an excerpt up on "What Valerie Plame Really Did at the CIA". Corn's article, probably unintentionally, confirms much of what obervers on the Right have been saying all along.
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[T]he officers of the [CIA's] Joint Task Force on Iraq--part of the Counterproliferation Division of the agency's clandestine Directorate of Operations--were frantically toiling away in the basement, mounting espionage operations to gather information on the WMD programs Iraq might have. The JTFI was trying to find evidence that would back up the White House's assertion that Iraq was a WMD danger. Its chief of operations was a career undercover officer named Valerie Wilson.
In other words: Mrs. Wilson was not an innocent bystander to the Iraq War debate - she was at its epicenter, having led the CIA's efforts to find WMD in Iraq. Now, we know that the CIA battled with the White House and the Defense Department over a number of the details in this debate, and that the CIA's Iraq team generally sided with the faction in the State Department (including, ironically, Richard Armitage) who opposed the war. Reading between the lines here, and leaving aside Corn's implicit spin about how these folks had no agenda of their own, it would appear that Mrs. Wilson may even have been the leader of that internal CIA faction.
Her specific position at the CIA is revealed for the first time in a new book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, by the author of this article and Newsweek's Michael Isikoff. The book chronicles the inside battles within the CIA, the White House, the State Department and Congress during the run-up to the war. Its account of Wilson's CIA career is mainly based on interviews with confidential CIA sources.
First off, the irony here is too rich: Corn, having wailed to high heaven over the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's identity, now reveals much more non-public information about her undercover work, and does so with the complicity of "confidential CIA sources".
Second, note the promise of revelations of "inside battles within the CIA" - I'll give you one guess which side Mrs. Wilson comes down on.
Another issue was whether Valerie Wilson had sent her husband to Niger to check out an intelligence report that Iraq had sought uranium there. Hubris contains new information undermining the charge that she arranged this trip. In an interview with the authors, Douglas Rohn, a State Department officer who wrote a crucial memo related to the trip, acknowledges he may have inadvertently created a misimpression that her involvement was more significant than it had been.
Chief Plame-ologist Tom Maguire greets this claim with the scorn it deserves:
Please - Ms. Plame was head of the JTFI Ops group, had proposed her husband for his 1999 trip to Niger, but was not involved here? Well, then, why does Libby's indictment include this:7. On or about June 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke with a senior officer of the CIA to ask about the origin and circumstances of Wilson's trip, and was advised by the CIA officer that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and was believed to be responsible for sending Wilson on the trip.
So, what did the then-Valerie Plame do with the CIA?
Valerie Plame was recruited into the CIA in 1985, straight out of Pennsylvania State University. After two years of training to be a covert case officer, she served a stint on the Greece desk, according to Fred Rustmann, a former CIA official who supervised her then. Next she was posted to Athens and posed as a State Department employee. Her job was to spot and recruit agents for the agency. In the early 1990s, she became what's known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA's frontline officers. They do not pretend to work for the US government; they do not have the protection of diplomatic immunity. They might claim to be a businessperson. She told people she was with an energy firm. Her main mission remained the same: to gather agents for the CIA.
Again, to the extent that some of this stuff hasn't been disclosed or confirmed publicly, why is Corn doing that? (You will recall that Novak's initial column was vague on Mrs. Wilson's job at the CIA - it was Corn, presumably at the insistence of Joe Wilson, who first publicly asserted that she had been a covert operative).
In 1997 she returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division.
Which underlines the fact that she had been non-covert and working at headquarters for six years, leaving her uncovered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
JTFI officers, under Wilson's supervision, tracked down relatives, students and associates of Iraqi scientists--in America and abroad--looking for potential sources. They encouraged Iraqi emigres to visit Iraq and put questions to relatives of interest to the CIA. The JTFI was also handling walk-ins around the world. Increasingly, Iraqi defectors were showing up at Western embassies claiming they had information on Saddam's WMDs. JTFI officers traveled throughout the world to debrief them. Often it would take a JTFI officer only a few minutes to conclude someone was pulling a con. Yet every lead had to be checked.
As to Mrs. Wilson, Corn is straining here to imply some covert overseas role, but if she was meeting with "Jordanian intelligence officials" as an official representative of the CIA (I doubt she told them she was a private energy consultant looking to recruit defectors from Iraq), her cover in that region wasn't ever going to be secure - I'd guess that a lot more hostile governments have sources in Jordanian intelligence than read Bob Novak.
As to the actual intelligence gathering process, this just emphasizes what we've known for some time now: while there were a broad array of indicators as to Saddam's historical WMD programs and continuing interest in such programs (including, ironically, his feelers to Niger to explore buying yellowcake), there was simply no way we could rule out the possibility that he still had or was on the verge of getting the robust WMD programs he'd been pursuing for two decades.
The results were frustrating for the officers. Were they not doing their job well enough--or did Saddam not have an arsenal of unconventional weapons? Valerie Wilson and other JTFI officers were almost too overwhelmed to consider the possibility that their small number of operations was, in a way, coming up with the correct answer: There was no intelligence to find on Saddam's WMDs because the weapons did not exist.
Of course, no weapons wasn't the correct answer, either, but that's another day's argument.
When the war started in March 2003, JTFI officers were disappointed. "I felt like we ran out of time," one CIA officer recalled. "The war came so suddenly. We didn't have enough information to challenge the assumption that there were WMDs.... How do you know it's a dry well? That Saddam was constrained. Given more time, we could have worked through the issue.... From 9/11 to the war--eighteen months--that was not enough time to get a good answer to this important question."
Well, this has been a talking point of war opponents for some time. Corn confirms that it was the view of people on Mrs. Wilson's task force. 2+2= . . . ?
When the Novak column ran, Valerie Wilson was in the process of changing her clandestine status from NOC to official cover, as she prepared for a new job in personnel management. Her aim, she told colleagues, was to put in time as an administrator--to rise up a notch or two--and then return to secret operations.
In other words, she was moving from one Langley-based bureaucratic job to another. And how practical it was to go back to the NOC world is, at best, dubious, given that her cover had previously been compromised by Aldrich Ames, given that she had met with foreign intelligence services as a CIA officer, and given that she was married to an American diplomat who was injecting himself in public controversies over intelligence-gathering.
[S]he would now be pulled into the partisan warfare of Washington. As a CIA employee still sworn to secrecy, she wasn't able to explain publicly that she had spent nearly two years searching for evidence to support the Administration's justification for war and had come up empty.
No, but she could send her husband out to telegraph the same message in the pages of the NY Times. You can feel here someone's frustration - perhaps it's just Corn's, but perhaps it is genuinely Mrs. Wilson's feeling that she needed a way to go public without leaving her own fingerprints - a way that was gift-wrapped by having the message delivered by her husband. The fact that Joe Wilson trumpeted his own involvement in a CIA-sponsored intelligence-gathering trip violates the most fundamental rule of the CIA, which is to keep your mouth shut. That breach of trust is the critical wrongdoing of this whole episode, and set off a chain of events in which it was increasingly unlikely that his wife's role in sending him on the trip could be successfully concealed.
It's unfortunate that Mrs. Wilson's role, however compromised it already may have been and however many years in the past, became public. But her husband's lunge for the spotlight probably made her role untenable anyway.
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September 5, 2006
WAR: Law Enforcement Yes. But Prosecution, No.
The efforts of law enforcement agencies the world over to aid in tracking and apprehending terrorists are a critical component in the War on Terror, and those of us on the Right who disparage the Clinton-era law-enforcement-only model of combatting terroristm shouldn't suggest otherwise. But once apprehended, terrorists simply should not be processed through the traditional criminal justice system, in the U.S. or anywhere else. Because otherwise you get results like this one:
BALI, Indonesia — Judges sentenced an Islamic militant to eight years in prison Tuesday for harboring the alleged mastermind of last year's homicide bombings on Indonesia's resort island of Bali — the first verdict in the terrorist attack.
Abdul Aziz, 30, met with Southeast Asia's most wanted terror suspect Noordin Top at least 10 times before the bombings, once allowing him to stay overnight at his school in Central Java province, said presiding judge Gede Wirya.
Eight years? Sorry, not enough. Not for 200 dead. Not nearly enough.
September 1, 2006
WAR: Victory Without (More) War?
Charles Krauthammer makes one of the few persuasive optimistic cases I've seen for the argument that Hezbollah really did lose the war with Israel, and won't fight again. Most of the optimistic assessments by serious people have been grim ones, based on the idea that the peace won't hold and the war will restart on terms more favorable to Israel than where we were when the shooting stops. Krauthammer thinks otherwise:
"We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not."
Nasrallah . . . knows that Lebanon, however weak its army, has a deep desire to disarm him and that the arrival of Europeans in force, however weak their mandate, will make impossible the rebuilding of the vast Maginot Line he spent six years constructing.
Read the whole thing. Austin Bay also think's Hezbollah's moment of glory in not being entirely crushed by the IDF will prove fleeting, as does Amir Taheri. I hope they are right; if a weakened Hezbollah can be purged from power in Lebanon by the Lebanese themselves, only secondarily relying on foreign support and the in terrorem effect of Israeli vigilance, it will not only be a blessing to regional security but further proof of the effectiveness of the two-pronged Bush strategy of (1) frontal military confrontation of armed terror groups and (2) promotion of democratic institutions that can take ultimate responsibility for controlling the security of their own territory.
August 30, 2006
WAR: A Fraudulent Deal
You need only review the latest statements from Kofi Annan (here and here) to grasp the fraudulent nature of the cease-fire in Israel's war with Hezbollah. While I had initially regarded the cease fire as a good idea in theory that was impractical in light of the facts on the ground, it is increasingly clear that it's not even defensible on paper. Annan is demanding verifiable compliance by Israel, by a date certain, with specific terms regarding the withdrawal of troops and the lifting of a blockade. He makes no similar demands on Hezbollah, but merely expresses his hope that Lebanon will make progress in dealing with Hezbollah:
"In the meantime, I do believe the blockade should be lifted," Annan said.
He added: "I had serious discussions with the Lebanese leadership and I am really convinced that they are serious about implementing Resolution 1701 in its entir[e]ty."
The same goes for the Israeli hostages:
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday morning that he'll do everything he can to return the captured Israeli soldiers.
Cease-fire agreements are contracts. Contracts require verifiable compliance by both sides. This deal has specific requirements on Israel and nothing but hope and promises to which no one can be held, on the other.
I remain undecided as to whether the cease fire was a wise move by Israel. Supporters of the agreement have argued that sooner or later it will be clear enough that Hezbollah can not and will not comply with even its most minimal terms regarding disarmament and the release of hostages, and that this will enable Israel to reopen hostilities with greater international backing. Either way, however, one can not possibly take this agreement at face value as being worth anything at all.
August 23, 2006
WAR: Tyranny International
Of all the world's political prisoners, Amnesty International devotes a lengthy press release to complaining about the treatment of Saddam Hussein. Let's look at a sampling of Amnesty's grievances on behalf of poor, oppressed Saddam:
The first trial, which ran from 19 October 2005 to 27 July 2006, considered accusations that Saddam Hussain and seven co-defendants were responsible for the deaths of 148 people from the largely-Shi'a village of al-Dujail in 1982. . . .In the event that Saddam Hussain or any of the other accused are convicted, they are likely to be sentenced to death. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases.
Yes, Germany and Italy would have been much better off in 1947 if Hitler and Mussolini were still issuing press releases to their followers from prison.
After more than 30 years during which the right to a fair trial was routinely abused under Saddam Hussain's government, the first trial offered a crucial opportunity for those in power in Iraq to turn a page on the past and to entrench new standards for the future, which conform to the requirements which the government of Iraq is bound by international human rights treaties and standards to uphold.
Whose government? Shouldn't that be "allegedly routinely abused"? Or has Amnesty just done what the Iraqis and any other sane person would do, and recognize that this is not a complex whodunit but a public reckoning for crimes against humanity as to which the head of a police state's guilt can not possibly be disputed?
The security and safety of all parties involved in the Tribunal were frequently at risk and the problem remains unresolved. Defence lawyer Sa'dun al-Janabi was killed in October 2005, during the first week of the trial, while two other defence lawyers. 'Adil al-Zubeidi and Khamis al-Ubeidi were killed in November 2005 and June 2006 respectively.
Killed by whom? Likely, by supporters of Saddam. Anyway, justice does not grind to a halt when a nation is beset by violence. An organization purportedly dedicated to improvements in human rights ought to be the first to stand for that principle, especially since the alternative is the Mussolini/Ceaucescu treatment.
A fair trial requires independent and impartial judges. . . . Judge Sayeed al-Hamashi . . . was . . . ruled ineligible through the intervention of the De-Ba'athification Commission established to exclude former members of the Ba'ath Party from public office. The impartiality of Judge Ra'uf Rashid 'Abdul Rahman, who presided over the subsequent stages of the trial, was questioned by the defendants on the grounds that he had opposed Saddam Hussein's government and comes from Halabja, where thousands of Iraqi Kurds were killed in a gas attack by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1988.
Well, given that Saddam had control over the nation for decades, he can hardly complain that people he terrorized now sit in judgment of him. And how is it a violation of a fair trial to remove a former Ba'athist from the bench in a trial of his former boss?
Although Saddam Hussein was arrested in December 2003, he did not have access to his lawyers until 16 December 2004.
Cry me a river.
The tribunal also appears to have failed adequately to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the defendants. For example, on 13 March 2006 Taha Yassin Ramadhan, former Iraqi vice-president, alleged that he had been beaten and subjected to sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and forced positions during interrogation following his arrest in August 2003, but the tribunal is not known to have ordered an investigation. If there was one, its results have not been made public.
What, nobody cut out his tongue? First of all, bogus claims of maltreatment are classic stall/diversion tactic. Second, unless the prosecution was introducing evidence beaten out of Ramandhan, this has nothing to do with the fairness of the trial. And third, of all people these guys have no standing to complain.
The defence team repeatedly claimed that the Prosecution introduced to the court evidence that had not been provided to the defendants beforehand, thereby preventing them from preparing a proper defence.
Let me repeat: They ran the country. For decades. They knew everything that happened.
the independence and impartiality of the court, including by making provision for the participation of international judges and an enhanced role for international advisers and observers from diverse backgrounds who have demonstrated experience and skills in trials of crimes under international law.
No. We saw what happened with Milosevic; the goal is not for Saddam to die of old age at the defense table, in a nice suit surrounded by mouthpieces. He deserves the gallows, and the gallows he will get. The Iraqi people suffered under Saddam, and they deserve to try him.
But wait - there's more! Because while Amnesty is wasting its tears on poor Saddam, it's also busy at work accusing Israel of war crimes:
Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Israel of war crimes, saying it broke international law by deliberately destroying Lebanon's civilian infrastructure during its recent war with Hezbollah guerrillas.
The Ap report notes dryly, "Amnesty International said it would address Hezbollah's attacks on Israel separately." I won't hold my breath. Of course, it should go without saying that you could not begin to address Israel's tactics without addressing where Hezbollah located its troops and weapons, or - specifically - the fact that incurring civilian casualties was virtually the entirety of Hezbollah's strategy.
LAW/WAR: Leaks and the Espionage Act
A new decision on the Espionage Act clarifies the government's ability to prosecute leaks relating to national security, but also places a new limitation on such prosecutions where they are based upon oral disclosures rather than leaked documents - a distinction that does not make a ton of policy sense - and also limits prosecutions for leaks that merely benefit non-hostile governments. Bear with me as I explain why.
I have written extensively before on the Espionage Act (18 U.S.C. 793) here, here, here and here. Basically - and you can get the details in my earlier posts - the statute prohibits anyone (whether or not they have security clearance or other authorization to learn classified information) from (1) willfully disclosing (2) information relating to the national defense (3) to those not authorized to receive it (4) while having reason to believe that the disclosure of such information could be used to injure the United States or aid some foreign power. As I have argued before, the willfulness requirement means that the government, in an Espionage Act prosecution, must prove that the "leaker" knew that he or she was acting unlawfully; the statute is not a strict-liability rule for inadvertent leaks or bad judgment.
The Espionage Act has been much discussed of late for two reasons. Some on the Left have argued that it should have been used against Karl Rove and others if they were involved in disclosing Valerie Plame's status as a CIA employee; I have argued, and the absence of a indictment on these grounds has borne out my observations, that it was unlikely that there was sufficient evidence to show that Plame's status was information relating to the national defense that could be expected to harm national security and - most particularly - sufficient evidence to show that anyone involved in disclosing her name thought they were acting unlawfully.
On the Right, the Espionage Act has been argued as a basis for prosecuting those government officials who have leaked the details of secret programs central to the War on Terror (the NSA surveillance program and associated data-mining operations, the existence of supposed "secret CIA prisons", the program to track international bank transfers) and, possibly, as a basis for prosecuting the New York Times and its reporters for publishing such leaked secrets, knowing they were classified information critical to the war effort and - in some cases - knowing that the Executive Branch was strenuously objecting to publication.
In such circumstances, then, the scope and applicability of the Espionage Act is of great importance. Which is why a recent opinion from the Eastern District of Virginia in United States v. Rosen is interesting. The defendants in Rosen are former AIPAC officials (i.e., lobbyists for pro-Israel positions) who allegedly obtained leaked intelligence of varying types, including draft U.S. policy documents, intelligence about Al Qaeda, and intelligence about potential attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, from Defense Department official Larry Franklin and passed such information on to foreign government officials (apparently from Israel) and members of the media, among others. Franklin has pleaded guilty, but the two remaining defendants, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, challenged the indictment on several grounds, all of which were rejected.
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The Statutory and Vagueness Challenges
First, they argued that the statute's definition of "information" only protects documents and not orally transmitted information; the court rejected this one easily. Slip op. at 13-17. Second, they contended that the Espionage Act is unconstitutionally vague as applied to them and did not put them on notice of the risk of prosecution because orally transmitted information does not contain the clear stamps of "TOP SECRET" and the like that applies to classified documents. The court - echoing, I should note, my prior analyses of the Espionage Act's state of mind requirements - found that any vagueness was cured by the requirement that the government prove that the information was closely held by the Executive Branch and by statute's strict state of mind requirements. Slip op. at 20-36. As the court observed:
[T]he government in this case must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants knew the information was NDI [national defense information], i.e., that the information was closely held by the United States and that disclosure of this information might potentially harm the United States, and that the persons to whom the defendants communicated the information were not entitled under the classification regulations to receive the information. Further the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants communicated the information they had received from their government sources with "a bad purpose either to disobey or to disregard the law."
Slip op. at 32. (From the perspective of a criminal defense attorney, of course, this ruling makes the whole motion process worthwhile even though the defendants' motion was denied, since they have now locked the court into a pro-defendant view of the jury charges). I should note that the government's allegations, if proven, make it highly likely that these defendants knew that they were acting unlawfully - the court's discussion of the facts is replete with examples of the defendants saying things like "I'm not supposed to know this" or describing the information as "codeword protected intelligence." Slip op. at 3-7.
The court's discussion of the state of mind requirements, however, left open the distinct possibility of a prosecution of misguided idealists in the press or (in this case) of lobbyists/think tanks/advocacy groups, whatever their subjective motives, so long as they knew they were unlawfully leaking classified information and had reason to know that it was important to the national defense - but imposes a higher state of mind (scienter) requirement on oral disclosures:
As has been noted, the statute's "willfulness" requirement obligates the government to prove that the defendants knew that disclosing the NDI could threaten the nation's security, and that it was illegal, but it leaves open the possibility that defendants could be convicted for these acts despite some salutary motive. For example, if a person transmitted classified documents relating to the national defense to a member of the media despite knowing that such an act was a violation of the statute, he could be convicted for "willfully" committing the prohibited acts even if he viewed the disclosure as an act of patriotism. By contrast, the "reason to believe" scienter requirement that accompanies disclosures of information, requires the government to demonstrate the likelihood of defendant's bad faith purpose to either harm the United States or to aid a foreign government.
Slip op. at 33-34 (emphasis in original).
Next - in a passage that must have alarmed the New York Times - the court rejected the claim that the statute failed to give fair notice that it could apply to persons outside the government. As the court noted, this argument is belied by the statute's plain language, as an entire subsection (793(e)) deals with disclosures by those not authorized to have the information in the first place. Slip op. at 37 & n. 38. The court was unmoved by the idea that "leaks" by outsiders can not be prosecuted:
[L]abeling an event a "leak" does not remove the event from the statute's scope. At best, the term "leak" is a euphemism used to imply or suggest to a careless reader that the transmission of the information was somehow authorized. Whether the "leaks" or transmissions of information in this case were authorized is likely to be a sharply controverted issue in this case and if the government does not carry its burden of showing that the transfers of information were unauthorized, the prosecution fails. But the analysis here proceeds, as it must, on the superseding indictment's allegations, including the allegation that all transmissions of NDI were unauthorized.
Id. at 38. (With my background as a securities lawyer, this is a familiar theme. The government has prosecuted outsiders, including lawyers and journalists, for unauthorized use of corporate inside information - so long as it shows certain connections back to an unauthorized disclosure from the company. Indeed, much of the court's analysis of what constitutes protected information and how you show that its disclosure was unauthorized has paralells in the federal securities laws).
The First Amendment
The defendants' next avenue of attack - one that surely would be invoked by reporters - was to claim a First Amendment right to make the disclosures in question. The court recognized that the Espionage Act does have free speech implications, as information about U.S. foreign policy implicates "the core of the First Amendment's guarantees." Slip op. at 40.
In the instant case, defendants are accused of the unauthorized possession of information relating to the national defense, which they then orally communicated to others, all within the context of seeking to influence United States foreign policy relating to the Middle East by participating in the public debate on this policy.
Id. at 42. Thus, "the mere invocation of 'national security' or 'government secrecy' does not foreclose a First Amendment inquiry." Id. at 41. Nor are the First Amendment interests absolute; instead, the court recognized its obligation to determine whether Congress had struck a permissible balance between the protection of national security and the right to free speech, in light of the type of information at issue:
But importantly, the defendants here are not accused merely of disclosing government secrets, they are accused of disclosing NDI, i.e., government secrets the disclosure of which could threaten the security of the nation. And, however vital an informed public may be, it is well established that disclosure of certain information may be restricted in service of the nation's security, for "[i]t is 'obvious and unarguable' that no governmental interest is more compelling than the security of the Nation." Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S. 280, 307 (1981) (quoting Aptheker v. Secretary of State, 378 U.S. 500, 509 (1964)). And, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly noted, one aspect of the government's paramount interest in protecting the nation's security is the government's "compelling interest in protecting both the secrecy of information important to our national security and the appearance of confidentiality so essential to the effective operation of our foreign intelligence service." Snepp, 444 U.S. at 509 n.3. Thus, the right to free speech and the value of an informed citizenry is not absolute and must yield to the government's legitimate efforts to ensure "the environment of physical security which a functioning democracy requires." Morison, 844 F.2d at 1082. This point is best expressed in the Supreme Court's pithy phrase that "while the Constitution protects against the invasion of individual rights, it is not a suicide pact." Aptheker, 378 U.S. at 509 (quoting Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 160 (1963)).
Slip op. at 46-47 (footnotes omitted).
In determining that the Espionage Act was narrowly tailored to serve this compelling interest, the court rejected the notion that only the original leakers could be prosecuted:
As defendants correctly argue, the analysis of the First Amendment interests implicated by secs. 793(d) and (e) depends on the relationship to the government of the person whose First Amendment rights are implicated. In this respect, there are two classes of people roughly correlating to those subject to prosecution under sec. 793(d) and those subject to prosecution under sec. 793(e). The first class consists of persons who have access to the information by virtue of their official position. These people are most often government employees or military personnel with access to classified information, or defense contractors with access to classified information, and are often bound by contractual agreements whereby they agree not to disclose classified information. As such, they are in a position of trust with the government. The second class of persons are those who have no employment or contractual relationship with the government, and therefore have not exploited a relationship of trust to obtain the national defense information they are charged with disclosing, but instead generally obtained the information from one who has violated such a trust.
[D]efendants here contend that the First Amendment bars Congress from punishing those persons, like defendants, without a special relationship to the government for the disclosure of NDI. In essence, their position is that once a government secret has been leaked to the general public and the first line of defense thereby breached, the government has no recourse but to sit back and watch as the threat to the national security caused by the first disclosure multiplies with every subsequent disclosure. This position cannot be sustained. Although the question whether the government's interest in preserving its national defense secrets is sufficient to trump the First Amendment rights of those not in a position of trust with the government is a more difficult question, and although the authority addressing this issue is sparse, both common sense and the relevant precedent point persuasively to the conclusion that the government can punish those outside of the government for the unauthorized receipt and deliberate retransmission of information relating to the national defense.
Slip op. at 48-49, 52-53 (emphasis added). Among other things, the court drew on the many opinions in the Pentagon Papers case, in which the Supreme Court concluded that then government may not prevent by injunction the publication of secrets, but several Justices suggested that the publication could nonetheless be grounds for prosecution after the fact.
The court did, however, conclude that despite the terms of the statute allowing prosecutions for disclosure that harms the U.S. or advantages a foreign nation, that advantage must accrue to our enemies - i.e., there must be actual risk of harm to the U.S. Id. at 55-63. This restriction may be of particular significance in the prosecution of the two AIPAC lobbyists.
Under the Rosen decision, the government's burden to prosecute those outside of government for leaking classified national security secrets is high, and onerous, and should deter the government from seeking such prosecutions lightly. But the court - properly, in my view - concluded that there is no absolute right of citizens, once in receipt of such secrets, to pass them along or publish them. If that makes newspapers and lobbyists alike more cautious in disclosing secrets that go to the core of our ability to protect the nation from its enemies - well, that's a good thing.
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August 21, 2006
WAR: But Don't Question His Patriotism
Michael Moore film used by terrorists as propaganda. But of course; what else was it for?
WAR: Your Grandmother Wears Combat Boots
A 41-year-old grandmother enlists. Which is a nice human-interest story at first glance, and admirable in its own way, but also disturbing on any number of levels.
August 17, 2006
WAR/LAW: The NSA Decision: Judging Without Facts or Law
Today, at the instigation of the ACLU, CAIR, Greenpeace, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a number of individual plaintiffs (including, most dishearteningly, Christopher Hitchens), Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan - a Jimmy Carter appointee - issued a permanent injunction halting the use of the NSA's Al Qaeda surveillance program that was disclosed to the public by the New York Times in December. Judge Taylor's opinion reads like a parody of bad judicial reasoning. The self-appointed legal solons of the Left will have to work long and hard to compose the straight face to dress up this opinion as anything but a travesty of the judicial process. In the meantime, Judge Taylor's decision unambiguously does two things: it reinforces the importance of appointing good conservative judges, and it demonstrates the damage already done to our security by the Times's unauthorized disclosure of the NSA program.
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To refresh your recollection, the program the court refers to as "TSP" ("Terrorist Surveillance Program") intercepts and monitors - without a warrant or other judicial review - telephone "communications where one party to the communication is outside the United States, and the government has a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of al Qaeda, affiliated with al Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda, or working in support of al Qaeda." Slip op. at 13. Note that even Judge Taylor has to admit to two things that critics of the program have usually glossed over: it doesn't apply to domestic (i.e., solely within the U.S.) communications, and it is narrowly tailored to capture communications of Al Qaeda and those affiliated with or supporting Al Qaeda - i.e., exactly the people that even the most die-hard opponents of the Bush Administration admit we are at war with. Or so you would think: Judge Taylor gives away her bias on p. 9 when she refers to "the War on Terror of this administration".
I explained back in December why I believe that the NSA program is easily within the president's powers under the Constitution, is not barred by any express Constitutional limits, and is at least arguably justified by the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against Al Qaeda, on the theory that the AUMF implicitly repealed the statutory limitations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") within the limited context of the war against Al Qaeda. In a nutshell -- go read the whole thing for more elaboration -- the President has the traditional power to conduct surveillance of the enemy in wartime, and that power is not diminished when the enemy crosses our border or communicates across our border. If -- and in this case it is -- the surveillance is reasonable, and thus in step with the Fourth Amendment, and because it is the proper exercise of a war power implicit in the AUMF, the strictures of FISA do not apply. Others have argued that the surveillance is actually consistent with FISA; being no expert on FISA and lacking all the facts, I have not addressed that question and won't do so here. The Bush Administration has not sought to publicly advance that argument, though it is not clear whether this is at least partly because the Administration does not want to disclose any more of the details of this program than have already been splashed across the front page of the NY Times.
The first issue Judge Taylor addresses is the state secrets privilege, recently reaffirmed by a unanimous Supreme Court back in 2005 in Tenet v. Doe, 544 U.S. 1 (2005). The privilege -- requiring the dismissal of lawsuits where either the proof of the plaintiff's claim or the defendant's defense would require disclosure of state secrets -- was originally developed to limit the bringing of breach of contract claims by unpaid spies. The Court in Tenet rejected such a narrow view of the rule:
+ + +
Judge Taylor reaches exactly the conclusion the Supreme Court unanimously rejected a year ago:
Slip op. at 11. As Judge Taylor notes - and explaining why this case was brought in Michigan rather than in the DC Circuit, where it belongs - the DC Circuit in 1978 applied the state secrets doctrine to dismiss claims challenging warrantless surveillance by the NSA and other government agencies, because litigation would disclose the NSA's methods and the identities of those surveilled, among other things. Slip op. at 5-7. Indeed, Judge Taylor's discussion of the caselaw makes clear that the law in the Sixth Circuit, as well as the DC Circuit, overwhelmingly supported dismissal of the present lawsuit.
However, Judge Taylor is undeterred by such precedent. First, she notes that certain basic outlines of the program have been made public and confirmed by the Administration (gliding over who forced this issue into the public eye), and notes that the plaintiffs are asking for a permanent injunction solely on the basis of the facts publicly admitted -- utterly ignoring the possibility that more detailed discovery (if such a thing were not unduly intrusive of national security, which it obviously is) would bear on such things as the reasonableness of the government's need to conduct such surveillance. As we shall see below, once Judge Taylor gets past the state secrets issue, she repeatedly rejects the government's defenses precisely on the grounds that they are not supported by sufficient evidence. She simply assumes that, just because the government is unwilling to disclose additional facts, they must not exist.
Part of her justification for this kangaroo-court approach to evidence is the following:
Slip op. at 14. Of course, the Bush Administration, having reached this conclusion based on all the facts, including those that are classified, will state for the public such justifications as it can advance based on the information already disclosed by the Times, without compromising more secrets. The idea that the Administration's public defense of its position under intense attack by the Times and others on the Left constitutes some sort of waiver of its position that the program's secret details should not be further protected -- or are not relevant to the program's legality -- is absurd.
Of course, to challenge a government program, you need evidence that you have actually been affected by it; in other words, you need standing. I don't have time or space here to catalogue all of Judge Taylor's misreadings of the standing cases (Leon Wolf does that here, but three points are worth making.
First, the plaintiffs' proof of standing is itself more than a little disturbing; second, the plaintiffs have not actually met their evidentiary burden:
Slip op. at 13. Of course, the plaintiffs do not actually show that they were surveilled, but several of them did file affidavits with the court in which they admitted to consorting with people linked to Al Qaeda:
[I]n a Declaration, attorney Nancy Hollander stated that she frequently engages in international communications with individuals who have alleged connections with terrorist organizations. Attorney William Swor also provided a similar declaration. Journalist Tara McKelvey declared that she has international communications with sources who are suspected of helping the insurgents in Iraq.
Slip op. at 13 n. 7. This may be grounds for indicting or deporting these fine, upstanding citizens, but it's not evidence that they were actually surveilled. The court rejects the questions raised by the government on this point on the grounds that they are "unsubstantiated." Slip op. at 23. Well, of course they are unsubstantiated because the government doesn't want to reveal any more state secrets. But having assumed away the state secrets problem by saying she needs no more evidence, Judge Taylor just forgets about it whenever she demands more evidence from the government.
The third point about standing is this alarming passage:
Slip op. at 17-18 (emphasis addded). Actually, to be more precise, the New York Times' disclosure of TSP caused these Al Qaeda-affiliated individuals to clam up. Gone, in a single sentence, is any pretense that the Times' defenders may have that the disclosure of this program did not blow important secrets, and did not cause any change in terrorists' behavior.
Judge Taylor's Constitutional "Analysis"
This is the point at which I would, ordinarily, address Judge Taylor's reasons for coming to the opposite conclusion that I did - first and foremost, why she thinks that the program violates the Constitution - but her analysis is so flimsy that it is hard to even discuss. As I noted in my prior discussion, the touchstone of any Fourth Amendment analysis is reasonableness, not the presence of a warrant, and the courts have upheld this rule. This is the basis, for example, for many exceptions to the Fourth Amendment recognized by the Supreme Court, such as the exigency requirement. Yet Judge Taylor, without any citation at all, baldly asserts that the Fourth Amendment "requires prior warrants for any reasonable search, based upon prior-existing probable cause, as well as particularity as to persons, places, and things, and the interposition of a neutral magistrate between Executive branch enforcement officers and citizens." Slip op. at 31. She then turns to discuss FISA, ignoring the fact that if a search is constitutionally valid, it does not become invalid simply because a statute says otherwise (it may violate the statute, but that's a separate issue). Then she concludes:
Id. I guess "obviously" dispels the need to actually engage in any analysis. So much for judicial reasoning.
If anything, Judge Taylor's First Amendment analysis is even worse. She notes that the plaintiffs have shown that they were 'chilled' in expressing themselves by knowledge of the surveillance. The flimsiness of the proof on that point notwithstanding, she continues by noting that the government can justify such a chilling effect "upon showing of a compelling governmental interest; and that the means chosen to further that interest are the least restrictive of freedom of belief and association that could be chosen." Slip op. at 32.
Does Judge Taylor then discuss the exigencies of the governmental interest involved, or compare the details of the program to some purportedly less restrictive alternative? Of course not, because that would require discussing the facts - and she has already said she could rule without those! So she instead cites some language in FISA and some language dealing with interests in suppressing criticism of the government, and concludes:
Slip op. at 33. Say what?
Then, there's the separation of powers and the statutory conflict issues, which are dealt with in similar fashion. For example, Judge Taylor notes that the Supreme Court rejected the exigency of President Truman's seizure of steel mills during a strike in the Korean War (a case having nothing to do with surveillance), and baldly asserts:
Slip op. at 42. Note the word "weightless" - as in, not proven by evidence. What evidence? The evidence the court said the government didn't need, of course!
Finally, the court grievously mischaracterizes the "inherent power" argument, which, as I discussed previously, goes only to the question of what the source of the government's power is:
We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all "inherent powers" must derive from that Constitution.
Slip op. at 40.
Anyway, the permanent injunction has, at this writing, alrady been stayed pending appeal; this will certainly not be the last word on the matter. However, even a momentary lapse in our ability to keep constant watch on Al Qaeda would have been enough to remind us of the dangers posed to us in the form of judges appointed by a Democrat a quarter century ago, and of the damage done to national security by leaking this essential terror-fighting tool on the front page of a leading newspaper. Shame on the Times, shame on the plaintiffs, shame on Jimmy Carter, and most of all shame on Judge Taylor.
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August 16, 2006
WAR: "You can't lick a man's boots over the phone."
Jeff Jacoby savages Mike Wallace's puff-piece interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For Wall Street Journal subscribers, Bret Stephens yesterday had a fine list of the questions Wallace didn't ask.
WAR: Trust But Don't Dare Verify
The makings of a compromise emerged from all-day meetings in Beirut, according to senior officials involved in the negotiations, and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora scheduled a cabinet session Wednesday for what he hoped would be formal approval of the deal. Hezbollah indicated it would be willing to pull back its fighters and weapons in exchange for a promise from the army not to probe too carefully for underground bunkers and weapons caches, the officials said.
I regard the cease-fire as a wonderful arrangement in theory - if we really could get the Lebanese to take control, that would be preferable to having the Israelis do the job and possibly break Lebanon's democracy and tenuous independence from Syria beyond repair in the process - but utterly impractical in light of the facts on the ground. I don't buy the optimistic scenario that says that this is all an Israeli plan to resume hostilities on better terms, but, basically, Olmert screwed up and suffered some bad PR, resulting in squandering his foreign diplomatic and domestic political capital in record time. If the UN cease fire breaks down quickly - or, more accurately, if it is widely and publicly recognized as doing so - then Israel may have the wind of a UN resolution at its back to re-start hostilities.
August 11, 2006
LAW/WAR: Some Timely Common Sense
August 2, 2006
WAR: A Babe In Mass Murderer's Clothing
WAR: Democratization, Conservatism, and the Iraq War
Is the Iraq War a conservative project? Certainly those supporting it have generally been conservatives, but some on the Right - see this column by George Will and this essay by Paul Cella at RedState - have argued that the war, and most specifically the use of U.S. military power to support democratization in Iraq, is not true to conservative principles. Now, part of the explanation for this disagreement is that there are different strains of thought within the larger conservative movement; I intend to come back to examine those differences another day, but for now, that's beyond the scope of this essay. Even in the context of the areas in which conservatives can agree, I dissent from the characterization of the war effort as somehow un-conservative. Let me explain why.
The Conservative Principles At Stake
First of all, there are a number of relevant things on which we conservatives agree. We agree on our fundamental view of human nature: that human beings are, as any economist will tell you, fundamentally self-interested; and are, as any Christian will tell you, fundamentally flawed and sinful; and that some subset of people are just evil. Thus, while all people share certain basic desires for personal and family freedom and material well-being, those desires will be manifested in very different ways accross cultures, and will often be offset by less charitable impulses - the drive to dominate, to interfere in a neghbor's business, to envy, hatred, and war. We also agree that human nature itself can not be changed by government, and that it is foolhardy to do so.
At the same time, conservatives recognize that human nature does not operate in a vacuum; that within the range of our natures, the behavior of individuals and peoples are affected by culture - including religion as well as national and tribal cultures - and that culture generally changes only slowly and organically, or at least that when governments try to change culture, the results are usually long on futility and unplanned consequences and short on projected benefits (see, for example, the Great Society's main cultural impact, the undermining of the family among the underclass, especially the urban African-American underclass). As a result, conservatives in general view governmental efforts to change society and culture as misguided folly. Men may change governments, but governments can not be trusted to change men.
At the same time, conservatives do not fetishize democracy. What conservatives want from government, by and large, is classical liberalism - respect for individual rights, including respect for the property rights without which all other rights fall into dependence upon the state, respect for the Rule of Law, and a wide scope for civil society outside of government control. As Jonah Goldberg often notes, conservatives should prefer these values to the governmental process that delivers them - conservatives would be perfectly happy to live under a monarchy that provided such government, and for the most part prefer democracy not for its own sake but because, as Churchill observed, it is the least-bad method of delivering such government of all that have been tried. A corollary to this is that, in our foreign policy, conservatives often argue for patience with states that are liberalizing property rights and other civil rights without granting more political rights, on the theory that a developed civil society will better support such rights (and, indeed, demand them) when the time comes. In execution, after all, democracy is, as Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying, a process, not an event, and one that can put deep roots into the soil only where the soil of a nation's culture and civil society can support the resolution of disputes through the democratic process rather than by Inquisition and blood feud.
What this has traditionally meant for conservative foreign policy is, among other things, a strong aversion to "nation-building" projects that seek to use soldiers to create democratic order out of the chaos of another nation's anarchy, instability or civil war. Perhaps the most notorious example of the failure of nation-building is Haiti, site of innumerable U.S. interventions by presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Bill Clinton and not doing visibily much better after two years under the current U.N. "peacekeeping" force. By contrast, even Ronald Reagan - the best-known proponent of marrying conservatism to a program of promoting democracy and human rights worldwide - almost always limited his support for such movements to arming and funding the enemies of Communist tryanny (even those who were not democrats themselves) rather than sending troops to guard their newly liberated states. George W. Bush famously scorned the idea of nation-building interventions during the 2000 campaign, and has resisted calls for them in places like Liberia. And with good reason: nation-building of this nature is all about changing the hearts and minds of men, to convince them to lay down arms and join the process of peaceful self-government. And governments can not change men.
Democratization in Iraq and Afghanistan
Given all of this wise skepticism about the limits of governmental power to shape societies, how is it that we now have 130,000 troops in Iraq, and many thousands in Afghanistan as well, engaged in a process that looks an awful lot like nation-building? Let us count the reasons:
1. First Victory, then Rebuilding: As I have argued repeatedly before, there is all the difference in the world between sending troops into a country to take sides against an enemy and fight to victory, as opposed to having the nebulous goal of "stabilizing the situation" or some such. In Iraq, as in Afghanistan, we first went in to remove an enemy - Saddam, the Taliban/al Qaeda. Having done so, and having wrecked the country's institutions of government (brutal and oppressive as they were), we naturally took on some responsibility for setting up a new government.
That doesn't explain why we went in, nor why we are still there. But it is the starting point from which all the other distinctions between Iraq/Afghanistan and prior "nation building" ventures flow.
2. Saddam's Regime Presented a Multifaceted Threat To U.S. National Security: I'm not going to re-argue this point here; you can read two of my short summaries here (from before the war) and here (from June 2004). In short, we had plenty of good reasons, not directly related to the goal of democratization, to remove the threat presented by Saddam's regime once and for all, and those reasons are entirely consistent with conservative principles of preserving the national self-interest.
3. Removing Tyranny is Not The Same As Changing The People: As I said: governments do not change men. But our main goal in Iraq is not to use government to change men, but - as conservatives everywhere do - to use men to change governments. All of the aspects of Saddam's threat derived from the nature of his government, and that - rather than the underlying culture of the Iraqi people - was what we sought and seek to change.
4. Democracy Does Have Value For Its Own Sake: Just because classical liberalism is more important for the people of a nation than is democracy does not mean that democracy, in and of itself, has no value. Much in the way that courts of law, when trusted by the people, present an opportunity to resolve disputes between individuals and businesses without resort to violence, democracy presents an opportunity to resolve struggles for power and influence between groups without resort to violence. Politics, to invert Clausewitz's dictum, is war by other means. Certainly a weak democracy will not preclude terrorist groups from operating against a state's neighbors - see Hezbollah's attack on Israel for a classic example - but even a semi-functional democracy creates opportunities for venting of political grievances that, under a tryanny, have no other immediate outlet but violence directed outside the state's borders. In the case of the Middle East in general, we have seen that dynamic repeated endlessly over the past 60 years. Any conservative can tell you that it's easier to change the governments than to change the people, and that's what we've set out to do, so that opportunities exist for the disaffected to use peaceful means to seek redress of grievances. Even if they don't always take those opportunities, those who do will reduce the pool of potential terrorists.
5. Power Politics Compelled Us To Stay After The Invasion: Having removed hostile regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could not well have them replaced by new regimes just as hostile or controlled by our enemies, or we would be ceding territory to the enemy. Yet, being Americans, we have a longstanding skepticism about simply reducing conquered states to permanent colonies. So we pursue the policy that comes most naturally, the one that worked in Japan and Germany and, however fitfully, has worked in less developed places like the Philippines: seek to create a government that will at least not be openly hostile because it is modeled on our institutions, as adapted to the local culture. Admittedly, this involves us more deeply in local civic life than we as conservatives would like, but the history of war teaches us that the expansion of government's role, uncongenial as it is to small-government conservatism and individual liberty, is preferable to half-measures that bring the Dane back to the door tomorrow. Having removed Saddam's regime, could we abandon the field to his henchmen, or to Zarqawi? No. So, we have stayed as long and will stay as long as needed to prevent the remnants of such forces from taking power.
That doesn't mean we stay until all Iraq's problems are solved. Sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites truly is not our problem, so long as it represents merely the internal battle for control; as noted below, we have reasons for not wanting this to happen, but they are not reasons that will any longer justify asking American soldiers to lay down their lives once we have confidence that we have vanquished the enemy and left in place Iraqi forces that are at least capable of preventing their recurrence.
6. We Are Engaged In A Regional Battle Of Ideas: One of the great misconceptions in the War on Terror is the idea that we are at war only with certain organizations (e.g., al Qaeda), certain national regimes (e.g., Saddam), certain methods (e.g., terrorism), certain ethnicities (e.g., Arabs), or a certain religion (e.g., Islam). All these answers are incomplete, and our victories over the Taliban and Saddam are thus just two fronts in a multi-front regional war. Our goal in this war, yes, is to eliminate transnational, cross-border terrorism and the related threat of nuclear attack on the United States, and we recognize that threat as coming from certain types of regimes as well as certain types of transnational organizations.
But the true enemy is a collection of political ideas, at least insofar as those ideas animate either organizations or national governments. Just as with the battle against Communism, we need to take the fight to the enemy not only on the field of literal battle, but by demonstrating over time the superiority of our civilization and system of government. As with the regional power politics of the thing, I will admit that this requires us to expand our efforts and our amibitions beyond our comfort zone as conservatives. But it is not a matter of aimlessly and fecklessly risking the lives of our soldiers for the fuzzy cause of good government - what we are seeking to do is win, and our efforts must be tailored to that goal.
The ideas we are dealing with, I should add - as well as the methods and organizations they animate - are shared in common by pan-Islamic theocrats like the Sunni bin Laden and the Shi'ite Ahmadenijad and by secular pan-Arabists like Saddam, Arafat and the Assads (all of whom, like the Islamists, absorbed the core elements of their propaganda from the Nazis and/or the Soviets, although the Islamists in particular add their own distinctive religious patina). They support tyranny at home and direct blame at the West (especially the U.S., as the most successful and powerful Western nation) and Israel for their own failures. This problem could never have been solved solely within one country; as Steven den Beste has explained in his incisive "Strategic Overview of the War on Terror", we needed to break open the region's regimes to have any chance of changing the dynamics, even at the cost of having to dig more deeply into the culture than we as conservatives would like. But diminishing the attractiveness of this political ideology, while perhaps not sufficient to fix the region's problems, should be sufficient to restore an acceptable level of national security - just as eliminating Communism in all but a few corners has mainly removed the Communist threat to our security, even though it has not fixed all of the ills of the nations of the old Soviet empire or its satellites in Southeast Asia and Central America.
Thus, the concept of "Iraq the Model" in the aftermath of the removal of Saddam: demonstrating to the Arab and Muslim worlds that a different system of political organization could successfully operate in a country both Arab and Muslim and seated at the heart of the Arab world. An ambitious venture, yes, but not an aimless one like Somalia or Haiti. The stakes in Iraq are tied to the broader stakes in the war. Conservatives who value our security should recognize its importance, therefore - as a means to that end.
July 27, 2006
To my mind, the fact that Hezbollah has bought some folks' allegiance in southern Lebanon with bread and circuses just means that Israel is right to treat that whole sector of Lebanon as a hostile nation. That doesn't mean that the Israelis would be justified in targeting civilians, if they chose to do so in imitation of their enemies. But the moral calculus of dealing with civilian casualties does, it seems to me, depend at least partly on whether you see your armed forces as warring with a hostile people as opposed to a hostile non-state actor that has attached itself parasitically to an innocent populace of a peaceable state.
Of course, it bears reminding again that all of our legal and moral rules about war need re-examining in light of the rise of enemies who deliberately structure their operations around the moral and legal limitations we place on our use of force.
WAR: Mr. al-Maliki Goes To Washington
So, let me get this straight: The Democrats can condone the things that elected officials who are also barking moonbats - like Maxine Waters and Pete Stark - tell their far-out constituencies. They can swallow their pride and live with Bob Casey saying he's pro-life - supposedly an "out of the mainstream" position - to get elected in Pennsylvania. But they can't understand the things al-Maliki has to say and do to get elected in Iraq?
Let's make this real simple. The US is never going to get anywhere asking friendly Arab and/or Muslim governments to side with Israel. It is more than enough for them to decline to aid Israel's enemies, and deny them safe haven within their borders. If every state in the region did that, as Iraq does, Israel's problems would be few and limited.
Oops, I've made the mistake again of treating the Democrats as if they were serious about foreign policy again. They're actually just trying to triangulate a way to be anti-Iraqi (and thus placate the left-wing anti-war anti-Israel base) while at the same time appearing pro-Israel (to mollify the Jewish liberals who remain faithful Democratic donors and voters in the face of mounting evidence of who Israel's real friends in Washington are). As usual, the raw calculation at work is obvious.
July 23, 2006
WAR: Strong Words
They are only words, and one can argue that the President shouldn't offer anything but words at this point anyway. But it is a fine day when President Bush can step out a bit from behind the usual conventions of (1) diplomatic doublespeak and (2) non-specific condemnations of "terrorists," and speak truths that talk directly to who the problem is, and why:
The recent crisis in the region was triggered by the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by the terrorist group Hezbollah and the launch of rockets against Israeli cities. I believe sovereign nations have the right to defend their people from terrorist attack, and to take the necessary action to prevent those attacks.
In 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1559, which recognizes the sovereignty of Lebanon, calls for all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon, and calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias. Hezbollah defied the world's just demands by maintaining armed units in the southern region of Lebanon and attacking Israel in defiance of the democratically elected Lebanese government.
For many years, Syria has been a primary sponsor of Hezbollah and it has helped provide Hezbollah with shipments of Iranian made weapons. Iran's regime has also repeatedly defied the international community with its ambition for nuclear weapons and aid to terrorist groups. Their actions threaten the entire Middle East and stand in the way of resolving the current crisis and bringing lasting peace to this troubled region.
I would have liked a little more connection drawn directly between Iran and Hezbollah, but otherwise President Bush left little doubt whose side we are on here, and why, and why even if Syria and Iran stay on the sidelines of the current crisis, they will have to be dealt with sooner or later.
July 21, 2006
WAR: Mumbai Conspirators Caught
India has caught four suspects in the July 11 Mumbai (Bombay) train bombings, tracking them as far as Kenya. Shockingly, the suspects - Abdul Karim Tunda, "one of India’s most wanted men," Khaleel Aziz Sheikh, Kamal Ahmed Ansari and Mumtaz Ahmed Chowdhury - are believed to be affiliated with an Islamic jihadist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. Tension with the Pakistanis runs high, as Pakistan apparently harbors the group, while General Pervez Musharraf denies - well, pretty much everything.
WAR: Iraqis Taking The Fight To The Enemy
CENTCOM reports on two recent operations:
Iraqi security forces conducted two separate operations in Baghdad on July 20, capturing four insurgents who may be involved in "extra judicial killing," or EJK cells.
Time is on our side. Yes it is.
WAR: Defeat In Detail
It is well-known that Hezbollah receives major financial support, equipment, and to some extent direction from Iran (in addition to material support and safe harbor from Syria). Bill Kristol makes the case that, this being so, the United States should use the current war between Israel and Hezbollah, triggered by Hezbollah's rocket attacks on Israel, as casus belli for a U.S. preemptive military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Kristol is right, of course, about the Iranian roots of the Hezbollah problem, he's right that Israel's war with Hezbollah is our war too, and he's most likely right about the Iranian nuclear threat and what we have to contemplate doing about it. But he's missing a crucial point about military strategy and tactics.
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Now I have, in the past, written about the Iranian nuclear threat, the serious possibility that we will have to use military force at some point to remove that threat, the futility of negotiating with Iran's present regime, the ways in which the U.S. can actually benefit from fighting on several fronts at once, and the potential benefits of widening the present war at least to include Syria. I'm not unmindful of the costs involved in each of these decisions, which are a subject for another day, but it's safe to say that I'm in Kristol's camp at least in the broadest outlines.
What Kristol is missing here is the opportunity for defeat in detail of an important Iranian asset. Defeat in detail is military-theory jargon - it's not precisely synonymous with the more colloquial concept of "divide and conquer," but the idea is similar: defeat an enemy's forces by isolating individual units and deploying your main force against them one at a time, rather than engaging the enemy's entire force at once. It's one of those ideas that military theorists and historians love, but that can be much more difficult to execute in practice, where the enemy gets a say in the terms of engagement. But the conditions for pulling this off are nearly perfect, so long as we get out of the way and let the Israelis finish what they have started.
Hezbollah, of course, is an organization with tentacles extending over a number of areas worldwide, and we can't hope to see it entirely liquidated. But let's discuss here what I would call "Hezbollah-Lebanon," the main force of Hezbollah, as it exists in the region west of Iraq and east of the Mediterranean (thanks to the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, there are at least some obstacles, if not enough, to free movement of forces and weapons between Hezbollah-Lebanon and Iran). Entering the current conflict, Hezbollah-Lebanon had four major assets: (1) rockets/missiles capable of reaching Israeli territory, (2) conventional military forces, (3) unconventional (terrorist) capabilities and (4) political control over a chunk of Lebanon.
If we ended up in a full-scale war with Iran, Hezbollah-Lebanon would undoubtedly be a major asset for the Iranians, a base from which the Iranians could, as desired, attack Israel, Iraq, Turkey and of course Lebanon. We would also have another problem: wishing to gather broad international support, we would yet again want the Israelis, with their formidable military and knowledge of the terrain, to sit on their hands, so as not to offend possible Arab/European allies. Thus, an ideal strategic precondition for any confrontation with Iran would be to eliminate Hezbollah-Lebanon as a miliary asset without activating the full range of Iranian assets worldwide, and at the same time make use of the Israeli forces that might otherwise be sidelined in a larger war. This is precisely what is happening. All the better, from the point of view of U.S. interests, the rocket attacks on Israeli cities have blunted much of the usual criticism of Israel by our other real and putative allies.
I have no illusions that an Israeli war with Hezbollah will result in a complete elimination of Hezbollah-Lebanon. But if allowed to continue without widening to Iran or Syria, the war should be expected to yield the following:
1. Substantial degradation or elimination of Hezbollah-Lebanon's rocket/missile capabilities.
2. Substantial degradation of Hezbollah-Lebanon's conventional military forces, possibly to the point where in the future, another party who has been sidelined so far - the Lebanese Army under the command of the democratic government of Lebanon - will find the balance of forces much more favorable in attempting to assert control over Lebanese sovereign territory.
3. Some degradation of Hezbollah-Lebanon's terrorist capabilities. Terrorist groups can never be destroyed by military force alone, any more than by law enforcement alone, but destroying camps and killing potential terrorists and equipment should go a long way to reducing the threat.
Less certain is the impact on Hezbollah's political influence; while there are signs that many in Lebanon, especially those previously well-disposed towards Hezbollah because of its use of (Iranian-supplied) funds to buy good will with the populace through public works, are turning against Hezbollah for having brought down the wrath of the mighty IDF on Lebanon. On the other hand, the impulse to rally with any Arab or Muslim against Israel is a deep-seated one in the Middle East, so long term it will remain to be seen if a radicalized faction keeps Hezbollah's place at the table in a democratic Lebanon, or worse yet leads to the failure of Lebanon's nascent democracy. As in any war, the potential political ramifications are never all good and certainly never predictable.
In short, the terms of the war have a key Iranian strategic asset right where we want it. No matter how eager one may be to remove the Iranian threat once and for all, widening the battle before Israel has a chance to finish the job against Hezbollah-Lebanon would just be bad strategy.
« Close It
July 19, 2006
WAR: Your Daily Dose of Helen Thomas
Read More »
Helen. Q The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.
I think Snow, to his credit, has figured out that if he's nice to the people who are there to gather news, he can get away with being (justifiably) nasty to people who aren't. I continue to think that press secretary briefings are a waste of time, but if they are going to serve a purpose, that purpose is to frame questions the press wants answered and let the press secretary explain the Administration's answer. No purpose is served by having a reporter engage in a "did not"/"did too!" exchange that merely highlights the reporter's own opinions.
You would think they would revoke Thomas' press credentials, but like Castro, we seem to have resigned ourselves to waiting for her to die rather than do anything about her.
« Close It
July 17, 2006
WAR: Just Say No To "Peacekeepers"
There is talk, once again, of using international "peacekeeping" forces (including Americans, but restricted by the need to play by "international" rules of engagement) to enter southern Lebanon and get between the Israelis and Hezbollah. This is a terrible idea, for the reasons I have explained before at length here and here - we should not deploy troops without identifying an enemy and taking sides against that enemy.
Remember the golden rule: the function and animating purpose of the military is to defeat the enemy. That is not to say that soldiers are not capable of doing anything but fighting; certainly the U.S. military has proven adept, in Iraq and elsewhere, at the many peaceable tasks that go into nation-building. But in Iraq and Afghanistan, as tough as the job sometimes is, we know whose side we are on, which among other things enables us to go on the offensive (miliarily and otherwise) and not be bound to a purely reactive sitting-ducks stance. No identified enemy, no sides taken, no soldiers. Period.
If the international community wants to fix the problem - i.e., the inability of Lebanon's democratic government to stop Hezbollah from making war from its territory - by asking in an international force to assist the Lebanese in liquidating Hezbollah, I'm all for that. It needs to be done, by someone, and it is better done under the cover of the blue helmet and with some sharing of the burden besides just Israel or the United States. But inserting U.S. troops into Lebanon without a mandate to take the battle to the enemy was Ronald Reagan's worst mistake as president, and cost us 241 Marines, for whose lives Hezbollah has never adequately paid. Let us not repeat that tragic error.
Thankfully, our president seems to understand this.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey has a similar reaction.
SECOND UPDATE: Of course, there are already UN "peacekeepers" in Southern Lebanon, and have been since 1978. You can tell they are there because of all that peace they've been keeping.
July 14, 2006
WAR: Cry Havoc
No time to give my full thoughts this morning on the accelerating war between Israel and Hezbollah, which controls southern Lebanon. It appears that the Israelis are mobilizing for a full-scale war, calling up the reserves. Most likely, this will mean war between Israel, on one hand, and Hezbollah, Syria, and Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, on the other. (It may be disastrous for Assad to join in this conflict, but he may feel compelled, or Israel may attack him preemptively). If that's as far as it goes, the war will be bloody and ugly but could advance the long-term peace of the region by removing Hezboollah from its power base, permitting the full integration of Lebanon into a freestanding democracy, and potentially toppling the brutal and troublesome Assad regime.
Where things get really dicey for the rest of us, however, is what the Iranians do in response - they can't well take the loss of Hezbollah, a crucial terrorist proxy, sitting down, but as a matter of simple geography anything beyond very low profile support would involve violating the territory and/or airspace of Turkey (a NATO member) and/or Iraq (which, obviously, is the site of some 130,000 U.S. troops, including a number of the world's best combat units), as well as possibly Jordan and/or Saudi Arabia. Any of these steps would push Iran, ultimately, into war with the U.S., and possibly force the hand of some of our allies who would normally sit on their hands even if Israel was on the brink of extermination. My guess is that the Iranians have to back down and let Olmert clean out their allies in that neighborhood, but smaller things have started bigger wars.
July 13, 2006
WAR: Progress in Muthanna
Press release I just received via email from CENTCOM:
Iraq witnessed a historic event today with the transfer of security responsibility in Muthanna Province from the Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) to the Provincial Governor and civilian-controlled Iraqi Security Forces. The handover represents a milestone in the successful development of Iraq's capability to govern and protect itself as a sovereign and democratic nation. Muthanna is the first of Iraq's 18 provinces to be designated for such a transition.
Australian, Japanese, and the United Kingdom forces have assisted Muthanna authorities as models of international cooperation, providing economic and humanitarian assistance as well as security and stability.
All to the good. More remains to be done, of course, but progress continues to move in our direction and against the enemy.
July 11, 2006
WAR: If Only
Val Prieto and company are, of course, the first people to check on for all things anti-Castro.
July 10, 2006
WAR: The Scourge of Beslan Meets a Bad End
Allahpundit has a good roundup on the reported death of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen leader who claimed responsibility for the Beslan atrocity. According to reports, Russian security forces blew up Basayev's car with a truck bomb, but were subsequently able to locate his head to positively identify him. No word if it will be mounted in Vladimir Putin's office, but really, I wouldn't blame him.
July 8, 2006
WAR: No WMD Here, None At All, Move Along
More from Ace on Saddam's anthrax program. Which didn't exist, because of course Saddam didn't have WMD. Especially not in 2002.
More from Ed Morrissey, who has been all over this story, most recently here.
July 7, 2006
WAR: One Year Later
9/11. Bali. Madrid. Too many anniversaries. Josh Trevino remembers 7/7/05 in London.
WAR: Running Uphill
Far be it from me to laugh at the terror threat we face continuously here in New York City, especially an attack on the vulnerable bridges and tunnels that I travel through every day, but this did crack me up - the plot apparently contemplated a Hurricane Katrina-style flood from blowing up the Holland Tunnel, except, well:
Any plot to flood lower Manhattan by blowing up the Holland Tunnel is doomed to fail, experts say - because it would have to defy the laws of physics.
They needed experts to explain the "laws of physics" that water does not flow up hill?
July 5, 2006
I was out at Shea Stadium yesterday, for - among other things - my 4-month-old daughter's first baseball game. Before the game the Mets honored New York's last living Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Francis S. Currey. The official citation for his honor:
He was an automatic rifleman with the 3d Platoon defending a strong point near Malmedy, Belgium, on 21 December 1944, when the enemy launched a powerful attack. Overrunning tank destroyers and antitank guns located near the strong point, German tanks advanced to the 3d Platoon's position, and, after prolonged fighting, forced the withdrawal of this group to a nearby factory. Sgt. Currey found a bazooka in the building and crossed the street to secure rockets meanwhile enduring intense fire from enemy tanks and hostile infantrymen who had taken up a position at a house a short distance away. In the face of small-arms, machinegun, and artillery fire, he, with a companion, knocked out a tank with 1 shot. Moving to another position, he observed 3 Germans in the doorway of an enemy-held house. He killed or wounded all 3 with his automatic rifle. He emerged from cover and advanced alone to within 50 yards of the house, intent on wrecking it with rockets. Covered by friendly fire, he stood erect, and fired a shot which knocked down half of 1 wall. While in this forward position, he observed 5 Americans who had been pinned down for hours by fire from the house and 3 tanks. Realizing that they could not escape until the enemy tank and infantry guns had been silenced, Sgt. Currey crossed the street to a vehicle, where he procured an armful of antitank grenades. These he launched while under heavy enemy fire, driving the tankmen from the vehicles into the house. He then climbed onto a half-track in full view of the Germans and fired a machinegun at the house. Once again changing his position, he manned another machinegun whose crew had been killed; under his covering fire the 5 soldiers were able to retire to safety. Deprived of tanks and with heavy infantry casualties, the enemy was forced to withdraw. Through his extensive knowledge of weapons and by his heroic and repeated braving of murderous enemy fire, Sgt. Currey was greatly responsible for inflicting heavy losses in men and material on the enemy, for rescuing 5 comrades, 2 of whom were wounded, and for stemming an attack which threatened to flank his battalion's position.
That's enough to humble even a hardened combat veteran, let alone a guy like me. After the ceremony, Mr. Currey - now in his 80s - ended up sitting behind me for the game (we were in the loge). After Wagner got the last out, Mr. Currey stopped and wished good luck at the end of the game to a younger (twenties) guy in an Army t-shirt who appeared to be heading out to Iraq. The torch passes.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2006 | History | War 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
July 4, 2006
WAR: Loose Lips, Indeed
Think that newspaper disclosures of U.S. methods of electronic surveillance are harmless? Think again. 241 times. Via Instapundit. Had the Post not disclosed that we were listenning, the plot may well have been foiled.
June 26, 2006
WAR: Loose Lips
If the media actually was working secretly for America's enemies in general and international Islamist terrorist groups in particular, how would it act differently from what it does today? I'm sure you could come up with examples, but sadly I think the answer is "not all that different." Patterico, who's been covering the LA Times' end of the recent efforts to "blow the whitsle" on a terror-fighting program that was clearly secret, legal and effective, looks into the mind of the LAT by listening to one of its editors justify the decision.
Ace has a darker view of the media's motivation:
I'm quite sure the reasonable liberals at the NYT and WaPo know full well that programs like this are absolutely vital, and their secrecy is likewise vital. However, they have made the most anti-American and evil sort of decision: While tools like this are vital for saving American lives, they will not permit any Republican President to use them. Only Democratic Presidents are permitted to employ the full panoply of powers for protecting American lives.
Like Allahpundit, I don't actually think any reporters think this way consciously, but if they are less trusting of Republican administrations and more likely to see it as necessary to undermine their ability to keep national secrets, it amounts to the same thing.
UPDATE: What would be more useful, if you were operating a terrorist network: the name of one Virginia-based WMD analyst who used to be a covert agent back before the African embassy bombings? Or roadmaps of how the US government monitors telecommunications and financial transactions?
June 22, 2006
WAR: Breaking: 7 Arrested in Sears Tower Terror Plot
Seven people were arrested Thursday in connection with the early stages of a plot to attack Chicago's Sears Tower and other buildings in the U.S., a federal law enforcement official said.
More to follow tomorrow.
WAR: Another Domino: Democracy in Kuwait & UAE
Yet more good news in the march of self-government across the Arab and Muslim worlds, an unthinkable development as recently as 2002, as the scope of democracy expands in Kuwait and will follow in the UAE:
Next week, Kuwaitis will go to the polls to elect a new National Assembly which will, in turn, approve a new prime minister and cabinet. The Kuwaitis will be making history for a number of reasons. This is the first election in which women are allowed to vote, which means the size of the electorate has more than doubled. More importantly, and much to the chagrin of Islamists who insist that women are unfit to play any role in politics, a number of women are standing, often on a platform of radial social and economic reform. With a native population of one million, Kuwait is one of the smallest states that form the Arab League. Nevertheless, its general election is important for the impact it is certain to have on broader Arab politics. One reason is that the exercise will help consolidate the idea of holding elections as a means of securing access to power, something new and still fragile in most Arab states. Days before the Kuwaitis were due to go to the polls, the United Arab Emirates announced that it, too, would opt for a parliamentary system based on elections. This means all but five of the Arab states are now committed to holding reasonably clean elections at the municipal and/or national level. SOME OF this new interest in holding elections is due to the impact of Iraq on the broader Arab imagination. Many within the Arab ruling elites saw, with a mixture of admiration and terror, how Saddam Hussein's regime, regarded as the strongest of the Arab despotic structures in recent memory, collapsed within three weeks. The message was clear: An Arab regime without some mandate from the people is never more than a house of cards. Next, the Arab masses began to see millions of Iraqis queuing to cast their ballots in several municipal elections, a referendum, and two general elections, all in a couple of years.
Via Taranto. Read the whole thing. And ask yourself, once again, how anyone can say that the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan are for nothing.
WAR: Where Are The WMD?
One of the pieces of the WMD case against Saddam Hussein's regime was that the regime had never accounted for stocks of chemical weapons known to exist even dating back before the Gulf War. This letter (more here and here and here), noting the discovery of over 500 chemical shells since 2003 (not new discoveries, mind you, but the accumulation of various discoveries over a period of years) just underlines David Kay's conclusion that even without huge stockpiles Saddam's Iraq was, if anything, more dangerous than we thought given the dispersed nature of such weapons. (More shells will surely be found for years into the future - the Belgians still have a booming business turning up World War I era explosives that remain dangerous). And that's before we even get to the biological programs; recall that you can store deadly biotoxins in vials, not warehouses.
George W. Bush has lost the public debate over the pre-war state of Saddam's arsenal of non-conventional weapons. He lost that debate partly because, yes, the nature of the threat was not as Bush and others depicted it - some of the intelligence (even intelligence on which there was a broad international consensus) was faulty, and some of the specific cases in which the Administration made judgment calls to assume the worst turned out not to be as bad as all that. And he lost the debate partly because Bush has always taken the view that the most important thing since 2003 has been to move forward rather than wallow in the original decision, which after all can no longer be changed. I would argue that that has been a huge mistake - Bush's opponents have understood far better than he that controlling the past gives you power over the future.
But facts are stubborn things. One can yet hope that historians, given the time to pull together the whole story and not just each day's drip-drip of news, will recognize that (1) pre-existing, if scattered, stocks of chemical weapons, (2) ongoing or ready-to-revive biological weapons programs and (3) long-range schemes to reactivate Saddam's nuclear weapons programs were a part of the multifaceted threat to the U.S. and its allies presented by the Saddam regime.
WAR: Let The Family Vent
John Hinderaker really shouldn't have accused the uncle of one of the soldiers tortured and slain by hostage-takers in Iraq of having "no shame". If the guy is still holding down a public platform six months from now, maybe; but people say things when they are grieving, and the proper response is just to discount them. Via Blogometer.
On a related topic, Mark Steyn defends Ann Coulter's assault on the "Jersey Girls," four widows of victims of September 11, on the grounds that only Coulter's brand of outrageous overstatement was capable of shutting down their excesses:
For all the impact my column had, I might as well have done house calls. Then Coulter comes in and yuks it up with the Playboy-spread gags, and suddenly the Jersey Girls only want to do the super-extra-fluffy puffball interviews. So two paragraphs in Ann Coulter's book have succeeded in repositioning these ladies: they may still be effective Democrat hackettes, but I think TV shows will have a harder time passing them off as non-partisan representatives of the 9/11 dead.
Steyn has a point, as always, but I still think you can't measure when a commentator has overstepped the bounds of decency solely by asking whether it worked.
Finally, proving that the Left learns nothing, Jeff Goldstein and James Taranto (third item) point us to increasingly unhinged and incoherent uses of the "chickenhawk" canard by Howard Dean (who apparently thinks his own experience on the ski slopes during Vietnam trumps George W. Bush flying night patrols over the Gulf of Mexico in an F-102 and Don Rumsfeld serving as a Navy pilot) and the senile, rambling John Murtha, respectively.
UPDATE: I should add that the NY Daily News was shamefully dishonest about the Coulter flap in publishing this column by a different 9/11 widow implying that Coulter had attacked all the widows. I suppose I can't feel to sorry for Coulter, given how nasty her attack was, but at least some pretense of fairness would be nice (the best they could do was not mention Coulter in the article, as she might have had sued the paper if they had openly mischaracterized what she said).
June 21, 2006
WAR: Steyn on Demographics
Mark Steyn responds to my post (scroll down to "IT’S COZY IN BANGLADESH").
June 19, 2006
WAR: Geography Lesson Needed
I know it's kind of unfair to pick on feeble old John Murtha, who is obviously unable to defend himself in reasoned argument, but this is hilarious:
Murtha accepted Rove's premise by claiming that the entire Zarqawi operation could have been run out of... Okinawa. Yeah, that's right, Okinawa. The basis of this claim is that Zarqawi was bombed (ostensibly from aircraft that could have come from outside Iraq) and therefore why not just pull chalks and slink back to Oki where we could comfortably launch bombing missions at will.
Blackfive runs a map showing where Okinawa actually is (recall that tens of thousands of Americans died to sieze it because of its convenience to aerial bombardment of Japan), and continues:
The straight yellow line extending across the middle of China and Iran is the distance from Okinawa to Baghdad as the crow flies which is approximately 4200 nautical miles. Obviously, the Chinese and the Iranians wouldn't be cool with that, but let's just roll with it. The max combat range for the F-16 with external fuel tanks and 2000 lbs of ordnance is 740 nautical miles so that's like a minimum of SIX midair refuelings in EACH direction.
Now, it's true that planned bombing runs can be made from very far away with today's technology - during the invasion we were running bombing sorties from bases in Missouri - but those are not rapid-reaction missions, to say the least. More on Murtha's embarrassing gaffe from Protein Wisdom, Patterico, Geraghty and RedState. And, of course, if you think Murtha has passed his expiration date, you can always support his opponent, Diana Irey.
WAR: Connections, Connections
WAR: Creeping Tyranny In Brussels
If you think the teachers' unions are powerful in the U.S., they can still - for now - only dream of doing this:
Yesterday my husband Paul Belien, the editor of this website, was summoned to the police station and interrogated. He was told that the Belgian authorities are of the opinion that, as a homeschooler, he has not adequately educated his children and, hence, is neglecting his duty as a parent, which is a criminal offence. The Ministry of Education has asked the judiciary to press charges and the judiciary told the police to investigate and take down his statement.
Now, if you read the whole thing it's unclear whether this is about a campaign against homeschooling or about a campaign against Brussles-based bloggers who dare to criticize the EUracracy, but neither is a particularly encouraging prospect for fans of civil liberties in Europe. But the subtext is an international movement by the usual suspects to bulldoze local freedom to educate your children as you see fit:
The fact that a growing group of children seems to be escaping from the government's influence clearly bothers the authorities. Three years ago a new school bill was introduced. The new bill refers to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and it obliges homeschooling parents to fill out a questionaire and sign an official "declaration of homeschooling" in which they agree to school their children "respecting the respect [sic] for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others."
Last month Michael Farris, the chairman of the American Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), warned that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child could make homeschooling illegal in the U.S., even though the US Senate has never ratified this Convention.
Another reminder, if one was needed, of how the UN's undemocratic, unaccountable influence can end up subverting important freedoms.
June 16, 2006
WAR: Phil Carter and the Rule of Law
Meant to link to this the other day - since I'm a WSJ.com subscriber, I'm not sure if it's free or not - Phil Carter of Intel Dump was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal earlier in the week for his efforts (he's currently in Iraq in the Army) to get Iraqi police and courts to follow the rule of law even in odious cases (e.g., murderers who are supposed to be free because of the amnesty issued by Saddam just before the invasion, which for various reasons the U.S. decided to honor).
June 15, 2006
WAR/POLITICS: A Little Demographics
I've been playing around lately with the CIA Factbook, which has, among other things, reasonably up-to-date population and demographic data for every country on earth, and I thought I'd pull together a chart that hopefully can serve as the basis for some interesting analysis. Looking to narrow the list to major/significant countries, I focused on the 53 countries of 20 million or more people. I started with the CIA's figures for existing population density (expressed in people per square kilometer - yes, the data uses the metric system) and birthrate per 1000 people, and combined those two to come up with a rate of births per square kilometer - a truer measure of the potential for future population density (although of course future population density is also affected by infant/child mortality, adult life expectancy, and net immigration rates). I present here my results and just a few observations, leaving a more extensive analysis (including the consequences of this data for debates about abortion, immigration, entitlement reform, the environment and the War on Terror) to others or to another day:
1. For the most part, countries are grouped here by region - trends in population tend to be more regional than national.
2. The eye-popping figures for Bangladesh really stick out - there's no country on earth close to Bangladesh's overpopulation problem. Bangladesh squeezes half the population of the United States into a land mass smaller than Iowa.
3. Russia is well on its way to being uninhabited. By contrast, the fairly high rate of births per sq km for a number of the developed countries like Japan, Germany and the UK, suggesting that (a) their falling populations are a reasonable and natural correction for excessive population density and (b) they are, Steynian doomsaying to the contrary, in no danger of being depopulated. The real problem those countries have is not too few young people but too many old people, especially in light of their public pension systems. I should stress that I'm not at all questioning the reasoning of Mark Steyn and other demographic doomsayers, especially as to the consequences for Europe's and Japan's economies and welfare states and the resulting economic pressure to take on immigrants without being choosy about who. But the data suggests a little caution in extrapolating to sweeping generalizations about those countries ending up depopulated.
WAR: Going Out Of Business?
American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.
Zarqawi's death may not mark the end of the insurgency, or necessarily even the beginning of the end, but it may well spell the end of Al Qaeda in Iraq and, more generally, the foreign-terrorist component of the insurgency. And the more the insurgency is limited to domestic Iraqi elements, the sooner the Iraqi government and military will be able to take over the battle against them. And, of course, this is bad news for Al Qaeda worldwide, as its only visibly active operating subsidiary has lost its CEO and is bleeding manpower and resources at a rapid rate.
June 9, 2006
WAR: A Quagmire In The Desert Is Just Sand
As I have argued before, given that the insurgency in Iraq will truly and completely be over when and only when the other side has lost the will or the means to fight, it is useful in the aftermath of the death of Zarqawi and the completion of the process of forming a legitimate, elected government to ask once again how this war must look to the other side. And no matter how much good press they get, I can't imagine the answer to that is anything but "terrible."
Consider this: we in the U.S. have been frustrated by the fact that we have not, since the end of major combat in the invasion phase of the war, had much in the way of taking-territory types of milestones to victory. And, as Glenn Reynolds often points out, democratization is a process, not an event. And yet, when you add them up, we do have a rather lengthy list of victories since then that can be strung together to demonstrate concrete, forward progress, one building on the next: capturing or killing Zarqawi, Saddam, Uday and Qusay; taking and holding cities like Fallujah; multiple free elections; the transfer of sovereignty, the ratification of a constitution, and the formation of provisional and permanent governments. Frustrated as we are, we can go to our soldiers, to new recruits, and to the taxpayers who support the war financially and show a series of steps forward.
Where are the other side's victories? They've had some - the original taking of Fallujah and the Madrid bombing that precipitated the withdrawal of Spain come to mind, but both of those are over two years ago now, and other examples are few and far between. Their victories are mostly either abstractions (e.g., a sense of chaos) or the mere continuation of conflict for its own sake. Which is an exhausting and demoralizing message to send to your men, even if they are religious zealots: we fight today so as to keep fighting for years without end. Don't worry about the fact that we never get anywhere. I mean, what does a car bombing or an IED or the decapatation of a hostage accomplish? Sure, it keeps the fight going, but each new day puts you back to zero. You wake up the next morning, and if you don't follow yesterday's car bomb with one today, then you lose the momentum, and that momentum is the entirety of what you have going for you.
The only way to hold together a fighting force that never wins any real battles, never takes any territory, never establishes any concrete milestones, is constantly suffering casualties and basically can claim the mere act of fighting as its only victories is through leadership. Leaders can play both on fear (the idea that a beachhead for liberty in Iraq will only be the beginning) and on the most distant of hopes. It is no accident that successful guerilla fighters have always had strong or charismatic leaders, from George Washington to Mao to Ho Chi Minh (and all three of them, despite their other dissimilarities, could also point to the gradual expansion of territory under their control). Which is why killing Zarqawi has to look like such a big thing from the other side: with the symbol of the insurgents' persistence squashed like a bug, who else enters the void, and how else do you keep men in the field who have been living in shadow and fear for three years without anything to show for it? How else do you keep raising money and new recruits to keep up the fight?
There are, of course, always bitter-enders who will go on, and there remain some in Iraq who fight less for any broader goal than for the ability to reap the benefits of fear in their local neighborhood. Nobody is saying the insurgency ended yesterday. But today the insurgents awaken to a world that still requires them to start their weary struggle afresh, and do so without the man who has symbolized their resistance and endurance. And the next time some broken-down old cynic on their side gives them the Jack Murtha "you boys can't beat them" speech, maybe there won't be anyone left to tell them otherwise. Day by day, man by man, they will grow weaker. If you were in their shoes, would you keep fighting now?
June 8, 2006
WAR: Smells Like Victory
“We Got Him!”
We got him! Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has sawed the head off his last civilian, as he was killed this morning by an American air strike. Zarqawi's end was, fittingly, impersonal and delivered from a distance - an appropriate demise for the head of a movement specializing in the roadside bomb.
It's a great, great day for Iraq and for America. And the joy an the victory belongs solely to those who have stuck by this mission this far, and of course even moreso to those who have carried it out.
Down where the goblins go, below, below below yo ho . . .
UPDATE: The President:
Zarqawi was the operational commander of the terrorist movement in Iraq. He led a campaign of car bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks that has taken the lives of many American forces and thousands of innocent Iraqis. Osama bin Laden called this Jordanian terrorist "the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq." He called on the terrorists around the world to listen to him and obey him. Zarqawi personally beheaded American hostages and other civilians in Iraq. He masterminded the destruction of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. He was responsible for the assassination of an American diplomat in Jordan, and the bombing of a hotel in Amman.
Through his every action, he sought to defeat America and our coalition partners, and turn Iraq into a safe haven from which al Qaeda could wage its war on free nations. To achieve these ends, he worked to divide Iraqis and incite civil war. And only last week he released an audio tape attacking Iraq's elected leaders, and denouncing those advocating the end of sectarianism.
UPDATE: President Bush isn't the only leader whose taken his lumps for standing tall for liberty and democracy, so let's give the floor to an ally who has done so at great political cost:
"They know that if progress and democracy take root in those two previously failed and terrorized states, then their values of violence and hatred against those who disagree with them will in turn be uprooted.
"That's why they fight and why they will continue to fight very hard. . . .
"This terrorism is a global movement. Their attack in Iraq has only ever been part of a wider attack that they have carried into conflicts and countries the world over.
"Indeed, there is barely a major nation in the world that has not felt the outreach of their evil.
"Defeat them in Iraq and we will defeat them everywhere.
"We need to do so armed, of course, with weapons, but also with one simple idea -- that where people want to live in freedom and be governed by democracy, they should be able to do so and the world should stand united behind them."
UPDATE: Will Collier makes an excellent point about the intelligence "treasure trove" that was unearthed in 17 simultaneous raids following the Zarqawi strike, which lends much more of an air of a near-final roundup to all of this. I also got an email from CENTCOM with a video of the strike; their server was down but you can see the video here.
June 7, 2006
WAR: Waaaaaay Over The Line
I do find it to be worthwhile at times to quote Ann Coulter; she's highly intelligent (you don't make Law Review at Michigan Law School and land an 8th Circuit clerkship if you aren't very bright), she's a brilliantly talented polemicist, and she's capable of good journalism when so inclined. When Coulter trains her poison pen on people who genuinely deserve scorn without measure or mercy, it can be something to behold.
But there are reasons why decent people keep a safe distance from embracing Coulter and her work, and this is a particularly nasty example of why:
When their husbands were killed on 9/11, four New Jersey widows tried to find out why - and now no-holds-barred conservative pundit Ann Coulter is mercilessly denouncing them as "witches." "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," Coulter writes in her new book.
In "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," the uncompromisingly right-wing Coulter writes the Jersey Girls have no right to criticize President Bush or any of the failures that led to the terror attacks.
WOW. It's not even worth untangling all the pieces of this broadside; this sort of savage attack on people who have suffered a horrible tragedy is beyond any excusing and, really, beyond any apology. Coulter, who was a friend of Barbara Olson (killed on the plane that hit the Pentagon), should know better; heck, any first-grader would know better. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
(It's almost a footnote to this controversy that there are, in fact, legitimate criticisms to be made of this particular band of widows, albeit criticisms that relate more to the media's treatment of them - specifically, that (1) they are just a tiny subset of the families affected by September 11 and should not be treated as if they spoke for all the thousands of others, and (2) they happen to have been partisan Democrats before September 11, and should be identified as such by the media. But Coulter's mean-spirited attack on these women will, perversely, shield them from more sober-minded and humane criticisms.)
Gee, thanks Ann. You speak for nobody but yourself, and that's a poor, shabby excuse for a constituency.
June 6, 2006
WAR: Rewriting The Army Field Manual
Jon Henke points us to this LA Times article citing anonymous sources discussing revisions supposedly* being made to the Army Field Manual regarding interrogation of detainees in response to the McCain Amendment, which was designed to raise the standards for treatment of unlawful-combatant detainees by having their interrogation governed by the Army Field Manual, which also applies to interrogation of, among others, lawful-combatant POWs. Henke quotes this passage:
The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.
[T]his (again) means no more complaining that our enemies do not abide by the Geneva Convention. If we abandon the rule of law and our treaty obligations when it becomes convenient to do so, we can hardly complain that they've done so when it was convenient for them.
First of all, if you read only the first half of the LAT piece and Henke and John Cole and Andrew Sullivan, you would never know that (1) the changes at issue only apply to unlawful combatants, not to our treatment of proper POWs and (2) it is a stretch, at best, to say that the Geneva Conventions even apply to unlawful international combatants. Anyway, I've said my bit both about torture and "torture" here and here at much greater length; to summarize the relevant points here:
*It's pretty much an iron rule that when you link our treatment of unlawful combatants either to our treatment of lawful combatants (including properly organized domestic insurrectionists) or to our treatment of charged criminal defendants, you end up creating hydraulic pressure to water down the standards of treatment of either of the latter. We should resist at all turns such "linkage," but that doesn't mean we should have no rules at all. The battle against international terrorism will be a long one, and we need new, formalized rules to guide us in the long road ahead.
*We certainly shouldn't grant unlawful combatants or anyone else the protection of bilateral agreements they refuse to abide by, lest we undermine the incentive for others to abide by such agreements (treaties are contracts, after all, and we weaken rather than strengthen their force by giving away their benefits to those who don't reciprocate).
Before we go further, let's quote some additional detail from the LAT article that sheds a bit more light on the subject:
The detainee directive was due to be released in late April along with the Army Field Manual on interrogation. But objections from several senators on other Field Manual issues forced a delay. The senators objected to provisions allowing harsher interrogation techniques for those considered unlawful combatants, such as suspected terrorists, as opposed to traditional prisoners of war.
This tells us that (a) this is a battle about linkage vs. non-linkage, not about overall treatment of all POWs, and (b) the LAT's likely sources here are in the Senate.
Article 3 [of the Geneva Convention] covers all detainees - whether they are held as unlawful combatants or traditional prisoners of war. The protections for detainees in Article 3 go beyond the McCain amendment by specifically prohibiting humiliation, treatment that falls short of cruelty or torture.
The military lawyers, known as judge advocates general, or JAGs, have concluded that they will have to wait for a new administration before mounting another push to link Pentagon policy to the standards of Geneva.
The LAT presents as holy writ its view of the Geneva Conventions, but only if you read to the end of the article do you find that
Common Article 3 was originally written to cover civil wars, when one side of the conflict was not a state and therefore could not have signed the Geneva Convention.
Anyway, if our behavior creates incentives for other countries to follow suit and create separate rules for the treatment of unlawful combatants, well, that's just fine. If it raises the cost of violating the laws of war, so be it. And if it encourages, in the long term, the creation of a new international standard on the American model for treatment of unlawful combatants, that would be wonderful, so long as we get our own rules right. It should not be forgotten that a successful rule of international law almost always starts as the law of one state or an agreement of a few states, rather than being drafted at the multilateral level and forced downward.
So, are we trying to get our own rules right?
The Pentagon tried to satisfy some of the military lawyers' concerns by including some protections of Article 3 in the new policy, most notably a ban on inhumane treatment, but refused to embrace the actual Geneva standard in the directive it planned to issue.
So, what's the issue?
Another defense official said that Article 3 prohibitions against "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment" could be interpreted as banning well-honed interrogation techniques.
Now, we get to the rub of the debate in two critical ways. First of all, there's no way we should allow unlawful combatant detainees any access to US courts to complain about interrogation practices, period. If you give them that tool, they will use it against us as a tactic of war. If we have rules and they are violated, that's what the courts-martial process is for. Second, is "humiliation" an objective, cross-cultural standard? We're talking here about religious fanatics who take offense at the drop of a hat.
Anyway, I don't pretend to have all the detailed answers, and unless you have read the draft revised Field Manual - which remains a non-public document - neither do you. But the issue should be what practices we allow, what we don't and whether the line we draw comports with standards of morally decent behavior. That can and should be done without linkage to the treatment of lawful combatants, without binding ourselves to one-way treaties that our enemies use only as a shield, and without creating causes of action for unlawful combatants in US courts.
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* - While I don't see particular reasons to disbelieve this story, the total reliance on unnamed sources discussing a non-public draft of a document means that we're all operating on speculation here, and should take the LAT's reporting with the usual grains of salt.
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June 2, 2006
WAR: Talking To The Iranian Wall
There are many good reasons why war with Iran should be an absolute last resort, and a ghastly one at that (more here from an advocate of invasion); while I continue to believe that the Iranian regime is a serious and multifaceted threat (Andy McCarthy at NRO notes that talk of the Iranian nuclear threat gives short shrift to the longstanding menace of Iranian sponsorship of terrorism), I really would prefer to see some answer to this crisis that doesn't require us to go to war. And while an internal revolution that topples the mullahcracy and installs a democracy along the lines of those in Turkey or Iraq or Lebanon would be the ideal resolution - since the problem with Iran, as with Saddam's Iraq, is the regime itself rather than the tools at its disposal - there's no way of predicting when or whether such a revolution might ignite, no security in relying on one developing, and no short-term prospect of fomenting one through American assistance. For now, in other words, we can't hide behind the hope that the threat will go away on its own.
We do not, yet, appear to be at an impasse that requires us to choose whether to fight, although the precise amount of time we have depends upon the imponderables of Iran's nuclear timeline (more here), and unfortunately the record of our intelligence agencies over the past 60 years or so in accurately estimating foreign WMD capacity is abysmal, giving the entire debate over when to act the flavor of Russian roulette. Still, for the moment the debate is to negotiate or not negotiate directly with the Iranians. The U.S. announced this week it is moving for the first time in the direction of joining talks with Iran, though insisting that such talks involve the entire permanent membership of the UN Security Council (Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany.
David Frum makes the case against negotiating, although Frum focuses mainly on the case against direct bilateral rather than multilateral talks. (Via Barone). I will add here two points to Frum's analysis. First of all, let's recall that negotiating directly with the Iranians gives them, free of charge and as a reward for their bad behavior, something of value they have lacked since 1979: diplomatic relations with the United States. That's not a good start to any negotiation, for us to reward the opposing party without demanding in exchange some face-saving compensation, at a minimum an apology for the 1979 hostage-taking and a promise not to kidnap our diplomats in future face-to-face dealings.
Second, a point I have been making for some time now, see here and here and here and here: we should never treat negotiations, or treaties, as ends in themselves, and never operate under the illusion that negotiations and treaties are a substitute for fighting. To the contrary, if war (as Clausewitz famously said) is politics by other means, the negotiation of treaties is war by other means, and should never be regarded as anything but. As Justice Scalia, quoting Justice Holmes, explained in the context of commercial contracts:
Virtually every contract operates, not as a guarantee of particular future conduct, but as an assumption of liability in the event of nonperformance: "The duty to keep a contract at common law means a prediction that you must pay damages if you do not keep it, - and nothing else."
If there's a common lesson of Versailles (where we agreed to stop fighting Germany in World War I, an agreement violated without consequence by Germany leading to World War II), and of Vietnam (where we agreed to stop fighting North Vietnam by treaty preserving an independent South Vietnam, but hostilities were then resumed - again, without consequence from us - on more favorable terms by the North), and of the first Gulf War (where we agreed to stop fighting with Saddam but then let him get away for more than a decade, with minimal consequence, with violating the terms of the agreement) and of North Korea (where we entered into an agreement in the mid-1990s that was violated without consequence almost from the outset) it is that negotiating treaties only weakens us if we are not willing to keep ready to enforce them by military force.
Negotiations - unless entered into in bad faith solely for purposes of delay and/or public relations - are of value only if they have a chance of leading to a workable agreement. Workable agreements require that we get something of verifiable value, and that we make the consequences of violation both clear and credible. As of now, count me skeptical that talking to the Iranians gets us either. We will eventually need to decide if we are willing to go to war to stop the present Iranian regime from getting nuclear weapons. Whether we negotiate with them or not will have little effect except to cede what little control we now have over the timing and circumstances in which we make that decision.
May 22, 2006
WAR: How Dare They Succeed?
So, a number of war supporters predicted that things would turn out well for Iraq in terms of its development into a functioning democracy after the traumatic decades-long reign of Saddam Hussein. Lo and behold, yet another milestone has been passed in that process. You would think that would make the optimists look good. But to some people, predicting success and then achieving success is proof of failure. Up is down.
May 8, 2006
WAR: The View From The Other Side
It takes two sides to have a war; unfortunately, once started, it takes two sides to stop one. The Bush Administration and our military planners have been criticized, and not always unfairly, for planning the Iraq War and justifying it to the public without consideration of the enemy's strategies, in particular Saddam's careful pre-war preparations for a guerilla insurgency to be led by Ba'athists and by foreign Al Qaeda fighters under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. As streiff notes, even when proper care is taken to anticipate such moves, the American press and public tend to be unforgiving of the impossibility of projecting how things will develop when the enemy puts its own plans into action:
[W]e demand that our wars, like our commercial projects, arrive on time, under budget, and meeting specs. We ignore the advice proffered by von Moltke, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" or as rendered into American English by Gen. Tommy Franks, "The enemy gets a vote."
All of which is to say, in assessing both our progress in this war and how close we are to accomplishing our objectives, we need to step back sometimes and see how things look from the other side. As it happens, CENTCOM released today English translations of documents captured from Zarqawi's Al Qaeda-in-Iraq ("AQIZ") that were captured in an April 16 raid. Coming on the heels of Gen. Barry McCaffery's assessment (see here and here) of the war from the US perspective, it's interesting to see almost a complete mirror image of the strengths and weaknesses of the other side and the lessons we can draw therefrom in determining how to sufficiently demoralize the enemy to bring about a decision by the other side to throw in the towel and move its resources elsewhere:
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Most of the mujahidin power lies in surprise attacks (hit and run) or setting up explosive charges and booby traps. This is a different matter than a battle with organized forces that possess machinery and suitable communications networks. Thus, what is fixed in the minds of the Shiite and Sunni population is that the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and closer to controlling it while the mujahidin (who represent the backbone of the Sunni people) are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shiite government. The only power the mujahidin have is what they have already demonstrated in hunting down drifted patrols and taking sniper shots at those patrol members who stray far from their patrols, or planting booby traps among the citizens and hiding among them in the hope that the explosions will injure an American or members of the government. In other words, these activities could be understood as hitting the scared and the hiding ones, which is an image that requires a concerted effort to change, as well as Allah's wisdom.
In other words, AQIZ looks weak and knows it. But is there a war plan in place to change this?
There is a clear absence of organization among the groups of the brothers in Baghdad, whether at the leadership level in Baghdad, the brigade leaders, or their groups therein. Coordination among them is very difficult, which appears clearly when the group undertake a join operations.
So, if their capabilities are limited and their organization is dysfunctional, what do they have going for them?
The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.
This is such an obvious point that it's amazing it needs to be repeated: the United States can only be defeated by bad press. Which is, I should add, why I loved the recent effort to mock Zarqawi for fumbling with a machine gun - not every tactic used in domestic electoral politics can be seamlessly transferred to the theater of war, but the Zarqawi video was exactly the sort of tactic Karl Rove used to great effect against Al Gore and John Kerry, mocking them as poseurs for, among other things, their hunting photo-ops. So what does the enemy think of our strategy?
At the same time, the Americans and the [Iraqi] Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other. That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin's control and influence over Baghdad.
In May 2003, we had won - but the enemy hadn't lost, and so the war continued. Today, maybe it's hard to see victory - but if the other side sees defeat, then defeated it will be.
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May 6, 2006
WAR: Forked Tongue
Amir Taheri parses a NY Times op-ed by Iran's UN ambassador to observe the ways in which the Iranian regime's diplomats present a deceptive face to the West:
Taqqiyyah, a Shiite theological term, advises the individual and the community not only to hide their true beliefs but even to profess the opposite where this is to their advantage. Kitman, a politico-theological terms, means never revealing one's true intentions, especially when dealing-with non-Shiites and "the Infidel".
The ambassador, remembering his Majlesi, started by editing his own name, which is Muhammad-Jawad Zarif, by dropping the Muhammad bit which, so he must have thought, sounds threatening to American readers. Next he described himself as Iran's Ambassador, not the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic as mentioned in his official diplomatic credentials. He made only one reference to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, describing him as "leader", and ignoring his titles of "Supreme Guide" and "Regent of the Hidden Imam."
Dishonest propaganda and doublespeaking diplomats are, of course, hardly innovations in international affairs, but it's another reminder nonetheless of the value of blandishments offered by the Iranian regime and its apologists.
May 4, 2006
WAR: McCaffrey on Iraq
General Barry McCaffrey is - stop me if you've heard this one a lot lately - a retired general, a critic of Don Rumsfeld and a skeptic about the Iraq War. He also recently returned from his second trip to Iraq in as many years. Belmont Club has the story, and you may be surprised to hear what McCaffery thinks.
WAR: Hitchens on Cole
I know Christopher Hitchens is no conservative, and I'm well aware of some of his more bizarre crusades, such as his hatred of, of all people, Mother Theresa. But stuff like this Slate column and this interview with Hugh Hewitt (the latter via RCP Blog), both demolishing the deplorable Juan Cole and his apologies for terrorism and tryanny, remind me again why I love reading him.
May 3, 2006
WAR: There He Goes Again
As I've noted before at exhaustive length (more here), Mark Kleiman seems to be addicted to the habit of demanding that conservative bloggers drop what they are doing and respond to him. Well, he's at it again, this time with a story that's at least two years old: Michael Scheuer's claim that the Bush Administration had Zarqawi and his terrorist camp in its sights in early 2002 and instead waited to deal with him as part of the broader invasion in 2003. Now, I don't know that Scheuer is the most credible source at this point, but assume for the sake of argument that he's right. President Bush is already on record, going back several years, with his skepticism of Bill Clinton's ineffectual pinprick strikes at bin Laden and his camps; it's certainly a sensible military decision to try to roll up the whole of the Iraqi problem at once with an invasion force, rather than lead off with partial and selective air strikes (this is, in fact, a continuing tactical problem in planning what we would do to Iran if it comes to that). Now, sure: in retrospect, we'd rather have gotten Zarqawi personally - not that he wouldn't have been replaced by someone else - but as usual with the Left's second-guessing of military tactics, there's no consideration here of the countervailing costs and benefits of the route not taken.
May 2, 2006
WAR: Soccer To 'Em
April 25, 2006
WAR: Mary McCarthy For Dummies
April 11, 2006
RELIGION/WAR: Equal Rights
Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy (which has expanded in size these days to the point where it resembles more an enterprise-in-fact than a conspiracy) points out that Pope Bendict has been taking a harder line in demanding that Muslim countries chip away at their oppressive treatment of Christians.
April 10, 2006
WAR: Mourning the Irish Wake
April 6, 2006
WAR: Desert One
WAR: More Evidence
Powerline notes a March 2001 Iraqi Air Force document asking for "the names of those who desire to volunteer for Suicide Mission to liberate Palestine and to strike American Interests." As John Hinderaker notes, perspective is everything:
Only those who have their hands over their ears while shouting "La-la-la, I can't hear you" continue to deny that Saddam's regime supported terrorism. This memo is clearly one more piece of evidence to that effect. But its real significance can only be assessed in context with a great many other documents. As I've said before, the ongoing review of captured Iraqi and Taliban documents isn't like a search for a smoking gun or a needle in a haystack; it is much more like the patient assembly of a very large mosaic, one tile at a time.
Captain Ed has more. Facts, as they say, are stubborn things.
April 5, 2006
WAR: Bombing Iran: How Tough, How Smart?
Kevin Drum is hearing signs from both sides of the Atlantic that the momentum is building towards a US-led bombing and special operations campaign against Iran's nuclear program. (h/t: Henke). Drum's conclusion:
If Democrats don't start thinking about how they're going to respond to this, they're idiots. We don't always get to pick the issues to run on. Sometimes they're picked for us.
Drum also links back to something he wrote in February:
Democrats ought to figure out now what they think about Iran. After all, we've got the Ken Pollack book, we've got the referral to the Security Council, we've got the slam dunk intelligence, and we've got the lunatic leader screaming insults at the United States. Remember what happened the last time all the stars aligned like that?
Of course, I've been asking a similar question for some time now. Now, Drum is a serious guy, but implicit in his framing of the question is what we already know: you have to speak in tactical-electoral terms to get Democrats to pay attention to a serious threat to national security, at least one that could require a potential solution other than hosting "talks," signing treaties or expanding the federal payroll. If Democrats genuinely support military action as an option, they should get out in front and help build bipartisan support for that course. In other words, govern. And if they oppose, they should get on the record as early as possible as to why - do they doubt the existence of Iranian WMD programs? Do they think we should learn to live with a nuclear Iran? Do they seriously expect us to believe that some solution short of force will work? If you actually wanted to prevent a confrontation rather than sitting back and scoring cheap political points, that's what you would do.
How tough are the Democrats prepared to be? How smart? How much you want to bet they're not going to tell us?
April 4, 2006
WAR: Farewell to the Black Watch
John Debyshire notes here and here the downgrading from a regiment to a mere battalion of the Black Watch, the legendary Scottish fighting unit that fought at D-Day, Waterloo, the Somme, and innumerable other engagements in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia over the past several centuries.
April 3, 2006
WAR: The Hostage
I can't add much to Captain Ed's words on people rushing to judgment about Jill Carroll. The animosity directed at Carroll in some quarters of the blogosphere is way overheated. There's an interesting strategic question why she was treated relatively better than some other hostages and released alive, but as is often true of these things we may never know the answer. On the other hand, people trying to smear the conservative movement by equating one of Don Imus' nitwit sidekicks with real, thinking conservatives just don't know what they're taking about.
March 12, 2006
WAR: Rot in Hell, Slobo
Milosevic is dead, far too late. We may never know if the UN would ever have completed the trial.
February 19, 2006
I haven't weighed in here on the whole Mohammed-cartoon business and don't have time right now to pass on my thoughts, but check out Captain Ed elaborating on a column by the invaluable Jeff Jacoby on why the same media that has been afraid to show the cartoons has slavered attention on Dick Cheney's hunting accident.
February 15, 2006
WAR: "By what arrogance does this Burger 'King' presume to rule?"
So, why are Islamists attacking Western fast-food chains? Ace has the story in his usual hilarious fashion.
Of course, the Colonel is watching.
February 11, 2006
WAR: Buy Palestinian!
Hamas leaders said Wednesday they plan to make the Palestinian economy independent of Israel's . . .
Since the intifada broke out in 2000, Israel limited the number of these laborers greatly for security reasons, causing Palestinian unemployment to skyrocket. Israel said last year it wanted to stop all Palestinian workers from entering Israel by the year 2008.
The conventional point to make here is that the Palestinians have been cutting off their nose to spite their face, attacking Israel when it's essential to their livelihood.
But there's also a broader point, for all those out there - Arab nations, Europeans, American liberals - who feel that the Palestinians are being mistreated or not getting a fair shake. The PA obviously doesn't have a whole lot of exports, but it does export some food and manufactured goods, and might be able to export more if there was a genuine external market for Palestinian-made goods, especially if they could be shipped eastward through Jordan rather than through Israeli ports. So, for everyone out there complaining about the treatment of the Palestinians, here's your chance to really help and put your money where your mourth is, not with more "aid" to corrupt officials, but to Palestine's citizens: a campaign to buy Palestinian goods. Every Arab country, every left-leaning Middle Eastern Studies program, should be trumpeting the call to "Buy Palestinian," helping to create opportunities and incentives for the growth of peaceful industry in the PA.
If they really mean it, that is.
WAR: Can We Rebuild?
USA Today asks a painful question about our national will and its natural enemy, bureaucracy.
Get over it and get building, already.
February 7, 2006
WAR: M*A*S*H RIP
The Army is closing its last MASH unit and donating the equipment to Pakistan, in favor of putting doctors closer to the front.
WAR: Not There. Not There, Ever.
WAR: First, Save Lives
What the hell kind of FBI agents would let a librarian get in the way of stopping a possible terrorist attack? (Via NRO). The FBI agents should have known full well they had the authority to do this - take the computer, stop the attack, and worry about the librarian and her inevitable lawsuit later.
February 5, 2006
WAR/LAW: A Piece of the Rock?
Babbin's unnamed sources may or may not be credible (most likely, they only strongly suspect this and don't have personal knowledge of the facts, although FreeRepublic says Babbin "said flat out that they know that Rockefeller is the source of the leak to the NY Times."), but I'm sure the leak investigation has focused on Rockefeller as a potential suspect anyway; whether that leads anywhere remains to be seen. Ironically, if Rockefeller had disclosed the program on the floor of the Senate he could not be prosecuted under the "Speech and Debate" clause in Art. I, Sec. 6:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
Note that unlike the privelege from arrest, the Speech and Debate clause is absolute, and contains no exception even for treason. Now, Congressmen and Senators have tried to stretch this to cover prosecutions of all sorts, with decidedly mixed success. Not being an expert on the subject, I'm not sure whether there would be a colorable defense under the Speech and Debate clause for statements made (without the Senator's public identification) to a newspaper, purportedly in the public interest, regarding information obtained in the course of the Senator's duties. You would think not, given the text of the clause, but stranger things have happened in the process of putting a judicial gloss on constitutional provisions.
February 3, 2006
WAR: Staking Out a Position
Mark Steyn nails why Democrats have so often failed to win public trust after September 11:
[W]hen they talk about [Hillary Clinton's] skill in crafting a centrist position on the War On Terror, you think about how absurd that is. You think how ludicrous it would be if people were to talk about people crafting a centrist position on World War II, or World War I, or the Civil War, and it would be absurd. I mean, this is...what it means is that this woman doesn't actually have a position on the war that is not dictated by anything other than focus groups and internal polling. She's a completely empty shell in that respect.
I'm not entirely certain that this is a fair charge against Hillary, who has seemed pretty consistently hawkish, although you can't ever discount pure political calculation when you're talking about the Clintons. But the larger point is crucial: while it's certainly true that around the edges all politicians need to work at staying within the bounds of public approval needed to get anything done, war is something you can't approach without a deeply seated base of the kind of convictions that supersede electoral politics. Any attempt to "craft" a position on the matter is necessarily doomed to failure.
January 29, 2006
WAR: He's Watching
January 22, 2006
WAR: The World's Policeman
So, who gets called to take care of pirates in Somalia?
January 20, 2006
BASEBALL/WAR: Lifetime Pass
Great Washington Post story about the lifetime passes to Major League parks given to the hostages on their return from Iran 25 years ago today. It's a great gesture by baseball.
Of course, for contrast, the story juxtaposes horror stories of the hostages' mistreatment with a famous picture of a blindfolded hostage being led by his captors, with a scowling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (now Iran's president) second from right. The picture of Ahmadinejad is a grim reminder of the continuing timeliness of the hostage crisis, which is really where the campaign of radical Islamist terror against the United States began.
January 14, 2006
WAR: Dead or Alive?
1. The U.S. apparently located Al Qaeda's #2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Pakistan and hit the location with a Predator drone-fired missile strike, killing a number of people. It's unclear if Zawahiri was there at the time, or whether he survived, and these things being what they are we may not know for sure for some time. I'm not betting we got him until we hear something definitive, but there's always hope.
2. Michael Ledeen claims that
[A]ccording to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Iranians who reported this note that this year's message in conjunction with the Muslim Haj came from his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for the first time.
Ledeen's been reporting things for years that come from unnamed, unverifiable sources; that makes him consistently interesting (because he's reporting things nobody else does) but hard to rely on; while I have no doubt that Ledeen, with his intelligence background, does indeed stay in contact with people inside Iran, there's just no way to tell who his sources really are, whether they know anything or whether they're honest. For example, he's been confidently predicting the imminent collapse of the Iranian regime by popular revolt since about October 2001.
"Al Qaeda is increasingly in disarray and we have pursued, captured and killed a large number of them," Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commanding general of Multinational Corps Iraq and the 18th Airborne Corps, said.
One more time: wait and see.
January 8, 2006
WAR: The Training Ground
THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.
Now, this isn't entirely brand-new news to those of us who have followed Hayes' reporting. If Hayes is right, then the anti-war position can not possibly be defended - even if you set aside all of the other contacts between Saddam and terrorist groups, and set aside his violations of UN resolutions and the terms of the 1991 cease-fire, set aside his cat-and-mouse games with weapons inspectors and all the other WMD issues, set aside his corruption and evasion of the sanctions regime through the Oil-for-"Food" program and otherwise, set aside his open celebration of the September 11 attacks, set aside his history of attacks on neighbors, set aside his brutal abuse of his own people, and set aside the continuing cost we'd paid in keeping a military presence around him - there's really no way to argue that the United States could, in its right mind, have left a regime in power that was dedicated to training more anti-American terrorists.
Is Hayes right? Austin Bay thinks his account has the ring of truth, but as Jason van Steenwyk points out, Hayes spends the rest of his article complaining about the government's refusal to release documents rather than providing backup. Unfortunately, like the NSA story and similar stories based on anonymous sources or out-of-context documents provided to the press, this won't get support from the mainstream media in ferreting out what happened. But if we're going to keep debating the origins of the war, it should.
January 3, 2006
Iran is working on a nuclear weapon, according to the neocon cowboy warmongers in British, French, German and Belgian intelligence and their right-wing lackeys at The Guardian. Via Goldstein.
January 2, 2006
WAR: Light at the End of the Tunnel?
The Washington Post today runs a lengthy front-page story on the Bush Administration's plans to wind down the civil-reconstruction aspects of its presence in Iraq:
The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.
The whole thing is worth reading, for a more detailed and comprehensive look than the usual media focus on individual acts of violence. There are important signs of military and civil progress:
U.S. officials more than doubled the size of the Iraqi army, which they initially planned to build to only 40,000 troops. An item-by-item inspection of reallocated funds reveals how priorities were shifted rapidly to fund initiatives addressing the needs of a new Iraq: a 300-man Iraqi hostage-rescue force that authorities say stages operations almost every night in Baghdad; more than 600 Iraqis trained to dispose of bombs and protect against suicide bombs; four battalions of Iraqi special forces to protect the oil and electric networks; safe houses and armored cars for judges; $7.8 million worth of bulletproof vests for firefighters; and a center in the city of Kirkuk for treating victims of torture.
Of course, the article also details how expectations for progress in the reconstruction have had to be lowered as a result of the insurgency. And wrapping up the US role in rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure isn't the same as ending the need for US troops to work on the security situation. But progress is marching on, and it shouldn't go unappreciated.
UPDATE: Aziz at NoEndButVictory thinks this article is a sign of a "cut and run" by the Administration. It's a fair reading of the article, but an overreading, in my view. There's nothing here to suggest we're backing down militarily; the issue is simply how much the U.S. will continue to bankroll the Iraq's economic development and physical infrastructure. And the U.S. was never going to have a permanent commitment to financing the reconstruction. Naturally, there's a fair debate about where you draw the line, and I could be persuaded that we should shell out some more money here, but we always understood that a line would be drawn at some point, just as we've already drawn a line on the political redevelopment of Iraq, which is now in the hands of the Iraqis.